Feminist Catholics Want Church to ‘Ordain a Lady’

The Catholic Church doesn’t allow women to become priests. Because I guess the Bible and vaginas don’t mix. So hats off to the Women’s Ordination Conference for pushing for gender equality within the Church with this video:

Hey, I was baptized, and this is crazy,
But God just called me, so ordain a lady!
Justice doesn’t look right, with only male priests,
But God just called me, so ordain a lady!

I mean… yes, it’s painful to watch and your ears might bleed a little, but they get a B+ for effort.

Marc Barnes at Bad Catholic doesn’t like the video — or the premise — and tries to justify why women have no business leading the Church:

How did the Father “send” Christ? We’ve already established that he was sent as the divine bridegroom. Thus the priests, sent as Christ, are also sent as the bridegroom. The priest is a man, as Christ was a man, as a bridegroom is always a man. These realities are neither accidents nor bigotries, but the consistent expression of God’s will for His Holy Church. To have a female priest is less akin to the entirely true statement that “women are as good as men” and far more akin to the statement that “women have penises”. The role of bridegroom is not something that can be separated from maleness, just as the role of bride cannot be separated from femaleness, and thus the priest — insofar as he participates in the very role of the Divine Bridegroom, Jesus Christ — must be male.

See? It… um… makes perfect sense. Men and women have “roles” and the role of women is just different from that of men… there’s nothing at all sexist about the fact that women can never be the Pope or even a local priest because, you know, childbirth. Something like that.

I’m not really upset with Marc. He’s just reading the rule book and explaining how the game works. My argument is that the game is flawed to begin with and women would be better off playing something else. Or nothing at all. (I swear this analogy made sense in my head.)

You might want to skip the comment thread on his site or YouTube, though. It’s just a lot of joking about how the video must be a parody because who are these silly women who think they can do a man’s job when the Bible explicitly says they can’t? And why don’t they just accept Catholic doctrine the way it is instead of trying to change it to suit their needs?

It’s infuriating, but I have to side with a lot of the commenters. According to Catholic doctrine, women can’t be priests and Catholics just have to accept that. If you don’t like it, you shouldn’t be a member of the Church.

Honestly, the Church is doing women a favor by treating them as inferiors — Sorry, I meant “treating them as different and complementary to men.”

Women should respond by getting the hell out of there and finding a church (or not) that tells them, yes, there may be differences between men and women, but the ability to be a leader isn’t one of them.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley

    I think it was Gloria Steinem who described the qualifications for being a priest as you had to have a penis but you weren’t allowed to use it.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    Gaaahh! So many conflicting thoughts on that video!
    - Horray for women and equal rights!
    - Uggh religious pop-music covers…
    - Yay for sticking it to the geezer men of the Vatican!
    - Oh no, they are crossing themselves in synchronized rhythm….

  • Wrestling_Enkidu

    In my experience reading Marc Barnes, he has a real talent for elaborate rationalizations- starting with the conclusion, and finding some way to argue backwards to the reasons. I think he could have a decent career in philosophy.

  • baal

    “These realities are neither accidents nor bigotries” (emphasis mine)

    I don’t think that word means what Marc Barnes thinks it means. Also, this notion that the laity (let alone those different people, women!) have a say or that their views should even be heard is not Catholic. The order is trickle down only – god to pope to cardinals to bishops to priests to men to women. To do otherwise is to violate the natural order and sin against god (by being unnatural, ).

  • Darren

    “It’s infuriating, but I have to side with a lot of the commenters.
    According to Catholic doctrine, women can’t be priests and Catholics
    just have to accept that. If you don’t like it, you shouldn’t be a
    member of the Church.”

    True, can’t they just be Anglican or something?

    “Cake or Death!”

