I wonder that some days. Actually, I wonder that a lot of days. I scroll through Twitter and Facebook. I interact with people I know very well and many I don’t know at all. For almost seven years now, I have kept this blog, not always as faithfully as I would have liked but I’m human and I do the best I can. I’ve shared my ups, my downs, my doubts, my fears, my hopes, my mountaintops, my valleys and my deserts. So what? Who cares? I’m one woman. I’m no saint. I have no answers to life’s great questions.
And yet, I continue to write. I continue to share my life with not only with those I know well but with those I know not at all. Why? Because to quote the poet Sylvia Path, “I write only because there is a voice inside me that will not be still.” I continue to write and to share even when I come under attack. Why? In the words of comedian Ron White, “I had the right to remain silent. I did not have the ability.”
No really, I don’t. I’m still sifting through my long Twitter exchange with Fr Paul last weekend. Why not just shut the laptop and walk away? Why get sucked into a debate with someone with far better credentials than my own? Why continue to publicly argue about my personal life? With someone who has no bearing on my life whatsoever?
Because it’s not just me.
I am not the only one.
And somebody needs to speak up.
The funny thing is I had spent last Friday and part of Saturday morning rereading my writings, both public and private, about my struggles over the past year or so. I was preparing to meet with my spiritual director that coming Monday and it has long been my habit to review where I am spiritually and emotionally before those sessions. So when the debate started, I already knew precisely where I stood. I know. I know. Fr Paul will be howling heresy and pride and God only knows what else.
But here’s the rub. I have heard privately from many other women over the past year or so. Some wholeheartedly disagree with me. Some have found peace and wish that I could as well. Some are deeply distressed over the Catholic Church’s teachings. Some consider leaving or already have left. Some stay and continue to struggle, feeling dishonest and disconnected. I don’t try to sway anyone to one way of thinking or another. That is not my place. We all have to wrestle with God in our own way. And let’s face it, He always wins in the end. But the thing that bothers me so deeply is when I hear women say they have no one to turn to, no one to have an honest, open, heartfelt, non-judgmental conversation with about this subject. That is because the attitude expressed by Fr Paul above is the attitude of many in the Catholic Church, ordained and laity. Who cares? Church teaching is church teaching is church teaching is church teaching. So suck it up Buttercup. Tow the line and shut your yap. Or else…
It seems like someone should care. So I ask, and not for the first time, How do you shepherd women if you won’t hear them? How do help them find healing when you won’t see the wounds? How do you know what their experiences are if you don’t listen, really, truly listen with a deep and honest empathy? How do you guide women who are too afraid to really say what they’re thinking, what they’re feeling and what they’re experiencing in their relationship with their God?
In many ways, the relationship between individuals and their church is like a marriage. Any marriage has many moving parts, but any good marriage has a solid foundation of trust and love. If one partner cannot speak honestly out of fear of repercussions, trust fades rapidly. As trust fades, the relationship begins to falter.
One cannot truly love without trust. Without trust and without love, the relationship will fail.
So who cares what one individual says?
Who cares if one woman leaves the Catholic Church?
Will you care when two women leave?
Will you care when five women leave?
Will you care when twenty women leave?
When will you care?
Because if there is going to be a real, loving relationship between the Catholic Church and her people, somebody has to care enough to have the conversation.