Monday, June 09, 2008

The Discussion Continues

Lots of folks are discussing the Vatican’s recent excommunication of Roman Catholic Womenpriests. I’ve appreciated the thoughtful and civil discussion that’s taken place on The Wild Reed – especially in response to this recent post. I’ve noticed that on other blogs, discussion around this topic often degenerates into cheap shots aimed at everything from the womenpriests’ vestments to their physical appearance. Totally juvenile stuff, in other words. I’m glad that’s not the case here.

Anyway, earlier today my friend Paula alerted members of the Progressive Catholic Voice editorial team to a local author, Jeanette Blonigan Clancy (pictured at right) and her recently released book, God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky: Cherishing Christianity Without It’s Exclusive Claims.

Jeanette also maintains a blog, God Is Not 3 Guys, and following is an excerpt from Jeanette’s June 8 post, Women Priests Not Cowered.


Since women’s ordination is growing in favor around the world – 70% of U.S. Catholics favor it – I don’t doubt that it’s coming. Hillary Clinton’s candidacy adds fuel to the growing determination of women to achieve equality. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church can’t stand against this tide for long.

What fascinates me is the thought process used to justify the exclusion of women. An Associated Press story quoted a Vatican official as saying, “The Church does not feel authorized to change the will of its founder Jesus Christ.” The article said this was “in reference to Christ’s having chosen only men as his Apostles.”

Remarkable. A secular news organization states a detail of religious myth as fact. Jesus of Nazareth did not commission 12 men as officials of a new religion. Neither did he found the Church, as the Vatican official claimed. [For theologian Hans Küng’s take on this matter, see here.] How thoroughly the Christian myth has saturated our Western frame of reality!

Richard Sipe, a married, non-active Roman Catholic priest, writes about sexual abuse by the clergy, linking it to “the denigration of women” and “the arrogance of religious superiority.” He served as chair of the board for the Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institute in Collegeville. I picked up his book Sex, Priests and Power in Michigan on the bookshelf of my deceased priest brother.

Sipe faults the hierarchy’s “logic that holds that because Jesus was male, men are superior to women.” He writes, “The ultimate justification for this power structure is that God is sexed.” After God Is Not Three Guys came out, someone actually tried to argue to me that God is more male than female. No respected theologian would claim this but, as Sipe indicates, our power structure rests on the assumption.

And I add that Church ritual and language reinforce it constantly. So do our secular media – always “He, Him, His” in reference to God, as if this elusive power were a humanlike male.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Roman Catholic Womenpriests Ordained in Minneapolis
Thoughts on Ordination, Intellectual Dishonesty, and the Holy Spirit of which the Prophet Joel Speaks
Could Christ Have Been a Woman?
Responding to Excommunication
Crisis? What Crisis?
Reflections on The Da Vinci Code Controversy
Thoughts on The Da Vinci Code

Recommended Off-site Links:
Why Ordain Women? – The Australian Ordination of Catholic Women.
Roman Catholic Womenpriests
Women-Church Convergence
Women’s Ordination Conference
“Some Women Seeking Ordination Won’t Wait for Church’s OK” National Catholic Reporter, January 27, 2006.
“The Defiant Deacon” Minnesota Women’s Press, December 2005.

Recommended Blogs:
God is Not 3 Guys
Bridget Mary’s Blog


Frank Partisan said...

Catholicism has the ability to incorporate cultures into its dogma. Feminism can be incorporated. There are females who achieved sainthood.

Charlotte Thérèse said...


I've been writing quite a lot about women priests in my blog through the years (not so much in English though, although most of the quotes and their links in the postings go to articles in English).

And I've pondered at depth on the various arguments that the Church uses to try to exclude women from being called by God...

And found that none of those arguments work.

Most of them end up in a twisted view on biology instead of sound theology.

And they're based on an erroneous view on history and tradition.

What causes much of the confusion is that they try to make this into a question of faith - while it's not.

It's not part of the Creed (not yet at least, thank God!):

"....and I believe in male priests only..."

No - this is a matter of order (not sure if that's the right English word) - not faith.

Which means: it's something that can be changed. It's a question at the same level as married priests. We had them and can introduce them again without any problems. We've had ordained women in history as well, many deacons are documented, and a few priests and bishops as well. During over 1000 years all in all. So - what's the problem here?

Hierarchy, power, an unwillingness of admitting errors....?

That seems to be the main fuel for steering the Church wheels in the wrong direction here.

My two cents.


P.S. I'll add your blog to my blog roll - feel free to do the same. There are postings in English as well.

Michael J. Bayly said...


Thanks for your thoughtful response - and for adding The Wild Reed to your blogroll. I'm happy to reciprocate.



CDE said...

Could someone please articulate a positive reason why the Church should ordain women? Other than the Marxist belief that power is the only way of expressing equality?

