“It is dangerous to lock up women as Catholic theology does”

Go, my son, conquer the world; go, my son, win the heart of your beloved!», I heard recently during a round table dedicated to the place of the women of the Church. The statement made in the first degree did not provoke any obvious reaction in the audience. Let’s follow Spinoza’s valuable advice here: “Neither laugh nor cry but understand. » What does it take to see, read, hear and believe to prove (and quietly approve) that men are better made for action and women for love?

In fact almost every book or film in our cultural tradition takes us back to the Cinderella complex, this woman miraculously waiting to change the look of love. Sociologist Nathalie Heinich (1), by analyzing nearly 250 novels, shows that women without a sexual or matrimonial project also have no history. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that the “unbound” woman entered literature. In the past, only “sinking in love” gave women an existence in the account.

From Anna Karenina to Emma Bovary, drowning is not too far away for those who, with no other means of consciousness, have deposited their whole being in love. In the face of excitement, people will hesitate but don’t fully jump because they don’t seek their safety there. Count Vronsky contemplated suicide for a while but ended up reconnecting with his military obligations. The male hero moves, chooses and changes the world. “A good story is the story of someone doing things,” summarizes the novelist Alice Zeniter.

The orb of interpersonal relationships

It would appear that Catholic theology also endorses this poor consensus and offers women a limited number of possibilities that all revolve, more or less, in love. In her Apostolic Letter on the Vocation and Dignity of Women (Mulieris dignitatem), Pope John Paul II affirmed both the similarity of the gifts of baptism and a “feminine genius” expressing love, the specific vocation of women. The latter cannot “to find himself if not by giving his love to others”. Like a prophetess, she is responsible for awakening man to this mystery, which is more easily turned to others, when the latter becomes easier to manage things. What to look for to say? If love-Eros is often an announced disaster in literature, it is, in the form of Agape, the vocation of Christianity. Isn’t this a dedication programmed for the love of the “religion of love”?

No, that’s not enough. Than to say “I like you” still need to be able to say “I am”, like to give oneself, in order to have something to give. Love is not negation but a generous self -indulgence. “To love you must”, says Jankélévitch very simply. Isn’t it necessary to find oneself in order to give oneself to others? It expects to be already loved by God and all who have accepted us into existence, but also there is a quarto by myself “, according to Virginia Woolf’s expression, where we can exist independent of our emotional relationships. Facing the world of action is a way to identify and belong.

This is why it is dangerous to confine women to the orb of interpersonal relationships, as literature and theology do. Her identity, often relative to others, is often questioned: sometimes daughter of her father, then wife of her husband and finally mother of her child, she often changes the names of place, state and even old. Identity crises abound in those whose religion is love. And this weakness makes it easier to develop the most pathological and ultimately less altruistic forms of self -sacrifice.

The “Elementary Structures” of Sexual Difference

The Gospel, for its part, does not suggest a “theology of women”. He even told us a different story. There are already “unrelated women”, like Marie de Magdala, whose name does not show any connection to any man whatsoever (father, brother or husband). There are women who have illegitimate sex lives (like the Samaritan woman) who have not been humbled by Christ. These women always listen, help and understand faster than men who Jesus is and… they are almost always sent to conquer the world!

The Samaritan left “in the city” proof of what he saw. “Wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the world, they will also tell in memory of him, what he has done”, mentions the Gospel of Mark about the woman of Bethany. And this to Mary Magdalene, “Apostle of the Apostles”, in the words of Thomas Aquinas, who will be entrusted with the crucial mission of witnessing before the resurrection. The Gospels certainly passed the Bechdel test with difficulty because it should have been a reflection of their time, but women were not the only extras. They are making history and changing the course of the world.

A change in the place of women in the Church is expected again to question the images and discourses that shape the “elementary structures” of sexual difference. Masculine and feminine are always in conflict with each other like action and emotion, self -affirmation and acceptance of one another. This dialectic is very true. There is also much to be said about this masculine mystique of autonomy. Whether a woman or a man, one cannot separate love and action, the “subjugation” of others from the world (in the use of these negative terms often). Even Christianity, which believes that it flatters women, can sometimes reduce their access to the world by trapping them in the sweet prison of an incomprehensible charity.

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