In a move that should surprise no one, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the organization formerly known as the Inquisition) has ruled that baptisms using gender-neutral formulas for the Trinity are invalid.
“The Vatican declared Friday that baptisms must be performed under a traditional formula – referring to the Trinity as the ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ – to be valid. Any baptisms conducted under new formulas that use inclusive nonmale language are not legitimate … The rejected formulas are: ‘I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer and of the Sanctifier’ or ‘I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator and of the Sustainer.’”
The CDF further opined that “these variations arise from so-called feminist theology”, a movement much at odds with the current Pope’s thinking, who sees “radical” manifestations of feminist theology as entirely un-Christian.
“The Pope, who wrote the latest ruling, has been a strong opponent of feminism in the Catholic Church. In his book, The Ratzinger Report, he wrote: ‘I am, in fact, convinced that what feminism promotes in its radical form is no longer the Christianity that we know; it is another religion.’”
If Pope Benedict thinks that mere gender neutrality is too far, you can be sure that referring to the Christian God as “God/ess” or “Primal Matrix” (or “Mother”) is right out. Feminist theologians like Rosemary Radford Ruether may claim that the Pope “is not our Pope”, but the truth is that reformist-minded Catholics on the left have found themselves ever-more isolated and minimized within a Church turned towards maintaining and strengthening its boundaries.
For Benedict, the salvation of the Church isn’t in the reforms that have led to the near (and perhaps impending) break-up of the Anglican Communion, but in returning to a “purer” Church by rolling back what this Pope sees as the excesses that have followed in the wake of Vatican II. The truth of the matter may be that feminist reforms will never be allowed to make significant headway into the Catholic Church.
Perhaps it is time for feminist theologians like Ruether to give up trying to change Catholicism from within. It may be that feminist author Germaine Greer has the right idea. When asked about the baptism issue, Greer pointedly said that “if the Pope succeeds in turning Catholic women against the church, so much the better.” Perhaps all these scholars, theologians, and authors would be better served by leaving Christianity behind, and embracing those traditions unafraid of feminine power and authority. Certainly modern Paganism could always use more theologians, creative thinkers, and ritualists. Better still, we don’t have an Inquisition snooping about for heresy.