Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Rome & Women (yet again)

(written Feb 8, 2013 in response to the cited article)

On January 31, 2013, the Catholic News Service published an article entitled “Why not women priests?  The papal theologian explains.”  In that article Francis X. Rocca wrote:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that only men can receive holy orders because Jesus chose men as his apostles and the "apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry."  Blessed John Paul II wrote in 1994 that this teaching is definitive and not open to debate among Catholics.
So that settles it!  I believe the same thing was said about crusading and the practice of burning heretics.

Quoting papal theologian Dominican Father Wojciech Giertych, the Pope’s household theologian, the article follows with:
In theology, we base ourselves not on human expectations, but we base ourselves on the revealed word of God… We are not free to invent the priesthood according to our own customs, according to our own expectations…. Christ was courageous with respect to the local social customs, he was not afraid to be countercultural.  He didn't follow the expectations of the powerful, of Pilate, of Herod. He had his own work, his own mission… In the mystery of faith, we need to be on our knees toward something that we received… The son of God became flesh, but became flesh not as sexless humanity but as a male.
Rocca follows up with this:
Men are more likely to think of God in terms of philosophical definitions and logical syllogisms, he said, a quality valuable for fulfilling a priest's duty to transmit church teaching… Although the social and administrative aspects of church life are hardly off-limits to women, Father Giertych said priests love the church in a characteristically "male way" when they show concern "about structures, about the buildings of the church, about the roof of the church which is leaking, about the bishops' conference, about the concordat between the church and the state…
Father Giertych acknowledged that a Catholic woman might sincerely believe she is called to the priesthood, but said such a "subjective" belief does not indicate the objective existence of a vocation.
None of which means that women hold an inferior place in the church, he said.
"Every baptized person, both male and female, participates in the priesthood of Christ through the sacrament of baptism, drawing the fruits of the paschal mystery to one's own soul," he said. "And maybe in some sense we could say that, in this, women are more apt to draw from the mystery of Christ, by the quality of their prayer life, by the quality of their faith."
Women are better able than men to perceive the "proximity of God" and enter into a relationship with him, Father Giertych said, pointing to the privileged role played by women in the New Testament.
"Women have a special access to the heart of Jesus," he said, "in a very vivid way of approaching him, of touching him, of praying with him, of pouring ointment on his head, of kissing his feet."
"The mission of the woman in the church is to convince the male that power is not most important in the church, not even sacramental power," he said. "What is most important is the encounter with the living God through faith and charity."
"So women don't need the priesthood," he said, "because their mission is so beautiful in the church anyway."
I recall, as a Southerner, how white people talked about the contented slaves.

It would take hard work to be more patronizing or contradictory.  A man who claims to have himself been called to the priesthood tells any woman who receives the same call that hers is “subjective” (as opposed, we presume, to male “objectivity”).  Women cannot exercise logic, he says, even as he states that men must be priests because Jesus and the apostles were (a non sequitur, or logical fallacy).  And the poor little missies don’t understand how to call a contractor to fix the church roof.  But none of what he says suggests that women are inferior.  On this last count, he may be right, because he doesn’t describe real women, but an anachronistic caricature of women.

“We are not free to invent the priesthood according to our own customs,” says Father Giertych.  If I’m not mistaken, St. Peter was married, and priestly celibacy was not first mandated until the Council of Elvira in 306 AD (and it has been widely ignored by male priests ever since).  The invention of practices that would become tradition has been going on for centuries, and continues to this day; so apparently this means that only when men make changes are those changes guided by the Spirit (or objectivity, choose one).

Perhaps that includes the Crusades, when spirit-filled men granted absolution in advance for soldiers’ crimes and sanctioned massacres.  Yes, men do have a lot more experience with the “concordat between church and state,” and with church complicity with the (male-run) state.  So women need not bother their pretty little heads with big-men’s politics.

The “characteristic male way” that anyone might observe today is characteristic of the very modernity that this article rebukes.  Today’s men are formed by modernity, which is a male ideology and practice.  In fact, the distinction between subjective and objective has a gendered history in the beginnings of modernity, so our brother is himself the captive of modern categories.  Compassion as a witness against power, however, is an idea from the Gospels.  Women are hurt by exclusion, but males - assuming they can talk for women - deny the hurt and refuse recognition.

Moreover, and this is important, Catholic and even some Protestant objections, as Christians, to the selfish individualism of liberal society, are shared by many women and men who argue for the full inclusion of women into the body of Christ.

The bumper sticker says, "Feminism is the radical notion that women are people."

Because liberal media (which includes “conservative” media) now conflate feminism with liberal feminism, there is a mistaken impression that all feminists are – like those almost exclusively cited by the church – liberal feminists; and that the acceptance of feminist insight necessarily involves acceptance of liberalism. 
That is not the case.

But by placing an equal sign between straw feminists and modernity, our leaders have muddied the water to conceal the consistent history of male leaders' contempt for and exclusion of women.  The church has strong arguments against modernity; and it has weak arguments against full inclusion.  That is what this false association conceals.
The point is this:  (A) the exclusion of women was originally based on descriptions of women that were (1) physically inaccurate, (2) based on a literal interpretation of Genesis, (3) fundamentally based on an overt and earnest contempt for women in general; (B) even as each of these justifications for the exclusion of women fell, the Roman church re-inscribed the exclusion of women in new narratives – the current being that the original Apostles were all men (which is a logical fallacy – a non sequitur);  (C) therefore, the Roman church’s exclusion of women from full participation in the church has only one consistent thread throughout – male power.  This raises a high index of suspicion of bad faith.
I love my church, and I love many of its customs.  But this ignorant, contradictory, patronizing, and disingenuous article, on the heels of last year’s attacks on women religious by Rome, are an embarrassment, and one that – again – confirms the corruptibility and  defensive, self-referential insularity of large-scale institutions, including the Vatican.  I pray for our church’s leaders, as I pray for nation’s leaders, and that prayer is that they will learn that Christ rules not through domination, but by love.  The article under review was penned not from a cross, but from Rome, the seat of power that sent Pilate to wash his hands in Palestine.


Here is the man the church is attacking for the ordination of women.

God, give us patience; and this, too, will pass.

1 comment:

  1. Raised Mormon, we got the same justification for excluding women--they were so blessed already, trying to happily bear and raise endless children. Every religion and culture has been male dominated, the wenches were supposed to breed, an ancient directive which helped us to survive until fairly recently.

    You are a brave soul to take this on. Refusing to accept women as fully equal human beings has stunted the growth of individuals and religions and the world, (while simultaneously overpopulating.) The religious and secular worlds need to work on this together, but they are still too far apart. Thank you, keep trying, the auditorium is not completely empty!