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Open letter to Pope Benedict XVI

Open Letter to Pope Benedict XVI
Apostolic Palace
St. Peter's Square
Vatican

BE-1850 Grimbergen, September 5, 2010

You know better than anyone else that priest shortage in Western Europe is untenable and that the number of churchgoers is noticeably dwindling. You know the several reasons why. Since you know them, I shall not repeat them  to you. I would however like to take out one, because it is long-lasting and the most poignant and unjust, namely the exclusion of women to priesthood. The church has recently, and even now, under your command, given either no answer, an evasive answer or a negative answer as a response to any suggestion to admit women to this sacrament. This cannot last any longer.

Therefore, I address this open letter to you, and through the press, the whole world will get a copy, in the belief that you will finally make an end to the exasperating discrimination against women in church.

If we go many centuries back in time, we then notice that the law of the jungle was applicable. At that time, muscular strength was important to survive and to win wars. A woman was considered to be inferior. She had to obey this strong man unquestioningly, to cook and to give birth to his children.

The Bible expresses this situation very well. A few examples : Genesis 2 : 21 and 3 : 16, 1 Corinthians 11 : 7-9 and 14 : 34, 1 Timothy 2 : 11-14, Titus 2 : 4-5 and Ephesians 5 : 22-24. One by one shocking texts, which you can read through, and which deeply humiliate women. Secularly, this phenomenon was initially identical, but with the difference that civil society evolved in the right direction. Co-change in a changing world gradually led to more emancipation of women. We now have female heads of state and heads of government, female judges and presidents of parliament, female CEOs of listed companies and so on. However, up to the church, evolution is taboo and the world must be stationary in order to maintain concentration of power for men. Consequently, up to the church, the texts of the Bible are still relevant to our times. Today they are still read during the celebration of the Eucharist in order to keep warm the privileges of this select cold gentleman’s club.

God saw it differently. He chose Mary to receive Jesus. In the attitude of Christ, we find the true reflection of the equality between men and women. He made no distinction between the two sexes, and after his death He first appeared unto a woman, namely unto Mary Magdalene. Then we found that during the early church, women served as diaconesses. They performed many important tasks, especially during the rite of baptism.

Afterwards, men seized back to the fossilized power for themselves. During the sixth century, the Synod of Auxerre interdicted women to touch the Eucharist with bare hands and the Synod of Macon proclaimed that women were not full human beings. In the thirteenth century, Dominican Thomas Aquinas defined a woman as an incomplete being, a kind of deficient man.

Then came the encyclicals. In 1891, pope Leo XIII wrote in “Rerum Novarum” that women are by nature destined for housework. In 1931, pope Pius XI confirmed in “Casti Connubii”, and one year later in “Quadragesimo Anno”, that  woman’s task is inside the walls of her house. Only pope John XXIII had an eye on the situation of women. In his encyclical “Pacem in Terris”, he stated that the emancipation of women is “one of the major signs of the times”. Subsequent popes, especially pope Paul VI, snapped this direction and put the clock back for centuries.

Several cardinals strongly responded to this continued male power drift of the popes. This was particularly the case by the French cardinal Saliège and the Belgian cardinal Suenens, but the popes did not come down from their pedestal of autocracy and sterile conservatism. The popes wanted no room for young, energetic and renovation forces, which also may be feminine and, why not, even be married. The celibacy requirement is anyhow not an evangelical prescription, but not more than a disciplinary rule since the Middle Ages. Partly due to internal mismanagement, the church is ready to collapse, especially in Western Europe.

In May of this year, the Austrian bishops made the same sign to you, but as a monopolist, you can afford to look the other way and proceed to business as usual. Even worse, in article 5 of the regulation of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on sexual abuse, you inserted that ordination of women is a crime against the faith and must be punished. Can you still fall asleep as co-perpetrator of such injustice ? Equal chances and human dignity are Christian values. The world expects from you that you sito presto uplift these values into Roman Catholic values.

Maybe I can help you by reminding you the seven primary saints : Mary Magdalene, Agatha, Agnes, Anastasia, Cecilia, Catharina and Lucia. These seven women are all mentioned in the first Roman Canon. Many other women were canonized, also recently, think of Mother Teresa. Is it than not vicious and hypocritical that women are canonized by popes, including yourself, but that they cannot be ordained to the priesthood ?  A strong contradiction in terms ! Or are they only valuable to the Church when they are dead ?! Your conscience,  which is God’s highest inheritance, will certainly respond negatively to this question. Confirm this once aloud yourself.

Have you ever thought why the Holy Virgin Mary appeared so often on earth ? The youngest ages, more than ever before. Could it be that the Mother of God wants to give you, and earlier your predecessors, a strong signal to elucidate the granting of equal rights for women ? You do not require a list of these frequent appearances because you know them well, and all the popes are happy to visit these places of pilgrimage. Only it is regrettable that the prelates are merely highlighting the fact of the appearances, but they are blind to the message content that Mary shows you in her feminine form. How many times should She have to repeat the appearances so that you would understand this allegory ?

I trust that the foregoing is an eye opener to you, and that, as a consequence, you will use all your legislative and executive power of Church to instantly make a definite end to this horrible injustice toward women. From now on, you cannot say any more : “Das habe ich nicht gewusst”.

I also suggest that you, as Head of State of Vatican (Lateran Treaty of 1929), should join the 192 Member States of the United Nations. You definitely know that only three sovereign nations in the world are not members : the Republic of China, Cosovo and Vatican. Then you can ratify the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This Charter prohibits discrimination on the basis of a list of non-exhaustive categories such as sex, race and color. It also confirms the equivalence between men and women, as well in dignity as in rights. It also stresses that this Universal Declaration must be regarded as the common standard of achievement for all people and all nations. We know that you predecessor, John Paul II, expressed a different view on the basic human rights in “Centesimus Annus” in 1992. In that encyclical, equivalence and equal rights between men and women are out of the question. The honor is now yours to choose an alliance with China and Cosovo or with the rest of the world. The church has long enough humiliated the woman and wounded her mind. Stop it please.

If you, against God and against all expectations, would refuse it, then I appeal to all political leaders of good will to freeze all payouts to Catholic churches and to their androcentric priests until you will redress this long lasting “guilty omission”,  apparently unprecedented in Canon Law.

I realize that, in this open letter, I have been adamant versus many popes. I do so reluctantly, but after the finding that all soft and gentle questions to your predecessors and to yourself have failed, I consider it my duty to confront you roughly with this intolerable injustice against women. God gave all human beings freedom, also to you and to your anti-modernist predecessors. You all have abused this freedom, and know that God is sad about this. Consider this letter as a chance to make everything right, with in mind the beautiful passage in the “Antigone” of Sophocles : “All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only sin is pride”. You know better than anyone that repentance is not humiliation. You repeat it every day in the Eucharist : “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”. Please do not delay. Do it now !

If you succeed, and I hope you do, it will be a festival in heaven and on earth. Many people will return to church and the number of priestly vocations can immediately grow gigantic after the “ecclesial incarnation” of the woman.          I wish you every success.

Kind regards,

Roger DE BORGER;

Honorary Secretary General of the Belgian federal government 

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