Sunday, April 11, 2010

Subordinating Women and Child Sexual Abuse in Catholic Church

     In reaction to the signature that shows Pope Benedict XVI refused to defrock child rapist Father Stephen Kiesle of Oakland, columnist Maureen Dowd discussed her experience, as a Catholic woman, and how she moved from judging Islam's abuses of women into the realization that the Catholic Church does the same thing: using scripture and tradition to subjugate women to a second class status. 

     Dowd's is one of the finest pieces I have seen on the Catholic Church in quite some time. 

     I've been asking the same question for years: how do Catholic women remain in a church where they don't have equal status as men?  

     The women, with whom I've been able to discuss this question, have responded in various ways, including: hoping to still change the church from within, being used to it, needing the Catholic sacraments because communion in other churches doesn't have the "real presence" of Jesus, and/or fearfully admitting "I don't know why I stay." 

     As a gay Catholic, who's god-given sexuality was deemed intrinsically depraved, and as victim of sexual abuse, when I began asking "Why do I stay?" I realized that it was time to move on and seek truth, peace, and joy elsewhere.

     When I was in Saudi Arabia, I had tea and sweets with a group of educated and sophisticated young professional women.  I asked why they were not more upset about living in a country where women’s rights were strangled, an inbred and autocratic state more like an archaic men’s club than a modern nation. They told me, somewhat defensively, that the kingdom was moving at its own pace, glacial as that seemed to outsiders.  How could such spirited women, smart and successful on every other level, acquiesce in their own subordination?
     I was puzzling over that one when it hit me: As a Catholic woman, I was doing the same thing.  I, too, belonged to an inbred and wealthy men’s club cloistered behind walls and disdaining modernity. I, too, remained part of an autocratic society that repressed women and ignored their progress in the secular world.  I, too, rationalized as men in dresses allowed our religious kingdom to decay and to cling to outdated misogynistic rituals, blind to the benefits of welcoming women’s brains, talents and hearts into their ancient fraternity.
     To circumscribe women, Saudi Arabia took Islam’s moral codes and orthodoxy to extremes not outlined by Muhammad; the Catholic Church took its moral codes and orthodoxy to extremes not outlined by Jesus. In the New Testament, Jesus is surrounded by strong women and never advocates that any woman — whether she’s his mother or a prostitute — be treated as a second-class citizen.
     Negating women is at the heart of the church’s hideous — and criminal — indifference to the welfare of boys and girls in its priests’ care.
     The church that through the ages taught me and other children right from wrong did not know right from wrong when it came to children. Crimes were swept under the rectory rug, and molesters were protected to molest again for the “good of the universal church.” And that is bad, very bad — a mortal sin.


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