Reading Guide

This reading guide is primarily intended for small groups reading the Catholic Women Speak book together, though it can also be used for personal reflection. We hope you will find it beneficial and that it will begin some meaningful conversations.

“Women in the Church: models of the past – challenges of today” by Cettina Militello
– After tracing Christian attitudes towards women, Cettina observes that “In the face of a burgeoning feminism, the Church in the twentieth century tried to protect and preserve female distinctiveness by way of an all-our defense of the female stereotype”. Cettina claims that this led to a “shift from inequality to ‘unequal equality’”. What does Cettina mean by this? Reflect on what it means to you, or some of the ways you may have encountered it.
– Cettina argues that a “non-idealogical relationship between the sexes” would require a “recognition of the prophetic dignity of women”. She defines such prophecy as “discernment, critical capacity, and insightful interpretation of the present in order to envision the future”. Would you add anything to this definition? Can you think of any women who embody this for you?
– There are a number of factions in society who claim that feminism is no longer needed, yet Cettina claims that the journey is “far from complete”. We are, though, she writes, guided by “the new awareness that God’s design is fully inclusive”. What does this look like to Cettina? What changes might such an awareness instigate?

“The Catholic Intellectual Tradition and Women” by Ursula King
– Ursula likens her relationship to the Catholic intellectual tradition to that of a parent-child relationship wherein “one wants to affirm the close, loving bonds but is all too aware of the gaps, the shortcomings, the narrowness of vision and limitations of achievement of another generation”. Does this resonate with you? Why?
– Ursula relays her experience of hearing a woman professor speak in Paris. This woman, Ursula writes, “unknowingly affirmed” her own “powers and determination to be a female teacher passionately concerned with intellectual issues”. Have you ever experienced this kind of unknowing affirmation from anyone? What effect did it have on you?
– What is your reaction to Ursula’s claim that “the [Catholic] tradition cannot remain intact without some profound changes”? What might these changes be?

Imago Dei: sexual difference and human becoming” by Janet Martin Soskice
– Janet notes the tension between two seemingly incompatible positions: firstly, that “christologically speaking, women and men cannot be different” and secondly that “sexual difference is not, or should not be, a matter of theological indifference”. Why are these two positions incompatible? What are the reasons for the two positions? Do you agree?
– Janet appeals to the Trinity to try and resolve the tension noted above. “God”, she writes, “is three in one, unity in difference”. How does this help her to understand humanity and sexual difference? How do you respond to this?
– Janet concludes her chapter by writing that “sexual difference is not just instrumental to marriage or even to the family. It is good in itself”. What challenges might such a stance pose to the Catholic tradition?

“Jesus and Women: ‘You are set Free’” by Elizabeth A. Johnson
– Elizabeth notes a story from Luke 13.10-13 about one of Jesus’ encounters with women. Elizabeth observes that “Christian women today read this story as a revelation of what their relationship with Jesus can still bring about. Bent over by many forces, they find his powerful compassion a spur to liberation, enabling them to stand up straight. Women scholars are discovering that there are many scenes in the New Testament that show Jesus’ love for women, his concern for their well-being, and his freeing effect on their lives […]”. Does this story have a similar resonance for you? Do any others?
– Commenting on Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Women, written in support of the 1995 UN conference on women, Elizabeth notes that the Pope did not address the Church’s own problems in this area. The letter reads: “As far as personal rights are concerned, there is an urgent need to achieve real equality in every area: equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements, equality of spouses with regard to family rights and the recognition of everything that is part of the rights and duties of citizens in a democratic State. This is a matter of justice, but also necessity”. Does this reflect your experience of the Church, or are you more in agreement with Elizabeth? Can you speak about your experiences?
– What sorts of problems does Elizabeth highlight in the Catholic Church? Do you agree? Have you experienced any others? How might Elizabeth’s appeal to the “Jesus of the gospels” help to overcome some of these problems?

“Who is Christ for African American Women?” by Anne Arabome
– Anne notes a disconnect between “rhetoric and practice with regard to the Catholic Church’s teaching and the treatment of women in Africa”. What does this look like? Have you experienced anything similar?
– Speaking of both African and Christian views of women, Anne notes the shared notion that women should be mothers and wives; procreators and helpmates. She goes on to write that “Identifying women as mothers with a biological function to reproduce is a societal construction of gender that dehumanizes women. African women have been socialized into thinking of themselves as worthless if they cannot bear children, yet all African women should see themselves as mothers of life – as intelligent educators and mentors, appreciating and affirming the beauty and gift of African womanhood”. Does Anne’s notion of African women as “mothers of life” speak to you? If so, how?
– Reflect on Anne’s incorporation of the Kenyan proverb “Nobody can use another person’s teeth to smile”. How does Anne engage with this? What does this mean for African women theologians?

