Friday, July 26, 2019

The Church Doesn't Need More Women's Involvement


One of the sacred cows of liberal Catholicism is the unwavering belief that the Church is dominated by men and that women are voiceless and passive in an institution run by the patriarchy. To that end, there are endless proposals being tossed about to get women "more involved" in some sort of "official" capacity. There is always talk about utilizing the particular "gifts" women have to offer the Church and how much we will all benefit by hearing the woman's "voice", et al.

There's always this recurring idea about a female diaconate (by the way, for an excellent theological explanation of why this cannot be, please see Fr. Ripperger's article On the Unity of Holy Orders). We're going to see a lot of this nonsense being bandied about at the upcoming Amazon Synod; the Pre-Amazon Synod meeting in Rome spoke of the "the indispensable mission that women have", and the document "urges the Church to identify the type of official ministry that can be conferred on women." Now these comments were made solely with reference to the Amazon, but that doesn't really matter; we all know the end game is to shoe-horn women into an official ministerial role as a means of eventually force-feeding women's ordination to the entire Church.

A while ago I was traveling and compelled to attend a random Novus Ordo parish to fulfill my Sunday obligation. As I sat there during the Mass, I watched the procession of young, female altar servers preceding the elderly priest into the sanctuary. I listened to the readings done by female lectors. The organ was played by a female organist, the hymns and psalms sung by a female cantor. Two young girls brought up the gifts at the offertory. During the announcements he mentioned the religious education program, whose director was a woman. He thanked a female parishioner for organizing the floral arrangements around the altar. At communion time, two female EMHCs distributed the sacrament along with the priest. After Mass, I looked at the congregation and wondered how many men I saw would be attending Mass of their own volition if their wives were not dragging them there—in how many homes was the woman the functional spiritual leader of the family?

I later visited the parish website and saw that the organizers or contact persons for 10 of the 19 ministries listed on the website were women—even for the Knights of Columbus, which  found bizarre. Only two ministries had male contacts; the rest just said "Call the office", where no doubt the inquirer would be put in contact with a female secretary. And children attending CCD classes would most likely be taught by female catechists.

And in all my years as a Catholic I can say with confidence that this situation is normative in most parishes. When I was a Youth Director and DRE, I remember going to a meeting of all the DREs in the diocese and I was one of only three men. The rest were all middle aged (or elderly) women. I have noticed a similar trend among parish Youth Directors. The same is true for the moribund National Catholic Youth Ministry organizatio: according to their site, 57% of the national leadership of the National Catholic Youth Ministry organization is female, including their executive director. Women are broadly represented in the regional chairs of the NCYM (43%) and hold 75% of the at-large chairs. You may like Catholic youth ministry, you may hate it, but either way the fact is it is dominated by women.

This experience really made me stop and ponder, in what sense can anybody claim that women are underrepresented in the Catholic Church? Anyone who walked into an average Catholic parish and got involved to any degree would get the impression of a Church completely run by women. Women already dominate the Church at almost every level. If you add to this the prevalence of women in Catholic education, the ratio of women to men becomes staggering. 

And it's not just at the parochial and academic level. At our dioceses as well women are broadly represented, usually at or far above their societal demographic. According to the staff director of my diocese, 50% of the diocesan staff are women. A very fair representation of the general demographic! However, if you remove the ordained from the equation and look only at laypeople, the percentage of women working in the diocese rises to 60%. In other words, 6 out of every 10 lay people involved in administering the diocese are women. They represent a majority of the lay folks currently managing the diocese. Women are running the place.

Please tell me how women are underrepresented? How their voices are suppressed? The average Catholic is going to hear the Word of God read by a woman, worship to music played and sang by women, have their kids catechized by women, probably receive communion from a woman, deal with women in parish and diocesan administration, and interact primarily with women volunteers and employees at all levels of Church.  In many places, deacon's wives are also elevated to an unofficial, semi-ministerial role in "couples ministry" with their husbands, so Catholics often receive baptismal or marriage prep from women. But I guess because there is one, statistically tiny office women are excluded from—the ordained—then they are completely oppressed. 

Even among the ordained, however, women are not without their influence. I don't want to be too particular so I will stay to vague generalizations here—but even in the priesthood I have noticed that parish priests who are surrounded by women staff are often completely cucked by them.

