I left Catholicism in fits and starts, the way a smoker keeps reaching for one last cigarette. But I did leave for good three years ago. And though I don’t identify as Catholic anymore, Sudy reminds me of teachings that resonate.
Love one another. Whatever you do to the least of my brothers. Ministering to the poor–the prisoners, the blind, the oppressed. Striving to be compassionate.
Unfortunately, as my feminist shero Sr. Mary John Mananzan points out, the Philippine Catholic malestream emphasizes aspects such as the contraception and divorce bans and the “sins of the flesh.” This is still the dominant Catholicism in the Philippines, the strand that eventually led to my departure.
It’s also a strand that obscures how Catholic tenets on love, service, and compassion could form powerful basis for transnational feminist coalitions.
In her essay “Globalization and the Perennial Question of Justice,”* Mananzan applies a faith-based approach to highlight globalization’s injustices on indigenous populations, the urban poor, displaced farmers. She critiques the new “religion” of consumerism, globalization, and capital that gives rise to this suffering. In its place, she advocates a spirituality that is responsive to the suffering wrought by globalization.
Just as we proclaim an integral salvation, we also have to develop an integral spirituality that transcends dichotomies such as body-soul, sacred-profane, contemplation-action, heaven-earth, and so on. We need to integrate our relationships with God, with ourselves, with others, and with the planet. It is inclusive and resists exclusion of peoples for any reason, be it class, race, gender, or any other.
She adds that a responsive spirituality is characterized by a simplicity of lifestyle and a strong commitment to economic justice, gender and racial equality, and ecological activism.
The concept of spirituality is easy to distort, promising parokyanos heavenly rewards for their willingness to accept suffering in the here and now. But Mananzan’s integral spirituality does not take that easy way out. She recognizes that dichotomies such as body/soul and heaven/earth are false constructs used for distraction.
Hers is an active spirituality, one that ministers to people’s needs by addressing the sources of oppression and exclusion.
I’ve heard criticisms that the Church should minister to a person’ soul, that tackling issues is overstepping its bounds. But in this essay, Mananzan clearly shows how globalization destroys communities, how it tears people from their loved ones, how it further impoverishes people who are already marginalized.
Mananzan’s spirituality challenges the mythology of suffering as a blessing. Integral spirituality means that the roots of corporeal suffering should also be addressed.
In Feminism Without Borders, Chandra Mohanty advocates a “Feminist Solidarity/Comparative Feminist Studies” pedagogy, one that seeks new ways of linking global and local. Specifically, Mohanty envisions a feminism that illuminates “points of connection and distance among and between communities of women marginalized and privileged along numerous local and global dimensions.” (243) These points of connection could form the foundations for a transnational feminism, for acting in solidarity.
It’s Christmas Eve as I write this post. I’m amazed at how culturally Catholic I remain, at how I still struggle to remember “the reason for the season” and to connect this with a commitment to transnational feminism. Via Mananzan, I’m happy to see that an empowering spirituality and feminism are not necessarily incompatible as I once thought.
from Roger S. Gottlieb, ed. Liberating Faith: Religious Voices for Justice, Peace, and Ecological Wisdom (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003)