Devil’s advocate for Church Reform - Jose Paul (Delhi)
God created man and women as human beings. He did not create one as superior and other as inferior creature. We Catholics believe that God created every human being as his own child in his own image out of his love. It may be that the physical organs of the body of men and that of women may have differences due to the functions of the procreative process. But the human soul which forms the essence of a real person, man or women, are not any different. These men and women being the children of God, they are equal in the eyes of God. The man and the women have equal share in the procreative act, but the roles in the physical process of procreation are different for each. These roles do not make one superior or the other inferior.
From time immemorial, men started exercising a superior and authoritative position compared to women. Only in very few places in the globe, women took the predominant role in their society. Some of these cultural practices still exist among some tribal Communities. But the superiority of men over women became the prominent culture in almost universally in every part of the world. In the Old Testament, you find that in the recorded historical development of the society, the names of successive generations are mentioned with the names of the fathers and sons. This only shows that the culture from the Old Testament time was patriarchic. This is not to mention that this is right or wrong. These documents were recorded by men. May be these documentations may be the cause for generations after generations to follow the pattern of male dominated society. Many of the Biblical men were having more than one wife. Thus the Old Testament might have played a significant role in building this authoritative role for men. These cultural practices prevailed in the Jewish civilisation at the time. Jesus came into the world as a member of the Jewish community. He practiced and lived in this culture of male superiority. We can see it very clearly in Christ’s way of life. He had lots of male and female friends. He loved them all. But only the men folk were called upon as his disciples to spread His message to the world. The society called them the apostles. The life and teachings of Jesus were preached by, documented by these men. These documents became the New Testament and turned out to be the base of Christianity. All the books were written only by men. These apostles succeeded to attract many people, men and women, to the teachings of Jesus. But because of the culture and tradition of that time, only men became active in the propagation of the teachings of Jesus. Most of them were married and had children and led family life. But the man of the family led the spiritual services for the family and community. As we see in society today, it is possible that women of those days also might have been better in spirituality and in prayerfulness. Even though there was no prohibition for man or woman for leading the spiritual services, the culture and traditions of the society of men leading everything in society continued. The man was considered to be the provider and the head for the family in all matters including the spiritual services...
In many part of the Old and New testaments and the Acts of the Apostles, we find many exhortations about a good and happy family life. These exhortations came from the culture and traditions of the society of that time. Wives were advised to consider the husband as the head of the family and obey him. Women were subjugated to the authority of the men in almost all aspects of social, economical and spiritual life of the family. Husbands are advised to look after the wives and love them. But the authority of decision making for the family matters, social, economical and spiritual matters rested with the man. This arrangement was O.K. in the past for most families. The men took for granted that they are superior and have the sanction to rule the family like a king. The lady 0f the house accepted her position as an obedient and submissive wife. There were very few irritations in the family life as the women accepted this position as a result of their religious, cultural and social indoctrination. This went on smoothly because women had no education, they were not bread winners. Even physically, they were considered to be weak. They were nicknamed as weaker sex by the society.
In the modern world, things have changed. The old culture is crumbling. In the field of education, today women are progressing not only as equal to men but going ahead of them in many fields. They are getting educated in all areas even in areas which were considered to be the domain of men only by the society. In the work world, today women take up any work, any responsible position equivalent to men. Even in the field of jobs which involve physical activities, such as security, police, and other defense services, transport and aviation, mechanical and civil engineering, women are now working in all levels of positions. In the field of education, health, industry, business, and politics, women have shown their mettle as very responsible leaders. In spite all these changes in the society, many men find it difficult to accept this position of equality. Most of the families today are a battle field as both the man and women are struggling to get the respect and equality they deserve in their families. Many of our Catholic families are breaking down due to the unwillingness on the part of the male partner to come out of the cultural past. They don’t realize that the husband and wife are equal partners in the family. They need to share the responsibility equally in decision-making in family matters, in matters of their children’s education and character building, in nurturing the unity and love in the family, and building the family into a happy nest.
The church has to come forward very visibly in the time of this cultural renovation or revolution, to help the faithful. The church has to help the men to adjust to this new situation, the new way of life and bring them down from the pedestal of superiority feeling. They have to be helped to respect the equality and individuality of the partner. The wife is no more an obedient slave, or an ornamental piece of artifact in the living room, but a sharing partner. The women have to be helped to get out of their slavish mentality, and realize their self worth. It is a pity, many women who are in commanding positions in their official field of work, live as slaves in the family. They shed tears throughout their life in the family due to the tradition and culture, which the society and the church are propagating without realizing it. Many families are experiencing the hell on earth instead of bringing “Thy kingdom come” in their families.
Church has an important role in this. Jesus wants the Catholic families to be nests of love. This can happen only if the Church takes an active role in inculcate this idea of equality in all the faithful. For this, it cannot be done by simple preaching. The church has to actively involve in propagating the idea of equality of women and men in family life and in all walks of life. The church has to be a living model for this by considering the women as equal partners to their male counterparts in religious life in performing sacraments and in social life. Hope a day will come this equality will be experienced by men and women in Church and families. Let us bring Heaven on earth and experience it in our life.