Thursday, November 19, 2009

Not a Coincidence

Seriously, is it possible for anyone to look at this type of male-instigated investigation by a male hierarchy and consider that shifting the focus and blame onto the women is not the central time-worn way for men to ignore their own sins and displace their reactions to the sins of others? Richard Mouw wrote of a conversation with a devout Catholic nun about the Vatican's recent decision to investigate women's religious orders in the United States in his blog, A Vatican Investigation. His report:

She is a wonderful person, a deeply devoted follower of Christ. "I guess the thing that hurts the most," she said, "is the 'Why us?' and 'Why now?' issue. Here we have had this huge scandal of sexual abuse on the part of priests, with no real official action on Rome's part. And all of a sudden they announce, 'We are worried about the nuns, and we're going to investigate them.' What in the world are they thinking?"

I recall a conversation Massimo & I had with a highly intelligent and devout Catholic woman, who had a PhD from Loyola University. She was very active in her parish, employed by the church and had the unusual privilege given by her Vatican II priest of having an equal vote with the male priests. She spoke of her hope that before she died, she would be able to be ordained a Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church. Massimo and I didn't share her hope.

Massimo and I had lived long enough in Italy for me to realize just how far from honoring women the Catholic Church really is, in the institutional sense. I suspect that hierarchy, in itself, is so male that only a particular type of subservient woman could ever participate in it. (Sarah Palin comes to mind in another hierarchy.) Men resist and exclude women who speak truth "in Christ" out of their deep personal connectedness to the image of God they share with men. Men's resistance to women's truth can often be brutal and destructive. Every hierarchy of which I've been a part, from Wall Street investment banks, to commercial banks, to government agencies, to churches, to classrooms, has had a complicit (male) agreement to protect one another from the discomfort of facing the whole truth about the ethics or wisdom or constructive nature of their conduct. Consider how many whistle-blowers are female. While I can perceive that a political system (generically, a system of governance in a corporation, bureaucracy or ecclesiastical body), in itself, may be neutral when unpopulated, it seems abundantly clear that hierarchical leadership will always damage others. The only top-down structure that is healthy is one where the higher placed see their job as serving, hearing and supporting the lower placed. Ranking and placements are fundamentally indicative of world-honoring measurements, not of God's gracious gift of life and worth to humanity.

When the ten [apostles] heard [that the mother of James and John was advocating for them to have place of honor at Jesus' side in his kingdom], they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:24-28) [Notice how Mom was complicit in trying to abet her sons' hierarchical ambitions!]

So, while I greatly value Mouw's concern and attention to this matter, I draw attention to his use of the word, "arbitrarily", below.

Still, I am with my nun-friend. The Vatican-ordered investigation is deeply distressing. It is hurting some devoted followers of Christ who do not deserve to be treated with suspicion. As one who observes all of this from a distance—but with great interest and concern—I do not want Catholicism to turn back the clock. Neither do I want a turn in the direction of liberal Protestantism. This means that a better option would be to engage in some serious new discussion about what an orthodox Catholicism should look like today. Many of us in the evangelical world would love to engage in some dialogue with "official" Catholicism on that subject. But not with a Vatican hierarchy that arbitrarily picks on Catholics whom we admire as humble servants of the cause of the Gospel.     {bolding with underlining added}

From my perspective, I see no arbitrariness to the Vatican hierarchy's choice to pick on Catholic women. It is male weakness, male pride, and sin.

Name it, guys, please! Women have our own weaknesses, pride and sin, but hierarchy in this manifestation isn't. We do hierarchy differently (and also damagingly, I might add, although it frequently doesn't have the sweeping power to cause broad harm that men's hierarchies have). Another post on another day about our stuff – feel free to send me links or articles that you think constructively address women's issues.

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