By Colleen Dulle

When Nathalie Becquart, a member of the Congregation of Xavières, was appointed the first woman undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, she voiced an observation that made headlines around the world. In a press conference at the Vatican, she told reporters her appointment was evidence that “the patriarchal mindset [of the church] is changing.”

Is it true?

Pope Francis has appointed women to positions of greater authority than any previous pontiff, but the Vatican remains a largely male-dominated space that, because it must be controlled by an ordained bishop, places a definite restriction on the heights to which women can aspire—a limit some have termed a “stained-glass ceiling.”

Under that stained-glass ceiling, though, women are gaining ground. In 2019, 24 percent of employees at the Holy See were women, compared with 17.6 percent in 2010, continuing a gradual increase that began in earnest after the Second Vatican Council.

This story was first published by America Magazine