On Saturday, a group of scholars and activists will convene at Chicago Theological Seminary to discuss, "Women in the Catholic Church: What Francis Needs to Know."
According to the forum's website, "it is an optimistic time for the Catholic Church, especially in anticipation of Pope Francis' upcoming visit to the United States in September. There is concern, however, that Pope Francis and other church leaders have a blind spot when it comes to women."
The forum is being convened by Call to Action, Catholics for Choice and CORPUS, with co-sponsorship from nine other organizations in the progressive Catholic movement.
The forum's organizers believe that the role of women in the church is "a largely ignored concern." To address this situation, the event will offer discussions of "gender equality, reproductive healthcare, ordination, LGBT rights and other issues important to modern Catholic women."
The program promises to consider ideas and experiences that ought to be included in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September, but probably will not be, given the meeting's lineup of conservative speakers and themes.
A series of four panel presentations will consider topics like the history of women's exclusion in the church, discriminatory practices in the church workplace, sexuality and the primacy of conscience, as well as issues affecting the family, such as adoption by same-sex couples and annulments.
Among those participating in the panel discussions are NCR contributors Sr. Christine Schenk and Nicole Sotelo, as well as theologians Susan Ross and Daniel Maguire. The program will begin at 9 a.m. and conclude at 4:30 p.m. with a press conference and the presentation of a "Declaration on Women in the Catholic Church."
Those who cannot make it to Chicago will be able to watch all of the proceedings in a live stream on the conference's website, which can be accessed by clicking here.