Feminism and Catholicism

Celebrating Gloria Steinem and Pope Francis

My mom will probably never admit this, but like it or not, she was a feminist. Growing up, there was a Gloria Steinem quote hanging prominently in our home: “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.”

That quote on an illustration of a fish trying to ride a bicycle went up in my house after my parents split up. When the meaning of the drawing dawned on my 8-year-old tomboy self, it stuck with me. I’m glad it did for reasons I won’t go into in this space.

Tuesday was Steinem’s 80th birthday and with it came stories celebrating her and the women’s rights movement. It was also an occasion for her critics to try to tear her down. Ironically, most of them were women.

One of the tactics the propagandists used was plucking Steinem quotes and using them out of context. Like this one: “[Housewives] are dependent creatures who are still children … parasites.” One write-up used that quote as the basis for the argument that she’s intolerant. Of course, the writer never bothered to note that Steinem said those words during a time when women were treated as lesser than men, much lesser than men. Think Mad Men for a second here. Thanks to Steinem and other progressive women of the 1960s and ’70s, I’ll never know what it’s like to live in an era in which my boss calls me “sweetheart.”

That’s not to say I haven’t dealt with sexist garbage. I have. In fact, one regular right-wing reader wrote to me recently, addressing me as “girl.” To his credit, he apologized after I made it clear how offensive I found it. My point is that the Mother of Feminism’s work isn’t over. Not even close. I wish her many more happy birthdays.

Where are the priests? I spent days unsuccessfully trying to track down a local priest for the sidebar to our cover story about Pope Francis. Beginning on Friday, I called and wrote to no fewer than six local Catholic churches. No dice. (My thanks to Fr. Peter Hansen from St. Augustine Anglican Church and the other locals who took the time to weigh in on the pope.)

Turns out most of the Catholic priests were in Sacramento for the ordination Mass of Monsignor Myron Cotta, a priest who, as of Tuesday, is auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento. Evidently, the pomp and pageantry of his promotion was a pretty big deal. Cotta was appointed by none other than Pope Francis himself back in January. That’s quite an honor, if you ask me.

Regular readers may recall that I’ve written a little about the new pope. He’s among the most popular pontiffs in modern history, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. There’s something about the guy. For one thing, he actually smiles. He’s humble and appears to genuinely care for the downtrodden. Catholic or not, what’s not to like?