When I was in Saudi Arabia, I had tea and sweets with a group of educated and sophisticated young professional women.Photo of Dowd (oddly burka-less) to the right.
I asked why they were not more upset about living in a country where women's rights were strangled, an inbred and autocratic state more like an archaic men's club than a modern nation. They told me, somewhat defensively, that the kingdom was moving at its own pace, glacial as that seemed to outsiders.
How could such spirited women, smart and successful on every other level, acquiesce in their own subordination?
I was puzzling over that one when it hit me: As a Catholic woman, I was doing the same thing.
I, too, belonged to an inbred and wealthy men's club cloistered behind walls and disdaining modernity.
I, too, remained part of an autocratic society that repressed women and ignored their progress in the secular world.I, too, rationalized as men in dresses allowed our religious kingdom to decay and to cling to outdated misogynistic rituals, blind to the benefits of welcoming women's brains, talents and hearts into their ancient fraternity.
A bit of an antidote against the attacks on the Vatican launched by the Times the last two weeks is Ross Douthat's Monday column defending Benedict as "The Better Pope ." (Douthat argued Benedict is a more competent administrator than his popular predecessor, Pope John Paul II.)
Douthat was not uncritical of the Vatican's handling of the sex abuse charges, saying Benedict has not done enough to "clean house and show contrition," and that the Vatican has reacted with "resentment, and an un-Christian dose of self-pity. But he also made points in defense of Benedict:
In the 1990s, it was Ratzinger who pushed for a full investigation of Hans Hermann Groer, the Vienna cardinal accused of pedophilia, only to have his efforts blocked in the Vatican. It was Ratzinger who persuaded John Paul, in 2001, to centralize the church's haphazard system for handling sex abuse allegations in his office. It was Ratzinger who re-opened the long-dormant investigation into Maciel's conduct in 2004, just days after John Paul II had honored the Legionaries in a Vatican ceremony. It was Ratzinger, as Pope Benedict, who banished Maciel to a monastery and ordered a comprehensive inquiry into his order.