Senior Josephite critcises Church's view of women

Sr Lauretta Baker

The Church in the 1980s was 'patriarchal,' regarded women as useful for 'cooking the Sunday roast,' but not much else - and left them feeling 'fairly well overlooked', a senior Josephite sister has told the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a former congregation leader of the Sisters of St Joseph in Lochinvar, in the Hunter Valley, Sr Lauretta Baker, said she was not a feminist because the word was divisive, but she laid bare how a religious sister felt about the Church and its global child sex abuse crisis.

'I think it's true to say the Catholic Church is as good as it is today because of its religious women, not because of its religious men,' she told the inquiry in evidence made public on Friday. 'We have endured much, put up with much.'

In the 1980s, when child sex allegations emerged in the US, the Church had 'little regard for women in general, whom they saw as doing the flowers in the church, washing the altar linen, etc, etc' she said.

Asked by counsel assisting the inquiry, Warwick Hunt, if that included 'cooking the Sunday lunch roast for priests', Sr Lauretta replied: 'Yes, and never being part of any decision making, even any kind of consultation, collaboration. I'm sure they didn't know the meaning of the word, really, in those days, the 1980s.

'You know, the Catholic Church is basically patriarchal in its organisation and its systems. If you know anything about the Catholic Church and its system, then you know that women are still today fairly well overlooked.'

The NSW Special Commission of Inquiry, headed by Margaret Cunneen, SC, is investigating the Catholic Church and police handling of child sex allegations about the late priests Denis McAlinden and James Fletcher. Its final report is due later this month.

Sr Lauretta gave evidence in private at Wallsend on April 19. She finished her five-year term as congregational leader of the Lochinvar Josephites last month.


Nun calls Church patriarchal, bishops dismissive of child sex abuse claims (The Sydney Morning Herald)

Senior nun decries way Catholic church views women (The Newcastle Herald)

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