Friday, August 28, 2015

A note on women and the Church today

By Eduardo de la Serna (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Blog 2 de Eduardo de la Serna
August 27, 2015

I am not an expert on the subject, but that doesn't stop one from having some sensitivity, as well as ears open to learn.

I think great open-mindedness is needed -- because we are children of millennia of chauvinism -- to learn to see the right and necessary place that women must have in society and the Church. And this goes far beyond female quotas on lists (a kind of lesser evil), or the incredible imbalance in wages between men and women doing the same job. And although I would like to look more closely at the issue of women in the Church, it does have repercussions on the issue of "women in society / culture / family ..." Precisely because of not being an expert, I recognize that I must educate my ear and heart, and I hope to continue doing so. These are some steps.

I believe that Jesus of Nazareth was quite daring (as in many other spheres) on the recognition of women. That he had female disciples was not taken for granted because of his environment -- that he would talk to women, or even that they would eat at his table wasn't usual. Paul continued this dynamic in his communities (although it doesn't seem to have been a cause for scandal in a world ruled by the Julio-Claudians -- the descendants of Julius Caesar -- during the first empire). The progressive assimilation of sociocultural "home" schema led to relegating women (as seen in the Deutero-Pauline writings and others of the second Christian generation such as Matthew and -- to a lesser extent -- Luke). The arrival of the Flavian imperial rule (Vespasian, Titus, Domitian) -- that occurred around the same time -- relegated women from public life. To this must be added, later, the gradual symbiosis between Christian thought and Greek philosophy. Thus, while many 2nd and 3rd century theologians were particularly "biblical," there were quite a few -- and they were increasing -- theologians influenced by Greek, particularly "androcentric", philosophy. The increasingly apparent invisibilization of women continued forward, especially with Platonism. There were always (as on many other issues) great people (among the fathers and mothers of the Church, for example) who sought to give women their rightful place, but the "predominant wave" was particularly chauvinist.

It is not a matter of -- or my chance to -- do a long and comprehensive "history of the Church" and the place of women in it. But neither must it be forgotten that the whole society "walked those roads." It's enough to recall that Husserl, on giving up his professorship in Germany (1928), lamented that Edith Stein was a woman and therefore would not be able to be his logical replacement.

But while theology (and many other sciences) have moved forward along many - and diverse - rails in recent years in feminist studies, the institutional Roman Catholic Church doesn't seem to act or speak accordingly. When the Aparecida document was adulterated by some sectors of the Curia, the already scant acknowledgement of the role of women was cut even more (plus the addition between the second and third draft of "gender ideology" [# 40]):

Original text

109. We regret...the shortcomings of our living out the preferential option for the poor, and significant numbers of secularizing lapses in consecrated life, discrimination against women and their frequent absence in pastoral institutions. As the Holy Father stated...

Adulterated text

100 b. We regret...the shortcomings of our living out the preferential option for the poor, and significant numbers of secularizing lapses in consecrated life under the influence of a merely sociological rather than evangelical anthropology. As the Holy Father stated...

But in a merely indicative way, it remains striking that the issue has not been fully taken up by the Curiae.
  • The strange phrase "feminine genius" has all but imposed itself -- I understand it originated with John Paul II.

  • Pope Francis, when asked about the place of women, said it is an issue that should be studied carefully. To which more than one woman theologian told him that the issue has been seriously and carefully studied for many decades.

  • Phrases such as "icing on the cake", "old maids" and many others are, rightly, very badly viewed and interpreted when done from a feminist perspective.
We should not think that because of being women, their outlook is necessarily feminist. Similarly, I can point out that I know hundreds of theologians who live in Latin America and who don't think "from" Latin America (and more than one European theologian who does, or at least tries to do so), just as there are dozens of lay people who look at things from a clerical perspective, many Africans and Asians who come back home "European" when studying in European schools ... In this sense, I will rescue the use of the term "kyriarchal" coined by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, noting that many have introjected the dominator (kyrios, lord), and it is this mentality that impairs an integral and liberating outlook.

In conclusion (my intention is simply to alert the eye), I deeply regret the recent statements of the new president of CELAM, Cardinal Rubén Salazar:

"That [Women in the Church] is another key issue, which has to be worked on transversely in all departments of CELAM. In the words of Pope Francis, it isn't so much about finding employment for women within the Church, but that they bring us the feminine genius, since the Church is sometimes viewed too much from men's point of view. They bring us all the subtlety, tenderness, caring, motherhood that women imply, and the Church as mother is enriched by their contribution in her life and mission." (reported in Periodista Digital)

What's this "they bring us ..."? What concept of "women" do [these words] contain? "Subtlety, tenderness, caring, motherhood"? And what would men's contribution be, from this perspective? Can't men have caring, tenderness, subtlety? Do all women bring "motherhood"? Can't women bring capability, theology, decisiveness, commitment, ministry, initiative, leadership and management ability...?

Personally, seeing these poor statements -- which are what motivated this disorganized writing -- I think that unfortunately women in the Church of Latin America will still have to continue to wait many years to be recognized, unless they are the ones who capture spaces (with the support of those of us who believe they belong to them). It doesn't seem that they can expect too much from "above" for now. It doesn't seem - for example - that the phenomenal contributions of so many women to theology have been "received" by the hierarchy.

Eduardo de la Serna is a Catholic priest in Argentina and coordinator of that country's Grupo de Curas en Opción por los Pobres.

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