Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pope Francis Speaks on Women

One other tasty tidbit this morning: You might have heard there was some controversy last week surrounding the Holy Thursday service. Pope Francis was at a Rome juvenile detention center; among those whose feet were to be washed were two women.  

Some had problems with that, as the act of feet washing recreates the event from Scripture in which Jesus washed the disciples's feet.  As the argument goes, since there were no female disciples, the Pope should not be washing women's feet. 

Now, we're not going to get into that debate here; suffice it to say, some people hold that point of view. 

In the last four days Francis has gone on to talk about women in three different public speeches -- on Holy Saturday; yesterday, in a homily about Mary Magdalene; and today, in a talk on Vatican radio: 
...In the professions of faith of the New Testament, only men are remembered as witnesses of the Resurrection, the Apostles, but not the women. This is because, according to the Jewish Law of the time, women and children were not considered reliable, credible witnesses. In the Gospels, however, women have a primary, fundamental role. Here we can see an argument in favor of the historicity of the Resurrection: if it were a invented, in the context of that time it would not have been linked to the testimony of women. Instead, the evangelists simply narrate what happened: the women were the first witnesses.
This tells us that God does not choose according to human criteria: the first witnesses of the birth of Jesus are the shepherds, simple and humble people, the first witnesses of the Resurrection are women. This is beautiful, and this is the mission of women, of mothers and women, to give witness to their children and grandchildren that Christ is Risen! Mothers go forward with this witness! What matters to God is our heart, if we are open to Him, if we are like trusting children. 
But this also leads us to reflect on how in the Church and in the journey of faith, women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord, in following him and communicating his face, because the eyes of faith always need the simple and profound look of love. The Apostles and disciples find it harder to believe in the Risen Christ, not the women however! Peter runs to the tomb, but stops before the empty tomb; Thomas has to touch the wounds of the body of Jesus with his hands. In our journey of faith it is important to know and feel that God loves us, do not be afraid to love: faith is professed with the mouth and heart, with the word and love.
Here's his point: in the New Testament culture, women were not considered witnesses to be trusted. And yet, in the Gospels it is women who are presented as the first witnesses to the Resurrection.  Which is to say, "God does not choose according to human criteria." 

And we need to recognize the apostolic witness of love provided by women in our world.

I wonder if some will find his words a bit too mother-centric, aka women are mothers. Compared to John Paul II and Benedict, it seems to me Francis is a bit more open and inviting, less reductive to some sort of biological or social function. 

But you tell me... 


Shelly said...

My impression is that PFI merely communicates differently. I don't think PBXVI necessarily held a different view, but he expressed it differently - ie, in a more scholarly/reserved manner. PFI is from a different culture, has been intimately involved "on the street", so he will communicate differently -some will say more effectively - the same truths held by PBXVI. I don't remember much of PJPII, having left the faith in the late 80's and just returning 3 yrs ago.

I think "too mother-centric" is a funny phrase. What does that mean? :-) Do you think people would really be bothered by the quotes you selected? But then again, I don't understand why people get upset over many of the things they do get upset at.

(P.S. I posted, on my blog, the short article I mentioned a while back - it has changed drastically, and is nearly ready to go out into the world. Nothing special, just for parish and other local churches)

Carol said...

I recall, when I did the Spiritual Exercises, 19th ann., that while meditating over Mary Magdalene's visit to the tomb and consequent announcement to the apostles, I thought that, since she had been freed from "seven demons," perhaps the apostles thought that since Jesus was apparently (or so they thought) dead, that maybe the demons had come back. If the Resurrection had happened today, in other words, I could easily picture the apostles rolling their eyes and saying, "Oh, boy. She's off her meds again. Better call the doctor."

But Peter, and I believe, John, at least had the decency, and curiosity, to go check out her seemingly insane claim. No trouble at all picturing Peter waddling and wheezing to the garden, and maybe being so winded he had to stop before looking down into the tomb. (I hope St. Peter doesn't hold that against me!)

