By Filipe Domingues
On the eve of International Women’s Day, the Pontifical Council for Culture officially announced the creation of the Consulta Femminile (or “Female Consult”). The consultative commission consists of 37 women, who have already been advising the pontifical council since June 2015.
By making the group official, it becomes a permanent commission. Although it has a strictly consultative character, the initiative is singular among Vatican dicasteries.
Its members come from different professional fields, such as journalism, nonprofit organizations, universities, government and the Church. The director of The Lay Centre, Donna Orsuto, is a member of the Consulta since its founding.
The head of the pontifical council, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, conceptualized the commission. Speaking to journalists at the Holy See Press Office on 7 March, he said the reason to create the consultative board was “not to go on the wave of recriminations that there are not enough women in managing positions in the Vatican. Nor is it a cosmetic element, or even a ‘pink quota.’ But it makes sense because I wanted to have a feminine perspective on all of the activities of our dicastery.”
Quoting the Book of Genesis, Cardinal Ravasi told journalists that God created man and woman in his own image, “male and female he created them” (1:27). Woman and man are complementary, he said.
“The relationship of a couple is generative and origin of love. Therefore, it is a definition of God,” he said.
According to the leader of the consultative group, Consuelo Corradi, pro-rector for research and international relations at Lumsa University in Rome, it is the “female difference” that gathers these 37 women together.
“There is a way of life that is typical of women. It is not an ideology,” she said, adding that it is necessary for the Church to reflect, for example, on how to acknowledge and develop women’s presence in religions, work and the economy, and especially among young people.
The members of the Consulta gather in the Vatican three times a year to offer their thoughts and perspectives to the Pontifical Council for Culture. They offer reflections and comments on issues, such as artificial intelligence, neuroscience, sports and human anthropology.
According to a press release issued by the council, “The Consulta does not gather to speak of women. Rather, it takes to a male world a unique glimpse on contemporary society, stimulating the reflection of man on universal themes.”
For Donna Orsuto, who is also a professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University and other Catholic institutes in Rome, the council’s initiative is “encouraging.” She said she believes the council is making a “concerted effort to listen to the voices of women” and she hopes to contribute in a constructive way.
“May many others follow the council’s example,” she said. “As the saying (about women) goes: ‘Nothing about us without us.'”
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