The Catholic Church has room to grow when it comes to including women in ministry and governance. Many Catholics have left the church, alienated for a variety of reasons. For the first time in our long history, younger women are leaving the Church in greater numbers than their male counterparts (Wittberg). When surveyed, those who have left express that one of their chief reasons for leaving is the devaluing and/or undervaluing of women.
The 1980s were flush with the potential for creating new inroads for the full participation of women in the Church. More than 75,000 women participated in Listening Sessions across the United States and women’s input was taken seriously as the bishops endeavored to deliver a pastoral letter on women. But in 1992, after years of pressure from Rome to bend the focus and intent of the letter according to the dictates of John Paul II, the U.S. Bishops decided wisely to vote down the final draft because they deemed it to be so deficient and offensive that it would likely alienate women entirely.
A quarter of a century has passed since then and those who believe that women’s full potential should be embraced and realized fully in the Church continue to advocate for inclusion. In 2016, Pope Francis created the Study Commission on the Women's Diaconate, signaling his willingness to be in dialogue about women’s inclusion in the Church. We have a unique opportunity at this moment in time to help educate the Holy Father and help him to hear the ways that the full inclusion of women will make a stronger, more just Church for all.