From Pope Joan to … Anne

Quel lien entre la figure légendaire de la papesse Jeanne et la théologienne Anne Soupa, qui a fait acte de candidature au siège épiscopal de Lyon ?

What is the link between the legendary figure of Pope Joan and the theologian Anne Soupa, who applied for the Episcopal See in Lyon? No. If only once again – certainly, in a less romantic way – the question of the place of women in the Roman Catholic Church is raised. 

A few weeks ago, Anne Soupa, a recognized theologian, applied for the Episcopal office in Lyon. Since then and in France alone, more than fifteen thousand people have supported its initiative. The courage of this act is only one of the possible responses to the permanent scandal of the place of women in the Catholic Church, they who constitute the vast majority of the lifeblood of the communities. The denunciation of such a scandal once again underlines the age-old resistance of male clericalism and its desire to save at all costs an omniscient power at the expense of the service and pastoral needs of the baptized while the model of the priesthood, versusTridentine, is out of breath in a very large part of Roman Christendom. The personal and media gesture of Anne (Soupa) easily refers the historian to the legendary papess Jeanne who would not have been satisfied with a cathedron but would have squarely occupied the pontifical throne (1) .

La papesse Jeanne (illumination, 1450), Ms. 033, f. 69v, Spencer Collection, New York

Without knowing how and why this legend was born, perhaps at the end of the 10th century, it was around 1255 that Jean de Mailly clearly mentioned it in his Universal Chronicle. Of German origin, Jeanne is said to have studied and traveled across Europe. Disguised as a man, she would have become a notary at the pontifical court, then a cardinal, elected pope in 855 before giving birth publicly in 858 and perhaps dying as a result of her childbirth; unless it has been stoned or simply laid down. This amazing story would not have lived until the 16th century if the faithful themselves had not believed in it, sometimes slyly diverting the meaning of symbols. For example, the presence of two curule seats during the election of the pope, mark of the collegiality of the curia, was transformed for one into a pierced chair which, since the usurpation of Joan, would have enabled a cleric to verify the presence of male attributes of each new pope. “Duets habet and bene pendentes”the auditor would have cheered in a very carnivalesque and joyfully anticlerical scene. Similarly, the detour undertaken by the procession during the pontifical coronation between the Lateran and the Colosseum was interpreted as avoiding the place where Jeanne had given birth to her child while she was on horseback.

For its part, the Church supported for a long time, especially through Dominican literature, but hollow the existence of Pope Joan. It allowed him to make this episode an exemplum, a sort of story with moral value by vilifying the cross-dressing. She also drew an argument from it during successive crises of the papacy, especially during the Great Schism of the end of the 14th century with the simultaneous presence of several popes. If unworthy candidates could therefore access the throne of Peter they could also be deposed. In turn, the Lutherans used this figure to denounce the excesses of the Roman institution and its discredit while Calvin for his part stressed that Joan had ended the apostolic succession. It was only then that Rome, aided by the scholarship of the Jesuits, proved at the end of the 16th century that Joan had never existed.

Far be it from me to use the figure of the Pope in my turn to support positive denunciation and above all the claim of Anne Soupa. His fight deserves much better than that even if History can be of some help to him in this field. It will be noted simply that since this announcement, it is radio silence on the side of the French episcopal conference which never reacts when a problem disturbs it. Only a few second knives have tried laboriously to explain that the ecclesial and hierarchical structure of the Church came from the will of God herself. Will that they know better than anyone, probably thanks to their ordination. It is therefore always and again the place of women in real positions of responsibility that is posed in the face of rules written by and for men. Even if still very timidly,

In fact from Anne to Jeanne, a personal pronoun was lost. This “I” which resonates in the nave and in the choir not only as a legitimate claim but as an imperative pastoral necessity and an urgent theological rereading.

Alain Cabantous

Source: DE JEANNE À… ANNE – Saint-Merry

Night of the Watchers: June 25 at 8 p.m. at Saint-Merry

L’ACAT appelle à prier à l’occasion de la Journée Internationale des Nations Unies pour le soutien aux victimes de la torture. Cet événement rassemble chrétiens du monde entier et sympathisants…

ACAT calls to pray on the occasion of the United Nations International Day in support of the victims of torture. This event brings together Christians from around the world and supporters of all generations committed to the defense of human rights.

If you cannot come, know that the celebration will be accessible live from your internet browser at this address: https://zoom.us/j/7522757236
or if you go to zoom, indicating the meeting ID: 752 275 7236

Source: Night of the Watchers: June 25 at 8 p.m. in St-Merry – Saint-Merry

LA VOILOU, LA VOILÀ !!

Thanks to two recent developments – the recognition of a miraculous recovery in Lourdes and the new film by Xavier Giannoli -, the Marian apparitions are coming back to the fore. Analysis of a phenomenon as old as Christianity in the chronicle of Alain Cabantous

Almost suddenly, two close facts have been part of our news. On the one hand, the recognition by the Beauvais ordinary of the miraculous healing of Sister Bernadette Moriau, delivered from an incurable illness in July 2008 following a pilgrimage to Lourdes a few months before. On the other, the remarkable release of Xavier Giannoli’s film, The Apparition, where Vincent Lindon plays a talented journalist commissioned by the Vatican to investigate the apparitions of the Virgin in the south-east of France. As if the month of Marie had taken some advance sliding from May to February!

In fact, these two phenomena are apparently fairly commonplace. Since the tenth century, when Mary would have appeared more than 21,000 times, the Roman Church has recognized only fifteen! And, in this area, it was not the 19th century that beat the record despite La Salette (1846), Lourdes (1858) or Pontmain (1871), but the 20th century. From Fatima (1917) to the Medjugorje years (since 1981), there would have been four times more appearances than in the previous century. Between 1945 and 1959, the “Lady of all peoples” appeared fifty-six times to a woman from Amsterdam. Same inflation and same ecclesiastical prudence for miraculous healings. In Lourdes alone, between 1858 and 2018, there were more than 7,300 of which 70 (for two thirds of them before 1914) endorsed by the hierarchy.  Continue reading “LA VOILOU, LA VOILÀ !!”

Pope Francis on the death of George Floyd: We cannot tolerate racism and claim to defend life

“We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.”

Pope Francis this morning spoke of his “great concern” at “the disturbing social unrest” in the United States following “the tragic death of George Floyd,” which he attributed to “the sin of racism.”

“We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life,” the pope said.

He did so in a message addressed to his “dear brothers and sisters in the United States,” meaning the entire nation and not just its 70 million Catholics, a senior Vatican source told America. He spoke to them during his virtual public audience from the library of the apostolic palace on June 3, which was carried by Vatican Media.

Continue reading “Pope Francis on the death of George Floyd: We cannot tolerate racism and claim to defend life”

Trump’s Biblical Spectacle Outside St. John’s Church

Fraud

McKay Coppins | The Atlantic

The president’s photo op outside St. John’s Church was emblematic of his appeal to the religious right.

He wielded the Bible like a foreign object, awkwardly adjusting his grip as though trying to get comfortable. He examined its cover. He held it up over his right shoulder like a crossing guard presenting a stop sign. He did not open it.

“Is that your Bible?” a reporter asked.

“It’s a Bible,” the president replied.

Even by the standards of Donald Trump’s religious photo ops, the dissonance was striking. Moments earlier, he had stood in the Rose Garden and threatened to unleash the military on unruly protesters. He used words such as anarchy and domestic terror, and vowed to “dominate the streets.” To clear the way for his planned post-speech trip to St. John’s Church, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators.

A few hours after the dystopian spectacle, I spoke on the phone with Robert Jeffress, a Dallas megachurch pastor and indefatigable Trump ally. He sounded almost gleeful.

“I thought it was completely appropriate for the president to stand in front of that church,” Jeffress told me. “And by holding up the Bible, he was showing us that it teaches that, yes, God hates racism, it’s despicable—but God also hates lawlessness.” Continue reading “Trump’s Biblical Spectacle Outside St. John’s Church”