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In the last eleven years, teachers in theological faculties have increased by 4.5 percent (but still more are needed)

Theology: more female students and more teachers

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06 February 2021

In Italy, the presence of women in theological faculties is increasing, albeit not by a significant amount. This is encouraging if we think back to a time when women were not allowed to enroll in theological faculties and it was unthinkable, almost heresy, that they could go on to teach. Women have tried to break down the high wall of clericalism that considered theology an exclusively male prerogative, the legacy of a culture of absolute Thomism that considered women mas occasionatus, a defective male, and therefore incapable of thinking.

A consultation of the yearbooks and the various academic ordo reveals that in the academic year 2019-2020 there were 2,363 professors exercising the ministry of teaching in the thirteen Roman theological faculties and the eight theological faculties in Italy.  Of these, 1,986 are men and 377 are women; a low percentage for women, just 15.95%, but a significant figure if we look at the highly troubled path of female teachers in theological faculties. An itinerary made up of exclusions, discrimination and suffering.

According to research conducted by Anna Carfora and Sergio Tanzarella and compiled in Teologhe in Italia. Indagine su una tenace minoranza (Women theologians in Italy. A survey of a tenacious minority), published by Pozzo di Giacobbe, in the academic year 2008-2009 there were 2,513 teachers in the same theological faculties. Of these, 299 were women and 2,214 men. Women accounted for 11.9% and men for 88.1%. In eleven years, while the total number of teachers has decreased (150 fewer), there has been a 4.05% increase in the number of women, representing numerically 78 women.

On the one hand, this is certainly a positive fact, if we think back to the years when theology for women was only a dream; on the other hand, it underlines the fact that work still needs to be done. This includes moves to declericalise theology and make it become a great banquet of communion and synodality, where there is a conviviality of differences, dialogue and welcome. And, where the model of the polyhedron is experimented with “reflecting the confluence of all the partialities that in it maintain their originality”, as Pope Francis put it (Evangelii gaudium, no. 236). 236). Women, through study, training, expertise, determination and sacrifice, have succeeded in breaking through that veil of invisibility in recent years. They have succeeded in making a significant contribution to the world of theology with their prophetic vision that allows them to see life even in the stones and to “think without railing”, to cite Hannah Arendt.

by Assunta Spalliero
Holds a degree in Religious Sciences and an MA in Sacred Theology at the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Southern Italy, San Luigi section.