Paradigms for a Feminization of the Church

John D’Mello

(August-September 1999)


To prepare for the International Women’s Day (March 8th) we offer a paper by a Professor of Theology and Sociology at the Diocesan Seminary (St Pius College, Aarey Road, Goregaon East, Mumbai 400063) and National Ecclesiastical Advisor of the Catholic Women’s Council of India (CCWI). The paper was presented at the FABC Conference on Women (BILA II), Pattaya, Thailand, 18 October 1998. Fr D’Mello offers five paradigms of feminism and opts for the solidarity paradigm as most appropriate for Asia. He then shows how it can operate in the Church at the level of the Bible, Theology and Liturgy and how it calls the Church to be involved in micromovements.

I. Need for a Paradigm

In the year 1950, a year or two after the assassination of Gandhi, the whole of India was raving about Gandhian views and Gandhian ideals: the principle of village self-sufficiency, the principle of bread labour, swadeshi, vegetarianism, simple living, etc. It was then that the President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad, also caught up in this wave of Gandhism, decided to print all his correspondence on hand-made paper. Confiding this to Dr Kishore Mushroowalla, the Director of the Gandhian Institute of studies, Dr Mushroowalla advised him as follows: "Don’t do this! In order to print on hand-made paper, you will have to buy special paper, special ink, special equipment and you will have to train a whole set of workers to use this machinery". "Instead", he said, "take off your brain and put on a Gandhian brain, put on a Gandhian way of thinking, a Gandhian mentality, and then perhaps all the principles and policies of Gandhi will flow automatically". In other words, take care of the vision, the paradigm: practical policies and implications will take care of themselves.

Much the same can be said of the phenomenon of the subordination of women and the difficulty of male-female partnerships within the Church. The real problem is the paradigm, the thinking, the mentality. At the present time the paradigm, both in society and the Church, continues to be androcentric or patriarchal. What we need is a widening of our horizons, a broadening of our understanding and vision. What we need is a "feminization of the Church" or, put more simply, we need a people of God with an increasing feminist consciousness. The term feminization of the Church might sound strange to some ears, even though today expressions like ‘feminization of the work force’ are quite popular. In this paper however by ‘feminization’ is not meant a Church with a "feminine" face or a Church with feminine characteristics nor even a Church with a more "visible female presence" (just as previously for 2,000 years we had a masculine or male-dominated Church), but by ‘feminization’ is meant a process whereby the Church acquires an egalitarian, mutually respectful, cosmopolitan, cross-cultural consciousness. It is only then that there will be a true discipleship of equals and an end to all forms of discrimination, not just the discrimination based on gender. Only then will there be no more distinctions between Jew or Greek, slave or free person, male or female. Only then shall we attain the oneness in Jesus Christ (cf. Gal 3:28).

From the literature of the women’s movement I can visualise five paradigms for such a feminization of the Church; all paradigms are heuristically constructed and none of them are strictly exclusive. Overlapping between them is quite possible.

II. The Five Paradigms

The complementary paradigm: "Equal" but complementary

According to this paradigm, women are not the fairer sex, the weaker sex, but the complementary sex. Taking its cue from Genesis that God created human beings male and female, this paradigm shows that men need women just as much as women need men. They complement each other. This might sound nice in theory, but in practice such thinking leads to a two-nature anthropology, a vision of human beings as divided into two different kinds, each with identifiable differences that become normative for the sex (Mary Aquin O’Neill, "The Mystery of Being Human Together" in Freeing Theology, ed. Catherine Mowry LaCugna, San Francisco: Harper, 1993 p. cit. 149). Thus males have a whole set of unique characteristics and females have another whole set of complementary characteristics. Men are supposed to be, by nature, active, rational, wilful, assertive, aggressive, autonomous beings, whose direction goes outward into the world; while women are passive, intuitive, emotional, caring, compassionate, connected beings whose natural inclination is inward. This bipolar vision of the sexes leads to an equally bipolar understanding of their respective place, namely the world and the home (E1izabeth Janeway, Man’s World, Woman’s Place, New York: Del, 1971). Men are to go out and work, be the breadwinners; while household tasks are reserved for women — childcare and looking after the home (cf. Laborem Exercens, n. 19). In reality, men have decided the model and the roles in this model. Once the assignations are made, women are supposed to complement the role of men. "Woman," they say, "is a companion for man!"

