Bishop O’Malley’s clarification welcomed by women scholars

Despite the recent controversy in the press raised by Archbishop Sean O’Malley’s comments about feminism during Holy Week, the archbishop of Boston plans to visit Regis College May 15. Regis College is the only Catholic women’s college in the archdiocese.

Mary Jane England, president of Regis College, told the Boston Globe that a number of the alumnae were distressed at the archbishop's reference to feminism, and his decision to exclude women from having their feet washed on Holy Thursday.

But England said that she viewed the controversy as a distraction and that she was glad the bishop explained his position in his column in the latest issue of the diocesan paper, The Pilot.

“It can happen sometimes that you place words too close to one another, and they all sound like one thing, and I gather he had not intended for that to occur,” she was quoted as saying.

"The Catholic community has some very serious problems to work on, and we can't be distracted by ideologies or rubrics," she told the Globe. "I was glad the archbishop clarified his view of feminism. I don't think we should be distracted by this, because we have to keep our eye on the ball, focusing on keeping sure that no child is ever abused again and working with the poor and with new immigrants."

England expects the bishop will speak with students, as well as deliver a homily, during his visit May 15.

Boston College theologian and leading scholar on gender and Catholicism Lisa Sowle Cahill also welcomed the bishop’s clarification in The Pilot.

"This is a welcome clarification of the meaning of feminism, and a welcome defense of women's rights in society," Cahill told the Globe.

The feminism comment and the foot-washing ceremony drew sharp criticism from some Catholic women and were a subject of much discussion at a Boston College conference on women and Catholicism April 16 and 17.

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