German Catholic journalist Christiane Florin has taken the misogynistic Church to task, insisting that “equality does not mean praising women to the skies. It means doing justice to them on earth”.
– “To assert equality and assign women fixed places – that is a contradiction”
In the Catholic Church, “man is the norm, woman the deviation. Men define what a woman is, how she has to be and in what radius she has to move in. Men know the natural, God-given role of the woman and they take care that the woman does not fall out of this role”, Florin denounced in a keynote talk in an October 10 event organised by the Catholic women’s rights movement Voices of Faith.
Florin – the author of the 2017 book Weiberaufstand (“Women’s Uprising: Why Women Need More Power in the Catholic Church”) – decried that “the secular idea of equality – equal dignity, equal rights – has never arrived in the Catholic Church”.
“Now one can say: It is not so bad after all, that is the tradition, there is so much that women can do, even without ordained ministries”, the journalist and author recognised. “That is true”, she acknowledged, “but in this way the censer is swung over real existing power relations, so that one no longer sees what is decisive”.
That focus on the way power works in the Church – despite the incessant claims of churchmen that ministry is about service, not power – was at the heart of Florin’s talk.
Catholic power continues to be “discriminating power” no matter how much Catholic male leaders smile at and rave about women, Florin insisted, as she denounced that “to assert equality and assign women fixed places – that is a contradiction itself”.
– Catholic “brutality of humility” responsible for countless victims in Church
“It is dangerous – in a social relationship, in an institution – not to talk about power”, Florin warned in her address, quoting the renowned sociologist Max Weber who already a century ago observed: “just because something is called service does not mean that there is no domination”.
Denouncing the Catholic “brutality of humility” that produces all kinds of victims in the Church, the journalist encouraged the faithful “to be vigilant for the many situations in which power is exercised, openly, but above all camouflaged”.
“One recognizes such situations by recognizing imperatives such as: That is your role! Bear your fate! Take an example from Mary! God wants it that way!”, Florin pointed out.
Regarding the gender inequality that still persists in the Church notwithstanding the protestations of powerful male leaders, the author and journalist declared bravely:
“If people of a different skin colour were treated so ignorantly and arrogantly, then this would be racism. If you treat the other person like that because she is a woman, then what are you: Catholic!”
– Ideas for a “women’s uprising”
In the remainder of her talk, Florin masterfully picked apart the same-old tired arguments against women’s ordination, noting that “there is no conclusive proof why the sacramental mentality is linked to the male sex”.
She also lamented the “screamingly unjust and screamingly weird” aspects of the Church as institution, in which deference to tradition and authority twist what should be a debate about ending discrimination and inequality into the “women’s question”.
But the real value of Florin’s talk was that, true to the title of her 2017 book, she weaved into her words ideas for a “women’s uprising”, or resistance, to male power:
“‘Women’s uprising’ means that women rise from the place assigned to them. That they do not take it at all. That they think of themselves in other ways than those intended for them.
“‘Women’s uprising’ means… Awareness raising. Making it clear: The Catholic Church is a ruling system. ‘Women’s uprising’ means becoming sensitive to the suffering that this ruling brings with it.
“‘Women’s uprising’ means: awakening the spirit of contradiction. This is not taught in Catholic education, and certainly not in the church. Jesus was allowed to contradict authorities, Mary was not.
“‘Women’s uprising’… means: calling discrimination discrimination.
“Women’s uprising… means: qualified opposition. The more church history and theological knowledge you acquire, the more you notice how the Magisterium takes you for a fool.
“‘Women’s uprising’… means: mocking, being ironic, even sarcastic. But never cynical. The system is already cynical.
“‘Women’s uprising’ means: If I can’t change anything, then at least get angry. Mockery disturbs the enjoyment of power”.
– “This Church has sinned and continues to sin against women”
Florin ended with a powerful cri de coeur:
“This Church has sinned and continues to sin against women. It ignores talents, despises knowledge and forbids herself visions. It has sinned against women and continues to sin. Discrimination is its hard but hollow brand core. It is hopefully not the core of Christianity.
“Who needs this hard, hollow Church? Boys who want to stay among themselves; insecure ones who cling to a God-given order; fearful ones who fear the impure woman.
“Millions of people in this world could do with something else: a power that shakes such orders”.
That would be the “real revolution”, Florin noted, above and beyond tossing women consolation prizes with quotas in leadership positions that do not require ordination.