Cover photo: Sister Julie George SSpS is a women’s rights lawyer who belongs to the Congregation of Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit. She holds a master’s degree in law with specialization in human rights and family law.
In the article below Sr. Julie George touches upon most of them in an excellent display of ‘Women-speak’ in public as opposed to priestly-preaching in Church where the Bible asks the Better Half to keep their mouths shut!
Women's rights lawyer!
Julie George SSpS is a women's rights lawyer and director of Streevani, an NGO in Pune. She who takes up cases of women only doing her prophetic work. May many more follow her Leading Light!
Did any God create humans or did this two-legged creature — animal always, rational some times only, get evolved slowly or from a Big-Bang? From slippery premises only more slippery conclusions can be reached! So the God-question is at the very root which we shall not go into now except for one or two sentences.
Women: an after-thought!
Just think of an aging God who dosed off while creating Man and brought out a woman as an afterthought from a bone, not from the man’s feet, to be trampled upon, nor from his head to sit over him, but from the rib to be at his side to walk along to embrace or fight! The rest is left to your fancy!
Now we have to start off imagining if we were horses with wings flying in the skies to rule over the world as Lord and master! What is more rational is said by Brazilian Cardinal JoãoBraz de Aviz, prefect of Vatican's Congregation for Religious men and women: Gender equality does not exist in the Church because:
Piece of humanity, incomplete!
“Man without woman is not fully human. And woman without man is not fully human either. Each without the other is a piece of humanity, incomplete." Gender inequality exists in the Catholic church because men and women forget they cannot be "fully human"without one another. Why do they forget? Just for selfish interest, to exploit each other. That makes this world a vale of TEARS! Proof? Just look around: “Homo homini lupus” Man/woman becoming a wolf to neighbour!
Please note, one of the words Julie George uses dime a dozen is: Misogyny! What does it mean? It is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls. It is dislike, or mistrust of women, manifested in various forms such as physical intimidation and abuse, sexual harassment and rape. Laura Bates says: ‘Misogyny is so normalized in our society that we struggle to recognize it as something extreme’
Ending Jungle Raj?
What is the remedy to put an end to this Jungle Raj? Each one has to find his/her own way because we come into this world and go out of it all alone! All of us have to fight a lonely battle! Becase as Francis Papa says all religious beliefs are willed by God!
One of the common dangers to be fought may be to desist from becoming a card-carrying member of any organized religion or political party since all are corrupt to core in the rat-race for power and pelf! That is why I quit all organized political parties and religions and given my body to a medical college some 15 years ago to be free from religious and political parasites!
Learn from towering personalities!
I can try but can’t ever become a norm for others, but can try always to learn from all, something which I don’t have, but others have!The lamp posts to draw light from are towering personalities like Jesus, Budha, Socrates, Tagore, Narayana Guru,etc.
Remedy – end Misogyny?
The worst organized religions,it looks,are Islam and Church-inanities, and the most Catholic religion, Hinduism, not Hindutva! Patriarchy and Misogyny are pernicious and pervasive both in religion and society. What is called Catholic Church is an ‘Oximoron’, a contradiction in terms.' Facts are sacred, opinions, this included, are free! james kottoor, editor Church Citizens' Voice.
Please read belowJulie George Voice of better Half of Humanity!
Women have achieved much over the last 50 years in terms of equality and empowerment. Some recent headlines have breathed fresh air into our struggle for equality.
In January, 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that the value of a woman’s work at home was no less than that of her office-going husband; India’s Apex court has thus developed a path breaking and progressive “wages for housework” jurisprudence.
In the past, the Supreme Court also took strong objection to census authorities listing homemakers alongside beggars and prisoners and not accounting for women’s unpaid subsistence work. The swearing in of Kamala Harris as the first female Vice President of the United States has renewed conversations on women in political leadership around the world.
Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter, “Spiritus Domini,” that expands Canon Law 230, regarding the innocuous ministries of lector and acolyte, to include all laypeople, brings the institutional Church in a slightly better light. Pope Francis, even if symbolically, has brought in these changes that could be the beginning of greater equality for women in the Church. We recognize that much more needs to be done if women’s full participation in every aspect of Church life, ministry, and governance is to be accomplished.
We are at the crossroads of history and some of these gains now seem threatened, with economies around the world slowing down with COVID-19. In the process women are losing the enabling environment that had begun to occur. Women’s rights are being undermined and directly challenged by harmful policies of governments and corporate strategies. For instance, a recent headline reads:
“Women living outside their parental homes for work register with Police so that they can be tracked for their safety, C.M. Madhya Pradesh”. The Secular/Religious patriarchy has done untold damage to women with every possible effort to control and subjugate them.
Most religions in the world teach that all men and women share one and the same human nature but pay lip service to the issues of women. The irony is that we have been discussing and arguing since ages over women’s roles, without making any substantial change. As Kochurani asserts, “Women are victims of restrictions and hegemonic controls of religion mediated by patriarchy as they have been brought up in a hierarchical and ecclesial belief system since childhood1”.
