Friday, September 20, 2013

A Letter from a Ewe to Pope Francis

This blog is a response to an interview between Antonio Spadaro and Pope Francis.  In the interview, Francis said the following about women in the church:

“I am wary of a solution that can be reduced to a kind of ‘female machismo,’ because a woman has a different make-up than a man.  But what I hear about the role of women is often inspired by an ideology of machismo.  Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed.  The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role.  The woman is essential for the church.  Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops.  I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity.  We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church.  We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman.  Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church.  The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions.  The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the church is exercised for various areas of the church.”

Dear Francis,

I write this as an open letter via my blog because it stands about as much chance reaching you this way as it would if sent via traditional postal service.  Additionally, I make it a public letter because many people tell me they take comfort in reading my expressed sentiments of angst and concern that they share.  So, I think perhaps this letter is mostly for them since the chances of you reading it are slim.

In some ways I feel that you are an answer to concerns expressed in my letter to Benedict XVI sent via my bishop during his February, 2012 ad limina visit and posted to my blog the day before my mother died on February 13, 2012.  When I read her that letter she told me that when she became Catholic she often dreamed that she should forcefully and candidly confront the hierarchy like her namesake, Catherine of Siena.  She continued by saying that perhaps instead, her role was to bear me to bring forth those messages.  Therefore, I write this also in tribute to her and in her spirit.

I read the English translation of your interview with Antonio Spadaro and am encouraged by many things you said but deeply grieved by your words about women.  It is difficult to know where to begin expressing myself because your words violated me so profoundly.  Yet I hold little hope that you will understand why your words abraded my soul because they reflect the male hegemony that is the Roman Catholic hierarchy in which you have chosen to live.  When one dwells within a hegemonic culture, the resulting hegemonic praxes and ideologies are often accepted as “natural.”

Also, you have chosen to belong to the “Society of Jesus”, a group that excludes women from its society though Jesus’ society was noted for the inclusion of women.  This only further reduces my hope that you will understand.  Yet, the Spirit directs me to write despite diminishing hope and so I write you.

Francis, “Who do you say that I am?”

A statement made in another part of your interview belies your approach for answering such a question.  You said, “This is how it is with Mary: If you want to know who she is, you ask theologians…”  No, if I want to know who Mary is, I ask Mary.  Then I ask people who are similar to Mary – women and mothers.  Theologians are on my list but pretty far down my list of potential sources for answering that question with any degree of accuracy.  Yet they seem the only inhabitants of your list.

There are some physical differences between male and female humans.  One of them is not the ability to speak.  Thus, please do not invalidate, negate or repudiate the expressions of self-knowledge God inscribes within any person – female or male.  This is their conscience.  It should be your first source for understanding who people are.  Yet historically in the church hierarchy and continuing with your recent words, it does not even rank as high as being the last source the hierarchy consults for understanding women because you often do not consult women at all.  This is an unacceptable violation of women and of God’s Spirit within them.

Your statement about “female machismo” is confusing at best.  I am a computer scientist and engineer by training and trade in addition to holding a master degree in theology from a Jesuit university.  Let me be very clear.  I entered my engineering and theology programs because God instilled gifts in me that God asked me to cultivate and share with God’s creation.   Yet, your words seem to dismiss these pursuits as “female machismo” – as though breaking sexist stereotypes only stems from a woman’s desire to be masculine?  Has it ever occurred to you that women are just plain and simply answering God’s call using the gifts God gave them?   Could the hierarchy please stop trying to re-direct the Spirit in women?  Jesus cites violation of the Spirit as the only unpardonable sin (MT 12:31-32).  Thus, it would be a really good one to avoid.

You say the church needs to ascertain women’s role in the church.  Why would my role be any different than yours?  Why would it be any different than a man’s?  Why do we even need to have this conversation at all?

Men and women have some differences but more similarities than differences.  Why does the hierarchy begin with, cultivate and fixate upon gender differences rather than similarities?  Furthermore, when is a difference just a difference versus a limitation?  In the case of men nurturing and birthing an in utero child, the limitation is quite clear because men lack a uterus.  Perhaps someday God will reveal to humans a way to remove even that limitation but God has not yet done so.  However, it has not been demonstrated that male reproductive organs are necessary to conduct priestly ministry.  Indeed history, archaeology, scripture and present-day examples demonstrate women are very capable in this regard.

