A Perspective From An Ordinary Member Of The Laity
by Aruna Rodrigues
The relevance of an ingrained sense of justice; the absence of feminine values in the Church and its implications for the spiritual and physical health of Church and society.
Aruna Rodrigues is in the business of ‘green power’. She lives in India where she promotes the use of solar electricity or ‘photovoltaics’, for sustainable solutions in a developing economy.
I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use (usurped by me from Galileo Galilei)
I write in the backdrop of the horror of Tuesday the 11th September, 2001. The same breed of terrorist issued a diktat in Kashmir, India, to Muslim Indian women a few months ago. They must do what they say, shroud themselves into invisibility; They must wear ‘burkhas’. They have thrown acid in the faces of women who have dared to disobey and have been emboldened to say they will even shoot. So yet again, woman is brutalised and left with no choice, notwithstanding a democratic Constitution. In the same vein, the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid, verbally abuses Shabana Azmi Indian Member of Parliament, publicly, when he referred to her last week as a “nachne ganewali tawaif”(a derogatory term for a vaudeville dancer, taken to mean a prostitute). We ought not to be surprised at all by this public ranting of a male cleric. We may dismiss him as a silly man, for a man that “hath no manners hath nothing”. Unfortunately, this won’t do, because we have many such “silly” men in our world who depersonalise women as “whore, wife or mother.” The sheer nerve, the tone and public delivery of the insult by the Shahi Imam is grave because it reflects a much wider and deep malaise. There is a certain satisfaction that Shabana Azmi got a raise out of him and that he has now shown his true colours. These colours reflect the derision and contempt with which a male-centred cult will always perceive women. The attitudes underlying such actions are mirrored in the Church, where women are the invisible majority, marginalized. The following incident is an (humorous) example of this mind-set reflected in all of the three monotheistic religions of the Middle East. While in Kuwait, my husband and I were required to register our marriage in the Civil Court of Justice. The laws were quasi-Islamic. The judge asked us whether the required number of witnesses were on hand, i.e. 2 men or 4 women. We all laughed, but both my husband and I were keenly aware that it was really no laughing matter. The fact is that the observance of such a law is rooted in Judaism. This is why St. Paul says quite emphatically, but inaccurately, that, Jesus after his resurrection appeared to Peter “first of all” and then to the rest of his apostles. The truth of course is, as a fact of record, that Jesus appeared “first of all” to Mary Magdalen, and instructed her to “tell” the apostles. But she being a woman, her testimony did not count with Paul; it would have been considered ‘unsafe’. Clearly, Paul in all conscience therefore did not think that his writings on the subject were a serious distortion of the ‘evidence of history’.
At the heart of the problem of all such behaviour, is the exclusion of values of the heart (feminine attitudes); the recurring problem in all arenas of dominance and war, that demonstrate the dreadful imbalance of the masculine and feminine in each of us. When the feminine is demolished, we get barbarism. The external is always a reflection of the internal. Only when these are in fine balance together, do we as women and men truly reflect the face of God. “God created man in the image of himself —male and female he created them“. (Note: ‘Man’ is a collective noun, ‘mankind’; hence the plural ‘them’ in Genesis 1:26-27 JB).
Church And The Diminishment Of Women
I am of course reminded, that the ‘fall’ was the result of a choice given to (both) Adam and Eve to choose between good and evil, say “yea” or “nay” to God. In other words, out of love, God puts a limit on His omnipotence (I say this reverently), in order to win our love as an offering freely given. Yet, astoundingly, Christianity too, of all religions, in an increasingly man-centred cult, has persistently warped this ‘God image’, given it its own twisted reconstruction into: He made man in His image, and woman who was taken from his side for his ‘satisfaction’, in the image of her husband, the man (Italics mine). Drawing whole cloth from the cultural prejudices of Judaism against women, particularly from his proud boast as a (‘bleeding’) Pharisee, as well as Platonic and Aristotelian influences, St. Paul laid the foundations for the Church, of what it means to be ‘masculine’: “—forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of man.” “Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man”. “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent”. “Wives submit to your husbands in everything” and finally, he entangles woman into the insidious trap of a guilty Eve: “— And Adam was not the one deceived and became a sinner —.” (1Timothy 2:12-15).
