Reimagining Women in the Church
International Women’s Day was earlier this month – a time to celebrate the growing recognition of the importance of women.
World religions, including Christianity, however have contributed to the denigration and oppression of women, so says Dr Michael O’Sullivan SJ. He is Director of SpIRE –the Spirituality Institute of Ireland – and author of the book How Roman Catholic Theology Can Transform Male Violence against Women.
Dr O’Sullivan himself added that he was thrown by a question that his friend asked him on whether he would complete his ordination given the situation against women. A comment that made him “sit up” and determine that his priesthood should be at the service of women.
When first launched the book was described as “groundbreaking”, by Professor Linda Hogan of Trinity College Dublin, who said that O’Sullivan’s theological analysis of male violence against women “brings a new and unique perspective to bear on the discussion about the sexist substrata of the Christian tradition. It treads where few male theologians have previously gone.”
In this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, Michael says that violence against women is a world-wide phenomenon, and that Christian and Catholic teaching must be called on to answer as to how it has contributed to this. He is however hopeful of another way.
He outlines the gospel stories of the New Testament, and the actions of Jesus with women, can serve as a counter-cultural challenge to the prevailing oppression experienced by many women. He explains to Pat Coyle that the fact of Jesus’ maleness should be seen not as a sign that men are more “godly” but rather held up as a role model for how men should behave towards women.