If one reads modern biology and psychology or observes demonstrated capabilities, the assumption should be equal participation and equal roles regardless of gender unless proven otherwise.  Instead, the hierarchy approaches women’s roles, especially leadership roles, with the default of exclusion unless proven otherwise.  And then the hierarchy works to prove that the exclusion must stand.  Yet, Jesus praised Mary Magdalene for breaking social and religious gender-based stereotypes.  Can hierarchical members, whose treatment of women deviates so drastically from Jesus’ example, be credible Vicars for Christ?

The hierarchy’s arguments about banning women from ordination cannot stand unless one accepts as foundational “truths” sexist stereotypes or things that are simply not true.  This of course violates the 8th Commandment so it cannot be tolerated as “truth.”  Per Jesus, we must not break God’s commandment merely to preserve religious leaders’ traditions (MT 15:3). 

Rather than repeat them here I will just provide a link to a previous blog article that summarizes the abundant flaws associated with the hierarchy’s stance on ordaining women.  I ask that you read this article and reflect with humility – with a willingness to say, “Maybe we were wrong” rather than perpetuate the hierarchical arrogant insistence on “We are absolutely right.”

You say one should not confuse the function of women with the dignity of women.  Function and dignity are inextricably intertwined unless you subscribe to a “separate but equal” mentality that has been soundly rejected as sinful with regards to race. 

Where is the dignity for women or children in Canon Law equating the ordination of women with the sinfulness of clergy raping children?  The sexist dehumanization of that Canon rapes my mind and soul.  It has raped the souls of many women who left the church in disgust, unable to subject their souls to any further such violations. 

You say that a woman, Mary, is more important than the bishops.  Yet, your publicly acknowledged advisors, whether the bishops’ synod, Curial Dicasteries, or your special group of eight cardinals, are all men.  Francis, who are your prominent female advisors?  Do they look anything like the many women fleeing the church at accelerating pace?  Where is your collegiality with women?    

Canon Law excludes women from hierarchical leadership or voting on any hierarchical leaders.  Please help me understand how disenfranchisement and exclusion from leadership demonstrate women are more important than bishops?  By the way, I do not think women are more important than men or bishops.  I think we are all of equal importance.  When men like you say such things, I think they are just trying to ply women’s egos and pride in hopes of them remaining docile in their marginalized and discriminated state. 

Why does doctrine (Redemptionis Sacramentum) say boys are preferred for altar servers and girls are to be tolerated at the discretion of the bishops?  Please help me understand how this is anything other than sinful sexism.  By the way, my daughters’ first sexist discrimination came at the hands of the hierarchy.  In a previous diocese they were senior servers training all other servers but when they moved to our present diocese they were no longer permitted to serve weekend liturgies simply because they were female.  Imagine yourself in their shoes and then listen to yourself say that function and dignity should not be confused.  They should not be confused as being anything other than intertwined.

Terms like “theology of women”, “feminine genius” and “specific place for women” seem like a smokescreen to hide the internal carnage they cause within the souls and minds of many women.  Rather than repeat myself, please read my blog articles about theology of women and terms like “holy femininity.  Please stop using these insulting terms that only make sense if you assume women are frail, fragile creatures that are mostly different from rather than mostly similar to men.

If developing a theology of women is so critically important to the church as you suggest, how much of your day do you devote to talking to women?  How much room does this occupy on meeting agendas?  How many women are present to represent women when such agenda topics arise?

Does a theology of women require creation, validation or ratification by men?  Unfortunately due to the reality of the Catholic Church's male hegemony, there seems to be a need to gain male buy-in to do what is just with regards to women if one remains within the institution.  Perhaps that is why so many leave.  They have given up all hope that the hierarchy is capable of doing what is right and just.  

Also, please do not dismiss my expressed concerns as "angry rant" if you do not share my opinions.  Few things are as dehumanizing as telling another person how they do or should feel.  I am not angry; I am wounded and unwilling to subject myself to those who don't know or care that they inflict wounds.  Most wounded women leave the Catholic Church but I remain.  However, I have redefined the hierarchy's role in my life because the hierarchy's behavior has earned my distrust.  I am uncertain what they could do to regain that trust which they rightfully have lost  By the way, look at your pew counts and statistics on former Catholics.  I stand with the majority of the church - the people of God.  How has the hierarchy succeeded in wounding so many people to the point of departure?  When will it not only end but when will sincere efforts towards reparation and reconciliation begin?