“Latin American Women: in Mary’s footsteps or in her shadow?” by Carolina del Rio Mena
– Note Carolina’s inclusion of the story from Sue Monk Kidd at the start of the chapter. Do you identify with any of the characters? Think about whether they speak to how you experience yourself in the Catholic Church.
– Carolina observes that increased secularisation in Chile has not led to changing perceptions of men and women. Quoting the 2010 Report of the United Nations Development Program on Gender Equality, we hear that machismo is still an important influence on Chilean society. This suggests that gender inequality runs as deep in culture as it does in religion. Carolina argues that “our Church has a great responsibility for the promotion of change”. How might the Church fulfil this responsibility? What might change look like?
– What are some of the complexities that Carolina notes with Latin American relationships to Mary? Do any of these resonate with you?
– What does it mean to view Mary as “poor believing woman of Nazareth”? How might this overcome some of the problems previously highlighted by Carolina? Does this image of Mary appeal to you?

“The Motherhood of the Church: Mary, the quotidian and the people of God” by Cristina Lledo Gomez
– Why is Cristina frustrated by the association between the Church as Mother, and Mary? What problems does she note with images of Mary?
– How do you respond to Cristina’s reading of Lumen Gentium, and her assertion that “all Christians are called to be spiritual mothers”? What does she mean by this? Do you find it helpful?
– Christina claims that a more realistic understanding of motherhood can not only affirm the complexities of mothering, but can also affirm and encourage Church members to become “self-responsible, accountable and mature” adults as opposed to infantilised children. There is also a sense here that, in addition to helping Church members understand their relationships with(in) the Church, a realistic understanding of motherhood would make the notion of motherhood more rich. Ultimately, Cristina claims that attendance to the “reality of contemporary motherhood would provide a different web of associations about Mother Church, which in our complex and diverse context could breath new life into the maternal ecclesial image”. If this is the case, what other complexities and diversities might we add to the image of Mother Church?

“Reclaiming Traditions: Catholic and Muslim Women in Dialogue” by Trish Morgan
– What are some of the similarities that Trish notes in Muslim and Christian women’s experiences of their religions? Have you had similar experiences? How did you respond or move forward?
– Trish argues that the challenge for all women in religion is “to be included as part of the mainstream”. What does she mean by this? Do you agree? If so, what would this look like to you? If not, why not?

“Catholics, Families and the Synod of Bishops: views from the pews” by Julie Clague
– Julie writes that “Surely, the Church should recognise its particular dependency upon the experience and expertise of lay people in discerning its response to the pastoral challenges facing families”. What are some of these challenges? Would you add any more to the list provided by Julie?
– Reflect on the relationship between the laity and the moral teaching of the Church. What does or should this look like? What is your experience of the relationship?
– Despite the observation that “large numbers of the faithful inhabit different Catholic worlds”, Julie notes a broad consensus on a large number of issues such as addictions, human trafficking, and war. What do you feel is the basis for consensus here? How might this help with overcoming some of the unresolved issues or challenges noted by Julie?

“Catholic Families: theology, reality and the Gospel” by Lisa Sowle Cahill
– Lisa suggests that both biblical and Catholic social teaching perspectives on the family are inclusive and helpful. Catholic moral theology, on the other hand, is understood to be problematic. Lisa writes that “The perspective on family of Catholic moral theology must be radically rethought before it can ‘move forward’ as a useable tradition today”. What are some of the problems that Lisa identifies? How do you respond to her claims?
– Do you agree with Lisa’s notion that it is not marriage, but parent-child relationships that constitute “family”? Why/why not?
– In answer to the question, “How can the Church or churches bring a message of hope, encouragement, consolation, and joy to families today?”, Lisa proposes three models for consideration. Take some time to reflect on these models. The first centres on mercy, the second on equity, and the third on the change of teachings. Do any of these models speak to you? Which one(s) and why?

