Even St. Francis needed St. Claire
In September 2017, Voices of Faith conducted a flash online survey for young women (ages 18-35) and invited them to share their perspectives on faith and the Catholic Church. This initiative aims to gauge the voices of young women of faith and to supplement online surveys done by others in preparation for the Synod of Bishops on youth.
Survey respondents come from 22 countries and while they do not statistically represent the views of young women worldwide, their responses offer a frank, authentic glimpse into the spiritual lives of young women from around the world who perhaps have little voice in official Church processes.
Almost half (49 percent) of respondents reported that they have thought at some point about leaving the Catholic Church A respondent from Poland shares her dilemma:
“Yes, but I don’t think I could really leave, or it would be extremely painful. I believe the doctrine and in particular the Real Presence, so I wouldn’t really have anywhere else to go, but still, the continued alliance between the ‘throne’ and the altar in place in Poland for the past two years, with all the implied nationalism, anti-migrant, anti-refugee and anti-women stances and traditionalism in its worst sense is continually driving me to wonder how far is too far, or when the only decent thing to do would be to leave. I am trying to find refuge in those select places where that main narrative doesn’t take hold (and feel unjustly privileged being able to do that, living in a big city), but still the pressure is growing.”
We asked the respondents if they felt that women were sufficiently represented in the decision- making of the Church. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) responded “no.” We also asked our respondents for the first three words that came to mind when they heard “women and the Catholic Church.” Many responses anchored on the prevailing images of femininity in the Church, mentioning Mary, religious sisters, female saints and virtues like patience and love. There were also negative responses like feeling disenfranchised, taken advantage of, abuse/misogyny, oppression, suppression, undervalued and injustice. Some respondents voiced their hopes about wider perspectives and that “women can be more than just nuns.” We have compiled the responses into a word cloud. Note that words that are repeated the most by the respondents are shown in larger, bolder letters.
Over 86 percent of respondents said that decision-making in the Church should be equally shared by men and women. An Indian respondent observed:
“We live in a society of equality. We may debate that Jesus only chose men as Apostles, but if Jesus lived in this day and age, he would choose women. Women and men have unique perspectives on a lot of things which would benefit the Church.”
And how would young women convince church leaders to be more inclusive? A respondent from the Philippines argues:
“The case is not that women are better or more capable than men. It is simply that we also have a lot to offer the Church, and we want a place at the table too, where all are truly equal. Please do not predetermine our roles for us. Only we (and those who truly believe in women) can do that. Allow us to discern our own capacities and limitations.”
Read about what concrete changes young women recommend, what they would like to share with Pope Francis and be inspired by more real-life testimonies of young women in our full report here.