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    my advice to feminists is the same as it is to gays, when it comes to religion: just walk away. let it go. be good without it. etc.

    i will never understand log cabin republicans, defending a party that hates them and regularly works against queer rights. is it that important to be invited to a posh beltway con-fab of republicans, that you’ll humiliate yourself among the thinking community, as you twist and jive defending them and making false claims that you’re “changing it from inside?”

    similarly to woman: why, just why, do you want to cling to a church that denies you leadership roles in its organization, blames you for “original” sin, tells you that you don’t deserve to choose when you reproduce, or that your marriage, however miserable, is for life or you go to hell? etc.

    if you’re smart enough to realize it’s total pish-posh for an organization claiming to represent an “all loving” gawd to also say that women can’t handle his cookies and wine, you’re probably smart enough to realize that all of the rest of it is bunk, also.

    and for krist’s sake if you love your children: don’t leave them alone with a priest. not for a second. lives are ruined that way, forever. just go. recognize that if you really can’t live without your imaginary friend, “he” will love you just as much if you pray in secret at home, and that he never said a single word about a “pope,” let alone a former nazi pedophile enabler double for the evil dood in the star wars movies. just leave it already. spend your money on counseling, or dating, or your kids, instead.

  • LesterBallard

    Why not just get the fuck out? Oooooh, change this one thing and everything will be hunky dory.

  • A3Kr0n

    I was singing along having a great time until they said they wanted to become priests. Then the party was over. Why would they want to do that? Why would anyone?

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

    And a woman, just like a man, can say the magic words to make the bread and wine turn into “the body and blood of Christ,” but still look like bread and wine. As it stands, the Catholic Church says that having a penis is required for this magic to work.

  • jose

    It’s a tough wake-up call when you finally experience first hand the fact that your religion considers you a second class person.

  • C Peterson

    my advice to feminists is the same as it is to gays, when it comes to
    religion: just walk away. let it go. be good without it. etc.

    Good advice for anyone, but remember: simply being a feminist or being gay doesn’t automatically make somebody rational. So plenty of people in these categories will, in fact, choose to stick with religion. If that’s the way somebody feels, they either have to find a new church or try and change the one they’re in.

  • R.u.dum

    Frankly, I find it all rather disgusting. “Ladies” and their “sympathisers” should be abandoning this amazingly draconian institution instead of trying to placate it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Wesley.DaNomad Wesley Da’Nomad

    Want equality? Leave religion.

  • jdhuey

    While I’m all for gender equity I don’t see the point in encouraging it in an institution that I find to be just a tad less evil than drug cartels. I wouldn’t feel right arguing that there should be women preists anymore than there should be more women drug lords.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kenneth-Polit/100001819277689 Kenneth Polit

    I went to Catholic school. Sister Carol was a better educator, a better leader, and, overall, a better person than any of the priests there. She would have been, IMHO, a better priest.

  • SeekerLancer

    Not while Pope Palpatine is in command of the empire.

  • Pseudonym

    my advice to feminists is the same as it is to gays, when it comes to
    religion: just walk away. let it go. be good without it. etc.

    Just being clear on one point: Is that also your advice to the A+ movement?

  • Pseudonym

    I don’t understand the “You don’t like it? Leave!” argument. I actually find it quite offensive.

    The phrase “love it or leave it” (which isn’t exactly the same sentiment, but bear with me) was both the nationalist slogan of the Brazilian military dictatorship and the main pro-war slogan of the Vietnam era. It was, of course, resurrected for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; particularly Iraq.

    The implication is that if you identify with or are a member of some group, you should not attempt to reform the group. If it’s being mismanaged, you should leave rather than challenge the mismanagement from within. If that’s not what you’re trying to say, then you shouldn’t say anything like it.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    i’m sorry your brain is so challenged. it’s fairly simple and if you read the posts above maybe three or four more times, perhaps it’ll sink in. or how about this: women should, can and do leave abusive husbands, all the time. women can do the same with an abusive religious organization that treats them like whores, baby factories, and silent mice who have no rights or authority, while raping their children and forcing them to profess belief in the ridiculous and absurd. is that simple enough for you?

