The Table

Today I met with one of the contributors to Leggendaria #103, Matilde Passa, a long-time journalist and feminist based in Rome. Her article, “Rinnovamento o mutazione?” begins:

Valorizzare il genio femminile? Guardarsi dal machismo in gonnella? Ferve il dibattito, con una quantità e qualità di interventi che sollecitano ad allargare l’orizzonte


At the launch of Leggendaria #103

In February I was able to attend the launch of the January issue titled, “Caro Francesco, parla con noi.”  Matilde explained that the Pope seems to be calling everyone to talk, “why not talk to us?”

In preparation for our meeting, I sent Matilde a few questions about the launch (which I wasn’t able to fully understand), the reception of the magazine among her colleagues, and generally what women in Italy think about the issue of women’s ordination in the Church.  I also asked if organizations such as WOC or other US-based reform organizations are known here.

As she understands the issue, it is not changing the priesthood that is important, but changing power. Recanting an Italian saying translated to “when women are priests, priests will have no power,” she said among her peers, it is not in their interest to change the priesthood of this system, but to change the power structures. It is not that women should or shouldn’t be Cardinals, but that Cardinals should not have this absolute power.

Matilde, who does not consider herself Catholic, said that while giving lectures on the current issue, many women said they are not Catholic anymore, and don’t care about the Church.  She somewhat agrees with this position, but explained that in Italy, the Vatican is inherently connected to politics, and is very powerful, especially in hospitals, infringing on women’s reproductive healthcare and choices.  Therefore, “we have a duty to understand [the Church’s power].”

In Trastevere, by L'arts sa nuotare

In Trastevere, by L’arts sa nuotare

I explained that highlighting relevance is part of WOC’s work as well: translating the political and socio-economic reach of the Catholic church to secular feminists, and the pastoral work that women–called to the priesthood–are (officially) banned from doing.  We discussed an issue among feminists in Italy called “quote rosa,” or “pink quota,” a similar debate to the function and usefulness of quotas and affirmative action.  I think this tangent explains a failure to translate women’s ordination as not a political, or “equal rights” driven cause, but as a vocation of service. In this case, secular language invites a political conversation that seems rigged with context.

Matilde is not so optimistic about Pope Francis and women, and said it can be dangerous to expect or hope for too much. From speaking with various people here, it seems a lot of hope came to rest with Cardinal Martini. But what gives me hope is the encounter: meeting with people, face to face, and if you’re lucky, feminist to feminist, to share and weave. At the very least, there is a thread that holds us, to each other and to the Church. As Matilde said, “when you come in contact with true people (not doctrine), you find a different world.”

We’re getting stronger: fiber, fellowship, and feminist. Piano, piano.

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