The question of course is: how is it that Christianity, rooted in relatedness and relationship, and the love of Christ, the definitive revelation of the face of God, (in Him all are equal), institutionalised derision and contempt for women; and reflected it and retained it through a Church Hierarchy, that has systematically eroded the personhood of women and driven them into some sub-human species?This remains a great puzzle to me, no matter how it is rationalised. The evil has been so deep-rooted and cancerous that it has persisted these 2000 years. In the Catholic Church, the Hierarchy’s continual refusal to admit women to ‘full communion’ is astonishing, especially since the basis of the discrimination against women has been so effectively demolished on all grounds, religious, secular, as well as, the all important ‘begetting’. Woman does not merely ‘conceive’, she too like the man, begets. The admittance of women to Orders in ‘other’ Churches is clear evidence of the recognition of Woman’s equal status. We are reminded that there is none so deaf as they who will not hear. The implications of such wilful obduracy and spiritual blindness are serious for the Institutional Church in the 21st century; her ‘authority’ is increasingly disregarded. Sane women and men will not be denied a ‘whole’, restored vision of the Christ that indwells us and will enter by whatever means, into Christian deliberations that effect our lives. These comments are neither unfairly tough, harsh, nor exaggerated. I am borrowing from the following research by Dr. Mary Ann Rossi, (legislative chair of the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women) published in Feminist Theology 4 (1993), in order to set in place the clear evidence of the abuse of women in Church and society. In part at least, this is due to the sustained warped thinking that “ethically, women are dangerous to the male”. This evidence serves as a necessary background to my viewpoint that the ‘Light’ within us, the ordinary members of the Body of Christ (the laity), has always been an adequate “lamp to our feet and a light to our path”, to provide us with an unfailing guide to justice and injustice, right and wrong; that this voice, a potent sensus fidei, has been consistently, wrongfully and arrogantly disregarded. It would seem that the Hierarchy must lay themselves open to the serious charge that Jesus reserved for the Scribes and Pharisees of His day. It is equally clear, that deviant and uncorrected power structures in the Church Hierarchy are in inverse geometric proportion to true Christian spirituality.
“This injustice (to women) stems from the misogynistic assumptions of the Christian teachings derived from Augustine, Aquinas, Gratian, and other founders of Christian precepts grounded in the Aristotelian conviction that females are defective males. The biological construction of woman’s inferiority is at least partially grounded in the thoughts of two of the most influential thinkers of all time, Plato and Aristotle. ‘Human nature being twofold, the better sort was that which should thereafter be called man’ (Timaeus 42 e). And twice Plato says: ‘Evil and cowardly men are reborn as women, that being the first step downward to rebirth as animals’ (42 b3c4; 90 e 6-91 a 4). The Aristotelian view is that females are misbegotten males, (De Generationel IV 6; Metaphysics X 9) perhaps caused by some adverse circumstance, such as a southeast wind that is moist”.
“Let us now consider the single most powerful and persistent model of the ‘good Christian woman’, Monica, the mother of St Augustine (d. 430), the Father of the church, who was the most influential author of Christian doctrines regarding the inferiority of women. Although Monica is often the scapegoat of the psychoanalysts of Augustine’s sexual hang-ups, she was abused by Patricius, her pagan husband, and her advice to battered women who came to her for help was to return to their husbands and suffer in silence. It was Monica’s virtue as a good Christian woman never to speak of what she endured at the hands of her violent husband. The heritage of Monica’s lesson is in the countless cases of wife battering, unrecorded, un-prosecuted, unacknowledged by their ministers, priests and fellow parishioners”.
“–We must acknowledge the purposeful if often subliminal cover-up or omission of female images in Scripture or commentaries on Scripture. For example, a French Jesuit translator of the Bible replaces the Greek verb for parturition—I am the God who gave you birth—with the phrase ‘I am the God who fathered you’. The transforming of the female apostle Junia (Rom. 16.15) into the male name Junias in the sixth century illustrates one way the testimony of women leaders was purposely erased from church history. This cover-up of women leaders in the early church fortified the male hierarchy in their consolidation of power; the exclusion of women from priesthood and the imposition of mandated celibacy by the canons of the fifth and sixth centuries were the capstones to this encapsulation of women’s basic inferiority to men. Battered women today still suffer the effects of this andro-centric perception of human nature” (Mary Ann Rossi, emphasis mine).
