http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2004/04/11/linking_evil_to_feminism/ Linking evil to feminism By Eileen McNamara, Globe Columnist, 4/11/2004 Not content to wage war on the civil rights of homosexuals, some leaders of the Roman Catholic Church chose the most sacred week in the Christian calendar to launch an assault on another of their favorite targets: women. In Boston, Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley identified "feminism" as one of the secular evils that make the United States "a hostile, alien environment" for Catholics. Feminism, the advocacy of equal social and political rights for women, lumped right in there during his homily with "the drug culture," "the sexual revolution," "hedonism," "consumerism," and "the culture of death." In Atlanta, Archbishop John F. Donoghue banned women from participating in traditional Holy Thursday reenactments of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper, their inclusion in the symbolic ritual inappropriate, he said, because women cannot be "called to the priesthood." (O'Malley, too, restricted the ritual to men but issued no edict requiring others to do so.) Donoghue instituted a similar ban 15 years ago when he was the bishop of Charlotte, N.C. To their credit, many Georgia parishes canceled scheduled reenactments rather than restrict participation. In Britain, Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff, Wales, applauded plans by a television outlet to broadcast an abortion procedure later this month. It would be educational, he said, "especially for women," the suggestion implicit that women have no idea what they are doing when they terminate a pregnancy. Demonizing feminism and patronizing women is familiar enough to anyone who lived through the early stages of the women's liberation movement, when adherents were depicted as homely, man-hating harridans. But that was 35 years ago. Has the perception of women changed so little? It has not changed at all in the Catholic Church. The prospect of female power is so threatening that the Vatican said last fall that it is weighing a proposal to limit the use of girls as altar servers. It seems that more girls than boys have been signing up since females were first allowed at the altar 10 years ago. What is so threatening? That those little girls might grow into women who demand an adult place at the altar beside their brothers? The way to preclude that possibility is to disenfranchise little girls from full participation in the rituals of their faith? The dozens of demonstrators who protested Donoghue's foot-washing directive outside the Cathedral of Christ the King last Thursday were no more than buzzing gnats to the archbishop. "Does it benefit us to make this a pretext for protest?" he asked during the Mass. "Some would say yes, but I do not think so." No surprise there. Didn't O'Malley, his counterpart in Boston, tell the hundreds of priests gathered for Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross last Tuesday that "the breakdown of authority" is one of the great cultural threats to the Catholic faith? That would be male, clerical authority, one presumes. Beyond his contempt for feminism and his veneration of obedience, O'Malley displayed his disdain for an entire generation, "the boomers born between 1946 and 1966." (O'Malley was born in 1944.) "The most educated and affluent group in US history," he said, "are heirs to Woodstock, the drug culture, the sexual revolution, feminism, the breakdown of authority, and divorce. Typically, they are religious illiterates, but they are interested. Not big on dogmas. My karma ran over my dogma could be their motto." Such a snide dismissal of the sometimes circuitous spiritual paths taken by men and women not much younger than himself does not become a thoughtful religious leader who claims to want to reach out to disaffected Catholics. Such characterizations will drive them further into the arms of the Unitarian-Universalists or Protestant denominations that are not intimidated by parishioners who ask questions or by women who are proud to identify themselves as feminists. Eileen McNamara is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.