My Lady Covid

Collectors of papal gaffes can now add another to their collection. At the end of yesterday’s General Audience the pope apparently referred to ‘this “lady” called Covid’. Not wise, your Holiness, not wise. From Eve onwards, women have been blamed for all the evils that have afflicted mankind (please note that word, mankind). Now Covid is to be characterised as a woman? I place that attempt at humour alongside the reference to female theologians as ‘the strawberry on the cake’ or the unfortunate 10-Euro ‘Earth Mother’ coin issued earlier this month by the Vatican mint. If women can be treated so lightly, or regarded as having no role but one, it is not surprising that legitimate questions about pastoral care, liturgical language and the scope allowed to women in the Church are similarly dismissed. What worries me is that many women will decide that they have received their own personal Ite, missa est. And that, your Holiness, would be a tragedy for us all, male or female.

P.S. I’m staying. Hope that isn’t too annoying of me.


31 thoughts on “My Lady Covid”

  1. I’m even more vexed than you are. And in despair that even a man like +++ Francis, of whom we all had such high hopes, has yet to understand.
    I’m glad you’re staying to challenge this misogyny, but the porch is beckoning.

  2. It’s indication of how deep rooted this misogyny is. Francis had no idea of what he was doing, I’m sure. Like you, I’m not going anywhere, but it is very depressing. Even the best and nicest men can’t escape it, partly, as you suggest, because it is so deeply in the language. I confess that sometimes even I don’t notice until someone else points it out.
    And yet … and yet…I don’t want to lose the liveliness of metaphorical language. Who wants to be without Luck be a lady to me?

    • No, we mustn’t lose metaphorical language, but the unthinking use of dismissive language by many priests and pastors is cause for concern, isn’t it? I’m glad I know many men who feel as concerned as we do about it.

      • That is true. But there a fair few ‘good Catholic men’ whose response is ‘no need to be so touchy’ or ‘Ah but think of Our Lady and how she submitted to everything’ or ‘My word, our little feminist is on her high horse again’. All said within the last year.
        As we say in the North, I’m spitting cobs.

  3. I, too, am staying, and praying, but with a deep sigh and gritted teeth, and great sadness that change will not come in my lifetime. I do wonder how many younger women are already walking away, their equality of dignity, gifts and vocation to serve unrecognised.

      • I’m afraid that I am one of those who have found that the church I grew up with isn’t one I can continue to be part of. For many years I thought the best way was to stay in and hope for the enlightenment of the establishment. In the last two months I have decided that, by staying, I am allowing mysogeny to be ignored and continued.

        The church wants me to be quiet, not think and do as I’m told. I’m 52 and educated and I can’t be that person.

        I am trying out other Christian traditions, trying to find a home. I will remain RC in my heart, though.

        • I hope you find a community that works for you. I am confirmed anglican, but borderline unchurched, and I think there are many Christians the same: I believe the concept of a church, and a congregation is changing very fast these days, and the traditional structures are not keeping up.

          There are hazards to being without a community – some that affect me include creating your own interpretations, not having anyone to challenge you go do better, not receiving communion for months on end, and having less to anchor me in a very secular world. I counterweight that with church-hopping, the advice and support of some close Christians friends, prayer, and following the (anglican) liturgy at home. I also try to remember the number of examples of prophets and saints that branched out on their own: Not that I can possibly claim equal motivation or engagement!

          My best wishes on your own path.

  4. I wonder if this might be partly down to the way certain languages apply a gender to things in the way that the French do? Some things attributed to le or la may seem odd to us. To me Covid-19 is ‘it’ or worse.

    However the Vatican has ‘form’ and I don’t believe that the men of the cloth, particularly those wearing brighter colours, see things in the way that us lesser mortals in the pews and elsewhere do.

    We must continue to write our letters to ‘The Tablet’ and comment on social media like here on your blog, but somehow I don’t think that ‘They’, as Br Dyfrig would put it, are reading, hearing, let alone ‘inwardly digesting’ what is being said. Are they putting their cloth over their heads, pulling it down over their eyes and stuffing it into their ears? I really hope not, but this mere male is as discharged as you are. 😉

  5. I can’t say that I will be staying as I left 30 off years ago. But the treatment of Women in such an off hand manner can be just as well experienced in the CofE as the RC Church.

    And in life generally, Women are dismissed or dissed just as regularly and those more militant are continuing to have to work extra hard to be treated as true equals, not as a sort of sub-person.

    I won’t be telling my spouse what Pope Francis did, because she might be upset, having worked so hard over her life to be accepted as an equal. In uniform in the Army, in the Civil Service, where at least the culture “on paper” says she is equal, but that status still depends on where you work and what job you do.

