Face It: President Trump Is Right; There Was “Violence on Many Sides”

Trump Charlottesville

Commentators on both left and right were understandably outraged by President Trump’s tepid remarks about the violence in Charlottesville last weekend. He condemned what he referred to as “violence — on many sides.”

Can you imagine his words if the driver of that car in Virginia had been Muslim?

Yet, the president’s (for once) measured response proves to be unwittingly perceptive and wise.

That’s because in Charlottesville, there was indeed violence on many sides. In fact, if we adopted President Trump’s low-key perspective, our responses to violence in any form might be similarly measured and sage. It would help us recognize that in Charlottesville only the antifa violence enjoyed any degree of justification.

Let me explain.

Violence is never one-dimensional. As Dom Helder Camara, the sainted Catholic archbishop of Recife in Brazil, pointed out years ago, in most cases, there is a predictable “spiral of violence” that is often overlooked. It involves structures, self-defense, police response, and sometimes terrorism on the part of individuals and (most often) the state.

Consider Charlottesville; it clarifies by representing every turn of the spiral.

In the eyes of African-Americans, the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee represents the structural violence of slavery and white supremacy. Such institutionalized violence is invisible to most white people. However, the alt right reaction to the statue’s removal finally rendered monument’s real institutionally violent meaning unmistakable. It represents white nationalism, and not “southern pride” after all. As a result, nationalists’ march was itself an act of institutionalized violence.

That violent assertion of white supremacy led to a second level of violence on the part of African-Americans and their allies. When their peaceful protest was attacked by the white nationalists, the protestors defended themselves – yes, violently. Archbishop Camara identified such self-defense (against institutionalized cruelty) as virtually the only form our culture recognizes (and typically condemns) as violence. And yet, it is perhaps, the only justifiable type. Everyone has the right to self-defense.

The third level of violence entered when the Charlottesville police “stood down” in the face of the mayhem taking place before their eyes. Usually, police (third level) response simply restores the violent status quo ante. Ironically, however, in the case of Charlottesville, it was police inaction that represented Dom Helder’s third level of violence.  Their standing-down facilitated the alt right attacks.

Finally, in Charlottesville last weekend, there was the terroristic violence of the Nazi sympathizer and Trump supporter who murdered Heather Heyer and injured many others when he plowed his car into those demonstrating against the institutionalized violence represented by white supremacists. That’s the fourth turn in the “spiral of violence.” In the case of Charlottesville, such terrorism too was aligned with violence’s structural form.

Unfortunately, the driver’s terroristic expression might soon be institutionalized itself as states like North Carolina are on the verge of granting motorists the legal right to run over protestors who might be blocking traffic. In that case, an individual’s terroristic act would be transformed into state terrorism, which happens to be terrorism’s most common incarnation as seen, for example, in drone killings, torture, and threats of nuclear war.

So, as you can see, the president was right. Violence is indeed many-sided. Applying Trump’s Principle of Understanding might well make him and all of us much more thoughtful and cautious in responding to tragedies like Charlottesville last week. It would always prompt us to examine context and make crucial distinctions. It would help us recognize that of all forms of violence, only the second (self-defensive) level has any hope of justification at all.

Violence is a powerful word. President Trump inadvertently reminds us that we should be careful in its use and in any actions it might inspire.

For Lower Fares and Better Service, Nationalize Public Transportation!

Fair Skies

The airline industry is in big trouble with most of us, I’m sure you agree. I mean fares keep going up with no end in sight. You have to pay extra for any baggage you need to check. The seats keep getting smaller, and sometimes it costs you more for slightly wider accommodations even in the coach section. Meals that used to be free now come in little boxes at hefty prices. And even if you’ve paid for all of that, they still might call in the cops and evict you, bloody your nose, and knock your teeth out so that airline employees might take the seat you purchased, and more conveniently hitch a ride to their next gig.

