OTTAWA (CNS) — While a keynote speaker at a conference on women’s ordination warned delegates that the aging progressive Catholic movement desperately needed an infusion of youth, some participants said the women priest movement, in particular, did not resonate with young adults.
The 460 registered delegates attending the Women’s Ordination Worldwide conference in Ottawa July 22-24 came from some 20 countries on five continents, but white women in their 50s and 60s dominated the gathering.
Fewer than a dozen conference delegates were under 30, prompting one of them to ask theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether what efforts were being made to recruit younger women.
Ruether, professor emeritus at the Pacific School of Religion at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and an author of more than two dozen books, said the progressive Catholic movement was mainly "gray-headed" and over 50.
She said that female doctoral students were leaving the church because they wanted to be ordained and have a job.
Many of the conference speakers acknowledged that their children were not remaining with the Catholic Church once they learned of its stance on birth control, for example.
"Young people don’t have the same way of getting inculcated into the Catholic identity," Ruether said. "They simply won’t tolerate this."
What a surprise that when you see at least on of your parents dissent from Church teaching on women’s ordination that they could also balk at other Church teachings. It is difficult enough in this culture to teach the truth of sexuality and it is made more difficult by dissenters who pick in choose what they want to believe.
While the July 25 invalid ordination of four women as priests drew a barrage of mainstream media coverage, younger Catholic women interviewed by Canadian Catholic News did not seem to share the same interest in ordination or see it as an equality issue.
Patricia Murphy, who teaches ethics at St. Augustine Seminary at the University of Toronto, said most women born after the Second Vatican Council ended in 1965 have a different experience from women in their 50s and 60s who were "typically formed by what has been called a ‘Catholic subculture.’"
"Many of the younger Catholics I know, both women and men, think they were never sufficiently educated in their own tradition," she said. "For them it is religious pluralism, not any distinctive ‘Catholic subculture’ that is a point of departure.
"They often come to theology to ‘fill in the gaps,’ to develop a mature — and truly thoughtful — understanding of their faith," stemming from a desire to "be more solidly grounded," she said.
Dorothy Cummings, who is pursuing a doctorate in theology at Boston College, said she believed most Catholics were uncomfortable with the invalid ordinations of women priests.
"The women who have been most loudly in favor of women’s ordination have not been ones respected for their orthodoxy," she said.
There is a "yawning gulf" between baby boomers and those born after Vatican II, she said. "Younger women are interested in collegiality. They want to work with priests and bishops, not complain about them. [Source]
Well I think "yawning gulf’ is a good term. Younger women are looking at this issue and yawning.
I have read the observation for years that groups like Call To Action, VOTF, and others are graying out with little infusion of young people. You know these groups aren’t going to be called for a world youth day like conference anytime soon. Or if they do they can probably book a phone booth for the conference hall. Though I do think they have some opportunities for raising cash. For example they could do a partnership with Clairol Hair Coloring and Grecian Formula – Just For Men.