18 AUGUST 1920



One Hundred Years ago, the 19th Amendment was ratified, stating that the right to vote was not to be based on sex: Women, finally, after many years of struggle, were told that they could not be denied the opportunity to vote simply because they were female.

This struggle did not start in the 20th Century nor even in the United States. The struggle for equal rights has been present for centuries and throughout the world. The struggle for class division; slaves and master, dominance and subservience has been present from the time of Adam and Eve.

We read the ancient stories that speak of women being sold at an early age. Once they were sold, they no longer belonged to the family that they grew up in; they were property with no rights. Their priority in life was to give birth and to satisfy the husband – to be his servant. The man who purchased here, owned her. If her daughters grew up, they would be sold while the oldest male child would inherit the property or estate. This system was part of the ancient world and it is still present in much of the modern world. The Dowry was still present in the not too-distant past and it is still the custom for the parents of the Bride to assume the costs of the wedding celebration.

This Patriarchal Culture has been accepted as the norm and has only recently begun to fall apart. As we know, even today within our own culture, there is still a strong reaction against any change. Women are seen by many men as toys or things to be used and discarded. Physical and Psychological abuse are still acceptable by many. There are many who remain convinced. that the proper role of women is to satisfy their husbands at all times. Only in recent years have women been enabled or encouraged to achieve a University Degree or positions of authority and responsibility within the wider culture. In the wide world of Organized Religion, women are accepting and being accepted in roles of leadership.

The main struggle in this last reality is found within the Catholic Church which is still Patriarchal. Women are not made in the Image of Jesus – who is male – goes the argument, so therefore they are not allowed to preach or to preside at Sacramental celebrations. At gatherings of the Cardinals or Bishops for decision making, women have no active voice – only men are allowed to vote on issues that involve family, sexuality, authority, and general human needs for healing and proclaiming the word. However, women do in fact proclaim the word by their actions – by their compassion and acts of service and mercy. In todays world, women outnumber men in actual ministry in the church.

We still struggle with the idea and reality of class divisions, based on Race, Sex or Sexuality, Ethnicity, or whatever divisions we maintain. We still tolerate slavery through allowing others to work for less than a living wage and denying them educational opportunities, medical and psychological care and freedom from fear. We, historically and geographically, find ways to separate people that we are afraid of – we want want them to fear us and to act in submission to their superiors. And we feel inferior to others in positions of dominance – of authority. This seems to be a human trait – and maybe it is a trait that is part of life itself – a trait of survival.

In any case, we are as people, afraid to change – to let go of the old ways of thinking and acting. We see around the world, anger and fear of letting go of the old ways. The more we are threatened, the more we fight back by bullying and insulting those who are agents of change. We find it easy to condemn those who have forgotten their place – who aspire to something better.

This is not an American Trait, it is a Human Trait and we share a common humanity that extends backwards more that Two Hundred Thousand Years. The struggle is to let go of our fears and anger and understand that we share a small planet together and a common ancestry and that we need one another in our common struggle – each person has something to offer and is needed – we each add to the whole. What is needed today is to recognize that we, in our common humanity, are wounded – and in need of healing. We need to recognize our wounds and how we wound one another. We are called to build community – a common home and to let go of the tearing apart and constructing walls.

This to me, is the difficult journey that we share each and every day. This is the call of the Gospel – of the Incarnation of God into the struggle and pain of humanity. We share the freedom to choose the road – a road that demands trust and an open mind and heart. We are called to let go of our blindness and open the eyes of our heart in order to see – to look beneath the surface into the depths of life and find ourselves reflecting the face of God. We are called to move from an emphasis on the negative or death aspect of reality and to move along the road of positivism and trust – to let go of the fears and to trust in the Spirit of Life that walks within us and all of Creation Becoming.

We as a Catholic Community, are beginning to examine the patriarchal structure that has kept women from positions of authority and responsibility. We have continued to exclude women from decisions that affect men, women and children – families and humanity. We need to look deeply into our history and our soul and to understand that the Community has been deeply wounded and weakened over the centuries by our requirement for a male-only aristocracy and denying that Male and Female we are all created in the image and likeness of God – and that we need to let go of our fears in opening up community to the feminine voice of the Holy Spirit.


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