Woman Paul, Camille Agnes Becker
- Activist, Feminist, Moral Theologian and Social justice advocate
Written by Ruth Lee, Australian Catholic University
Camille Agnes Becker was born in 1932 in Sydney, to dressmaker Elsie Childs and railway engineer Norman Becker. She attended St Declan's school in Penshurst and then trained as a physical education instructor and a secretary. After their marriage in 1956, Camille and her husband, architect, Ken Paul, travelled and worked in London. On returning to Australia they became involved with their local Catholic church and the Family Apostolate, 'an offshoot of The Grail, a Catholic movement of spirited women who work in the world to bring about spiritual, cultural and social change' (Lindsay, 2012). They had six children, but the drowning of their 16-month old son in 1972 and the stillbirth of a daughter two years later, left Camille devastated and questioning her faith.
She began to study, beginning at the Institute of Counseling (Archdiocese of Sydney) from 1975-1977, before gaining admission to St Patrick's Seminary. 'Ironically, it was at the Seminary that she was introduced to - and convinced by - feminist theologians and their arguments against sexist discrimination in the church' (Lindsay, 2012). Paul was passionate about feminism and religion. In her final year she was elected as student representative on the Board of Studies - a first for a female student and in 1982 she graduated with a baccalaureate in sacred theology, the second laywoman to do so.
In 1983 she was invited to join a Bishops' Taskforce examining the role of women in the Catholic Church'. Impatient with clericalism and church hierarchies, she worked with Pauline Smith, RSM and Patricia Bartley, SJ, to establish Women and the Australian Church (WATAC) which held its first state conferences in 1983 and 1984. In 1987, at the first national conference, Women-Church: An Australian Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion was launched. An international journal, it encouraged the expression of Australian women's theological writing. Paul co-edited the journal from 1989 until the final issue in 2007; she commented: 'the voice of women needs to be recorded so that history knows of our existence and our experiences' (Paul, 2007, p. 93).
Paul undertook a graduate diploma in religious studies in 1983 at the Catholic College of Education before returning to St Patrick's as its first female moral theology lecturer in 1985. In 1986 she was awarded a licentiate in sacred theology cum laude for her work on feminist theologian Mary Daly. In 1993 she completed her PhD at the University of Sydney, published as Equal or Different? Women, the Papacy and Social Justice in 1999. The book expresses Paul's belief in the full and equal personhood of men and women and their rights and dignity. A tireless committee member, she helped found the Australian Feminist Theological Foundation. She was also a member of the Archdiocesan Commission for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations and a member of the Catholic Moral Theology Association of Australia and New Zealand.
Leadership for Paul resulted from her desire for women to be taken seriously by the church. 'As an intellectual and moral leader, Camille worked primarily in the company with others. She recognized the value of shared responsibility, the power of joint action, the joy of friendship and the reward of providing opportunities for others to find their voices' (Lindsay, 2012). Of her personal journey she wrote: 'I realised there were no "black and white" answers to these eternal questions, but the search for self peace is a continuing, ongoing and probably never ending process' (Paul, 2007, p.95). She died in 2010.
- Paul, Camille, Equal or Different?: Women, the Papacy and Social Justice, John Garrett Publishing, Hawthorn, Victoria, 1997. Details
- Casey, Damien; Paul, Camille; Pirola, Teresa; Uhr, Marie Louise; Cargill, Christine, 'Collection of five articles on the report Woman and Man: One in Christ Jesus which researched the participation of women in the Catholic Church in Australia', National Outlook, vol. 22, no. 7, 2000, pp. 14-23. Details
- Paul, Camille, 'Feminism and stereotypes', Women-Church, vol. 1, 1987, pp. 15-16. Details
- Paul, Camille, 'Christifideles Laici: a feminist response', The Australasian Catholic Record, vol. 64, no. 4, 1989, pp. 412-419. Details
- Paul, Camille, 'Men and Women: Relationships: the Sixth Commandment', Compass Theology Review, vol. 28, no. 2, 1993, pp. 23-27. Details
- Paul, Camille, 'The Belles of St Patrick's', Women-Church, vol. 40, 2007, pp. 93-95. Details
- 'Seminary pioneer', Mosman Daily, 5 August 1980. Details
- Lindsay, Elaine, 'Theologian broadened the church with woman's touch: Camille Paul, 1932-2010', The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales), 5 October 2010. http://www.smh.com.au/national/obituaries/theologian-broadened-the-church-with-womans-touch-20101004-16483.html. Details
- Campion, Edmund, 'A voice for women, Camille Paul', in Madonna Magazine, January - February 2011, http://www.madonnamagazine.com.au/articles/2011/jan-feb/campion.html. Details