The equality paradigm: Equal as sameness

According to this paradigm, women demand equal rights or the same rights that men have previously appropriated. This is a paradigm that arose out of the early women’s movement in Britain and the U.S., a movement which was associated with the right of franchise and the right to education. Thus, if previously men were allowed to vote, women should now be allowed to vote. If men are allowed to be Presidents, women too should have the right to be President. If men have a football team, women too ought to have the right to have their own football team. If men have a right to ordination, women should not be disallowed. In other words, for this group, women should have the "same" rights as men.

The sisterhood paradigm: Equal but separate

According to this thinking, women as a group must stick together and form their own sisterhood. Men find it hard to understand their problems, their experiences — so the only way is for women to come together and develop their own consciousness, their own models, their own strategies to defend their rights. Thus, women have spoken in terms of leaving the male-dominated Church and forming their own Church or having a separate Bible and a separate lectionary. Their point is that women need to have an exodus from the male-dominated Church (Rosemary Radford Ruether, Women Church: Theology and Practice, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988:57-9 and Denise Lardner Carmody, Virtuous Woman, Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1992:125-30. It is to be emphasised that both authors do not really advocate separatism. They are only speaking of "temporarily" or "methodologically" being apart) in order to experience their liberation, they need to stay apart from this Church, reflect on their experiences and theologise imaginatively to come up with their own symbols and expressions. Others feel that sisterhood groups are still not homogeneous in their thinking. There is no universal sisterhood. They point to several women who have absorbed androcentric values and cultures, for instance, mothers-in-law who continue to inflict violence on their daughters-in-law.

The Difference Paradigm: Equal but different

According to this paradigm, women are different from men, not just in their way of thinking, but even in their mode of being. There is an epistemological difference, which is based on an ontological difference. Women and men are not only different in their ways of thinking and acting but in their very being. Thus, there are different norms for men and for women. At present however the norms are decided by men while women are supposed to fit these norms. If they do not, they are considered to be inferior or inadequate. (Just as IQ measures are culturally based — youth from an urban culture are not more intelligent than youth from a rural background: their intelligence is different). For example, the standards of good health, the criteria of ‘wellness’ are framed according to male norms. Women naturally do not fit these norms, hence they are declared unwell or less than healthy. Descriptions of women as "often having headaches!" or ascribing most problems of women to their feminine state or caricaturing their problems as "being manufactured in the mind" are typical examples of modes of thinking which do not respect differences between the sexes. Feminists that hold fast to this ‘difference’ paradigm assert that women should develop their own norms and standards. This paradigm leads to plurality since the problems and issues of Third World women are quite different from those of First World women.

Solidarity Paradigm: Equal but in solidarity

This is a paradigm that arises typically from Asian cultures and encompasses elements from the other paradigms. In this paradigm the issues of women, pea-sants, workers, dalits, tribals and ecology are all connected. There is an interface and interaction between sexism, racism, casteism, colonialism, fundamentalism, environmental destruction and violence. Patriarchy is not just domination of females by males, by an entire socio-cultural-political system of graded subjugations and dominations (Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, "For Women in Men’s Worlds: A Critical Feminist Theology of Liberation", Concilium 1984/n. 171,34). In this Asian paradigm, not only is the question of male domination, caste and class addressed in an integrated way, but the over-all question of the transformation of society is also addressed. Thus, the Asian paradigm is not just addressing the question of equal rights only, but envisaging a fundamentally different perspective on each and every issue and aspect of society (Gabriele Dietrich in "South Asian Feminist Theory and its Significance for Feminist Theology", in Concilium 1996/1,103). For instance, when Vandana Shiva conceptualises women’s subsistence production she connects it with a spirituality of reconciliation with Mother Earth and, at the same time, makes a scathing criticism of Western science and technology as patriarchal and colonial. In other words, issues of feminism are connected with issues of consumerism and competitiveness (Vandana Shiva in Staying Alive: India, Ecology and Survival in India. New Delhi: Kali for Women, 1988).

Further, feminist theology in South Asia finds itself in a situation where Christianity is a small minority religion. Hence feminist religion must contend with issues of fundamentalism and communalism. The question of violence must be dealt with in an integrated way which does not allow neat boundaries between domestic violence, public ‘rowdyism’, communal and caste violence and ethnic warfare. Violence must be analysed in all its interlinkages (Gabriele Dietrich, in "South Asian Feminist Theory and its Significance for Feminist Theology" in Concilium 1996/1:109). Feminism is not an autarchic entity but a way of thinking that develops connections between social forces and allows for the analysis of the linkages between class, caste, gender and race.

