Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Church Ladies

An interesting column from the WSJ: Church ladies: Women dominate America's pews. Is that a problem?(Via An Aid to Memory)

... seems that Catholic scholar Leon Podles's prediction of a few years ago, that "the Protestant clergy will be a characteristically female occupation, like nursing, within a generation," may soon prove true ...
(And, I guess, it's being said, most famously by Fr. Donald Cozzens in "The Changing Face of the Priesthood " that the Catholic clergy is becoming a gay profession. At least in the US. Are these trends -- "feminization" and this one, related?)

Interestingly, ... among the major Christian denominations, it is the mainline churches that suffer the largest gender gaps in church attendance. These churches, still pilloried by feminists for their patriarchal pretensions, have in fact become spiritual sorority houses. It is the more conservative denominations, such as the Southern Baptists, that have the most even ratios. In these more traditional churches, many of which do not have female clergy, parishioners hear less about cooperation and feel-good spirituality and more about spiritual rigor and the competition to win souls. Churches that embrace male leadership, including the Roman Catholic Church, remain the largest in the country, and the Mormon Church, which also does not have female clergy, is the fastest-growing.
I know many have written about this, and have derived a variety of conclusions. On the conservative end of things, the idea is tied with a decline in traditional masculine roles in society, the decline of fatherhood, and that all this is keeping "real men" away from church. The column provides good historical perspective -- this lamenting isn't new, apparently it's been present in the American church for centuries. And isn't it true that one of the early criticisms of this new religion back in Roman times was that it was favored by "slaves and women?"

Churches that embrace male leadership, including the Roman Catholic Church, remain the largest in the country." However, there's no acknowledgement of the fact that the mid-level of the Catholic professional world -- the world of DREs and church professionals, is overwhelmingly female. That most who show up to any Catholic event are largely women.
And what's it like overseas? I don't know, nor do I know of any studies. I remember one Saturday in Rome, the first in June, when it was wedding time. And every church that I went to (I was, of course, following one of Georgina Mason's celebrated walks) had a wedding Mass in progress, it seemed. The only men inside, one would think, were the groom and the priest! The rest were gathered outside smoking! All very anecdotal --- bottom line, I don't know what to male of all this. :)

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