'It’s not possible to go on like this,' said Professor Lucetta Scaraffia in an interview in 2012. 'There is misogyny in the Church [and] women in the Church are angry!' Her comments made headlines across the world and ignited a lively debate in the Church.
- The Catholic Herald
And her criticisms didn’t end there: She also lambasted careerism among the clergy and argued that the sexual abuse crisis probably would not have happened if more women had been in positions of authority.
But despite her much-publicised comments, portraying her as a possible bra-burning Church feminist with little tolerance for opposing views, in person Scaraffia is softly spoken, thoughtful and good humoured. An associate professor of contemporary history at La Sapienza in Rome, she is one of the Church’s best known 'Catholic feminists' and a regular contributor to L’Osservatore Romano,Corriere della Sera and Avvenire, the daily newspaper of Italy’s bishops.
We meet at her apartment in a Rome suburb, which she shares with her husband, the Italian secularist intellectual Ernesto Galli della Loggia. Their residence is spacious but relatively modest and, as one would expect, the walls are lined with copious books on a wide variety of subjects.
I begin by asking about her concerns regarding women’s role in the Church. She answers by making an interesting observation, that until the 19th century, women were more respected in the Church than in society and that the emancipation of women even owes itself to Christianity. But now, she says, the situation has been 'inverted.'
'Christianity is the only religion that has, from its origins, put forward an equal spirituality between men and women,' she explains. 'This is the heritage of Christianity – and in particular the Catholic Church – in the past. But today, in society, we have a situation where women have become more advanced than the Church.'
She says the Church today 'is too tired to accept this heritage' and to make itself part of this continued change. She says this is because women’s emancipation today 'is measured along parameters that the Church cannot accept – that is, freedom for abortion' and what she calls 'anti-conception.' This has led to a conflict, she says, between the emancipation of women as it currently stands and the Church. But she says she is in “absolute agreement” with other aspects of feminism, namely that the work of women 'needs to be recognised' and that they should have 'the same rights as men' and their role be valued.