Having made a survey of the five paradigms, my next question is: which is the most appropriate paradigm for theological thinking in the Church? To arrive at my answer, I need to make a quick survey of the contemporary situation.

III. Choosing a Paradigm: A Survey of the Contemporary Scene

At the present time economic globalization is spreading its tentacles in Asia relentlessly and with it come liberalisation and unbridled expansion of the market forces. The World Bank, IMF (International Monetary Fund) and WTO (World Trade Organisation) are extending their powers, and the 80-odd developing countries that have been forced to accept their structural adjustment programme are experiencing two consequences:

an ever widening gap between the wealthy and the marginalized,
oppressive conditions for vulnerable sections of the population like women, children, the old and the unemployed.

Along with economic expansion there is also the globalization of culture. Fewer and fewer companies are controlling TV channels and the media. The world is experiencing a McDonaldization of culture, and by this I mean not the expansion of fast-food restaurants all over the world, but the bombardment of TV channels with values from a hegemonistic First World culture. The treatment of woman as a commodity is becoming universalized. At a more subtle level, we see the growth of the cosmetic industry with the parallel and associated rise of beauty competitions, where model/winners are more and more chosen from the developing countries to propagandize these products. At a more direct level, we are witnesses to continuous trafficking in young girls and growing violence against women.

A third alarming phenomenon of the present situation is the rise of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism with its increasingly centralizing and hierarchical form of control has tremendous negative repercussions for women and the egalitarian enterprise. The laws in Pakistan are an example, of which the ‘blasphemy law’ in particular is typical.

From this brief survey of the contemporary Asian scene we arrive at the conclusion that discriminating against women is linked to the discrimination of other marginalized groups, and therefore a feminist consciousness cannot be closed in on itself, but will necessarily broaden and encompass the perspectives of other oppressed groups in society. In other words, the optimal paradigm for Asian society is the solidarity paradigm.

IV. The Solidarity Paradigm: Consequences for Theology and the Church

Given the fact that we wish to opt for a solidarity paradigm, how do we develop a theological consciousness that fosters this paradigm of feminization of the Church? How do we develop a feminist consciousness that is in solidarity with other powerless people? The first step would be a reinterpretation of Scripture, a re-fashioning of theology and a reconstruction of the Liturgy to include women’s experiences and perspectives.

A. Feminist Approaches to the Bible, Theology and Liturgy

Bible Interpretation

The Bible offers images, symbols, stories and passages that inspire, motivate and influence. Unfortunately, there are also many images of women in the Bible which enhance models of women as submissive and subordinate, rather than as independent and assertive.

Feminist theologians, taking their cue from Liberation Theology, have developed a method of doing theology and interpreting the Bible. Schussler Fiorenza calls it a "critical liberation method" (Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, "For Women in Men’s Worlds: A Critical Feminist Theology of Liberation", in Concilium 1984/n.171, 34-5). It starts with a woman’s experience of oppression from which a critique of the traditional interpretation is made. This is followed by the retrieval and recovery of woman’s histories and woman’s insights. The last step is imaginative reconstruction (Anne Carr in "The New Vision of Feminist Theology" in LaCugna (ed.), Freeing Theology, 9-13).

Thus Biblical scholars have critiqued the traditional construction of symbols and personages of the Bible and recovered for us new insights about these persons. One clear example is the traditional construction of the image of Mary Magdalene as prostitute and sinner. Feminist scholars have shown that she was, in fact, none of these things. It was Gregory the Great (540-604 CE) who mistakenly identified Mary Magdalene with the sinner in Lk 7:36-50 and with Mary of Bethany in Jn 12:1-8 and understood the seven devils of Lk 8:1-3 to be seven capital sins. As a result Mary Magdalene was cast into the role of Eve, sinner, weak woman, given to the flesh, given to crying, waster of perfume, temptress, prostitute, so as to more strongly contrast with her conversion patterned on the new Eve, pure, chaste, holy, forgiven much because she loved much. In many countries, Magdalene houses were opened to cater to the rehabilitation of repentant prostitutes. The story of the unknown woman in Mt (26:6-13) and Mk (14:3-9) is constructed merely as a story of conversion, repentance and forgiveness (John D’Mello in Neythri (Women Leader) August 1997, Bangalore: CCWI).

