Roman Catholic bishops who spent the last two days asking Catholic women for advice on their planned pastoral letter on the role of women got lots of it, but not all the women agreed with one another.
In the end, the bishops decided to go ahead with the letter, despite suggestions that the all-male, celibate bishops should not undertake a pronouncement on women.
During the hearings:
* One of the highest ranking women on the staff of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops argued passionately for "a pastoral on men" as a companion piece to the one on women.
* Representatives from the Women's Ordination Conference challenged the church's ban on women priests.
* The president of the National Council of Catholic Women wanted the church to tighten up its teaching banning artificial birth control so "it can't be rationalized away."
* The National Black Sisters Conference asked for more concern for problems of racism, and Hispanic Catholic women argued for more sensitivity to the condition of this growing segment of the church.
Despite the divergent views presented by the women, there was a lot of agreement as well. Conservative and progressive women alike urged the bishops to battle sexist discrimination, to develop needed ministries for groups such as divorced women and single mothers and to override tradition in using the talents of women in church roles that are open to them.
Open-mike, public hearings staged by the unofficial Committee of Concerned Catholics drew more than 200 persons Monday night. For more than four hours, a procession of women recounted their grievances against the Catholic Church with accounts of conflicts with the church over sexual discrimination, divorce, child rearing, abortion and lesbianism.