November 26, 2017
It does not take much thought to come up with the names of a half-dozen of political heroes whose sexual adventuring has been quietly ignored so that their marble memorials need not be torn down because of their exploitation of others and the hurt visited upon families who need fathers – no matter how bad they may be as husbands, and movements that need leaders – no matter how sleazy and seamy their ‘private’ lives may be. The recent spate of revelations about what goes on in the upper reaches of the entertainment and news industries in this country may seem disconcerting, but these folks have almost always moved from marriage to marriage to marriage and no one batted an eye. The priests who have exploited and even assaulted minors and needy parishioners are no better.
Wouldn’t you think that the rich and powerful could get along without such unseemly and shameful exploits?
Or maybe that is just the problem!
Behind the public face that each of us presents lives a person who knows how much energy goes into maintaining that face. That inner ‘self’ knows how little it deserves the power, the influence, the prestige or whatever that the face attracts. The powerless-ness, the unworthiness, the insecurity of the inner self demand conquests that would seem too small for the public person. But how else fill up the emptiness?
I have spent hours and hours and hours explaining to people why it is that the Catholic Church has not always been the strongest and most vocal supporter various aspects of the women’s movement. Perhaps the teachable moment is here at last and now or never.
Although the Church has always known that lust has a life of its own, it has also known that lust withers and dies in the presence of real self-giving love. Indeed, lust thrives best in the dark inner uncertainty I talked about above. That robs one of the sense that the true self could ever be a gift worth receiving by someone else.
When someone has more power than he or she has real love and a willingness to give of oneself, then
domination, competition and exploitation are all we can expect of them; not because of the power, but because of the failure to understand that love alone is credible – and ultimately acceptable – in human affairs.
The Church has been hesitant in its support of the feminism of the last few decades, not because it favors exploitation of women, but because that movement was too often cast in terms of power and competitiveness and equality. Women with power are as bad as men with power unless they each earn to understand that power and its processes are lethal to human flourishing. Men and women must learn to affirm each other’s worthiness to be a gift. Thus will they learn to give and receive without worrying about any lack of merit. After all, love cannot be merited. Even the un-wise or un-wonderful or wounded can still become a gift to someone else. And any lack will not go away, but it will fade into insignificance compared to the gift that lies beside it in the giver.
Really and truly and unworthily yours,