Wednesday, November 2, 2016

This Is My House Too: The Catholic Church and Female Ordination

This post has been a long time coming.  I've really debated how to approach the subject, how to enter into conversation about this without risking myself or my position in anyway, but I can't just sit back and stay silent about it anymore.  So let's do this thing!  Let's talk about women and the Roman Catholic priesthood.

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Let's be real, I love this man.  That doesn't mean I think he's right.
Female ordination is a hot topic in the Catholic Church, and it has been for a while.  The magistrate has been very firm in its stance that women cannot be ordained priests, so it really came as no surprise when Pope Francis, in speaking to reporters, reinforced St. John Paul II's declaration that "Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren, I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."  Pope Francis not only reinforced this notion, but went so far as to imply that women will be banned from the priesthood forever and ever.

So what? you're probably thinking.  This is nothing new.

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According to legend, St. Brigid of Kildare was ordained a Bishop.
And you're right.  This is nothing new.  It's really just more of the same.  It didn't shock me that Pope Francis said this or maintains this stance.  It doesn't shock me that a Pope who, for many, is seen as progressive because of his emphasis on service to the poor and social justice issues (even though this isn't really anything new in the Church and he's just brought it out into the spotlight), would hold onto the traditional ruling that the magistrate has maintained throughout the Church's history.  No, what surprised me this time around was just how much his words hurt.  I thought I'd steeled myself against this kind of stuff a long time ago, but apparently I'm not as numb to it on the inside as I had hoped.  Maybe it's because I'm tired and stressed, and so just a little more vulnerable right now than usual, but that doesn't really matter.  What matters is the pain I feel, and what countless other Catholic women around the world feel when we're told this same thing over and over again.  This isn't just being barred from a job.  This isn't just being told "you're not fit for this role."  What continuing to bar women from ordination is telling us is "it doesn't matter what you feel called to, it doesn't matter how much faith you have, or how much you sacrifice and give of yourself to this Church, at the end of the day you are visitors to a house that will never truly be yours participating in a feast that you can never host yourself."

Do you know how many amazing, intelligent, talented women I've met, who have been filled with the Holy Spirit, have felt a call to preach and lead and bring grace to their Church?  Do you know how many amazing, intelligent, talented women I've met who've felt betrayed, disenfranchised, and frustrated when they're told their call to that vocation is somehow wrong?  That their way to living out the life they feel God is pointing them towards is blocked simply because they were born female?  Some continue on in silent frustration, hoping and praying that things will change for the better one day.  Some raise their voices in protest and, sometimes, either leave the Church willingly...or are forced out.

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Mary Magdalene was way more loyal than any of the twelve.
We're given lame excuses to persuade us we're wrong like "Jesus intentionally chose twelve men as his Apostles" or "there are equal roles for women, and role models...look at the Virgin Mary!"  The Catholic Church doesn't take the Bible as literal history, except for, apparently, that very specific instance of twelve men being named by Jesus.  If that's the case, then we should only have twelve bishops in the Church, and they should all be Jewish.  And yes, everyone loves Mary, but what woman wouldn't crack under the pressure of living up to the example of an eternal Virgin, who's also the Mother of God?  I'd personally rather follow Mary Magdalene's example.  A loyal, flawed, passionate woman who was so beloved of Christ he appeared to her first after his resurrection.

This is the pain and frustration I, and countless others, live with day in and day out.  So many times in my relatively short life already I've thought "It'd just be so much easier to join a denomination that truly appreciates my gifts and talents, doesn't hold it against me that I'm a woman, and doesn't talk down to me or treat me like a child."  I've had friends, family, professors, and colleagues all ask me why I stay, why I put up with all of the crap my Church continues to pile on me.  At the end of the day, the answer is really simple.  I see what the Catholic Church could be, what it should be, and it's a vision so beautiful I can't help but strive for it.  I see a family, a community of equals, where no one is seen as inferior to anyone else, where no was is told their voice, their calling don't matter or is somehow wrong.  I see a place of welcome and thanksgiving, of true brother and sisterhood.  And so I stay, and I work, and I fight in any way I can to see that vision become reality.  So, with all due respect to Pope Francis and St. Pope John Paul II, no, women will not be banned from ordination forever.  Someday, those who hold the power to change everything will realize that the Church can only reach its full, glorious potential if all of us own a part of the house, if all of us have a chance to host the feast, and if all of us are told "God has called you to this, and we welcome you."  I pray I get to see all of this happen in my lifetime, but if not, that at the very least I've had a small role in getting us there.

Until next time,
(And don't worry...I'm far from done with this topic)

1 comment:

  1. Well said Erin. However, even in other denominations where they do allow female pastors, they are still not respected or even heard like male pastors are. It often feels like we are stuck in archaic times instead of the 21st century! You go girl!! We are all called to be disciples of Christ!!!