Saturday, September 13, 2014

European and male hegemony in the church...

I recently read, "Pope Francis: Untying the Knots," a book by Paul Vallely.  The book indicates Pope Francis is not a fan of people from Europe and North America having over-riding influence on the Catholic Church.  He thinks most Europeans and North Americans don't have a clue about life in Africa and Latin America.  Therefore they aren't credible guides.

Furthermore, he sees the church thriving to the point of busting at the seams in these same developing areas while it atrophies amongst the European and North American/European-descent crowds.  Therefore he further questions the European folks as credible guides. It's sort of a "walk a mile in another person's shoes" kind of commentary in that Francis thinks the European and North American folks lack street creds to tell Africans and Latin Americans what to do.

He also disagrees with having a shrinking minority group within the church guide the growing majority.  Basically Francis describes why he's tired of Western / European hegemony within the church and why it's an invalid governance model.

Amen, Brother Francis! I am standing up applauding you, but I am also shouting, "Welcome to the world of women in the church, my friend!"  We are as thrilled with male hegemony in the church as you are with European hegemony..

I think Francis understands how hegemony blinds people because he's felt the stinging ill effects of it.  I can only hope that he is self-aware enough to see the parallel.  He is frustrated by a bunch of people with a different worldview trying to boss him around - i.e., "hegemony."  Francis, do you understand that male hegemony isn't any more fun or effective than European hegemony?

Unfortunately, a persistent issue when addressing hegemony is the hegemonic group's lack of self-awareness to acknowledge that they, in fact, are part of a hegemonic group.  This historically has been the case with Catholic hierarchy with regards to male hegemony, but I'm hoping Francis' primary experience being outside of one hegemonic group opens his eyes to realize he operates within another hegemonic group.

Francis, to see the parallel, in the description below, try substituting "Europeans" where you see "men," or "clergy."  Then substitute "Africans and Latin Americans" where you see "women."   I'll help by making the substitutions in parentheses.

Men (Europeans) in the church tell women (Africans and Latin Americans) what to do.  Yet men (Europeans) lack primary experiences to understand women (Africans and Latin Americans)  Plus, women (Africans and Latin Americans) are the increasing majority of the church while the clergy (Europeans) seem to be doing many things to shrink the church...and their own ranks.  Men (Europeans) who lack understanding and experiences of living as a woman (Latin American and African) make decisions that don't resonate with women (Africans and Latin Americans), don't apply to women (Africans and Latin Americans), or outright harm women (Africans and Latin Americans).

I hope that helped. However, not only are men in the church guiding women.  Unmarried men who have given birth to zero children are telling women how to conduct themselves regarding conception, pregnancy and birth.

I hesitate to call priests "childless" because, especially in the developing nations, more than a few priests father children clandestinely.  For example, in my recent trip to Africa, one of the Peace Corps workers told me a big cause for unwed mothers in her village was the local priest impregnating girls.  So, in some cases, men who don't publicly acknowledge children they father feel qualified to tell women how to raise their families.

Unfortunately, I don't think Francis has yet seen the similarities around the two forms of hegemony.  He recently announced the attendees for his upcoming Synod on the Family and all 26 voting members are unmarried, childless, ordained men.  Yet, they are going to make decisions about women...and families...and child-rearing.

Actually more than 71% of the 250 synod participants are unmarried, male clergy.  Even amongst the non-voting observers and experts, only a minority are women.  Pretty much all of those women are either avowed religious sisters...and no offense sisters, but you don't have much child-bearing and child-rearing experience either...or are employed by church organizations.  Somehow, I don't think a woman who runs a natural family planning organization represents the huge majority of Catholic women.

Francis, you say the church is a woman.  Where are the women's voices of this womanly church?

Francis, you chose participants that do not mirror the church.  Do you think the church will see herself in what they write or hear herself in what they say?  Why should she listen to a disconnected minority?


  1. As always, thank you for giving us so much to consider when discussing any issue. Do you have any plans to present at a conference like Call to Action where we can interact?

  2. So very logical. So very true. I love pronouncing hegemony.
    Probably the nicest thing we could say about the hierarchy.
    THANKS for GREAT INSIGHTS and a good laugh... as always!

  3. At least I can still laugh at the situation of unmarried men dominating decision-making on the family. I am, however, sad about the scandal of excluding women from such bodies as the Synod on the Family and from other roles in the Church. What an insult to the laity it was to waste their time on a "consultation" which was only a pretence of involvement. In England the results revealed the real situation among Catholic families and their views based on their experience. It was too uncomfortable for the bishops to acknowledge.

  4. Excellent! Thank you for your clear presentation of a connection I hadn't made, with European/Western thought representing male hegemony and African/Latin American representing female. Hope the Pope gets to see this - it might help!

  5. Excellent! Thank you for the connection with European/Western and male, hadn't occurred to me. Hope the Pope sees this, it might help.