The Need To Speak Out
I have been content up to now, to merely ignore the ‘authority’ of the Church Hierarchy. This has been both practical and possible for me, as I have no vocation to the Priesthood. (What however, would I have done in an age when the Church held a stranglehold over the lives of common men and women, is a question that haunts me?). For me as a woman, the Catholic Church has lost its moral authority; its views lack legitimacy, an essential balance and therefore sense and sensibility. It was never a complicity of silence, just the need to get on with life and living and knowing that the Rome had little to contribute to this process. However, I must now change course and affirm my position in this matter, or I would be contributing to a process that has served to underpin male authority in the Church and its consequence of a misshapen society. It is moreover, disquieting to have to admit, that it is the secular world that has responded in truth, to issues of discrimination and injustice to women, rather than the Catholic Church and in this, secular society therefore, sees the face of Christ more clearly than we do. The uncomfortable truth plainly is, that the Hierarchy have denied the Holy Spirit for two millennia! Yet, there is this enduring image that sticks fast like glue in the heart and mind, it is the evidence recorded in the New Testament that the men all ran away, but the women stayed. The women have continued steadfastly to ‘stay’, these 2000 years since then.
A Sense of Justice– A Basic Posture Of The Soul
As a member of the Body of Christ, I very early on became aware of something I share with every other member and with every other human being. (However in Christ, we are also supposed to be listening with an additional faculty). This something is a basic posture of the soul, which plainly tells us (no discernment required here), when something is quite simply, just not fair — words that children have on their lips most frequently, with a forlorn cry, because they haven’t learnt how to live with unfairness. We tell them, now as adults, and are blasé about it, that the world is not fair. Well, we know that it sticks in the gullet; we can’t swallow it. It is basic, it is too much of a gut feeling and it doesn’t go away without a fully satisfying answer. To deny it, “goes against the goad”. That something is a sense of JUSTICE. It is quite precisely, a “sense”, as the phrase accurately describes it. If we stick with it, because we accept the nudge and wont fudge it or deny it, then we adhere to that other sense, INTEGRITY. One takes recognition of something that is there; the other takes courage. So I grew up feeling that all churches were wrong about two things. (a) Salvation for those outside the knowledge of Christ, who do not believe (honest disbelief or ignorance); (b) WOMEN. My litmus test, again involved two things: firstly, the posture of my soul as I have described it, or what is today called the Self. Well, in so far as this criterion goes, I could not square with either teaching, no matter how much scripture was quoted; and secondly, the effect or fallout of a teaching, its impact on goodwill or love and therefore peace. So the first matter led to the Crusades, the Inquisition, need I mention more; and the other to burning women as witches, and the most dreadful, discriminatory family law and rules for life, both secular and sacred which are in force even today. The Church has inflicted every bit of a ‘Ku- Klux Klan’ violence on women for 2000 years. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait too long for a 180-degree turn with respect to the first. It confirmed to my heart a very important lesson that we must square honestly with our inner sense, even should an angel from heaven tell us otherwise. Having said this however, it has to be admitted that it was far from easy; there was anguish. I write now with a hard -won confidence. Beyond anything else, I now know that there is one theme in Scripture that runs through like a beacon of light, connecting both the Old and New Testaments with an illuminated chord. It is the theme of Justice and Integrity. These are asked of us even before our recognition of God and His Son, before we can develop a heart of mercy. Without these two things, we can recognise nothing.
And what of those who lived in an earlier time of a despotic and politically powerful (institutional) Church, that exerted an iron control over its members. Well, I take comfort from Juliana of Norwich. She trembled, on the verge of heresy. She too could not, I think, believe that so many people would be damned for eternity. So she did something that is open to all of us, if we have the faith, she went above the heads of their Lordships in the Vatican. She took her problem directly to the Son of God. She was told not to worry her head over such things, with words that bring the most blessed comfort in all kinds of situations. “Everything will be all right; and everything will be alright and every kind of thing will be alright”. Well, “Alright”!
