Archives for posts with tag: Sexism in the Catholic Church


Every so often I come across an article or a picture that raises my feminist hackles and turns me into a growling tigress. This is when some of my women friends roll their eyes, suddenly ashamed to know me, and sigh, “Claire, not again…. Why can’t you…?!”

For many years now, I have longed to be a mainstream Catholic woman, welcoming my Church with open arms and simply loving every tiny bit of it.

Take Pope Francis for instance. I pray for him every day, because he says much of what I have been longing to hear my Church say. Godde loves you whoever you are. Godde welcomes you. Godde pines for you. I also pray for him because he is taking on not only the ambitious and social-climbing bishops around him and the financiers all over the world, but also the Mafia in Sicily. I pray for him because I am worried he will be our next Oscar Romero — killed on the altar by people who cannot stand his message. So, yes, I do pray for Pope Francis daily.

When I see someone calling Pope Francis Another Alter Christus (Francis of Assisi was the first Alter Christus, i.e. other Christ), my reaction is that Pope Francis will be an Alter Christus the day he is surrounded by women. I am not talking of religious women here, who are taking care of the Pope’s household, needs, and meals. I am talking of housewives, mothers, and sinners, women like you and me. And I cannot imagine Pope Francis suddenly asking the opinions of women in the pew — not through his bishops, but by accessing women directly. Women who won’t tell him what he wants to hear, or what they think he wants to hear.

Yesterday I tweeted the Pope the link of a blog which touched me, entitled Torn Bread. A Catholic woman goes to an Episcopalian woman priest to receive the Eucharist. I understand her, I have done the same. Someone tweeted me back: “There are things that could happen, and things that will never happen. What you want from Rome is the latter.”

Now I will not waste my time and his, and yours, showing that the interdiction of Catholic women to become Catholic priests (we all know Catholic women who are now priests in other denominations) is just doctrine (hence changeable), and not dogma. I will not repeat till I am blue in the face that there is no Encyclical saying that women cannot be priests. There are just declarations, written by unenlightened minds, attached to privileges of the past. More and more, in fact, the sensus fidelium is recognizing the call of women to priesthood and history seems to want to unearth facts supporting the reality of women deacons and priests in the Early Church. Let those who have ears hear and those who have eyes see.

These concerns usually remain on the periphery of my awareness, since I prefer to focus on the daily readings and find out what Jesus has in store for my soul, heart, and spirit on this day. I would rather chat with Ignatius or with the Virgin Mary than fight earthly skirmishes.

Until a picture like the one above stares me in the face and shows me once again that in the Catholic Kingdom of Godde, as it is presented by the Vatican again and again through its hierarchy, there is no room for women, no room for someone representing my sex. Fifty-one percent of the world population, and probably eighty-five percent of the Catholic Church population (i.e. women), is kept invisible.

And it hurts. And I growl like a wounded tigress. And I walk away tears in my eyes, until I see a picture of Pope Francis hugging a man that would have me close my eyes in fright and run away. And I walk back to what I would like to call ‘home’.

I cannot truly hope or pray for a better Pope than the one we have right now. Were he suddenly to be surrounded by women the way Jesus was, then I would know this is the Second Coming — and remember all that comes with it.


Photo: Guardia Svizzera Pontificia



You are no longer strangers and sojourners,
but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones
and members of the household of God,
built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. (Eph 2:19-22)

Jesus went up to the mountain to pray,
and he spent the night in prayer to God.
When day came, he called his disciples to himself,
and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles… (Lk 6:12-16)

When praying the Daily Readings, sometimes I recognize a loved passage and snuggle up in the warmth that glows in my heart. On occasion I feel indifferent and wonder what Godde wants to tell me when my heart remains so blah about it. Once in a while, some passages entertain me for the different way folks reacted way back then. Very rarely now, do I feel anger.

Today, Paul’s passage from Ephesians is one of those loved lines which open my heart to a deep joy. Every word adds to a blissful feeling of ‘belonging.’ I am no longer a stranger and a sojourner; I am a fellow citizens with the holy ones; I am a member of the household of Godde. Together with all the others, we are growing into a temple sacred in the Lord, a dwelling place of Godde in the Spirit. What more can I want?

Comes the Gospel where Jesus goes up to the mountain to spend time with Godde. Coming back down, he calls his disciples and chooses twelve apostles. All men. We all know the story, don’t we? Each Synoptic gospel includes it. It is “part of the early Christian tradition.”

As I read the Gospel, I start running toward the mountain where Jesus likes to pray. I am in luck, he is there, lost in prayer. I remain at a distance, but he notices me somehow. I move closer. Woman, why are you in tears?, he asks. I am crying, rabbi, because two thousand years ago you chose twelve men for each of the Jewish tribes. It is an unavoidable fact. So as a woman, I can only be a second-class citizen in the household of Godde, or so I am told by some of your priests and followers.

When someone cries in the presence of Jesus, Jesus takes that person in his arms and gives a long hug. And so I cried on his shoulder. Lo and behold, he had tears in his eyes. Woman, do you really believe I see you as a second-class citizen? I shook my head. No. To Godde nothing is impossible his eyes said to me.

I really wanted a promise from Jesus that all would be well for women in the Church. This he could see and he heard my prayer. But a prayer is not to change Godde but to change myself… Today’s gospel makes me feel on the outside looking in, at the margins, where Jesus walks and holds my hand. The pain is here and I lift it up to Godde as a morning offering. 

Just give me your love and your grace, this is enough for me. (St Ignatius of Loyola)

Illustration: Women in Christianity II, Seeroon Yeretzian

Pope Francis on the plane back from Brazil

“A church without women would be like the apostolic college without Mary. The Madonna is more important than the apostles, and the church herself is feminine, the spouse of Christ and a mother.”
“The role of women doesn’t end just with being a mother and with housework … we don’t yet have a truly deep theology of women in the church. We talk about whether they can do this or that, can they be altar boys, can they be lectors, about a woman as president of Caritas, but we don’t have a deep theology of women in the church.”
“On the ordination of women, the church has spoken and said no. John Paul II, in a definitive formulation, said that door is closed.”

Mary Hunt, Will Francis’ Statements on Women and Gays ‘Make a Mess’ Inside the Church?

Boom. This is the same old same old theology—the Virgin Mary is more important than anyone else in the story, but living women cannot make ecclesial decisions, exercise sacramental ministry, or make ethical choices. Apparently, the question of women’s ordination is so yesterday in the Vatican Francis doesn’t think it needs to be revisited.

So much for democracy and making a mess (not to say “screwing up”) when it comes to internal church matters. I shudder to think what a “deep theology of women in the church” will look like, much less who will write it. So while I am delighted to see some small movement on the part of this pope on gay issues, I think it’s crucial that he not be given a pass on issues related to women. They are all of a piece.

I have asked Google for images of Pope Francis with women. Out of the hundreds shown of the Pope, I only found three of him with a woman.

Since Pope Francis has been elected, I have been ecstatic. He is an answer to my prayers, better even than what I had dared imagine.

In India, when a shawl or a tapestry is made, the artist always makes sure to insert an error in it to keep the evil eye out. This way, no one can exclaim, Oh, what a beautiful shawl!, thus bringing it bad luck. Same for a baby. When you are in India, never tell the a child’s mother, how beautiful her child is, for from then on she will fear bad luck for the child.

Well, Pope Francis seems to be perfect on all counts until we get to women. That’s his protection against the evil eye…

Then I have this strange feeling that our wonderful Francis knows very little about women. When it comes to a “truly deep theology of women,” I have bookshelves filled with books authored by brilliant and wise women theologians. Books that he has probably never heard of.

I find myself in a strange position: On the one hand I see this wonderful new Pope who might never get to the situation of women in the Church because there is so much to do elsewhere. On the other hand, I see my feminist sisters’ growing despair and increased alienation. Wonderful people who don’t seem to be able to meet.

Even more strangely, when I think of the situation of women in the world, whether economically or politically, women are the poorest of the poor. Single mothers carry the world on their shoulders. Who will be able to bring this sort of news to Casa Santa Marta? When will there be justice for women, not only in the world [there we can act more easily], but in the Church [where we have so little access]?

Will the Blessed Virgin have to appear to Pope Francis and tell him, ¡Francisco, Querido, por favor tenga cuidado de las mujeres! (Francis, Beloved, please, take care of women!)

One with you in the Risen Christ.

Photo: Pope Francis and a woman

Some posts on the same topic:

  • Iglezia Delcalzada, Pope Francis in Rio: The Good, the Not-so-good, and the Downright Ugly
  • Iglezia Delcalzada, Pope Francis and the theology of women: some concerns (Brazilian theologian Ivone Gebara)
  • Jamie Mason, When does our hope for Francis become denial?