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Equality or Equity?

My post on the impossibility of women’s ordination has garnered the most comments to my blog ever–and they continue to accumulate.

A couple of things have arisen from the discussion which are worth mentioning. The first is a point of clarity. When I say that it is impossible for a woman to be ordained as a priest I am not stating my own opinion. I’m simply stating what the Catholic Church teaches. My post was an attempt to explain some of the reasons for that teaching.

I should also clarify one of the counter arguments. Some have said, “Why do you insist that priests (who stand in for Christ) are male when you don’t insist that they should be Jewish, have long dark hair, a beard and look Semitic?

It doesn’t take too much thought to understand that these issues are not of equal importance. Whether a person is male or female is integral to their identity as a human being. Whether they have blonde hair or brown hair (or no hair) is immaterial. Ethnicity is more important perhaps, but a while a person’s social, psychological and spiritual identity may be influenced by their ethnicity–it is not crucial to their identity as a human being. A person’s gender, on the other hand, is absolutely integral to their identity as a human being. It is crucial (even for “transgendered” persons to identify as male or female.

This is more than a case of a person having a particular set of genitalia. Anyone who has thought this through even a little realizes that gender is more than physical characteristics. Masculinity and femininity permeate every aspect of the person. These deeper aspects of human sexuality are vitally important and should not be dismissed with trite comments like “Why doesn’t a priest have to have brown shoulder length hair?” or “I suppose the only thing that matters is what is between a man’s legs.”

Finally, the argument, at its heart, also has nothing to do with “equality”. I realize that to say so bluntly may make some people howl with rage. This is because at the very heart of the Catholic faith we believe in something greater than “equality”. We believe in a principle we might call “equity”.

Equity is the quality of being fair, objective, unbiased and even handed. Equity has more to do with giving everyone what they deserve rather than giving everyone the same thing. Equity is the idea that everyone has their rightful place in society, in the family, in the church, and ultimately in the cosmos, and that true justice is a matter of each person eventually finding their own rightful place in the greater order of things.

Dante’s picture of heaven is of each person in the cosmos being in exactly the right place in relationship to God, and therefore in relationship to one another. As this is attained each person finds total peace, or as he says, “Our Peace in His Will”. The achievement of this “perfect place” is the work of a lifetime. It is the work of a lifetime of prayer, surrender, mystery and service. This “place of peace”; this equity of heaven is also the result of humility.

Humility is understanding our rightful place and being there. Humility is not abject groveling, but the simple grace of being in the right place. Furthermore, this humble fact of being in the right place grants us not only humility, but great dignity. I am where I should be and where no one else should be. I am who I am. I am who God has made me to be. I am in my unique place in the divine economy. This individual dignity is far greater and the freedom that comes with it grants me much greater peace than I would ever find by seeking to be someone else just because I want to be “equal” to them.

Obedience to the divine will and submission to the divine teaching is the only way to attain this equity.  I am not writing this to women telling them to be submissive and shut up and know their place.

I am writing this to myself.

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker
  • Quid est veritas

    An interesting and subtle word choice, that. It explains everything very nicely.

  • http://fireoftheirlove.blogspot.co.uk/ shadowlands

    ‘ I am not writing this to women telling them to be submissive and shut up and know their place.’

    Hahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!

  • http://Cotlb.blogspot.com Julie

    It strikes me that trying to wrap our heads around the fact that we’re all human and thus equal, but also male or female, and thus different, is just a sort of runner-up to accepting that God is One but also Three.

  • lethargic

    Thank you.

  • http://sancarlo.org Vincent Nagle

    I once heard de Tocqueville quoted as saying that “the great thing about America is that they really do believe that people should be equal. The problem is that they think that this means that everyone should be the same. ”
    The question is not finding a new word to use like ‘equity’ but of understanding the true meaning of equality.


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