What's wrong with the notion of men and women being different while at the same time equal in dignity? It's possible that men make better fathers...

Anonymous said...

There is a shortage of men hearing or paying attention to God's call...and there are women being denied ordination based on flimsy theology and the hammer of tradition.

Humans are interfering in God's call to other humans.

Humanity should be the basis for ordination...not gender. God isn't a man..or woman. God is God. God contains aspects of both genders and things beyond what gender can define.

There is no good enough reason to exclude women from ordination. Just the whining capitulation of "tradition", which, apparently, isn't so traditional after all.

What harm could a woman being a priest cause? How could one of God's own creations, operating under his call, possibly do more harm then any man operating under the same guise?

I just don't get this.

CDE said...

"What harm could it do?" is not a positive reason. It's merely a way of seeking permission.

Humans are interfering in God's call to other humans.

That is your interpretation. The Catholic Church has another. How do you want to negotiate the discrepancy? This question returns us to considerations of authority, inspiration and discernment in the Church.

Humanity should be the basis for ordination...not gender. God isn't a man..or woman.

It's true that God has no gender. But human beings do. And gender is meaningful. Unlike the angels, human beings are sexual: male and female. The Judeo-Christian tradition does not despise / seek to ignore what is human, unlike Gnosticism. The Judeo-Christian view is that God created us as bodily -- male and female -- and that this creative choice means something, and it means something good. The Fall / Original Sin could not destroy the goodness of the creation of man and woman, and their call to communion with each other as a way of imaging the communion of Trinitarian life. A Trinitarian view understands communion as complementarity, not uniformity.

Anonymous said...

Clayton -

I was raised a Roman Catholic. Spent 35 years there.

There is nothing in the bible, nor in early Christian practice which prohibits women from being priests. As a matter of fact, we both know that Paul wrote of women who sponsored the early church, and who were likely early church leaders. The suppression of women as priests wasn't a theological issues, as much as it was a sociological one.

In terms of one positive aspect of women being ordained - some women (and children) relate better to women spiritually and emotionally. Just as some men and children, relate better to men. In denying women ordination, the RCC is denying some people access to the type of spiritual mentoring which could best benefit them. Why would God want that? As you so rightly describe, men and women, in general, do have different gifts, and a woman's voice, for some, has a better chance at reaching them. Not to mention, that giving women and their gender experience a priestly role would balance out a particularly imbalanced institution - it would complete the yin and yang of the church, so to speak.

My current priest is now a woman, and for me, someone who has been sexually abused, this has been the best thing for me spiritually. And the impact on my children has been tremendous as well. The way they related to church is completely different. I don't expect this would be the case with everyone, but, you asked for one positive reasaon, so there's one of mine.

To me, the priest's gender makes no difference in the celebration of the Eucharist. The priest is only God's conduit anyway, and gender has no impact on the ability to speak God's message or transform the host. The priest is doing nothing other than accessing God's already present divinity through intention.

This limitation on ordination isn't God's decree. It's the internalization of centuries of patriarchal ideology - and judeo-christian society was a patriarchal society. So were the Greeks and Romans, who ultimately did much to spread around Christianity.

As human beings, we do have gender. But, gender has, in my experience, no pastoral impact whatsoever.

So..there are some benefits to allwoing women to be ordained. I listed that particular one. I could list others. It wouldn't really make much of a difference, though, to many Catholics, which is why I'm not among you any more.

I think, in this light, the onus is really on the church to prove there is some inherent harm in ordaining women, and stop using the pedantic tradition, tradition, tradition, and Jesus was a man schtick to further promulgate patriarchy in today's day and age. In the end, it really all comes down to human power struggles, because I don't think God cares nearly as much as his imperfect creations do.

Charlotte Thérèse said...



Will keep an eye on your blog...

You'll find quite a few press releases and other messages of support regarding the excommunication - or should I say "excommunication attempt" here (most of them are in English - some very recent - copy and paste the link):


Do you need any other positive reason than the fact that God calls also women?

What's more positive than that?

Shouldn't women be welcomed and encouraged to follow their call just like men who expreience the same call - instead of banned....?

What you brought up is what most people who are against women priests don't seem to understand - that it's not about a different calling for men and women.

If it were so - no women (alternatively no men) would feel a strong priestly call that doesn't go away through the decades.

But they sure do.....

God calls individuals - not men - or women - per se.

We should rejoice over that personal call from God to so many in our Church - single, married, women, men.... Don't you think? Instead of making the priest shortage even worse by only allowing a few who are (or maybe aren't even) called by God. Just because they happen to be men.

There must be other much more important criteria for what makes a priest into a good priest. I can think of a whole list of such qualifications.

But I can't see that biology/gender has anything at all to do with it...