New female Rector of a Pontifical University

Fishwrap (aka National Schismatic Reporter) is chuffed about the very first appointment of a woman as rector… rectrix… of a Roman institute. Franciscan Sr. Mary Melone will be rectrix of the Antonianum, a Pontifical University.

What Fishwrap didn’t report on is Sr. Melone’s stance on theology of women.

Check out this story at Vatican Insider. My emphasis and comments.

I don’t give much importance to these kinds of labels, female theology,” Sr. Melone said in an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, published on the occasion of her election as dean of Theology. “Above all, I don’t like comparisons although I recognize that in the past there may have been a reason for making comparisons. Maybe there is one today as well, I don’t know. More space definitely needs to be given to women. The reference to female theology does not really fit with my vision of things: all that exists is theology. Theology as research, as a focus on mystery, as a reflection on this mystery. [Excellent.] But precisely because this requires different sensitivities. A woman’s approach to mystery, the way in which she reflects on this mystery which offers itself and reveals itself, is certainly different from that of a man. But they do not contrast. I believe in theology and I believe that theology created by a woman is typical of a woman. It is different but without the element of laying claim to it. Otherwise it almost seems as though I am manipulating theology, when it is instead a field that requires honesty from the person who places him/herself before the mystery.” As far as the role of women in the Church is concerned, “a reflection on this cannot be commensurate to the Church’s age as this reflects a development of thought that has gone on for hundreds of years,” she went on to say in the 2011 interview. “ However, in my opinion a new space does exist and it is real. I also think it is irreversible, meaning that it is not a concession but a sign of the times from which there is no return. It is no pretense. I believe this depends a great deal on us women too. It is us who should get the ball rolling. Women cannot measure how much space they have in the Church in comparison to men: we have a space of our own, which is neither smaller nor greater than the space men occupy. It is our space. Thinking that we have to achieve what men have, will not get us anywhere. Of course, although the steps we take may be real, this does not mean the job is complete. A great deal more can be done but there is change, you can see it, feel it. I think that (my case aside) the election of a woman in a pontifical university is also proof this. The body who elected me was made up entirely of men!” So doesn’t the Church need gender quotas? “No, it doesn’t need quotas, it needs collaboration. And collaboration needs to grow!”

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  1. Suzanne Carl says:

    God bless her. Reading this I think, “Ah yes. You are a woman, and happily so. I am a woman, and not afraid that this makes me less or some how handicapped.” When women stop trying to be men, they are much happier. Sometimes we have to bring home the bacon, but mostly, we need to to cook it to feed those in our care. This is not a less significant or important place. God is God. Jesus is His Son. Mary is His Mother. Male roles. Female roles. All is as it should be when we accept our God-given natures.

  2. benedetta says:

    Very impressive. I will be praying for her, and asking for St. Edith Stein’s intercession.

  3. donadrian says:

    Sr Melone certainly has the academic credentials for the post and her comments quoted above are very sound – and she has the good taste to have specialised on the work of a Scotsman! I wish her well.

  4. Suburbanbanshee says:

    It seems to me that plenty of men, starting plenty of years back, have been plenty ready to acknowledge women theologian saints and doctors; and of course, Italy has a strong medieval tradition of lay female preachers, writers, mystics, etc.

    (Not preachers at Mass or in church, of course! Italy has had a long tradition of preachers preaching in the town square in front of church, usually traveling revival friars or order priests, but sometimes religious women, laymen, laywomen, and even kids; and the pattern periodically recurs, all the way to modern times. Medieval Italy is like a barrel of monkeys; they did so many things.)

  5. Suburbanbanshee says:

    And people were preaching with permission from the bishop, and other forms of oversight. Often as part of a religious order or movement or sodality or what have you.

  6. jhayes says:

    Her title is “Rettore Magnifico”

    La Congregazione per l’Educazione Cattolica ha nominato Rettore Magnifico della Pontificia Università Antonianum per il triennio 2014-2017 la prof.ssa Mary Melone, S.F.A., Decano della Facoltà di Teologia della stessa Università.

    La prof.ssa Melone è nata a La Spezia il 16 agosto 1964 e appartiene all’istituto religioso delle Suore Francescane Angeline.

    Già laureata in pedagogia presso la Libera Università Maria Ss. Assunta, il 19 giugno 2000 consegue il dottorato in teologia dogmatica presso la Pontificia Università Antonianum con una tesi su Lo Spirito Santo nel De Trinitate di Riccardo di San Vittore, pubblicata dalle Edizioni Antonianum nella collana Studia antoniana.

    Preside dell’Istituto Superiore di Scienze Religiose “Redemptor Hominis” della Pontificia Università Antonianum dall’anno accademico 2001-2002 all’anno accademico 2007-2008, il 2 marzo 2011 è nominata professore straordinario nella Facoltà di Teologia della stessa Università.


  7. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Very interesting – thank you!

    “I believe in theology and I believe that theology created by a woman is typical of a woman.” Is that quiddity? It would be interesting to hear what Sr. Mary as a Franciscan and sometime Extraordinary Professor at the Faculty of Trinitarian and Pneumatological Theology has to say about haecceity! Are any of her writings readily available in English (even online, and freely accessible)?

  8. Johnno says:

    Sounds good so far. We do need more active involvement of good and holy women – on the front lines telling the stupider women off and embarrass them by their holy and intelligent example.

  9. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    Thanks! Rector Magnificus (masculine) – what, I wonder, has Italian (or ‘academic Latin’ in Italy) done historically? Left it at the gender of a given noun, or contrived forms to correspond to the sex of the office holder?

    This somehow makes me think of Robert Browning in The Ring and the Book translating the feminine ‘Sua Eminenza’ in referring to a Cardinal curiously literally into ‘Her Eminence’…

  10. jhayes says:

    Venerator Sti Lot wrote “what, I wonder, has Italian (or ‘academic Latin’ in Italy) done historically? Left it at the gender of a given noun, or contrived forms to correspond to the sex of the office holder? ”

    I think that in all languages, whether nouns have gender or not, current practice is not to change titles or role names to suit the sex of the person.

    In English, women are poets, sculptors, aviators, etc. Your grandfather might have written poetess, sculptress, aviatrix, etc, but unless you want people to think you are as old as your grandfather, you won’t do that. In France, most people will say “Madame le docteur” rather than “Madame la doctresse” Notice that the official announcement I linked gave her title in Italian as “Rettore Magnifico”, same as a man.

  11. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    jhayes wrote, “I think that in all languages, whether nouns have gender or not, current practice is not to change titles or role names to suit the sex of the person.”

    That sounds plausible, indeed, likely – at least for (most?) living Indo-European languages – though it would be interesting to have more detail about specific practice, and the chronology of any such change.

    Not long after commenting the last time, I heard of an Ursuline School in the late 1960s that had a ‘Rectrix’ (in the Netherlands, as it happens). While people are often enough grandparents in their 40s, that is still more recent that a lot of people’s grandfather’s day.

    Does most of this unspecifying of words in fact follow whichever wave(s) of ‘feminism’ in the mid- to late-1960s, or even more recently? And with varying tempos in different languages?

  12. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    About equally interesting, of course, would be the preceding history of the rise and proliferation of such sex-specifying forms in various languages. ‘Puer’ and ‘puella’ and ‘servus’ and ‘serva’, for example, have been around for a long time. And Late Latin had both ‘abbas’ and ‘abbatissa’. But was Queen Elizabeth I (for those recognizing her legitimate claim) always a ‘Princeps’? Was there a common female equivalent?

  13. Valentin T. E. says:

    It’s good to see a lady who knows that there are some things women are better suited for and some things men are better suited for.

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