- Published on Sunday, 17 April 2011 06:59
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 2045
The Catholic Church has always said that their authority supersedes other sources like the bible – that’s why Luther started the Reformation. One of their teachings has always been that men are of higher status than women in the eyes of God and of their Church. All the references to God use masculine terms (He, father etc) but if you stand back and think about it, this does not make sense. If God is a creator and higher power who revealed “himself” to mankind, then the whole concept of a gender does not apply. God should really be androgynous – that is, no sex. So why all the masculine references? Sister Elizabeth Johnson, a prominent Catholic female theologian and a professor at Fordham University, asked this question in her recent book Quest for the Living God: Mapping the Frontiers in the Theology of God which has now been banned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
So what did she say? She basically says that the idea that God is male comes from cultural biases over the centuries. Further, that because god is male, women end up as the inferior sex. No surprise here. Given that earlier generations would have difficulty with the idea of an androgynous god, they would assign god’s sex as being whatever sex had the power. But the bishops have said that: “The standard by which all theological assertions must be judged is that provided by divine revelation, not by unaided human understanding." They don’t seem to see the inherent contradiction in this statement. Since God does not issue written or spoken statements (he only speaks through humans) – it is inherent that some “human understanding”, or “interpretation” - is required.
However, it is clear that the bishops do not want anyone within their control writing books that question traditional teaching – even one that does not question divinity and brings them up to date on the role of women. By doing this, they are ensuring that there is never any progress in their thinking – they are firmly stuck in the culture of centuries earlier. But then their whole thinking originated 2000 years ago.
You can see the official Bishop’s statement here and also some reaction here. Sister Johnson’s reaction has been that the Bishops misunderstood what she thinks and wrote – she says they did not talk to her at all before banning her book. But then bishops have always been autocratic – there is no concept of democracy in the Catholic Church.