Why should Christian feminists be interested in the origin of Vatican City?

April 24, 2013

Vatican City explained
C. G. P. Grey has a unique way of using brief videos with rapid narration and simple imagery to explain complex ideas and events. (You may remember that one of our Links of the Day last month pointed to Grey’s short video on how a pope is chosen.) In this newest video, he explains how Vatican City came to be a recognized nation, the world’s tiniest country, with its own laws and government, as well as being the location of the Holy See. And what does all this mean? This history seems pertinent in view of the increased questioning and criticism of the Roman Catholic Church’s “monarchical model of power” voiced especially in recent years by notable Catholic women, such as feminist theologian Mary E. Hunt, and “nuns on the bus” activist Sister Simone Campbell.

Campbell wrote in the Washington Post last week that she was hurt by the Church’s reaffirmation of the Vatican’s crackdown on the nuns. She sees such actions as being about politics, not about faith, and “women religious are a soccer ball between competing church departments.” In her essay, written for the Post’s “On Faith” section, Sister Simone explained: “In the United States, I think this struggle is about the enculturation of our faith into a democratic culture. In a democratic culture we know that diverse views lead to insight and deeper understandings. This is a good step forward in my view. The Vatican could benefit from such a cultural shift. But they remain in the European model of monarchy where the king is always correct and cannot accept diverse opinions.” In spite of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s reaffirmation of the censure of the nuns under Pope Francis, who in many ways had appeared to offer new hope, Sister Simone continues to give the new pope the benefit of the doubt—and allow more time for change and healing to take place. In the meantime, she says. “We will be faithful to Jesus’ call even though it is painful to be so misjudged by the leaders of our church.” See also her comments on NPR about the original reprimand issued last year.

Letha Dawson Scanzoni
Letha Dawson Scanzoni is an independent scholar, writer, and editor. In 1978, she and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott wrote Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, one of the earliest books urging evangelical Christians to rethink their views on homosexuality (updated edition, 1994, HarperOne). More recently, Letha coauthored (with social psychologist David G. Myers) What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage (HarperOne, 2005 and 2006). Another of Letha’s most well-known books is All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today, coauthored with Nancy A. Hardesty (Word Books, 1974; revised edition, Abingdon, 1986; updated and expanded edition, Eerdmans, 1992).

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