A WOMAN CAN BE A SAINT BUT NOT A PRIEST
RIDDLE: How come a woman can be a saint but not a priest?
ANSWER: Because she has to be dead first.
Does it not strike you as odd that a woman can achieve sainthood in the next life but cannot do the work of the Church in this one? Last week the Vatican pronounced that paedophilia and the ordination of women were equally grave sins. This statement alone proves that the Catholic Church has remained stuck in the dark ages when male priests were not allowed to marry to ensure that land could be retained by the church. No wonder it is finding more and more difficulty in recruiting priests in the West, where there are other options and where the need for sexual love is acknowledged as human. The same is not true in so called Third World countries because severe economic difficulties mean that any opening to a paid career is taken seriously. And, to be fair, the Catholic Church has done a huge amount to improve the lives of ordinary Africans by providing excellent schools and hospitals all over the continent, often in places the government doesn’t even visit.
It isn’t that the women can’t do the work: it is that they cannot be acknowledged or rewarded for it in the same way as men. They cannot strut about in lavish robes amongst the poor and the hungry who may not have clothes to cover their backs. Yet it is the women who do all the fund-raising, knitting, sewing, cooking, cleaning and caring – everything that enables the church to continue its physical existence. And they don’t ask for thanks but for recognition which the Anglican Church at least has granted them. Reform Judaism also acknowledges female Rabbis.
But how are the two things linked? Paedophilia is a sin committed by a powerful adult who holds the trust of a vulnerable child in his hand. Secrecy is an integral part of the deal: the priest can threaten his victim with all sorts of things if s/he spills the beans, and the victim, trusting in a superior who is respected and feared, colludes. “T’will not be believed,” said Angelo to Isabella in Shakespeare’s play “Measure for Measure” when he tried to seduce her. He knew his reputation was strong enough to defy any charge by a mere woman. The Seducer-Priests are in league with one another, ensuring that their reputations remain intact and that any misdemeanours are swept under the thick-piled carpet. They must remain outside the law – as the Pope’s angry reaction to the recent police investigation in Belgium proves – and be free to behave as they see fit. For them sexual abuse of a young person is not a crime whose effects can be damaging for life, but just a small matter to be quickly forgotten. As far as they are concerned it isn’t even sex, but mere play. The fact that one party has not given consent is irrelevant in a society which has never pretended to be democratic.
There is no point in half-heartedly attempting to punish those who are caught because there are far too many. It is, after all, a world-wide phenomenon. One must ask instead, why are they there? The church is attractive to such men precisely because they know they will be safe and comfortable. The hothouse cloistered environment heightens and intensifies sexual feelings without allowing them proper expression. The same happens in prisons: men forced to be together will form sexual relationships because their pitiful situation has put them in more need than ever of human warmth and affection. Emotions require an outlet; if there isn’t a healthy one, an unhealthy alternative will be sought.
As for women, they must be controlled at all costs. Because they hold the keys to the mightiest skill of all – giving birth – they must be watched over constantly. It is true of all the monotheistic masculinistic religions, but most exaggerated in the higher echelons of the Catholic Church. Even here in supposedly advanced Australia, as in the USA, there are states where women don’t have reproductive freedom and abortion is criminalised. The Jewish line passes through the mother because, (pre-DNA testing), only she could be sure who the father was. This is the Achilles’ Heel of the male gender. This is why the lord Jesus could not have been delivered to a mortal woman but came to earth, as the story goes, as a result of an Immaculate Conception, and therefore remained forever a Holy Virgin unbesmirched by contact with male flesh.
Linking the two totally unrelated issues, then, leads us to logically conclude that it is as sinful to be a woman as it is to be a paedophile. This is why Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden in shame, covering their now ugly human bodies, only moments before considered to be part of nature and beautiful. And so in Islam, a woman must be dressed “modestly” which is interpreted in a hundred different ways, some of them offensive to Europeans who are not at all disturbed by teenage girls wearing clothes that barely cover their bottoms. And it doesn’t stop at dress. Yesterday, an arbitrary edict was suddenly issued in Gaza preventing women from smoking water pipes. It must be one of the few pleasures they still have.
Published the Star July 20, 2010