On the occasion of the first edition of the first supplement in ‘L’Osservatore Romano’ devoted to women, Włodzimierz Rędzioch talks with Professor Lucetta Scaraffia, a historian responsible for this new initiative of the papal journal.

For a few months in the Italian environment of journalists there has been a sensational message – in the papal journal there was to appear a supplement for women! It turned out that it had not been a rumour – in fact last Thursday of the month’ ‘L’Osservatore Romano is to appear with a supplement about women. It appeared for the first time on 31 May – on the Day of Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Truly speaking, this initiative was not a surprise for me. Since Professor Gian Maria Vian a historian fascinated with journalism, became a director of ‘L’Osservatore Romano’, (October 2007), the presence of women in the Vatican newspaper has definitely increased. When a few weeks after the nomination I was interviewing him, he said to me that he had decided on the cooperation with women because – ‘according to the wish of Pope and the State Secretary’ – it is to be his priority. – In 2008 the first woman was employed in the editorial office of the journal (culture department) – Silvia Guidi, and after she had been employed, Giula Galeotti began to work for the same department. Marta Lago from the weekly ‘L’Osservatore Romano’ in Spanish also writes in this journal. Women are mainly present in the editorial offices of foreign publications, for example, a team editing the weekly in English, consists of only women (2 English women, 2 American women and Australian women), women dominate in the editorial offices in Spanish, Portugal and Polish (in each of them 3 women work and one man), the German editorial office is managed by a woman – Astrid Haas. Women also work in a secretariat, in a translation office, in administration and photography service. Many women belong to permanent co-operators of the Vatican journal and among them there are Lucetta Scaraffia, a professor in the modern history at the Roman Univeristy ‘La Sapienza’, Christiana Dobner and Anna Foa. It was just Professor Scaraffia who received a task of editing the supplement about women from the director of ‘L’Osservatore Romano’ Giana M. Viana. I made an interview with her when she and her co-operators were preparing the first edition of the supplement for the papal newspaper.

WŁODZIMIERZ RĘDZIOCH: – On the Day of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in ‘L’Osservatore Romano’ it is the first time a supplement about women has appeared for which you are responsible. What issues is it going to touch on?

PROFESSOR LUCETTA SCARAFFIA: – In the supplement there is going to be information about the presence of women in the life of the Church all over the world. We have already planned in the next edition an article also about Poland but I do not want to reveal details as it is going to be a surprise. A lot of women – nuns and lay women not only participate in the life of the Church, but they are also holding interesting and responsible posts; whereas people associate the Church first of all with cardinals, bishops...

– That is, with the hierarchy...

– That’s right. Therefore, we make information on the presence of women in the Church, history and today available at least once a month. I will also add that we have decided to edit the first supplement on the day when the Church celebrates the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary because the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth is a symbol of a relationship between women in the Christian culture which is characterised by ability for mutual help and respect.

– Since Professor Vian started managing ‘L’Osservatore Romano’, many women have been writing to the Vatican journal. And who will write to the supplement?

– First we will start with co-operators who are related with the newspaper. However, we want to encourage women from all over the world to cooperate. We do care about this world-wide dimension because it is a real dimension of the Church.

– You invited Ritanna Armeni to cooperate, a famous journalist but not a religious person. What does the choice of this woman mean?

– Armeni is an atheist person but very sensitive to everything which concerns womanly issues, her opinions and hopes are similar to ours. I trust that in this way we will avoid a character strictly ‘of a parish’ in our supplement and on the other hand the cooperation with her will allow us to open to women who are atheist and help them become familiar with the ideas of the Catholic women. In the Catholic world there are a lot of prominent women, feminists, intellectualists, completely unknown to wider communities and it is worth getting to know them.

– Will the supplement have a special graphics?

– Our supplement which is entitled ‘Women, Church, the World’ respecting the graphic style of ‘L’Osservatore Romano’ will be characterised by some new graphic solutions and a humorous picture on the first page by Cinzii Leone whose hero is going to be a nun, sister Ultima (Italian: ‘ultima’ – the last) and a picture of the contemporary artist Isabella Ducrot (in the first edition the theme of the picture is the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary).

– I will use the opportunity and ask you a few questions concerning feminism. Feminism known today because advertised generally, is the one which appeared in the years 60s – 70s of the last century as a result of the sexual revolution in USA and students’ revolution in Europe in 1968. First of all it is characterised by a hostile attitude towards men (a man is perceived as an enemy; feminism replaced a class fight with sex fight), unwillingness towards institutions of marriage (marriage is shown as a place of women’s imprisonment) and rejection of motherhood (pregnancy which deforms a woman’s body, is nearly perceived as a curse; offspring is an obstacle in self-realisation, in professional career). How can we break the monopoly of this kind of feminism which dominates in the contemporary culture and media of the West?

– There was and is a lot of kind of feminism. In order to break the monopoly of the today’s dominating feminism, first of all we must appreciate a woman’s role which is quite often – also in the Church – not appreciated and ignored. However, there is a difference between feminism which demands equality bringing the role of a woman to the role of a man – that is, it wants to abolish the womanly specifics like motherhood – from feminism, called feminism of diversity which acknowledges differences between a woman and a man and wants these differences to be acknowledged. This difference is very often a synonym of inequality but we defend it, suggesting a new kind of feminism which we are going to propagate.

– Some sociologists think that the radical feminism which perceives the Church and its teaching as anti-modern, results in a tragic influence on Catholic women. One of such results is breaking of a ‘chain’ of passing faith to new generations (for centuries mainly women had been passing faith to their offspring). Do you agree with this analysis?

– Unfortunately, that’s true – most women believed those who had promised them happiness and freedom through acknowledging sexual freedom, contraception and abortion. As if women could gain happiness, behaving like men. However, this kind of feminism is in crisis because it caused a situation when today it is easier for a woman to make a career than set up a family and have children when she is still young. However, many young women have understood that they were deceived and, therefore, they want to realize their desire of motherhood. Hence, there are new expectations and interests in ideas of those who respect the diversity of women and suggest something different from traditional feminism.

– The last popes – especially John Paul II – paid a great attention to the ‘womanly genius’ and did a lot to appreciate the role of a woman in the society and the Church. However, why is the Church still perceived as hardly favourable to women?

– Unfortunately, these kinds of accusations are mostly unjustified. That’s true that the last popes were doing a lot to acknowledge the role and the specifics of women, but a problem is that there are no bigger results for now. The ecclesiastical environment is unfavourable to women and they are accepted when they fulfil junior and ministerial roles. In today’s world it is unacceptable. Our supplement – showing how many women are engaged in the life of the Church and are successful – would like to contribute to the necessary inner renewal of the Church.

– So, I wish you successes in your work for the Church and women.


"Niedziela" 23/2012

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl