Year of Mercy: when shall we apologize to women?
The picture is from Unlocking Feminity.
It has been a trend that, from time to time, a pope, a bishop, a theologian or any other Christian of good will drops a line apologising for the hurt caused by the crusades, the inquisition, Church supported colonial crimes, pre-reformation simony and, most recently, the abuse of minors by some members of the clergy. However, when it comes to how women have been treated or how they may still be treated in some Church communities, the Church is still shy and avoids as much as it can to seek God’s mercy in the matter. In fact, anything that implies progress in the treatment of women in the Church rouses screams and indignations of traditionalist Christians who still can’t see the full image of God in women. Does the term in persona Christi really have anything to do with Christ’s sex, race, language or shoe size? Of course Jesus did not have women among his twelve apostles but he also did not have non-Jews among them. That might have been a much bigger statement for the people of Jesus time than the absence of women in the group of the Twelve. Many Christians freak out when they hear someone say that a woman can be an apostle while Rom 16:7 calls Junia prominent among the apostles. Actually, some editors tried to change her name into Junius.
When many Christians hear someone make an advocacy of women’s rightful rights in the Catholic Church, they tend to jump to conclusions and “accuse” the advocate of being pro-women’s ordination. This is not the subject here. Although I think it is also an interesting subject seen that we can discuss anything else in the Church, write and debate about any subject in the Church, starting from whether God exists to other minimal subjects but we are not allowed to discuss of the plausibility of women ordination. A friend of mine like to joke that the Church has many dogmatic statements including the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Assumption of Our Lady, Her Immaculate Conception and her perpetual virginity and the “unordainability” of women. The matter has been put to rest by Saint John Paul II. It is said sometimes that women should not ask for their rights in the Church especially while talking about roles of service in the Church. The argument would go to the extent of accusing those women who seek ordination of seeing in priesthood some position of privilege while it should always be considered as a situation of humble service, just as Christ was meek, humble and our servant. Why then refuse to women that opportunity to serve in humility? Why then deny them that blessing that comes while emulating Christ in one’s daily life?
There is an enormous auto-censorship when priests are preaching on Biblical characters such as Mary Magdalene, Phoebe (a deacon according to Rom 6: 1-2), etc. Only Mary the mother of Jesus Christ seems to escape from that sacred bowdlerization. A friend of mine used to joke and say that the only reason why he believes women should never be ordained to ministerial priesthood because back in his home parish only women go to weekday masses; so in order to have at least one man, priests should only be men. Although this might still sound as a joke, it mentions an important point. Women, who form the bulk of our congregations, are still overlooked while deciding on issues related to their daily life: issues related to their reproductive life, contraception and, most of all, the role in the life of the Church.
Nowadays when one talks of oppression of women in religious spheres, it has become easy to assume that one is talking about male-controlled Daesh’s leadership, Wahhabi Saudi Imams, Afghani Taliban commanders and Iranian mullahs imposing the veil on Muslim women. Restricting that attitude to the world of extremist Islam would be unfair. Many religions still struggle to accommodate women in the fullness of their supposed mercy, compassion and loving kindness. It is obvious that the Catholic church is not leading in giving to women all the opportunities of humble service they may feel called to, if only that may be the access to decision making circles.
Maybe it is an opportunity we get during this Year of Mercy, as the Church offers compassion and forgiveness to lost lambs, to also seize the occasion and seek forgiveness from women who work tirelessly to make the kingdom of God come but are still ignore in some many aspects of the life of the Church.
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