An Amateur Opposition of a Female Priesthood

In which an email conversation between Catie Beardmore – a Catholic University student who blogs a bit herself - and my own self proves to the universe that it doesn’t take a mature theologian to realize that some ideas just straight suck.

Hi Marc! How ya been?

Wondering if you could help me with something..

I encounter, on a daily basis, good Catholics who do not understand why we can’t ordain women into the priesthood. These are not individuals who maliciously oppose the Church; and I recognize that this comes from a place of love. However, it’s a dangerous perspective and I worry for their formation, should they not encounter a full and comprehensive explanation of the teaching.


Now, donchya worry…I understand and love the Church’s position on the issue and I have taken on aspects of the explanation and done pretty well. But where I struggle (ever so slightly — Ahem!) is in being able to express the idea without saying, “Okay.. it’s like.. Well, you know when.. Okay.. The way you — the way we — the way God.. See, it’s exactly the..” Whew! I think it would behoove me to have a practice go and “present my case” to someone who could help me streamline the argument. Since the Holy Spirit seems to flow through you like the Salmon of Capistrano, I thought you might be a good sounding board.. Poor Holy Spirit.. It’s like being on a toll road, flowing through Caitie Rose. This will be a nice break for the guy!


So, what say you? Up for it?


Caite



Catie!


Why, I’ve been just fanfreakintastic, now that you mention it! And yes, it is true that the Holy Spirit doth fly from my fingertips, granting me such gifts as humility, good looks etc.

Now where to begin, on this defense of a male priesthood? (We are – without any doubt – well suited for the job, not having the bias of being priests, and between us covering all chromosome pairs involved in the issue.)

My first instinct would be to back away from the specific idea of priesthood, and approach gender as a whole. The question is this: do we – as male and female creations, created different – have different roles? Or are we simply “all humans”, and thus a man cannot claim any task as his own any more than a woman can.

Physically speaking, the idea that there are no roles is rather easily rebutted. Men – I am told – make lousy breast-feeders. Women cannot lift quite as impressive rocks and logs as men can. And in terms of our sexuality, our roles are rather clearly different. But to you I’d ask the question; does it end there? Are our roles, the tasks we claim, limited to the differences in bodily makeup? Or are these physical differences physical indicators for psychological, internal and/or spiritual differences?

You see where I lead, if we have internal, spiritual differences, then we have different internal, spiritual tasks.

What do you think?
Ever yours,
Marc

Marc,

Maria Von Trapp would be proud. Yes, let’s start at the very beginning! And how better than to affirm your suspicions on male breastfeeding? If I didn’t know better, I’d say we could wrap it up there! But let’s shake it up and continue, shall we? :)

Couldn’t agree more, my friend. Men and women, though absolutely equal, are not the same. To me (and here begins my string of 3rd grade analogies), it’s like four quarters and a dolla’. Both 100 cents, for sure. But very different in look, capabilities, nature. To say that they’re interchangeable not only demeans the distinctive beauty in each, but limits their purpose. This is one thing that annoys me about the typical (or stereotypical) feminism.. That to be equal, women have to be men! How much we have lost in bringing everyone down to the same level instead of raising each up as individuals.

Starting off with the physical attributes is right on, as they elude to the internal differences that you mention. Not to say that a man can’t be nurturing or that a woman can’t provide, but it’s the fullness of gender that can only be experienced by one. Only the log-rollin’ man can truly experience the richness and depth of masculinity, for he is created to pursue, lead, give, be a father and be the lover. Converesely, his lady friend can only but explain (and believe me, we will) what it means to be wholey feminine, as she is created to nurture, grow, receive, be a mother and be loved. These paternal and maternal characteristics would translate to the religious life too.. Unless there’s a part of taking vows that includes degenerfication, in which case, my discernment would be complete.

So, what would you say to someone who asked you the following two questions;
(1.) what makes masculinity complementary to the priesthood?
(2.) do priests hog the remote?

Your chromosomal complement,

Caitie


Caitie,

What makes masculinity complementary to the priesthood, if we do indeed have different tasks? I like the internal differences you mention by the way; psychology and sociology and all sorts of ‘ology’s’ stand with you when you say that its the paternal and maternal characteristics that really make us different.

