FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

From Galileo to the Rights of Women

by RON JACOBS

I recently watched Joseph Losey’s film version of Bertolt Brecht’s play The Life of Galileo. First performed in 1943, and revised in 1955, Losey’s production was filmed in 1975. One of Brecht’s best-known dramas, The Life of Galileo addresses the oppressive nature of religion both in terms of its control of thought and its collusion with power in maintaining the status quo. It is as if within knowledge resides damnation, as if any human even has foreknowledge of such a fate should it exist. Indeed, there is a reason the tree in the Garden of Eden is called the Tree of Knowledge, with that knowledge being the source of all subsequent evil.

Brecht’s dramas remain perhaps the greatest investigations of the human condition written in the past one hundred years. From the travails of Pirate Jenny in The Threepenny Opera (Der Dreigroschen Oper) to his condemnation of the profiteers of war in Mother Courage and Her Children (Mutter Courage und Ihre Kinder), no playwright has given the spirit of the common man and woman more credence or provided it with more depth. Nor has any recent dramatist been as direct and unforgiving in portraying the forces that conspire to deny that spirit.9780199989843_p0_v1_s260x420

Galileo challenged the dogma of the Church on matters of science and hoped the Church would accept his revolutionary conclusions or at the least consider them. For his efforts he was branded a heretic, threatened with torture and forced to recant. He was then sentenced to house arrest for the remainder of his life. Today’s heretics are less likely to challenge scientific precepts held by the Catholic Church, given that the church has accepted most of the precepts out there. Of course, the fact that evolution is still denied by many other Christian sects proves such acceptance is not always the case when it comes to other churches. No, the heretics of today would be those of the Church who question or challenge the Vatican’s teachings on women. Foremost among that segment are those Catholics who believe women are equal and should be ordained once they have completed the course of study required by the Church.

It is questions of gender, sexuality and personal morality that cause the greatest debate within the modern church. That is the premise of Peter McDonough’s recent book examining the doctrinal and political debates currently occupying modern Catholics. That book, titled The Catholic Labyrinth, provides a recent history of the church, and the individuals and political organizations on both sides of the issues that divide it. Written for members (current or former) and non-Catholics alike, McDonough’s text takes a detailed look at the alliances between conservative Catholics and like-minded Protestant groups in their battle against modernism. He presents the organizations involved that have made themselves players in the debate and delves into their histories and political connections. In doing so, he describes the lay and clerical alliances within the Church determined to keep the Church’s positions on women, same sex unions, contraception and celibate priests unchanged. Simultaneously, he discusses those within the Church dedicated to liberalizing its positions on these issues.

Although the Vatican is no longer the political power it was in Galileo’s time, it continues to exercise considerable influence in temporal matters around the world. It goes without saying that this influence is of a political nature. Unfortunately, despite its pronouncements decrying war and the poverty caused by neoliberal capitalism, its primary energies seem to be spent fighting the rights of women. This begs the question to defenders of the faith: why is this so? After all, if the Church spent the same amount of resources and time opposing imperial war and the evils of capital up to and including forbidding those Catholics who profit from these transgressions from receiving the sacraments (as has occurred with politicians that support the current US abortion laws), wouldn’t that opposition change the nature of the debate?

McDonough uses the metaphor of human development to describe the recent history of the Catholic Church. In doing so he asks, if the changes begun after the council known as Vatican Two were the end of the church’s childhood and adolescence, then is the future its maturation toward adulthood? If so, then the debates within the Church will decide whether it will be an adulthood that rejects most of what it has learned in favor of an order lifted from a medieval past or one that learns from its recent mistakes. As any reader knows, those mistakes range from denying and making excuses for pedophile priests to rejecting change in favor of a status quo often rejected by many in its flock. Galileo was denied his freedom because of the Vatican’s fear of scientific truth being made known to its parishioners around the world. One wonders how long women in the Church will be denied theirs while that same church denies the truth of their equality.

Ron Jacobs is the author of the just released novel All the Sinners, Saints. He is also the author of  The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden.  His third novel All the Sinners Saints is a companion to the previous two and is due out in April 2013.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press.  He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
Paul Street
Donald Trump: Ruling Class President
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Dude, Where’s My War?
Andrew Levine
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Paul Atwood
Why Does North Korea Want Nukes?
Robert Hunziker
Trump and Global Warming Destroy Rivers
Vijay Prashad
Turkey, After the Referendum
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, the DOJ and Julian Assange
CJ Hopkins
The President Formerly Known as Hitler
Steve Reyna
Replacing Lady Liberty: Trump and the American Way
Lucy Steigerwald
Stop Suggesting Mandatory National Service as a Fix for America’s Problems
Robert Fisk
It is Not Just Assad Who is “Responsible” for the Rise of ISIS
John Laforge
“Strike Two” Against Canadian Radioactive Waste Dumpsite Proposal
Norman Solomon
The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia
Andrew Stewart
Can We Finally Get Over Bernie Sanders?
Susan Babbitt
Don’t Raise Liberalism From the Dead (If It is Dead, Which It’s Not)
Uri Avnery
Palestine’s Nelson Mandela
Fred Nagel
It’s “Deep State” Time Again
John Feffer
The Hunger President
Stephen Cooper
Nothing is Fair About Alabama’s “Fair Justice Act”
Jack Swallow
Why Science Should Be Political
Chuck Collins
Congrats, Graduates! Here’s Your Diploma and Debt
Aidan O'Brien
While God Blesses America, Prometheus Protects Syria, Russia and North Korea 
Patrick Hiller
Get Real About Preventing War
David Rosen
Fiction, Fake News and Trump’s Sexual Politics
Evan Jones
Macron of France: Chauncey Gardiner for President!
David Macaray
Adventures in Labor Contract Language
Ron Jacobs
The Music Never Stopped
Kim Scipes
Black Subjugation in America
Sean Stinson
MOAB: More Obama and Bush
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Minute Musings: On Why the United States Should Launch a Tomahawk Strike on Puerto Rico
Tom Clifford
The Return of “Mein Kampf” … in Japan
Todd Larsen
Concerned About Climate Change? Change Where You Bank!
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Brexit: Britain’s Opening to China?
John Hutchison
Everything Old is New Again: a Brief Retrospectus on Korea and the Cold War
Michael Brenner
The Ghost in the Dream Machine
Yves Engler
The Military Occupation of Haiti
Christopher Brauchli
Guardians of Lies
James Preece
How Labour Can Win the Snap Elections
Cesar Chelala
Preventing Disabilities in the Elderly
Sam Gordon
From We Shall Overcome to Where Have all the Flowers Gone?
Charles Thomson
It’s Still Not Too Late to Deserve Your CBE, Chris Ofili
Louis Proyect
Documentaries That Punch
Charles R. Larson
Review: Vivek Shanbhag’s “Ghachar Ghochar”
David Yearsley
Raiding the Tomb of Lubitsch
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail