Jane Addams was a pioneer American-settlement social worker, public philosopher, sociologist, author, and leader in women’s suffrage movement. In an era when presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson identified themselves as social activists, Addams outshined them as one of the most prominent reformers of the Progressive Era.
Ida Bell Wells was an African-American journalist and newspaper editor, a sociologist, and an early leader in the women’s as well as civil rights movement. Notably and disturbingly, she courageously documented lynching in the United States, showing that it was often used as a way to control or punish blacks who competed with whites.
Frances Xavier Cabrini was an Italian nun, who founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, serving the Italian immigrant population in Chicago. Despite the lack of support by bishops and clergy alike, her groundbreaking outreach to the poor and marginalized, earned her the privilege of being the first naturalized citizen of the United States to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.
More contemporary Chicago feminist prophets include Tina Fey, Jennifer Hudson and Chaka Kahn. And, I would be remiss not to invoke the names of the Holy Trinity of contemporary Chicago women saints….Hillary Clinton, Michele Obama and Oprah Winfrey.
So, now we focus on Francis, who I call my Holy Conundrum.
His words are, indeed, impressive….listen to what he says…..
The best wines come from every person who risks everything on love.
Things have a price and can be for sale, but people have a dignity which is priceless.
Let the church always be a place of mercy and hope where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven.
It is vital that government leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons working to make sure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare.
Let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change. We want change in our lives, in our neighborhoods, in our everyday reality. We want a change which can affect the entire world, since global interdependence calls for global answers to local problems. The globalization of hope, a hope which springs up from peoples and takes root among the poor, must replace the globalization of exclusion and indifference!
Makes one wonder….
Does Francis truly intend to inspire the church to become the open window of John XXIII, letting in the fresh air of the Spirit or does he represent an institutional dose of air freshener; hoping we would smell the roses rather than the stench of a clerical system which, at best isolates women and at worst, renders them invisible?
Angela Merkel is widely recognized as one of the most powerful women in the world. Yet, my catholic granddaughters continually encounter the barriers of “women need not apply” from every ministry including assisting the priest at the altar to being the priest at the altar.
Malala Yousafzai conquered violence and poverty to champion the cause of women’s equal access to education while at same time female Catholic School teachers are dismissed without due process if found to have purchased contraceptives, attempted pregnancy through in-vitro fertilization, or even voice support for marriage equality or women’s ordination.
The Vatican has enthusiastically opened its doors to staunch evangelical spokesmen such as Rich Warren, Joel Olstein and David Green (co –owner of Hobby Lobby) but its doors are closed to contemporary prophets such as Joan Chittister, Elizabeth Johnson and Jeannine Gramick.
Taylor Swift can bring a huge corporation like Apple to its knees. Praying, paying and obeying is where the Catholic hierarchy believe is the rightful place for women.
So, one wonders….
On his most recent trip thought out South America, Francis astonished the world by apologizing for the sins against the indigenous peoples by the church. Women will not wait another 500 years to hear these words of enlightenment and apology. The time is now.
It is said…..The best examples of social progress are always those who are themselves a living testament to the change they wish to make. That is you and I….together. So let us begin.
Linda Pinto works with CORPUS, the National Association for an Inclusive Priesthood and has served as the Facilitator of COR, Catholic Organizations for Renewal, a consortium of over 20 progressive catholic organizations. This post is an edited version of her welcome comments at the Forum on Women in the Catholic Church at the Chicago Theological Seminary on July 25, 2015.