A reflection about “more” as Pope Francis says that there must be “more for women in the Church

Author: Dr. Carolyn Y Woo, CEO of Catholic Relief Services

Before I begin, we must remind ourselves that we seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that our truth-speaking is grounded in love and humility, and that our dreams are not self-focused but embrace the collective whole which is the Body of Christ.

Let me begin with an image which grips me: It is the image of women knocking on the door of the Church: to be heard, seen, included, welcomed.

Knocking evokes the parable that “knock and the door will be open to you.” It also evokes the concern that worse than the persistent knocking by women, will be the silence when the next generation of women stop knocking, they walk by the door, they no longer see a place for them behind the door, they give up, they do not notice the door anymore.

With all the contributions by women to sustain the ministries and vitality of the Church, who will pick this up? It is in this context that I think about “more” as Pope Francis says that there must be “more for women in the Church.”

I have specific suggestions which I will share. But I think it is more important to frame our thinking as a way to look at the mirror, to focus discussion, imagine the outcomes, and stimulate solutions. I am going to offer five contrasts for this purpose.

1. Engagement of women as leaders in the Church: from exceptional to habitual, from ad hoc to systematic

2. Engagement of women as family, or as guests, or guest workers

3. Receptivity of women’s voices as threatening or enriched

4. Casting the feminine genius : in part (as sensitive, intuitive, nourishing) or in whole (including other characteristics such as entrepreneurial, persistent, social critic, speaking truth to power)

5. The Church : as a provider of service to women as well as advocate for their rights

To close I also want to offer two statements of caution, that as we seek for “more” for women, we do not get tied up with titles and places of honor; that we do not fall into the equivalence of what Pope Francis refers to as the trap and lure of clericalism, and we are not just aiming at appointments at the Vatican thus narrowly and erroneously limiting church to the the Curia.