Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: Pope Francis's "Deep Theology of Women"?

In the thread following the Commonweal discussion of Pope Francis's remarks yesterday (a discussion started by David Cloutier), David Gibson writes,

Pope Francis said a lot of remarkable things, especially in that in-flight press conference, each of which could be a great post. 
One that really struck me was his call for a "deep theology of women" which he said the church lacks at this point. 
Fascinating. True? What is needed? Where could it lead? Lots of questions there.

And Susan Gannon replies,

David Gibson, I  for one find it hard to look forward to a deep theology of women from Francis based on what he has said about the subject so far. Consider his notion that the women of Argentina are glorious, based on their response to a 19th-century war which resulted in there being eight women to every one man in the country, and their subsequent "glorious" decision  to have so many children that they repaired the gap,saved the national culture. and produced hordes of Catholics. He calls Mary the greatest of the Apostles but doesn't think any other woman worthy to follow in her footsteps. He says women are "important," but  the church must continue to be led by Bishops, and Cardinals, and Popes. who--according to him--must be male. (How would he feel if men were primarily lauded for their breeding ability and excluded solely by their gender from de facto leadership in the Church? ) Women are probably more than half the human race, but treating them as second-class Christians dehumanizes and marginalizes them, something we have been told Francis deplores. He talks a good deal about the importance of more openness, more tenderness, more mercy in the Church. For the Church to put aside sentimental idealization of women on the one hand--and sexist prejudice on the other--would be a good first step toward that goal.  

As I said yesterday (repeatedly), many of us Catholics are now far down the road of conversations that take our church well beyond the point the pope's remarks signposted yesterday--as welcome and liberating as some of those remarks may have been (but his off-the-cuff observations about women's ordination were the opposite). For many of us, it's impossible to talk effectively about combating the marginalization of oppressed groups within the human community as long as our church continues to brand itself as a privileged sanctuary for heterosexual (and pretend-heterosexual) males, who are given the right to lord it over others whose very names (for John Allen, we gay folks remain the "homosexuals" no matter how long we ask to be called gay) the privileged in-group chooses to fabricate. It's impossible to talk effectively about combating the marginalization and dehumanization of anyone in the human community as long as our church continues to give unmerited power and privilege to heterosexual (and pretend-heterosexual) males solely because they happen to be heterosexual and male.

We have a long, long way to go. And nice gestures won't substitute for the hard work of conversations that have to include the voices of everyone--and have to challenge the claims of some in-groups to power and privilege they have not earned, and which they sorely need to critique, if they're serious about building an inclusive and just Catholic church. Or about wanting to be well-developed human  and spiritually grounded human beings as they do their work of parsing the meaning of Catholicism for the rest of us . . . . 

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