New data indicates that loyalty to the church on the part of Roman Catholic women in the United States is declining relative to men. David Briggs writes at the Association of Religious Data Archives:
For generations, Catholic women have been the foundation of the church, filling the pews, doing much of the volunteer work that keeps parishes running and passing on the faith to future generations.
But the day of reckoning for a church that excludes women from the priesthood and has alienated many with its emphasis on rules governing sexual morality may finally have come.
What once was a large gender gap in church attendance is gone, and the latest research indicates Catholic women may be no less likely than Catholic men to say the church is among the most important parts of their lives or that they would never leave the church.
“It’s troubling,” said Mary Gautier of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. “The difference between men and women is just gone.”
And it may get worse, some researchers say.
Read more here. Across denominations, including the Episcopal Church, women tend to be more engaged in religious life than men. Briggs reports that “women are more likely than men to pray daily, attend services frequently, say religion is very important in their lives and have absolutely certain belief in a personal God, according to the Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. Six in ten people in the pews are women, according to the 2008-2009 U.S. Congregational Life Survey. Just 2 percent of congregations do not have more women than men.”
Is this gender gap a good thing? Is this a peculiarly Catholic issue? And what are the likely consequences for any church if that gap begins to close?