The Androgyne Wholeness Is The Restored Image Of The Creator
Taking my cue from such blessed advice, I approach this debate as a member of the laity and this is perhaps my best claim to relevance. I do however have one advantage. I live in the world of the “alternative paradigm”. I promote business solutions to the use of Solar Electricity or what in the trade is called, “photovoltaics”. This is the esoteric world of ‘alternative energy’”, and the ‘energy alternative’ where we habitually see the effects of an unbalanced world of only yang impacts which are destroying us. We deal with the environment and we constantly deal with men, from whose lips we hear a different language, because their many and varied scientific disciplines have demonstrated to them the truth of what these words mean in the real world, where life and nature speak: words like, holistic, wholeness, inter-relatedness, the web of life, and finally, to cap them all, “not the hard approach” but “tread softly”, because the soft, gentler answers, nurturing and conserving measures have in them the sustainable solutions for our planet. Thus, I have learnt that in most things, when we are plumbing the depths, we hear a common language. There is an obvious truth here, because the Creator is reflected in His creation. Man-Woman, now I would rather say, (to restore the balance), woman-man is His perfect ‘clone’ of Himself. We are therefore asked, in Christ, to co-operate in redeeming and restoring His true image. That image is a wholeness and balance of the masculine and feminine in all things, but most supremely woman-man. Rainer Maria Rilke once mused that we could never see God, an infinite mystery extending far beyond the capacity of our finite limits, but we might be able to turn and see the world as God sees it (James Hollis: Creating a Life).
An Equal Marriage, Wholeness and The Inner Marriage
In some ways, the sadder element of ‘keeping women out’ is the effect on men of a damaged ‘manhood’, the blocking or ‘taking up’ of the male psyche, what I call a separation from the sheep and goats. “We live in order to become conscious” (Jung): as Christians, women and men, this translates into the command to a Christ-consciousness and the ‘taking up’, is into His nature, all made possible because we are redeemed, but only realised if we claim His redemption with anointed eyes that see. The ordination of women is the tip of the iceberg, and a very large iceberg. The murky depths created by the ‘Hierarchy’, hide the most important issues, all converging around marriage. Yet, it is the issue of women’s ordination, even though it addresses a miniscule number of women as a proportion to the whole, that will correct the perspective on everything else: this is the fulcrum, for the simple reason that there can be no true equality for women, unless she is equal, in the eyes of the (whole) World before God.
That we perceive God as we are is an axiomatic truth. We therefore project onto God our flawed perceptions and He has had quite literally, a “hell of a time” correcting us, throughout history. This is the process of the growth of consciousness. (We have an invaluable ally in Jung, who has demonstrated so clearly through psychology, that the psychological goal of life points to the necessity for human beings to become “individuated”). It is inevitable that one of the most basic of ‘undifferentiated’ attitudes, man’s domination of woman, should become part of mankind’s religious history. It was and IS with the Jews. It is similarly, in Islam. We now have the anguish of the women of Afghanistan. (I have lived in the Middle East for 15years and know this at very close quarters). It is the problem with our Christian History, perpetrated by Paul no less, who reinforced and confirmed his cultural prejudices on the early Church. It is a sobering thought that Paul (who belonged to the strictest sect of Pharisees), was able to transcend his roots as a Pharisee on the central question of circumcision, but was unable to overcome the deep prejudices of his sect, when it came to women. I personally find this a very telling point. So, it suited an increasingly women-excluded early Church to accept St. Paul’s views with alacrity. It was a neat fit. Salman Rushdie’s ironic comment with regard to something similar in Islam was: “you can imagine how the lads went for that one”! Well, our “lads” went for this one, a classic case of “custom without truth being nothing else than ancient error” (Cyprian).
I believe that for us in these times now, such religious discrimination underpins the continuing inequality of women in the world. It must surely be our Christian aim, to demonstrate unequivocally to all, the justice of God, in matters first of God, that, before Him all are equal. Crucially, this also means equality in marriage. Marriage is God’s masterly touch on us, His grist to the mill, in which we work out our contrasting and seemingly opposite psychologies, part of God’s sacred paradoxes. This is the institution, somewhat mysterious, ordained by God (all the sacraments as I understand them, point to it), in which man and woman as “one flesh” realise their true wholeness; in a giving and a receiving, they achieve a balance within themselves, between masculine and feminine, yang and yin. This is the full image of Yahweh (Genesis 1:27 as specifically quoted by Christ) and I would add, the full measure of His creation. If Christ has indeed redeemed us, then so has marriage been redeemed, most surely, where we see Christ in the spouse (“each submits to the other as in Christ”). This is the way of growth for the vast majority of women and men, including I believe, for those called to be priests, both men and women. The ultimate aim of all growth of course, is union with God, or in psychological terms, the inner marriage of anima and animus, (the inner feminine and masculine side in man and woman respectively). I find it personally profound, (in the light of the discovery of the reality of the psyche in the latter half of the 20th century) that God, in both the Old and New Testaments, has consistently stirred man to use the rich symbolism and meaning of marriage, to reflect our union with Him.
