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Monday, June 22, 2009

Bad girls in church



I saw a post at the Episcopal Cafe - Bad girls in church - that mentions a poat at Religion Dispatches, The Best and the Brightest of the Catholic Bad Girls by Frances Kissling. One of the things the RD article mentions is the co-opting by religious conservatives of the term "feminism" ( the feminists for life and the new feminism). The article also mentions some past Catholic feminists, but for some reason does not count my favorite, Teresa of Avila, among them (the photo above is of Paz Vega as Teresa in a controversial Spanish movie about the saint).

Here's the start of the article. I don't agree with all that's in it, but some of it rings true ....

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How does power respond to those who want a place at the table? As Gandhi once explained, power has five strategies. First, it simply ignores those knocking at the door; when that fails, power pretends the seekers are only a few very unimportant and disgruntled people, not worthy of attention. If they manage to survive being ignored and marginalized, power attacks them either physically or verbally. Those who survive then find their goals and even identity co-opted. Finally change happens.

While I’ve never felt powerless, I have found reflecting on this analysis helpful in understanding the reaction of Catholic popes, bishops, and those who are part of the Catholic boys club to uppity Catholic women—I knew we’d finally gotten to them in 1998 when Sydney Callahan reported in Commonweal on a Vatican meeting on women where John Paul ll announced that he was the “feminist Pope.”

The declaration was a sign of the extent to which it had become unacceptable to dismiss, marginalize, satirize, or simply roll your eyes and trash feminism—and Catholic feminists. It was time for the church, at least in its clerical identity, to shape an acceptable form of Catholic feminism and to anoint some “good” Catholic women. Of course, the Vatican was the last place to recognize this need; political astute and worldly clerics (and laymen fellow travelers) had already recognized that in the cosmopolitan environments they wanted to move, the church’s misogyny as well as the nearly all-male institutions they were associated with were an embarrassment.

Some level of gender sensitivity and integration was necessary. But not too much, the church seemed to say, and not with women who make us uncomfortable: nice women, polite women, not pushy broads. It’d be especially helpful if they respected the priesthood. A modern, educated, and sophisticated version of the rectory housekeeper seemed to be what was needed.

Oh, and most importantly the church wanted women who didn't think they understood theology well enough to criticize it and get in trouble with the Vatican. After all, one cannot go around claiming that it is good theology that women are moral agents, capable of making good decisions about their nature, sexuality, and reproductive choices. Women like Catherine of Siena, Joan of Arc, and Juana de la Cruz need not apply. The good women wouldn’t be very interested in sex, other women, or power. They’d care about poverty, world hunger, development, and education. When it came to women’s lives, only women you could put the adjective “poor” in front of would deserve attention, and they wouldn’t make an issue of ordaining women to the priesthood. If they weren’t nuns, their personal lives would be a sign of goodness (if they were married and had kids) or hidden (if they were single). For the single ones their public persona was one of perpetual virginity, free to serve others and the church. No hint of sexuality about them. Good-looking Mother Teresas ........

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crystal, don't get uppity. The Catholic Encylopedia(1911) clearly says: Men are God's glory; women are man's glory. Jack

10:53 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

They really need to update the Catholic Encyclopedia.

11:18 AM  
Blogger victor said...

Come on Jack you should know that God Our Heavenly Father loves all His Children equally no matter what sex they are and just because He made woman from man does not change anything. Our Heavenly Father did not check with any Encylopedia when He created Man so why fret about "IT?" :)

Peace

3:16 PM  
Blogger cowboyangel said...

A modern, educated, and sophisticated version of the rectory housekeeper seemed to be what was needed.

Heh.

I read the full article and, like you, thought it had some good points. But, being male, perhaps, I found some lines hard to take: "Moreover, you can’t count on them [men] if you get in trouble. They barely get their act together to defend one of their own." Whatever. I'm not sure if that's directed at all men, including Ghandi, or Catholic men, but it seems unnecessary.