I was reminded of all that when on my last Delta flight, I read an ad in that airline’s August edition of Sky Magazine.  It was headlined “Help Us Defend U.S. Jobs.” In part, the text complained:

“The nations of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are attempting to take over international aviation by funneling billions of dollars in subsidies into their state-owned airlines. U.S. airlines . . . can’t compete with the unreasonably low prices of the gulf airlines. And for every route lost, 1,500 Americans lose their jobs. Left unaddressed, the U.S. aviation industry is at risk . . . Join the fight to protect fair trade and American jobs.”

Say what? “Unreasonably low prices?” They want me to campaign against that? Hmm.

So, what’s Delta’s real problem here?  The ad says the company’s worried that it can’t compete with state-owned airlines that are less concerned with turning a profit than with serving the public – providing more of what travelers want: cheaper fares, good service, no extra charges, and free food and drinks.

How do Qatar, UAE and others do that? Simple: they funnel billions of dollars of investment (Delta misleadingly calls it “subsidies”) into the airlines they own rather than making profit maximization their be-all and end-all. Or, as it’s expressed at DELTA.COM/OURFIGHT: “Because they have large sums of money available, these . . . airlines don’t have to rely on profit.”

What’s wrong with that?

According to the Delta ad quoted above, what’s wrong is that the state-owned airlines are more successful; they’re getting bigger market shares and, Delta claims, costing Americans jobs – 1500 for each lost route. In fact, if it weren’t for the questionable protectionism of U.S. regulations, those airlines would enter our domestic market and take over there as well.

But, of course, there’s a cure for all of that too – one that will not only save those jobs, but likely get us cheaper fares and better service. It’s to follow the example of Delta’s vilified competitors: invest our tax dollars in U.S. airlines too. Nationalize them!

Don’t worry: no jobs will be lost. (It takes just as many people to run state-owned airlines as private ones.) And just watch: those fares will become “unreasonably low” in the process. Services and passenger perks might even reach the level of those gulf companies that so irritate Delta and other U.S. airlines.

Bring it on!

And, while you’re at it, how about investing “billions” of our tax dollars in state-owned railways, rather than in further bloating the defense budget? The state-owned China rail system runs bullet trains that travel at speeds over 200 mph. Meanwhile our under-funded Amtrak locomotives continue plodding along no faster than they did about 50 years ago.

Thank you, Delta, for making the point so exquisitely: when “airlines don’t have to rely on profit” consumers benefit. Air fares become “unreasonably low.”

At least as far as public transportation is concerned, socialism is far more efficient than capitalism.

A Diana Ross Concert Sparks Memories of the African-American Rebellion of 1967

Diana Ross Pic

Last week, my wife, Peggy, and I attended a Diana Ross concert at the Interlochen Music Camp here in Michigan, where we’re spending our summer. The sold-out performance was spectacular as the 73 year-old Ms. Ross reprised hits like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Baby Love,” and “Stop, in the Name of Love.”

The nearly all-white crowd of Baby Boomers spent most of the 90-minute show on its feet applauding, dancing and singing along with the still-beautiful diva who was supported by a remarkable band and a quartet of dynamic back-up singers.

It all took us back to the ‘60s and ‘70s before our hair turned white.

It also made some of us recall an era before Ms. Ross’ hometown, Detroit, became a byword for urban decay reminiscent of the Third World. Back then, it was a vital industrial and cultural center, the birthplace not only of The Supremes’ Motown Sound, but of the Black Panthers, and the focus of the northern phase of the Civil Rights Movement that changed our nation forever.

That phase had protestors responding to poverty and police brutality more violently than our domesticated history would have us recall. Exactly 50 years ago in 1967, it turned Detroit into a flashpoint of the Great Uprising of the African American working class, whose effects are still being felt today.

The rebellion (portrayed in the mainstream press as “riots”) began in Newark, but quickly spread to the Motor City and almost 400 U.S. urban centers. In fact, between 1960 and 1971 there were nearly 1000 such uprisings across the country.

In response the government called out the National Guard. While cities burned, troops with bayonets fixed marched on protestors; tanks rumbled down ghetto streets.

