You may remember this story from last week—wherein a bishop moved to forbid Mass at a Catholic Worker house in Iowa, after a “woman priest” presided at a liturgy there—and now my blog neighbor Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble has an interesting followup.
This comes from Charles Beard, who is part of a Catholic Worker community in Oklahoma:
Following the announcement that there could be no more Masses at DMCW, the group released a statement affirming its support for women’s ordination and open communion in the Catholic Church.
I want to sympathize with their point of view. I do not like criticizing other Catholic Workers. At the same time, I believe that statements and actions like Des Moines Catholic Worker’s are contrarian rather than prophetic. They distract from what we do as Catholic Workers.
There is also an underlying clericalism in its statement that I find deeply disturbing.
Consider this excerpt from DMCW’s statement: “[W]e wish to let it be known that the Des Moines Catholic Worker affirms the equality of all people, regardless of gender, to be full members and disciples in any Church claiming to follow Jesus; in the Roman Catholic Church this includes the priesthood and other positions of leadership within the Church.”
I strongly object to this reasoning. It sets a criterion for “full membership” in the Church that doesn’t make any sense. Eligibility for ordination is not how we should define Church membership.
Clergy are not a power structure that needs to be coopted or expanded to improve. That’s not what the mission of Christ was. St. Paul says that though Jesus “was rich, for our sake he became poor” (2 Corinthians 8:9). The Christian message is about the surrender of power and privilege, not their acquisition. If we define full membership in the Church as the ability to take power, we’ve lost sight of what membership means. Membership is a call to service, not power.