A “Priesthood” Disingenuous, Thoughtless and Vain UPDATED

“I am Long Island’s first female priest!”

Deacon Greg has the story, from Newsday (while Tom has the impatient snark):

A Sag Harbor grandmother says she has become the first Long Island woman to be ordained as a priest in a group that seeks equality for women in the Roman Catholic Church.

Eda Lorello, a longtime church worker, said she was ordained during a service in Wellesley, Mass., on Aug. 10 organized by Roman Catholic Womenpriests, an advocacy group that says it has ordained 120 women to what it calls the priesthood in the United States in the past decade.

The Vatican does not recognize the ordinations as legitimate, and has said that the women automatically “excommunicate” themselves when they take part in such services. Sean Dolan, a spokesman for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, called the effort to make Lorello a priest “absurd.”

“It’s wrong for her to portray herself as a Roman Catholic priest,” he said. “She is not.”

Lorello, who said she did not want her age disclosed, said she was dismissed earlier this summer by the diocese from her volunteer position as a lector at St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic parish in Sag Harbor. The parish’s pastor, after consulting with the diocese, “told me you can’t be a lector anymore because it will confuse the people,” she said.

Aw, you poor dear! Not being allowed to proclaim scripture for the Catholic church, after bending over like Miley Cyrus to shove your sacred feminine into its face and sticking out your tongue.

I generally don’t pay attention to these “women priests” stories, but this one is happening in my backyard, so to speak, and there are three things that are really annoying me about it: the vanity (so much vanity), the disingenuity, and finally the thoughtlessness that borders on cruelty.

Let’s start with the vanity: there is a ton of it, threaded within an article full of self-involved, self-congratulatory “firstness” and “I-ness” and “Me-ness”. I have never met a great, pastoral priest who was all about himself, but this gal manages to communicate herself and her desires in her every sentence. Interestingly, she mentions “justice” and what she believes she is due, and she talks of Augustine and Ghandi and Martin Luther King, but never Christ Jesus or service or sacrifice or laying down one’s life, or denuding oneself interiorly and materially in order to pastor the sheep in need, which is what a good priest does — is called to do.

Perhaps her “sacrifice” was being told she could no longer lector at Saint Andrews, except that she is not characterizing it as such. It’s just something else being denied her. Poor thing.

Her vanity hits the nadir when she refuses to disclose her age. She wants to pastor the people, and gather them in, or something…but she will not give enough of herself, be open enough with herself, to even tell them her age.

Ain’t she priestly, though? Really pastoral! Just like Francis!

Her disingenuousness also seeps through the page, like the second person of a fabulist trinity, beginning with the notion that she can willfully separate herself from the church due to a principled disagreement, but should still be able to proclaim from its ambo. And then, per Newsday, She called herself “a faithful daughter of the Church…” without caring (or perhaps without realizing) that one cannot claim to be faithful in a relationship while stepping out from it, or breaking trust with it. This woman has done both. She can no longer say she is “faithful.” Nor can she claim “obedience”, which is one of the anchors of the Catholic priesthood — so heavy it helps to keep the entire church well-grounded.

Finally, this woman is offensive in her thoughtlessness. To drag her priest and his canonical duties into her passion-play was gratuitous and unnecessary; it’s of-a-piece with her self-involvement, though. She was thoughtless to the pastor and priest who served her — I am sure very faithfully — the whole time she was collecting the theology degree that seems, to some women, to be all one needs to be ordained a priest (as though the credential proves the calling).

I know the pastor at St. Andrews, Father Peter Devaraj, and can assert that he is no dogmatic terror: he is a really exemplary, humble and sweet-natured priest whose whole purpose in life is to serve the People of God and his church. I’m sure that when this woman announced her “priesthood” and then expected to continue lecturing at Catholic Mass (which she had to know was not happening) she put a kind, gentle and shy man into an uncomfortable spotlight — one from which all manner of unfair assumptions will be made of him, by people whose axes are always grinding, and whose knees are on auto-jerk.

This seems profoundly unkind and selfish to me, and even a little mean-spirited. Yes, she’s so very priestly, isn’t she? Really looking out for others!

