The Social Construction of a New Leadership Role: Catholic Women Pastors

Wallace, Ruth. "The Social Construction of a New Leadership Role: Catholic Women Pastors." Sociology of Religion 54, no. 1 (1993): 31-42.

In this article, which also appears in Swatos, W., ed, Gender and Religion (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1994), Wallace describes how the Second Vatican Council, the 1983 Revised Code of Canon Law, the growing priest shortage, and increasing church membership have led to the appointment of women as pastoral administrators of priestless parishes. Wallace applies Berger and Luckmann's theory on the social construction of reality to the experiences of the female pastoral administrators who were the subjects of her study. She demonstrates that parishes receiving pastoral administrators experienced the "dialectical process" consisting of "externalization," "objectivation," and "internalization" described by Berger and Luckmann. During the externalization stage, pastoral administrators sought to overcome parishioners resistance by actively working to get to know them. Next, pastoral ministers sought to establish collaborative leadership by involving parishioners in decision-making. During the internalization phase, parishioners began to raise objections to the patriarchal traditions that constrained their pastoral administrators. Wallace concludes by asserting that the number of parishes in need of lay administrators will continue to grow and calls for research comparing male and female administrators, deacons and lay administrators, and female pastoral administrators/priests in cross-cultural and ecumenical contexts.