I have juxtaposed these two images to convey how my mind feels when it tries to reconcile the various messages I, as a woman, am receiving from Rome.

The Pontifical Council for Culture has recently posted on its site the outline of a document entitled, Women’s Culture: Equality and Difference, in preparation for a meeting in Rome, Feb 4-7, attended by Cardinals and prelates. It is accompanied by Man Ray’s Venere Restaurata (1936).

The choice of Man Ray’s work to illustrate the 12-page document has created a stir, covered by several articles (Crux: Vatican effort to talk about women’s issues stirs controversy; NCR: Sparks fly over choice of image for Vatican document for assembly on women) and blogs (Questions from a Ewe: Happy Irony Week!). Tweets have been flying as well as sparks, comments to various online journals posted.

To tell you the truth, I cannot bring myself to reading this document. The feminist Catholic that I am has a physical reaction to both the style of the content and the illustration: a reaction that brings back memories of bouts of morning sickness which I lived through 40+ years ago.

Pope Francis is doing a great job in Rome. He is, in many ways, an answer to my prayers. The dressing down and reform of the Curia; the reform of the Vatican bank; the beatification of Msgr Romero; his attacks on unjust economy; his defense of the poor; his giving sleeping bags to homeless on his birthday; his daily homilies. What more can I ask of this man?

Well, nobody’s perfect. When it comes to the ‘Women’s Questions” in Rome, Pope Francis is very poorly advised. I would recommend he appoints eight or nine women theologians brought from the five continents, asking them to plan a Synod on Women to be attended by an equal number of women and men.

To be honest with you, when I first saw the Man Ray statue, I was so upset that I was going to suggest to simply close down the Vatican. All hopes were gone. Then, I realized my suggestion was a bit radical and I came up with the idea of the need to have parity in all meetings of the Catholic Roman Church.

I may have odd news for some: the Holy Spirit does not only call and come to ordained men. The Holy Spirit calls, speaks to and through all people, whether Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, gay or straight, black, white, brown, or yellow, rich or poor, lay or ordained.

Which is why: Women’s voices, women’s points of view, women’s life stories, women’s laughters and women’s tears have to echo finally in the corridors of the Vatican. They need to bring “Life!” into the mausoleum that the Vatican has turned into.

And Pleeeeease remove this illustration which comes out of a weird mind, the one who made it and the one who chose it. It is like a “metaphor” bringing out to this old imagination of mine images that are utterly revolting.

What would Blessed Virgin Mary say about it?


Illustration: Immaculate Conception; Man Ray’s already cited work.