“The Love That Crosses Lines: the graced transgressions of family lives” by Clare Watkins
– What comparisons does Clare draw between the methods of maternal “teaching” and Church teaching? Does this resonate with you?
– Clare describes some parental experiences (such as an adult child deciding to cohabit, or identifying as gay or lesbian) as experiences of “transgression”. What does she mean by this? Have you ever had a similar experience? How did you move forward?

“What on Earth Can Complementarity Actually Be?” by Sara Maitland
– Sara cites the Incarnation in order to challenge constructions of “nature” in understandings of complementarity. What is her argument here? What is your reaction to this?
– Complementarity, Sara notes, has variously been explained in terms of “equal but different” and “separate development”. However, Sara claims that these terms are the rhetorical tools “of apartheid, of segregation and of violence”. Do you agree? Why/why not?
– Sara closes her chapter with an invitation: a welcome to suggestions for “appointing a saint for feminists”. How do you respond to this? If you are in agreement, who would you appoint and why?

“On Mothering, Loving and Learning – or why a mother’s heart is not a university” by Tina Beattie
– Tina explains how, in the stages of coming to the Catholic faith, she began to be drawn to Mary. Tina writes: “I began to see Mary as a strong and courageous woman of faith, whose divine motherhood expresses the cosmic mystery of creation and redemption. I used to kneel in front of the dusty Pieta in my parish church, consoled by that maternal figure of tenderness, sorrow and hope […]”. Are you familiar with this experience or understanding of Mary? How do you respond to it?
– Why do you think Tina writes that the maternal heart “is not a university”? Do you agree with her?
– What is Tina’s understanding of the “motherhood of the Church”? How does she envision the way forward? What are your thoughts on this?

“Welcome but Not Welcome: going to Mass with my Baptist husband” by Margaret Watson
– Margaret explains the problems that she and her husband have experienced in various churches regarding her husband receiving communion. Have you ever experienced a similar situation? What was/is you reaction?
– At the close of her chapter, Margaret encapsulates this experience in the phrase “Welcome, but not welcome”. What does she mean by this? Does this resonate with you at all?

Marriage and Divorce: telling our stories
“Divorce and remarriage through the eyes of a child” by Alison Concannon Kennedy
– Reflect on Alison’s retelling of her friend Martin’s story. Do you identify with any of the individuals mentioned here? Can you offer some reflections on this?
– Alison notes that “Pastoral care of Catholics going through divorce is a lottery, dependent on the strengths and sympathies of the individual priest”. Can you share any experiences that speak to this? What might be a way forward?
– What reasons does Alison give for paying special attention to children in situations of divorce? How does she address her concerns? How do you respond to this?

Marriage and Divorce: telling our stories
“Traumatic divorce and sacramental healing” by Pippa Bonner
– Pippa relays her experience of going through the Internal Forum, but notes that “not many priests know about it” and that “Pope John Paul II did not wish it to be widely used”. Were you aware of the Forum? What are your thoughts on it?
– Reflecting on her experiences, Pippa notes a few other possible options she may have taken had she had “the confidence, healing security” that she experiences now. Take a moment to reflect on these other possibilities. Are any of these choices familiar to you?
– Pippa writes that “The institutional Church needs to trust lay people and priests with their bishops, to allow informed conscience and discernment to come to a sacramental conclusion that keeps the Eucharist at the hear of the Church”. How do you respond to this?

Marriage and Divorce: telling our stories
“A very faithful rebel” by Anna Cannon
– Anna describes how her Catholic faith was “reawakened with pregnancy and childbirth”. Have pregnancy and childbirth, or any other experiences, had a similar effect on you?
– We can understand the somewhat ironic nature of Anna’s experiences when we read that: “My first marriage, although formally contracted in church as a sacrament, was far from having any sacramental grace, whereas my second relationship has been everything that a genuinely sacramental union involves, despite not being officially recognised by the Church for more than thirty years”. Take some time to reflect on this. What are your thoughts?
– Anna ends her piece by describing herself as “a very faithful rebel”. Why do you think she uses this term? Does it speak to you at all?

