The Roman Catholic Church has a woman problem. This is not limited to its efforts to control women sexually (as it lurches between Madonna and Whore as its only view of the feminine). It's also manifest in the failure of the RC church to recognize women as leaders-- limiting them to a servant role. This is not a surprise, given that the recent Popes have had only limited exposure to Real Women -- their doting mothers, and women/nuns as servants. They've literally never had to deal with women with families, women with careers. You know, real women in the modern world.
And so, neither pope, John Paul II nor Benedict XVI, in their roles as leaders of the Roman Catholic Church worldwide, seems to have had any significant personal experiences preparing them to relate appropriately to women in the modern world. Their limited understanding of female gender would have come only from women subordinate to them. These may be the only models with which either man was familiar. It seems no wonder, then, that John Paul saw the very essence of femaleness as “being for others”—men evidently exempted. Joined at the hip, Benedict not only endorses John Paul’s teachings, but also, at least in the case of his attack on the LCWR, apparently holds that “others” are the hierarchy.
The current problems of our institutional Church are organically interrelated. A just and equitable rearranging of the deck chairs, starting an entirely new way or seeing and working with women, as respected equals, sharing the same basic baptismal rites, is long overdue.
Fascinating essay by Andrew Sullivan follows up on the consequences of this dismissal of women.
Without women, the Church will die. One of the more obviously radical things Jesus does in the Gospels is to treat women as complete equals. Yet the Church that was constructed after Him was based on male supremacy and eventually male segregation in the priesthood – forbidding by celibacy even the influence of wives and daughters. Of course this creates a circular, hermetically sealed worldview. But I’ll tell you this: if women had been priests or priests had ever had kids, the child-rape scandal would have been stopped in its tracks. The criminals would have been busted, not protected.
If the hierarchy still refuses to get this, if it does not shift on women and married priests, it will, in the West, lose the mothers. And once you lose them, the church is all but over. They are, in so many ways, the church. Two women – my grandmother and my mother – taught me to love my faith, cherish it, protect it. They both gave me life, but they also gave me faith. For so long they have been taken for granted – and even, as with the American nuns, persecuted and investigated for doing God’s work.
When the church gives holy mothers the same respect it gives one Holy Father, it will begin to regain its moral authority. It will begin to turn back towards the one so many seem to have forgotten: Jesus.