The Risk of Dialogue: The U.S. Bishops and Women in Conversation

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Center for Peace and Justice Education at Villanova University


The decision of the United States bishops to develop a Pastoral Letter in response to the concerns of wornen for Church and society was the culrnination in this country of a slowly growing consciousness in the universal Church that what has corne to be called "the wornen's issue" is both mature and urgent. The bishops thernselves, in the First Draft of their letter "Partners in the Mystery of Redernption: A Pastoral Response to Wornen's Concerns for Church and Society,"l trace the conternporary ecclesial concern with this issue back to Pope lohn XXIII's 1963 encyclical, "Pacern in Terris," in which the Pope acknowledged the growth in consciousness of wornen and their legitirnate dernands for equality in dornestic and public life. The U. S. bishops' own process began in 1972 with the appointrnent of an Ad Hoc Cornmittee on the Role of Wornen in Church and Society and, in 1983, the bishops decided to develop a pastoral letter on the subject. 2


Originally published in Miriam’s Song III: Responding to the Voices of Patriarchy, 8-11. West Hyattsville, MD: Priests for Equality, 1989.