“Marriage, Sexuality and Contraception: natural law, moral discernment, and the authority of the Church” by Jean Porter
– Jean suggests that the use of contraceptives may contribute to the full equality of women. She writes that “some acceptance of contraceptive use, within the context on an institutional commitment to both marriage and procreation, is actually necessary to safeguard other natural law commitments”. Jean goes on to paraphrase Lisa Cahill’s observation that “given the conditions of modern industrialized society, the full equality of women both within marriage and within society as a whole regards some regulation of births, which can only practically be implemented through judicious use of contraceptives”. How do you respond to Jean’s engagement with natural law here? Do you find it convincing or helpful? How do you feel about the alignment of equality with contraception?
– Jean makes a case for qualifying/reformulating Church teaching on “the goodness of procreation and its centrality in Christian marriage”. She also notes the complex relationship between such qualification and a “flat reversal” of Church teaching. In the context of contraception, there exists a degree of reversal, as Jean observes: “Once we said that the use of contraceptives is always sinful; now we say that it is not. If this does not count as a reversal, what does?”. This method of qualification and reversal can, Jean suggests, be used in the context of other teachings. Take some time to think about this method. What are your feelings about this? Are there any other teachings that you think would benefit from being engaged with in this way?
– Jean notes that, as with Church teaching on the marriage debt, it may be the case that “at some point in the near future the magisterium will just stop talking about [contraception]”. If this were to happen, how would you feel? Jean notes that this possibility “does raise real theological problems”. What might some of these problems be?

Conscience and Contraception: telling our stories
“Natural Family Planning: sharing the struggles” by Rachel Espinoza and Tawny Horner
– At the start of the chapter, Rachel and Tawny note some voices/experiences that were missing from the transcripts of testimonies about the challenges facing the family from the 2014 Synod of Bishops. Do any of these strike a chord with you? Can you share any of your experiences?
– Rachel and Tawny note the discrepancy between Church teaching and lived experiences. “Many”, they write, “feel deceived by the Church about the efficacy of NFP, and often experience a crisis of faith over whether to continue with natural family planning or go against Church teaching and rely on artificial birth control”. Have you every had a similar encounter with regard to the tension between Church teaching and your own experiences? How did you move forward?
– Rachel and Tawny close their chapter by suggesting that “These issues demand not a mere reaffirmation of current teaching, but frank discussion and new pastoral solutions in keeping with Pope Francis’ vision of a merciful Church”. What might some of these solutions be?

Conscience and Contraception: telling our stories
“My mother’s burden” by Rose Murphy
– Rose explains some of the reasons why she decided to go against Church teaching regarding the use of contraceptives. Take a moment to reflect on her experiences. Do you identify with anything here?
– Comparing her own experience to that of her mother’s, Rose notes that the cost of her parents decision to stop procreating was “an absolute absence of physical intimacy”. She goes on to relay the agreement between her and her mother that “that was a terrible burden for the male leaders of the Church to lay on the shoulders of its followers”. Try to reflect on one experience where physical intimacy (in any capacity) was significant to you in a positive way. What did it mean? What effect did it have on your relationship? Does this reflection help you to understand Rose’s point?

Conscience and Contraception: telling our stories
“Vatican roulette” by Amelia Beck
– Take some time to read Amelia’s story in its entirety. Can you relate to any of her struggles? If you have ever had a similar experience, how did you deal with it?
– Think about the role of the Church in this scenario. Do you feel that Amelia was adequately supported? What could be done better in the future?
– Amelia has entitled this chapter “Vatican roulette”. What you do think she means by this? Does it resonate with you at all?

Conscience and Contraception: telling our stories
“Wanting a different life” by Giovanni Solari
– Giovanni explains that “There was no way I was ever going to chance NFP”. What experiences led her to make this decision? Can you relate to any of these experiences?
– In an earlier chapter, Jean Porter made a case for the judicious use of contraception contributing to the full equality of women. Is this evident in Giovanni’s story at all? If so, how?

Conscience and Contraception: telling our stories
“A millennial’s perspective” by Emma Jane Harris
– Emma explains that at the moment, motherhood would prevent her from “being the best, most free, most openly loving person I can be”. She also writes that “I don’t think the God I believe in” wishes to prevent her from being this person. How do you respond to this? Can you empathise with Emma’s position at all?
– Emma posits a challenge to the Church’s focus on functionality. What kinds of issues does she raise? Would you add anything to this argument?
– Emma argues that “There is a distinction between the elements of a sacrament that are necessary and those that are contingent”. What does Emma mean by this? She goes on to say that “Procreation must play handmaiden to the love that creates it”. How do you respond to this?

