Where’s Pope Joan?

I’d never heard of Pope Joan until today, when I read “Legend of Female Pope Endures as Men Decide Church’s Next Leader.”  I’m not surprised, as history has a way of omitting, forgetting, or re-writing. Think, for example, of Mary Magdalene. Up until 1969, Magdalene was painted as a prostitute that she was not, as opposed to being represented as to whom she truly was: a friend to Jesus and one of the first to see Jesus upon his resurrection. Until the Vatican corrected this error, centuries of people were taught to believe in an inaccurate version of Magdalene.

What I see, when I read about the different colors of smoke that are to emote from the Vatican and alert approximately 6 billion people as to whom their new leader is, is a organized religion that is quite clearly communicating that women are secondary. Since women cannot vote and cannot be priests in the Catholic faith, what we have is condoned sexism. While many of the lay leaders in the Catholic faith are women and certainly many of the saints are, the church stops short of allowing a woman to be a priest. Apparently, she is not Word-worthy.

The stance that women can do the work but not hold the position of leader/priest/minister goes beyond Catholicism. The position of women being second class is prevalent in many other major religions. One of the reasons I found my own church lacking was because the Sacred Feminine was absent. Missing. She doesn’t even exist. Sue Monk Kidd describes this significant missing piece in through her own personal journey, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter . Kidd found her way into a feminine spiritual consciousness that resonates with Christianity. But to get there, she had to leave what she found to be incorrect – a tradition that was patriarchal.

I cannot find a single bit of convincing evidence or argument that makes me believe it is okay for women to be second class. Yet here we are, watching for smoke, spectators to something that needs to evolve and change. I certainly hope that in my lifetime we can have a Pope Joan – and see all faith traditions evolve into ones that honor women by allowing them positions of authority, allowing them to be what they currently and inherently are: Word-worthy.


5 thoughts on “Where’s Pope Joan?

  1. Wonderful post. The Catholic church is kind of a dinosaur, I think, and needs to make some strides toward modernity and equality. I hope to see a Pope Joan in my lifetime. But more immediately, I hope to see the Church rethink their policies on contraception and women’s rights.


  2. I have found throughout my life and within many protestant churches the same as you see in the Catholic. Women are expected to do the work, but not to have any overt leadership position. The Baptist church is one of those. One of the reasons I am a member of the Presbyterian church USA is that women are not relegated to the work without respect role I see in many other churches. Thanks for sharing the fact that there was a woman pope. I never knew that.


  3. Yes, Rosemary, there are female saints (not saintesses, but one still must say “female”, as in “female priest” to avoid saying “priestesses”, a term associated with “pagan” practices!), but obviously this is recognition after the fact. I am afraid that the Roman Catholic church will be one of the last, along with Islam, to acknowledge the ‘Word-worthiness’ of women. (I think you have coined a term, no?) Carry on!


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