“Wanting” as a Female Catholic

Twenty-one female Catholics attended a workshop, in Oregon, USA, for females with Catholic heritage. It was led by Joanne Bray, the International Liberation Reference Person for Catholics. The majority of those attending were from raised-poor and working-class backgrounds. We went immediately and joyfully to work, and we worked hard.

A key difficulty for female Catholics is “wanting.” Joanne put it simply and clearly. She said, “Our ‘wanters’ are broken.” Inside our ancient Catholic culture, there is no place for wanting as females, except to want what we are told to want.

Since the time of a major theologian, St. Augustine of Hippo, in the fourth century, the only reason given to females for existing has been to reproduce. The only reason. (While the view of women as exclusively mothers has changed in the modern period, the rigidity of this role has been internalized as distress recordings about our femaleness.) Even our most revered female saint, Mary, is revered because she was the Mother of God. Males were unhappy about the fact that they could not exist without us, so the best compromise the theologians and Church Fathers could make was to have us birth them and then basically disappear.

We are allowed to want to reproduce. Our bodies, minds, and existence are only for this purpose. Wanting anything else is sinful and wrong. The resulting distress recordings, grounded in patriarchy and male domination for thousands of years in the Western world prior to Augustine, have not been discharged. At this workshop it was clear to us how deep they go. Having been seen as secondary in the order of creation, existing only to procreate, we have internalized hatred toward ourselves, our bodies, and each other to the extent that we are not conforming to the directive. Women who have chosen not to have children feel like non-women. Women who have had children mostly did not feel they had a choice not to, and feel bad about wanting anything else.

I have been discharging on “wanting” for as long as I have been in Co-Counseling—thirty-six years. For most of that time I had no thoughts at all when faced with the question of what I wanted. I spent hundreds of hours sobbing and raging and shaking, while thinking and saying, “I do not know.” It did feel like my “wanter” was broken.

At this workshop something exploded in my mind. In the week since the workshop, the words “I want” keep coming out of my mind and my mouth. From little things to big things, I can tell [notice] what I want. I can tell what I want for breakfast. I can tell what I want to do next with my time. I can tell how long I want to be in the shower. I can tell what color shirt I want to wear today. I can tell how I want to be touched. I can tell what tone of voice I want men to talk in. I can tell what I want to do with the rest of my life.

It’s exciting and frightening. I keep asking, “Am I being greedy? Am I being selfish? Will I turn into a monster? Will I be abandoned by my family and friends? Will I be raped and murdered?” I believe these are all recordings of what was said to me as a baby, a young girl, a teenager, a young adult. In my sessions I say, “I want,” and shake and laugh and rage and cry. I hate that I have been ashamed of wanting. I hate what was done to my mind, my heart, and my body to break me of wanting.

There is much to discharge here, and I am well on my way. I want to be free of these recordings! I want the universe for all women and girls!

Christine Marie

Eugene, Oregon, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of women

(Present Time 186, January 2017)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00