"Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone." (John 8:7)
This is one of the most famous lines of the New Testament. This single phrase, like so many of Jesus' parables, tells us so much while saying so little. This is one of my personal favorites, and I like to think back to it whenever I need to check my own actions.
However, I don't want to write about this line. I want to focus on the story that surrounds it. A woman was caught committing adultery and was to be stoned, before Jesus stopped her accusers with this single, powerful sentence. The first time I heard this verse, I thought,
Where is the man? She can't commit adultery by herself!
What is his punishment?
(Sorry, Mom, this was a tough one to answer to a Third Grader!)
As unfortunate as it sounds, the Bible gave me my first taste of sexism. In those days, most women weren't really allowed to do much aside from serving the men of the house. Jesus was a man, God is a man, all of Jesus's apostles were men, and there didn't seem to be any room left for women. Of course, we can all name a few - Mary, Mother of God, Miriam, Ruth, Mary Magdalene. However, exceptions alone cannot change a rule.
Every leader in the Catholic Church is male - from the Pope to bishops to deacons, and there again seems to be no room for women. Priests talk about receiving a "call" from God to serve the church, but because of a single chromosome, women apparently cannot receive that same call. We, as a gender, are severely underrepresented in historical texts and in modern leadership.
Growing up, I struggled to reconcile my gender identity with my religious one. It's hard to find a place to belong in a religion that sometimes seems to not want you. Where can I fit in?
God does not see gender, people do. And people are imperfect in many ways, as we all know well. The central piece of being Catholic is forming a strong relationship with God, and if you can put away the politics and the rules and the thousands-of-years-old Biblical laws, there is God, at the center of it all, preaching equality and love - two things that pretty much everyone can get behind.
For me, the journey to becoming a woman in my Catholic community has consisted of me being able to claim the religion in my own way. My role models are female saints who stood up for what they believed in even when they were told that they couldn't, simply because of their gender - St. Lucy, Joan of Arc, and many more. I have to be able to put aside the history of the Church and know that God is with me now, and that he loves me as much as any of his other sons and daughters. I have to be able to love myself and do what I can to represent the Catholic values of kindness, acceptance, and forgiveness.
I am a Catholic, I am a feminist, and while the Church isn't perfect, God is - and that is what I choose to believe in.
Weekend Office Staff