Saturday, October 9, 2010

What about women's ordination?

Dear Rev. Know it all,

A neighboring pastor, Fr. Harris C. Nouveau, and six hundred of his parishioners have signed a petition for women’s ordination and for married clergy. My pastor, Fr. Brickman, says it’s heresy. What do you think?


Frieda De Sente

Dear Frieda,

I know both priests quite well. Fr Nouveau is a gentleman, very soft spoken and self possessed.

Fr. Brickman is an ornery old cuss and he is quite correct. Fr. Nouveau has crossed the line into heresy.

Let us define terms. First the word heresy simply means “a choice.” It is to choose to believe some tenets of a religion and to disbelieve other parts. The Catholic Church says that she can’t ordain women because Christ didn’t.  Okay. That’s part of the Church’s belief system. “Well I don’t agree. I want the Church to change.” Let me get this straight. You want a 2000 year old organization of one billion plus people that claims divine inspiration to change what it has always believed because you don’t agree with her. Are you nuts? We live under a limited government, at least for the present. You don’t have to join any organization, unless of course you take jury duty into account. I’m sure there are churches that are as smart, progressive, and forward looking as you are. Why do you want to hang around with a bunch of neanderthals like me? “I’m staying in the church to work for change from the inside.” Oh... so the issue isn’t what you believe -- it’s what I believe. You want me to deny my beliefs and to agree with yours and you won’t be happy until your convictions are forced on me. “On the contrary. Your beliefs have been forced on me and people like me for centuries and they are clearly wrong, Father.” 

I think they are not wrong for a host of reasons. The main one is that we have no evidence that Jesus ordained women, and he definitely ordained. Ordination is a very rabbinic thing to do. It is called “smikha.” Jesus did away with dietary restrictions, He did away with the sacrificial order. He did away with the covenant of circumcision. He publicly associated with women, a thing not done by rabbis.

If Jesus wanted to ordain women, He most certainly would have ordained women. There was a reason that Jesus did not ordain women. And don’t give me that nonsense that the Apostles hid the truth. There is no documentation of any kind to corroborate that. And if the apostles were such scoundrels, why do want ordination to the apostolic succession? Wouldn’t it be beneath you?

I don’t pretend to know why Jesus chose men for ordination as missionaries (which is what the Greek word “apostle” means). I can hazard a guess, however. Women can do one thing that is much more important than anything men can do. They can be mothers. In saying this, I am not saying simply that they can have babies. They can be mothers whether or not they have ever given birth.

I think back on powerful and beautiful women I have known who were spiritual mothers to me. Sr. Mary Lucy who taught me in fourth grade, Sr. Mary Agnes who taught me the Church Fathers and fought for my ordination when it looked doubtful, Mrs. Helen Twomey who never ceased to pray for my vocation, and my own mother Helen Marie Simon. I have never known a human being who mirrored the love and mercy of God more perfectly than she. My father was a strong and moral man. Many men have taught me and encouraged and inspired me, but only a woman can be a mother.

You see, there is a difference between men and women no matter what our androgynous culture wants us to believe. Men can be lawyers. Women can be lawyers. Men can be bricklayers. Women can be bricklayers. Men can be doctors women can be..... and so on. But only a man can be a father and only a woman can be a mother.

Some women are called on to do the job of a father, but they cannot be fathers and in the same way men cannot be mothers.  If the Church is a club or a business or a civic organization, then, fine, ordain women. If the priesthood is a ministry, then, fine, ordain women. If the Church is a family, then let there be fathers and mothers. 

The Church in this country is dying for lack of mothers.  When I was a child the Church was full of mothers. If you had a sick child and needed prayer, you didn’t call the rectory, you called the convent. It was the mothers who taught you to read  and to pray and to know the catechism. It was the mothers who prepared you for you first confession and communion. They taught you the rosary and the stations of the cross and how to know, love and serve God. And then one day someone told them they weren’t really good enough. They had to be more, just as the same serpents whispered into women’s ears, “You mean you’re just a housewife?” I remember a woman who never marked the box for housewife. She scratched it out and wrote “mother.”  Well, the unique gift that is woman is increasingly devalued.

Men are powerful and to be powerful, to be equal, is to do what men do. In the feminist debacle of the second half of the 20th century men have learned none of the virtues of women, but women have learned all the vices of men. Women now die at the same rate as men of heart attacks, lung cancer and the ills of modern society. They populate the offices and the factories and run the rat race just like men while our children are raised by poorly paid strangers. Women are masculinized and men are feminized and children are quite confused and poorly educated.

We now rank 25th in the world as far as the educational levels of our schools. The children are nobody’s business. They can be raised by television and day care, because mom and dad are both busy. It’s worked really well in the world so let’s do it in the Church. There is not a shortage of priests, but there is a shortage of nuns. Now that spiritual motherhood counts for as little as biological motherhood, some people believe that women should be ordained in order to have a ministry in the Church. They forget they had the larger share of ministry at one time. They want to be fathers in an institution that is dying for lack of mothers, because, quite frankly, they really think men are better than women, and that what men do is better than what women do.

I simply can’t understand why women who want to be ordained don’t just go to seminary and get ordained. There are plenty of fine religions that will ordain them. If you like smells and bells and tight plastic collars, the Anglicans will ordain you. If you like good preaching, the Lutherans or Presbyterian will ordain you. No matter what your personal choice or preference there is someone who will ordain you. Just not the Roman Church. I cannot for the life of me understand why you would even want to hang around with them.


Rev. Know-it-all