One of the bitter little pills in the latest batch of Clinton campaign e-mails is about my faith, and that of millions of Americans, Catholicism.
Despite the sitting vice president, Joe Biden, and the Democratic vp nominee, Tim Kaine, both being Catholic, we have top aides John Podesta, Jennifer Palmieri and John Halpin, mocking the faith as practiced by two of their publishing foes, Robert Thompson (Wall Street journal) and Rupert Murdoch, CEO of NewsCorp.
I say this with no animus toward Podesta, Palmieri and Halpin: maybe they don’t know any better. But they’re repeating a lie that needs to be struck down.
Halpin carps that for conservatives to be Catholic is “an amazing bastardization of the faith”. He surmises that it must be because of the “severely backwards gender relations” of the Church. A pretty ugly phrase.
The British poet John Ruskin once said that the Catholic church has been the greatest ally women have ever had, as far as promoting the dignity of women. Perhaps Podesta and his friends haven’t had the benefit of knowing many Catholics, although that’s hard to figure, because we’re everywhere. To quote another great writer, James Joyce, “Catholic means ‘here comes everybody'”.
Let me explain the dignity and importance of women in my church and faith:
If you view women and Catholicism only in terms of ordination of priests, I understand where the “antiwoman” perception comes from. But it’s misguided, and here’s why.
When you look at the total Catholic community, you’re talking about parish administration, sacraments, education, charitable outreach and health care. These institutions, from schools and hospitals to food pantries and prison miinistries, are not only often women-led, but women-driven. In every parish I’ve attended, if aliens came down and abducted all the Catholic women, the men couldn’t keep these things running ’til the end of the week. In many dioceses, the second most important leadership role after bishop is chancellor. Women have served and do serve in this role. Women also hold some of the top positions of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. I had the privilege some years ago to interview Helen Alvare, director of the conference’s “Office of Pro-Life Activities” and she was the most articulate pro-life voice I’ve ever heard. Last I heard, she was teaching family law at George Mason.
Closer to home, literally, ask anyone raised in a Catholic family, and almost always, they will tell you that Mom (and sometimes Grandma) was the heart of the faith at home. Mom got everyone to church, to Sunday school and whatnot. My mom taught us how to say the Rosary and our first childhood prayers, told us about the lives of the saints, and made sure we looked and acted appropriately for every mass, First Communion and Easter.
Moms literally and figuratively take their children by the hand into the neighborhood Church.
To be fair, my dad was no slouch—devout and church-going. But my mom was the guardian and architect of my faith. No responsibility or title in the Catholic church, or any church, is weightier than that.
New York’s Cardinal Dolan often refers to Catholic women as the leaders and shapers of Catholic culture, even more than priests celebrating Mass, because they are indispensable at the family and parish level. Another term for it, from the late Father Andrew Greeley, is “the Catholic imagination”. Women in our church and families show us love, warmth and strength that is Mary-like, Jesus-like and models for us how (and how much) God loves us.
So, when people say the Catholic church is “backwards” regarding women, I feel sorry for their ignorance.
The numbers tell a different story too. Several years ago, Fortune magazine said that women held only about 18 percent of the officer positions in the “Fortune 500”. I imagine that number has increased a bit today. But 48 percent of U.S. Catholic diocesan-level administrative jobs are held by women. Twenty-seven percent of executive-level administrative jobs are done by women.
The “backwards” Catholic church outperforms the Fortune 500, not to mention the top law firms and the U.S. military’s officer corps, in relying on women to lead.
The Catholic Church would be nowhere near the force for good in the lives of Catholics and non-Catholics alike, were it not for the faith, strength, dignity and intelligence of its women, both nuns and lay-women. Schools, universities, libraries, hospitals, clinics, soup kitchens, women’s and children’s shelters, the list goes on and on. What would San Antonio, or any American city, be without its Catholic-originated, or administered, institutions? Where would those things be without the women who saw the need, raised the first dollar, and in many cases, run them to this day?
Someone ought to tell Mrs. Clinton, because I understand she takes an interest in glass ceilings.