The head of the Roman Catholic church announced last week that he won’t tolerate any “disobedience” such as talk of accepting women into priesthood. This sort of discourse sounds to me so limited, ignorant, disgraceful and unfair that I am almost choked by anger. But I am not letting that stop me. I feel that I must give a voice to women’s need for a spirituality that represents them too.
First and foremost I object to the word “disobedience.” That takes us back to the dark ages when the individual did not enjoy individual dignity, freedom and sovereignty.
Secondly, I object to the authority of the Pope, who represents for me any church leader. Under the guise that it is God, or the “divine constitution,” that we disobey, we are actually subjected to the whims and arbitrary decisions of a small group of old men from a far away place, living a sumptuous life completely disconnected from reality and from women. But they say that they know what God wants and that we should believe them. As much faith as we might have, that is pretty hard to accept. Especially when what they know of God’s will seems to be so suspiciously rooted in the thinking patterns of the middle ages. When what they know of God’s will is so unenlightened and sad that it just begs to be questioned. When what they know is that women should not speak in church, women should only listen, women should only obey and if they have a question, they should ask their husbands at home!
Religious systems have been, historically, excellent tools of power and oppression. The Roman papacy in particular has a very, very long history of embarrassments and wrongdoings. We keep forgiving and forgetting, because we want to believe. Faith is essential for most of us. As women we need faith, and we do not have much choice. We have been accepting the religious systems available to us with all their idiosyncrasies and flat-out disgraceful disregard for women. You are aware, right, that the doctrine we are asked to obey is not even clear on the subject of women being people? Having souls? There is denial about it. There is a lot of literature trying to minimize the importance of that council of Macon in the 16 century and call it a myth. But the truth is that every act and decision of the church does nothing but reinforce that so-called myth. Why else would we be forbidden to speak in the church, if not for being less than a human being? Why else would we be denied priesthood?
The truth remains that most religious traditions deny women a multitude of rights and insist on having us treated separately, in the back rooms, in submission and complete silence. As women, we should see these practices for what they are (vestiges of medieval or even more ancient laws made by men, not God) and change them. How much longer can we follow faiths that have no faith in us?