When Bishop Francis Murphy delivered a talk on “Woman as Person in the Church and Society” he narrated a story about a fifth grade girl who wrote God a letter which states:
“Dear God, are boys really better than girls? I know you are one, but please try to be fair.”
With the recently concluded Beijing conference on Women, there has been an on-going serious re-thinking of the role of women in society. Looking at the bare facts we can’t help but acknowledge that there is indeed a brand of sexism, or discrimination of genders in our society today which puts the female person in an unequal position with men.
The church has been recently vocal about this trend and has vigorously stated albeit positively its position by acknowledging the indispensable role women must and should be allowed to play in the economic, political and cultural development of society. With this, however there seems to be a seeming neglect or an apparent disregard on our part, at least in practice, on what responsibilities must women perform in the church which would moderate and ultimately obliterate the obvious sexism in the church. There has been a consistent insistence uttered on our pulpits of the importance of women in our society and the need to tap their potentials to complement the male capability, but there has been little work done in enhancing this complementarity in the mission of the church.
As the church is called to be become a community, a communion of persons where “there does not exist among you slave or free, male or female . . .” the call for the collaboration of both sexes is all the more pressing. True, the Pope has closed for now the debate on women becoming priests but his letters are insistent on the fact that there are so many ministries in the church which are not merely open for women but ministries where their role and their uniqueness as feminine persons are most needed.
For this I would like to propose questions for deeper re-examination:
In our parish councils, are there equal representations of men and women. If so, are they given equal voice and are their unique feminine way of perceiving reality and doing things given importance? How do we, priests, treat women - is it with fear, as a threat, as mere servants, or is it as friends and indispensable collaborators in the ministry? In our liturgy, are they mere recipients of the graces of the sacraments or do they play active roles which were once the sole domain of men, as altar girls, lay ministers of the Eucharist and lectors? If not, what is preventing them from becoming one? Isn’t it that our duty to minister comes from our responsibility as baptized persons regardless whether we are male or female? Why is it that we allow women lectors to proclaim, to dispense God’s Word which has the same dignity as the Eucharist, and not allow them to dispense the Eucharist or allow them to hold a microphone and bring the chalice and cruets on the altar? Are our decisions formed by the dominance of a male bias?
Considering these questions I would say that the letter of that little girl should not be addressed to God but to us: “Are boys really better that girls? I know you are one, but please try to be fair?”