The research of feminist scholars has uncovered new insights about the unknown woman who anointed Jesus. They highlight her boldness and courage to gatecrash into a house full of men in a society where women were considered inferior. The earlier tradition also failed to notice the fact that she is the first woman to acknowledge Jesus as the messiah (through the symbolic gesture of anointing with perfume) at a time when the other apostles, including Peter, misunderstood or were openly sceptical of the nature of his messiahship. That is why Jesus gives her one of the greatest compliments he could give to any disciple: "Wherever the gospel is proclaimed.... you will always be remembered". As for Mary Magdalene, far from being a sinner or prostitute, she is one of the foremost woman disciples, a primary witness of both the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, or even more, the "Apostle to the Apostles" as the Eastern Church is still wont to venerate her (John D’Mello in Neythri (Woman Leader) March 1997, Bangalore: CCWI). Thus, feminist scholarship has recovered new symbols and archetypes of courage and discipleship for women.

Theology

A second big area which can lead to the feminization of the Church is theology. A paradigm shift in theology is called for. At present most theology taught in seminaries and in lay theology courses tends to be androcentric or patriarchal in its assumptions. Most importantly, although women are allowed to study the Bible and theology, they are generally not appointed to teaching positions in theology in catholic seminaries.

The critical liberative method has given us, for instance, a whole new understanding in Mariology. Mary is one of the powerful and popular symbols of Christian piety and spirituality. The three symbols of traditional Mariology have been that of virgin, mediatrix and the new Eve. Since Mary is the type and model for all disciples, these symbols have been used again and again to shape the Christian disciple’s notions of sexuality (as sexlessness and denigration of the body), of the subordinate position of woman and of woman as temptress (the old Eve in contrast to the new Eve). Theologians with ‘a feminist soul’ insist that we need to recover the image of Mary as a woman of independence and courage, symbol of motherhood and a sister in suffering and oppression (Maurice Hamington, Hail Mary. London: Routledge, 1995). Likewise, Rosemary Radford Ruether and others have pointed out the inadequacies of a patriarchal "kingly" Christology that stresses the "maleness" of Christ. She proposes "androgynous" and "spirit’ Christologies (Rosemary Radford Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk, London: SCM; 1983). Fiorenza suggests that

a Christology that is silent about the socio-political causes of Jesus’ execution and stylizes him as the paradigmatic sacrificial victim whose death was either willed by God or necessary to propitiate God continues the kyriarchal cycle of violence and victimization rather than empower believers for resisting or transforming it (Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, "Introduction" to Violence against Women, Concilium, 1994/1, xvi).

Feminist theologian Elizabeth Johnson illustrates how understanding Jesus as Sophia — the Wisdom of God — can be very enriching for Christology. Sophia is a feminine image that was very much in use in early Christianity. The term was used by Paul, John and implicitly by Matthew. It enables us to apply the rich Wisdom tradition to our understanding of Christ. The Wisdom tradition — which was very emphatic about justice, was respectful of other religions and cultures, and concerned about the entire universe — broadens our understanding of Christology and gives it a comprehensive and inclusive flavour (Elizabeth Johnson "Redeeming the Name of Christ" in LaCugna (ed.), Freeing Theology, 120-34).

The Liturgy

Another sphere that is important for building feminist consciousness is the sphere of the liturgy. The Church is an agency of socialization. Through its liturgies it shapes the values, ideals, norms and conscience of its disciples, especially the young.

Unfortunately the women’s role in the liturgy is sidelined. I am not merely referring to the fact that women cannot be ordained or that many countries have not yet adopted the inclusive language lectionary, but I am referring to the ‘shadow’ role that women characters play in the lectionary readings and the portrait of women that appears therefrom.

In a study of the Common Lectionary, Marjorie Proctor Smith found only 14 per cent of significant references to women in the liturgical readings. Another 6 per cent were peripheral references. Women are included only in so far as they relate to male characters, not regarded as actors in their own right. Mostly they are expendable. For instance, while the Confession of Peter is read in all three years of the cycle in all synoptic parallels, the Messianic Anointing by a Woman found in Mt and Mk, at the beginning of the Passion, is read only once in three years, though it could just as appropriately be called a Confession of Jesus (Marjorie Proctor Smith, "Image of Women in the Lectionary", Concilium, Dec. 1985, 60).

