Publication Date

Spring 2018

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Sophia Rose Arjana (Director), Elizabeth Gish, and Tamara Van Dyken

Degree Program

Department of Philosophy & Religion

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Vatican II was one of the most seminal councils in Roman Catholic Church history, having far reaching effects on the universal institution.1 One of the most important outcomes of Vatican II was not the reforming of orthopraxy, but the dialogue that developed regarding three specific issues – the transforming of women’s roles in Church life, Catholic sexual ethics, and the Church’s relationship with LGBTQ+ individuals.2 The decades following Vatican II became a new era of religious dialogue among Catholic scholars and theologians, which established new discussions on women’s ordination, sexual ethics, and attitudes towards homosexuality in the contemporary world.

This thesis examines dialogue concerning women’s ordination, as well as the dialogue that developed from Pope John Paul II’s teachings in his Theology of the Body regarding sexual ethics and the agency of queer persons in the Church. It explores the dialogue among scholars and theologians on the changing role and opinion of women in ministerial positions, the shifting understanding of sexual morality, and the changing attitudes towards queer individuals that developed because of Vatican II’s emphasis on discussion.

Vatican II decisively changed the way the Church practices and performs its numerous responsibilities in our modern world. However, the result also included a deeper understanding of the individual needs, ideas, and beliefs of the laity. In 2014, the Vatican’s International Theological Commission referenced the importance of laity’s role as members of the universal Church:

Putting faith into practice in the concrete reality of the existential situations in which he or she is placed by family, professional and cultural relations enriches the personal experience of the believer. It enables him or her to see more precisely the value and the limits of a given doctrine, and to propose ways of refining its formulation. That is why those who teach in the name of the Church should give full attention to the experience of believers, especially lay people, who strive to put the Church’s teaching into practice in the areas of their own specific experience and competence.3

In doing so, greater concern for discussion of these issues developed, which is documented in this thesis.

1 To maintain efficiency within the overall thesis, from this point the term “Roman Catholic Church” will be shortened to “the Church.” This in no way is meant to mean the Catholic Church is the only church but is a way to provide a shortened term for a longer name. It also is not meant to delineate the entirety of the Body of Christ within the religious tradition of Christianity to the Roman Catholic Church.

2 Orthopraxy in this case refers to the correct performance and practice of certain rituals and ritespredominantly found within the Roman Catholic Latin Rite Mass.

3 International Theological Commission, “Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church,” (Vatican City, 2014).


Catholic Studies | Ethics in Religion | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | History of Religion