Search This Blog

Monday, July 11, 2011

Women and the Priesthood....Some thoughts....

My friend Erin recently made this post to a Catholic board that I frequent...

Women who misunderstand the priesthood (and even some who do understand) believe they are treated unjustly by the Church. A common "argument" or rather explanation given to them is this: women cannot be priests just as men cannot be mothers (I'm not sure if the latter encompasses both spiritual and biological motherhood - especially since the former only encompasses a spiritual fatherhood). I find this to be a problematic explanation. One, I have never heard a man complain or be upset that he cannot grow a child within himself and then nurture that child throughout his life. Nor have I ever heard a man complain that he can never be a spiritual mother. Therefore the explanation wouldn't satiate a thoroughly confused woman (or man). "But that's not the same thing," they'd retort. "Do men feel unjustly treated because of that?" Also, many if not all would point out that the priesthood is a sociological, not biological, issue.

Two, it exempts the fact that women cannot be fathers (as in, biological fathers/husbands). Therefore the explanation is either lacking or somehow suggests that fatherhood (in the biological/husband sense) is not on par with motherhood (in the biological/wife sense). Since men don't complain that they can't be biological mothers, and women don't complain that they can't be biological fathers, the explanation is moot. It would be better to "argue" that: women cannot be priests just as men cannot be spiritual mothers. Then again, it's been pointed out that single women are called to be spiritual mothers. So are single men called to be spiritual fathers? But isn't a spiritual father a priest? Etc.

In truth I always cringe when I hear the aforementioned explanation because I feel it's insufficient and causes more issues (like the ones I outlined). Those issues end up detracting from the crux of the matter. It would probably be easier to first teach the confused that the Church is not sexist, in other words separate the confused from the influences of the world, and then proceed to explain the priesthood for what it is. There should be no need to make any comparison between men and women.

I find it sufficient enough to explain that:

1. Christ was a man.
2. The Apostles were all men, and since Christ instituted Apostolic Succession (and the Sacraments i.e. he gave the Apostles the power), then clearly the Seat of Peter would pass from man to man. From there one can discuss in persona Christi.
3. The numerous references in Scriptures and Tradition of the Church as Bride.
4. No one has a "right" to the priesthood.

After said explanation it's often if not always asked: "what about women and their position in the Church?" Then it's (obviously) important to discuss Mary and Marian theology, the female Doctors of the Church, female saints and martyrs, what women have done for the Church, etc.

My thoughts on the matter are these:

I've used these arguments before and to be honest I've never really had a problem with them, but I do see what you're saying. I think that the analogy between motherhood and the ministerial priesthood is not perfect, because the role of the ministerial priesthood is not a natural disposition for man. On the other hand it is natural for a woman to be a mother. I think that after reading your post, it does make sense to move away from that analogy.

To your second point, I think that it is two things...1) a shift in theology and 2) a lack of proper catechesis. What I mean by these is this...prior to the new theology which emerged after the Council, the real understanding of the priesthood shifted to a completely new innovation. That of the royal priesthood as being something which can be equated to the ministerial priesthood. This isn't the case. The ministerial priesthood is not something which is theologically similar to the royal priesthood. We share in the priesthood of Christ, to be sure, but we don't share in his Sacramental ministry in the way that it is currently being portrayed. I think that if we look at the philosophy behind this we can see how the shift was made. John Paul II spoke about this in Pastores Dabo Vobis and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. This was preceded by a document in 1976 from the CDF entitled Declaration on the Question of Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood. Speaking to the second point, we have been catechized over the last 40+ years to think that the ministerial priesthood is an extension of the royal priesthood and that simply isn't the case. I think that coming to a proper understanding of Catholic doctrine is enough. We have to understand that when it comes to Catholic doctrine, that it really isn't up for debate. The Church spoke on the matter and it was clear. So, I think that proper catechesis should simply include the documents, the Catechism and Scripture. There isn't much "exegesis" that must be done.

I think that your 4 point conclusion is simply enough. To try to cow-tow to certain women simply because they want something is not being genuine. We raise our children to not act like spoiled brats, why do we spend so much time justifying the same behavior with a certain sub-section of the Church? Are we afraid they are going to leave? If they do, that is their choice, not ours. We don't treat them any differently than we treat any other sub-section with regard to this issue. Yet, they will decry abuse, they will decry injustice...based upon what? Gender equity? The Church is not a democracy and her truths (doctrine and dogma) are not based solely upon man made laws. For the faithful, it is our job within the Church, as believers to believe. It is not our job to be divisive and destructive, unless the action is DIRECTLY CONTRARY to her truths; then we have an obligation to stand up and make our voice heard.

What the leaders of the Church and the faithful of the Church need to exercise is a return to authenticity. We must be authentic in our views of dogma and doctrine (both infallible and fallible). It is then that we will understand that the teachings of the Church are not meant to hinder, but rather to set free our Catholicity.

No comments:

Post a Comment