|Forty years ago I played on this same basketball court to a total crowd of maybe twenty.|
I have to admit I am truly stunned with the accelerating change in attitudes about gay marriage. This might be a real-time example of the snowball phenomenon in which a small ball starts rolling down hill and becomes the catalyst for an avalanche. Or to put it differently, get enough effort behind an idea and once the collective consciousness reaches a certain point or critical mass, a chain reaction starts, change occurs, and there is no going back. There will be no going back on gay marriage.
I also have believed for a very long time that the real threat in gay marriage is it's implied gender equality, and that is a legacy of the women's movement. I look back on the women's movement and stand stupefied by the changes in some areas that have occurred just in my lifetime. Back in the early 70's I played basketball on the first team my high school ever had and followed that up by playing on the first team the college I graduated from ever had. I can honestly say I never envisioned women's collegiate basketball reaching the heights it now currently enjoys. And yet, I'm saddened to know that male coaches significantly out number female coaches on both the high school and college levels and I don't why that should be. That too, I never expected. So it seems women still have some more walking to do when it comes leadership roles, and this brings me to Pope Frances and his reforming the Church.
I have really been impressed with Francis in the opening days of his papacy. He has walked his talk and modeled a very different concept of clerical service from what has previously passed as normal in Rome. I have taken a great deal of hope in his sermons and actions--and I have also carried around a certain undefined nebulous angst that I couldn't identify. I think I've now identified my angst. I will not be at all surprised if women under Frances will be allowed to take a higher profile, to operate in more areas, but are never allowed to wield authority in the spiritual or temporal leadership of the Church. Women will be players, but never coaches. This is why I am very curious about what Frances will do with the LCWR situation. EPBXVI through the CDF essentially stated that sisters can play but they will no longer coach themselves. They have to live their respective charisms using the strategies chalked up for them by their male coaches. In Catholicism gender complementarity means women do not infringe on the leadership prerogatives of men. Women are not independent free agents, they are perpetual spiritual dependents.
Frances is going to have to face this gender issue because women no longer accept rigid gender definitions which assign them a dependent role without their consent. The change in gender definitions for women have by necessity changed the gender definitions for men. Younger men and women do not see gender in the same rigid terms as previous generations, and this means they see relationships differently. Marriage is no longer the first relational choice. More and more marriage is coming after children have appeared in the relationship. The dependency issue has evolved into interdependency as both genders work both inside and outside the home. Marriage has moved from mother and children dependent on father to children dependent on both parents with less differentiation in roles. Gay marriage is no threat to this kind of marriage, it only affirms it and this is one reason gay marriage is overwhelmingly accepted by younger generations. But here's the rub for Catholicism. This kind of gender equivalency in marriage carries with it a huge threat to patriarchal religious structures. It does so because neither gender is operating under those patriarchal definitions and reserving authority strictly to males makes no sense and will make even less sense to children raised in this kind of family.
A relational arrangement based in an equal interdependence is very different from one based in a dependent form of gender complementarity. If culture in general mirrors family arrangements then we can expect ever further changes in the culture. The question I have is whether Catholic theology can adapt to changing gender roles and responsibilities. So far the answer is a resounding "NO". That will have to change. The theology will have to adapt to the much larger increase in feminine input and leadership through out the culture. None of this is going to be easy for a Church which has traditionally been led exclusively by men and whose underlying theology is so dominated by male thinking and male analogies.
Unfortunately, I don't actually have a lot of hope in Pope Frances taking the Church very far down the road to gender equality, but I do have hope he takes the Church very far down the road in redefining male leadership and how it's expressed. That would be a bridge to more change in the future and that future could come much quicker than any of us expect. I certainly never thought I would live to see the day when women's college basketball drew the same sold out crowds the men's version does.