Pope appoints woman to top post
Pope John Paul II has named a female law professor at Harvard University and a bioethics expert to head the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the highest Vatican advisory post held by a woman.
The appointment of Mary Ann Glendon, who belongs to the U.S. Presidential Council on Bioethics, apparently fulfills a drive by the pontiff to raise the profile of women in church affairs.
On March 4, the Vatican issued a statement at the United Nations asserting that women were "especially gifted" in rising above self-interest.
"Through feminine insight, women enrich the world's understanding and help make human relations between and amongst people more honest and authentic," the statement said.
The appointment comes days after the Vatican named two women to its International Theological Commission, an influential advisory board. The appointees, an American sister, Sara Butler, of the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, Ill., and Barbara Hallenstein, a lay teacher at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, are activists in promoting relations among different Christian sects -- Butler with Anglicans and Hallenstein with the Orthodox.
The Vatican opposes ordination of women on theological grounds as well as tradition.
In 1995, Glendon headed the Vatican delegation to a U.N. women's conference in Beijing. She is the author of books on human rights and politics and has criticized liberal lay Catholic groups for striving to gain a role in Catholic Church governance.
She is also a staunch promoter of the Vatican's antiabortion teachings. In praising Glendon's role as a member of President Bush's bioethics council, a Vatican news release described her as having denounced "the evils of abortion and divorce."
Concerning the cases of clerical abuse of children, Glendon said in a 2002 interview with Australia's Sydney Morning Herald: "Practically all the cases that are holding the front pages are old . . . Bishops all over the U.S. finally got it and put in place reforms in the seminaries. What's on display here is as much about the pathology of the American legal profession."