April 27, 2010
Thanks, Edith, for continuing the discussion on women and the Church. As women who are "lay, Catholic, and modern," if we don't discuss this in depth repeatedly, we should pretty much close up shop!
I am fully in agreement with you, Edith, that the third wave of feminism is still cause for head-scratching, and, in my opinion, is the sticking point in the discussion of the possibility of the female priesthood. In our modern culture which celebrates diversity and difference at every possible moment, it strikes me as really counter-cultural to deny the differences between the sexes, and, moreover, not to celebrate them. Now, I understand the motivation for denying femininity in the third wave -- if gender was what was at the root of discrimination by our male counterparts (and let's not pretend that it has not been in history), then it's easier to discuss it as a socially-conditioned attribute that can be overcome in the pursuit of respectable treatment. Clearly this was not the most liberating (or most logical) way to proceed, but it is at the very least understandable. We know now, thanks to science and to theological anthropology, that the difference in genders is something beautiful, and when one works within one's sex, one experiences real liberation (certainly, though, all of this hinges on an appreciation of the differences by the sexes themselves of their own gender and the opposite gender).
So, that being said, the question remains why it is still inappropriate (and I mean that literally) for women to be Roman Catholic priests. I think the points about Christ's knowledge of what He was doing at the Last Supper, apostolic tradition, and numerous other arguments are all sound, valid, and convincing. However, we must really look to see what else lies at the root of the question. Is there not a misunderstanding of what the priesthood is? The priesthood cannot be likened to a position of a CEO or an editor-in-chief, or even a motivational speaker. Nor can the priesthood be likened to the role of Protestant pastor or a Jewish rabbi. It is not only a mission to inspire the faithful. The Catholic priesthood is one of the most supreme manifestations of total self-donation to the Bride of Christ, the Church. Think of men at their ordination who lay prostrate on the floor. If the Theology of the Body tells us anything about masculine anthropology, it is that the male is the one who donates, who totally gives, to the female. This donation can involve the love of charity, which of course the female is called to do as well. But donation, well, that seems to me to be particularly masculine, while receptivity feminine. When this is transferred to the supernatural, we have the spousal theology of the priest marrying the Church. How beautiful is this difference.
Now, with regard to the feminization of the Church referenced in the Aglialoro's op-ed on Inside Catholic, I find myself in disagreement with most of his assessment. Throughout the history of the Church women have been known to fill up the pews, to outwardly express their religiosity. To suggest that the proportion of women to men in the pews is some sort of fruit of radical feminism or side effect of Vatican II is ridiculous on all counts. If men are not finding themselves in the pews on Sunday (or living out a daily religiosity), it is not because they cannot be "real men" in the Church. The Church (yes, even post-Vatican II), is where natural men become heroic soldiers for Christ.
He writes (admittedly with exaggeration):
All of this is to say that I'm not 100% convinced that the discussions about gender differences are best serving the faithful.
Thoughts of Julian at 6:00 AM