Several years ago, I was traveling up the coast of California visiting the old mission parishes ahead of the canonization of St. Junipero Serra. I visited the lovely mission of San Antonio de Padua, the only one of the missions where I felt a spirit of genuine Catholic piety was still alive. Within the old church there was a mural painted in the early 19th century. It depicted a priest (perhaps Fr. Serra) posing at the altar with several of his servers and other eminent men of the mission. In the late Rococo style, the figures are all looking out of the painting at the viewer. The priest has rugged, hard features and a dark beard. The servers are all robust young men with dark eyes and evidently Spanish or Mexican, some of them sporting beards or pointed mustaches. They are all kneeling in white surplices with ornate lace trimming, hands folded. There are also a few men in secular dress, apparently landowners or local magistrates, wearing sashes and holding swords. All of them are standing or kneeling before the altar, looking out, a half dozen or so. It really struck me what a manly enterprise Catholicism was at that time and place—looking at this old portrait, I could clearly grasp its appeal and why men of that time would have wanted to be part of this.

This is nothing against women by any means. I'm not one of those "back to the kitchen" Catholic men. But my friends, the crusade to "finally" get women "involved" is a farce. Women are pretty much already running the show at every level; at least they are heavily represented to such a degree that nobody can sincerely argue that the Church is excluding women from involvement. The Church is already inundated with women. We don't need more women involvement. If anything, we need more male involvement. It is men who vanished from Catholic administration, schools, parish life, and liturgical service as servers, cantors, etc. And many of our priests, if they are not part of the homosexual clique, are far too effeminate. A entire gender has been silently atrophied away while progressives lament that the atrophy has not been extreme enough.

A Church without the active engagement of an entire gender is a Church on life support. Our Lord requested that we pray for vocations by asking God to send workers into His harvest; these days we need to pray also for the much more basic petition that one of the two human sexes merely shows up. What times indeed.

7 comments:

Mona Lisa said...

It wouldn't hurt to have more women in the kitchen in general. Home economics is a great skill to have but so underrated today. Women could revolutionise the church by taking a more active role in the home. What a beautiful world it would be. Someone keeping the home fires burning, practicing hospitality while the men run things and hopefully get the chance to fix this mess we are in.

Boniface said...

@Mona Lisa, okay I agree, but my comment wasn't meant to suggest I am opposed to stay at home moms. I agree more of that would be great for society. All I meant was I am not the kind of guy to insist that a woman *must* stay home, or that she can have no professional engagements outside the home.

Jack said...

Men and women tend to wield power/authority differently. What our pastors are afraid of is masculine authority, in others and in themselves. They refuse to judge or condemn the evils in the world because they wish to get along without a fuss. God ordained one group of men to speak His judgement against the world - Catholic priests - and they refuse to speak it. They are trying to escape the judgement of God the Father by fleeing to the arms of women. The women are being lured by their feminine desires to help and nurture into these masculine roles, apart from those who are just arrogant.

Ibelin said...

Imagine Urban II asking his Parish Council full of women on what he should do regarding the First Crusade

c matt said...

Every time I hear about "more women involvement" and how great it would be for all, I recall this old joke:

One day in the garden, Adam asked God for a companion. God said "I can give you a companion that will always stand by your side, support your decisions, and obey your commands. She will never undermine you or belittle you.
However, I will have to take one of your hands, one of your feet, and one of your eyes."

Adam asked "What can I get for a rib?"

Anonymous said...

When I finally came to my senses and returned to the Catholic Church after a more than a 30-year absence, I enthusiastically jumped in with both feet. I read at Mass, worked at the Parish doing all I could and then some, and showed up for and volunteered at almost every Parish event. After a few years of hyperdrive and overload, the first hammer fell as Parishes were consolidated and Priests were shuffled around in an attempt to deal with the increasingly evident Priest shortage. The second hammer fell soon thereafter when the latest abuse scandal came to light. Reeling in the wake of these disasters, it began to dawn on me that the best thing I could and should be “doing” for the Church was praying deeply and often and adoring Christ. So I gradually withdrew from all visible Church activity and applied my attention and energy to prayer and adoration.

My opinion is that as long as women feel compelled to run the Church, there will be no need or place for men to step up and into the roles meant for them.

Nandarani said...

Yes. Exactly what goes on in Honolulu at the historic Cathedral here: armies of female servers, females outnumbering males in the sanctuary. It is repellant. I'm female.

When I was raised in the Episcopal Church we had an altar rail, received 'communion' from the hand of the minister, and there were no females in the area of the altar. Acolytes served and were male.

The men in the Church today who are 'under' Vatican II I see as tied exactly as if in a regular secular job to financial security. It is a rare man: Fr. Vaughn Treco, Fr. Eduard Perrone, and others, who ends up outside the fold because of what they say or do. These men pole vault in their spiritual lives with calumnies, and losses of various kinds.