“Same Sex marriage and the Catholic Community” by Margaret A. Farley
– Margaret notes some discrepancies between official Catholic assessments of heterosexual and homosexual relations, particularly with regard to “the motifs of out-of-control sex, a procreative norm and gender complementarity”. How do these differences play out? Take some time to reflect on them; what are your thoughts?
– Margaret cites Karl Rahner and, noting his alignment with Ephesians 5.29-33, she claims that “the point here is not the gender assignment of roles – which is culturally conditioned; the point is the unity between spouses”. How do you respond to this reading of Rahner? Does it speak to, or challenge, your understanding of marital relationships?
– Margaret notes a number of ways in which understandings of marriage can speak equally to opposite-sex and same-sex relationships. What are some of the commonalities? How might this emphasis challenge or change Church teaching or perspectives? Do they challenge you at all, or do you find them helpful?

Same-sex love: telling our stories
“Living under the radar, or celebrating family in all its forms?” by Sophie Stanes and Deborah Woodman
– Take some time to read Sophie and Deborah’s story. Is there anything in particular that you can empathise with? Does anything resonate with you?
– Like a number of other contributors, Sophie and Deborah note that it is the “contrast between official teaching and unofficial practice that is so damaging”. How has this played out in Sophie and Deborah’s experiences? Have you ever had a similar experience? What did you do?

Same-sex love: telling our stories
“The glory of God is the human being fully alive” by Ursula Halligan
– Ursula begins her chapter with a quotation from Martin Luther King: “Our lives begin to end the day that we become silent about things that matter”. Take some time to read Ursula’s chapter in its entirety. What role(s) did silence have here? What were its effects?
– After relaying some of her experiences of struggling with her own sexuality, Ursula writes: “I feel a sense of loss and sadness for precious time I spent wasted in fear and isolation”. Does this resonate with you at all?
– Ursula closes her chapter by making reference to Ireland’s marriage equality referendum. “As a person of faith and a Catholic”, she writes, “I believe a Yes vote is the most Christian thing to do. I believe the glory of God is the human being fully alive and that this includes people who are gay”. Take a moment to reflect on this. What would it mean for the Church fully to embrace this sentiment? Think specifically about experiences such as Ursula’s.

Same-sex love: telling our stories
“Getting Hooked: being lesbian and becoming Catholic” by Eve Tushnet
– At the beginning of Eve’s chapter, she quotes a Margaret Atwood poem in an attempt to explain her relationship with the Catholic Church. Take a moment to reflect on this. Does it speak at all to your own relationship with the Catholic Church? If so, how?
– Eve notes that the Church needs to respond to societal changes, but she also writes that “gay Catholics can offer a necessary witness to the broader society. By leading lives of fruitful, creative love, we can offer proof that sexual restraint isn’t a death sentence (or an especially boring form of masochism). Celibacy can offer some of us radical freedom to serve others”. Reflect on this understanding of celibacy; is it familiar to you? How do you respond to it?
– Eve closes her chapter with some reflections on friendship. After noting the way Christianity once viewed friendship, she writes that “Renewing this Christian understanding of friendship would help to make the Church a place where gay people have more opportunities for devoted, honored love than in the secular world – not fewer. Many of us – including single straight people, and married people of every orientation – long for deeper and more lasting friendships. The cultural changes that would better nourish celibate gay Christians, then, would be good for everyone else as well”. Does this emphasis on friendship speak to you at all? How? Why does Eve think that renewing Christian understandings of friendship would be so beneficial?

“Being Good, Doing Bad? Virtue ethics and sexual orientation” by Katie Grimes
– Katie engages with virtue ethics here in order to examine Church teaching on sexuality. Explaining the relationship between doing evil things and thinking evil thoughts, she notes that both are considered “immoral”. Applying this to perspectives on same-sex relationships, she writes: “When people contend that we ought to condemn sexual relationships between people of the same sex as unconditionally evil while accepting gayness as a sinless identity, they act like the one who calls the torture of animals categorically evil but proclaims the desire to torture animals morally good”. What is the essence of Katie’s argument here? What light can it shed on attitudes towards same-sex relationships?
– Expounding the contradiction, Katie closes her chapter by writing that “The magisterium tells homosexual persons that they can be but they must not do. But, if one should not do, then neither should one be. Gayness cannot be good as a sexual identity but bad as a sexual activity. Virtue just does not work that way”. How do you respond to this relationship between act and being? Do you agree with Katie’s argument? Why/why not?

