Is there space for women in the Church?

Is there space for women in the Church?

An enthusiastic crowd celebrated International Women’s Day, on Friday, March 8th, at a lively panel discussion on ‘Exploring Women’s Christianity’. During the event, the revised edition of theologian Mary T. Malone’s book The Elephant in the Church was launched.

The Elephant in the Church was originally published in 2014. This new edition includes a new foreword by former president Mary McAleese and a new interview introduction with Mary T. Malone, discussing how things have changed for women in the Church in the years following the first edition.

The panel of speakers included Mary T. Malone; Ursula Halligan, former political editor of TV3 and journalist in Residence at DCU; Dr Sharon Tighe-Mooney, researcher and author of What About Me? Women and the Catholic Church; and author and theologian, Angela Hanley.

Mary T. Malone speaking during The Elephant in the Church launchFirstly, theologian and historian Mary T. Malone began the talk by discussing the history of women in the Church. She discussed the ways in which women express faith in a church that largely ignores them. She said that “Women need to start thinking who is God for us?” Mary also described the differences between males and female Christianity: “Male theology goes outside itself to talk about God. Women theologians look at it the other way around, they start from the experience. Men go outside themselves to find God, women go inside themselves to find God.”

Mary quoted from the mystic Catherine of Genoa, who said: “my real me is God”. She explained this further: “the core of my humanity is where I, as a woman, find God. God is the essence of my humanity.” “The whole question of women in Christianity hasn’t hardly started yet … The elephant in the Church is all these women who haven’t been asked who are you before God.”

The second speaker, Angela Hanley, looked at the erasure of the women in the Bible. She looked at the stories in the Bible that are not read in church, or are only read on weekday-masses and not on Sundays, where the largest congregation can hear them. Certainly, there are a lot of women in the Bible, but mostly they are buried, they are there but not taught or preached. Angela said movingly: “We don’t want to be the crumbs in the breaking of the bread, but leaven in the bread.”

The Elephant in the Church - Revised Edition CoverNext, Dr Sharon Tighe-Mooney discussed women from various religions worldwide who have succeeded in “breaking through the stained-glass window.” She also delivered a powerful letter to men from women. It was delivered in the style of the male Catholic Church speaking to women but reversed so that women played the dominant role in the religion. In simply switching the genders she highlighted some baffling trends in the patronising language used towards women.

Lastly, Ursula Halligan, launching the book, talked passionately about the book, and the need for every household to read it. She said that women have been robbed of their religious heritage and said: “Mary has given us a stick of dynamite to shake up the Catholic Church, it is up to us to light it.”

If you would like your own copy of this revised edition of The Elephant in the Church you can click here.

To read an article from The Irish Times on the launch you can click here.