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July 20, 2005

"In your face ordinations" and how to report them

Amy Welborn, providing tons of links, sounds like she is fed up to the gills on how the press is reporting on these rogue "female ordinations" which are cropping up (and the fad seems to be to do it during a day cruise - see Curt Jester's satire on it) all over the place. As Amy points out - beyond the rebellion, there are the usual Catholic bishops doing a less-than-bang-up job in getting out information. She writes:

Anyway, the issue is: how should reporters be naming and claiming this business? The KRT solution of putting ordained in scare quotes doesn't work because they are, indeed, being ordained. It's not a Catholic ordination, but neither is it when someone is ordained a Presbyterian minister. That's okay.
No, the issue is the identification of all of this and subsequent actions as "Catholic." No, they are not going to be Catholic priests after this. Sorry. And you don't even have to get very complicated about it. I can't sit here and have the members of my family vote and proclaim me as the Democratic nominee for president. Institutions don't work that way. There are, to put it simplistically, chains of command and identity which are broken here, not just because of the femaleness of the ordinands, but because of the fact that the original women (including the "bishops" who will be doing this batch) have been excommunicated. Duh.

There are actually several break-off denominations of the Catholic Church, but they all have modifiers. American Catholic Church, and so on. When they ordain, they are ordaining priests or whatever of the American Catholic Church, and they are "American Catholic" priests.

The gist of these stories is that these women will be "Catholic" (which everyone understands as a shorthand for Roman Catholic HQ in Rome, even if that's imprecise) priests and the only glitch is that they are not "recognized" as such by "the Vatican." But such is not the case, is it?

Amy is quite correct. She is, in clarifying this issue, doing what the bishops should be doing.

As a Catholic woman who has looked long and hard at the issue of women priests, I cannot, at this time, support the idea. Until women can approach the issue of Ordination without this mindset of entitlement and ego, I fear they will not be as fully productive and pastoral as they might be - and the priesthood is nothing if not a deeply pastoral calling.

It doesn’t matter how many degrees one has, or how badly one desires to ’serve full-time in ministry’. An apostolic ordination is more than mere ‘ministry’. Heavens! Anyone can serve in full-time ministry if they really want to - without ever being ordained. I’m thinking of some of the great women of our so-called ’sexist’ church who managed, without ordination, to minister autonomously and so effectively that they renewed the face of the church. Catherine of Siena counseled not only the lay men and women around her but the pope as well - while writing extraordinary treatises. Theresa of Avila managed to reform an order, to build scores of monasteries for both men and women, without waiting around for someone to tell her she could, and without insisting that her own terms be met before she could give her all. It was the same with Hildegard of Bingen, who only wrote music, plays, books on medicine and so much more, in an era where women – at least secular women - didn’t aspire to such things because the secular world was not open to it, as the church was.

And dare I point out - though none of these women spoke from a pulpit, their words still echo and reverberate - their voices were never silent. While it’s easy to label the church ’sexist’ I am not entirely certain she has earned the name. Since the dawn of Christianity, within the church, women were educating themselves and others, writing books, imagining and then building schools, hospitals, policies and procedures. These were women of unqualified brilliance who understood that their calling - all of our callings - began with ONE calling, the most fundamental: to love, and to - out of love - do that which we can do, humbly and with gratitude.

Before any such movement may be undertaken, those women looking for ordination might consider that Jesus tended to use the most humble of materials to perform his most effective work. Think mud and spittle. Think Bernadette Soubirous (who would have been the first to describe herself as ignorant) or Sister Lucia of Fatima, who never got a degree in anything, much less in theology. Full of ego and hubris, they might have made noise, demanded ordination themselves for having been such very privileged and graced visionaries.

Instead, their egos diminished - they asked nothing earthly for themselves but to “to dwell in the house of the Lord, all my days…”

True service to the Lord begins not with a “give me” but with a “please take.” Ordination cannot be at the service of anger or spite. It must contain a willingness not to scream but to dialogue, not to lecture but to counsel, and it must have a passing acquaintance with, and respect for, the notion of obedience or else it is simply - only - going on about oneself, one’s own desires.

We, all of us, must first respond to the call to love, and serve it with a willing heart and a sublimation of one’s own ego. “Not my will, but yours be done, O Lord.” Everything else comes from that.

I know that’s not a popular sentiment these days. But it was the very prayer Christ himself prayed. Shall we demand more than he?

UPDATE: Michael Liccione at Pontifications has some thoughts on another rogue Catholic woman!

Crossposted at

Posted by Thecla at July 20, 2005 07:32 AM

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