That sort of response to such widespread unrest indicates a nascent civil rights revolution, not mere riots.

The bi-partisan Kerner Commission underscored that point, when it examined the rebellion’s causes. Its Report blamed the uprisings not on the protestors, but on white racism.  It called for the equivalent of a huge Marshall Plan to counter the effects of the police brutality and deep poverty that, it said, had sparked the violence.

However, instead of massive investment in public schools, housing, and social programs, the “riots” in Detroit and elsewhere evoked a counter-revolution that we experience still today.

The reaction began with the election of Richard Nixon in 1968. His Southern Strategy took advantage of the very racism denounced by the Kerner Report. Ironically, Nixon’s approach used religion to appeal to the anti-black sentiments of white Christian Evangelicals especially in the nation’s South. It transformed the Republican Party into the out-of-control reactionary force it now represents under Donald Trump. It eventually gave rise to stop-and-frisk policing, to the massive incarceration of blacks and Latinos, and to the widespread execution of unarmed black men and women at the hands of increasingly militarized urban police forces.

Additionally, the counter revolution saw defunding of public schools, public housing, and social programs. It witnessed the transformation of the War on Poverty into the War on Crime. It entailed capitalism’s abandonment of the working class, as it off-shored jobs vital to the economies of cities like Detroit, Newark, and Camden.

Finally, the right wing reaction to black rebellion suspended democracy itself in Detroit, as an unelected Emergency Manager overrode community welfare in favor of austerity measures that further penalized the poor. And as economist, Richard Wolff has indicated, the resultant and much ballyhooed “Detroit Renaissance” amounted to nothing more than gentrification on steroids, where billionaires are subsidized to build glitzy high-rises and restaurants.  Meanwhile on the periphery of apparent renewal, 40% of the population remains mired in poverty in a state where 48% of African-American children are poor.

What a contrast: the splendor and betrayed promise of Miss Ross and the Civil Rights Movement, on the one hand, and the disintegration of the counter-revolutionary Detroit (and America) on the other!

It’s time to reject the latter in all its brutality and to re-embrace the former with all the enthusiasm of those Boomers at Interlochen last week.

Without uttering a word about politics, Ms. Ross reminds us that we can do better. The Kerner Report tells us how.

Chemical Weapons Victims — Theirs and Ours: The Power of Photos

takeoverworld.info

It is extremely interesting to compare the Trump administration’s response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria and its apparent ignorance of similar weapons use by the U.S. and U.K. in Fallujah in March and November of 2004 under the leadership of Mad Dog Mattis, our current Secretary of Defense.

We all know about Mr. Trump’s reaction a few days ago to the deployment of chemical weapons in Syria.

In the face of denials by the Syrian government, and on evidence that remains undisclosed, the Trump crowd was determined to “punish” the al-Assad government for the heinous crime of using chemical weapons.

In his justification for “punitive measures” on April 6th, President Trump paid particular attention to the photographic evidence of chemical weapons use by the al-Assad government. Specifically, he reminded us of the child victims involved.

The pictures Mr. Trump was referring to included these:

Haley Gas Victims

And this one:

Gas Victims

And this one:

Baby Victims

But what about the U.S.-inflicted atrocities behind photos like this one?:

Fallujah 1

Or this one?:

Fallujah 2

Or this one?:

Fallujah 3

According to a study published in 2010,”Beyond Hiroshima – The Non-Reporting Of Fallujah’s Cancer Catastrophe,” those are pictures of the deaths and birth defects directly resulting from “American” use of depleted uranium and chemical weapons including white phosphorous in Fallujah in 2004.

And it’s not simply a question of birth defects.

According to the same study infant mortality, cancer, and leukemia rates in Fallujah have surpassed the rates recorded among survivors of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Following the Fallujah offensives, the rates in question rose by 60%. Dr Mushin Sabbak of the Basra Maternity Hospital explained the rises as resulting from weapons used by the U.S. and U.K. “We have no other explanation than this,” he said.