  • Patterrssonn

    That’s an interesting comment considering the OP’s about feminists being ridiculed for asking that women have a voice in the CC.

  • Guest

    I think with regards to reforming the Catholic Church, Matt Dillahunty said it best: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnQygtWbae8. Also, you trying to compare the Catholic Church and the Atheist Movement ( the A+ thing) is risible and dishonest to say the least.

  • Renshia

    The whole point of the church being there, is to dominate and control. I think this point needs to taken into account, in your analysis. The church doesn’t want to accommodate simply because that is not it’s purpose. It’s directive is to lead and the people are the sheep and there job is to follow and do whatever the fuck they are told. It’s not for them to form opinions it is for them to follow and remain quiet. The rule book says sit down and shut up, so sit down and shut up already. If god was interested in fair and equal he would have started the ten commandments with,always consider all your options, not obey your god.

    If you want an environment that is progressive, an archaic institution is not the place to be looking. If you think the old boys club is going to give up, don’t hold your breath. Why would you want to be a Catholic anyway, have some self-respect for christ sake.

  • NickDB

    Sorry, we’re all out of cake, wasn’t expecting such a rush.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    The Catholic church is not a democracy, and the dogma is not up for debate. Nothing these women say matters to the hierarchy. They don’t care how many Catholics support women priests, or same-sex marriage, or reproductive rights. What hope is there for reform? Has there ever been a time in history when the RCC has amended its dogma because of an outcry on the part of its followers?

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    On the one paw, I’m all for people pursuing their Paths freely. On the other… why not just walk away from Catholicism?

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    They never said it had to be a real penis, or that it had to be attached to the officiant…

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    To have a female priest is less akin to the entirely true statement that
    “women are as good as men” and far more akin to the statement that
    “women have penises”.

    Well, he just brought it right out and showed everyone, no pussyfooting around, no diddling at great length, no teasing or interrupting, just bringing the essence right up to the forefront, and exposing the hard, hard reality that stands up on its own:

    What makes a man worthy of being a priest is not his piety, it’s his penis. What makes Jesus the Christ is not his purity, it’s his penis. What makes God the Almighty is not his power, it’s his penis.

    These people worship Priapus.

  • Drakk

    I don’t want to reform the catholic church, I want to end it.

  • http://mittenatheist.blogspot.com/ Kari Lynn

    Dildos for everybody! Lol.

  • Fuckthecatholicchurch

    I don’t understand why any woman would be a Catholic, when they could be a Quaker, or an Anglican, or a Lutheran, or part of any other denomination which values women more than the fucking Catholics do. I mean, I understand some people like religion, it makes them feel warm and fuzzy, fine. But to prop up a church that covers up child abuse, won’t allow abortion even in cases of rape, is against contraception, for goodness sake, which contributes to deaths of aids in Africa…a church which makes a point of rabid anti-homosexual bigotry, a church which treats women as second class, because apparently even though Jesus was celibate in the bible, his mighty penis is super important…why would you stay in a church like that? Fuck the pope!

  • Po

    There’s a difference between leave your church and leaving your country. If you leave your country, you have to move, which is inconvenient, expensive and not always possible. Leaving your church is surely much easier.

    I mean, I guess it’s good they’re trying to reform it, but on the other hand, is it worth the effort? The entire foundation is wrong, so better just to walk away.

    I think your analogy only works if it’s Catholics saying ‘love it or leave it’. I doubt anyone here is trying to stop people from criticising the Catholic church. The problem is, they’re not criticising it enough.

  • +1

    Good way of putting it.

  • mandocommando23

    Okay, so if Jesus is the bridegroom and the priests represent him, isn’t the church the bride? And the entire congregation represents the bride…and the bride is supposed to be a woman…but there are men in the congregation…soooo??? Oh, I forgot, religious people don’t care about logic.

