Women and the Art of Magisterium: Reflections on Vatican II and the Postconciliar Church

  • Gerard MannionEmail author
Part of the Pathways for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue book series (PEID)


This paper explores transformations in the understanding of teaching authority and also considers an often neglected group of subjects who have exercised such in the period during and since the Second Vatican Council. In particular, it explores both topics vis-à-vis the role of women in the church, especially their contributions to the church’s exercise of magisterium. The article outlines the need to increase awareness, acknowledgment and appreciation of the contribution of women to the church’s teaching authority and, most importantly of all, to increase further their participation in the same. First, the paper considers (as an important case study), the role played by the few women present in an active capacity at Vatican II. Through posing the rhetorical question, ‘what were they doing there?’, the author argues that these women were teaching with authority, i.e. exercising magisterium. Next, the paper explores some of the confusion and controversies surrounding the notion of what magisterium actually is and who should exercise it, before surveying some further brief examples of how women have exercised magisterium throughout the history of the church. The paper next considers how events in the church have developed from a stance of confrontation toward the more positive steps that have been taken in relation to the role of women in the church under Pope Francis. It concludes with reflections on the future and why attention to aggiornamento for magisterium is essential in order that the church becomes a body of greater and wider co-responsibility, including the indispensable collaboration of women practicing the art of magisterium.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of TheologyGeorgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA

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