Sunday, January 10, 2010

Odd Bird Christians - Mary Daly - Graham Leonard

Two interesting obits of two very odd ball Christians who died within the same week.

The first is of the radical feminist theologian Mary Daly, who was tolerated by the Jesuits at Boston College where she was tenured. She in the end did not want males to attend some of her lectures, which thereby lead her way into retirement. School policy could have allowed such a quirk of teaching preferences but federal law would not allow it. In any case she seems to have the spunk and fire of a truly memorable personage in the faith that she dissected, described and challenged as a theologian.

Mary Daly, uppity theologian
Mary Daly, the feminist theologian and philosopher, has died. She was an audaciously creative spirit; an awkwardly witty, deadly serious writer. She arguably did more to stretch what is possible to think in contemporary feminist theology than any other.

Here's a taste of what she was prepared to say. In books like Gyn/Ecology and Beyond God the Father, she envisaged the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit: the all-male three in one – as an eternal homosexual orgy. She argued that to call God "father" is to make fathers gods, excusing all kinds of horrors from religious totalitarianism to domestic violence.

Theologians have contested Daly's claims, not least feminist theologians who have remained within the Christian tradition. They point out that alongside the male images of God as Father and Son are the more ambiguous ones of God as Spirit. In the Hebrew Bible, the Spirit of God is envisaged as a wise woman, Sophia. Sophia has even been aligned with the person of Christ: at the time of Jesus, she was well established as a symbol of God's relatedness… And yet, Jesus was a man. The female word Sophia lost out to the male word Logos when it came to interpreting the metaphysics of the Son.
The second obit is of Graham Leonard, former Church of England Bishop of London among other things who in his retirement went over to the other side, the Romans, because of his disgust of female ordination in his church body. He turned in his bishop’s title for that of monsignor.

Monsignor Graham Leonard obituary
However, in 1994, three years after his retirement from London, and after conversations with the Roman Catholic archbishop of Westminster, his friend Cardinal Basil Hume, he was received into the Roman Catholic church and was ordained priest sub conditione. At Leonard's own consecration in 1964, an Old Catholic bishop from the small churches that have separated from the Roman Catholic church, but are in full communion with the Church of England, had joined the bishops who consecrated him. This eased his reception into the Roman Catholic church, and he was made a monsignor…

He was notably honourable in ordaining 71 women as deacons at St Paul's Cathedral on 22 March 1987. This ordination weakened the arguments against the ordination of women as priests, but he went ahead. Still, he was hesitant about allowing women to exercise authority. He appointed an area bishop to Kensington who directed that no woman should be in the sanctuary when he was celebrating, even though Kensington had many female deacons and female servers. Leonard once used the law of trespass to prevent 100 men and women accepting the ministration of a female priest ordained abroad.
If there is a waiting room outside heaven and one has to wait one’s turn to get the right bureaucratic stamp on the Christian Passport so to speak, I have to imagine a bureaucratic snafu as in the case how all bureaucratic institutions work – and imagine Mary Daly and Graham Leonard challenging each other over one’s place in line.

I do not predict fisticuffs but in any verbal and or physical confrontation between those two – my money is on the Irish girl.