Catholics and feminists and Swedes, oh my!

Today was much like any other day until about 11:30, when I got the day's press cuttings about museums, which are circulated every day in our office. They were filled with stories about the destruction of the main museum and the main library in Baghdad, an act which US troops in the city could have prevented. The Oil Ministry was securely guarded while five thousand years of irreplacable historical documents and artefacts were left open to the looters. According to an account in The Independent, US troops were informed of the danger shortly before the looting began, in addition to the many warnings given at a higher level in the weeks and months leading up to the war. Nothing was done, and now virtually nothing can be saved. I went out of the office at noon, angry and upset, wishing I had some American officials to shout at for their irresponsibility. Does America even have a culture ministry?

My anger was slowly abating as I wandered down Victoria Street in search of lunch. I made my way almost at random to Westminster Cathedral - possibly because it's the nearest free cultural site to my office. Outside the Cathedral were a group of elderly ladies wearing purple scarves and just rolling up some embroidered banners. One of them noticed my interest, and introduced them as the organisation Catholic Women's Ordination. Apparently they regularly hold protest vigils outside the cathedral to raise awareness of their agenda. I got chatting to them, and especially to Maria, a lady from Gothenburg, Sweden, who had gone from being an atheist to being Anglican, and thence to being a (Roman) Catholic. Curiously, despite never having been a practising Lutheran, she still had to sign a legal declaration to leave the Swedish Lutheran church upon becoming a Catholic.

The ladies invited me for coffee, and I spent the next half-hour discussing feminism ('such a sexist term'), Swedish history, and of course, women's ordination. As a strong advocate of women's ordination myself, I was fascinated to hear these people's account of the culture of silence surrounding the issue in the Catholic church. Eventually I had to leave them to get back to my own office, and to let them have an impromptu meeting. But I went on my way much happier than I had been at the beginning of my lunch hour, and greatly relieved to be reminded that someone at least wishes things to move forward, and not backward. Nevertheless, I also felt my own anger at inequalites in the Christian Church renewed.