The View from Bolton Street

Many women have done excellently,

but you surpass them all.”

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Give her a share in the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the city gates.
- Proverbs 31:29-31

We are asking the wrong questions. As so often happens when public discourse becomes focused on a few people’s personal lives, we are tempted to focus on their lives and not our own. This also happens with scripture! This week we read from Proverbs 31 about the “capable wife.” This is often used to detail how a woman should behave in marriage, predictably demure and subservient, awaiting the praise of her husband. 

But when we read this text we find a very different story! First, the speaker is not the husband, but God, praising a woman for taking care of her family. And she does so by being strong, shrewd, clever, diligent and brave. As so often happens, when we don’t let people speak for themselves the story gets distorted. And God’s word is frequently distorted - particularly when it pertains to how the wealthy and powerful should treat the least of these. 

As we watch another story of a woman attempting to tell her own story, it seems everyone has an opinion; and a nasty word for the other side.  I will refrain from claiming any special knowledge of what DID happen, but anyone who has had experience with prep school boys, or drunk young men in general in the last 40 years, will hear familiar refrains of stories they have heard or of events that happened to them. 
So as you are tempted to say callous things about Ms. Ford, remember you may be saying it to someone who has lived a similar experience, or worse. 

And as you are tempted to label Mr. Kavanaugh a monster, an abuser, or whatever else - remember that we still live in a society where what he is accused of happens all the time. And we have done precious little to stop it. In those 35 years, what has been done to protect and empower vulnerable young people at HS parties, college frats, late night raves, or even in church youth groups.

Yes, even the Church. Abuse and harassment are by no means limited to the Catholic Church. I have had to file reports of sexual abuse in the Church before, and I suspect I will have to again. And much responsibility rests with the Church. We have a rich scriptural tradition that talks about needing to protect the bodies and souls of the most vulnerable, and particularly calls out the sins of using money, power and religion to take advantage of another’s body — yet we still are mostly likely to blame young women and LGBT individuals on the margins for our own sins. 

To the extent that Kavanaugh is guilty he is not the only problem. He is a symptom of a much larger problem. And we are all responsible for fixing it.

May we also be worthy of God's praise like the woman in proverbs for our strength and bravery.