Sunday, April 28, 2013

When Insanity Is Taught As Reality

I have to blame my daughter for getting me started on this particular insanity--again.  But it's nice to know poor  Mario will never find his princess presiding in a cathedral--ever.  I can keep my search strictly to castles.

This has been a chaotic week for me and so I've fallen behind with blogs I cherish reading.  This morning I was able to catch up somewhat and found a brilliant piece by Bill Lyndsey over on Bilgrimage.  In it Bill is pondering the events at the funeral he recently attended for his uncle.  He wonders why churches let women talk before the services, astute brilliant caring women, but not during services where the ownership of a phallus trumps the intelligence of any female.  I wonder that myself, because I think it's the underlying elephant in the room when it comes to the CDF and the LCWR.  The following is an excerpt from Bill's post:

Something about this seems not quite right to me. Something about this seems screamingly wrong to me, and what's wrong about it all seemed to me to be in stark relief at my uncle's funeral. Women whose moral insights are far sharper than the conventional moral insights of preacher men who haven't had to think much about the complexities of making the gospel message they deliver critically pertinent to the world in which they live are permitted no say at all once the preaching and the praying begins, with the invocations of Father God and the songs to the Father in Heaven who sent His Son to save us all from sin.
Half the church sits in silence while the other half claims to be God. What struck me very strongly at my uncle's funeral is not merely how wrong--how insane--this arrangement and the theological system undergirding it are.
What struck me is also how much damage this arrangement (which is how most cultures in the world do business, so that patriarchal religion is merely aping the culture at large with its ideology of male entitlement and female subordination) damages us. How it damages the world in which we live. How it damages our religious institutions to shut out the interesting, accomplished, morally astute voices of women while letting the voices of less interesting, less accomplished, less morally astute men posture as God speaking to the rest of us who sit in meek submission and silence receiving God's words from God's phallic emissaries.


The gender issue is not going to go away.  Argumentation which leads with 'that's the way we've always done it' is not going to persuade in cultures in which 'the way we've always done it' have gone the way of the Dodo bird. More and more people are waking up to the fact that relegating the thoughts of educated intelligent women secondary to possession of a penis is truly, as Bill writes, insane.  Women's 'genius' is not limited to family and pregnancy.  No matter how many times women are told by men that this is their genius,  this constant repetition will not make it true.  This mantra also has the negative impact of minimizing the contributions of men to family life and lets men off the hook when it comes to taking responsibility for their children while giving secular legal systems a free reign to curtail male rights to interact with their own children.  It's promoted a situation in which too many men can pay for them but not play with them.

In Catholicism, the other situation I've found somewhat insane, is promoting celibate childless men as the experts on families and family life.  When one's sole experience of family is strictly from the child end of things, it shouldn't be surprising that an authoritarian paternal mode is the default method of interaction.  Actual parenthood involves many more paradigms than using reflexive authority to make your point and influence behavior.  Anyone who has raised teenagers is well aware of this fact, and the older one's children become, the more listening and the ability to dialogue become more and more prominent.  A parent reaches the stage where the relationship becomes far more about equals than parent child.  Unless it involves grandchildren.  Then, as my own mother informed me, grandparents get to enjoy and spoil the grand children without the problems of raising them.  The actual parents are not allowed to voice any opposition to this arrangement.  This resulted in driving back to Nevada from the ranch with a seven year old on a sugar high with a car full of toys informing me I was 'really mean and not nice like Grandma' because I wouldn't stop at every tourist trap for seven hundred and fifty miles to check out the toys.  But I digress.

There was one time when the celibate childless men allowed married lay people with children to have a voice.  That was back during the papal commission on birth control.  That lay voice was an eye opening experience for the vast majority of the clergy on that commission.  They voted to allow for artificial birth control because they heard from thousands of Catholic men and women that family life was not like Ozzie and Harriet, father did not always know best, and that Mr Ed had better advice than Fr Ed.  Pope Paul VI opted to reinforce the authority of childless celibate popes and the results of that decision are seen in generations of empty pews and fewer and fewer vocations.  We have now reached the point that young women are less inclined to participate in religion than young men.  That's a first and that is a damning sign for the future.  Unless Pope Francis can work some sort of gender miracle with in the Church, his predecessor will have gotten precisely what he wanted, a much smaller remnant church in the West with almost all vocations coming from Africa.  This will last only as long as women bring up the rear in access to educational and economic opportunities in Africa.

I'm well aware that the conservative Catholic will say it was birth control itself that caused all these problems for the Church.  Fewer children equals fewer vocations they will say and birth control  most definitely raises the 'it's all about me' quotient.  I've found that interesting in that it implies vocations are directly dependent, not on God, but on women having many children.  The historical idea seems to be that God calls some of the surplus children to religious vocations.  There is of course, another truth. God wouldn't have to rely on the surplus children if Catholicism didn't insist on a completely celibate male clergy.  God could rely on volunteers from all of His children which seems to be the message from the Pentecostal and Evangelical movement. If all Catholics could participate in the sacramental life of the Church, including leading the liturgy, we would have more than enough sacramental leaders and no gender issue.

Pope Francis is certainly familiar with the explosion in Pentecostal and Evangelical churches in Latin America.  He's also familiar with the popularity of Christian Base Communities in Catholic Latin America, a movement which was severely curtailed by his two predecessors precisely because Benedict and JPII felt these lay led communities diluted the theology of the celibate male priesthood.  Gender is one elephant in the Catholic livingroom, but the other is the celibate male priesthood itself.  Is Catholicism defined by it's desire to follow the teachings of Jesus or by it's uniquely celibate male priesthood?  Pope Francis appears to me to believe that for him the Church is both/and.  Unfortunately as far as women are concerned this is not really a both/and statement.  It's an 'I am/you are not' statement and that is not what Paul tells us Jesus taught. 

1 comment:

  1. I love how you put the point at your conclusion, Colleen: many Catholic leaders, Francis included, seem to think that Catholic women and gay Catholics and many other Catholics will continue to accept the both/and approach.

    For many of us, that approach is now beyond dysfunctional, and we're not about to accept it anymore. This is rapidly producing a serious crisis in institutional Catholicism, because a lot of us aren't going to step back into the insanity, the bifurcated mind and heart and soul, simply because we're commanded to do so.

    Not when we value having whole minds, hearts, and souls, and when we think this is the entire goal of Jesus's teaching and ministry.