“Dialogue and accompaniment have to be a walk towards the truth, in confidence that living in the truth is what brings happiness,” she told CNA.
Hasson, who was not affiliated with the conference, stressed that women should certainly discuss differences and try to understand points of conflict. But she cautioned that true constructive dialogue about women's role in the Church “needs to take the Church’s teaching as its starting point.”
McAleese also complained that no cardinals or members of the curia were attending the event, despite a social media campaign by Voices of the Faith calling on them to do so.
“No Church leader bothers to turn up not just because we do not matter, but because their priestly formation prepares them to resist treating us as full equals,” she said.
In past years, a few Vatican officials have attending the Voices of Faith panel. This year’s event, however, drew controversy over some of the speakers.
The event has traditionally taken place inside the Vatican’s Casina Pio IV, headquarters of the Pontifical Academy for Sciences. This year, however, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Vatican dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, objected to two of the speakers: McAleese and Ssenfuka Juanita Warry, a LGBT advocate in Uganda.
The event required the cardinal’s approval in order to take place at Casina Pio V. Rather than adjusting their roster of speakers, Voices of Faith opted for a change of venue, and held the gathering at the headquarters of the Jesuit Curia in Rome rather than the Casina, which is located inside Vatican City State.
At the March 1 launch of the book “A Pope Francis Lexicon,” edited by Vatican journalists Cindy Wooden and Josh McElwee, Cardinal Farrell responded to a question about the dispute, saying events held within the Vatican are “presumed to be sponsored by the pope” and people assume that the pope “is in agreement with everything that is said.”
Farrell said that when he found out what the conference was about, “it was not appropriate for me to continue to sponsor such an event.”
In comments to CNA, Hasson said the Church is not just a human institution, but a supernatural gift, meaning its teachings “are true.”
“Unfortunately, the question of women’s ordination hijacked the conversation about women and the Church for decades,” she said. “It’s time to move past that.”
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Similarly, Hasson said the Church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality will not change, “so agitation for change in those areas is counterproductive and is more likely to confuse people or give scandal.”
Hasson is also director of the Catholic Women's Forum, an international network of women dedicated to amplifying the role women both in the Church and in society in support of Church teaching.
“Women are already contributing to the Church’s evangelical mission in significant ways – and have for centuries,” she said, but acknowledged that there is a need for women to be included in more high-level conversations, “because the Church needs our insights and gifts in order to accomplish its mission.”
In her opinion, Hasson said Voices of Faith “is, in part, a well-intentioned effort” to acknowledge both the gifts of women and the valuable role they play in the Church. She pointed to how previous events have drawn attention to the work women have done to assist the poor and marginalized.
Where Voices of Faith fails to serve the Church well, she said, “is in its support of advocacy agendas, proposed by women who dissent from the Church’s teaching.”
She pointed to the presence of McAlesse at this year's conference as well as the inclusion of Sr. Simone Campbell, known for her involvement in the “Nuns on the Bus,” who works in legal advocacy for the poor yet supports the legalization of abortion, contraception and has pushed for women's ordination.