I watched election returns Tuesday during a deep snow in Breckenridge, Colorado with two old friends, one aged 84 and one aged 78. Their ages are relevant only because the first had once battled mightily to allow girls’ sports in school. The second had assumed her role was to be only the cheerleader for the boys, never dreaming she too might play basketball.
Imagine our delight when over 100 women were elected to office. Accompanying the fire in the fireplace, the popcorn and wine on the table, the snow falling softly outside the window were rowdy hoots and hollers around the t.v. “I thought I’d never live to see the day!” seemed a constant refrain.
As one commentator said, “It seems as if something old is dying, and something new is being born.” Oddly religious language for MSNBC, but it got me thinking (always dangerous).
Could the church learn an important lesson from civil society? When we hear of US bishops meeting next week in Washington to deal primarily with the sexual abuse crisis, their agenda seems so tedious. No new ideas surface; it seems an endless rerun of appointing committees to monitor, composed of the same people who have consistently failed to solve the problem. People tend to yawn, skeptical that anything creative might come of the gathering, dreading those long red dresses yet again.
Remember the old definition of insanity? Doing the same things in the same way and expecting change. Enough of repetition! Imagine the Congress convening in January with young, fresh faces. Not to gender-stereotype, but it offers hope for improvement. Surprising potential lurks in that diversity. As we know, bio-diversity is essential to the health of the forest. Jesus often made surprising discoveries and comments when he was in precarious, unsettled border zones. Recently, I was thrilled to meet Rosa M. Del Saz and Ashley McKinless, vibrant, brilliant young women on the staff of America Magazine. Umpteen years ago, when I wrote for America, only Jesuits filled the masthead.
At a relative’s funeral this week, my children and I were asked to bring up the gifts. With no preparation, I had a moment of slight panic, seeing three items for four people. My older daughter figured it out in an instant. She and her brother shared the plate of bread; she handed cruets to my younger daughter and me. What I cherished was the male and female hands, holding the gold circle together, cooperating on this as they had on so many other ventures. Why is male/female collaboration so hard for the Church?
Please, dear bishops, consider opening yourselves to that bracing wind of the Spirit. Of course having women in the Ol’ Boys Club would be uncomfortable. But you stand precipitously close to “too little, too late.” It seems almost ludicrous that an issue at the recent synod was giving two votes to nuns. You risk losing an entire generation, raised without the gender biases yours holds. It may sound crazy to you to invite women into decision making, but don’t waste their time with some head-patting “advisory” role. Full voting rights or fergit it. Embrace the reality of the 21st century. And remember, when God launched the great adventure of becoming human, God didn’t go to general or rabbi. God began with a young girl. The stakes are high—you have much to gain.