To the editors:

As a regular follower of the Reader and as a pastoral practitioner, I’ve been consistently impressed by your treatment of religion and spirituality issues. McClory’s “A Silenced Woman” and “Insubordination” [January 3] are no exceptions. They were well-researched, honest and balanced presentations of a very painful and very complex issue. I would, however, like to express a few theological concerns and reflections.

Please be more careful with terminology that tends to exclude. By using “the Church” (as in “Insubordination”‘s subtitle) to identify the Roman Catholic Church, you may be unconsciously espousing a very specific doctrinal position. Such a usage effectively excludes non-Roman Catholic groups from “church” status, and it implies that there is, indeed, only one normative path for Christians. As a member of a religious/ethnic minority–a Greek Orthodox believer–I experience the identification of a majority group with the whole “Church” as both discounting and exclusionary of alternative paths.

Yet I would affirm the unity of all Christians in needing to respond to gender issues. From the distant past, the days of a united sense of church, some compelling variant voices on women’s issues can be heard. Of these, the very early awareness that in Christ “there is neither male nor female” (Galatians 3:28) is certainly foundational. Another powerful voice emerges from the choir of the early Greek Church Fathers: “Whatsoever was not assumed [i.e., not incarnate in Christ] was not healed.” Ancient Christianity consistently affirmed its belief that the entirety of human nature–excepting sin alone–was assumed in the Christ. Excluding the feminine aspect does violence to this vision of wholeness and healing. Exclusion is inconsistent with the inclusivity of the early church communities. It’s theologically inconsistent.

But what is by far most ironic and compelling in Sister Teresita’s case is the context. It all took place in a church dedicated to Saint Catherine–a woman of the African see of Alexandria! Catherine, “the Great-Martyr and Philosopher” as she is still known in the East. Catherine, whose very martyrdom occurred because of her perceived insubordination to the authoritarians of her day. She was put to death, according to ancient legend, precisely because her brilliant orations put dozens of her male opponents to shame. She knew that she spoke the truth. They knew that her insubordination could be silenced by no means other than death, and a very cruel death at that. Which leaves a person wondering. Wondering what Catherine of Alexandria would have to say about silencing insubordinate voices!

Elias Bouboutsis

E. Delaware Place