It could be argued that women were not very visible or active in the Biblical era and the Bible simply reflects this regrettable fact. But it is the function of a lectionary to be selective rather than representative. We need to recall and celebrate women of our biblical heritage in whom God has been made manifest and through whom God has worked: the stories of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah, of Miriam and Deborah, of Jael and Judith, of Abigail, Vashti, Naomi and Ruth, of Shiprah and Puah, of the wise woman of Tekoa and of Huldah the prophet, of the women missionaries, leaders and disciples of the New Testament. We need to recall also "texts of terror" (Phyllis Trible, Texts of Terror. Literary Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives. Philadelphia: Fortress Press 1985) — stories of struggle, violence and suffering, stories of the rape, betrayal, abuse and murder of women which also belong to the biblical heritage. They are part and parcel of the stories of women of today. The secondary position that women characters play in the liturgy reinforces her secondary position in society.

B. Network Theology, Interdisciplinary Theology, Planetary Theology

A second step in enhancing an egalitarian and cosmopolitan consciousness in the Church is to develop a broad-based theology. A feminist theology is not limited to women’s interests and questions but is related to other theologies and the self-reflection of other oppressed groups. By insisting on the importance of ‘wholeness’ as a basic category in theology, feminist theology opens itself out to other streams of liberation theology. One might say feminist theology flows into "planetary theology" (Tissa Balasuriya, "Why Planetary Theology" in Third World Liberation Theologies, ed. Deane William Ferm, Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1990) — to use an expression coined by Tissa Balasuriya. Feminist theology becomes the starting point for other liberation theologies, for interdisciplinary theologies and for a network of contextualized theologies.

* While Feminist theology liberates theology from androcentric assumptions and patriarchal thinking, and imaginatively reconstructs theology from a mutually respectful point of view. Ecological theology liberates theology from a humano-centric perspective (a perspective that views humans as the sole focus of theology) and reconstructs theology from a cosmocentric perspective (where the entire cosmos, including plants and animals, earth and oceans, become the focus of the theological viewpoint). When these two perspectives are combined, we have an Eco-feminist Theology, which not only combines the concerns of feminism with the concern of ecology based on the striking parallels between the rape of the earth the rape of women, but reacquires feminist styles of living and thinking as the only means for preserving environmental sanity.

* Again, inter-religious theology frees traditional theology from a narrow-minded vision which considers the Roman Catholic Church as "containing the fullness of truth" (the Church as identified with the Kingdom of God), pushing it to broader pluralistic horizons where truth is sought in other religions as well (the Kingdom of God is larger than the Church) thus enabling us to learn from other religious traditions. When this theology is combined on the inter-religious perspective, we develop Religious Environmentalism which focuses on an inter-religious perspective in preserving the environment, and is concerned with the symbols and stories that Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and other religions have to offer on the question of ecological preservation.

* Likewise, Dalit, Minjung and similar theologies combine with feminist perspectives to produce other contextualized Third World theologies which liberate traditional theology from its First World, supposedly ‘universalistic’ viewpoint and construct theologies of struggle that celebrate the world views of oppressed, Third World women’s groups.

* Moral Theology for a global world: Above all, the feminist solidarity perspective stimulates theology to take on a global character. This point can be elaborated with the example of moral theology. The solidarity paradigm provokes a radical recasting of the moral discourse. By insisting on ‘no separation’ between the personal and the political, feminist philosophy is pushing for a movement from an individualistic, casuistic type to a collective, communitarian form of ethics. It is asking that ethical discourse move from the private and personal sphere and include the public sphere of politics and economics. The ethical discourse has to be a critique of political and economic decisions and policies, an exercise in questioning the values behind them, since these are the policies affecting vulnerable groups like women.

At the present time ethics/moral theology is largely concerned with the actions, intentions and motives of individuals. There are schools of business ethics preoccupied with ethical decision making, wrong practice, behaviour and the morality of individuals. They are scarcely concerned with the very structure of the company, its policies, its organizations of authority, its laws, the functioning of its board, its attitude towards workers, its expansionist tendencies. Focusing only on the actions and intentions of individuals is like a river flowing to the ocean carrying sewage water. One may plant a few trees along the river banks, one might make the route a little more scenic — but basically the river is left untouched and the dirty water flows as before (John D’Mello, "Towards the Promotion of Ethical Culture", paper presented at the 1998 Copenhagen Conference on Social Progress, Denmark, 1998 (forthcoming publication by Danida: Copenhagen). The ethical discourse, instead of merely discussing the behaviour of individual executives and politicians, should focus on the very structure of multinational and transnational companies, the big financial institutions, the IMF, the WB and the WTO, their policies and the power controlling them.