And the problem extends far beyond Fallujah. Increased cancer rates and astronomical rises in birth defects have been recorded in Mosul, Najaf, Basra, Hawijah, Nineveh, and Baghdad. As documented by Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan, there is “an epidemic of birth defects in Iraq.” She writes,

“Sterility, repeated miscarriages, stillbirths and severe birth defects – some never described in any medical books – are weighing heavily on Iraqi families.”

Australian anti-war activist, Donna Mulhearn, who has travelled repeatedly to Fallujah, talking with Iraqi doctors as well as affected families, added to the list:

“babies born with parts of their skulls missing, various tumors, missing genitalia, limbs and eyes, severe brain damage, unusual rates of paralyzing spina bifida (marked by the gruesome holes found in the tiny infants’ backs), Encephalocele (a neural tube defect marked by swollen sac-like protrusions from the head), and more.”

Several highly remarkable aspects of the situation just described immediately present themselves. For one there is the almost total silence of the media about the crimes of the U.S. and U.K. Then there is the lack of outrage (or even awareness?)  on the parts of President Trump and U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley.

And what about those members of Congress so concerned about damage and pain to unborn fetuses? (I mean, what we have here in effect is a massive abortion operation by the United States in an entirely illegal war which has already claimed more than a million mostly civilian casualties.)

However, what is most remarkable about the contrast between responses to Syria and Iraq is the continued surprise of “Americans” by reprisal attacks by Muslims, which continue to be identified by our media as irrational and evil “terrorist attacks.”

That is, on the one hand, the U.S. feels free to self-righteously rush to judgment and “punish” the suspected perpetrators of the Syrian attacks. But on the other, it downplays, classifies, or otherwise suppresses photographs and scientific reports testifying to its own much worse crimes. Once again, those outrages are carried out against unborn fetuses, living children, women, the elderly and male adults – the very same population cohorts that so concern our “leaders” when they are attacked by designated enemies.

The logic is inescapable. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If the U.S. is outraged by the killing of innocents and feels the need to “punish” the suspected perpetrators, someone else the right to treat the United States in the same way. (We might not know of the crimes of our government and military, but the whole Arab world knows!)

So we shouldn’t be surprised by any “terrorist” attacks that mimic on a comparatively small scale the U.S. response to the killing of the “beautiful little babies” that so concern Mr. Trump.

That’s the cost of hypocrisy, double standards, wars of aggression, and the use of outlawed weapons of mass destruction. In war ghastly offensives elicit ghastly counter-offensives.

Once Again We’re Asked to Fall for the WMD Gambit

cluster bombs

Minutes ago I learned that the U.S. has done it again. On mere allegations of WMD use, without public debate or serious investigation, it has launched a barrage of missiles – this time on Syria.

The justification? The Syrian government allegedly used poison gas that killed women and children – “Babies, beautiful innocent babies” as our president put it.

Meanwhile, the United States itself:

  • Is killing women and children every day in Iraq’s Mosul, where it bombs hospitals and mosques.
  • It is supporting and directly participating in a war on the Middle East’s poorest country, Yemen, There, incessant bombings over the past two years have killed 10,000 civilians.
  • In Yemen 17 million people (!) including innumerable “beautiful babies” are under threat of famine directly caused by the rich United States and its super-rich ally, Saudi Arabia. No word of reversing policy. We shed not a tear.
  • None of this even takes into account the 30,000 children who die each day from absolutely preventable hunger. They will be as predictably dead tomorrow as if President Trump shot them one by one in their beautiful little heads.

What does all of this mean?

It means that on principle, the United States doesn’t care about killing civilians or “beautiful babies.” Somehow, it’s the manner of killing them that is objectionable. If civilians starve to death, that’s apparently O.K. If they are slaughtered by bombing, that’s O.K. too.  It’s acceptable even if women and children are killed by the banned chemical weapon, white phosphorous (as they were in Iraq’s Fallujah under Mad Dog Mattis – our current Secretary of Defense) or by banned cluster bombs which end up killing and maiming children because unexploded, brightly-colored ordnance looks like toys.

