I recently received a report for the Women's Ordination Conference (WOC) announcing the results of a new survey of Catholic women ages 21-40 who have earned or are pursuing a higher degree in ministry or related studies. Of course, over the years we have been privilege to have highly dedicated women serve our parish staff, some of whom have advanced Pastoral Theology or Business degrees.
One of the purposes of the report was to explore the joy and pain experienced by young Catholic women today, and the significant professional, vocational, and personal paths women follow to contribute to the institutional Church.
The WOC circulated a questionnaire to 32 academic institutions and membership associations. There were multiplechoice or yes/no questions, and six open-ended questions; the survey was completed electronically in the summer of 2019 by 224 women.
Here are some of the highlights I found helpful and interesting as we promote the cause of equality of women in our Roman Catholic Church.
- 80% believe it is "theoretically possible" for the Church to ordain women as deacons.
- 74% believe the Church should ordain women as deacons.
- 63% percent believe it is "theoretically possible" for the Church to ordain women as priests.
- 62% believe the Church should ordain women as priests, while 11% responded that they were "unsure."
- 41% of respondents said they would not pursue ordination to the diaconate or priesthood, even if the Church opened those ministries to women. 30% said they would pursue ordination and 30% responded they were unsure.
- 82% said they would not pursue ordination through independent catholic movements, such as the "Roman Catholic Women Priests" or the "Ecumenical Catholic Communion," both of which welcome women candidates for ordination.
- When asked what barriers or challenges, either institutional or personal, experienced in their work or studies, the most frequent response was sexism, outdated gender roles, or lack of women's ordination as a type of "glass-ceiling." The next most frequent barrier was financial insecurity and cost of studies, followed by clericalism.
- When asked what the most crucial changes they would like to see in the Church, "women's inclusion" ranked first (20%), with "women's ordination" to the priesthood or diaconate a close second (19%).
The WOC report the women of the survey are educated, trained, and thoughtful Catholic ministers that have very few sustainable opportunities to share their gifts, let alone pursue a career in the institutional Church.
In my opinion the marginalization and loss of the gifts of these women is a tragedy and our Church suffers in its vitality, diversity, and relevancy because of it. I fully realize that many women are satisfied with their position in the Church and praise God for how freely they offer their gifts.
I believe it is important to listen to the experiences of these women and commit to equality. We need their gifts and talents, I pray daily that our Church will someday open our hearts up more fully to all the Baptized.
Let us continue to pray for and take action to bring about peace in our world!
In peace and courage,