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Are We Afraid of Powerful and Competent Women?

Pope Francis has set up a special commission to study whether women will be allowed to become deacons in the Catholic Church. Deacons can preach and preside over weddings and funerals, but cannot celebrate Mass.

This is not any move to ordain women as priests, but an attempt to give a voice in decision-making for those who are the bulk of many congregations and faithful church attendees. The Commission will study the historical role of female deacons. Many women successfully run their own monastic orders. In business, academia and every sphere of life from the military to the world of commerce, women lead with distinction, though still suffer intense public scrutiny and misogyny.

Malia Obama dancing was plastered across the internet. It is hard to believe that a young woman would dance at a music concert! What kind of parents allow there 18 year old daughter to go to a rock concert? Can her father be fit to be President of the US? The Press is unkind to women. Decades old, nude pictures of Melania Trump, taken for a now defunct French magazine, were splashed across the front pages of the New York Post. Somehow this is supposed to reflect badly on her husband.

My parental experience is limited to coping with growing boys. Now, it is with grandsons. Young women are a mystery. Why does it take so long for them to get ready? How do they manage to talk so vivaciously about hair, clothes and friends? The god-daughter came to stay. She is being brought up in a Catholic household. We took her to our Lutheran church. When asked what she thought of it, her first response was, ‘I’ve never heard a woman preach before!’ My wife took her shopping. Seven hours later, they staggered back, bags in hand, claiming they were ready for more retail-therapy. Women have different stamina from men. I watched pictures of a glass ceiling smashing, as Hillary Clinton became the first woman from a major political US Party to be nominated for President. Mrs. May follows in the footsteps of Margaret Thatcher. America is catching up with the rest of the world.

A deacon is a servant leader. In the Early Church, deacons tended to the physical and administrative needs of the body of believers. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was a deacon. Philip, the deacon, was remembered for his evangelizing and baptizing, the Ethiopian Eunuch. Phoebe is mentioned by Paul, as a deacon. If Galatians is correct, in Christ there are no longer distinctions between Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. We are all one in Christ. When asked about the ordination of women, I say we should ordain everyone. Set them all apart, to serve each other, the world and Christ. The Church’s struggle with the role of women is a reflection of modern society’s clash between male and female, the masculine and feminine in every aspect of life and relationships. The Press reflects our continuing unease with powerful and competent women. Our language, political, social and religious structures reflect our attitudes towards each other and men and women in particular. Liberation is about freedom for us all.

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