Spiritual Fruit Salad…
Just before I read reports of his Christmas address to the Vatican Curia, I was wondering if Pope Francis ever actually received the Christmas card and other letters I’ve sent him. He doesn’t write…; he doesn’t call…; he doesn’t visit… What’s a girl to think?
However, now I think it’s possible he has received my mail because his “15 Ailments of the Curia” echo many concerns I’ve expressed in my missives. If you’ve not read his list, I encourage you to do so.
As much as I appreciate Francis acknowledging and even chastising the hierarchy for its arrogance, hubris, insensitivity, hypocrisy, insecurity, self-absorption, fear and unhappiness resulting in over-bearing, domineering, control-freak, career-climbing, self-promoting, money-grubbing, gossiping, suck-up, fashionista hierarchy members who travel in cliques, his litany had a glaring omission: the ailment of “sexism.” I don’t know why he overlooked that ailment unless maybe it’s one that plagues him or one he does not acknowledge. Regardless, without addressing it, the other ailments will never be fully addressed.
I actually believe that tackling Pope Francis’ list of 15 without correcting the ailment of sexism likely will just make a sick turn of the crank grinding women down further within the church and society. I don’t know if that would be an intended or unintended consequence but humble, sensitive, secure, confident and happy sexists are still sexists. One might argue that such sexists are even more destructive ones because their charm wins people’s confidence enabling them to manipulate and abuse people more easily.
I think Francis would bristle at being labeled a sexist. I think he probably envisions himself a very pro-female kind of guy what with him appointing 5 whole women to his 30 person International Theological Commission. That mentality is fairly common amongst people of Francis’ and my parents’ generation. They are so indoctrinated into promoting a gender ideology of females’ limitations and duties, that they often see their sexism as just a factual manifestation of nature…”it’s just how things are…” And though some such folks believe themselves to be rather equality-minded, their face-palm worthy sexist statements and actions belie the gender ideology to which they are enslaved.
Historically, women and their anatomy have been frequently compared to many fruits: peaches, apples, melons, cherries to name a few. These tend to be degrading sexual metaphors. However, some people from my father’s generation actually think they’re paying a compliment when they admire a woman’s “melons.” Lack of appreciation for such “compliments” simply baffles these folks. Francis calling women theologians “strawberries upon a cake” might fall into this genre of sexism. It might not.
And while Francis might see magnanimity in him having 16% female representation on his theological commission, I see it as woefully inadequate. Numerous qualified women theologians could bring the commission to an equal 50/50 split right now, today, no waiting. Yet, my lack of appreciation for Francis’ “magnanimity” might befuddle sexists in the crowd. My mathematical competence that realizes 16% is markedly less than 50% somehow gets confused with the word, “ingrate.”
Perhaps rather than having sexually inappropriate undertones Francis just meant he thinks male theologians provide the foundational substance (cake) of theological thought and women theologians add superficial, yet palatable adornments (strawberries) to that foundation making it more attractive to consume; I don’t know. But, I would expect a non-sexist to say something like this, “Women theologians are like male theologians; the depth and breadth of their diverse experiences of God are intrinsic to the very substance of theology.”
I discussed Francis’ “women theologians are like strawberries on a cake” statement recently with my youngest daughter (in her 20s) while eating her strawberry adorned birthday cake. She mused that since strawberries atop a cake provide the only healthy nutritional part of it, maybe Francis believes women theologians provide the healthiest theological contributions. If Francis’ few female leadership appointees prove to do anything other than mirror or smear frosting on 2,000 years’ of male theologians’ cake, I’ll agree with her.
However, Francis overlooked female theologians such as Elizabeth Johnson who might actually act as a conduit for the “freshness, fantasy and novelty” of the Holy Spirit that Francis says he greatly desires. He instead opted to appoint female theologians that seem to parrot what the guys have already said. Francis, why are you so reluctant to letting the Spirit blow where it will when it comes to women?
By the way, Francis, a friendly warning here…When I acknowledge those same ailments in your list of 15, I’m labeled a “clergy-hater” or “church-destroyer”, so brace yourself… But don’t be discouraged. When people feel threatened, they often label and try to discredit the source of their threat. Sometimes they even try to accuse the opposition of doing what they actually do. It’s kind of like how the church hierarchy has peddled gender ideology for about two thousand years but now people who call the church out for this sexist practice get labeled by you as “demonic” peddlers of gender ideology.
Bottom line: whether or not Ray Burke wins Cardinal fashionista of the century, whether or not George Pell, Sean O’Malley and Tim Dolan avoid headlines and talk shows, whether or not the hierarchy starts interacting more frequently and directly with their flocks, it will not make your gender ideology that artificially limits women’s abilities any more acceptable. Possession of a uterus does not magically or biologically make women more qualified to wash clothes, bake cookies, change diapers, make coffee, run photocopies or type documents. Nor does it make them less qualified to think and lead. In a globally connected world with instantaneous communication abilities as well as economic opportunities for women, taking centuries to correct errors and imbalances that could be corrected instantly just does not cut it.
Dear brother Francis, please be guided by the words of Michael Jackson…look at the man in the mirror and “if you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make that change.” I appreciate you are doing this on many fronts but in the area of women, it is far too little, far too slow and suffers setbacks by your intermittent sexist statements.
I welcome the opportunity to share with you the “freshness, fantasy and novelty” of the Spirit that blows through me. Please feel free to visit when you’re in the U.S. or give me a call anytime.