Over the past year, as people have come to know me through my writings on the the Vatican2 List on the Internet, I have been asked many times why I choose to remain a Catholic. "What," wrote one correspondent recently, "is relevant to women in the Catholic Church?"
And so I ask myself: "Why do I stay?"
First to adapt the well-known statement of a famous U.S. Catholic political leader, "I ask not what the church can do for me, but what I can do for the church"! I consider myself a loyal dissenter (see my May 12 column in the _NCR_, plus my ongoing reporting/analysis in the _NCR_ concerning the Austrian and German efforts to reform the church from within), and it would NEVER occur to me to leave the church because I do not identify the REAL church exclusively (or even primarily) with the Vatican or the Curia or the Magisterium or any particular pope's pronouncements. The REAL CHURCH is all of us: the "People of God" and it is up to us to follow Jesus and claim the church as our own and allow it to become the universal dialogue of Love Incarnate with the the people and living organisms and things of the physical world.
Particularly as a woman-scholar-mother-theologian I believe that it is my duty to stay and do my part in prying open some of the Vatican windows that have been re-closed and nailed shut after John XXIII's premature death. For me to get out would be tantamount to giving up, to abandoning the church I love to those who would limit the church's growth.
And so I plug away, even writing anonymous sermons for a Catholic homily service.
Why do I stay? The following material is a cannibalized version of one of my own responses to a similar question asked last fall by a former member of Vatican2 and a convert to Catholicism from Protestantism who couldn't imagine why those of us who disagreed with official Roman pronouncements didn't simply leave the church.
Short answer: I love my church and wouldn't consider leaving her, especially now, that I see her under attack from extremists to the left and the right.