Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Catholic Church and the Wounded Feminine

I am driving home from  my quarry swim, chased out  by a summer thunderstorm, and so I get to hear some bits of radio conversation. It is Terry Gross on Fresh Air interviewing Christopher Beha who has just written a novel," What Happened to Sophie Wilder." The  snipit that I catch on my short drive  is about this author's experience growing up Catholic.  I drift into my own experiences of that and think that even though I am no longer embedded in the structure of the Church any  longer, there is much of my Catholicism that remains within me.

However, I am so disenchanted with the institution of the Church that I hardly ever participate in its liturgies that I have loved for so long. I used to say, "well, sure, my Church is my dysfunctional family, isn't every family dysfunctional to some degree?" And so I stayed, singing away as cantor  by  the altar every Sunday.

But then my Church family became abusive. This abuse may be even far more pervasive than the horrible sexual abuse of children by specific clergy, because this  was an insidious and institutionalized abuse of power  against the faithful. This had  become  patriarchal control of everyone's conscience  (congregations told how to vote "pro-life" at every election) to the subjugation of women at every level.

While  listening to the Fresh Air interview, another image came to me. It was of my  daughter as a teen, walking into  our little parish church one evening after it had been newly redecorated in warm womb colors of deep dark pinks and with soothing green carpets. Gregorian chant was playing, candles glowed in dusky darkness. She knelt down and sighed "ah,it is like being home".

Those feminine colors of earth and body, and the calming  sounds of  the chanting felt comforting to her.How unfortunate that the patriarchal institutions such as the Catholic Church miss their opportunity to embrace the young  when  they  disregard their need to embrace the feminine principle. That welcoming sanctuary  that had become  a symbol of the feminine was not enough to rebalance the hierarchical urge to put down  the feminine everywhere else.

My  daughter, no longer a teenager, is  getting married, but now she has no desire  to set foot in the Church where she received First Communion or was confirmed. She has not betrayed her faith: the patriarchal institution that supposedly upholds the faith (of love and inclusiveness without hierarchy) has betrayed her.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Patriarchal culture as Bully

Writing about the Rise of the Wounded Feminine is a humbling task. No thought, no feeling comes without history and context. So many women--and men-- have contributed over thousands of years to keep the feminine principle alive, nourishing it back into the collective consciousness, and conscience.

It is painful to witness our cultural, collective amnesia how the patriarchy deflects us from our victories of this consciousness. It is more painful to witness the amnesia of the political women who  collude and become daughters of the patriarchy, while standing on the shoulders of the women who brought them their freedom. Michele Bachman  and Sarah Palin and others would never have been able to vote let alone run for office  had it  not been for the suffragettes in the early part of the 20th century.  These were  the heroines who risked their lives to win the vote for women. They were persecuted, prosecuted, jailed, brutalized. When they went on hunger strikes in jail they were violently force fed--tubes jammed down their throats.

Shame on any of us for forgetting how much they suffered for the sake of justice and the right to vote.

Now the patriarchy is pushing back again by legislating voter ID laws--a political and powers-that-be move to thwart the voting rights of the disenfranchised -- the minorities, the poor, the elderly. Their ploy this time affects both women and men (as did  the laws in the south that prevented African Americans from voting), and it is at its root about domination and control.

This is patriarchy-tainted  politics-- any means to an end, and neither the means nor the end is just. In fact, this is bullying. It is dominance of power stifling the voices of those subordinated  and disenfranchised.

We are shocked and appalled---and rightly so-- that  children on a school bus taunt and bully  an older woman bus monitor (Karen Klein in Greece,NY, June, 2012). Yet, for as terrible as that event was, why are we surprised at children being bullies when bullying is institutionalized in the culture, all the way from the family level, to the societal, and political level?

It is bullying of the least powerful when the powers-that-be make it exceedingly difficult and sometimes impossible to  carry out the right to vote.

Bullying is about intimidation, dominance, violence or the threat of violence. Those school kids on the bus were acting out what is in the patriarchal air we breathe. They at least are still children and we can hope they can mature and "breathe better air." But what of the adults that can't breathe any other but the pollution of patriarchy?

