U.S. Catholic women at crossroads as gender gap disappears: Will Pope Francis make a difference?

Association of Religion Data Archives

By David Briggs

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.

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