Longtime reader buckyinky made an interesting comment to my recent post. It raises interesting objections and poses an interesting question, so I copy it and my answer here. Buckyinky writes:
Men and women are corrupted cowards?
In the Passion account you lay out, the women mark themselves as anything but. You already mentioned the attempts of Pilate’s wife to keep him from the evil of an unjust sentencing.
As we remember in the Way of the Cross, the holy women of Jerusalem meet Jesus on his way to death, presumably to do what they can for him, give comfort if possible. We are certain they would do more if only given the strength and influence of men, the true cowards.
This is not to gloss over Jesus’ meeting with His Mother earlier in the 4th station.
Or the corporal mercy shown by St. Veronica in the 6th.
I will grant you Simon in the 5th, giving his begrudging aid under force. He was a coward.
The burial and resurrection of our Lord sees the same pattern — the women true, sacrificial, virtuous, and believing; the men false, petty, cowardly, and unbelieving.
So in this most important of events in all of history we do see the men as cowards, but not the women. What are we to think of this?
To this I answer:
You are right that women are not conspicuous villains in the crucifixion story, but that may be because they were the conspicuous villainesses in the beheading of John the Baptist. What looms large in that story is sexual immorality, or the misuse of erotic power, by both Herodias and her daughter (normally identified as Salome). Also the fury of Herodias when John condemns her misuse of erotic power. Also, of course, the cucking of Herod when Salome demands the head of John the Baptist. The beheading of John foreshadows the crucifixion of Christ (innocent blood spilt to sustain a sham), but the blood in this case is on the hands of the daughters of Eve.
I think it is best to see that women have unique moral virtues, and that their unique moral vices are perversion of these virtues. The dance of Salome is a symbol of this truth, since Salome misused her loveliness to do a terrible thing. Women are, for instance, really good at the whole compassion thing, but often go overboard and forget about justice. This generally makes women extremely forgiving of injuries to other people, and extremely unforgiving of injuries to themselves (vide the fury of Herodias).
Your closing question is provocative. My first response is that, with the exception of the discovery of the empty tomb, women are very minor characters in the crucifixion story. They obviously number among the followers of Jesus, but their roles in the gospel drama are limited to that of Martha (drudgery) and Mary (devotion). They are not conspicuous for courage or rectitude. I would add that what some take as female courage is, in fact, female confidence that the men did not take them very seriously. Female followers of Jesus could be present on Golgotha because Roman and Jewish authorities were only going to arrest his male followers.