How can the Church be more woman-friendly? If you’re still awake, well done. This topic has become as monotonous as Christmas turkey leftovers. But hear me out – especially if you’re a parish priest.
For the 31 years I have been Catholic, conversations about how to expand the role of women in the Church have been coloured by clericalism. For too long, women who supposedly speak on behalf of other Catholic women have argued that the main channel for increasing female visibility is through the administration of the sacraments: female ordination, female altar servers, female Eucharistic ministers and so on.
Great emphasis is always placed on women being “visible” in the Church. The problem is that we have neglected to support their presence in the pews, with so much prestige attributed to their being on the altar. To be blunt, women need help receiving the sacraments, not assisting with them.
You may be sceptical – and with good reason. If you walked into Westminster Cathedral tomorrow there’s a high chance you would see more women than men lighting a candle and offering a prayer. But how many of them are under 40 and how many have children in tow? I don’t mean to sound ageist, but it is in the Church’s interest that younger generations be engaged with the faith.
Since I became a wife and mother in the space of a little more than a year, it’s really been an education in how babies dribble all over your prayer life. Most of Mass is spent pacing up and down outside or anxiously feeding, with little time for serious prayer or reflection.
Let’s go back a little further. Pregnancy affects women differently. Some seem to glide through the nine-month period with a dewy glow, while others limp along, clutching a sick bowl. I was in the latter category.
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