Gatherings of the Faithful

In both the GOP and the Catholic Church, white male elders are the smoke and mirrors, the dominant class fiercely fixed on keeping their privileges.

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How different are they, really, at the end of the day or week in winter—the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and the Vatican Papal Conclave? They were all the talk in Washington and Rome, superpowers of politics and religion. 

So how do you feel about Pope Francis and President Rand Paul, R-Ky.? Call it the March epiphany, that they will rule the world. They were voted most popular.  

Here's mine: Rome and the current Republican party would tyrannize us if they could—by us, I mean girls and women. Boys are also secretly victimized in the Vatican's vale of tears, likely for centuries. But boys grow up; women and girls never escape the yoke. 

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

The "conservative" Republican party and the Roman Catholic Church under the "new" Pope Francis are desperately in need of progressive reform. They are each losing their audiences outside their brittle borders because they refuse to change going forward. Everybody knows it except their gatherings of the faithful. Columnist David Brooks, writing in The New York Times, suggested Rome take a more supple and open approach, in the spirit of St. Augustine, risking vulnerability instead of clinging to tradition.  

I see it through a glass darkly. Our subjugation is in fact the common denominator and real reason why each is in crisis: the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church and the Republican party. At the same historical hour, they become more retrograde with each passing year. Thus loyalty is paramount. Pope Francis is firmly old guard. Moderates and reformers, in each case, are rebuked or banished until their voices are no longer heard: not even Gov. Chris Christie's, R-N.J. bellow. 

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Catholic contraception controversy.]

Just look at the pitiless gaze of Ted Cruz, the freshman Republican senator from the Texas Tea Party who acts like he's the new sheriff in town. The defiant way he presumed to challenge distinguished Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., passing an assault weapons ban out of the Judiciary committee shocked Washington's socks off.  

Ain't it because she's a woman? Sojourner's spirit still speaks truth. Gladly, the gentle lady from San Francisco gave Cruz the dressing-down he deserved. She leaned in like nobody's business.  

In each institution, white male elders are the smoke and mirrors, the dominant class fiercely fixed on keeping their privileges and controlling our destinies. Our bodies, of course, but also our destinies, human rights and liberties. That's the larger truth, ladies and gentlemen. 

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Is There a Republican 'War on Women'?]

The Vatican's official investigation into the group representing 80 percent of American nuns, as shown on  CBS News "60 Minutes" yesterday, shows what I mean—that's how Rome under stern Pope Benedict XVI treated thinking women. In the political arena, let's face it: Republican women have no choice left.  Not a single 2012 presidential candidate supported a woman's reproductive rights. This is also a shrewd strategy to keep the march for women's advancement frozen in place. 

Moreover, the handful of women chosen to represent national or party interests resemble ventriloquist dummies, Sarah Palin most of all. Cruz introduced the darling of CPAC, who called President Obama a liar, except she didn't say the word "President." That's not on, as the English say. She also insulted Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the smartest former Republican in show business. He's the kind of bright light they need in the winter wilderness. 

[Take the U.S. News Poll: Does Sarah Palin Belong at CPAC?]

Inviting the Alaskan hockey mom anywhere near the White House was the most cynical choice ever made when it comes to Republican womanhood. 

Just conjure Pope Francis and President Palin.  

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