For what it's worth, perhaps our biochemistry, it seems to me that women may be naturally somewhat more oriented toward optimism and hope. These qualities seem to require more cultivation in men. Maybe that is why faith of any sort has appealed to women more than men throughout history.

One and Doll said...

What seems to me to be most remarkable is that (correct me if I am wrong) but he is using the theorgy theology of Elisabeth Shussler-Fiorenza- the idea of unpopular things ending up in the bible are more likely to be credible- and thus women's witness of the ressurection- despite cultural unpopularity was undeniable-

In recognizing this perspective on biblical interpretation Pope Francis is regarding (intentionally or not) Feminist Theology.

Jim McDermott said...

Shelly, I think that's an astute observation about the ways that PBXVI and PF1 communicate. But I'd say Benedict's theology more draws from the JPII model of women as disciples insofar as they are mothers.

And that's what I meant by my question of "too mother-centric". There's certainly been pushback in the past about this idea that a woman's discipleship is somehow limited to a biological function.

Look forward to seeing the post on your blog. Thanks for mentioning it!

Jim McDermott said...

One and Doll, great note. I think that's a great reading of what he ad to say.

Jim McDermott said...

Carol, love your take on the MM meditation!

Shelly said...

Father, after I thought about it I realized what you meant re: "mother-centric". We, women, are biologically designed and created to be. "Mothers." Is this the limit of our influence, or our discipleship? Certainly not, but I think that we are actually limiting ourselves if we fail to take that biological aspect into account. By denying the "mother-self" that is inherent within us, instead of embracing and drawing from that center of strength, we as women risk watering down our discipleship and perhaps our most-effective mode of witness. Too much here to put in a short comment. I'll think on it and write a longer response later this week on my blog.

Thanks! God bless.

Carol said...

One minor inaccuracy: "There weren't any women disciples" should read, "There weren't any women apostles'" because "back in the day," women wouldn't be able to lead the peripatetic lifestyle of an apostle (evangelist) Travel was difficult and dangerous in the Near East in those days (probably worse than nowadays,) and a woman traipsing from town to town to proclaim the Gospel would have been a target for thieves and worse. No frequent flyer miles, no Holiday Inn, no roadside restaurants, no Travelers' Aid Society. Being an apostle in those days would have invited assault, and I'm sure Our Lord took that into consideration when He selected the twelve apostles from the ranks of the male gender.

There were, on the other hand, plenty of women disciples--those who subscribed to and followed the teachings of Jesus. People get "apostle" and "disciple" mixed up all the time, and I'm rather surprised that the Church would do the same.

If we look closely, probably quite a few of those women were well-to-do in their own right (Roman women, for example, could hold property independent of their fathers, brothers, or husbands.) Some of them were businesswomen in their own right (Lydia, the merchant of "purple," comes immediately to mind.) I'd be willing to bet a dozen cream donuts that a big part of the financial support of the nascent Church came from women such as these, or even more so, from married women nagging their husbands to do so (yeah, I've mastered creative nagging myself!)

So when foot washing on Holy Thursday started to take off around here, I always attributed it to Christ washing the apostles' feet (as opposed to disciples' feet.) And truth be told, I'd be mortified if I got dragooned into having my feet washed at Mass on Holy Thursday: My feet bear the scars of forty-some years of ballet, and are probably the reason for those signs in restaurants--"no shoes, no service!"

Anonymous said...

As a woman who was, sadly, NOT biologically created to be a mother, I am quite confident my discipleship is undiminished, except perhaps in the judgment of others. But then, the judgment of others is really no measure of my discipleship, is it? Only the judgment of the Creator, who made me biologically not a mother. That Creator, and I, know I am no more or less a woman or a disciple for that fact. Certainly my discipleship may be lacking, as we all sin and fall short, but the absence of having conceived and borne a child is not a factor in that. Except perhaps when I find myself saddened and even angry with people who want to define what I do in my life within the confines of motherhood. (And for the Love of GOD, please don't tell me that I am "like" a mother in other ways. I find that insulting to what I am and to what actual mothers are. Neither is wrong, but they are not the same, either.)

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