The women's movement in the U.S. Catholic Church will get "stronger and stronger" in the wake of the U.S. bishops' rejection last month of a controversial pastoral letter on women, according to leaders in the drive for equality in the church.
"Interest in the issue is extremely high around the country," Dolly Pomerleau, co-director of the Quixote Center, a Maryland-based Catholic social justice organization, told Sojourners. "The potential is enormous. It is up to organizations and the movement to gather that energy up and multiply it and make a big difference in the future."
Pomerleau, a board member of a campaign for equality in the church called Catholics Speak Out, said that the nine-year process to produce the rejected pastoral was a "good education process for the bishops." She added, "I hope they've learned the lesson through this that they're addressing the wrong issue; they should have been dealing with the issue of paternalism and sexism in the church, not 'concerns of women.' "
The last 20 years have seen enormous changes among U.S. Catholics regarding support for women's ordination. In a 1972 poll by Andrew Greeley, only 29 percent expressed approval of women's ordination. This summer, a Gallup poll showed that approval among Catholics had leaped to 67 percent - a result of the work done by equality advocates and of vast changes in the culture regarding women's equality.
Many of the U.S. bishops seem to realize that they cannot block the battle over the church's ban on women's ordination, despite the Vatican's attempts to declare the subject off-limits. Bishop R. Pierre DuMaine of San Jose, California, at a news conference after the letter's defeat, said that "the debate will proceed...with us or without us."