Seeing With One Eye | Sojourners

Seeing With One Eye

The real cost of exclusion

A recent editorial cartoon showed a clerical procession in which a mitred man is being preceded down a church aisle by two young altar boys. The cardinal is carrying a placard that reads, "Celibacy has nothing to do with pedophilia. " The scowling little altar boy who is leading the procession, however, is saying to his partner, "Oh, yeah? Well, if he were a father, I bet he wouldn't let anything happen to kids."

The message is clear: There are some things that may be clinically unrelated to the problem at hand but that definitely have a bearing on it. Surely, the role of women in the church is one of those. If the scandal points up anything at all, it begs for a review of the role of women in the decision-making arenas of the church, and the question of the ordination of women as well.

What the scandal highlights in the most glaring of ways is the total absence of women from the inner chambers of ecclesiastical discussion and procedural review. Would women have stood by quietly, said nothing, even agreed to a policy of moving clearly abusive men from parish to parish where they could jeopardize the lives of other children so that the system itself could be saved? The answer is unclear, perhaps, but the question is a necessary one.

Whether or not women as a class would have agreed to such policies is impossible to determine. We may, however, have some clues to the answer, even without benefit of the experience. Women are not more virtuous than men—they have sins of their own—but they do judge systems a great deal more lightly than men do. Women tend to be caretakers and advocates. They are, if we are to believe most of the social-science research in the area, given more to a desire to create and maintain personal relationships than they are to a desire to get and keep power. To have women at the table for discussions could, then, introduce a balance of values, another set of priorities, a broader agenda.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 2002
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