Monday, July 19, 2010

Run! She's got a vagina!

Recently the Vatican has revised Church Law, making sexual abuse by priests a more serious crime and increasing the window of opportunity for the abused to bring charges against their abuser. My response to this was to roll my eyes and mutter something along the lines of 'It's about damn time', but hey, progress! Progress is good. Maybe it'll make a difference. Then I found out about this. The same declaration that I thought was a sign of progress proves that the Vatican is still living in the Dark Ages. Under these new rules, the attempted ordination of women is right up there with clerical sex abuse of minors.
So what does the Bible have against women? I asked the same question, and it seems to come down to this:

11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But womenGreek she

will be savedOr restored

through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. Timothy 2:11-15

I wonder how different the world would be if the Biblical Editors had left that bit out? It's not just the Bible, though. Verse 4:34 of the Qur'an, translated by Mohammed Habib Shakir, reads:
Men are the maintainers of women because God has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as God has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely God is High, Great.

I'm no cultural anthropologist, but it seems to me that religions like Christianity and Islam have institutionalized sexism, causing the concept and practice of discrimination against women to persist far beyond its time. Because let's face it, historically there has been a reasonable (not really fair, but reasonable) basis for sexism. Back in humanity's loincloth days, being pregnant or nursing meant you were vulnerable and less able to find food. Without help and protection from a male, your average female and her children were less likely to survive, and therefore less likely to contribute to society and it's development.

Once agriculture came along and people actually stuck around in one place long enough to develop concepts like 'property' and 'inheritance', your bloodline started to matter. Things like land and power were passed down from father to son (not always, but predominantly), and not being sure who your father was could at best cripple you socially and at worst start a war. Setting strict rules for female behavior and controlling who women slept with was terribly unfair, but it kept society from collapsing and there wasn't really much anyone could have done about it except pick up society by its roots and give it a good, metaphorical shake. People haven't always been all that confident in their own survival, and worrying about things like social equality is frankly a luxury.

Thankfully, it is a luxury that I currently enjoy. Haven't we grown out of this yet? Female educators, professors, bosses and (non-Catholic) pastors are all over the place! How can the Vatican knowingly set back the cause of female equality within the catholic church in this day and age?

Because of Timothy 2:11-15. The Catholic church believes the Bible is the word of God, and that doesn't leave a lot of room for argument or change. Not all Christians take the Bible literally, or have even read the whole thing for that matter, but questioning the word of God is still a big deal for a lot of people. It goes against their beliefs, and is generally not received very well. So is it really worth making a fuss about this? Women can still be pastors, as long as they aren't Catholic. The Pope certainly isn't going to change his mind. Obviously, given that I'm writing this, I think so. Christianity and Islam are the two biggest religions in the world. Their influence is huge and impacts the lives of real women all over the world. Questioning these kinds of decisions and holding people accountable for their consequences is the only way to really make progress towards something more like equality. This may be a relatively small issue, but it comes directly from the Vatican with all of the authority of the Pope behind it. It is based on a single Bible passage, and it makes some women feel like they don't matter. Can you imagine being a woman in a church where you aren't permitted to speak or vote on church matters, or where your opinion is ignored because you have boobs? This is still happening today, and it isn't right.


  1. The big problem is that the largest religions of our time are based on writings that contained the morals and values of the time they were written. But things change. And there is no way we can know what the bible would say if it all happened in our current culture. But its not just religion and the bible...

    I have the same fears about the Constitution. Would our founding fathers still written about a right to bear arms during today's society? We dont know. But we are still living by rules that were written hundred of years ago. And while we can add to it, we cant change it... Sound familiar?

  2. That is a big part of what I'm getting at. Does it really make sense for these kinds of decisions to be based on texts that are hundreds or even thousands of years old? How relevant can they be? Is there any way to adapt some of those writings to modern schools of thought without thoroughly offending half of the world?
    You raise an interesting point with the Constitution, though. Some of the strict, literal interpretations of the Constitution feel pretty dogmatic as well.

  3. There is a huge difference: the Constitution is capable of being amended. The last time I checked, the Bible hasn't been amended since King James was around. And I doubt I will ever understand why people want to disallow law abiding citizens from owning firearms. I have yet to hear any convincing argument that firearm restrictions keep criminals from possessing guns.