The powers-that -be "euphemize" bullying (and euthanize the vote!) with words about protecting us from fraud; this is all about voting rights, they say! Perhaps these folks have breathed the patriarchal pollution so long they have begun to believe their lies, truth be told..

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fathers, sons and the feminine principle

As I swim in my favorite oasis of summer, a quarry  replete wit filter system and a beach, I overhear a child say "ouch, I skinned myself." Father retorts, "Oh, you're tough!" I let the comment go figuring that perhaps the  Dad has assessed the situation accurately as "nothing to fret about." Awhile later, however, I hear the son say again something about how he is hurting to which the father replies in a deep voice, "You're tough."

Now I begin to wonder if this is not a case where the father needed his inner feminine to come forward so that he could lead with his warmth ( as a male psychologist-colleague would say to his male clients) and give his child an empathetic ear. Perhaps all this little boy needed was for his Dad to bend down and check  his  knee, give it a pat and a kiss. Instead, father ignored his child's pleas, and gave him no eye contact or the briefest of concerns.

Granted that this father may love his son dearly and may even think that his actions with him will harden  him for the game of life. The father , I would guess, wants to make his son in his image--and his image of himself is more than likely that of a "man's man"--tough, invulnerable.Perhaps this is a man that bristles at showing any feeling other than anger. Vulnerability, then, would be  a sign of weakness.

There is a Native American proverb that says "Gentleness is the greatest strength." This father would be even stronger, braver if he could show his son that it is okay to feel vulnerable sometimes and that TLC (tender, loving care) is not just  a "girl thing."

On another day at the Quarry, I overheard another father remark to his son, "don't act like a girl."The message to be tough may  be slightly less derogatory, but both messages convey the idea that to be vulnerable is to be feminine and that to be feminine is inferior.

What kind of world  would it be if fathers could teach their sons gentleness and acceptance  of the feminine principle within? Comments of "you're tough" and "don't act like a girl" are signs  that  the feminine is wounded within these men. What if the wounded feminine were allowed to rise in all its strength and power and be wounded no longer? The feminine principle that contains empathy and care united within the masculine would make  a meek and mighty man: indeed, gentleness is the greatest strength. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Women of Heart Who Need To Be Heard Bring Quiet Wisdom In Loud Times

The Nuns on the Bus are truly a cadre of women of heart who need to be heard. In these loud times when Rush Limbaugh aligns himself with the papacy  (or is it the other way around?) , the Network* of Catholic nuns has responded vigorously, not by allowing themselves to be victimized by a dying cabal of cardinals whose priorities are about making contraceptives contraband but by going from  state  to state alerting the nation about how Rep Paul Ryan's budget is an affront to social justice and the common good.

The nuns are the  women who  work in the  trenches of reality. They see the working poor who struggle to feed families and who lack health care. They encounter the forgotten, frayed fringes of socety. In other words, they live the Beatitudes.

Meanwhile the pillars of patriarchy make pronouncements from  moneyed mansions.But without integrating the feminine principle of wisdom of the heart, these pillars can  only fall flat ... at the feet of these women of heart. (There are feminine principled men of heart as well. That is a topic for another day.)

*The Network is a social justice lobby whose executive director is Sr  Simone Campbell

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Affordable Health Care Act and the Wounded Feminine

Hooray for the Feminine Principle! Hooray for the Affordable Health Care Act! When the Supreme Court upheld  this act, it gave a helping hand to the wounded feminine rising. For all its imperfections, this act will begin the dialogue for affordable health care for all Americans.

Whenever we boldly enact any legislation that compassionately serves the common good, we can, I believe, safely say the masculine rational logos has become balanced with the feminine principle of care and collaboration.

Most all developed nations have been here, done this with health care, but now the US is also  coming to terms with the idea that maybe, just maybe, health  care is a necessity for all and not just a privilege for some.We honor the feminine principle when we recognize we are not rugged individuals but interconnected beings.