As you mention, I have asked deep questions that need to be answered.  They appear in this blog and in an unpublished book manuscript of similar name sent to several members of the hierarchy including Benedict XVI.  Though some have acknowledged receipt, none have answered a single question.  I invite you into conversation via my blog to begin discussing these questions.  I also will send you a copy of the manuscript for “Questions from a Ewe to Her Shepherds” if you promise to read it and actually enter into dialogue regarding the questions.

I repeat, Francis, “Who do you say that I am?” If you wonder who I am, I suggest you begin by communicating with me rather than with theologians.   

I will be in Rome this November traveling with the Chancellor of my diocese.  I respectfully request a private discussion on these concerns about women.  I look forward to the favor of a reply though sadly, I do not expect one. 

Know of my prayers for you and those whom you hold dear.  May you walk in the peace of Christ, guided by the Spirit, rendering and receiving God’s love.


A ewe with a lot of deep questions

P.S.  After I published this letter I reflected more on what might be required for the hierarchy to regain my trust.  You speak in another part of your interview about acting as a father.  Please allow me to describe my real father's behavior by sharing a story.

When I was in school, my father took me to a very large mathematics competition.  While awaiting results of the mathematics test taken by participants, a male participant's father approached my father, pointing at me while saying, "Why did you bring her?  That's like letting a kid take a lick from a lollipop only to take it away.  She won't need math to be a wife and mother."

My father looked the man squarely in the eye and said very calmly and deliberately, "She is here because she belongs here."  It turned out I placed 7th in the competition.  My father found the other father, waved my award in the air, again looking him calmly and squarely in the the eye and repeated, "She is here because she belongs here."

This made a huge impression on me but my father barely remembers it because it is just how he conducted himself with regards to all his children and all women. When hierarchy members are willing to stand and look any critic squarely in the eye while they say, "She is here because she belongs here" about women in any church role, then they might regain my trust and earn the privilege for me to call them "father."

I feel Fr. Roy Bourgeois did this which is why he has earned the privilege of me addressing him as "father."  However, I am sure you are aware that Fr. Roy has been defrocked and excommunicated by the hierarchy simply because he imitated my father by saying, "She is here because she belongs here" about a female priest.  An act of good faith would be to reinstate him and any bishop forced into silence or retirement due to their advocacy for women.

Last night during dinner I read my dad this letter.  Several times he interjected saying, "that's right" to affirm points I made.  When I read him his quote contained in the post-script, I got choked-up and interjected, "Dad that really meant a lot to me" after he had softly but more firmly said, "that's right" yet again in response.  When I finished reading the letter he said, "Il papa should talk to la mamma.  I think someday we will have a 'la mamma' instead of an 'il papa' leading." (As a side note to those reading who don't speak Italian, "il papa" means "the pope" in Italian but it also means, "the dad."  "La mamma" means "the mom.")

I also read him the comment one of his 20+ grandchildren wrote.  You see it below signed by AW.  He solemnly nodded his head in agreement, exhaled another, "that's right" and added one of his most common and powerful parenting lines while switching to a disapproving nod as though addressing you directly as one of his children, "Francis, me; don't tell me.  Have you re-instated a single censured person yet?"


  1. Amen! You have my proxy when you get to Rome.

  2. Thank EWE ... Your reflections always provide me with prods to growth. I am grateful.

  3. As a ewe, I was going to send you some questions to raise when I read the interview transcript this morning, but I see you've done a much more eloquent job. Thank you and I pray that our pope will open his heart to listen and understand how utterly degrading it was reading his words about women.

    Additionally, I have a question regarding his statements on other issues of importance to women and to everyone:
    In the section of the interview which has managed to catch media attention, Frank said the church's teachings on homosexuality, abortion, and contraception are clear. I think if he were to consult with the average member of the body, he might find that the hierarchy's teachings may be clear, but they also may be wrong since that "clarity" has been widely used to exclude, persecute, harshly judge, condemn, and otherwise NOT LOVE members of the body. Suggesting there can be clear teaching regarding these issues seems sort of like saying you can fit a lampshade, a plunger, and a bicycle inside a jewelry box. Please consider whether you are trying to use "black" or "white" to describe a colorful world. To be more frank, Frank, I think the only possible clear teaching about homosexuality, abortion, and contraception is that we must all love each other and support people when they act as the spirit calls them to act. In other words, please use your leadership role to apologize for the injuries to so many of your flock because of "clear" teachings to NOT LOVE. Then, please issue teachings to LOVE BECAUSE life is unclear.


