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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Motherhood and the Church

Mother's Day is next week and I saw a mention by Catholic writer Kaya Oakes about what happens at her church. Here's the start of it ...

I seem to write some version of this every year around Mother's Day, but here we go again by necessity...

Many women don't have children. There are lots of reasons why this happens. Some are biological, some are circumstantial. Those women are not lesser, are not failures. They are generative in many other ways. They give life in many other ways.

Every year, when I go to church on Mother's Day, this happens:

Women who are mothers are asked to stand up and be blessed/applauded. Women who are not mothers are therefore left sitting.

As one of the women who's left sitting, that means everyone looking around is made aware of the fact that I don't have children. Is that anyone's business? Not really.

So I'm asking my clergy friends yet again not to do this ....

This is one of the things I find disturbing about Catholicism - the emphasis on women as mothers. Pope Francis has been an especial advocate of this view ...

Pope Francis: Opting not to have children is a ‘selfish choice’

Pope Francis: ‘Large families are a gift from God’

Pope Francis: A world without mothers would be inhumane, lacking tenderness

The Pope would not be my first choice for advice on how to be a woman or a parent, and is it only me that finds it a bit creepy too that the Pope wants women to breastfeed in church, that he thinks it's fine to slap your kids around?

Here's an excerpt from an article by scripture scholars Candida Moss and Joel Baden on the subject ...

Op-Ed Pope Francis' woman problem

[...] Ten days ago, Pope Francis organized and addressed an interfaith colloquium on the subject of “The Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage.” The use of the doctrinal term “complementarity” signals the conservative underpinnings of Francis' views on marriage. The religious teaching of complementarity holds that men and women have very different roles in life and in marriage, with men outranking women in most areas. Although Francis did acknowledge that complementarity could take “many forms,” he nonetheless insisted that it is an “anthropological fact.”

Last week, in chastising the European Parliament on the subject of immigration policy, Francis provided another alarming insight into his attitudes toward women, this time in his choice of metaphor. He described Europe as a “grandmother, no longer fertile and vibrant,” but instead “elderly and haggard.” At 77 years old, presumably Francis still thinks himself relatively vibrant and useful to society. Women of his age, however, have apparently outlived their utility.

Francis has made it clear that he sees childbearing and child rearing as crucial womanly roles.

But his remarks about European immigration marked the first time Francis has used the natural loss of fertility and change in appearance that accompany aging to cast a moral judgment. By selecting the image of an aging woman — someone who is, to use Francis' words, no longer “relevant” to the world — is nothing other than crass chauvinism. Francis has elsewhere condemned our modern “throwaway” culture that discards the elderly, but here — when the subject is exclusively female — he demonstrates the same attitude.

Even when ostensibly elevating women, Francis reveals a highly patriarchal view of where their value lies. In a July statement that many took as a positive sign, he said that women are “more important than bishops and priests.” But it is unclear just how progressive we should understand that statement to be. Repeatedly, Francis has come back to extolling the role of women specifically as mothers, noting that “the presence of women in a domestic setting” is crucial to “the very transmission of the faith.” .....

I imagine it can be great to be a mother and if someone has a good mom, that must be a blessing, but I can't help thinking that the church uses sexist rhetoric about motherhood to define women and keep them in their place.


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