Funnel Representation of Catholic Women in Church Councils
Keywords:church leadership, gender, guild women, Manyano/Ruwadzano, small Christian communities
This article problematises the low uptake of higher leadership roles by guild women of the Roman Catholic Church in Zimbabwe. This is despite the fact that they are “over-represented” in the small Christian communities, which they almost “own.” They far outnumber men at the funnel base of the organisation, though they are grossly outnumbered by males from the parish council to national levels. Those that make it to higher positions in the church committees, are often relegated to clerical portfolios. What is intriguing, is the fact that the small Christian communities, which have meticulously absorbed more women in all lay ranks, are the foundational bases of the church. They are the praxis units exposing Catholic dogmas to the community; during celebrations and bereavements, in the absence of the top brass mainly comprised of their male counterparts. They are the conduits that help the catechumens live their faith, and the veins and arteries that feed the Catholic establishment with resources. A similar scenario of firm ecclesiastical control has been noted regarding the same sodality in South Africa. The Manyano/Ruwadzano sodality of the women of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Southern Africa (used as a control group for the research study that directed this article), presented an equally low uptake of leadership posts, despite the existence of women clergy. The disabling institutions were noted as the guild constitutions crafted or passed by male clergy against women, fear of scandal, inculturation and gender. The study recommends the fulfilment of church documents advocating parity between men and women in the election of office bearers. This article acknowledges the life work and career of the late Mary-Anne Elizabeth Plaatjies-Van Huffel, who dedicated all of her remarkable talents to promote gender-equality and social justice.
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