*Disclaimer* I am not a theologian – these are my thoughts and opinions. Although I have a strong knowledge of Church doctrine and have researched these topics, I may be off slightly on the specifics. Please feel free to point me in the right direction if I am wrong.
It’s time. Time to talk about women and the Church. It’s time to coherently explain thoughts that have been developing over the course of the past few months. I have many thoughts about women, sexuality, the supposed “attack on nuns” and the misconceptions about power in the Church. Therefore I will probably rant for a few posts.
So back around August I started reading everything I could get my hands on about Theology of the Body and God’s unique design for women. I read things like this book. In addition, this semester I took a Feminist Cultural Criticism class which covered a span of thought under the umbrella of liberal feminism(everything decidedly not Catholic).
The ultimate goal of feminism is equality of all people and the liberation of women from the patriarchal structures which keep them subordinate to men. There are many different opinions of how to achieve this goal. One thing I began understanding through my independent research(especially through this collection of essays about New Feminism) is that we Christians have a radically different idea of freedom than the secular world. In order to understand the Catholic perspective on sexuality, gender and hierarchy, it is important to grasp this concept of freedom.
As humans, one of the basic things we long for is freedom. As Americans we are focused on the guarantee of freedom for all people. What is freedom? Our society would say it is the ability to do whatever we want, wherever we want, with whomever we want. It is about having control of ourselves and our bodies. It is about the ability to choose. It is about autonomy.
Christianity offers a different perspective of freedom – freedom from the shackles of sin. The chaplain at my school is always saying that true freedom comes from being your authentic self, but also allowing others to be their authentic selves. I’ve been meditating a lot on this lately and trying to understand what it means.
John 8:32, says: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” This means the truth of God’s love and Jesus’s sacrifice, but also the truth of who you are. Boiled down, freedom is the ability to stay true to who you really are – your morals, values, etc. Being able to do what is moral and good also means that sin does not have control over you. Knowing yourself includes knowing what it means to be male and female. We hold that men and women have naturally different natures, which is seen as a controversial view. However, gender is an important part of one’s identity and therefore important in the quest for liberation. We’ll get more into that later with a discussion of how I believe men and women have unique and distinct ways of serving the Church.
Self-knowledge leads to self-possession. Then Christ asks us to do something radical and unexpected – once we are in possession of ourselves, we are called to give ourselves completely and wholly to God and others.
Taking a step back, you might ask, how do we gain self-knowledge? We ultimately find our identity in Christ. Christ is a member of the trinity – a perfect and equal interdependent communion of persons. Therefore we find our identity through communion with others. In Love and Responsiblity, JPII speaks of our call to make a true gift-of-self to others, which leads to freedom and fulfillment. Christianity is a faith full of contradictions; we find freedom through sacrifice, self-denial and obedience. We are asked to look to the good of others first, before our own well being. We are called to service, which is important to understanding the next topic: power and hierarchy within the Church.