  • Gus Snarp

    Cute and well done, and I certainly think that women who believe they must remain in the Catholic Church should protest all of its injustices from within, including this one. But watching the video did actually make me think of how, if they could question this ancient doctrine of the Church (and while it wasn’t always this way, it’s certainly one of the older doctrines), why can’t they see how wrong the Church is about everything. “The other churches” bit and the bits about justice and patriarchy really make me wonder how they can stay with the Church at all. It just makes no sense. Patriarchy is the very core nature of the Church, as Bad Catholic makes clear. It’s long past time for the Catholic Church to correct itself, ladies, it’s time to leave the Church.

  • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

    Someone might want to clue Marc in on the fact that some women do have penises. Not all transgender people have access to or the desire to have SRS.

  • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

    Vatican priorities: Rape a child? Job transfer. Ordain a woman as a priest? Instant excommunication.

    An organization that thinks maintaining strict gender roles is more important than preventing sexual abuse of children is not an organization that can be fixed. It’s an organization that needs to be abandoned.

  • Gus Snarp

    The mistake you’re making is assuming that an argument specific to this case ought to be generalizable to all cases in order to be valid. That’s simply not true. What we’re talking about here is whether women who disagree with a doctrine central to the nature of the Catholic Church ought to leave the Church, not whether any minor disagreement or mismanagement ought to be cause for anyone to leave any group.

    In this case the doctrine of no women in the priesthood rests on many of the same theological foundations that other Church doctrines rest on. Those foundations are meant to be unquestionable assumptions, they come straight from God and cannot be wrong. But if they’re wrong when they justify an all male priesthood, then why are they not also wrong about gay marriage or homosexuality in general? Why are they not also wrong about priestly celibacy, or papal infallibility? Why not about transubstantiation? What the argument for women priests ought to do is bring the entire structure of Catholic belief crumbling down around the knees of these women. It ought to reveal the falsehood of all of Catholic doctrine. That is why it points out that women ought to leave the Church. For goodness’ sake, the women literally complain about patriarchy in the video and Patriarch is a Catholic title. They are arguing against patriarchy when the Catholic Church is literally a patriarchy.

  • Ibis3

    Not entirely true. The Catholic Church does also believe that some trickle-up is allowed/ordained by God (thus the place of Church Councils within the tradition, the election rather than appointment of popes, the high esteem of (also elected) abbots and leaders of the mendicant orders during the middle ages and so on).

  • Ibis3

    Actually, yes. Usually takes a while though.

  • Ibis3

    Yes, but anima, the soul, is feminine (as is ecclesia, the Church), so that makes it all *ahem* Natural and everything. Medieval and Counter-Reformation theologians really liked the sexual symbolism of this (only they didn’t see it as just a symbol; it was a [aria sung by angels]Mystery[/aria) and wrote, well, basically, a bunch of religious erotica about it.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    Which instances were you thinking of? I know of course they have changed things over the years, but I’m not aware which changes would have been due to parishioners getting up in arms over something.

  • Pseudonym

    I’m not Ibis3, but surely the most obvious example is the Council of Trent.

  • Pseudonym

    I’ve read the posts above several times, and I still don’t get the mindset. There’s nothing wrong with leaving the RCC, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting to change it, either.

    It’s generally true that all of the most informed and accurate criticism about any mismanaged organisation comes from within. Passengers, for example, criticise the TSA an awful lot (and rightly so), but it’s whistleblowing current and former employees who make the best criticisms.

    The point about leaving abusive partners is a good one, but I think the analogy breaks down on several levels. First off, the RCC is arguably not abusive (in the sense you mean it) to the vast majority of its English-speaking women parishioners. The vast majority of its stupid teachings, like contraception, are easily ignored. Moreover, the face of the church to most members is not the hierarchy, but the local clergy and administrators, most of whom are very nice people who disagree with the dumber stuff from higher up.