One of the main reasons for patriarchy being so deeply entrenched in society is its direct link to culture and religion. All religions are patriarchal in nature by the way they are created and the manner in how they are practiced. Columnist Katha Politt has suggested in Free Inquiry (a publication of the Council for Secular Humanism), that religion is the original rule book of patriarchy. Indeed, if patriarchy is the social normal, it is largely because it derives its legitimacy from religion pertaining to societal norms and behaviour in any community.
Can currently existing religion be disentangled from the misogyny of its texts,its traditions, and its practices?2 This religiously endorsed patriarchy has seeped into the common psyche and behaviour of the people, especially of women in the Church. In the civil society sphere, women often experience sisterhood and solidarity through many difficult times when members have stood shoulder to shoulder to protect women’s collective’s principles. Sadly, in the Church Circles, we do not find such solidarity.
Many religious persuasions teach people to accept its teachings and doctrines literally, which means there is not much room for change; even the use of inclusive language is forbidden. These teachings mostly confirm their sense of superiority and privilege as divinely sanctioned. Therefore, religion plays a major role in discrimination of women by adhering to its, centuries-old beliefs and practicesmanifested in religious texts and worship which cannot be questioned. In the Church, the major decision-making is by celibate men and they make decisions that affect the lives of women, children,youth and elderly without including them in the decision-making process itself.
For example, during the synod “Amazonia” there were many women experienced in ministry and administration, who were auditors but not voting members of the Synod. But the Religious Brothers, canonically equivalent to Religious Sisters, but with different anatomy, were allowed to vote. It is significant in this context that Pope Francis has recently appointed a woman as Under Secretary to the forthcoming Synod of Bishops with voting rights. Hopefully this is a new beginning.
How much longer will women need to wait for their rightful place in the Church is a question which needs to be uncompromisingly asked. Every synod and other high-level meetings in the Church fail to achieve their desired results because the Church keeps away women with rich experiences of Christian life from exercising their considered consent. In the process, these meetings not only lose their moral power, but also become occasions to reinforce the hierarchical model of Church.
The words such as ‘synodality’ or collegiality which literally means walking together should be the way in which the different parts of the Church gather together to discern the will of God. “But it is taking place among only a tiny segment of male clergy. If Synods are for a world Church, there are surely women in the world at least as competent for those jobs as men. But patriarchy is pernicious and pervasive”3.
Pope Francis has repeatedly condemned clericalism and the harm it does to truthful Christian life. “Perhaps because of clericalism, which is a corruption of the priesthood, many people wrongly believe that Church leadership is exclusively male. To say they aren’t truly leaders because they aren’t priests is clericalist and disrespectful,” Pope Francis stated in the book ‘Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future4.
It is indeed unfortunate that the Catholic Church, which celebrates the transformative power of the Second Vatican Council along with a strong record of Catholic Social Teaching, continues with forms such as male privilege, patriarchy, gender discrimination, sexual harassment, belittling of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification.
There are so many ways that misogyny has worked its way into the lives of women and as a result we see that women are inadvertently participating in their own victimization. Internalized misogyny leads to unintentional belief by girls and women that the stereotypes and myths about them are true. Misogyny also gives men certain entitlement to women’s care and reverence as it happens within the religion. When women assert themselves, they are seen as overly ambitious.
All the major faiths in India have their share of disgrace by their religious and spiritual leaders. Besides abuses, many re-enforce clericalism, misogyny and patriarchy. The huge following they attract especially among women is based on their oratory skills, personal charism, and ‘miracles’ that create a divine aura. People are mesmerised to internalise their patriarchal messages and instructions.
‘The Great Indian Kitchen’, a recently released Malayalam movie shows how the patriarchy is structured to give men all the privileges in the world to pursue their hobbies, develop their minds, and nourish their bodies, whether they are young or old, working or retired. The misogyny and patriarchal attitudes that are on stark display will be an uncomfortable mirror to many6. Hope it will create an impact in the society and people start thinking about their lives and relationships.
Women are people with an inalienable right to live their lives to the fullest. Everything that prevents their life from being lived to the fullest extent of freedom is a form of violence7.
The theme for the UN International Women’s Day, 8 March 2021 was ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.’ This significant theme celebrates the incredible efforts by women and girls around the world in determining a more equal future and recuperation from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Equally important is the way women provide leadership in political protest, whether it is at Shaheen Bagh, or the farmers agitation on the borders of Delhi. With each passing day, women’s spaces of resistance are gaining momentum. Historically, often times, Religious Sisters have stood at the frontiers of change both in the Church and in society at large.
They have played the roles of prophets and pioneers, attuned to the movements of the Holy Spirit. They have discovered new horizons of our faith in periods of transition. Today more than ever we live in times of tectonic changes.
The condition of women and subordination of women in the Church and society can change only if women Religious have the courage and the faith to respond creatively and prophetically.
In conclusion, women are just not looking for a seat at the table of power in the Church. They want to rearrange the seating to make it inclusive, equal and participatory for all disciples of Christ, each playing their Spirit inspired role in the Body of Christ.