Typically thoughtful observation from Sherry Weddell

She writes:

Deacon Greg Kendra over at the Deacon’s Bench has linked to a speculative piece over at the Pray Tell blog about ways that women could exercise leadership and decision-making in the Church without being ordained.

I thought I’d share what I have written about several times over at ID blog:

As I have noted before on ID, the issue at stake is governance and the laity, not just women. This has big implications for all the baptized who are not ordained; religious and lay, male and female. The fact is that the debate over governance is not first and foremost a male-female issue. It is an ordained/non-ordained issue. And male cleric and non-ordained woman are not the only two categories at issue here. What about lay men?

Of the approximately 550 million Catholic men in the world, only 449,092 were ordained bishop, priest, or deacon as of 2007. That’s .000816 %, folks. Only 8/100ths of 1 % of all Catholic men are ordained.

Yes, we ordain men but it clearly doesn’t therefore follow that the charisms, leadership and creativity of Catholic *men*, as a whole, have been honored and welcomed. (Of course, that also imply that simply changing the gender make-up of this tiny ordained minority would not mean that the charisms, leadership and creativity of *women*, as a whole, would have been honored either.)

The debate over governance and leadership in the Church is not just, as it is so often portrayed, a battle of the sexes. It is most profoundly, a opportunity to consider the implications of the Church’s teaching on the apostolic anointing of all the baptized (female and male), the insistence that the Church’s primary identity is that of mission outward, and the integration of the “co-essential” (as Pope John Paul II put it) charismatic and institutional dimensions of the Church.

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  • ImTim

    I recently had the opportunity to meet with the head of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Cardinal Coccopalmerio, who said, “Lay people can be the subject of ecclesiastical jurisdiction…[exercising this jurisdiction] is not a juridical or theological problem, but an ecclessial sociology problem.”

    • Sherry Weddell

      Thanks – that’s really interesting! He seems to be saying that it would be hard to exercise in a setting where credibility and leadership has been totally linked to ordination for many centuries!

  • I guess it’s just:

    What small ball things can really happen to make it a reality? In many churches, the problem with a lot of the parish councils isn’t “clericalism”, it’s that these councils tend to draw the wrong kind of people, ideologues who frequently wish to inflict their view upon others, rather than taking the actual needs of the parish into account.

    I’m of the opinion there needs to be more for the laity, and not everything should depend on the ordained. But where does one go from there?

  • Fr. Denis Lemieux

    You know, I don’t really blow the horn of my own community, Madonna House, all that often. But actually, we are a community made up of both men and women, laity and clergy, living a common life and sharing in a profoundly unified way the governance and ordering of our community.
    While we are not specifically a model for the Church (we are a form of lay consecrated communal life that is definitely not for everyone) I believe we are indeed a spiritual model for the Church, precisely along the lines Sherry Weddell is advancing. And we’ve been doing it for over 60 years, so we know it works!

    Anyhow, just thought I’d throw that out.

  • Sherry Weddell

    Discerning charisms can make a huge difference. Moving from being moved by guilt and vacuums to where God has in fact called & gifted you.