Thursday, July 17, 2008

GUEST POST: Papal Ventures to a "Godless" Country: Australia 2008

by Glenys Livingstone

Sydney Australia is a pilgrimage that the head of the Roman Church had to make: duty required it, but if his past comments are anything to go by then perhaps he would rather have stayed at home. He has been quoted as having said once that Australia was a “Godless” country. I was delighted to hear this as a “Goddess” person myself. And many Goddess women here in Australia do think that this Place is a “Goddess” country … that the Great South Land Herself is playing a special role in these transforming planetary times – thanks in large part to Her indigenous care-taking inhabitants of past tens of thousands of years.

Meanwhile in the mainstream media, it looks quite different of course. It seems more that the Pope has invaded this territory – Sydney specifically. For the period of the 15-20 July, this city is experiencing all manner of disruption to usual transport services and almost unprecedented security measures. There was a move afoot by authorities to outlaw “annoying” conduct … a move that met with swift legal action by the Council for Civil Liberties and was overturned. (It was funny to hear the authorities and the Church in particular, going into denial about who was responsible for trying to make the rule!) Protestors are now allowed to wear T-shirts expressing their displeasure in papal-type opinions and to hand out condoms to the pilgrims.

As a woman who holds sacred space for the ritual celebration of Earth’s Seasonal Moments, a tradition that was specifically targeted for extinction for hundreds of years by this pontifical institution, I am quite disturbed by the loud fawning and bowing to a personage who should really be identified as a dictator. He is a political entity, whose regime has been especially deadly and abusive to women. Oh … that’s why! Silly me! I forget that this is not regarded as a crime, and indeed many texts on world religions barely mention the Inquisition: one text published 10 years ago did not reference it at all. This gynocidal effort of centuries – even millennia in different forms - has all been swept under their frocks, and they are free to continue to put the female eunuch on a pedestal where she can be kept an eye on. At this stage “Goddess” women (and men) have not been organised enough to gather a collective voice to express a remembrance of the pain and torture of our maternal lineage and the cultural domination of Europe. In 1986 when another pontiff came to town, there was a quarter page Protest Creed published in the Sydney newspaper by a Women-Church group and it catalyzed an Australian Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion that flourished for 20 years. But this time women as a specific group are apparently quiet – though perhaps we have just spread out and some are working magic and flaunting new integrity within many contexts.

Many Pagans sit around and argue with each other about how many women were murdered during the Burning Times … cringing that they might get the number wrong. But the scars on our psyches are clear, and the legacy of the atrocities is well assimiliated. I asked some Pagan groups what they might be doing to voice some protest during the papal visit. One told me that we wouldn’t want them protesting at our events so we should be quiet – and to remember how we (Pagans) had fed them to the lions. I had to admit that I had never identified with the Roman Empirical Pagans, who it seems to me were the precursors to the Roman Catholic Church Empire. It is a bit sad that even Pagans have more sympathy for Rome than for the Goddess women of their heritage. However another Pagan group … with a woman figuring more clearly in lead role (funny that!) responded that they had been giving the matter serious thought and had decided to gather and invoke the spirit of Monty Python - with a "Holy Grail/Life of Brian" night. So word has gone out and parties will be held. There are also Indigenous Australians who are voicing protest … not many will be supporting acts to the Pope Show: one T-shirt from an indigenous group read “I am a Collapsed Catholic.”

There is a hopeful side to all the Papal and Catholic parading – the “show and tell” for all to see. The absurdities and obscenities are on display … a coffin with a dead body in it as a centerpiece for their rituals, old decrepit men filling the stages mumbling overused prayers, being forced to apologize for pedophilia, trucking around in a ridiculous popemobile, and the local prelate in agreement with political entities on record as still advocating more babies … I wonder who will be making them? And how they might enforce that? These things are not going down well in the hearts and minds of ordinary people these days – of diverse cultural heritages. It certainly does not smack of any real Wisdom for these times. Australians will not be shy about responding when pie-in-the-sky is pressed in their faces. It will be amusing to watch.

This Pope may well be doing us all a service … playing his hand of cards, and bringing all the boys out from the closets. And what a sorry sight it is. I almost feel sorry for him – almost! I do not think that this Pope, who once headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the main tool of past inquisitory activity, will leave this “Godless/Goddess” country unscathed.
© Glenys Livingstone 2008.

Australian Glenys Livingstone is author of PaGaian Cosmology and holds a Ph.D. in Social Ecology from the University of Western Sydney, Australia. For more about her and her work, visit


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At Thursday, July 17, 2008 1:05:00 PM, Blogger Debi Crow said...

Thanks so much for writing this, Glenys, what a great piece. I seems obscene to me that so much is made of a visit from one man who comes representing one of the most repressive, and woman-hating, religions in the world.

And, I agree with what you say about the number of women murdered as witches. Some say thousands, some say millions, but just one would have been too many. And although women are not generally put to death when suspected of witchcraft any longer (although it does happen in some countries) - the prevailing attitude that led to the Burning Times is still very much alive and kicking worldwide. And, yes, the catholic church bears a large part of the responsiblity for that.

Glad to hear that some Goddess people will be protesting.

At Friday, July 18, 2008 2:00:00 AM, Anonymous Glenys Livingstone said...

debi crow
Thank you and thanks to Judith here at Medusa Coils for the invitation to write the article.


At Saturday, July 19, 2008 10:51:00 AM, Anonymous Glenys Livingstone said...

Just to say here that I have had many email me directly - glad to read this article here and incredulous that this hype is happening in the 21st century. The "secular" press gave us full frontal "stations of the cross" public full-on extravaganza, and reporters (journalists? ) SAYING that this is an enactment of the "greatest story ever told"! And they even roped in some indigenous people to help carry the cross !!! (eep! ... and they thought they were being nice of course ... reminds me of a scene from Life of Brian which we saw tonight). BUT Australia is not actually full of stupid people ... maybe it will cure some of being nominal Catholics/Christians and help them jump the fence. The young people who have come from all over the world are essentially here because it is a great free party for them ... I hope they will use the condoms they are handed.

As to why the present pontiff described Australia as a "Godless" country ... I don't really know the context. Australians are (have been?) a very iconoclastic lot generally, perhaps heretical by nature - the European inhabitants having departed the shores of traditional homelands and set free in a sense. I myself have had the honor of being nominated as heretic some 28 years ago.

The Great South Land has a lot of power ... this pontiff did not venture to Her Center - Uluru. If you can try and get the music of Gurumul Yurupingu - he sings in his indigenous language and of the mother creator (Rainbow Serpent) and his mothers and grandmother ancestors and his father too, and some of the creatures of this Land. My partner and I heard him at the Opera House this month - a great beauty.

Tonight a group of us drummed for a while, and called the directions and remembered our ancestors and those who have suffered - and those who still do - and watched Monty Python to inspire ourselves and be thankful that we can laugh at so much of it. The Sangha - community of creative people around the globe that do support life - is huge. And this site is one of many where we get to know of it.


At Thursday, July 24, 2008 9:16:00 AM, Anonymous Glenys Livingstone said...

did you see this? the thirteen indigenous grandmothers have a run-in with the Vatican:

The vatican shows its stripes.

At Thursday, July 24, 2008 12:46:00 PM, Blogger Medusa said...

Thanks for this, Glenys. I was happy to see that the grandmothers were persistent and that they finally were allowed to stay and they delivered their package, containing their message, to the Vatican guard.


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