    Drakk’s comment below is, I think, telling. Perhaps I’m reading too much into that comment, but I think that the real problem isn’t that women in the RCC are abused (for the most part, they are not), but that the RCC hierarchy uses its membership numbers, including women, as a justification to push its own political agenda on others. That’s far more serious.

    I agree with this argument, FWIW. Furthermore, I would like to point out that everyone who voted for President Obama (and I’d wager that the majority of Americans here did) voted for kill lists, drone strikes, and warrantless wiretapping, to name but three. Your (and I don’t necessarily mean you personally, unless you did support him) support of Obama was an electoral mandate for his more antisocial policies.

    Yes, I’m sure you (whoever “you” are) had your reasons. You know what? It’s okay to still want and work for reform.

  • Pseudonym

    I’ll buy risible, but what’s dishonest about it? I honestly believe that it’s okay to want to reform a movement from the inside.

  • Pseudonym

    Sorry, I don’t buy the thin end of the wedge argument. It’s not like this supposed “foundational” theology hasn’t changed significantly over the centuries.

    Papal infallibility is only around 150 years old. Pretty much all of the church leaders in the New Testament were married. There were several women prophets listed, and at least one woman apostle.

    This idea of unquestionable assumptions straight from God isn’t as unquestioned as you seem to think, even amongst the clergy.

  • Pseudonym

    Yes, there’s a difference, but both are difficult. Leaving your country need not imply leaving your ethnic and cultural identity, especially if you move to a country which takes multiculturalism seriously.

    The “is it worth the effort?” question is a good one. I’m glad that at least some people here are thinking in terms of a cost-benefit tradeoff. However, I respectfully submit that the question can only be answered by the person considering putting in the effort. There are benefits to being part of a benign, harmless religion, and whether or not working towards that is worth it for you is something that only you can answer.

    There are many people here who thought about it and decided that it wasn’t worth it. I fully respect that decision. I also strongly believe that not everyone must be like me. (In fact, most people shouldn’t be like me; trust me, you wouldn’t like it.) If I believed that, that would make me an evangelist, which is something that I find distasteful.

    I agree that the analogy is closer if it’s Catholics saying “love it or leave it”. If it’s outsiders saying it, I think that’s worse. Could you imagine how a British person using the “love it or leave it” argument in favour of the Vietnam war would be received?

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    That was due to ordinary Catholics making a stink?

  • Pseudonym

    Most of them were ordinary Protestants by this point, but yes. (Among others.)

  • Dan Li

    … Good grief. Has anyone bothered trying (at the very least) to understand the concepts of essence and complementarity (or preferably Aristotleian / Thomist metaphysics)?

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    I don’t know; I’d hardly call most of the people involved in the Council of Trent ordinary. But nevertheless, ordinary lay Catholics today have no influence. Take birth control, one of the most ridiculous prohibitions. Never mind that 98% of Catholic women use contraception. The Catholic church is no closer to changing its stance on that than it was 50 years ago.

  • KO

    Interesting perspective, but it might be nice for you to use some logic to defend your point. Currently, you are just ranting.

  • Pseudonym

    The same argument could apply to having a woman as President of the United States.

  • jdhuey

    Only if you think that the Gonvernment is an inherently evil institution. I don’t believe that, so I fully support the concept of electing a woman as President. Personally, I think that Hilary would have done a better job than Obama.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    Where is the logic in denying people the opportunity to hold a job based solely on their genitals? There are no logical reasons for that, only supernatural ones.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    Is there a particular reason we should look up their supernatural justifications? It doesn’t make the discrimination any better.

  • Gus Snarp

    Maybe because you’re missing the point in thinking that it’s the thin end of the wedge. The reason it’s different is because it’s not the thin edge, it’s the fat end. Yes, close to two thousand years ago their were women leaders in the church. That’s not the Catholic Church. I mean, the Catholic Church would like you to believe it is, but it’s not. The Catholic Church is a patriarchy, an all male hierarchy, and has been for centuries.

