Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Quote of the Day

Says John Patrick Shanley, in The New York Times:
"Pope Benedict XVI quit. Good. He was utterly bereft of charm, tone-deaf and a protector of priests who abused children. He’d been a member of the Hitler Youth. In addition to this woeful résumé, he had no use for women.

The Roman Catholic Church, which in so many ways has been a great boon to the City of New York, has been choked and bludgeoned into insignificance by a small group of men based in Italy.
Priests cannot marry. Why? I will tell you why. Priests cannot marry because they would have to marry women. Women cannot be priests. Why? Women cannot become priests because of a bunch of old men. These old men justify their beliefs with a brace of ridiculous arguments that Jesus would have overturned in a minute.

...The men who make these decisions are at a remove, very much involved in protecting their power and comfort.
I have little reason to hope that the Church of Rome will suddenly realize that without women, the Catholic Church is doomed, and should be doomed."
I agree, yet, in many ways, this opinion piece is superficial.

Sure, the piece has a resonance with me and will likely be satisfying for those who critique the male supremacy of the Catholic Church to see such an indictment in a major newspaper. However, his conclusion that the Church is doomed "without women" is not going to be self-evident, and therefore convincing, to anyone who thinks otherwise. I've seen a similar conclusion made, in reverse, from those who support the current male supremacist status quo: The ordination of women will doom the Church, just as it has doomed all other churches that have already tried it.

Two, the Church is not "without women."

The Catholic Church's male decision-makers may indeed be very much interested in protecting their own power and comfort, but many women too are complicit in Catholicism's male supremacy and buy into its notions of gender complementarity. Where Shanley's conclusion takes it as a given that women are, historically, passive objects who have had the Catholic Church just happen to them, I would disagree and acknowledge instead that women's participation has helped legitimize and build its power.

I recognize the extent to which complicity is oftentimes a survival strategy for those with less power within a society or system. In part because of this recognition, I likewise argue that it is idealistic, hopeful, and unfortunately unrealistic to think that the Catholic Church will, one day, collapse from the weight of its own bigotry just because Bigotry Is Wrong!

The dooming of a the Catholic Church, which I suppose can also be a metaphor for Patriarchy, will not occur until the reasons for women's complicity in it are fully acknowledged and examined.

And some other stuff will probably have to happen too. But, you know, I don't have all the answers.

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