Thursday, March 18, 2010

Who Wears The Dress, Hmh?

I came across this story about the child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church:

With the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church spreading, a leading religious scholar said Wednesday that a greater female presence in the church hierarchy would have helped prevent the crisis from worsening.

You might guess what I thought at this point! But luckily I was wrong:

"It is clear that, statistically, women abuse much less than men. And in terms of reporting, are much more likely to (report abuse)," Serene Jones, president of the Union Theological Seminary in New York, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

"It would make a big difference if my Catholic women students at the seminary were in positions of power right now. This would not be handled this way at all," she said.

The piece describes a debate between two Roman Catholic* women about the desirability of women in the priesthood. That is a false setup, given that women have no say in the matter. It's a cowardly approach, really.

But sort of funny, because the two women happen to be named Smith and Jones. Like imaginary characters, you know. In any case, Jones is for women as priests, Smith is against, and expresses her opposition firmly:

Jones told Amanpour: "The fact that we insist on celibacy in the Catholic Church and that women are excluded, that double combination ... shows us a church that lives in a bubble."

She also strongly rejected the idea that priests have to be men.

"The majority of Catholics in this country (the United States) agree it is an archaic argument and it's one that is bound to oppress."

Smith was unimpressed. "Women can be Christ-like as well as any man, but we wouldn't choose a woman to play the role of Hamlet, right?"

Don't you love that Hamlet-comparison? Of course Smith bases it on the assumption that to be a priest one must be a man.

The other bit I liked a lot is where she argues that women already are included in the church hierarchy:

She added that women play a big role in the structure of the Catholic Church, holding 23 percent of the top "power positions" in the United States, 48 percent of the administrative positions and 80 percent of all paid positions.

Let's calculate a bit here. If women hold 23 percent of top positions in the U.S. church, what percentage do men hold? Could it be 77 percent? Even though men hold only 20 percent of all paid positions in the church (given that women hold 80 percent of those)?

This doesn't sound like women's empowerment to me. It sounds as if women do most of the work but very little of the leading.
This post is snarky for a very good reason (and started a lot snarkier). We have a church which routinely refuses to let women have power in the hierarchy, refuses to admit women into the priesthood, yet constantly tries to limit the reproductive choice of not only Roman Catholic women but all women.

And when do we hear any murmurs at all about possibly, just possibly, giving women a bit more power in the church hierarchy? When the church has made a total mess of something and needs someone to save its bacon. Women are of value only as instruments for something else. Like toasters.
*Thanks to Lynn in the comments for pointing out that Serene Jones is not Catholic.