  4. Amen sister! Thanks AW. Excellent points.

  5. Imagine the positive transformative impact there could be on the lives of women around the world if the Roman Church repented, reformed and transformed into a model of inclusion.


  6. This is one of the very best things you have ever written. It brought me to tears. Maybe, just maybe you will be heard.

  7. I love your blog... your ideas express so much of what I have come to believe of a church that I no longer can support. A year ago, I decided to become a free-range Catholic and it's been a wonderful experience. I must admit, I'm more free-range than Catholic. Although I don't have a safe nest in an enclosed cage, I now roam freely on the green earth, discovering more and more that God's abundant blessings are all around.

    1. A free-range Catholic. I hadn't heard this term before, but I find an instant kinship with it.

  8. I"m reposting your blog all over the place, as the rejoicing begins to die down and reality sinks in that just because Pope Francis doesn't feel it's necessary to carry a big stick all the time doesn't mean that he really thinks differently. He makes me think of the phrase my mother used to use - although I think it's from Machiavelli ~ about the iron fist in the velvet glove.

    Thanks for your clear-sightedness. As one of the no-longer-Catholic ranks, I appreciate that.

  9. Saying things like 'women are very important and indispensable to the church', doesn't have any more content than saying that 'losers are very important and indispensable to competition'.

    Time will tell if the Pope's remarks about the need for a female theology and so on are meant by him as stepping stones towards actual dialogue or not. Is he prepared to really listen, or was this just the umpteenth sop? I choose to not lose hope.

  10. I do hope this is read by the Pope and actioned in November. If nothing comes out of this it would be ashamed as you have many valid points that could undoubtedly help the church to raise its numbers in attendance on an ongoing basis.
    You have inspired my daughter(your cousin) with her religion class this year to keep asking the questions and get answers. This is enlightening that you are doing this Blog to raise some concerns and clarify some points of our religion.

  11. Hi its your little cousin from up north.
    I have questions for you from religion class.
    1.If the bible is so relevant than why is the church making it so difficult for teens to want to go to church by judging instead of embracing our differences? I know this is broad and there is alot of migating factors but it is the biggest question I have at the moment. It seems as though all discussions lead back to this one.
    2. My religion teacher keeps interchanging apostles and disciples how can I make him see the difference, evidence rather than a student schooling him.
    3. Why are all the dead sea scrolls not refered too.
    4. My teacher also says that the buble is a 100% true reflection of how everyrthing happened back then. When I asked my Mom she said well it is the writings of people whim where there, so it is their version of what happened. And she then said to go to read the same story in each of the sections of the Bible such as Peter then John and you will find some differences based on what they seen. Can you shed some more light on this?
    4. If the Bible was put together by people from different languages, people, backgrounds then whom was it that made it one? And this would lead to was it then edited? And whom says that some stuff is not lost in translation?
    I do hope that the Pope honors your request for time in November. It would give some sort of hope that something may come out of the way the church sees females and potentially children and vice versa.

  12. A shout out to ma famille vivant au Canada! Ma petite cousine "T", you ask several good questions. That is a sign of a spiritual life in growth. You are a seeker. That is good.

    Let me try to take your questions one at a time though I don't know that I will give them the in depth answers they deserve.

    1. I can't speak for the clergy as to why they focus on differences that divide rather than similarities that unite and then celebrate or tolerate the remaining differences. I know when that occurs it can give a person pause to wonder whether they have read the gospels. It is certainly your right to ask questions. But, just be prepared that you might get a very dismissive or trite answer. Your asking the question might even make some clergy angry. You know the treatment I sometimes endure so you don't enter into questioning with eyes closed.

