May 29, 2012

What is Pope Benedict's definition of "radical feminism"?

By Suzanne MacNevin

According to Pope Benedict the nuns in America are a bunch of radical feminists.

I think he and I differ on the meaning of "radical feminist".

Lets establish some criteria.

#1. Radical is usually used to describe something that is unusual. ie. "Out of the box thinking."

#2. Feminism is the belief that men and women are equals.

#3. "Radical Feminism" is the belief that men and women are caught in a power struggle wherein men have control of the balance of power and women are seeking to share it equally.

So does this mean that Pope Benedict controls the balance of power within the Holy Roman Catholic Church and he sees nuns as a threat to his control? Possibly. It might explain his comments.

Lets put this in context.

Yesterday Pope Benedict chose to rebuke American nuns for being more concerned about poverty and social justice issues than about abortion and gay marriage. He basically argued that American nuns should stop worrying about people who are poor and starving to death and instead worry about harassing gay people and women so poor they see abortion as their only alternative to starvation.

(Methinks Pope Benedict doesn't have his priorities straight and has probably never been poor and starving.)

Last month the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith scolded the Leadership Conference of Women's Religious (which represents some 80% of American nuns) for what they called "serious doctrinal problems", such as subscribing to "radical feminist themes" like social justice and preventing poverty, while being too quiet about abortion and same sex marriages.

Which is frankly funny because its basically a bunch of old rich men who have probably never been poor, have definitely never been pregnant, and ironically can't keep their penises in their pants when choirboys are around.

A bishop was then appointed to correct this discrepancy with the nuns, but the resulting puzzlement among nuns (and many other people) who point out that the Bible has a lot to say about poverty and the poor but doesn't explicitly mention anything about homosexuality or abortion, except by implication (Sodom and Gomorrah, although to be fair the word "sodomy" probably has very little to do with the Biblical city of Sodom).

It just seems extremely silly that the Vatican is chastising nuns, a group which travels to many nasty places around the world and sacrifices their time to help those in greatest need. Nuns run makeshift hospitals in war-torn and disease infected areas while less faithful people have turned tail and ran away.

Meanwhile the Vatican hierarchy sits in their golden palaces and gold-trimmed silk and complains about homosexuals while secretly fondling altar boys. It makes for a stark contrast.

And then Pope Benedict came out and outright called the nuns "radical feminists" just because they aren't doing enough to stop abortion and gay marriages (although seriously, there is no power on earth that will stop gay men from wanting to get married and if a woman has her heart set on an abortion it won't matter whether the USA says its legal or not, she will have one anyway).

Indeed by shining the light on the plight of the nuns (and also radical feminists by happy accident) Pope Benedict may actually inadvertently help both the causes of poverty, social justice and even further the cause of feminism.

While a person can laugh and appreciate the Vatican's hypocritical concerns, it is a gross tactical error to suggest that nuns spend too much effort helping and guiding the poor. The Bible after all strongly stresses the need to help the poor and its been a cornerstone of the Catholic Church.

Even the most die-hard atheists would still agree that nuns who serve in remote, dangerous and uncomfortable areas of the world are shining beacons for good in the world. This has nothing to do with god, their actions resonate bravery, faith in the human spirit and dedication to helping and comforting the sick and dying, and those who have little hope. Nobody in their right mind would have anything bad to say about the sacrifices performed by nuns around the world in their efforts to help people.

And social justice? What is wrong with social justice. Nothing. Its not like the nuns are homicidal maniacs toting guns and waving Confederate flags. Helping the poor and poverty issues are hardly revolutionary.

Also this shines the light on the Vatican's scandals that have plagued the Catholic Church in recent years have involved priests and cover-ups of pedophilia and sexual mischief. In contrast the nuns have a virtually untarnished reputation and can be best be described as "demanding" in the cases of schools run by nuns.

The nuns aren't stupid, nor are they pushovers. Pope Benedict and the Vatican seems to have forgotten that. The nuns are the front line soldiers of the Catholic Church and the armchair generals (the bishops) are giving faulty orders to the troops that contradict the higher orders found in the Bible. The nuns are going to look at the orders from the Vatican, look at the Bible's efforts to fight poverty, say "Pfff!" and keep doing what they've always been doing: Helping people.

Lets give a historical example:

A mother superior in Greece asked the bishop there if she could send two nuns to teach a literacy project in a poor area. The Bishop said "No."

"The bishop was very clear in his refusal to allow two nuns, and I could not disobey him," said the mother superior. "So I sent three nuns."

Which is exactly my point. The nuns will get around foolish orders without actually disobeying the order. They may not literally say "Pfff!" but their actions will be clear that they will disregard any idiocy.

In the USA its not like nuns have any control over Congress anyway. Its the same problem all over again. Men controlling the show. Congress is a male dominated piece of the American government and it will likely stay male dominated for a long time.

The current and 112th United States Congress consists of 541 elected officials from 50 states. The Senate has 100 members; the House of Representatives has 435 members.

Of this there are 17 women in the Senate and 76 women in the House of Representatives (17.5%).

So its not like the nuns are going to attack Congress and force them to change the laws governing the right to a safe abortion or gay marriages.

I would argue Pope Benedict is barking up the wrong tree. The nuns are the ones who are in the right. Benedict should be worrying about POVERTY first. It is HE who should be admonished for fussing over homosexuals too much when he is forgetting the cornerstone of the Catholic Church is helping people.

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