“We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman.” This seemingly unambiguous quote by Pope Francis has opened the door to a flood of reactions. In the five months since the so-called Pope Interview, there have been countless articles written, opinions given, and questions raised. There is much talk about women in the Church and many attempts at getting at a theology of the woman. L’Osservatore Romano is running a series on women in the Church, a Google news search on “theology of women” yields over 3000 results from this year alone. Even at Aquinas Institute of Theology the students in the course on Catholic Social Teaching are writing a encyclical on women as a class assignment.
A few weeks ago a couple of articles appeared in my inbox. One was called “Fatherless Churches” appearing in the online version of First Things, and the other was an op-ed piece in the NY Times Sunday Review entitled, “Google, Tell Me. Is My Son a Genius?” The articles sparked a couple of short conversations, not necessarily because of the opinions of the respective authors, but because of the statistics in the articles:
A study of Swiss churchgoers commissioned by the Council of Europe found that if a mother attends church regularly but the father is non-practicing, only 2 percent of their children will attend church regularly in adult life. If the roles are reversed, with the father attending regularly and the mother non-practicing, the figure for regular attendance shoots up to 44 percent (higher even than the figure when both parents attend regularly). Another study found that when an American mother converts to the faith, there is a 17 percent chance that the rest of her family will follow. When the father alone converts, this figure rises to 93 percent.
For every 10 U.S. Google queries about girls being gifted, there are 25 about boys.
Read the articles to get more statistics. The question arises though, at least in my mind: What do people (women and men) think about women and men? Why do fathers (male parents) have such a greater influence on the family faith life? Why are parents more likely to ask if their son is a genius, intelligent, happy, a leader, and more likely to ask if their daughter is depressed, beautiful, ugly?
My thoughts revolve around the fact that men and women are different. As the above quotes suggest, the ways that we think about men and women are different. Hammered into us from the beginning of our scholastic education is the idea that men and women should be equal. Indeed all people should be treated with the dignity that comes from being a child of God--from being a person created in the image and likeness of God. We should not tolerate abuse in the workplace, at home, at school, or anywhere else. However, treatment commensurate with equal dignity is not the same as an intentional blindness which fails to recognize, appreciate, and integrate our mutual differences. Yet, somewhere along the line, the identifiable categories of ‘men and women’ were erased.
Clearly parents and families see that there is a difference between women and men as indicated by the Google searches and the studies. Does there need to be a theology of the woman? Does there need to be a theology of the man? What are your thoughts?