Gender/Authority Gaps?

Pope Benedict XVI is doing his best to regain the trust and confidence of American Catholics after the child abuse fiasco, but as some commentators have noted, he may be missing the main points of criticism of the institution that he is trying to shape. Two of these are the gender gap in and the authoritarian structure of his church, both of which he embodies. A commentator noted at one point in the past two days that Benedict is surrounded by men, but few women seem to be allowed within his range. And ex-nuns are occasionally cited as critics. This has been my observation. This church still denigrates women as did its primary saint, Paul.

The other flaw in Benedict’s church which may explain the departures from it is its authoritarian structure. For most of its history this church assumed that it was guiding illiterate children with its educated, well organized (male) authorities. Off to confession with you! But as the departures intimate, people want to do things now on their own — possibly the explanation for the success of Pentecostals in pulling ex-Catholics:

A Populist Shift Confronts the U.S. Catholic Church
An estimated 1.3 million Latino Catholics have joined
Pentecostal congregations since immigrating to the U.S.,
presenting a growing challenge to Roman Catholicism.

I don’t want to rain on Benedict’s parade here, but I am saddened to see his lost opportunities. As I have commented previously, he has driven his church’s best theologians quite literally out of Catholic universities. Their silenced voices might have made the difference.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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