    So, since I can't speak for the clergy, the best I can do is give you some potential things that you can do in addition to asking questions respectfully but persistently.
    - Read the gospels and become familiar with a biblical concordance or search engine. I often use the one on (the website of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops). Sometimes when you're being surrounded by poor teaching and/or preaching, it's helpful to have your own foundation in knowing scripture. There are times that quoting chapter and verse to clergy is appropriate but I recommend praying and asking yourself a) can I say this with love or am I motivated by "being right) and b) am I the one called to do this?
    - When I've had long streaks with a priest who doesn't seem to know the gospels, I read during the homily - either re-reading the readings from the day or reading a theological book. Depending upon your spirituality, there are many spiritual masters and contemporary spiritual writers whose reflections might better guide you to fuller understanding of the gospel.
    - Biblical commentaries can be very helpful to better understand the context, timeframe, etc... regarding books in the bible. The Collegeville Commentary is pretty easy to read but doesn't do as deep of analysis as the Jerome Commentary. The Jerome Commentary is kind of the gold-standard amongst Catholic Scripture scholars. It takes a little figuring out on how to read it but once you get the hang of it, you learn very fascinating history, context, theological concepts, etc...
    2. Disciple is one who follows. Apostle is one who is sent. The terms aren't interchangeable but many people do. Mary, Mary Magdalene, Martha, etc... were all disciples - they followed Jesus. So, a way to gently teach your teacher the difference might be to ask, "so you mean like Mary or Mary M..." at an appropriate time where he's using the term "disciple" but really means "male apostles."
    3. Again, I can't speak for someone else but if you are interested in learning about the Dead Sea Scrolls, there is a lot of info online and in books. There are differing opinions amongst scripture scholars regarding the scrolls. Though your priest and religion teachers might not speak about them, there are many historians and theologians who do.

  13. 4. In 1943 Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu (means "inspired by the Holy Spirit") calling for re-translating the Bible from the original languages. Prior to this it was usually translated from the Latin Vulgate which was a translation of a translation sort of thing. He also officially supported modern Bible studies by encouraging the study of it in the context of theology, Sacred Tradition, and history as well as considering what we know from science. This led to deeper and more accurate understanding of things like authorship, audience, dating, etc...

    Divino Afflante Spiritu paved the way for the Vatican II document Dei Verbum (literally means "Word of God" but is usually called Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation). A dogmatic constitution is considered very high in the pecking order and Vatican II documents because they were conciliar (from a group of people) rather than just a single person, carry a lot of weight too. The thought is that if the Spirit guides a group it is more affirmed than one person saying, "oh God told me this."

    This document says stuff like, "However, since God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in human fashion, the interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words.

    To search out the intention of the sacred writers, attention should be given, among other things, to "literary forms". For truth is set forth and expressed differently in texts which are variously historical, prophetic, poetic, or of other forms of discourse. The interpreter must investigate what meaning the sacred writer intended to express and actually expressed in particular circumstances by using contemporary literary forms in accordance with the situation of his own time and culture.

    For the correct understanding of what the sacred author wanted to assert, due attention must be paid to the customary and characteristic styles of feeling, speaking and narrating which prevailed at the time of the sacred writer, and to the patterns men normally employed at that period in their everyday dealings with one another."

    So, you might want to show your teacher this section of Dei Verbum because it basically says that you shouldn't take as historical facts things in the bible that were not written as such. Much of the Bible is allegory (using a hypothetical story to teach a lesson...such as the 2 creation stories in Genesis.)

  14. 4.b. You talk about the multi-hundred year process of deciding upon the Canon (which books are in the bible and which are not.) There is a long history of this. As to the audience and intention, that ties back to scholarly biblical study. Some of this you start to get exposed to if you read the Jerome Commentary. Timothy Luke Johnson has a great book about the history of the NT and Lawrence Boadt has a great one about the OT.

    I do not know the background of your teacher. A lot of times they are not well-schooled or are schooled in the 5 favorite "hater" topics of JPII and BXVI but not very schooled in scripture, ecclesiology, etc....

    You always have the option to ask your questions of your bishop. I know little about your bishop other than he's about my age and was appointed bishop by BXVI and seems tightly linked to the Legion of Christ - the religious order that is rather cult-like and whose founder Fr. Macial Maciel had 6 kids by 2 women, raped at least 2 of his own kids and countless other kids as well as seminarians. This guy made people in the Legion swear an oath of secrecy which kept people from reporting him. People who did report him were ignored for decades until 2006 when Pope Benedict XVI removed Maciel from active ministry based on the results of an investigation. The whole Legion of Christ was under investigation. I have serious concerns about the organization. In my community they are well-known for bullying people and displaying some of the most unchristian behavior all the while believing themselves rather superior than others due to their emphasis on piety ritual. They seem to reject documents like Dei Verbum and other Vatican II teachings.

    Almost all the bishops appointed by BXVI are extremely right-wing orthodoxy versus good-news spreaders. Your bishop is Marcel Damphousse, btw.

