Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Power Plays: As Women Well Know, Power Often Runs Amok in Good Ol' Boys' Clubs. (the Examined Life)

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Power Plays: As Women Well Know, Power Often Runs Amok in Good Ol' Boys' Clubs. (the Examined Life)

Article excerpt

THIRTEEN MEN. ALL BUT ONE WHITE. AVERAGE age: 60-something. Dressed like medieval royalty, they are looking pretty nervous. The photographs that accompanied the news coverage of the pope's "emergency" meeting with the U.S. cardinals last April did not engender much hope. Neither did the meeting. Even before the bungled press conference, I didn't have much confidence that they were capable of fixing the colossal mess our church is in.

I remember having a similar feeling at my first U.S. bishops' meeting as a reporter nearly 10 years ago. From the back of the room I was struck by how identical they all looked--same black suit, same gray hair, even the same balding spot on the back of most of their heads. This is my church? These old men are supposed to represent me?

As a young Catholic woman, I've kind of gotten used to the Catholic Church not reflecting me. Its language doesn't include me, its homilies hardly ever pertain to my life, and many of its jobs are not open to me. My disconnection seems to increase as I look higher up the hierarchical ladder. To them, my opinions don't matter, my concerns are not priorities, and my requests for change are a nuisance.

In a word, I feel powerless.

The priest pedophilia crisis that has so shaken the church is ultimately about power. It's about a powerless child being abused by someone in a position of power by virtue of his ordination. It's about church leaders feeling so smug about power that the church teaches has been divinely granted that they choose to cover up horrible sins and crimes, rather than submit themselves to any outside authority. And it's about a lazy Catholic laity that willingly has handed over its own power so they don't have to take responsibility for their church.

Once during a debate about some feminist issue, a friend half-joked, "It's always about power with you women, isn't it?" Yes, it often is. Funny how those who don't have much access to power seem to be quasi-obsessed with those who do. The power-deprived also tend to have a particular sensitivity to abuses of power by those in authority, having occasionally or often been victims of the power differential themselves.

I think that's why the current clerical scandals have sometimes struck women a little differently than men. …

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