A few days ago I retweeted a list of scripts for a platform I use from time to time in the course of my work as a web developer. The originator of the list (whom I had duly acknowledged in my own tweet) subsequently asked those who had responded whether they knew of any scripts he didn’t. Tellingly, he asked the question only of male respondents and ignored the women (including myself—ouch!) entirely. Unintentional sexism? Probably. It reminded me of what it was like to be working in finance back in the 70s, but with this difference. There are so many women working in various areas of technology these days that I was surprised. Who would even dream of making distinctions on the basis of sex?
Making distinctions on the basis of sex strikes me as being one of the major difficulties the Church faces when she tries to proclaim the Gospel in the West. Many people just don’t ‘get’ it. There are times when I don’t myself, especially when it seems theologically and practically unnecessary. (If you would like a concrete example, take the history of enclosure for women: a discipline with a rich theology behind it, but the practical details of which are subject to cultural and historical factors. Sometimes, however, the theology gets completely submerged in practical details which are no longer either practicable or desirable.) One of the things I have learned, however, is that many Catholics know less theology, history or canon law than they think they do and are often dogmatic in inverse proportion to their knowledge (a remark which will annoy, so don’t take it personally: you, dear Catholic reader, are, of course, the exception.) That complicates matters further.
I have no solutions to suggest. I am merely thinking aloud. But if Church membership is in decline in the West, could it be because the Church in her preaching no longer addresses the urgent concerns of her intended audience, or does so in a way that is out of step with the reality of people’s lives? The world needs to hear the Gospel; needs to hear that life is sacred from the moment of conception; needs to hear that selfishness is not the best way of being. But it is difficult to get the message across when so often we proclaim it in a language that no one seems to speak any more. Personally, I have no difficulty with the language of sign and symbol, with the categories of thought familiar to me through many years; but I know they are difficult for others. The teaching of the Church does not change, but those who do the teaching need to think about how they present it. Let us pray for them.