But poison gas is somehow different. Decapitation is somehow different. Barrel bombs are somehow different – even though its civilian victims are just as numerous and dead as those killed by phosphorous or cluster bombs, or by Cruise Missiles.

And where does all the bombing get us? Absolutely NOWHERE! NOTHING positive has been accomplished by these incessant acts of war committed by the country Dr. King described as the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. NOTHING positive has been served by the wars-without=end waged by our Amerika identified by most of the world as the greatest threat to its peace and security.

How long can we endure the hypocrisy before we all rise up against the warmongers who pretend to lead us?

This is absolutely intolerable!

A Boisterous Meeting with Republican Congressman, Andy Barr

Andy Barr

On Saturday, I attended a raucous meeting with Andy Barr – the Republican lawmaker who represents Kentucky’s 6th congressional district. About 300 people were there, and were loaded for bear.

In the hubbub before the meeting, a friend told me that Barr had scheduled the Richmond gathering to avoid an even bigger assembly in Lexington. According to my friend, Barr’s original intention was to meet his constituents there at the Kentucky Theater. However, anticipation of a huge angry crowd led the congressman to relocate to Richmond’s smaller community, where he evidently thought fewer would be in attendance. (I’m sure he was surprised that so many people showed up anyway – no less angry, it’s certain, than Lexingtonians.)

Meanwhile back in Lexington, the meeting went on as planned. However, audience questions were addressed to empty chairs representing the “empty suits” who declined their constituents’ invitation, viz. Mr. Barr, Mitch McConnell, and Rand Paul.

The Richmond meeting began with everyone standing, hands over heart reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance.” For me it was the Colin Kaepernick moment I’ve been long promising myself. I remained seated to protest the Neo-fascism increasingly associated with the national banner so profoundly dishonored by our current “leadership.”

Then Barr gave a tedious presentation on Trumpcare. He described it in terms of a “liberation” from the Obamacare that, he said, all of us hate. [The remark drew boos and cries of dissent from the crowd that gave no evidence of Trump supporters other than Mr. Barr’s staffers. (And I found myself even wondering about them!)]

Barr’s Power Point presentation on the American Health Care Act (aka Trumpcare) was full of jargon and blah-blah. The crowd’s jeers showed it was clearly anxious to have its own voice heard. The representative and others from the audience had to repeatedly remind interrupters that they were only prolonging the congressman’s painful monologue, and needed to allow him to finish. Mercifully, he did after about 20 minutes. As one woman later scolded, “You have to learn to do less talking and more listening.”

Some of the questions that followed focused on Donald Trump:

  • “What is it like to work for a bat-poop (sic) crazy idiot like Donald Trump?” one woman asked.
  • “Lyin’ DJT has you Republicans looking like fools,” another commenter added.
  • “As a respecter of the Constitution, what are you going to do about Trump’s obvious breaches of the emoluments clause?” (Art. 1, section 9, clause 8)

However, most questions addressed wider-ranging issues. All of them showed that their posers had done their homework. The questions addressed health care, climate change, discrimination against Muslims, provisions for persons with disabilities, taxes, the defense budget, and defunding of the arts and public radio. Nearly all of the questions were highly charged with emotion.

Responses from the congressman were what you’d expect:

  • Trumpcare offers you choice and saves money.
  • There are many opinions about the extent of human causes of climate change, so we don’t want to act in haste. (This response prompted the questioner to reply, “Sir, your stunning ignorance on this question represents a failure in your solemn responsibility as our representative to be better informed.”)
  • During his speech to congress (9/24/15) even Pope Francis didn’t call for more government laws. (Clearly, Mr. Barr was unfamiliar with the pope’s eco-encyclical Laudato Si’ (LS). There Pope Francis calls on national governments to submit to an international body with legislative authority to protect rainforests, oceans and endangered species, as well as to promote sustainable agriculture (LS 53, 173-175).
  • Radical Islamic terrorism is the number one threat facing our country. (Evoking laughter, boos and general dissention from the audience)
  • The budget deficit means we have to cut back on public spending. (Provoking a person beside me to yell out, “How about taxing the rich?”)
  • Defense of the country is my number one responsibility.

