Issue Date: July 15, 2005
From the Editor's Desk
Chipping away at wrong ideas
I am fascinated by the growing discussion about Mary Magdalene. Setting aside the more far-fetched claims about her, as well as the vast conspiracy network of Dan Browns imagination in The Da Vinci Code (which I found a great airplane book), Magdalene today focuses attention on the issue of women in the church. She shows us how womens role has been interpreted and misrepresented by men through the centuries and what serious scholarship has done in recent years to correct the record.
As Deborah Halter points out in her well-researched work, The Papal No: A Comprehensive Guide to the Vaticans Rejection of Womens Ordination, the no came out of a context that was shaped by Aristotelian thought, which held that the female is, as it were, a mutilated male that lacked a soul and was by all measures inferior. Further, Augustine, among others, enshrined that thought in a religious setting that said a woman could manifest the image of God only in relationship to a male.
Theres far more evidence showing that fundamental ideas about women, particularly in relation to the church, were fashioned in an era when perceptions taken from what men held to be the nature of things, were, for all of the brilliance of the thinkers, resoundingly ignorant.
Big wrong ideas are chipped away, eroded over time. Some chipping around the edges has begun. Hear from some of those involved in the process. (See story)
Accumulating the evidence that corrects the record about womens role in the early church are feminist historians and biblical scholars, as well as archaeologists who, for the past 50 years, have been studying ancient texts and excavation sites, according to St. Joseph Sr. Christine Schenk, the director of FutureChurch, who initiated international celebrations of Mary of Magdalas July 22 feast.
Thanks to their painstaking work, she writes, we now have proof that Jesus included women in his closest discipleship, that women probably underwrote his Galilean mission and that women held leadership and ministerial roles in the early church identical to those held by men. ( See story)
Given the progress that women have made in civil society, one can only wonder what historians ages from today will make of the general exclusion of women from decision-making levels of the church. This seems particularly odd in light of the dependence of the institution on women to educate new Catholics, to prepare and execute new ministries, to prepare liturgies and to lead singers and train lectors and prepare people for sacraments and plan adult education curricula and so on.
What will future readers of todays record make of the fact that 115 men went off in secret to pick the leader of an organization of 1.1 billion members, at least half of whom are women?
Meet Rebecca Beyer. Youll run into her byline on the story about immigration on ( see story). Rebecca, a 2004 graduate of Boston University and currently a masters student in journalism and Latin American studies at New York University, is spending the summer as an intern at NCR. During the school year she works with kindergartners on literacy development in a Brooklyn elementary school and also is a staff writer at the Brownstone magazine. Shes not only a talented reporter and writer. At Boston University, she was captain of the schools Division I soccer team, champs at the time of the America East Conference.
Some weeks ago, I asked for your help in spreading the word about NCR and in finding new readers. Then I thanked you for your overwhelming response -- you called in asking for more than 1,500 extra information packets. Now I want to begin thanking you for the results. In the past month weve acquired more than 1,000 new readers, which puts us half way to our goal of 2,000 new readers by summers end. So Ill return full circle to my original request and ask you to keep up the effort. Maintaining an independent journalistic voice in the Catholic church is, I think, more important now than ever. It isnt an easy undertaking. My gratitude in advance for your help, which is essential.
-- Tom Roberts
National Catholic Reporter, July 15, 2005
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