NCR Forward Member Poll: Women and the Church

November 15, 2018

Three weeks ago, we asked NCR Forward members: "If you could share your thoughts with Pope Francis about the role of women in the church, what would you say?"

We received responses from 212 members, men and women, from around the world. Read a sampling of responses below. In some cases, members have asked to remain anonymous. Some submissions have been edited for space and clarity.

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Women religious are seen at a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct. 4. (CNS/Vatican Media)
Women religious are seen at a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct. 4. (CNS/Vatican Media)

"Women have been ignored far too long in the Catholic Church. Our roles include housekeeping, setting up for mass, hospital ministry, retreat ministries, supply managers, ministers of hospitality and communion, cantors, choir members, musicians, the list goes on and on.  However, in spite of all the WORK we do for the church, our opinions are usually dismissed.  We are viewed as 'second class Catholics.' It is time for that to change!  Allow priests to marry. That will take care of many of the horrible sex scandals we are now seeing coming to light! Second: Allow women into the priesthood! Other churches have women in the role of pastor and with great success. It is time for a revamping of the Catholic Church or the church will not be here for much longer!"

- Marlene Pylate


"Recognize women as women and their God given equality is the first step. When this happens, continue by inviting them to engage and attend high level meetings, etc. as needed with you and hierarchy. Take time to listen and learn what their hopes, concerns, and vision are for a just church. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak through them to you, bishops and clergy. Rather than inviting them to attend meetings in Rome as guests/advisors, include them fully in the decision-making process."

Maria Romero, OP


"I believe that women should be included in every aspect of church life. Limiting the discussion to what seems possible in our lifetimes, however, women in the diaconate seems a good place to start. We have impoverished ourselves long enough by not having a feminine voice coming from our pulpits and ambos.  Women should be included in the college of cardinals and every dicastery in the Vatican. Women should be on the college of consultors in every diocese and every other consultative body in every parish and diocese. This would be healthy and an easy way to end the sin of clericalism."

- Deacon Peter Andre


"Dear Holy Father:  I write to ask you to pursue sincerely what you have mentioned too many times to ignore: Invite women to your conferences with Cardinals, bishops, other Church leaders, and let them be heard! We have many excellent female theologians, leaders of nations, lots of very wise mothers, not to mention the countless women religious in our midst. Many of these women are easily as wise as your cardinals and bishops. They would be able to enliven conversations, enlarge horizons, and will keep before your collective mind the needs of the poorest among us."

- Anonymous

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Protesters chanting "Let women vote!" (NCR photo/Jamie Manson)

"One of the primary functions of the ordained priest is to make Jesus physically present to us, His Church. Who was the first person to do this? Mary, a woman!  How can  we say women cannot be priests because they don't look like Jesus?  A woman FORMED Jesus.  And the meaningless lip-service about eradicating clericalism in the Church has been well and truly exposed by the disallowing of women religious a vote at the Synod of Youth."

- Mary Veronica Kolesar

"Pope Francis, as a Catholic woman, I want to be one with the clergy, according to the gifts I know God has given me.  I want to contribute to the Church as an equal, not needing to overcome multiple barriers placed in my way by ordained men.  We want to be involved in both sacramental and decision-making roles.  The Church needs our contributions to heal and move forward."

- Peggy Bischof 

"When will women become full members of our Church and be eligible to receive all seven sacraments?  We are all made in God's image and likeness.  When will the Church recognize that and live out that belief fully?"

- Sr. Maureen Hickey, PBVM



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The heads of women's religious orders leave an audience with Pope Francis in Paul VI hall at the Vatican May 12, 2016. During a question-and-answer session with members of the UISG, the pope said he was willing to establish a commission to study whether women could serve as deacons. (CNS/Paul Haring)

"Let women be deacons. Train young seminarians to respect women’s opinions. These men do not understand nor appreciate the wisdom and deep spirituality of women."

- Joan M. Cornelison

"The modern church needs to honor the feminine gifts, just as the resurrected Christ chose first to deliver his message of joy to a woman, Mary Magdalene. Recognizing that the hierarchy moves very, very slowly, I advocate for some incremental steps that will give voice to women of wisdom. Ask the College of Cardinals to name the next pope after a woman. One of the four female doctors of the church would be great. Men have taken female names before."

- Loretta Pehanich

"From earliest times, women's role in the church was steadily diminished. This is not because women were incapable of enriching the church's teachings and practice, but because of the biases of male-dominated societies. Today, we live in a period of great changes and progress made by women in all spheres of life but one: the Catholic Church. Quite frankly, there is no logical or spiritual objection that can justify such an attitude any longer. Despite the many obstacles created by our male-dominated Catholic Church and often from the periphery, woman have supported, enriched and kept the Catholic Church’s course steady. May they finally be treated as the equals of all God’s servants in the Catholic Church."

- Mira Kyzyk

"Dear Pope Francis. We women are children of God every bid as precious as the male gender. In  baptism we too become priest, prophet and king. Being baptized into the holy Trinity the Holy Spirit guides us with her grace and blessings. Women were the first to meet the risen Lord. We are bearers of life and the first teachers of our children. Is this not enough to treat us as equals in the governing of the Church and the continuation of the faith?"

- Rosa Gebhardt


"Whether ordained or not, women must be given equal power and authority in the hierarchy, including being made Cardinals."

- John B. Coyle


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Catholic Women Speak network gathered at the Pontifical University Antonianum Oct. 1, about 4 miles from where more than 300 Catholic bishops opening the Synod 2018 on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment on Oct. 3. (Robert Shine)

"Dearest Pope Francis, I am a catechist for the past 17 years, walking with adults and children in the RCIA process. I've studied, given time freely and have grown in my understanding and appreciation of my baptism and how I am called to live it out. Galatians 3:28 sums up my deep belief that the role of women in the church needs to be respected and recognized for what it is: 'There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.'"

- Deborah Walsh

"As a woman who has worked for the church, as staff and volunteer, for nearly 30 years, I ask that you consider the pain I feel at being pushed aside over and over again. Not because of my abilities but because of my gender. I am absolutely capable of unpacking the Scripture and sharing a message, of administering a parish, of being a missionary disciple who is willing to get her hands dirty--and I have done all of this, but always with severe limitations and strictures. I truly believe that the male hierarchy has willfully ignored the guidance of the Spirit, and because of this we continue to suffer from abuse and cover-up, both of which have perdured for so long because of the closed society within the halls of power in the Catholic Church... For the church to survive, the entire Body of Christ must be honored and respected. Every part. Every single part. Fully and gratefully. If things do not change, I see no future for this Church."

- Anonymous 

Thank you for taking the time to join us in this conversation.

You are welcome to share your comments by emailing Look to NCR for ongoing coverage of Women and the Church.