I want to live in a truly inclusive world, do you?

by Debbie L. Kasman in , ,

Pope Francis recently declared that a woman would never serve as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church.  This is not a change in stance; he has always said the door was closed on women being ordained as priests.  But when pressed about the matter by a journalist during a press conference on the papal plane, Francis intimated that the ban would be eternal because Jesus only chose men as his apostles. Is THIS how you get gender equality? 

Jimmy Carter “lost his religion” for equality in 2013.  As a practicing Christian for all of his life, he said it was a painful and difficult decision but women and girls have been discriminated against in a twisted interpretation of the word of God for too long.  In his open letter (which was viewed more than 1.9 million times), he said the belief that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to Christianity, and its influence doesn’t stop at the walls of the synagogue, church, mosque, or temple.  He said discrimination of this type has been unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority and it has provided an excuse to deprive women of equal rights around the world for centuries.  It’s the same discriminatory thinking that lies behind the current gender gap in pay between men and women, and it’s also the reason why there are still so few women in senior management positions in the western world today. 

Carter says it’s not women and girls alone who suffer.  These attitudes damage all of us.  He says it’s time we find the courage to challenge patriarchal and traditional attitudes like these.  Religion and tradition are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge but challenge them we must.  Male religious leaders have had, and still have, an option to interpret holy teachings in a way that either exalts or subjugates women.  Carter says that for their own selfish reasons, men have overwhelmingly chosen the latter, and their continuing choice justifies much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women the world over.    

Dr. Elizabeth Debold, a developmental psychologist and founding member of the Harvard Project on Women’s Psychology and Girls’ Development, says traditionally the role of women has been to ensure the propagation of the species but sometimes women make conscious choices to bring in something new.  For example, women supported the birth of Christianity and Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation in 1517, and they spoke out in the early nineteenth century to fight against slavery and their own second-class status. Debold says when women speak out, it brings about giant shifts in our culture.  

If we want to change the Catholic Church’s stance on gender in the priesthood (and we should or we’ll never have an inclusive society), both men and women need to speak out.  It's important we confront damaging habits of the past in order to liberate ourselves from similar damaging habits in the future. If we were all to stand up for the equitable treatment of women in the Catholic Church, men, women and children everywhere would benefit.

Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right.  It’s also a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.

Debbie L. Kasman