I grew up a Catholic. My mother is and always was a stout Catholic. Therefore I know that at least in the congregation where my mother went, women were the back bone of the flock. They were – and I suppose still are the one constant in respect of church attendance. But their involvement in the church does not stop there. My mother being one of the stalwarts in her congregation, was only one of the many women who serve not only in the church. They were and are concerned about the wellbeing of the flock as well. In the process probably took over many of the tasks of the clergy (men).
Women also do not play an insignificant role in the church itself, but only in as far as they are represented in the many (?) orders that serve in the church and in communities.
Today, watching the conclavists gather to enter the synod room, I could not but be surprised – in spite of the fact that this is how it always was – at the fact that not a single woman is represented. I understand that there are some women – nuns from the order of Domus Sanctae Marthae – who are allowed in the conclave, probably only as cooks, waiters and cleaners – I wouldn’t be surprised. The name strongly suggests this. They are literally from the house of St. Martha. The same Martha who when my mother wanted to impress how good and hardworking one of her five daughters was, she would refer to as “my dienende Martha.” My serving Martha. Or my Martha of servitude… Somehow the reference very seldom was bestowed on me. Back to the nuns of the order of Domus Sanctae Marthae. They are sworn to secrecy, so we will probably never hear what they actually are doing in the conclave – so we keep on speculating.
Every person following the secret proceedings of the conclave must wonder about how an organisation whose majority – let’s call it membership – consists of women manages to have women “represented” only as servants and waiters. Where is the outcry from the very women in the church. Are they not feeling cheated? What about the church’s position on contraception, women’s priesthood, and church leadership? What about the many allegations of abuse of women’s children by many of the male representative of the holy institution? Do women church goers have nothing to say about this?