Ladies last

Stepping to the surface of the moon on June 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong radioed a prepared message back to Earth: "That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." Father Larry Lorenzoni may now be entitled to paraphrase Armstrong’s line; he can say: "One small step for a man, one giant leap for womankind."

As previously noted in this magazine (December 16, 1994), Lorenzoni once had occasion to look up, in quick succession, the names of the superiors general of the Fathers of Mercy, an order with exactly seven members worldwide, and of the Salesian sisters, with nearly 18,000 members. In both cases, he relied on the Annuario Pontificio, the Vatican yearbook. The male name was there; the female was not. It wasn’t an accident; all the superiors of all the men’s orders were there, none of the women superiors. Lorenzoni wrote a piece about it in the Irish Religious Life Review, suggesting some of the messages being sent; for example, "Women are of little consequence in the church"; "The father superior of ten men is more important than the mother superior of 10,000 women"; "There’s no point in publishing the names of women superiors because who needs to know them."

Fast forward-with all deliberate speed-to today. The Review article appeared in 1985. It drew agreement from various Vatican eminences who saw it at the time. In 1994 Archbishop Maurice Couture of Quebec pointed to the Annuario’s odd...

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