By Alan McElwain
HEAR that Pope Paul's
decision to allow women into the Vatican Council is likely to give Vatican officials a bad headache. They will have to decide from among the many religious orders for women in the Church the few whose representatives will be chosen as "auditors".
Precisely how many of these orders there arc is always difficult to determine. One Vatican personality joked that even God did not know the answer to that. Actually, the figure is somewhere around 1,100, with well over a million members. And the central international organisation of Catholic women's societies, from whom additional women "auditors" will be selected, has 36 million members.
Just how intense the competition among the religious orders is for these auditorial positions is reflected in the number of letters which landed on the desk of the Belgian Primate, Cardinal Suenens, after he had suggested, at the previous Council session. that women should be admitted.
I hear that he, and the Congregation of the Religious in Rome, got stacks of mail from convents far and wide, in which nuns ecstatically hymned the vi rtues of their particiilar Mother-General, adding that obviously she was streets ahead of all other contenders.
The point about all this is that Pope Paul presumably intends that the first women auditors should be chosen from among Mothers-General, with lay people to follow.
Tiny and Tireless
And when it comes to the lay women auditors, I can tell you one contender who really is streets ahead of most other
She is tiny, tireless, dedicated Miss Rosemary Goldie, an Australian at that. who for the ' past 12 years has been in Rome as Executive Secretary of the Permanent Committee for international Congresses of the Lay Apostolate, a title which, if placed perpendicularly in large type, would reach at least to little Miss Goldie's shoulder.
Miss Goldie first came to Rome in 1951 for the first world congress of the lay apostolate,. sponsored by Italian Catholic Action. Then, on January 23. 1952, the late Pope Pius XII made an announcement which changed the whole status of the lay apostolate—and incidentally changed Miss Gpldie's future, too.
The Pope created the Permanent Committee for International Congresses of the Lay Apostolate (Copecial). President of Italian Catholic Action and first chief of the committee was Mr. Vittorio Veronese, who later became Director General of Unesco. The organisational flair of the diminutive Miss Goldie had not escaped him; he promptly co-opted her.
Copecial serves lay apostolate movements throughout the world and facilitates their mutual collaboration. Miss Goldie's big job has taken her to many places. She is undoubtedly one of the world's top-flight lay workers and, in her exceptional post is, I would say, a certainty to be one of the first of the women lay auditors.
First woman official ?
What is more, Miss Goldie could also become the first woman ever appointed to an official Vatican post if plans already discussed, but still to be ratified, by the Ecumenical Council. eventuate.•
The Council has considered setting up an official lay apostolate body under the direct jurisdiction of the Holy See. If it does. it is logical to expect. that much of the documentation and contacts with lay movements all over the world done by Miss Goldiers office would be taken over by the new body—and even more logical to presume that Miss Goldie. with her vast experience, would be taken over with it.
She would not be placed at the top or the new set-up, but would undoubtedly be one of the key figures in it. The lay apostolate would presumably become part of the Roman Curia—and in this respect Miss Goldie would be the first woman official in the Curia.
Press Office rumour IN THIS COLUMN T have often taken mighty swipes at the inadequacy of the socalled Vatican Press Office (as distinct, mark you, from the Ecumenical Council Press set.up). Let me. then, he the first to reveal a report getting about in behind-the-scenes Vatican circles — which I devoutly hope is true.
It is that, some time next November, the Vatican is to create a full-scale Press Office and the man to run it is to be the American Archbishop Martin J. O'Connor.
Credence is given to this report by the fact that the Archbishop recently announced his resignation from the Rectorship of the North American College, on the grounds that he could not give adequate attention to it any longer and still hold various other important positions he occupies. That the friendly and distinguished archbishop would leave the college he loved so well and had served with such devotion for many years, was sufficient proof that his other work would be intensified in the future.
Archbishop O'Connor is already President of the Ecumenical Council Committee for the Press and for many years has been President of the Pontifical Commission for Films, Radio and Television, besides being a member of several Vatican congregations.
National 'desks' The report has it that Archbishop O'Connor will have firstrate journalists of various nationalities to work under him. There will be an English -desk". a French "desk" and so on. He will also have the last word on what should be released for publication. This will get rid of the present bureaucratic system whereby reports which any Vatican bodies wish to release must first go to the Secretariat of State for "vetting" and are then released through the present Press Office. Actually, it is that in name only, being merely an offshoot of the Vatican newspaper Osservatore ROMa110.
If the report is true—pray, brethren, that it is —the Vatican, at long last and in the most important phase in its modern history, will be up-to-date in its public relations. And then, presumably, we will see the end of such farcical situations as that which arose last week when, one day, a "high Vatican prelate working with the Council" announced categorically that there was no chance of women being admitted to Council sessions, and the next day the Pope himself announced that they would.