“What’s love got to do with it? Women’s experience of celibacy” by Janette Gray
– Janette explains the Christian understanding of celibacy in the following way: “a life totally dedicated to union with God through non-marriage and sexual abstinence. This demands a valuing of sexuality and human relationships as integral to God’s creation of humanity, but it also serves as an expression of the diversity of human relations, beyond the genital-sexual”. Has this relationships between sexuality and celibacy ever occurred to you before? Have you ever experienced something similar? Can you offer some reflections on this?
– What are some of the negative views of celibacy that Janette notes? What effect have they had?
– Janette suggests that celibacy can be a radically subversive act. She claims, for instance, that “Women celibates embody alternatives for other women who have been categorized only as a sex partner or heir-producer”. Take some time to reflect on the other examples provided by Janette. What do you make of this understanding of celibacy?
– How does Janette see the relationship between celibate women and God? How does sexuality feature in this relationship?

“Singled Out: called to the gift of solitude” by Patricia Stoat
– What are some of the struggles that Patricia notes single people may experience? Do any of these resonate with you? If so, how do/did you deal with them?
– Patricia notes some biblical examples of single women – do you identify with any of them? Why?
– Do you feel that the Church reflects Patricia’s positive attitude towards singleness? Why/why not? Can anything more be done to see “singleness not as a lack or loss but as a blessing”?

“A Mysticism of Open Eyes: Catholic women’s voices from a marginal neighbourhood of Buenos Aires” by Ana Lourdes Suarez and Gabriela Zengarini
– Reflect on the biographies of the three women mentioned by Ana and Gabriela: Vicky, Delia, and Marta. Are you able to relate to any of their stories? How so?
– A “mysticism of open eyes” incorporates the practices of “mutual listening, accompaniment, service, and social commitment”. These practices, Ana and Gabriela note, helped Vicky, Delia, and Marta to heal. Have you ever experienced, or put into action, any of these practices? What effect did it have on you and others?
– Take a moment to think about the words from a person talking about Marta towards the end of the chapter. Do you know anybody who embodies similar qualities? What do they mean to you?

“Challenging Families: Indian women speak from the margins” by Astrid Lobo Gajiwala
– Astrid explains the situation and experiences of many rural Indian women, and notes that “Such women pose many challenges to the Christian vision of family”. What are these challenges? How does Astrid respond? How do you respond?
– What challenges do Indian women in interfaith marriages encounter? Can you identify with any of these?
– How do the experiences of interfaith relationships speak to Astrid’s perspective on baptism? Why does she concur with the naming of the “inability to baptise children” as a “choice for a vocation of love”?
– Astrid argues that the insights of the Instrumentum Laboris of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family and the Lineamenta for the Ordinary Synod on the Family “must be developed and translated into concrete action that stems from recognizing interfaith families as a sign of the times and potential avenues for evangelization”. What does Astrid think this development and action would look like? How do you respond? Would you add anything to this?

“Reading the Signs of the Times: maternal mortality and reproductive rights” by Nontando Hadebe
– At the start of the chapter, Nontando notes that the inclusion of experience distinguishes contextual from classical theologies. She goes on to observe that, “While the inclusion of context does not necessarily challenge the teachings of the Church, it will certainly critique the application of those teachings in order to produce more liberating interpretations”. Also read Nontando’s closing paragraph. What is your perspective on classical and contextual theologies? What is your experience of context influencing or critiquing the application of Church teaching?
– Take a moment to read the information that Nontando provides concerning reproductive rights and the experiences of mothers. Does anything here stand out to you? How do you respond to the information?
– What does Nontando think the challenge to the Church is, in the context of maternal deaths? What might be the way forward?

“Maternal Migration and Paternal Responsibility in the Philippines: challenges for the Church” by Agnes M. Brazal
– What are some of the pressures or difficulties that children and partners of migrant women encounter? Can you empathise with any of these?
– How does Agnes bring these experiences into conversation with Church teaching? What challenges do these experiences pose?
– Why does Agnes feel “Phase 4” opens space for “further dialogue on the role of men as fathers and/or husbands”? What features of this “phase” might allow for this dialogue? What might this dialogue look like?