    And when I think back to Army days, when the female spouse was referred to as “Wife Off….”, even in their presence or on documentation. When service women were married to a civilian, the men were never referred to as “Husband of…” it just didn’t happen. It was if the spouses were reliant for their status upon the Rank and Status of their husband.

    So, are you going to write to Pope Francis to correct him?

    • When I used to very politically active I had a tee shirt that said:

      Labour Women make Policy
      Not Tea.

      In my wildest dreams I can’t ever see that happening in the RC church.

  6. I’m with you, Sister, on this one. Referring to COVID as a woman is sad. Why not call it Mr. COVID or Lord COVID instead? Even worse is the latest encyclical – Fratelli Tutti -. Even after the many found the name offensive – or at least insenstive – it remained with the weird notion that Fratelli included everyone – men and women – in Italian. That’s right up there with “mankind” and “men” referring to men and women. Just stand in front of a group of men and women sitting together and ask “Will all the men stand up?” and take a look at who’s standing and who’s still sitting. So much good work was being done by ICEL before Liturgicam Authenticam was issued – including a wonderful sacramentary (not Roman Missal). All that has been shelved. It continues to seem that the institutional church is more than willing to cater to the more conservative, traditional part of the church – especially in terms of liturgy. There are time when I wish someone would “throw a bone” to those of us who are moderate.

  7. It was a gaffe and I’m not defending it, but I was interested to know what he’d said in Italian: «In questa udienza come abbiamo fatto nelle udienze precedenti io rimarrò qui mi piacerebbe tanto scendere salutare ognuno ma dobbiamo mantenere le distanze perché se io scendo subito si fa un assembramento per salutare e questo è contro le cure le precauzioni che dobbiamo avere davanti a questa Signora che si chiama Covid e ci fa tanto male. Per questo scusatemi se non scendo a salutarvi vi saluto da qui ma vi porto nel cuore a tutti e voi portatemi nel cuore, a distanza si può pregare l’uno per l’altro e grazie per la comprensione». (Apparently the Black Death was known in Italy as la Signora; but it’s surely not unreasonable to hope that we might have moved on a bit from then.)

    • Thank you! I was hoping someone would provide the Italian text as I was a bit preoccupied with other matters yesterday. I was, of course, shamelessly using it as a topical peg for a question I believe we need to keep raising. Sadly, my little post has been dismissed as mere ‘feminism’ whereas I see it as being about how we understand the fullness of the Incarnation.

  8. I would compare Covid to Satan. There is nothing caring, maternal or female about this awful virus. Pope Francis should never have attributed female status to C19. It is an insult to women, who do so much to nurture and care for the world. The sooner we have female priests and bishops in the Catholic Church the better.

  9. My husband and I agree with Bernard of Menthon’s sentiments.

    We, too, tried to remain, i.e. “It’s our church, too”, but after 5 years of discernment and several month’s since our exit we now have peace. When C19 is over we will visit other communities of worship but in the meantime continue with our personal devotions – prayer, scripture reading, doing our best to live as disciples.

    14 of our RC family members have left for different and sometimes similar reasons. It was not an easy choice in any case. Hearing Pope Francis’ comments was not surprising, simply another validation for our choice. We note none of the comfy chair cardinals called him out on his statement? In our case it wasn’t a matter of believing the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but rather we have been starving on a diet of thorns and weeds forced down our throats.

    We pray for and respect those who have remained and wish only good for them.

  10. Thank you for your comments, all of which I have been thinking and praying about. You will, I hope, understand when I say I am deeply sad that some of you have left the Church but I am not surprised. Teilhard de Chardin observed that the Church is like a mist simultaneously revealing and concealing the Light of Christ. For myself, I know I must stay in the mist, difficult though I often find it, but the union of love and prayer with my fellow Christians can never be broken. As St Benedict says at the end of chapter 72of his Rule, ‘May he [Christ] bring us all alike to eternal life.’ That is my prayer, too. Amen.

  11. The Nicene Creed – ” for us men and for our salvation”. I questioned why it wasn’t just ” for us and …..” but was told by a priest that ‘men is just the plural of mankind’!!. Why do
    I continue to feel excluded by so much of the vocabulary of the liturgy? In the New Testament about the feeding of the multitudes, John writes there were about 5,000 in all, Luke records about 5,000 men, only Matthew writes about the 5,000 men besides women and children.
    At times I think I am on a fool’s path. Only the men will reach the hereafter. Women are simply here to ease their progress.

    • I think a lot of people associate inclusive/gender free language in the liturgy with a power struggle that can be dismissed as either patriarchy or feminism whereas I myself see it as being linked to how we understand the Incarnation. The fullness of the Incarnation includes both men and women but we are still a long way from giving that expression in the liturgy — and it’s not helped by clerical ignorance such as you encountered.

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