Catholic Women as Priests

Women as Priests Slide Show

Yesterday, the New York Times posted a slideshow from Judith Levitt of Catholic women who are priests.

This might come as a surprise to some of you, but there is a growing resistance movement among Catholics who have been able to find loopholes in their own bi-laws and begin ordaining women:

In the last 10 years the Vatican has had to contend with a particularly indomitable group of women who seem to be unaffected by excommunication or other punishment offered by the church. The movement started when seven women were ordained by three Roman Catholic bishops aboard a ship on the Danube River in 2002. The women claimed their ordinations were valid because they conformed to the doctrine of “apostolic succession.” The group that grew out of that occasion calls itself Roman Catholic Womenpriests. There are now more than 100 ordained women priests and 11 bishops.

Despite the fact that 59% of Catholics polled are in favor of female ordination, this growing movement hasn’t gone over well with the leadership of the church. The NY Times reports:

In 2008, the Vatican decreed that any woman who sought ordination, or a bishop who conferred holy orders on her, would be immediately “punished with excommunication.” It went a step further in 2010, categorizing any such attempt as delicta graviora — a grave crime against the church — the same category as priests who sexually abuse children.

The reasons to be so adamantly against this change? My guess is that as with anything else it comes down to power and money. My Quaker friend Jade S. likes to remind us that we need to always as when it comes to power dynamics “where does the money go?” And “Who benefits from this the most?” Unfortunately, the NY Times drops the ball on this criticism when they say that the real problem is tradition:

The Roman Catholic Church’s argument against the ordination of women is simple and relies on the logic of tradition: “that’s what we have always done.” Pope John Paul II issued an apostolic letter in 1994 saying that the church had no authority to ordain women because, among other reasons, Christ chose only men to be his apostles. Pope Benedict XVI agrees with his predecessor and insists that the church need offer no further justification for its opposition to women as priests, calling instead for a “radicalism of obedience.”

No, in fact it’s not the fault of tradition. Catholics, nor any other Christian group, can argue “that’s what we have always done.” This is an argument for “traditionalism,” as Jaraslov Pelikan says, which is the “dead faith of the living” but not tradition. Tradition necessitates re-interpretation and change. Jesus himself re-interpreted and changed tradition. Catholics have, thankfully, re-interpreted and changed many of their traditions also, it’s called Vatican II.

As someone who was confirmed Catholic, and went to Catholic schools for much of my elementary and middle school years – In other words, as someone who deeply cares for this church, I heartily support these women getting ordained. I even know of – and have been wanting to meet with – a Roman Catholic womanpriest in Portland!

In the 1660’s, Margaret Fell – Mother Superior of Quakerism – wrote a still-powerful pamphlet titled “Women’s Speaking Justified” in which she challenges those who tell women to remain silent. This is how she ended her theological treatise:

And so let this serve to stop that opposing Spirit that would limit the Power and Spirit of the Lord Jesus, whose Spirit is poured upon all Flesh, both Sons and Daughters, now in his Resurrection; and since that the Lord God in the Creation, when he made Man in his own Image, he made them Male and Female; and since that Christ Jesus, as the Apostle saith, was made of a Woman, and the Power of the Highest overshadowed her, and the Holy Ghost came upon her, and the Holy Thing that was born of her, was called the Son of God; and when he was upon the Earth, he manifested his Love, and his Will, and his Mind, both to the Woman of Samaria, and Martha, and Mary her Sister, and several others, as hath been shewed; and after his Resurrection also, manifested himself unto them first of all, even before he ascended unto his Father: Now when Jesus was risen, the first Day of the Week, he appeared first unto Mary Magdalene, Mark 16. 9. And thus the Lord Jesus hath manifested himself and his Power, without Respect of Persons; and so let all Mouths be stopt that would limit him, whose Power and Spirit is infinite, who is pouring it upon all Flesh.

You want radical obedience, witness the power of the resurrection and truly be obedient to the movement of the Holy Spirit which is without respect of persons.

You can view the slideshow here: