Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why Are Women Afraid of Men as Leaders?

As a Carmelite aspirant, I look up with great respect to St. Teresa of Avila, the foundress of the Discalced Carmelite order. St. Teresa was profoundly wise and an impressive administrator. She not only founded and ran convents and monasteries all over Spain, but she surpassed her original intention to be a reformer. She founded a completely new monastic order, the "Discalced Carmelites," Carmelite in origins but infused with distinctly different charism. St. Teresa (along with St. Catherine of Sienna) was also the first female "doctor" of the Church.

Think about the millions of priests who have served the Church throughout the past 2000 years. How many of them were granted the coveted title of "Doctor of the Church?" Men are priests, not because they are better than women or superior to women, but because they are uniquely suited to that role.

Fathers have a great role to play in the spiritual future of their children. In Father Bryce's homily last Sunday, he spoke about a study done by Christian pollster George Barna, about the faithfulness of adults who were brought up in Christian homes. Here are the results, in a nutshell:

*Both parents participate in child's faith development= 73% of children are faithful as adults
*Mom only participates in child's faith development= 22%
*Dad only participates in faith development= 73% (same level as with both parents.)

Father Bryce says, "The role of father in the faith development of children is one of the great secrets to our children having faith when they become adults." Does this mean that the mother's role in nurturing her children's faith is useless? Of course not! But, there is just something powerful about what happens when a man takes on responsibility for leading the household's faith direction. Why? I think women are more naturally spiritual and more drawn to religion, because of our more receptive psychology and intuitive nature. Women also go to church more often than men, so people aren't surprised by their involvement. But, when a man takes a stand on faith, people perk up and listen.

 I thought this study result was alarming, so I looked around the internet for results of similar studies. Yes, these studies are replicated with similar results. One study said, "Even when the father is an irregular attender there are some extraordinary effects. An irregular father and a non-practicing mother will yield 25 percent of their children as regular attenders in their future life and a further 23 percent as irregulars. This is twelve times the yield where the roles are reversed."

Many people are disturbed by the idea of a father being considered a spiritual head of the home, because this could take away from a woman's power and ability to input her wisdom, insights and direction. I do not feel this is true. I believe a woman can offer her insights and direction more strongly and effectively when in tandem with a man who takes responsibility as spiritual leader. Fathers have more impact on their children's faith development because they do not have the more natural inclinations toward faith and service. A father as spiritual head of a household is doing something for which he has little innate talent or ability, which makes it all the more humbling and powerful as he grapples with the responsibility, so I think women should encourage it. His efforts will have a far more powerful impact because of this very thing.

We have been talking a lot and hearing a lot about women's empowerment over the years. Women need to be empowered to become soldiers or surgeons if they want to, as those are roles traditionally associated with men. Well, men need to be empowered to become leaders again, especially in areas in which they are considered weak. I once heard a priest preach about St. Joseph and how profoundly humbling it must have been for St. Joseph to be head of a home that included God and His impeccable mother. Anyone would be unqualified for such a job, and that is why I believe God wanted him to have it. That is how we learn and grow.

All of this is another reason why men have become priests by tradition, rather than women, and why this shouldn't be changed. I've heard all my life about how a strong man wants a strong woman by his side, because he's not intimidated by her. Well, the same is true for women. Just because we are growing stronger doesn't mean we shouldn't also encourage the men in our lives to be strong. Are we intimidated?

If we are to encourage men in their role as spiritual leaders, it is important that society see men in that role. If they do, men may be more likely to emulate what they see at church when they go home. As we've seen from research, the overall impact will be good for children, families and society. These studies bear out that a man's leadership, even erratic, carries great power.

A woman can still be immensely powerful, such as St. Teresa of Avila, but she had male confessors. Men always offered her the sacraments. I learned on my recent Carmelite retreat that St. Teresa never disobeyed her superiors, who were priests. Priests directed her development in a powerful way, lifted her up and the Church herself lifted her up as a Doctor of the Church. Just because men are assigned a certain job doesn't mean they are superior to women.

Sometimes, God in his wisdom creates systems of balance, and our sexuality is one of them. The word, "gender" is used to describe our sexuality in our world today, but "gender" implies that our masculine and feminine traits have nothing to do with the way our bodies, brains and hormones are designed. A person who believes God is our creator will see that He made men and women in his image, to balance each other.

The United States government has a system of "checks and balances" between the executive, legislative and judicial branches. No one runs about the street, marching and screaming that the legislative branch has a right to be the executive branch, or proclaiming, "Legislatism" as a new, radical social idea, since the President of the USA should not be superior. No, the leadership (executive branch) is in balance with the other two branches, just as a man and woman need to be in balance with each other, keeping checks and assuring harmony. None of the three branches of government are better or more important than the other two, although the executive branch contains the "leader." Families can be run the same way.

God created women and men to live in balance and trust with one another, creating healthy families for the growth of society. God did not create men and women with different bodies so we could mindlessly "hook up" with the opposite sex when we want to and "hook up" with others of our own sex when we want to, even though our bodies aren't specifically designed to do that. No, God actually had a wisdom in his design. This is not to say that people don't have free will and rights to do with their body as they will. God would never want to take that away, but, "male and female, created He them," it wasn't for some arbitrary reason. Otherwise, God would have created only females and given us all the power of virgin birth. No. God created men and women to work for and balance each other for the common good of the family and society.

Today, men have been losing their bearings, with no real idea of what it means to be men in the world today. Many single mothers are happy to be free of men to raise their children alone. Perhaps they associate men with "tyranny," as many feminists do. Historically, men have been tyrannical. Historically, men have also been fair. As more women have also been in positions of power, we have seen that they can be both tyrannical and fair. Why make this a "gender thing" about men being tyrants women must be free from?

Does this war between the sexes have to be the case? Does God's original plan call for tyranny, competition, or something else? Can we learn to trust each other again? Would that help our relationships and marriages maintain cohesion and longevity? Let's let men re-proclaim their roles as leaders, knowing male leadership is no threat to our lives as women, but a way to empower women, so men and women may work together for the good of society.


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