In the Papal State

The end of the 19th Century was a turbulent time.  Monarchs were being challenged the world over, with ideas from the French and American Revolutions.  The first challenge came in 1848 all over Europe, which was known as Year of Revolution.  Those disturbences began with crop failures, new press popularity, and the technological change revolutionizing the working class.  The disturbances, not connected, were quelled and little changed for awhile.  The Communist Manifesto was published in 1848.  The Franco-Prussian War saw the unification of Germany.  Although proclaimed in 1861, various states of Italy were united into a nation by 1870.  Pope Pius IX then became a self-imposed prisoner inside the Vatican, with the loss of the Papal States.  


At the end of the 19th Century, woman wanted the right to vote in the United Kingdom.  By 1913, women were granted the right to vote in Norway and Denmark.  The rural traditons of nations were changing.   


It was about the time of the Russian Revolution that George Bernard Shaw wrote Pygmallion.  MY FAIR LADY recently came to Minneapolis.  This was the musical version of the 1913 play Pygmallion.  Professor Henry Higgins tells Colonel Pickering in Act I that he could turn the flower girl into a duchess.  The real theme of the show was the new paradigm that men were still learning, that women were still learning to deal with: the independence of women and how man tried to come to grips with the issue of equality of women, one hundred years ago.  Lovely ideas.  Lovely.   


It was also during this period of Pope Pius IX that the doctrine of papal infallibility was introduced in 1870.    


So how do men and women get along in the era when western women get their independence?  Equality always seemed to be a basic human right.  Independence was another matter.  George Bernard Shaw captured the New World fear of independence in 1900 that had evolved from the Old World fear of American Independence almost one hundred years before.   That search for a true soulmate has never been tougher.


In the last fifty years, there has been another challenge in the search for a soulmate in the Roman Catholic Church.  The Vatican was having a harder time each generation to recuit priests. The story to start this millennium is not that men failed in their dealing half the time with women, or that women failed half the time.  The real story was the missing priest to help in humankind’s struggle with their own independence.


This morning in church I heard the woman next to me substituting nouns for pronouns, refusing to use “He” in reference to God.  Yet I noticed that she did pray the “Our Father.”  Hers was a inner battle with the word of Jesus.  Yet I saw the same gender wars from her perspective.  Papa Ratzi was in France today.  Praying to Our Lady of Fatima, yet he never had been particularly good in engaging in discussion with living females on church issues of the day.  Guys with miters are not particularly any more inclusive in leadership decisions today than they were before woman had the right to vote.  I saw that Peter was married, with a cited mother-in-law, who was asked to lead this church.  If he was alive in 2008, he would automatically disqualified.  It would be difficult to ask a young man to work for this institutions with such apparent prejudices, however he felt called to serve His God. 


The last few popes showed little if any inkling of how to deal with the urban world and independence of women.  I had mentioned a discussion with my 69-year old aunt, a former nun, who had been educated after high school with a class of 46, and those former classmates had gathered.  Of her classmates, 6 had died.  I asked how many had remained nuns their entire life.  The answer was 6.  That was a pretty good barometer how women felt about the state of women suffrage within the church.  When challenged by the times, Pope Pius IX relied on a new doctrine of papal infallibility.  But infallibility can be met with by silence.  And with what is this relatively new doctrine of papal infallibity, the wounds of the church have never been more visible.  


The wonder is that women, half the Catholic world, still care about their church that preached that the Truth would set them free and taught the importance of freedom of religion for all people as a basic human right.

That search for the Everlasting soulmate was never tougher when your boss, no matter how gracious, was infallible and did not have to listen.  When authority was based on love, it was easy to accept.  When authority seemed to be based upon power rather than authentic love, the battle seemed more like what that woman next to me was fighting, much more personal.  Those demons in holy institutions did not particularly interest me.  Not based upon the text. 

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