When you meet someone walking along a path in Sub-Sahara Africa you say, “Hello, how are you.” In the Western world we’d expect them to say, “I’m fine. How are you?” But in this “backward” country the answer is surprising and much more profound. When you say, “Hello, how are you?” they respond, “I see you.” More than feigned concern about your health, “I see you,” means they recognize and respect you.
Often we don’t “see” others because, from an early age, we are taught a prejudice based solely upon someone’s membership in a group--racial, gender, national or cultural. Such early teaching is powerful. It creates emotional attitudes that, for the rest of our lives, make it hard for us to “see” a different point of view. But prejudice is eroded when people are in a group where they share a common goal, equal status, interpersonal contact and equal promotions. There’s a lesson here for the Church.
The Catholic Church can abrade prejudice against women by welcoming them into all levels of the clergy; by respecting their morality, wisdom and intelligence; by “seeing” the historical truth of women clergy in the Catholic Church. (Archaeological evidence reveals the history of women as Church priests/presbyters, prophets and patrons. At least 114 well-documented references are recorded by Kevin Madigan and Carolyn Osiek. These are the tip of an iceberg, as more were suppressed by the selective writing of male historians.)
A LITTLE GIRL’S WISDOM
A priest in Missouri asked sixth graders to write their description of God. One young girl wrote, “ God is a mirror.” This wise child knew that our behavior reflects our image of God. So too does the institutional Church’s behavior reflects it’s image of God. And it’s not flattering.
The teachings of Jesus directs the Church mission and were reemphasized in Vatican II--that all people are made in the image of God and are worthy of respect, love, and justice. To “see” women according to these teachings, the Church must renounce it’s prejudices.
“God wants a world where all brokenness is mended, all divisions reconciled, where shalom (unity and peace) prevail and every human person is loved, respected and honored as a son or daughter of God.” [Integrity in the Service of the Church. 2011. Australian Catholic Bishops.]
Everything else is puffery. Catholic doctrines change; for example, that slavery is moral, that coeducation is against natural law, that the sun revolves around the earth, that anyone not Catholic and all the unbaptized--including newborn babies and everyone born before Jesus--go to hell because of original sin; that religious freedom is wrong, etc.
Scour away such institutional balderdash and one teaching emerges: Jesus wants us to “see” each other with loving respect, not through the myopic glass of prejudice. Jesus said, ‘I give you a new commandment; love one another; by your love for one another everyone will recognize you as my disciples.’
It’s as simple as that.