And it is this natural paternity of a man that I would argue is complementary to the priesthood. This is important, because I do not claim that it is man’s ability to speak loudly, or to lift heavy things, though I know a few parishes where these are absolutely vital characteristics. I would even argue that man’s tendency to “pursue, lead [and] give”, as you so graciously mentioned, is similarly not what makes men complementary to the priesthood. While I agree that they are characteristics more “at home” in men, a woman can do them without too much difficulty, and often better. No, if we are to argue that there should only be a male priesthood, then it must be on the basis of a characteristic that only men have.

So I would argue it is man’s natural paternity. Why? Well first and foremost, because God chooses to reveal Himself to us as a father. From the very beginnings of Genesis, to Christ’s words to us, we are told “when you pray, say, Our Father.” To clear things up, I am not saying, “God is a man!”, I’m not even talking about the person of Christ yet. I am saying that God chooses to reveal himself to us as a father, and thus the natural paternity of man is a reflection of that choice, it is a reflection of Our Father revealing himself to the world.

I’m trying to fit these thoughts into one fantastic sentence:

It is not that God reveals His relationship with us as being “just like a human father’s!”, as if He’s making some attempt to help us understand his love by imitating our dad’s, but that human fatherhood is an analogy, a reflection, a sign pointing to how God loves us.

If this is the case, then it only makes sense that an individual who stands in the place of God, who is given the power to forgive sins, offer the Perfect Sacrifice, and all the other sacraments, it makes sense that he should have that natural paternity that reflects God’s relationship with us.

And priests do hog the remote, but only to instill in us the virtues of patience, obedience and humility, while making a rich analogy to the fact that only the Holy Roman Catholic Church has the power to bind and loose the er…channels.

So to you I would ask, (1) if God is revealing one aspect of his relationship with us through fatherhood, what is He revealing to us through motherhood, and through femininity in general?

(2) Any additional thoughts on the value of natural paternity in a priest?

Your log-rolling lumberjack man,

Marc


More to come!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01658116461483425280 Brandon Vogt

    This issue had perplexed me for a long time. In fact after I became Catholic, it was surprisingly my biggest sticking point. I could believe in the Real Presence, I grew in devotion to Mary, and I loved the saints.But anytime I asked anyone why the Church couldn't have women priests they always said "because that's the way Jesus wanted it." The only problem was that I could never find any evidence explaining this.That is, until I listened to this talk by Peter Kreeft which I think is hands-down, the best explanation of why the priesthood is male-only:http://www.peterkreeft.com/audio/09_priestesses.htmHe also writes on "sexual symbolism", arguably the strongest reason why priests must be male:http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/sexual-symbolism.htm

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05185433444648099531 beez

    I would also point out, as Marc herein alluded, that Jesus Christ, who is the High Priest, WAS A MAN!The ministerial priest (which is the role of import in this exchange) is called to be an icon of the High Priest. I would make a lousy icon of the Blessed Mother, as I could not, oh, say give birth to a child. However, the High Priest could not give birth to a child either. The Church is always mother, because the Church is the bride of Christ. The High Priest gives himself completely to the Church and in that gift brings forth new life – eternal life in Christ. The priest, as icon for the High Priest, stands in as bridegroom! Thus, the priest as icon of the bridegroom, gives himself completely to his bride and together they bring forth new life, life in the Spirit through the sacraments.The Church is never bridegroom, and the priest is never bride.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12679230722483582032 Marc

    Couldn't agree more beez, and i think we get – lightly – into that argument in part 2!Thanks for reading, it means so much!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05185433444648099531 beez

    Marc -Well, if a lowly deacon can't help a middle-aged theologian who's pretending to be a teen-aged blogger, what can he do?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10536355703925407801 M. Danae

    I don't know if you've ever read it or heard of it, but a few years ago a book came out called The Shack. Obviously, it wasn't and isn't perfect, but it had some concepts in it that I thought were very interesting, and that I was reminded of, in reading this. One of the ideas of the book was that God presents himself as a man because, so painfully often, it is a father's love that we need. How many more times do you hear about single mothers than fathers? How much more common is it for men to be abusive? We need paternal love, and it's often a lot harder to get from each other. Also presented was the idea that Adam had to come first, and Eve be made from him, because every man comes from Eve, and like this, it is a cycle. We are equal. I'm not sure I did a good job explaining that, or how it applies to Catholicism specifically, but I'd be interested to hear your thoughts? Female Priests have always been a sort of fuzzy issue for me, so I'm really interested in your perspective. I feel like I'm on the edge of understanding, but it hasn't quite clicked yet.


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