Thursday, November 20, 2008

When Fantasy Collides With Reality

Readers may have to bear with me for awhile, but eventually I will have a point to make. I think.

I was reading some of the comments on the National Catholic Reporter website concerning the Fr. Roy Bourgeois situation and came across a comment written by a JPII priest which struck me as something from a fantasy romance novel. Here is a portion of his comment:

The priest is called to be the living image of Jesus Christ, the Spouse of the Church.[49] Of course, he will always remain a member of the community as a believer alongside his other brothers and sisters who have been called by the Spirit, but in virtue of his configuration to Christ, the Head and Shepherd, the priest stands in this spousal relationship with regard to the community.

"Inasmuch as he represents Christ, the Head, Shepherd and Spouse of the Church, the priest is placed not only in the Church but also in the forefront of the Church".[50]

In his spiritual life, therefore, he is called to live out Christ's spousal love towards the Church, his Bride. Therefore, the priest's life ought to radiate this spousal character which demands that he be a witness to Christ's spousal love, and thus be capable of loving people with a heart which is new, generous and pure, with genuine self-detachment, with full, constant and faithful dedication and at the same time with a kind of "divine jealousy" (cf. 2 Cor 11:2), and even with a kind of maternal tenderness, capable of bearing "the pangs of birth" until "Christ be formed" in the faithful (cf. Gal 4:19).(Pastores Dabo Vobis, #22) (All of the above is a direct quote from JPII's Pastores Dabo Vobis)

Furthermore, to admit women to the priesthood would belittle the great dignity of women who hear the invitation to consecrated virginity and so become brides of Christ and an image of our Lady. (I've never understood why Jesus needs dedicated virgin brides, when he didn't seem to need one when he actually walked the earth. Is this the Catholic version of the Islamic male fantasy?)


When I read the above, I once again found myself banging my head on my desk. This whole thing describes a delusional fantasy world in which the Church is a "bride" composed of submissive and compliant laity, and the priest is the "spouse" who is the living image of God in the form of Jesus Christ.

The divine imaged spouse is even capable of "genuine self detachment, with full constant and faithful dedication and at the same time a kind of "divine jealousy" and even with a kind of maternal tenderness capable of bearing the 'pangs of birth' until Christ be formed in the faithful.

In too many respects this sounds like the ultimate male fantasy. A compliant and submissive wife, the ability to self detach while still exhibiting divine jealousy and the delusion of sharing in the pangs of birth.

I just love the 'pangs of birth' thing. My ex husband once asked me what it was like to go through child birth. I told him, "Imagine defecating a water melon." He never asked again or pretended he shared in my pain. Believe me contractions are not 'pangs'.

But the important thing here, is that this fantasy of priest to church is a romantic male fantasy. It contains lots of delusions concerning the rightful place of women and children vis a vis their relationship to men. I'll admit for eons this fantasy was pretty much reality, but not anymore.

The children are grown and the women are demanding the end of the fantasy.

This fight to hang onto the fantasy can be seen in all the hot button issues of the bishops. Whether it is birth control, abortion, a female clergy or gay marriage, all of these issues threaten the underlying assumption of the fantasy. That underlying assumption is that men have divine right to control both the propagation of the species and the order of society. Control is not just about the present, but extends into the future, and progeny is all about the future.

Birth control and abortion place the progeny decision in the hands of women who actually do have the babies and do experience the 'pangs' of birth. Go back to the water melon analogy and you might begin to see why women just might want some control over whether they get pregnant. Defecating water melons can end in one's death.

But of course, there's more to having babies than that. Someone has to take care of them. All too frequently our male who is indulging in his ultimate fantasy, is no where to be found, being 'self-detached' for some reason or another. And then there is the 'divine jealousy' thing, but most women don't find male jealousy divinely inspired. It's more a case of jealously guarding male prerogative.

Gay marriage is in too many respects the ultimate threat to the ultimate male fantasy. It's the sexual fantasy without the burden of children, an unlicensed and unrestricted male fantasy. It's not fair. Of course that's only true if one ignores the tens of thousands of gay partnerships which are raising children. But hey, this is a fantasy we're protecting here. Reality need not apply.

And that brings us to women priests. In a church which raises the ultimate male fantasy to dizzying theological heights, women priests are way way too much reality. It's not surprising then that the Vatican wields the dogmatic sword of excommunication to stop this notion, while allowing their abusive 'spouses' to go unpunished and heavily protected. It's always been that way when sexual abuse raises it's head within the patriarchal family structure. The fantasy can not be questioned by the reality of it's consequences. Male dominion is sacrosanct. God says so.

The good new is that the fantasy can no longer being sustained. Not by society, not in politics, and not by the planet. There just aren't enough true believers to keep it sustained, and that is especially true in the younger generations. They don't seem to want the burden of the fantasy because they are seeing that ultimately it's deadly--for society, for politics, and for the planet.

At this point it doesn't look like the Roman Catholic Church is willing to give up on the fantasy. They've done pretty well living it for the last 1700 years. The times are changing though, and the hierarchy needs to absorb a serious dose of reality or the Church too will go the way of the empire it replaced. By the time the original Roman Empire died it's leadership was also desperately clinging to the fantasy of it's past and incapable of dealing with the reality of it's present. Fr. Bourgeois isn't a case of "Et tu Brute", he's an unwelcome dose of reality.


  1. Hey, I know where that picture is from. It's in Quebec city, on a street that heads up a hill. I think it's an old school.