This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
BARBARA STREISAND CRITICISES JEWISH LEADERS FOR EXCLUDING WOMEN
1 Samuel 2:12-26
Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
12 ‘Eli’s sons were scoundrels who had no regard for Adonai. 13 The rule these priests followed in dealing with the people was that when anyone offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come, while the meat was stewing, with a three-pronged fork in his hand. 14 He would stick it in the pan, kettle, caldron or pot; and the priest would take for himself whatever the fork brought up. This is how they dealt with all the people of Isra’el who came there to Shiloh. 15 The priest’s servant would actually come before the fat had burned to smoke and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give the priest meat he can roast; because he doesn’t want your meat stewed, but raw.” 16 If the man answered, “First let the fat burn to smoke, then take as much as you want,” he would say, “No, give it to me now, or I’ll take it by force.” 17 The sin of these young men was very serious in Adonai’s view, because they treated offerings made to Adonai with contempt.
18 But Samuel ministered in the presence of Adonai, wearing a linen ritual vest even though he was only a child. 19 Each year his mother would make him a little coat and bring it when she came up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. 20 ‘Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, “May Adonai give you children from this woman because of the boy you have loaned to Adonai”; then they would go home. 21 So Adonai took notice of Hannah, and she conceived and bore three more sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew in the presence of Adonai.
22 When ‘Eli was very old, he heard about everything his sons were doing to all Isra’el, and that they were having sex with the women doing service at the door of the tent of meeting. 23 He asked them, “Why are you doing things like this? I am hearing bad reports about you from all these people. 24 No, my sons, I don’t hear Adonai’s people spreading a single good report! 25 If a person commits a sin against another person, the judges can mediate between them. But if a person commits a sin against Adonai, who can intercede for him?” However, they wouldn’t pay attention to what their father said, because Adonai had decided to kill them.
26 The child Samuel kept growing and gaining favor both with Adonai and with people.
The books of Samuel are written from a perspective critical of the religious cult in Israel and hostile to the official priestly families like Eli’s. Still, the picture given of the abuse of religious leadership is depressingly familiar. Religious leadership confers power and only the most rigorous exercise of equality in the religious community can protect people from abuse. Any kind of clerical hierarchy will tend to work to cover up abuse and to protect members of the clergy.
This blog has committed itself to opposing in the name of God the canonisation of Pope John Paul Second, who used his power to deny justice to abused boys and girls while protecting their abusers. To make such a man a saint would bring the Christian Church into justifiable contempt.
Readers may find this stance a little odd, given that its author is not Catholic and the existence of one saint more or less is scarcely the most urgent issue in a world of inequality and violence. My perspective is that the church will not be believed as long as its practices are far removed from those of Jesus. The deliberate deception of millions of faithful Catholic believers by the corrupt Roman Curia undermines the credibility of all Christian ministers and denominations. Without any sense of superiority (for to be sure there will be similar scandals in all denominations) those of us who are not Roman Catholics should ask our Catholic friends to stand firm against any further dignifying of a man who knew that children were being abused by priests and was only concerned for the reputation of the church.
Meanwhile the building of the rigorous equality referred to above is an urgent duty for all religious people, no merely of Christian believers. Moslems may find that distortions of Islam arise far less frequently from the ignorance of the people than from the self-interest of powerful leaders.
When Jesus was asked about religious hierarchy he took a child and said, “Unless you become as this child you will not even enter the kingdom of God.”