A thought paper, an exercise in Gospel grounded thinking, a challenge
I am going to describe some characteristics, traits and markers about myself. Let me start with male heterosexual. I inherited this, I did nothing to earn it, create it, deserve it. Because I am male, I encounter life with many advantages; again, not earned, created or deserved, but very real none the less. We all live in society and culture that grants to males position, power and opportunity that it does not grant similarly to females. (yes, you can make the case females receive other benefits, my case is about benefits of power, resource and wealth) Much ink has been spilt researching, rationalizing, explaining and justifying the disparity around power, resource and wealth between men and women in our culture. Along with this I am a priest in male dominated hierarchical church structure. I again without my doing anything to create the status quo, experience benefits and choices denied to female members of the Body of Christ.
And so as a man, a heterosexual man, a Roman Catholic priest, I face a dilemma: what is my response to the inequality and injustice of the status quo into which I have been born, and regardless of my choice or desire, from which I unfairly and unjustly benefit?
I would like to think I have a body of evidence from my life choices, my developed awareness, my learned appreciation, my hopes and dreams, my sacrifices, which might leave me feeling acquitted and exonerated. I am not the problem, I am one of the good guys, I am enlightened. And perhaps giving credit where it is not fully due, that may be true. Still the truth is that none of that makes me a part of the solution; and so, like it or not, choose it or not, I still benefit from the problem.
Can the feminist critique be overstated or misconceive some values? Surely, but I am certain that the critique contains abundant truth, merit and validity. We Roman Catholics who claim our Gospel call to the Pro Life MUST be as committed to the end of predatory discrimination as we are to the horrors of abortion, capital punishment, nuclear proliferation, sex trafficking, to name only a few of the assaults on the dignity of the human person, this dignity the very foundation of our respect for life. Sexism is a sin, a fundamental sin. Sexism cheapens and too often enslaves; it holds hostage in unequal opportunity and possibility 51% of humanity. Jesus weeps.
So, what has been my response to my dilemma? Too often this: “don’t bother me, after all I don’t have the power to change this, I don’t support this, and I’m mostly a nice guy. After all life’s not fair, leave me alone, get over it.” And so, I rarely help make anything change and I deflect my personal responsibility. It is true I try hard not to be a part of the problem, but it is also true that I am not enough a part of the solution, and so the problem remains and age after age, era after era, humankind is impoverished because of this sexually based discrimination.
What needs to change, along with many laws, cultural norms and practices, approaches to human sexuality, appreciation of the dignity of motherhood, and much much more is ME. How long must women accept their lowly fate? When will anger and disappointment about this turn to contempt, contempt to hatred, and hatred to rage and violence?
I am not suggesting women are exempt from the effects of sin. Not every woman is a paragon of virtue, sinless and without fault. We know that as a human being a woman is fully and equally capable of selfishness, violence, emotional destruction, vengeance and pettiness; all this and more. Regardless, the reality of destructive sexually based discrimination remains. The problem remains and still, all this possible bad behavior recognized, this problem cries to the heavens for solution and redress. Jesus weeps.
So here is the thought paper observation: did you notice I didn’t once use the word race? Stay with me I am talking primarily to myself here, stay on the ride. What will I allow to open my eyes, mind, heart and soul to the destructive wasteful, anti-life impact of any form of discrimination? Here is the immediate answer as I think about sexism, and I’m sure of this: I should have listened with greater care and much more attention to my mother.