The Russian philosopher Nicholas Berdyaev reached the same conclusions as CG Jung when he said: “Man is not only sexual but a bi-sexual being, combining the masculine and feminine principle in himself often in fierce conflict. —- It is only the union of these two principles that constitutes a complete human being”.
John Sanford, Episcopalian priest and well-known Jungian analyst and author further comments:
“Because of the importance of the anima (the inner feminine in man) in a man’s psychology, much of his psychological development depends on his capacity to become conscious of and give proper scope to, the feminine part of his nature. This is no simple task, if only because men find the idea that they are partly like women a strange and even a threatening idea. As a rule they are less gifted than women when it comes to psychological matters. For this reason Jung once referred to the task of integrating the anima as “the master-piece” of a man’s individuation”.
There is only one reality. There isn’t one outer and another inner. The ‘individuation’ process, or an increasing consciousness is the law of the soul of ‘man’, which if denied makes us sick. This is the astounding discovery made by CG Jung and increasingly confirmed by Christian Jungian psychologists, like their counterparts in the secular world, through dream analyses. We are indeed made in the image of God and in this important field of enquiry, it has been established, that; woman is no different, (which I daresay will be received by their Lordships of the Hierarchy with dismay!). But surely, we should be filled with both wonder and dismay: wonder that this truth was ‘plumbed’ by the author of Genesis so many millennia ago, which Jesus quoted in Mark 10:6 “But at the beginning of creation God “made them male and female””; and dismay that its true meaning has been so dreadfully distorted by a male dominated Church and society.
The profound truth then is, that we have always been equal in the sight of our Just and tender God and a sufficient number of women and men in every age have known this within themselves to make a difference, or how would we, indeed, how could we have carried on? It doesn’t bear thinking about, if it weren’t true. I will even bring in a new element, which to my mind is terribly important for civilised society today, because we are losing that sense. I am talking about ‘Equity’. We need the tenderness from man to woman that equity implies, his protectiveness and concern. We need his increasing awareness that to be these things is to be more fully a man, that it is not by demeaning women and feminine values that men will be men. For that matter, the last thing we need is ‘macho’ feminism. For the reverse is also equally true and is becoming increasingly apparent. On a lighter note, but not less valid for that reason, someone wisely remarked that one of the marks of a true democracy was the proportion of public toilets for men and women; they ought to be in a ratio of at least 1:3 respectively)!
But it is to secular society, that the laity has had to turn for light on the question of women’s rights, in the absence of any sanity from the Hierarchical Church. For the Holy Spirit will not be denied. The initiative for justice and the equality of women has been taken by democratic Nation States. We as a Church do not have a voice because the Hierarchy continues to weave the warp and woof of the fabric of life in the church, on a warped frame. They do not wear Christ and they will not allow others to do so either. And there is a downside when the Body of Christ fails to act. We do not address questions of marriage and sexuality foursquare, solidly. We squirm, we do not know the answers and we are not armed for warfare against sin in this very difficult area, for who will deny the lure of this most strongly felt of human drives.
The Way Forward is The Way of Jesus
So what do we do? Well Jesus surely provides the direction as always. He cast off His glory and entered fully into our experience. In the same way, we could not get justice from a male judiciary, for victims of rape, until we succeeded in our demand for women judges. This is commonsense, the simple truth of the matter. Thus, these questions must be answered by a responsible, whole and in that wholeness, a holy Church. There is only one way to make ourselves heard, to become relevant. We need ordained women who will make the Church truly whole and holy. It goes beyond this. We need to wear the whole armour of the ecumenical Body of Christ, in our spiritual warfare, for it seems to me that nothing less will be potent enough. So, we also need to be heard by the other churches. I draw a lot of nourishment from the voice of the ‘other’ churches. I observe quite clearly, that He speaks through them. The problem for me is that I do not hear Him speak through the Roman Hierarchy. This is also the viewpoint of the wider Church (other denominations).