  15. Several people have either sent me private emails, called me or left comments here about how you hope I do get to meet the pope. That is very kind but let me just give you my perspective on this.

    Once every 10 or so years I buy a lottery ticket. From the time I buy it until I confirm that I didn't win the lottery, I allow myself to daydream a little about all the wonderful works I could do for humanity if I won the lottery. The odds for winning the Powerball lottery are about 1 in 175 Million. Despite those tremendous odds against me, I still allow myself a little "what if" daydreaming.

    I have not invested a millisecond day-dreaming about "what if" the pope read and responded to my letter because I think the odds are far, far, far, far, far lower than me winning the Powerball.

    If, however, I am wrong, I will let y'all know. I will probably also buy a Powerball ticket that same day.

  16. This is the best explanation I've ever seen. Well done! You've said it all so clearly and completely. Thank you.

  17. I have never read anything more powerful, more clear, more true that relates, in my view, to all women's issues in the church, including women's ordination. Thank you!
    I am keeping this article for regular rereading and praying most especially that Francis I will reinstate those wonderful conscientious men and women and their works, who have been violated by the hammer of excommunication, or works banished. I pray our new Pope open up his heart and mind to real theological inquiry in these times, one that is not viewed through the exclusive lens of misogyny.

  18. One would have thought that the last time in Western history that the infamous German '3-Ks' formula which maintained that women's place is to be restricted to minding the affairs of "Kuche, Kinder und Kirche" (the last solely as handmaidens, of course) has by now been shown up for its misogynistic absurdity and laughed out of existence. On reading about Francis's mindset regarding women, and his apparent great respect for JPII's nonsensical and convoluted reasoning in TOTB we are reminded that it is, sadly, still rearing its deluded head all over the place.

    I am beginning to wonder where I belong in Francis's universe. Quite possibly, I'm an aberration. I was raised in a family of educated, intelligent women (great aunts, aunts and my mother), all of them teachers at every level from primary school to academia. My mother, a university graduate to Master's degree - in 1928 - in what would today be called biochemistry, taught biology, chemistry and mathematics to students of nursing and medicine, and brought me up to understand not only the scientific complexities of human biology, but also that the Darwinist theory of evolution of species was perfectly compatible with the Christian understanding of humanity's place in creation and our relationship with God as Creator/Creatrix. Up to university entry, I was educated by academically brilliant Ursuline Sisters, arguably female equivalent of the Jesuits as regards intellectual sophistication. I was initially going to study mathematics, but in the end got my own Master's in English and linguistics, worked as a librarian, translator, interpreter, political media analyst, and then, many years later, studied medicine in order to set up in professional practice as a qualified medical herbalist. I was brought up on Teillhard de Chardin, Thomas Merton, Erich Fromm, Hans Kung, Edward Schillerbexx, Chesterton, C.S. Lewis and Graham Greene - among others. I later discovered Matthew Fox, Thomas Berry, Rupert Sheldrake, Anthony de Mello, et al.

    I'm a Catholic-baptised Christian, but by now have moved far away from the culturally traditional Catholic paradigm - a lot of it to do with my earlier Polish experience, since in the country of my birth institutional Catholicism is still firmly at the mediaeval, feudal stage, and the Vatican appears to tolerate quite happily this state of affairs. In my parish in the UK, I am a special Eucharistic minister and a reader. I also sing in the choir, but that's more in line with what is tolerated from females in church, is it not?

    Also, I am a mother to a bright and independently-thinking daughter. Oh, and I am married, run a household, and can cook very well too, when time allows!

    Should I write to Francis and invite him to study my case as a small contribution to his proposed 'theology of women'? Or should I hang down my head in shame at having, throughout my career, "occupied the spaces subtracted from the male" and so "abandoned the female, along with her valuable characteristics"? Am I guilty of "female machismo", whatever that may be?? (Although my daughter assures me I have not been remiss in loving and nurturing her in the pattern of best "valuable female characteristics". Such relief.)

    Many greetings, Ewe - always such joy to read your blog!

  19. If you found a window into my mind and took a piece out of it, this is precisely what it would look like. I share your sentiments completely and kudos to you for writing it so eloquently. I am Catholic and have recently come back to the church after 20 years away from it. This is one topic which is a stumbling block for me. It is a subject dear to my heart as a woman & one I also fear may be a constant hurdle for me. I love your blog and am so happy to have found it!!