  • Pseudonym

    Perhaps. Nonetheless, the point remains: if it hasn’t always been this way, it doesn’t have to always be this way.

  • Pseudonym

    Only if you think that the Gonvernment is an inherently evil institution.

    Very few US citizens do, but a lot of people outside the United States do, and sometimes for understandable reasons. If you or someone you know were tortured, or your family were killed in a drone strike, you might feel differently about it.

    So while I understand and respect that some people feel this way about the RCC, I also understand and respect that many feel it’s redeemable. Also, I generally like people who work for reform. It makes me feel that humanity has a bright future.

  • Pseudonym

    Ah, we might have a misunderstanding here. I thought the claim was reform triggered by an outcry from rank-and-file of believers, not where rank-and-file believers did most of the reforming.

    The Thirty Years’ War, like World War I, actually happened because
    tensions on many fronts were building up for a long time, and it
    wouldn’t have taken much to trigger a large war. That wasn’t the only reason why the Council of Trent happened. Nonetheless, it was the event where the RCC changed from the Medieval era to the Renaissance era, and that was mostly because that’s the way the European world was headed for most Catholics.

  • Phil L

    Someone said something that has stuck with me for a while–we need to ask why these women want to be priests? The purpose of the priest is to serve our fellow men and women. If the man or women wants to be a priest for any other reason they are off base.

    The Church is one of the last institutions that states outright that there is an objective difference between men and women. (To this let the crowd say…duh.) This doesn’t mean one is better than the other, they are equal and complimentary as whole persons.

    I found that Wendy Shalit (Yes–a female) summed it up brilliantly in her book 10 years ago; “The more women try to become the same as men, the more that men’s power over women increases. Women must embrace their femininity and in that will have great power over men and force them to be real men who love and support them physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    Ugh, “embrace their femininity.” So we can stay at home, wear dresses and makeup, pop out babies, and let our man support us? What condescending, bigoted nonsense. Not all women want to get married, have children, or follow a bunch of gender stereotypes. Some of us actually want to have careers, and we won’t let misogynists tell us there’s anything wrong with that.

    These women, misguided though they may be for embracing Catholic dogma, at least have a sense of their own self-worth. They know they are equal to men, are capable of doing any job that a man can do, and are capable of doing it just as well. It’s a shame they are trapped in a church that does not afford them that opportunity based solely on the genitals they were born with.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    We’re at cross-purposes, I think. Ordinary Catholics, the ones who don’t hold any position in the church or have any power whatsoever, it’s those people who are ignored. The Council of Trent couldn’t have happened if those were the only people who were upset.

    There is no sign that the Vatican intends on budging from their position on female clergy, contraception, or same-sex marriage, no matter how many ordinary Catholics are up in arms. Ordinary Catholics are like the peasants from previous centuries. They’re told to obey. No one cares what they think.

    I’d love to be wrong, but I believe there is absolutely no hope for reform of Catholic dogma, at least not in this century. Probably not for a few centuries, if the church survives that long.

  • Guest

    The only women suited to the catholic church are those who already play a subservient role in life – the bored housewife. These ladies quite happily take on the role as tea makers and childminders (children’s liturgy). There is no place for us modern educated women who make significant contributions to society in our working life and would be ideal in leadership roles such as priests and deacons. The solution is simple – we leave and go to other churches where our talents are appreciated and welcomed!

  • Sam

    Wow! Thanks for this enlightening post. I especially like the ending line. I was entirely unaware that the leaders of the church were only men, but you cleared that all up for me. Oh wait, that’s right. Women actually can be leaders in the church, seeing as there are seven women who are doctors of the church.

  • Sorkoth

    Hahahaha. Wait is this post supposed to be serious? I pray the rosary to Mary – A woman – because I believe that women are inferior to men.