Dismantling Catholic misogyny

The former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, garnered worldwide media coverage when she bluntly called out misogyny in the Catholic hierarchy in her keynote speech at the Voices of Faith (VOF) event held in Rome on International Women's Day. "The Catholic Church has long since been a primary global carrier of the virus of misogyny," McAleese said. "It has never sought a cure, though a cure is freely available. Its name is equality." 

Previous Voices of Faith events were hosted at the Vatican, but this year Cardinal Kevin Farrell denied permission for McAleese and Ugandan advocate Ssenfuka Joanita Warry to speak because of their support for LGBTI persons' rights. Farrell's decision to ban such a high-profile figure as McAleese, let alone Warry — who works in a country where homosexuality is punishable by life in prison — only provided a worldwide media megaphone.

Rather than silence the initiatives of these influential women, Voices of Faith organizers moved the event to the nearby Aula (hall) of the Jesuit curia in Rome. In her presentation, McAleese quoted from Decree 14 promulgated by the international Jesuit leadership in that same Aula some 23 years ago:

We have been part of a civil and ecclesial tradition that has offended against women. And, like many men, we have a tendency to convince ourselves that there is no problem. However unwittingly, we have often contributed to a form of clericalism which has reinforced male domination with an ostensibly divine sanction. By making this declaration we wish to react personally and collectively and do what we can to change this regrettable situation.

Hosting this year's VOF event despite controversy is one obvious way Rome's Jesuits are "doing what they can" to deconstruct clerical male domination. Another was the presence of Jesuit Fr. Luke Hansen on the closing panel. Luke's was the only male voice heard on a day when female Catholic voices were raised in sorrow, lament, frustration and a devastating critique of "clerical patriarchalism." 

Read the full story at National Catholic Reporter. Includes links to videos of speeches.

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