The Catholic Church's Treatment of Nuns Is Polarizing and Alienating

The Vatican is criticizing its dedicated female servants when it should be giving them a larger role.

Catholic nuns
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No wonder a majority of Catholics think it's time for a change. Polls show that about 6 in 10 Catholics, men and women alike, say women should be ordained. People understand that there shouldn't be a gender gap when it comes to spirituality; women can be just as holy as men. For women like me, it's getting more and more difficult to defend the male leadership of the church. Some days I feel like I belong to the church not because of the hierarchy, but in spite of it.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Catholic contraception controversy.]

A long time ago, I was teaching religious education to fifth graders after Mass every Sunday. No matter what the lesson was, I'd get the same question every week: "Mrs. Cary, why can't women be priests?" My answers were the same: Jesus was a man; the apostles were all men; that's the way it's been done for 2,000 years; women are busy raising good kids to ask great questions like this one. They weren't buying it. When I explained my problem to a priest, he kindly offered to stop by class. When he arrived, the hands went up: "Father, why can't women be priests?" "Women will be priests," he said. "The church has been mistaken on this, but that will change, and in the meantime, I've brought a sign-up sheet for you ladies who would like to be priests someday." He passed out a paper and pencil.

"You can't say that!" I said to him. "No," he said, "You can't say that. You're a woman. But I can say that." He smiled and left. He knew that if you can't convince a fifth grader, you might want to reconsider your position.

Do the bishops know it's good to be smarter than a fifth grader?

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