Are women the elephant in the Church?

Are women the elephant in the Church?

Mary T. Malone, an incredibly inspiring figure and a wonderful writer on the subject of women in the Church, first published her book, The Elephant in the Church, in 2014. It explores what Mary terms ‘Women Christianity’, following the story of women and the church from biblical times to the women mystics of the Middle Ages and up to Christian feminists who, like Mary herself, had to look into the history of women in the Church after failing to find it in traditional theological texts.

The original book was inspired by a “huge group of women with a great amount of knowledge that are ignored.” Mary looks at female Christianity from a historical perspective, exploring the untold stories of the women who have been considered irrelevant by the Church. A newly revised edition is now available, containing a new foreword by Mary McAleese and an interview with Mary T. Malone, looking back on what has changed, or not changed, in the years since the first edition.

The book asks where do women fit in a male-dominated church? Often this question only raises the subject of the ordination of women, which is a topic that Mary calls “a distraction.” Mary laments this fact: “The only thing the media want to talk about – whenever they get a woman present, all they want to talk about is ‘are the women going to be ordained’?” Mary hopes to move beyond this question to look at the multitude of other aspects that make up women’s status in the Church, creating a space for women, a language for women and a ministry for women, all of which are currently ignored.

The Elephant in the Church by Mary T. MaloneMary T. Malone believes that women, so excluded from the framework of the Church, have learnt to keep the faith in their own way, in their own communities, outside the institutional structure. Women have created their own way of expressing their faith: “Women have pulled away from the official Church. Not in anger, but they plug in when they want to. There are women, older women, and they’ve been good Catholics all their lives, but they’ve found what they wanted outside the Catholic Church. They read for themselves, they find religion in novels, literature, friendship, and they build up their faith and their response to God in that context and they plug into the official Church every Sunday or whenever they want to.”

In her foreword to this new edition, Mary McAleese writes: “Can those who govern the Church redeem it for Christ or is Mary T. Malone’s new way of being a Christian woman outside the Church the likely future path to the way, the truth and the life? It is worth reading this book to find out.”

The book is available now, and you can buy your own copy here.

This year, on International Women’s Day, March 8th, you can also join us for the launch of the revised edition of The Elephant in the Church and a discussion on female Christianity, which will be held in the Avila Carmelite Centre, Donnybrook Dublin 4. Speakers will include, Mary T. Malone, Ursula Halligan, Dr Sharon Tighe-Mooney and Angela Hanley. There are limited spaces available so booking is essential. To find out more information and book your place you can click here.