Monday, October 4, 2010
Holy and Courageous Women
During his September 9, 2010 papal address, Pope Benedict asked the Holy Spirit to, “raise up wise, holy and courageous women” like St. Hildegard of Bingen to help address issues like clergy abuse. That same week we also learned clergy abuse and absence of accountability in
linked directly to at least 13 abuse victims’ suicides. Belgium
However, the pope clarified in his address that he believes “holy and courageous” women do not, “subvert the very nature of the church" by actually challenging wrongs. Rather, he thinks “courageous” women defend the hierarchical culture that enabled abuses. Isn’t one definition of insanity to repeat the same actions but expect different results?
First, please be aware that Hildegard of Bingen actually defied church hierarchy. So, why did the pope use her as an example of being docile?
Second, what's intrinsically courageous about being docile? Please name me one prophet that didn't speak sharply against injustice. Great church reformers such as Teresa of Avila or Catherine of Siena were none too popular in their day. Pope Gregory XI probably wasn't thinking, "now there's a nice docile gal" when St. Catherine told him to haul his holy carcass from Avignon, France back to Rome.
But more importantly, what does the pope think today’s Catholics seek that would “subvert” the church’s “very nature”?
Catholics want accountability, especially for bishops who withhold information about or move pedophile priests. The church’s “very nature” insists upon accountability. Hence, we have the sacrament of reconciliation.
Catholics want culture changed to stop enabling power and child abusers. Enablement occurs when people accept rather than challenge alternate realities forged of lies, manipulation and denial. Truth prevents enablement of abusers and often arises from questioning. Thus, Canon law expresses the laity’s duty to question the church. The church’s nature stands upon truth and questioning.
Catholics want gender equality, an aspect of human dignity. Rendering human dignity is part of the church’s nature.
Most Catholics want female ordinations. The last statistic I saw was just under 80% of Catholics support female ordinations. Some do believe this would subvert the church’s nature but their beliefs are based upon easily questionable reasons. Let us be holy and courageous enough to question and explore these inconsistencies:
§ Some say Jesus only appointed male apostles, despite him directly sending (the definition of “apostle”) Mary Magdalene with news of his resurrection, the most important news in Christian history.
§ Others declare they have authority to put words in Jesus’ mouth by inferring he absolutely wanted only male apostles despite him never stating this. However, they then say they lack the authority to take out the very words they placed in his mouth.
§ Others ignore New Testament female apostles or discount their apostleship because there is no record of them receiving “laying on of hands”. Yet, no initial male apostles experienced this either.
§ Others think if Jesus wanted female apostles, he would have apointed his mother as one. Since he didn't, they infer he must not have wanted any women...ever. This reasoning assumes Jesus would abandon his pattern choosing weak (Peter, Thomas, Judas) and despised (Matthew, Paul) men as apostles by selecting the most virtuous woman in the world as an apostle.
§ Others say that a person must see the presence of Jesus in a priest and that it would be impossible for anyone to see this in a woman. Yet the church teaches that men and women bear the image of Christ. I also don't understand how someone who doesn't know me can tell me who reminds me of Jesus. I know a lot of women who remind me more of Jesus than several clergy I've encountered.
§ Some say male Jesus mystically married the female church so male priests must continue mystical union with the female church to retain male and female presence in the union. Yet, the all-male Magisterium constitutes the official voice of the female church. Thus, it sort of seems like the all-male clergy marries the all-male Magisterium.
Let us be “holy and courageous” enough to question or reject practices that enable abuse, avoid accountability or treat women unjustly. In this way we will emulate St. Hildegard and support the church’s “very nature”.