converted

By Diogenes (articles) | Aug 22, 2005

The gospel for the Sunday before last was the encounter with the Canaanite woman, right? And at every single Gather-Us-In Catholic parish in the anglophone world the faithful heard a 30-year-old homily arguing that Jesus was mistakenly trapped in a narrow Judean worldview until corrected by an emancipated woman, right? Right. And in ninety-five cases out of a hundred the homilist went on to draw the wearyingly predictable conclusion: if Jesus was fallible, how much more fallible is our sexist Catholic Church! We know every move in the sermon, as frequent fliers know that flight attendants' safety briefing, by heart. Listen to Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, operating on autopilate:

In the church we face a terrible crisis right now. You know our parish is in danger of being closed by the end of this year. I don't think it's going to happen, so don't worry, but it could. Certainly many parishes are going to be closed. Why? Not for financial reasons. One reason -- there are not enough ordained priests. That's the reason we can't have small communities, and yet there are people thinking in the church, women, who are saying, "I have a vocation! I am called by God!" And they have the talent and the training and the ability to minister. Well, we live in the church or part of the church that refuses to be open, to listen, to the women in our midst. How wrong that is! And we build it right into our church law, which could be changed. One of the reasons women aren't listened to is because no woman has any office in the church. The only reason a woman can't have an office in the church, why a woman could not be a cardinal, for example, help to elect the Pope, is because we made laws -- the men in the church made laws -- that make that impossible. The law, the canon law of the church says, "Only an ordained person can hold office." Then we say only men can be ordained, and so only men can hold office. How wrong that is!

We're not listening as a church. Our leadership especially, but maybe some of us even would not be willing to have a woman lead our community. But if we could be more like Jesus we would listen, we would be open to letting ourselves be changed, breaking down some of our prejudices, some of the bias that has been built into us over many years and out of the culture of which we're part. If we could be more like Jesus, we could connect with our humanness, and like Jesus who first turned that woman away but then was willing to listen, we could be conver --

Click. Tom my man, the "converted" church you're praying for already exists. In septuplicate. Every liberal protestant denomination has heeded the call of the Canaanite woman in exactly the way you suggest. That enormous reservoir of wisdom steadily collecting over two millennia behind the dam of patriarchal intransigence has, since the mid-1970s, burst forth to water the spirit-starved earth. The result? Exceptionless diminishment in piety, amity, doctrinal sanity, and -- let's face it -- interest. After the novelty wears off, the canaanite christianity you pretend to yearn for -- beachwear accessories notwithstanding -- becomes boring to the canaanites as well.

I notice you treat the gospel -- as do your fellow Da Vinci Coders -- as an occult text whose true meaning eluded the blundering bishops who assembled the canon and passed it down, only to be recovered in recent times. The world-changing message vouchsafed to you is, as it happens, standard feminist cant from the 1970s. Your contention that Jesus was "converted" to this tosh is rescued from blasphemy by stupidity: you can't really mean that a prejudiced God was saved from Himself by one of his creatures. Small wonder your sham pentecost is a flop. The emptiness of the liberal churches bears witness to the fact that no human endeavor is more tedious than that of helping God get God's act together.

Given the need to strike poses before the news cam, Tom, I can understand your affectation of concern for perishable feminine wisdom. But were it a genuine interest I think you might have asked yourself this question: In actual fact, who are the persons who read pre-20th century women for the purpose of deepening and reordering the meaning of their lives (as opposed to gathering material for a dissertation) -- and which women do they in fact read? You'd find that the readers aren't your trendy fellow travelers, but nuns, monks, and hard-core orthodox Christians filled to the eyebrows with the religion you call prejudice. And you'd find the authors they read -- Julian of Norwich, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila and so forth -- simply vanquish your own faux-feminist Christology. No doubt you've had a ball playing the maverick visionary for so many years, but you're playing to an empty house. Isn't it time to move on?

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