- “The gifts of delicacy, of a special sensibility and tenderness, which are a richness of the feminine spirit, represent only a genuine force for the life of the family, for the irradiation of a clime of serenity and harmony, but a reality without which the human vocation would be unrealizable.”
- “How is it possible to grow the effective presence [of women] in so many ambits of public life, in the world of work and in the venues where the most important decisions are adopted, and at the same time maintain a presence and a preferential attention, which is extremely special, in and for the family?”
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Correcting the "theology of women" that currently exists...
Rumors are circulating that Pope Francis might visit the U.S. next year. He is most cordially welcome to visit my home and even stay here – no charge. In addition to walking side-by-side with him and the economically challenged in my area, I’d like to discuss this “theology of women” concept with him. Maybe I’ll send him a letter extending a sincere invitation. But, just in case he doesn’t accept my offer, let me discuss some things here.
1. We’re not going to get anywhere with a “theology of women” if the hierarchy’s emotional abuse of women continues. So all this stereotyping of women as fluffy, delicate, glowing, wispy, cookie-baking, child-bearing, child-rearing, walking uteri needs to stop. For instance Francis needs to stop saying stuff like this about women:
Francis, as the song says, “I can bring home the bacon; fry it up in a pan and never, never, never let you forget you’re a man…’cause I’m a woman…w-o-m-a-n.” Heck I’ll probably even wind up washing the darn dirty pan. That’s some of my “special sensibility and tenderness.” And, you do realize you just said that the most important decisions occur outside the home. That's not a ringing endorsement for the value of families.
2. “Theology of women” can’t merely consist of a bunch of unmarried men telling women what it means to be female. Hierarchy members are lesser authorities on what it means to be a woman than pretty much any female on the planet. As the character Gracie Hart says in the movie “Miss Congeniality”, “I can’t talk girl talk with a guy in my head.” So, Francis also needs to stop saying stuff like this about women’s roles, “In this process, the discernment of the Magisterium of the popes has been, and is, important.” No, really, on this one, it’s not important. Actually, what is important is making the extensive corrections needed to previous popes’ flawed writings about women.
3. Stop telling me I’m supposed to imitate the Virgin Mary just because we’re both female. She said “yes” to God. That’s great for men and women to imitate. But there isn’t anything about Mary’s female life that resonates with me. She got pregnant without having sex. She remained “free from the stain of sin” because she remained a virgin. She was born perfect and raised a son who is sinless and God. I share no common experiences in that string. I have to believe raising one perfect son whilst one is perfect themselves is considerably easier than being born imperfect and raising multiple imperfect children. Mary’s motherhood was purposely abnormal, so I have no desire to emulate it.
4. Stop telling me my primary purpose is to be a mother. On average women have about 15 years of peak fertility. Against a 74 year average life expectancy for women globally, that’s only about 20% of their lives. Even if a woman had children in the first and last of her 15 peak fertility years that would mean about 33 of her 74 years involve raising children – less than half her lifespan. Why disregard more than 50% of women’s lives?
Similarly, stop this hypocrisy wherein “good” fathers should work outside the home but “good” mothers need to prayerfully consider it like they are contemplating entering the bowels of an operating nuclear reactor. Women and men should work outside the home as called by God. Good parents will be good parents regardless of if they stay home or not provided they align with God’s will. That goes for mothers and fathers.
5. It is dehumanizing to reduce femininity to a mere metaphor, especially when it is used to mask male hegemony. The “church’s anthropology” asserts that Jesus, a male, marries the church, a female. Priests celebrating Mass in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) are supposed to continue this marriage celebration of Jesus to the church. Since the church is “female”, the hierarchy teaches that priests must be males lest they provide a same-sex marriage example.
However, doctrine also asserts that priests act both in persona Christi and in persona ecclesiae (in the person of the “female” church). Thus you rightly could claim that every time clergy alone celebrate Mass they actually do perform a symbolic same-sex marriage, but the hierarchy will quickly tell you that the metaphorical “female” church is there. You see, the hierarchy feels the male role is so important that it must be played by an actual human man. However the female part is so inconsequential in this marriage that it can be reduced to a metaphor played by anybody – male or female. That teaching really accentuates the hierarchy’s devaluation of women.
The document, Inter Insigniores, outright admits the hierarchy’s long history of devaluing women, “It is true that in the writings of the Fathers, one will find the undeniable influence of prejudices unfavorable to woman..." However, that document goes on to explain that these “unfavorable prejudices” did not impair the hierarchy when conjuring up dogma about women. I think that is an impossible thing to do.
6. If you balanced the Vatican Library on a fulcrum and then moved all the dogmatic writings by women in it to one side and those by men to the other side, the library will topple to one side. Women’s writings drown in a sea of men’s voices. Yet dogmatic writings and the male hierarchy form the “female” church’s official voice. How can a “female” church have such a decidedly masculine voice?
It’s not that women have been mute. It’s that they have been largely ignored unless they parrot what the male hierarchy says. This systematic suppression of the “female” church’s actual female voices and replacement of them with male voices also makes a very strong case that the hierarchy’s marriage example is of a male-male same-sex union with the “female” church being played by male “queens.”
This suppression and exclusion of the female voice deprives the church of truth by denying the Spirit’s work through women. This cannot be tolerated. Indeed, with the increasing exodus of women from the church, it’s not being tolerated. Until this is fixed, no “theology of women” will be taken seriously by the majority of women in the church.
7. The current “theology of women” rests upon flawed biology and is basically a protracted, hyperbolic romantic fantasy based upon that flawed biology, written by men with limited, healthy intimate relationships with women. The hierarchy must step away from the arrogance and flawed logic of “but we always thought this…” Clinging to teachings based upon flawed premises and institutionalized sexism unacceptably sacrifices truth in favor of protecting the status quo.
Before we can define a “theology of women” we must purge ourselves of these rampant inaccuracies. Women are best qualified to analyze existing teachings about women, highlighting and correcting the many errors. To not permit women to do this is like saying, “Italians are not credible experts on life in Italy. We better have some Americans write about it instead.”
Once we correct what a “theology of women” isn’t, we can begin to expand upon what it actually is.
What is our role correcting the flawed “theology of women?”