Joan Chittister, osbby Joan Chittister, OSB
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

The American Academy of Religion and its companion association, the Society of Biblical Literature, is known for gathering forward-thinking theologians across denominations for the sake of cross-pollinating the best of religious research and thinking. So it’s not surprising that at this year’s Nov. 22-24 conference in Baltimore that part of the conference agenda was a panel of speakers whose own interests might give us all a snapshot view of Pope Francis and the challenges he faces in dealing with various current questions.

The sweeping composition of the panel — both lay and religious, Catholic and not, male and female — highlighted specific issues facing the church and the early responses of this present pope to areas of ecumenism, liberation theology, tradition, spiritual formation and, in my own case, women’s issues and religious life.

In today’s column, in the interest of broadening the conversation, I’ll share the remarks I made as part of that panel.

women8The 20th-century Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote: “The only task worthy of our efforts is to construct the future.” My concern today is how to construct a new future for women around the world through the global outreach of the church.

The 6th-century philosopher Boethius reminds us that every age that is dying is simply a new age coming to life. A second insight that gets my attention comes from Woody Allen 15 centuries later: “I’m not afraid of dying; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

Both messages are clear: First, continuity can go too far. Second, to fail to face the moment we’re in can fail the future that’s coming with or without us and whether we like it or not.

Point: This is a crossover moment in history.

This is the moment when history discovered women

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