Like a lot of Catholic teenagers, I started skipping mass in high school. I’d disappear for an hour on Saturday or Sunday at the appropriate time, but instead of going to church I headed to the park or to work out or to read. I didn’t disagree with the church’s teachings. I just didn’t see the point of mass. Sitting, standing, reciting (usually mumbling) the same words with everyone glancing at their watches. Ironically, now that I’m not a believer, I find great beauty in the ritual. I attended mass in Florence a few years back and though I don’t speak Italian, I knew when to sit and stand, I knew most of the time exactly what the congregation and priest were saying. For so many people all over the world to engage in the same movements, speak the same words, ponder the same passages of writing, struck me as incredibly powerful.
So mass didn’t really turn me away from Catholicism. But in college, a friend who was gay asked me how I could still be Catholic given the Church’s treatment of women. He still believed most of the Church’s tenets, but no longer attended mass, supported the Church, or considered himself Catholic because the official view is he was a sinner because he is gay.
Until that conversation, it had truly never hit me that I supported an institution that blatantly discriminated against women. It was so ingrained in how I grew up.
Suddenly, I began asking myself questions. Such as would I contribute money to any other organization with an official policy that I could never lead it solely because I am a woman? If there were other means of transportation, would I pay to ride a bus where the driver made me sit at the back because I am female? Every week in mass, the Church asked its entire congregation, including the roughly fifty percent who were female, to donate money. I wondered: what if all the women and girls all over the world stop donating until they get an equal role in every aspect of the Church? That might prompt some change.
Lisa M. Lilly
Author of The Awakening