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Home » Archives » April 2005 » Patriarchal structure of Chruch as demeaning as apartheid?

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04/07/2005: "Patriarchal structure of Chruch as demeaning as apartheid?"

Next up in my list of letter recipiants is Joan Ryan of the San Francisco Chronicle in response to this column. Here is the text of my e-mail:

I am writing in response to your column entitled "A fearless defender". Let me start of by thanking you for writing a fair column. Your words reflect an honest and open opinion, one that it seems is having difficulty rectifying your respect for John Paul and your disagreements with him. The world needs more rhetoric like this. I think that John Paul would applaud your honesty and your willingness to speak up without fear. Stated more clearly, John Paul's desire for respectful dialogue, desires for more honest columns like this. That said, I'd like to speak to some of your concerns for his teachings.

The first topic I'd like to mention is that there are more solutions for sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS than condoms. The Church has always taught that sex outside of a heterosexual marriage is immoral. If the world followed this teaching, there would be no AIDS epidemic. It is inaccurate to mention John Paul's condemnation of condoms without mentioning his condemnation of sex outside of the bonds of marriage. It is not that John Paul didn't care about the millions who were dying of AIDS, but that he had a different solution to the problem. In fact, he cared deeply for those who were affected by this terrible disease and called for them to save themselves by turning to God and following His will.

People may call this solution "unrealistic". I would respond in two ways. First, from a pragmatic perspective, it seems that the condom solution is proving out to be just as unrealistic. The spread of AIDS has not slowed as dramatically as everyone would hope, even in the United States where the strategy has been given more than a fair chance. There is also evidence from a couple of countries world-wide that have embraced the Catholic Church's teaching in its schools and have seen the HIV infection rate drop dramatically. Second, I quote John Paul (who was quoting Christ) when I say "Do not be afraid!" Yes, from our western hyper-sexualized society it seems unthinkable that fidelity can be the solution to AIDS but John Paul had that faith in God that He would help us no matter how unlikely it seems.

The second topic I'd like to mention is birth control within a marriage. I am curious why you would say that it was an immoral edict to call birth control immoral? Is it the drastically falling birth rates in countries that have embraced birth control that threaten to cripple the society's ability to provide for itself? Is it the "suffering" that a family must ensure to raise a child? I challenge you to find someone who would call their own children so burdensome that their life would be better unlived. If a couple truly wants to stop having children, they are welcome to abstain from sex. If it would truly be that burdensome for them to have another child, they have an avenue to prevent it. If that couple is unwilling to make that sacrifice in their sex life to prevent having children, then that child must not be that burdensome.

Again, some may say that asking a couple not to have sex is "unrealistic". John Paul responds, as always, with "Do not be afraid!" While it may seem unimaginable that a woman can give birth to 8 children in today's materialistic society without destroying both the parents and the 8 children, John Paul has faith in God that he can give us the strength to serve Him by giving life to 8 children of God.

Finally, it is a great misconception to see the Church as patriarchal. The reality is that God is the head of the Church. John Paul would not see himself as the ruler of the Church but as the servant of servants. The Church asks us all to serve. It asks unmarried men to serve the Church by giving up all their possessions and serving the Church. It asks the same of unmarried women. A nun is no less holy and no less important than a priest. Similarly, while it doesn't get the same media attention, the shortage of nuns in the Church is just as devastating as the shortage of priests. John Paul was well aware of this and was constantly calling for an increase in vocations of both men and women. John Paull asks all to serve, including both married and celebate men and women. For married couples he asks them to serve the Church by bearing children and raising them in the faith. In that service there are certain aspects that only women can perform. The Church sees this not as a burden but as a great privilege. Just as it is a privilege for John Paul to serve as Pope, it is a privilege to for a woman to serve by having a baby.

Again, some mays that askings for a great sacrifice from everyone is "unrealistic". They may even say that despite the best intentions of the likes of John Paul having a male priesthood demeans women. But John Paul would respond "Do not be afraid!" While it may seem impossible in our power hungry society that a male leadership can be respectful for, give honor to, and give authority and power to women, John Paul has the faith in God that He would help us no matter how impossible it seems. Just as it is not men who turn bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, as you suggest, but God, it is God who is the ruler of the Catholic Church. Any man or woman who does not appreciate that their role in the Church is not to gain power but to be a servant of God, completely misunderstands the mission of the Church. Christ came to serve and so did the Church.

To conclude, I'm glad we agree that John Paul's legacy will be one of a fearless defender of the Catholic faith. I thank you for writing a honest and fair column about your feelings about the constant teachings of the Catholic Church and John Paul. I hope, that just as you have faith in the importance of speaking up to share your thoughts on John Paul's teachings, that this letter will help you to see that John Paul was a great defender of all, including women. He looked at the world through different colored glasses, glasses that could only be worn by someone with the confidence to say "Do not be afraid!" I pray that you come to see that he did not have any blind spots, that he fully saw what concerns you, but chose to hand his life and the lives of everyone in the world to the service of God no matter how "unrealistic" that seemed.

Ken Crawford
Online reader in Roseville, CA

Replies: 2 Comments

Ken Crawford :

They never respond...

04.08.05 @ 08:43 AM PST

Ken's Brother :

Usually i just shake my head and ask I am my brothers keeper? sigh... but this was a good letter. I can't wait to see what she responds with!

04.07.05 @ 10:24 PM PST [homepage]

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Other blogs I read:
Jimmy Akin
Crowhill's blog
Amy Welborn's 'open book' blog
Secondhand Smoke-Wesley Smith
Envoy Encore
Dale Price's blog
Mark Shea (On sabatical)

The Church I participate in:
Official Vatican Site
US Conference of Bishops
Sacramento Diocese
SS Peter and Paul Parish

Good Catholic Websites:
NewAdvent-Encyclopedia, Bible, Etc.
Zenit Catholic News
EWTN: Catholic TV and radio
Mass times for US travelers

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