Friday, March 20, 2015

Thomas Reese on Five Strikes Against Pope Francis When It Comes to Women: "The Smartest Thing Men Can Do When It Comes to Women's Topics Is Shut Up and Listen"

I think I know where Father Thomas Reese is going with this opening observation about the five strikes Pope Francis has against him, when it comes to women:

First strike: He is male. Any man who thinks he has something to say about women to women needs his head examined. The smartest thing men can do when it comes to women's topics is shut up and listen.

Men talk down to women. Men 'splain things to women. Men have no clue what they're talking about when they talk to women about women.

Men would be well-advised to stop talking and listen for a change. All of this makes perfect sense to me.

But then Reese goes on to say, 

By saying that the church does not have an adequate theology of women, the pope is inviting all the church (women and men, theologians and bishops), into a conversation about women. 
In the long run, having this conversation in the church is probably more important than the pope simply mouthing some statements that feminists like. An ecclesial conversation on women's issues would be good for the church, of which women make up at least half of the membership.

And so how is that objective to be pursued — an ecclesial conversation on women's issues in which women and men, theologians and bishops should all be involved — if men are not to talk about women to women? 

Reese's opening salvo would make perfect sense to those Catholic women who want to play women against gay men in a way that silences and excludes gay men in the church. And so I'd propose, from the very strange planet on which I seem to live alone among American Catholics, that any conversation about women in the Catholic church can't possibly be productive or fruitful unless it also faces very honestly issues of sexual orientation.

And unless it faces honestly the way some Catholic women use rubrics about who all men are and what all men think in order to make preposterous claims about how gay men hate women . . . . There is such deep, foundational heterosexism running through the Catholic community, with deep, unexamined presuppositions about gender and gender roles, that any conversation about the place of women in the church cannot possibly be productive, or go anyplace meaningful, unless this heterosexism is also dragged out into the open, acknowledged, and critiqued.

How, I ask you, can any conversation about women in the church possibly be a productive conversation when it comprises, as normative Catholic thinking, the claim of some Catholic women that "most men with homosexual tendencies enjoy denigrating and ridiculing women," while it completely excludes as beyond the pale and not-normative Catholic thinking the testimony of openly gay Catholic men, some of them theologians, that this claim is a lie and is designed to harm those who are gay (nor to further meaningful conversation about the place of women in the church, either)?

I ask you.

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