Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 17, 1999
Strive for reconciliation
Sisters urged to defuse polarization stirred by feminism
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
If Catholics want unity, they must rid themselves of their bitterness and anger and take concrete steps toward reconciliation, says a Newman Theological College professor.
"For Christians, reconciliation is not an option. It's the real stuff," said Shirleyan Threndyle, a professor of biblical studies and systematic theology at the college.
She said forgiveness and reconciliation are needed today in the Church to defuse a crisis of polarization brought on by feminism.
But Threndyle said reconciliation begins with love. "It's to consciously decide to love," she said. "It means we recognize that Christian love means forgiveness (and) we consciously decide to forgive."
Threndyle made the comments May 8 to the annual assembly of the Council of Women Religious at Holy Cross Convent. Some 60 sisters from at least 33 congregations in the Edmonton Archdiocese attended the assembly.
Reconciliation: Women and the Church was the title of Threndyle's talk, a theme which Grey Nuns Sister Rose Anne Gauvin, the council's chair, said women religious need to explore if Church unity is to be achieved.
"We all need reconciliation . . . within our families, our communities, the (Church) hierarchy," Gauvin said. "It's part of healing. If we forgive, there will be more peace in the world."
Threndyle said the "feminism challenge" has placed the Church "in a crisis on the position of women."
She described the crisis as "polarization," saying it can be found on many levels, the first being between women dedicated to feminism and those who don't tolerate the word.
The second polarization is between men and women who now work together in an atmosphere of suspicion where each wonder who will score the next point.
Third, feminists and papal teaching are radically polarized, noted Threndyle.
"A small example can be found in the fact that even English translations of papal documents still use exclusive language," she said. "Feminists have challenged the official Church and it has reacted as if feminism is a foreign virus that the Church must protect itself from."
The polarization between feminism and papal teaching is by far the most serious, contended Threndyle, "because it causes good women to either leave the Church or really dig in their heels and it gives other good women the ammunition to glorify the past."
Threndyle said negative relationships between men and women intensify because "men knew they were right all along and women are not being heard."
People who raise questions about the Church are dismissed as "disruptive," she noted. "Restoring harmony means preserving the status quo."
It doesn't have to be so, Threndyle said, challenging her audience to see differences (between people) not as negatives, but as challenges.
"Differences challenge us to be able to honour the uniqueness of the other." And she warned that stereotyping any person "robs them of their uniqueness."
Threndyle said reconciliation will happen only if people decide to love each other, as mandated by the Gospel.
Forgiveness, the professor continued, also allows people to see themselves "no longer as victims but also as people who have also hurt others (and) as people loved by God."
Forgiveness means "what happened in the past is not the final word," she said.
While forgiveness and reconciliation are necessary to achieve Church unity, women must be careful not to surrender their right. "We have a right to be acknowledged, to be heard, to be valued and to be honoured," Threndyle said.
"But that can only happen when we listen, value and honour the other."