Saturday, March 6, 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010
The Role Of Women In The Church

In his book, Passion of the Western Mind, Richard Tarnas decisively makes the point that the future of the whole human race depends on allowing women to be on totally equal basis with men on every level. Tarnas concludes his book with this statement:

"The restless inner development and incessantly innovative masculine ordering of the reality charcateristic of the Western mind has been gradually leading, in an immensly long dialectic movement toward reconciliation with the lost feminiine unity, toward a profound and many- leveled marriage of the masculine and feminine, a triumphant and healing reunion. Our time is struggling to bring forth something new in human history. We seem to be witnessing, suffering, the birth labor of a new reality, a new form of human existence, a "child" that would be the fruit of this great archetypal marriage,, and that would bear within itself all its antecedents in a new form.

"Each perspective, masculine and feminine, is both affirmed and transcended, recognized as part of a larger whole; for each polarity requires the other for its fulfillment. And their synthesis leads to something beyond itself: It brings an unexpected opening to a larger reality that cannot be grasped before it arrives, because this reality is itself a creative act."

If it true that the future of the human race depends on the integration of the feminine on an equal basis with the masculine, it is equally true that the future of the Catholic Church will depend on its willingness to integrate women into its power structure. Tragically, however, the present leadership is fighting tooth and nail to prevent that integration.

Archbishop Weakland reveals the strength of that opposition in his memoirs, A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church. In 1968 Rembert was elected Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Order in Rome and held that post for the next six years. During those years Rembert describes a growing friendship with Pope Paul VI but simultaneously the development of a serious conflict with traditionalist Cardinals of the Curia, especially Cardinal Antoniutti. Their conflict was primarily over the autonomy and independence from central authority of the Benedictine monasteries. The conflict was also over the role of women in the Church. After visiting the convents of Benedictine nuns all over the world Rembert felt the need to facilitate the way women could use their gifts in the Church. He had no idea how important it would become and how much opposition it would generate from Cardinal Antoniutti and many members of the curia. For example, after Rembert organized a summer program for Benedictine nuns at St. Anselmo, the Benedictine Seminary in Rome, Cardinal Antoniutti canceled the program saying the nuns had no need of further formation. Rembert went directly to Pope Paul VI who ordered Antoniutti to allow the educational project to continue. (This same curial opposition to nuns continues today with the appointment of papal inquisitors to rein in the American sisters, eliminate their independence and bring them back under the authority of the men in the Vatican)

The present Pope would argue that he has no choice, that the decision to exclude women from priesthood was a decision made by God and Jesus and he has no authority to rescind that decision. What was unquestionably an unjust and sinful cultural failure in the past to recognize the equal status and dignity of woman has been transformed by the Pope into a divine dispensation. By this slight of hand the Vatican is trying to maintain the Church as an exclusively man's club and, as a result has made the institutional church deaf to the voice of the Holy Spirit, an heirloom from the past but irrevelant to the future of humanity.

Pope Benedict has frequently claimed that he is willing to give women positions of authority in the Catholic Church. At this juncture in time the faithful should call his bluff. No one needs to be a priest to be a cardinal. The faithful of the Catholic Church should call on the Pope to immediately appoint all elected heads of major religious order of women as Cardinals of the church. Certainly they are more deserving and better qualified than are most in the presenr College of Cardinals. And who is better qualified to choose out next Pope.

I believe also that the major religious superiors have the right and the duty to appoint a commision to send to Rome to investigate whether the Roman Curia is governing the Catholic Church is a spirit consonant with the teaching and values of Jesus Christ.

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