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On 30 May 1994 Pope John-Paul II declared that the discussion on ordaining women was "definitively" closed. Women could not become priests, the Vatican repeated for the "very last" time. This event stimulated an unprecedented commotion in the Flemish (Belgian) Catholic community ; The laity voluntarily working in the Church even threatened to strike. The debate on feminism and human rights within the Roman Catholic Church erupted more fiercely than ever before. The laity reacted astonishingly radical and the bishops tried to hold a position in between the displeased Catholics and the Vatican. An analysis of the debates held on these issues in the Flemish newspapers, shows that the human rights discourse and the Vatican doctrine are worlds apart. Nevertheless, progressive Catholics try to create a new discourse that is able to combine both perspectives. In the article the interrelations between the several discourses are discussed, using the 'commonwealth model' of Boltanski and Thévenot. It is argued that their model is useful, but inadequate, because of the lack of attention to power and its ahistoricism.
religion - rights - argumentation - Boltanski - Thévenot - Bourdieu - female ordination - Catholicism - Flanders
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(*)This article was presented at the Second International Conference of Theory, Culture and Society, Berlin, 10-14 august 1995. The french version 'Rome ne fut pas batie en ce jour. Le modèle des "cités" selon Boltanski et Thévenot et le débat sur les droits et la religion en Flandre' has been published previously in Social Compass (1996), Vol.43, No.4, pp.537-561.
(**)Dirk Jacobs (PhD, Social Sciences, Utrecht University, 1998) is currently affiliated as a researcher to the Catholic University of Brussels (Belgium). This article was written in 1995 when he was still a PhD-student at the Department of General Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Utrecht University (the Netherlands).
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