The press is concerned about the lies that Clinton tells in his private life, but is not concerned with the lies that he may tell with regard to US interference in other countries. The world is concerned with the private morality of a US President, but it is scarcely concerned with the fact that the US is one of the biggest defaulters on its United Nations dues; and this is a moral issue affecting millions of vulnerable people including women.

Recently, in connection with the Intellectual Property Rights, the WTO passed a law on patents to defend the so-called ‘individual’ rights of discoverers and inventors. This is an iniquitous law. Take the patenting of ‘neem’ for example. For over 1,500 years Indian farmers and Indian women were using neem-based pesticides and medicines. Recently however, a few Japanese and American firms, one of which is W.R. Grace, have filed patents on formulae for neem-based solutions, emulsions and neem-based toothpaste. W.R. Grace has set about manufacturing and commercializing the product by establishing a base in India. As a result of India being forced to sign the IPR Treaty, under the WTO regime, Indian farmers and housewives have now to pay "royalties" to W.R. Grace for buying a product that they had been using for centuries (Vandana Shiva, "Science, Ecology and Human Rights" in Human Wrongs. Penang: Just World Trust, 1996, 155). The ethical issue at bottom is the structure of the IPR treaty. Individual ethics would find no fault with the IPR treaty, in fact, would encourage it; but a structural, communitarian ethics would reject it totally as being heavily biased against the poor housewives of developing countries.

Likewise the morality of environmental issues has not been sufficiently dealt with in our moral theologies. The United Nations has ranked nations according to three indices: a per capita income index, a poverty line index and a human development index. Perhaps it also needs to come up with an ethical index, that concerns itself with women’s rights, energy consumption and other Third World issues. Just as the IMF wishes to maintain report cards on those developing countries that are defaulting in their balance of payments, so also another agency needs to be empowered to keep track of the greenhouse gas emissions of transnational and developed countries. This is equally a moral issue, even though the moral agent in this regard is an institution. Thus, the feminist consciousness compels theology to become more global in its scope and problematic.

C. The Involvement of the Church in Micromovements

Finally, a third step in the feminization of the Church would be the latter’s increasing role as an agent of civil society. At the present time the spaces of civil society are being usurped by market forces or by the State. Churches, along with non-government organizations, have an important role to play in safeguarding the territory of civil society.

Following from this, an essential quality of Christian discipleship in today’s world is to be part of a counter-cultural, micromovement. These are participatory people’s movements that have come out of the struggles of peoples. These are not macro processes but often they are grassroots projects that are confined to a particular locality or a few villages. Sometimes they operate in several villages, multiply and involve large movements (Ponna Wiggnaraja, "Rethinking Development and Democracy" in New Social Movements in the South, London: Zed Books, 1993). These movements have been attempting to better and enrich impoverished human relations, trying to turn the tide set by the process of globalization. Thus the fishermen’s forum, the cooperatives, for land-less labourers, the forum on violence against women, women against alcohol, anti-moneylenders groups, environmental organizations, women against dowry, youth groups, lawyers’ collectives, judicial activists, etc. There are over 250,000 Non-Government Organizations in the world (Julie Fisher, NGOs and the Political Development of the World, Connecticut: Kumarian Press, 1998) and many of these agents of civil society (though not all) have been making quiet transformations in the interstitial spaces of society. Some have been openly campaigning against issues and some have even started to influence the state and transnational organizations. These are people’s movements. They are nondenominational, inter-religious movements. These micromovements are crucial for women’s empowerment. The aim of the micro-movements is not to gain publicity, to capture power, or to be in the limelight, but only to bring about structures that are more just. These movements form part of the "dialogue of life and action". They are movements that are performing a veritable service to life. Many would call them signs of the action of the Holy Spirit. If the Church wishes to feminize itself — and by this I mean develop a mutually respectful consciousness — one sure way is to be part of the wave of micromovements that are slowly and gradually gaining momentum in the Two-Thirds World and are a powerful antidote to the evil effects of globalization.

In this post-modern society, feminization of the Church — or the development of an egalitarian, cosmopolitan, global consciousness — is not an option any more. It is a condition of survival that echoes the well-known maxim: "Think globally and act locally!"

Ref.: Vidyajyoti, Vol. 63, n. 2, February 1999.