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Anthropology of CatholicismA Reader$
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Kristin Norget, Valentina Napolitano, and Maya Mayblin

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520288423

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520288423.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 26 June 2022

Containment and Contagion

Containment and Contagion

The Gender of Sin in Contemporary Catholicism

(p.139) 11 Containment and Contagion
Anthropology of Catholicism

Maya Mayblin

University of California Press

This chapter concerns the contradiction in modern Catholicism that women can be God-like but not priest-like. Drawing on research into the Roman Catholic Women Priest movement, it explores how this contradiction persists through the manipulation of metaphors of contagion and containment in relation to notions of sin and virtue. Just as the sins of the one couple (Adam and Eve) contaminate the many and for generations thereafter, the moral failures of any one individual, by analogy, can be applied metaphorically to all of humankind. Yet grace, too, can be contagious, spreading among persons (underlying certain Catholic models of religious practice). Problems arise when some people’s sins turn out to be more contagious than others. Through a mixture of ethnographic and historical sources, the discussion traces how sin and grace are differently containable or contagious according to gender. The infinite manipulability of this sin/grace complex helps to illuminate how opposition to the ordination of women remains institutionally entrenched even as male sex-abuser priests have come to dominate the media. The chapter concludes that Catholicism’s multiform problems with gender are reproduced via this politics of contagion and containment, and that radical repercussions are at stake in sin’s containment.

Keywords:   Gender, Women Priest, Female Ordination, Sin, Grace, Catholic Church, Clergy sexual abuse crisis, Christianity and media, Humanity-models of, Dualist ontology

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