November 19, 2011: Religion and Sexist Exclusion   Leave a comment

November 21, 2011

Symbolism of the Sexists

Part 1: Religion

The Roman Catholic Church seems to have taken a step. Unfortunately, it was in the direction of the nineteenth century. The Washington Post reported on November 19, 2011 that last fall Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Chantilly, Virginia, announced that it would no longer train girls to be altar servers. By one estimate, there are 500,000 churches in the United States. What difference, therefore, does the policy of one church make? While not universal in the Catholic Church, others parishes have implemented a similar policy, eliminating girls from the ranks of the altar servers.

In some ways religion, at least in the west, has moved into modernity without sacrificing its essential truths, all the while accepting the rightful place for women: as equals. Women are pastors and priests and Rabbis and civilization hasn’t (yet) collapsed. Women have shown intelligence, commitment, drive, energy, passion, leadership, organization, creativity, enthusiasm . . . . I trust you get the idea.

Huffington Post recently published a list of  “10 Inspiring Women Religious Leaders”. Included were Dr. Ingrid Mattson, The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, Sharon Salzberg, Ruth Messinger, Rev. Joyce Meyer, The Rev. Dr. Suzan D. Johnson Cook, Sister Carol Keehan, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, and Anju Bhargava. These are ten impressive women. While doctrinal conservatives within Roman Catholicism may applaud the Corpus Christi decision, the reality is that this downgrading of the place of young girls in the Catholic Church is a sad decision; whether seen as an overt internal parish decision or a trend coming soon to other churches, it once again places women in the shadow of men, as followers not leaders, as second-class Catholics. The Washington Post article included this from two of the affected families, from two of the moms:

After Corpus Christi’s pastor, the Rev. Michael Taylor’s announcement, [Jennifer] Zickel and her husband and two daughters, ages 4 and 7, stopped attending Corpus Christi. Zickel continued to teach at the Sunday school through June before the family started “floating around,” driving up to 45 minutes in an effort to find a parish with altar girls. . . . Mary Barnes choked up as she described watching her seventh-grade daughter serve during Mass in a white robe while the boys were switched to black ones.

This Roman Catholic parish reverted to a new version of separate but equal. The Zickel’s former priest, according to the Washington Post, wrote in the parish bulletin that he hoped the church would “create opportunities, and perhaps clubs for girls as a way to help them find ways to serve the church, rather than serving at the altar.” Waitress, not chef; Stewardess, not pilot; receptionist, not management-track; secretary, not boss; nun, not priest. Falling back to the interpretation that, “since Christ was a male—Son of God, not Daughter—only males can lead the church” is a cop-out.

A look through the biographies of the ten women finds an Islamic Scholar, the Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the President of the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ, a Buddhism instructor, the Director of American Jewish World Services, a reverend and teacher, an Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, the president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association, a Rabbi and spiritual leader, and a Hindu American leader. These women reinforce the reality that women are, speaking as a man, our equal (at the very least.) Frankly, many women would have been far better for the Roman Catholic priesthood than any of the males that brought shame to the church during the last 30 years. In Luke 18:16, Jesus didn’t say “Suffer little boys to come unto me. . . .” He said “suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” No sexism there. Corpus Christi should do at least this much.


Next: Sports

David Steffen

© David Steffen 2011


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