essay_i have read that Pope Francis intends to invite Oprah Winfrey and other media experts to the Vatican this fall to suggest ways of improving the Church’s relationship with the American people. Given the 2000-year absence of women in the church hierarchy, I trust the Holy Father will fill St. Peter’s Basilica with women. I follow the Pope on Twitter and am always touched by his remarks that seem to have roots in the Sermon on the Mount. I’ll admit, he’s touched my psyche in many ways, including my dreams. On one occasion, he’s reading a sacred text from on high; on another, he’s administering to the poor in the catacombs; and on still another, he is leading a raucous religious celebration, completely in clerical garb except for those swanky Specialized bicycle shorts. If, as Carl Jung suggests, dreams are compensation, I have a lot of work to do. If I believed in karma or fate, I might think these dreams and many others were payback for me having my nose in historical theological documents for much of the past year. Thanks to Penn State University’s digital archive, courtesy of my brother Roy, I must have read every Church pronouncement since the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. Fate or no fate, this was serious research for a historical novel that explores the implication of church Councils, especially the Council of Trent that closed in 1563, on church doctrine in general and the attitudes towards women and the Feminine in particular. The novel Chanting the Feminine Down is told through the eyes of a smart, troubled young woman attending a Catholic college in the Bronx. Her parents grew up under the weight of the Latin mass and the daughter intuitively knows that one doesn’t take on the big guns head on. So she circles around Trent, listening to Plato and Plotinus talk about the pantheon of Greek Gods as if they were characters in a psychological drama. The traveler marvels at the nuance and perspective the ancients found in the female pantheon: Aphrodite, Athena, Persephone, Demeter, Nemesis, Dike, Kale and dozens more. She finds in these goddesses patterns of archetypal behavior, both human and divine. This is not a sentimental journey. She stops in 14th century Florence and hears Boccaccio recite “Famous Women,” the first Western feminist text. She understands why the Florentine artist focuses on the wiles, beauty and compassion of pagan and mythic women. Saintly women are not of this world. They have already been accepted into another pantheon. The traveler finds a deep humanity in these tales. Colette Maria McGovern is present in 1495 when Girolama Savonarola, a righteous Dominican friar in Florence, pushed back against what he saw as Renaissance excess. He imagines Florence as the New Jerusalem, an outcome confirmed by him by visions of the Virgin Mary. On the Bonfires of the Vanities the friar and his young brown shirts toss manuscripts, perfumes, mirrors, hair pieces, statues of Aphrodite, Renaissance paintings, lip gloss, masks, carnival disguises, harps and playing cards. The traveler will learn that Savonarola attacks were on more than Florence’s gaudy pre-Lenten parades. His attacks were on the feminine principle in general and anima in particular. Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Dante and others conceived of an imaginative universe based on the Greek myths. They were able to take such license because they understood that these figures were not real but nonetheless were crucial to their soul-making efforts. The Renaissance artists saw these figures as metaphorical, offering useful perspectives on human behavior and incitement to art.   The Catholic Church would come to see these figures as real, representing a pagan polytheism that threatened the rule of monotheism, symbolized by Christ. The Council of Trent made an effort to police the images of church artists. The Vatican seemed to take particular pleasure in having pickle heads, or penises, in art painted over. Jung would likely attribute these eruptions to the unconscious. In one ear, Colette hears a Renaissance soulfulness fed by mythology and pathology. Her journey is downward into human mortality. In the other ear, she hears the thundering certainty of theology and a fleshless, spiritual rise towards transcendence. This is where her struggle lies. She hears voices and imagines mirrors reflecting doctrine and gossip across the ages. She looks for women everywhere, even among the burnings and the drownings. She wonders why it took until the 19th and 20th centuries for the Church to place the Virgin Mary in the pantheon but still not quite a Goddess. The traveler finds herself in the Italian Renaissance and tries to dream her way to the truth. Dante is rumored to have shown up with Virgil, essential guide for the lost. Colette Maria McGovern might ask the assembled crowd in St. Peter’s Basilica to explore what the Church might learn from the Italian Renaissance about the role of women in society. It is never too late. The traveler is fairly certain that Savonarola, if true to form, will likely be in attendance because his shadow still walks the earth, perhaps more so during the election cycle.