Illinois Appellate Court Judge Sheila O'Brien wrote this interesting essay, Excommunicate me, please, in the Chicago Tribune. O'Brien explains that she was raised Catholic, the product of grandparents who left Ireland with nothing but their vibrant faith and 22 years of Catholic education. She loves the church she was brought up in, but is tired of its support for pedophiles and its opposition to women's rights. She can write one time bequest on her church contributions to make sure the money stays in the local parish instead of supporting the hierarchy, but wonders if that action is enough to bring about reform in the church. She explains her dilemma:
So, each person must decide: Stay and fight (cutting off the money but with little hope for change) or leave. Both options are spiritually and emotionally exhausting.
That's why, silly as it sounds, formal excommunication by the hierarchy would be a welcome relief. If they would just make the decision for me, give me a piece of paper that says, "you're out," it would free my conscience of all of this.
Catholic Professor Cathleen Kaveny observes that essays like O'Brien's demonstrate that the church has reached a tipping point that the Catholic hierarchy should take seriously (by, e.g., having Chicago's bishop invite the judge to lunch). But it is more interesting to observe what the tipping point is for each individual woman. For author Anne Rice, who left the church last week, it was gay marriage. For O'Brien, it could be pedophilia along with the fact that the church recently grouped ordaining women with pedophilia in identifying crimes against church law.
What would happen if all the Catholic women who felt this way walked away? Would it be smart for the church to excommunicate them before they did?