Confession: I am not Catholic. And my feminist consciousness is currently on high alert, yelling: “No! Do not write an opinion piece about a community of which you are not part!” But this is not a critique of Catholicism; it is a critique of religious patriarchy, which is present in traditions across the board.
There has been a lot of pope news lately. Sure, I love that the new pope’s name makes me think of a robed man frolicking in the woods with wolves and birds. But besides whimsical day dreams, I find myself utterly uninterested in the whole charade. So I must ask myself, why, as a person who cares about theology and current events, can’t I muster up the energy to give a damn?
My Protestant upbringing may have to do with my disinterest, but there is something else happening here–something that is trans-tradition. Watching papal pageantry on TV reminds me of the feeling of accidentally walking into a Presbyterian (PCA) elders meeting. Oops, I am in a room full of straight white men who are making decisions for all other demographics in their faith tradition.
Before Pope Francis was chosen by his fancily-clad cardinal comrades, Catholic scholar, Dr. Mary E. Hunt, wrote this in her article, What the Papal Transition Means and What Feminists Can Do About It:
I am not interested in the personal characteristics of a new pope, even in betting on the outcome of the papal horse race. That is the patriarchal frame of the discussion, which I think feminists need to reject. If I respond favoring Cardinal X over Cardinal Y, or if I sketch out the characteristics of a “kinder gentler” pope, then I am conceding that the model is acceptable. It is not.
So, Father, forgive me, I just can’t take the papal party seriously. No matter how well-intentioned and Saint Francis-like a group of men may be, a “no girls (or gays, or young people, or married people) allowed” club is outdated, irresponsible, and irrelevant. I don’t care how fancy the clothes. I don’t care how historic the tradition. I don’t care how airtight the theology. I will be listening for voices of hope outside of the papacy and outside of Protestant, male-only leadership.
I will be, for example, looking towards the beautiful and compassionate work that Catholic women are doing outside of hierarchical structures. Women, who as Dr. Hunt writes, “have discovered and developed a dynamic paradigm rooted in the message of Jesus focused on equality and community.”