Recently, on “Democracy Now,” Ralph Nader reminded viewers of the importance of attending meetings like the one in Richmond. It’s the principal place, Nader said, where citizens can exercise direct power over government officials scared-to-death of losing their jobs in 2018. Until Trump’s election, “Coffee with the Congressman” meetings had more staffers than constituents in attendance. Now across the country, the order of the day features standing room only audiences as loaded for bear as the Richmond crowd.

It’s up to us to keep the pressure on. Let’s make the next meeting even more uncomfortable for our government employees from the insulated Beltway.

(Sunday Homily) Pope Francis’ Suggests a Woman Pope!

Woman Pope

Readings for 3rd Sunday of Lent: EX 17:3-7; PS 95: 1-2, 6-9; ROM 5: 1-3, 5-8; JN 4: 5-42.  (Parenthetical numbers in today’s homily refer to Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel.)

Three years ago, I published a homily inspired by Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel (JG). I noted that what the pope said about women there was surprising and hopeful. In fact, I said, it suggested that women should run the church from top to bottom!

I still hold that opinion, even though The Joy of the Gospel and the pope’s even more important eco-encyclical, Laudato Si’, have virtually passed into oblivion. Neither is referenced much by the Church’s mostly backward-looking clergy educated under the reactionary pontiffs, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. They would rather talk about abortion and gay marriage.

My observations of three years ago remain relevant to today’s gospel reading – the familiar story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. The narrative says a lot about Jesus and his “preferential option” for women. It also exemplifies once again how the women in Jesus’ life were more perceptive and courageous leaders than the rather dull, timorous men with whom he surrounded himself.

Pope Francis, if not exactly on the same page as Jesus, remains only a few paragraphs behind. He might even lag a sentence or two behind his own reasoning processes.

Before I explain, recall today’s gospel episode.

There, Jesus finds himself in Samaria among “those people” the Jews hated. Since the reasons for the hatred were located in Israel’s distant past, many Jews probably remained foggy about the exact reasons for their anti-Samaritanism. No matter: they had no doubts that Samaritans were despicable. [Just to remind you: Samaritans were the ones in Israel’s Northern Kingdom who seven centuries earlier had intermarried with Assyrian occupiers. Like “collaborators” everywhere, Samaritans were considered unpatriotic traitors. Religiously they were seen as enemies of God – apostates who had accommodated their religious beliefs to those of foreign occupation forces. (Grudges connected with foreign occupation and religion die hard.)]

In any case, in today’s gospel we have the counter-cultural Jesus once again on the social margins transgressing his people’s most cherished taboos. It’s not bad enough that he is in Samaria at all. He’s there conversing alone with a woman, and a Samaritan woman at that! (What kind of self-respecting rabbi would do either?) And besides, it’s a loose woman who’s his partner in conversation. She has a shady past that continues to darken her life. She’s been married five times and is currently living with a man without benefit of wedlock.

Yet the compassionate Jesus eschews moralism and instead of scolding chooses this marginal woman to reveal his identity in ways more direct than to his male disciples. With no word of reproach, he tells her clearly, “I am the Messiah, the source of ‘living water’ that quenches thirst forever.” After her literalist failures to grasp Jesus’ spiritual imagery, the woman finally “gets it.” She calls her neighbors and shares the good news: “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?”

In sharing her good news, the Samaritan woman not only illustrates the privileged position of women in early Christian traditions (like the Gospel of John), she epitomizes as well the corresponding “missionary” role that Pope Francis centralizes in the Apostolic Exhortation that my friends and I have been discussing during Lent. There we find that, following Jesus, Pope Francis expresses a “preferential option” for women. He even suggests that women should be in charge before male priests and bishops.

