Imagine a Church without women -- our daughters, granddaughters, nieces, Goddaughters, neighbors….
Historically women have been the mainstay of the Church. They are “more religious” than men by every standard measure. They attend services more often, pray more often and carry out the work of the Church. For centuries, the Catholic Church has relied on women who have engaged in the mission of the Gospel in their parishes, entered religious life at more than double the rate of their male counterparts, and today make up 80% of the Church’s non-ordained workforce.
For the first time ever, Millennial Catholic women are more likely than their male counterparts to report that they never attend mass. Millennial Catholic women are also more likely then young men to reject the Church’s teaching on a number of moral and religious issues. And while three and even four times as many American Catholic women entered religious life as did men in the 19th and early 20th centuries, today Millennial Catholic women are less likely than men to say that they have ever even considered a religious vocation.
In fact the likelihood of exiting Catholicism altogether is greater among young adult Catholic women than it is among Catholic men their age. What’s worse is that if the Church loses Millennial women, we will likely lose their children as well.
Yet, it is still possible to build a Church for our daughters.
Millennial Catholic women are still significantly more likely than men their age to consider themselves “very spiritual.” They are not opposed to religion, but seek authenticity.
Help us to build a Church for our daughters! We invite you to join us in this work so that all our daughters may know radical inclusion and justice, equality without qualification, and an institution that transforms oppression into love without bounds.
The immediate response to our title is a question: why “sons" is not included. This is a response we sought and indeed received. The central focus in the role of women would be less sharp if "sons" were in the title.
The need we felt to proceed in this manner follows the way the Church and the world at large proceeded and, indeed, proceeds. When “men” or “sons” are not named, many sense this is an aberration; something they did not feel, for centuries, when “women” or “daughters” were, at best, presumed to be included.
We might go further. Let us reflect on this. If “women” or “daughters” are not named, if and when they are included, it will always be in a secondary way. Equality is most often a causality of our nomenclature. “Yes, of course. We include women”. The inclusion, however, puts “women” in their place, in the place they were presumed to occupy, in the place, most men preferred that they occupy.
Apart from calling attention to all these consequences, it is a hope of ours that women themselves will feel the difference and act appropriately.
More urgent than issues of nomenclature and attentiveness is behavior. Are we acting as though the lives of women matter as much as those of men do? What kind of Church do we build out of the materials of equality? Not such a Church. Could women have been marginalized for millennia from ordination to priesthood and without a convincing reason or theology to sustain this, if we believed women were equal? Could a Church have been made without any significant final authority for women if women were equal partners, even without ordination to priesthood? The double marginalization of exclusion from ordination and from final authority in every single instance is not just an exclusion. It is a testimony, loud and clear, of how we think and what we prefer and how we are identified. It says, even when we seem not to want to, that in the Church of Christ, as it were, some lives, many lives, simply do not matter or, at best, matter less.