A healing is required of a pretty deep sort. The tenor of the Popes apology, as I see it, points to this very clearly. It was a sop and is quite simply a wash out. Women’s ordination will not happen unless there is a turning back, a ‘metanoia’, which is the work of the Spirit. But how is the Holy Spirit to work? I believe the answer lies in how we “see” and history provides the clue. It is not through ‘prudence’ that we will get change, unless it is a heavenly prudence that we employ. I do not recall that Jesus employed ‘prudence’, at least, not what we would call prudence. When Kingdom values were being transgressed, He called the teachers of the Law “whitewashed tombs”, and much more. This is the strongest possible language and in Jewish terms, it would be difficult to match the insults that Jesus hurled at them. He said things like this in the hearing of ordinary folk, much to their delight. No sensitivity here, to being scandalous. But some will say, “that was Jesus. We had better be sure of what we do”. I agree. But let’s look further at that other example that is being used so much in our debate, i.e. Paul and the problem of circumcision for gentiles. The point here, this time is, that there wasn’t a more sacred and sensitive question for all Jewry. Even Peter could not see beyond to the new dispensation in Christ. Paul had to tell him “to his face” that he was wrong. He showed no regard for the ‘weak’ among us.
We have two recent laudable examples of such boldness: The first, Sister Christine Vladimiroff, Prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, delivered a fitting rebuke to the Vatican on the question of the participation of Sr. Joan Chittister in the Dublin Conference on WOW. More impressive than her rebuke, is her profound sense of true authority and integrity— a remarkable demonstration of the spiritual strength of a Woman’s way of being. This is what she said in her statement:
“There is a fundamental difference in the understanding of obedience in the monastic tradition and that which is being used by the Vatican to exert power and control and prompt a false sense of unity inspired by fear. —Sister Joan Chittister, who has lived the monastic life with faith and fidelity for fifty years, must make her own decision based on her sense of Church, her monastic profession and her own personal integrity. I cannot be used by the Vatican to deliver an order of silencing.
I do not see her participation in this conference as a “source of scandal to the faithful” as the Vatican alleges. I think the faithful can be scandalized when honest attempts to discuss questions of import to the church are forbidden.
Benedictine communities of men and women were never intended to be part of the hierarchical or clerical status of the Church, but to stand apart from this structure and offer a different voice. Only if we do this can we live the gift that we are for the Church. Only in this way can we be faithful to the gift that women have within the Church.
The second comes from Ireland. Two church commissions headed by Bishops Ryan and Walsh have concluded that St. Paul’s “single-minded chauvinism” contributed to domestic violence against women. They admit that for such reasons “the Irish Catholic Church was not without its share of responsibility for the suffering in silence and without redress of those enduring the wordless martyrdom of domestic violence“. They speak out against exploiting women and to this end have banned or excised Paul’s derogatory references to women in his epistles.
The ability to give meaning to life is the essence of leadership; it is the essence of true spiritual leadership. How can there be life in the Church without women? How can we see to a true ethic and morality of marriage, sexuality, family planning and societal structures, without women to give these direction, definition and therefore, full meaning in Christ? In the very current parlance of our times at this specific point in time, I have little hesitation in describing the Church’s action against women over 2 millennia as an act of terrorism, and a continuing act if the Hierarchy persist in their ‘business as usual’ mind-set and scandalous injustices. The scale is tragic because women are the invisible majority in Church and society. The Irish Bishops seem to agree.
Like the Benedictine sisters, we must acknowledge the potential for healing and reform that resides in every “new creation in Christ”, women and men who choose to be aware. This is not some vague theory but a dynamic, biblical reality that is activated by faith, hope and love. The souls agenda is a reworking and restoring of feminine values within ourselves and our communities, particularly, in religious observance and texts that demean and diminish the worth of women as human beings. It must be a refusal to tolerate any part of abuse or violence, including public verbal denial that is motivated by gender. We need honest debate and more of it, not the irrelevance of ‘infallible authority’. These are the kind of changes that will bring women into leadership, particularly spiritual leadership as priests, and therefore into that life that offers true, God-given choices that distinguish between life and death. We as Church must choose ‘life’. These are the kinds of “winds of change” that will bring in that “southeast wind that is moist”, with remarkably favourable circumstance. It was never adverse. It is time that the fiction (of the Aristotles, and all those saints; they were always fallible like generations who have misinterpreted St Paul), ran out of steam.