Pervasive Violence vs. Women/Girls/LCWR

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June 2014

Almost 300  Nigerian girls kidnapped, increase of rapes in the military and on college campuses (TIME, May 26, 2014),  Malala Yousafzia , a young girl in Pakistan shot by the Taliban, with the intent to kill.

The Daily Show: Extended Interview: Malala Yousafzai – YouTube

16 min – Oct 10, 2013 – Uploaded by Comedy Central
In this exclusive, unedited interview, “I Am Malala” author Malala Yousafzai

Ongoing domestic violence, human trafficking, infanticide against girl babies, femicide, inequities in wages, violence against LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious), and on and on. . .

So, what underlies and/or causes these attitudes and acts?  Why is violence against women so pervasive? As indicated above it is worldwide – not limited to a geographic area or a particular race.

In his recently published book former President Jimmy Carter states his twofold purpose.  I believe it answers the questions above:

I will explore the links between religion-based assertions
of male dominance over women, as well as the ways that
our culture of violence contributes to the denial of women’s
rights. . .We cannot make progress in advancing women’s
rights if we do not examine these two underlying factors. . .

Religious oppression can kill the very souls of those experiencing it.  Why? To be blunt -Because it’s an oxymoran! Don’t we expect comfort and/or challenge from organized religions and their sacred texts? Isn’t one of the goals of organized religions to help people develop their humanity?  Isn’t an expectation of faith filled persons that they will discover paths that enhance their lives within families and communities? What image(s) of God are portrayed within institutional religions that oppress rather than liberate? In light of these considerations is it any wonder that increasing numbers of people are walking away from traditional religions?

We know, historically, there exist numerous tragic events and eras when religious oppression occurred, including in our own time.  The Holocaust, Genocides, civil & tribal wars, torturing and killing women in the name of a people’s God, marginalizing women based on manmade rules, laws and customs.

At this point I wish to focus on the Vatican’s mandate to LCWR. I begin with the words of Marie Augusta Neal, Sister of Notre Dame, renowned sociologist, now deceased who observed in 1979:

“So concentrated is the question of sexuality on the issues of birth control, abortion and divorce, as well as on the issues of premarital sex and the possibility of married clergy, that men are not yet aware of the general problem of a male-dominated theological language, liturgy and the religious education that is denying to women a place to celebrate life in the church. . . My discipline of sociology in theory and research confirms that the major sexual problem for consideration by the church is the human rights of women in the consciousness of men. . .”

I believe this is an unspoken reality at the core of the impasse between the Vatican, the U.S. Bishops and LCWR. Another misnomer was cited by Cardinal Donald Wuerl (AMERICA, 2011) When bishops as individuals or collectively disagree with a specific theological position, “it is not because they do not understand the task of theology.” On the contrary, he stated, the failure in understanding lies on the side of theologians who think authentic Catholic Theologians’ work can lead to substantive change in church teaching . . . Indeed, such a radical approach can lead to claims of a “parallel magisterium” of theologians that would graft on “teachings extraneous to the deposit of the faith.”

I think here of Vatican II Council when almost 2500 bishops enjoyed the expertise of theologians such as Karl Rahner, Yves Congar, John Courtney Murray and Hans Kung.

Their influence on the documents is inescapable.  What would another Council look like if leading women theologians shared their expertise – e.g. Elizabeth Johnson, Diana Hayes, Jeanette Rodriguez, Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Sandra Schneiders, Rosemary Radford Ruether??

When Pope Francis was elected there was renewed energy and hope within the global Catholic church. Many of us believed he could lead us into a much needed revival of Vatican II and beyond. How will he respond to positions and declarations of conscience from individuals/groups?  A cautionary note: Included in an address to women religious was a strong statement that to be faithful to Jesus was to be faithful to the magisterium of the Church. What doctrines does he see as open to change?  Or, despite the signs of hope which seems to abound as a result of his election, will the institutional Church maintain its rigid, outmoded, anachronistic posture toward people of conscience? Can Francis’ leadership free up the institutional Church? Will Pope Francis allow himself to lead the bishops and the faithful to acknowledge the prophetic role of LCWR?

So, to conclude:  the predominance of male theology and patriarchal structures along with the pervasive violence in our cultures encourages the myriad acts of violence in our global society and results in the stalemate with the Vatican, U.S. bishops and LCWR.

Further info:
A Call to Action: Women, Religion,Violence, and Power, Jimmy Carter, 2014
Called to Question: a spiritual memoir, Joan Chittister, 2004
Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church’s Betrayal of American Nuns, Kenneth Briggs, 2006 TIME,
“Rape: the crisis in higher education”, May 26, 2014
National Catholic Reporter – society/