Foreword to Joanna Manning, Is the Pope Catholic? A Woman Confronts Her Church

Toronto: Malcolm Lester Books, Crossroads Press. 3 pp

There is an old Bible story about King Josiah of Judah, who is told of “a book of the Law” that has been discovered in the basement of the Temple (2 Kings 22). The king summons all his advisors to interpret the meaning of this book. But these luminaries turn immediately for help to an obscure figure: Huldah, the wife of a “keeper of the wardrobe.” This mysterious woman is, however, a prophet, and it is she. who interprets the meaning of the lost book to the king. Her reading represents a hard word of judgment upon the community’s apostasy, yet promises renewal if the  leadership has the courage and vision to repent. Scholars believe this old story refers to the “appearance” of the book of Deutoronomy that launched the Josianic reform, a major turning point in  the history of Israel.

Joanna Manning is a kind of Huldah-figure for today. Her re-reading of the Church’s tradition offers a hard word of judgment and a hopeful word of reformation. It is long past time for our clerical aristocracies to again turn to the wisdom, truth-telling and passion of women prophets. Developments in the summer of 1998 demonstrate the timeliness and urgency of this book. At the end of June the Pope announced new Church laws to punish those who disagree with the Vatican’s interpretation of what are definitive teachings, including the ban on women’s ordination. In late July the Vatican ruled that one bishop’s dissenting vote can prevent an action by a national bishop’s conference until reviewed by the Vatican. And in late August, as I write this Forward, Fr. Jim Callan of Corpus Christi parish in Rochester, New York has been informed by his bishop that he is being reassigned, due to pressure from the Vatican.

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