“Roles for Women in the Church” by Mary Aquin O’Neil
– What problems does Mary identify with the assignment of role(s) to women, and the notion of the “role of women in the Church”? How do you respond to this?
– With reference to Ephesians 5.23, Mary writes that “This image of the Church as ‘wife’ to Christ has resulted in a theology of headship that rests on an assumption about the role of wife: namely, that it is a role in which the woman is always subordinate to the role other who is the husband”. Does this resonate with you at all? How does mary challenge this?
– Citing Elizabeth Janeway, Mary writes that there is a “need for women with a critical consciousness to be present where false assumptions about us prevail, so that those assumptions can be challenged and changed for our good and the good of the Church”. What might it mean for your to practise this presence in your own context? What struggles could you foresee, and how might you overcome them?

“Breathing with Only One lung – where are the women’s voices in the Synods?” by Lucetta Scaraffia
– Lucetta explains that women “now find themselves in a climate of ambivalence”. Why does she assert this? What does this ambivalence look like? Have you ever experienced this?
– The doctrine of complementarity, Lucetta claims, must be “resubmitted to a critical process of review and revision that takes into account the changes that have taken place over the past decades”. She goes on to say that the Church can play a constructive role given its strength in two elements. What are these elements and how might they help with the process of review and revision?
– Lucetta closes her chapter by stating that “We need women to present a feminine point of view, not just to be considered as an opposing party advancing claims, but as an essential part of the work of theological development”. What doe you feel Lucetta means by a “feminine point of view”? How do you respond to this?

“It’s Not All About Eve” by Christine Schenk
– Why does Christine claim that “The selectivity seen in the choice of anointing passages gives the impression that women and sin are invariably linked”? What has led to this impression?
– Reflect on the many stories of women that Christine highlights, and the ways in which they are not included in the Lectionary. Christine argues that “Proclaiming Lectionary texts that exclude or distort the witness of women, particularly in a church where all priestly leadership is male, is dangerous for our daughters and our sons. Young girls can hardly avoid internalizing the notion that God must have created them less important than their brothers”. Christine also questions the implications for “our sons”. Have you had similar concerns? How do you deal with them? Have you ever had a positive experience regarding women’s presence/stories in the Lectionary? What was this like?
– What does Christine suggest in terms of the Church’s next steps? What do you make of her suggestions? Would you add anything?

“The Apostle to the Apostles: women preaching the good news” by Madeleine Fredell
– Madeleine writes that “Listening to women’s voices is about getting as broad a picture as possible of how God is acting in and with out reality. Therefore we cannot settle for listening only to priests’ homilies; we need women in the pulpit as well”. Do you agree? Why/why not?
– Citing Mark 5.25-34, Madeleine wonders what a woman preacher would focus her reflections on. What impact do you think women’s reflections on biblical stories would have on their meanings? What difference might this make for those listening?
– What do you make of the example Madeleine cites from the Swedish Lutheran Church? Does this adequately solve the problems that Madeleine noted earlier?

“Young Catholic Women Working in Ministry: blessings, challenges and hopes” by Rhonda Miska
– Reflect on the two stories Rhonda tells of her work as a Social Justice Minister. Why do you think she calls these “holy moments”? Have you ever had similar experiences? Did you find them to be holy in the ways Rhonda describes? Why?
– What are some of the challenges that Rhonda notes with being a woman, and especially a young woman, working in Church ministry? Do any of these resonate with you?
– Rhonda closes her chapter by writing that “As millennials in a post-modern world, we appreciate the deep, rich grounding our Catholic identity offers. We have been graced in our encounters with God mediated by the Church and treasure our calls. And yet our experiences of sexism and injustice within that Catholic identity create internal struggles. We hope our naming of that struggle can be heard and creatively engaged”. Do you feel that there are any struggles that you would benefit from naming? How would you hope the Church would “creatively engage” with them?

“On Elephants, Angels and Trust: the structure of the Church and Catholic families” by Catherine Cavanagh
– What four teachings does Catherine ask us to consider? What does she claim are their consequences? Do any of these speak to your own experiences?
– Catherine notes that not only do the teachings lead to double standards; they also “undermine the value of women within society, and more importantly within their own hearts”. Why does Catherine think these teachings do this? Have you ever experienced anything similar? What happened, and how did you move forward?
– Catherine calls for an agreement, not necessarily on the answers to the questions she poses, but certainly on the willingness to “wrestle with the questions”. She continues: “Let us wrestle like Jacob with this God-of-all that is always here, that lives in angels, messengers, and prophets – men and women. Let each of us trust the other to wrestle”. What would it mean for you to wrestle with the questions?