Day 34: Let There Be No Doubt
BY FR. THOMAS REESE, S.J. | March 30, 2020
Susana should be declared the official patron of the Me Too movement, which gives voice to women who have been sexually harassed and assaulted.
According to the Book of Daniel, Susana was sexually harassed by two powerful men who tried to use their positions as judges to compel her to have sex with them. When she refused, they accused her of adultery and tried to have her executed.
What we see here is not a sexual sin of weakness or passion. Rather it is an abuse of power and an attack on the intrinsic dignity of another human person. To the men, Susana did not matter. She was a woman whose autonomy and feelings did not count. They had the power; she was expected to submit to their desires.
Through the boy Daniel, God defends Susana and condemns her abusers. Let there be no doubt which side God is on. Let there be no doubt which side Christians should be on.
Through the centuries, too many women have suffered this humiliating and degrading treatment. This is the century when it must stop.
How differently Jesus responds to the woman caught in adultery. Note the man is not caught! While the scribes and the Pharisees want to stone her, Jesus recognizes their hypocrisy. “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” No man could cast a stone.
The Scripture readings today recognize the difference in gravity between a sin of weakness and an abuse of power. The judges are condemned; the woman is forgiven.
Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J., is a senior analyst at Religion News Service. Previously he was a columnist at the National Catholic Reporter (2015-17) and an associate editor (1978-85) and editor in chief (1998-2005) at America magazine. He was also a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University (1985-98 & 2006-15) where he wrote Archbishop, A Flock of Shepherds, and Inside the Vatican. Earlier he worked as a lobbyist for tax reform. He has a doctorate in political science from the University of California Berkeley. He entered the Jesuits in 1962 and was ordained a priest in 1974 after receiving an M.Div from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.
Thus wrote Mahatma Gandhi: “We must always seek to ally ourselves, with that part of the enemy, that knows what is right.”
Wonderful, timely article which ended not so wonderfully! The judges, for their abuse of power, deserved to be condemned but what did Susana do that needed forgiveness? Am really puzzled! Sounds like she, too, was condemned/accused and in need of forgiveness.
I think the “woman who was forgiven” refers to the woman accused of adultery whom Jesus forgave, not Susanna. The passage from the book of Daniel says nothing about Susana receiving, or needing, forgiveness. I think both stories highlight men’s abuse of power over the powerless. Unfortunately, in the gospel story, although the men are shamed, the perpetrator of the adultery (was it harassment or consensual? We do not know) was not brought to justice.
Jesus also lifts up the dignity of women in hi s encounter with the Samaritan woman in John 4 as well as the encounter with his mother as he lays dying on the cross. And finally Mary Magdalene becomes the first person to see the resurrected Christ and the first to spread the news of his resurrection. So why do so many churches refuse to ordain women?
I am a 71 year old woman —born Catholic, raised Catholic, educated at all educational levels in superlative Catholic educational institutions. But the Church, by refusing to permit the ordination to the priesthood of women, continues to degrade us. The craziness of it can be overwhelmingly maddening. No excuses. I’m sick of it. Catholic women of the world need to unite to say: no more money, no more support until we are given a place in the Church that acknowledges that we are truly equal.