Why Not a Woman Pope?
“I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is, just like a fish is.”
-Alice Walker, The Color Purple
“The symbol of Goddess gives us permission. She teaches us to embrace the holiness of every natural, ordinary, sensual dying moment.”
-Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees
In discussing the recent Pope announcement with my daughters, I asked them, “What do you think about a woman Pope? Why not a woman Pope?” My daughter’s quick reply: “Why not a black woman Pope?”
There is, of course, a rich tradition of deeply spiritual black women. In The Color Purple by Alice Walker and The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, Spirit is expressed as richly interwoven into the black woman’s daily life experiences—both in extreme hardships and in joyous celebrations. For these women, God is found within each person. As Maya Angelou says, “Nothing can dim the light that shines within.”
Spiritual leadership takes many shapes and forms. In Native American traditions, it is understood that the young and the elders are intimately connected to Spirit. That connection is not based on gender but on the ability of the young and the elders to be with Spirit more naturally and more easily than those in other age groups. On recently entering this world or on the journey out of this world, the veil between the human experience and spiritual experience is thinner. As such, the children and wise elders are honored and respected as great spiritual teachers.
When I asked my friend Marg, “Why can’t a woman be Pope? I don’t understand.” Her reply was, “It’s a club, and you have to have a penis to be allowed in the club.” I don’t know why that would be a requirement for loving God or holding a position of spiritual authority. Surely God does not care if someone does or does not have a penis. A life dedicated to Spirit is a calling, just like being an artist, teacher, scientist, social worker, librarian, musician, doctor, and so on is a chosen path. It’s a tug on the heart that pulls you along in certain directions on life’s journey and prompts you to make necessary changes when off course.
Ultimately, the heart of each and every living entity is always worthy of Spirit and worthy of love.
If a woman, of any race, feels called to follow a life of God, then maybe she will be the next Pope, Buddha, Prophet, or Messiah . . . as she lovingly tends to all in her care and gently nurtures Mother Earth. Arundhati Roy, author of The God of Small Things, says, “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way! On a quiet day, if you listen carefully, you can hear her breathing.“
In joy & gratitude,
Diana J. Ensign