The Need for the Church to Embrace Humanism

When will the Church learn that each human being, irrespective of gender, is sacred and worthy of unconditional love and of holding any role within the Church, including being Pope.  In my article before Christmas on Pope Benedict’s encyclical on Hope, I expressed fear that the Pontiff was not examining the impact of the Church on the lives of people as it is now and as it has been.  The recent comments of the Pope on a feminist theology reinforce my sense that the Church will continue to largely fail its people.  After all, in a world that has been politically and religiously dominated by men, and sadly not often to their credit, it is time for a radical shift in perspective.  The facts that America may have a woman President represents such a shift and that women are emerging more and more as politically able are encouraging signs.  However, it is a transition time and those who are fanatical in their attitudes can be a danger to those men and women who dare step outside the box – for example Benazir Bhutto.  When it comes to the Catholic Church, in spite of a sixty per cent fall off of attendance and a diminishing number of priests, there appears to be no sign of an enlightenment happening.  The Pope does not recognise that if Christ was to return he would see that Catholicism is another religion and not promoting his all inclusive Christian message of love.  It amazes me, too, that recognition is not given to women who were present at Christ’s death and resurrection; the men had scurried away in fear!  Is it that the Church that has been so chauvinistic is terrified of feminine power, the power of the heart?  When the Pope rules out a role for ‘female’ theology, he rules out half of the population of the world; he also rules out the all embracing power of Christ who cherished men, women and children equally.

The up-to-date news is that the Vatican has ‘cracked down’ on feminist interpretations of the liturgy, ruling that God must always be recognised as Our Father.  This dogma goes against all reason in a society where women have been  and continue to be the principal parent figure in the family and the absent father being a common phenomenon.  Surely, if women can hold the family, they are equally capable of holding a congregation and of holding positions of responsibility within the Church.  I am further disillusioned by the dictum from the ‘Holy See’ (an ironic term when you consider the ‘blindness’ of the Church) that anyone baptised using alternative terms, such as ‘Creator’, ‘Redeemer’ and ‘Sanctifier’ will have to be re-baptised using the traditional ceremony.  I was always under the impression that it was the symbolism of the immersion in water that was the essential aspect of baptism and not hair-splitting over which particular titles have been used.

If the Pope regards feminism as a threat to the Church, how is it that he does not regard a masculine theology as equally threatening – which, of course, it has been for centuries?  Any church needs to practice humanism – where no gender distinction is practised – and where all of the children of the universe are cherished equally.

Masculine qualities can do a lot and account for a lot of what has been good in the world.  The more typical masculine qualities are drive, ambition, determination, order, invention, assertion.

However, when these qualities are not complemented by the feminine qualities of love, tenderness, supportiveness, warmth, affection, tenderness, support, empathy, they tend to go to the extremes of rigidity, dominance, fanaticism, control, exclusiveness.  The reverse is also true – when feminine qualities are not balanced with masculine qualities – extremes emerge – possessiveness, over-protection, over-belonging, suffocation of individuality.

Whether we are talking about political or religious leaders, it is incumbent on political and religious institutions to put individuals in charge, irrespective of gender, who have embraced the fullness of being human (the qualities of masculinity and femininity).  When such maturity is present there is hope for us all.

Dr. Tony Humphreys practices clinical psychology and is author of practical books on psychology including Leaving The Nest.