Last year Jimmy Carter made news for having resigned from his church—after sixty years—because of its refusal to ordain women and its insistence that wives be subservient to their husbands. He had disassociated himself from the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000, but an opinion piece he wrote advocating women’s rights brought his departure back to the headlines. From what I understand, Carter had long criticized these views within his church. I guess his patience finally gave out.
His decision brought to mind my many discussions over the years with certain college friends who wonder how I can possibly be part of a church that fails on so many levels to empower and include women. These friends are capable, smart women, women who have raised children and run companies. Though they are prayerful and religious, their patience with the Catholic Church ran out a long time ago, and they left it to become exemplary Congregationalists or Episcopalians. Over time we’ve come to a respectful détente, but Carter’s grand exit opened the way for a couple of biting phone calls and e-mails from a few of them.
It’s not my aim here to discuss the ordination of women, or even to evaluate the church’s treatment of women in general. I’ll leave that to those who are brighter and have more ink to spare. I merely want to point out something that is obvious to all Catholics at the parish level—namely, that a holy order has come to women from somewhere higher than Rome.