‘I will put enmity between you and the woman…’ 3:15
No, that’s not a quote from Joseph Ratzinger at 3.15 this morning.
It’s a quote from the Bible, a compilation of hearsay, rumour, innuendo, misogyny, fairytale, legend, biography, social history and advice written by various men over a period of a few hundred years.
The Bible has largely been the same since it was agreed upon as a fundamental part of the Christian Church, over 2000 years ago.
The world, however, has not.
None of this is news; none of it is even that outrageous. The quote above, put into the context of a 2000-year-old society, could even be considered enlightened, in that it doesn’t place the blame on women for the enmity.
What is outrageous is the reliance of the Catholic Church under Ratzinger on the ancient tradition of misogyny within its teachings.
Ratzinger – I know he’s the Pope, but part of my problem with the Church is the edification of its officers through mystical titles, robes and glittery accessories – has, during his tenure, taken the Church back many years. And it was already quite a bit behind.
The latest release from the Church, including the ‘sin’ of ordaining women priests in a list which mostly focussed on the ‘grave’ sin of child abuse, is almost mind bogglingly stupid, ignorant, and short-sighted.
I’ve been putting off writing this post since I first read of this last week, as I was afraid I’d merely spew expletives.
Contrary to some reports, the news from the Vatican did not precisely equate women priests and those who ordain them, with paedophiles.
They made the unfortunate mistake of including the new rules on ordaining women priests in the same document as the new rules on paedophilia. At least, that’s their line on it.
It shows just how clueless the Church is when it comes to the gravity of paedophilia. It’s like including late payment of your TV licence in the same legal provision as murder. Even if you believe they didn’t mean it that way, it shows an astonishing lack of political nous, something that would be surprising, given its proud history as an Italian city state and how it got there.
But that’s optics. It’s well documented that the Church has no clue how to tackle paedophilia, and for a long time, didn’t really care. I will give Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and some of his colleagues the benefit of assuming that now, they do care.
The part of this that really and truly astonishes and angers me is how the Church, after 2000 years of progress in almost every other sphere of society, can still believe that women have no place in its structure.
My relationship with the Church was a big part of my childhood and it was exemplified almost 100% by nuns, teachers (all female), priests’ housekeepers, my granny and all the other old ladies who went to mass and kept the place going.
Women who cooked and cleaned for the Church and its many tentacles, who grew and arranged flowers for the Church, who sang at Church, who did readings at Mass, who visited the poor and the sick for the Church’s charities and who arranged fundraisers and trips to Lourdes and the ‘tea and sandwiches’ part of the funeral. In the midst of this a priest wandered in, had his dress put on him by some overawed kids who spent an hour handing him things, ate and drank what he was given by the women, and went for a pint.
I am not saying all priests are lazy or that all priests or bad; I am not even saying all priests are like this. But every support service that I can remember ever seeing in the Church was carried out by women.
When I visited the Vatican a number of years ago on a trip to Rome, I became incandescent with rage and had to leave St Peter’s Basilica. I’ve written about this before, and I won’t go into it in detail again.
But as we wandered around between statues of ‘holy’ men, crypts (of men) with nuns beating their heads off the ground and wailing in front of them, pictures of men and astonishing wealth, held by men, we walked past nuns cleaning, and of course ended up in the gift shop. Where, if we’d bought anything, we’d have been served by nuns.
It was the biggest and wealthiest clubhouse I had ever seen and they did not want me in the club.
I have been raised to expect that I am equal to anybody. I know that I am equal to anybody. And yet, there is no chance that I or any other woman, can ever be in a position to change the Church. Because change has to happen on the inside, and we are not on the inside.
We are tolerated as tea makers and cleaners and mothers (to a point – only in marriage and only if we eschew contraception and impure thoughts and enjoying any sexual contact not designed for procreation). We are tolerated as ‘handmaidens’.
Now, when the Church is in the throes of the biggest crisis since the Reformation, when it is desperately seeking vocations and forgiveness from the thousands, possibly millions, it has wronged, in one foul publication, it shuts out the 50 per cent of the population that has not been proven, over 2000 years of administration, to be completely misguided and wrong about how we do things.
I am not religious. But I feel some of the disappointment and shame that the Church’s female adherents must be feeling now. There is a movement for women priests, and it is quietly supported by quite a few male priests.
It’s time for them to raise their voices. Schism is an old-fashioned word, but it looks to me like the concept has never been more inviting.