March 4th, 2007

Vatican/St. Peter's

Theological Notebook: CNS articles on Gutierrez and on Female Leadership at the Vatican

Here's a few stories that show some interesting sides to Benedict XVI's Vatican. The first, about Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, the founder of the movement called "liberation theology," who I studied at Notre Dame, and who I've even had the opportunity to hear for myself, after he joined Notre Dame's faculty. He came to South Bend at the advice of then-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Cardinal Ratzinger, who advised him to flee Lima, Peru when a hostilely-conservative Opus Dei member became archbishop of that city, and who looked likely to simply shut Gutierrez down. Liberation Theology, which drew a certain influence of language, at least, from Marxist economic analysis, came under a great deal of suspicion from John Paul II's Vatican, consumed as it was with bringing down Marxism in Europe. The second story deals with phenomenon of lay and female presence in the leadership apparatus of the Vatican today.

Father of liberation theology receives ashes from pope
By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- When Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass this year on Ash Wednesday, among those he placed ashes on was Father Gustavo Gutierrez, considered the father of liberation theology.

Father Gutierrez, a Dominican theologian from Peru, was in Rome to teach a brief course at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, also known as the Angelicum.

On Feb. 21, Father Gutierrez gathered with several hundred faithful in the Basilica of Santa Sabina, where the pope was opening the Lenten season. Midway through the liturgy, Father Gutierrez was among a small group who went individually in front of the pontiff for the imposition of ashes on their heads.

Father Gutierrez's 1971 book, "A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, Salvation," presented his concept of the connection between social and political liberation and liberation from sin.

As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the current pope -- then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- helped guide a lengthy critical review of Father Gutierrez's work. During the 1990s, Father Gutierrez was asked to write and rewrite articles clarifying some of his theological and pastoral points.

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Women chip Vatican's glass ceiling with increased numbers, influence
By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- If he looked around the chapel during his Lenten retreat this year, Pope Benedict XVI would have seen an all-male assembly.

The absence of women was not deliberate. The invitation to attend the pope's spiritual exercises goes out to the top two or three officials of Vatican agencies, and almost all of them are men.

The retreat chapel offered a snapshot of a Vatican reality: The number of women working in the Roman Curia has steadily increased but, with rare exceptions, they have not broken through to the upper levels.

Six months ago Pope Benedict said that, leaving aside the ordained priesthood, women need to "make their own space" in the church and that the hierarchy shouldn't stand in their way.

The pope expressed satisfaction that women today were "very present in the departments of the Holy See." But he noted one problem: The power to make legally binding decisions in the Roman Curia is linked to holy orders.

That means the top two positions in each Vatican agency are filled by cardinals and bishops.

In a breakthrough in 2004, Salesian Sister Enrica Rosanna was named an undersecretary of the Vatican congregation that deals with religious orders. That's No. 3 in the chain of command, and it made her the highest-ranking woman at the Vatican. But it didn't settle the question of whether she could exercise the power of governance in her role.

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