Did you read the response article by Kate Graham? Catholic Bad Girls or Good Catholic Women: Bridging the Generation Gap.

I thought she had some good points as well, but she doesn't really make a good defense of her "new" activist tactics - blogging, Facebook, etc.: "But, suffice it to say, although we have not yet ironed out every wrinkle, online activism is the new frontier for social justice, and it is working."

How is it working, exactly? It seems to me that Power doesn't give a damn if people start a protest group on Facebook or complain about things on a blog. That seems to correspond to the 2nd and 3rd strategies of power that Ghandi mentions. And her overall tone towards Kissling was a little too, "You're just too old to understand things now" for my taste.

But it's a good discussion.

Personally, I think allowing women into the priesthood and into the structures of power may be the only thing that can save Catholicism. Otherwise, the priest who's average age is currently mid-60s will become the priest whose average age is late 70s. And as each new horrifying revelation in the abuse scandal comes out - and they will continue to come out as various countries investigate, since it was a massive systemic cover-up - the church will be wrenched apart until there's little left and it simply withers away.

As the authority of the old male Power structure continues to crumble, I think only new blood and women's wisdom may be able to restore it to any degree. I still don't think women in power would've allowed the evil and carefully planned cover-up of child abuse. That seems like the typical response of men in power.

6:35 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

William,

Yes, I didn't agree with everything she wrote - like this part ... we don’t go to them [priests] for advice on our personal woes, they are not our confessors or spiritual directors. We don’t invite them to speak at our conferences, and we don’t particularly think they are the best theologians. .... Why not? Why are they not any good - just because they are men? That's a kid of reverse discrimination.

I'll check out the other article - thanks for the link :)

11:43 AM  
Blogger victor said...

cowboyangel said....
>Personally, I think allowing women into the priesthood and into the structures of power may be the only thing that can save Catholicism. Otherwise, the priest who's average age is currently mid-60s will become the priest whose average age is late 70s. And as each new horrifying revelation in the abuse scandal comes out - and they will continue to come out as various countries investigate, since it was a massive systemic cover-up - the church will be wrenched apart until there's little left and it simply withers away.<

Personally, I’ve always been against allowing women into the priesthood and at my young age of 63, me, myself and I have learned from spiritual experience that it’s not because my humanity does not love woman or because of any other “Title” that some might want to inflict upon me, “IT” is simply that I honestly believe that “GOD” knew what He was doing or that Jesus was not really "GOD" but a very nice guy and my faith chooses the former.

It is so easy to politely indirectly judge Our Heavenly Father’s Only Begotten Son Jesus who is all “LOVE” because of all the problems that have taken place with “His Spiritual Rock” which He started but fear not
‘GOD HE JESUS WORDS” will never die even after “The Evil Trinity” destroyed himself and his followers.

I could go on and on but I’m going to close with a little joke for non believers that sinner vic told me while I was in deed thought. He called me greedy and asked why I will not put him in charge of my kingdom of cells and about 7% of my thought cells told him that I will keep “IT” in mind and when and/if, I get to spiritual grade one with God’s Angels then we will see what They Think about "IT" but personally I'll take whatever Our Heavenly Father chooses for me! sinner vic continued in deep thoughts asking me if I would at least give him all of my daily dead cells of the pass and future! By that time, I honestly thought that he was being very funny and silly but to make a long story short, in faith he convinced me that he truly believes that he’s a god and could give all these dead cells Eternal Life. Go Figure! What a JOKE! RIGHT?

To make another very, very long story short, I simply told sinner vic that he’s just a little too late cause I’ve given “Everything” to “Our Heavenly Father” who has “ONE” of “HIS INVISIBLE SPIRITUAL LOVING CELL” placed in each of HIS CHILDREN at Baptism.

I hear ya cowboyangel! Victor! Right or wrong “IT” is or was only my opinion at the time and don’t you agree that we are all entitled to our opinions and like you, we don’t all have the luxury of being a skitso!?

SO VERY TRUE! :)

9:03 PM  

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