Roman Catholic Biship Walter F. Sullivan of Richmond has endorsed a diocesan task force report that calls for affirmative action programs to involve women in church leadership posts at all levels and a continuing "study" of ordination of women to the priesthood and diaconate.
Two years ago, the Vatican ruled that women could not be ordained priests in the Roman Catholic Church because they did not physically resemble Christ.
In commenting on the five-page report of the Richmond Diocese's Task Force on Women in Ministry, Bishop Sullivan women "outside of church approval." Rather, he said, "We plan to study the entire question of women's ordination beginning with present papal teaching."
Brother Philip Dougherty, a task force member who is diocesan director of ministries formation, pointed out that the Vatican statement two years ago was "not an infalliable position of the church. It is still subject to discussion and examination."
The task force bade the church to "open the doors that have been unjustly closed to women, so that women may respond freely to the promptings of the Holy Spirit within them to minister to God's people as Jesus did."
The position paper urged the local diocese to give leadership positions in the church "to those who are qualified, regardless of sex" and encouraged establishment of internships that "would provide a woman with the experience needed for a position for which she is otherwise qualified."
Other recommendations called for recruiting women to serve in various ministries open to them, both professional and volunteer, and urged the diocese to "establish a loan fund for persons interested in ministerial study."
Also recommend was a diocesewide Advistory Council on Women in Ministry and a Coordinator of Ministries for Women, a position that would be advisory to the bishop.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore adopted last summer a similar program to recruit and place more women in decision-making and leadership position throughout the church.