This past week I was honored to have the opportunity to talk with Tavis Smiley on PBS about the resignation of the Pope and the future of the Catholic Church. Although some have argued that the pope stepping down means little if anything for Catholics, I think this acknowledgment that tradition can change is at least a step in the right direction. While an end to sexism in the Church is still far off, in the spirit of a feminist ethic of risk, I think we must recognize this step and continue on in the struggle.
What a privilege it was and is to have a platform to share these thoughts. As a feminist progressive Catholic I have repeatedly received friendly and not so friendly warnings about sharing my beliefs. In an age characterized as “the New Inquisition,” the Vatican has worked hard to keep individuals like myself from challenging Church teaching. Any mention of reproductive justice or women’s ordination can quickly lead to one’s livelihood being threatened and the very real possibility of excommunication – just ask Fr. Roy Bourgeois. That said, we each still have the responsibility to retain our power, refuse to be silent, and use our voices to encourage and create change.
Having been given the opportunity to discuss my feminist progressive beliefs about the Catholic Church on such a large platform was a gift. I was overwhelmed by the many messages I received from persons who viewed the show. I received emails and comments from those who shared similar thoughts:
INCREDIBLE !!! I wasn’t strong enough to wait for the change (13 yrs. ago). May God continue to Gift you in fortitude.
Wow, I’ve been talking to folks around me about near spiritual matters. Have posted my own opinions on social media. This interview got to the heart of many issues that should be pushed to the fore, not just for the believers but for the society (American) as a whole. Your closing, “I appreciate your candor,” was welcome in the discussion. We need that in the discourse. I frequently do not know where the journey of your questioning will lead but I’m nearly always delighted and perplexed by where I end up. I just pray for coherency in my comments after watching an interview that stirs my thoughts.
I also received messages with questions about exploring issues in the Catholic tradition, messages that genuinely wished for a dialogue:
On watching your interview on Tavis Smiley the first question that came to mind is how does an announced Catholic, who presumably attends Sunday Mass, profess belief in “One, Holy,Catholic and Apostolic Church” in the morning and on leaving Mass publicly and proudly renounces those beliefs while championing her own version of what Catholics should believe and practice?
The doctrine of the Church cannot change. When Catholics pit themselves against the Church because they have bought into secular notions of what is right they are choosing against what God has ordained wether they know it or not.
And of course, I received messages from those who thought “hate mail” would be an appropriate response to me retaining the power of my voice:
Go to Cuba,Venezuela, Africa, China or North Korea to live your liberation theology. You can rise the rank of starvation in your workers paradises. Long live Stalin, Mao, et al. Your progressive liberal socialist agenda has never worked outside the university book store. It’s against churches official teaching. Join Obamas church for your beliefs don’t stain our church with your leftist ideologies.
I unfortunately wasted my time watching a bit of Tavis Smiley to see you, an individual who has the psychological need to remain a “member” of the Roman Catholic Church that you both obviously revile and simultaneously attempt to undermine with a ludicrous sense of personal omniscience. It’s a combination of the idolatrous attempt at vicariously being part of the “power” of the Catholic Church through membership while wanting it no longer to be the Catholic Church at all but rather an advocate of only the whims, interests, inclinations, sins and peccadillos of Gina…It’s like the woman who hates her husband, but knows she wouldn’t be anything without his money, so she badmouths him all over town, hoping that he’ll hear about it and change to meet her special desires—even though almost everybody else in the town personally loves and admires the fellow.
I truly appreciate that we all have different ideas and concerns and I’m always open to respectful and serious dialogue. Of course, some of these did not warrant a response, but I guess hate mail comes with the territory.
There is power in our voices when we use them in a respectful way. Whether on a national platform or at your dinner table, we each have the ability to share our thoughts and ideas, to engage others, and to work towards the change we believe in. Silencing has become the norm; there are forces all around us trying to quiet the calls for reform. While it takes great strength and will cause many repercussions, speaking out and retaining the power of voice is what will lead to the transformation so many of us wish for.