I know; I know . . . You’re probably thinking, “But aren’t women the weak point of the pope’s ‘Exhortation?’”

True: that’s what everyone said immediately following its publication in 2013. Commentators said that Francis simply endorsed the position of his two conservative predecessors and excluded women from the priesthood. That said it all, they declared. It’s right there in black and white: the exclusively male priesthood is not open to discussion (104).

But there was more – lots more.

That is, while Francis’ rather wishful (and, of course, impossible) thinking clearly says “the reservation of the priesthood to males . . . is not a question open to discussion” (104), his prohibition actually downgrades the priesthood and bishops in the process, while raising to unprecedented heights the position of women precisely as women.

The pope’s reasoning runs like this:

  1. Why should women consider the priesthood so important? After all, it’s just one ecclesiastical function among others. That function is simply to “administer the sacrament of the Eucharist.” Apart from that, the priest has no real power or special dignity (104).
  2. Real Christian power and dignity come from baptism, not from ordination – or in the pope’s words: “The ministerial priesthood is one means employed by Jesus for the service of his people, yet our great dignity derives from baptism, which is accessible to all.” These words pull priests off their traditional pedestals and return them to the rank and file of “the People of God” along with other servants of their peers.
  3. Even more, according to the pope, women enjoy a dignity above bishops simply in virtue of their gender. The pope sets the stage for this conclusion by stating, “Indeed, a woman, Mary, is more important than the bishops” (104).
  4. Moreover, Mary “is the icon of womanhood” itself (285). That is, by looking at her, we see the idealized position that women should occupy – above both priests and bishops.
  5. According to Francis, this realization opens the door to women assuming unprecedentedly powerful positions in the church.
  6. He writes, “. . . we need to create still broader opportunities for more incisive female presence in the church (103). So he urges “pastors and theologians . . . to recognize more fully what this entails with regard to the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life” (104).

As one of those theologians the pope references, I suggest that his words in other parts of his Exhortation direct us to put women in charge of the church as a whole – including the papacy itself. After all:

  • “The church is a mother, and . . . she preaches in the same way that a mother speaks to her child” (139). (Why then expect men to preach like a woman?)
  • The faith of the church is like Mary’s womb (285). (This means that faith nourishes Christians in a uniquely feminine way.)
  • “. . . (E)very Christian is . . . a bride of God’s word, a mother of Christ, his daughter and sister . . .” (285). (“Every Christian!” Is it possible to issue a clearer invitation to men – including the hierarchy – to recognize their own feminine qualities so essential to Christian identity? And who can better exemplify and evoke those qualities than women leaders?)
  • The “female genius” (with its “sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skill sets”) equips women more than men to be the out-going missionaries the pope’s Exhortation centralizes (103).
  • And since “missionary outreach is paradigmatic for all the Church’s activity” (15), it seems that women “more than men” are uniquely equipped to embody the essence of what the church should be doing in the world.

My conclusion from all of this is simple. Regarding women, Pope Francis is far more radical than most realize (perhaps including himself). In fact, Francis’ “preferential option for women” actually mirrors Jesus’ choice expressed so fully in today’s gospel. There Jesus chooses a woman as an apostle (“one sent”) and preacher. Her simple words referencing her own uniquely feminine experience (“everything I’ve ever done”) persuade her village neighbors to meet Jesus and spend time with him. They then draw their own conclusions. They say, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves . . .”

All of this indicates that truly following the rabbi from Nazareth means thinking for ourselves and moving even beyond the pope’s perception of his words’ implications. Those words imply that the church and its mission are more feminine than masculine. They suggest that if only men (because of their physical resemblance to Jesus) can perform the newly demoted function of priest, then women’s physical resemblance to Mary uniquely qualifies them for offices “more important than the bishops.”

In the church hierarchy, what’s above a bishop? A cardinal, of course. And the pope is always drawn from the College of Cardinals. Hmm . . . .

Move over, Francis, make way for Pope FrancEs THE FIRST!