Catholic Women

Catholic Women Make Up a Third of Catholic Lay Leaders

Catholic Women

Catholic women are holding an increasing number of lay leadership roles but far less than what represents Catholic women.

A recently shared Crux article revealed that a third of the top 3 leadership roles that can be filled by a layperson is held by women. The top high-ranking jobs in almost all Catholic dioceses are chancellor, chief financial officer (CFO) and the school superintendent, according to priests, nuns, bishops and employees. Those in these roles report directly to the bishop, typically controlling large departments and can extend influence over those in bishop, cardinal and archbishop positions. In a nation where only 84 of the 435 in the House of Representatives are women, and an even more minute 5% serve as CFOs in Fortune 500 businesses, the role of women in the Catholic Church has been called even more into question.

Of the 571 positions available, only 32% of these roles are held by women according to last June’s Official Catholic Directory. The main reason the total hits 32%, which may seem like a lot, is that a large portion of them are superintendents. Catholic education has always hired women in their superintendent jobs, though not all dioceses offer schooling. Of CFOs and Chancellors, positions required by Catholic canon law, 16% and 31% are women, respectively. When broken down further, there are 197 Catholic dioceses throughout the States. 7 of these have women in the chancellor, CFO and superintendent positions. 38 have women in two of these roles, and 83 have a women in a single role. 69 of the 197 don’t have women in any prominent positions.

Kerry Robinson, National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management’s executive director, feels that the church needs to do more to give women an equal role in the Catholic Church, particularly for their parishes and dioceses. She says while women make well over half the number of Catholics in the States, they are often made to feel “second class” to the men in the church. In Rome, she has met with the Vatican department heads to encourage women taking leadership positions saying “when that happens at the highest level, I think we’ll see a more positive effect in churches at the local level.”

Sister Sharon Euart is the executive director for the Resource Center for Religious Institutes. She feels encouraged by the increasing number, especially as the first woman to lead the Canon Law Society of America. She was previously the associate general secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the highest ranking female staff member. She says that determining anyone’s eligibility should rely on a simple question: “Does this position require Holy Orders? And if the answer is no, then the position should be open to anyone.”


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