Lorello said she has felt called to the priesthood since she was 7 or 8 and used to stage pretend Roman Catholic Masses in her house, complete with her dolls lined up as “parishioners.” . . . “I waited through five popes, now six, to change that canon law that says only males can be ordained,” she said. “I got tired of waiting.”

What a perfectly…not-unique experience of Catholic girlhood! Well, ma’am, those romantic childhood games should have informed you that you had nothing to “wait” for:

. . .whether I could ever be a priest or not meant nothing to me. Although I could not have articulated it at that tender age, an instinctive understanding resided within me, recognizing that what God wanted of me was holiness, and a relationship of intimacy. If I wanted those things too, I knew, then I would become holy, and a kind of priest, if not an ordained one. There was nothing that would or could impede that, if it was what God wanted.

For some, priesthood is a prize of attainment rather than a surrender to service — a right to be won, rather than a gift bestowed. Unless their preaching is done from behind a pulpit, they think, it is devalued and illegitimate.

Catherine de Hueck might have called the pursuit of female ordination a distraction and a waste of opportunity when there is so much to be done, when we are all called and the work of our priesthood is already before us. The Carmelites of Compiègne understood this, as did St. Catherine of Siena, Dorothy Day, St. Teresa of Avila, Elisabeth Lesuer and Sister Dorothy Stang, none of whom waited for someone to hand a priesthood to them.

We fall in love with ideas, and then we make idols of them. We serve our idols, and our idols are always ourselves.

The Catholic priesthood is a romance, of sorts, but a romance that does not mature into a willingness to sacrifice, to endure the word “no” and to surrender to something larger than the self, will always be lacking the heft of authenticity, and it will anchor nothing beyond the ego.

“The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist.” ~St Gregory the Great

Fr. Dwight has more thoughts: The problem is, they are invariably simply adapting to the spirit of the age–and usually they are about thirty years behind the spirit of the age. As far as I can make out most feminists have moved on from the “I want to do what all the guys get to do” and are more in favor of developing the fullness of their feminine gifts within their chosen professions. That the priesthood is not essentially feminine has escaped them.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Athelstane

    Exactly. Lorello was apparently a reader.

    By rule, reading should only be done by instituted acolytes, who would be lectors. But the reality is that few parishes have instituted lectors, and they are permitted in the alternative to have readers, who can be any baptized Catholic not otherwise impeded.

  • Athelstane

    What it seems to have done is to increase the pool of a…certain class of clericalized laity, if you will – liturgists, cantors, EMHC’s, etc. – but also been coincident with a steep dropoff in vocations to the priesthood, which are only now starting to recover (barely). Often, the priest celebrant is reduced to a mere presider.

    Certainly there are a number of causes for the vocations crisis that began in the mid-60′s. But you’re likely right that the manner in which we’ve conducted the liturgy is playing a significant role.

  • http://wasteyourtime.mtgames.org/ Scaevola

    *citation needed
    Both for the statistic, and for the assumed claim that truth is determined by majority rule.

  • Lily

    When Mary, the mother of Jesus was with Peter and the other Apostles on Pentecost, what could the conversation have be? Peter going up to Mary and asking forgiveness for his transgressions–Forgive me Mary for I have denied your son and my Lord three times… at the courtyard, the gate, and in the street–and what might Mary, the mother of Jesus have said to Peter? I do forgive you because Jesus forgives you. What just happened… Mary the mother of Jesus acting priestly. We know that for the HOLY SPIRIT to come they were in accord. So why can’t a woman today act priestly and forgive sins too?

  • Michael Rittenhouse

    You nailed it with the vanity. Echoes of President Obama’s “I won.”

  • Basil Damukaitis

    TedCoates, since you are getting technical, so shall I. Precisely, the minor orders were not abolished. Ministeria Quaedam restructured them, and they are now called ministries in the “ordinary form”. They are merely “set aside”. The Old Rite communities still confer them. The only difference is that tonsure is no longer admittance to the clerical state, diaconate is. HOWEVER a community may confer the rights and privileges of a cleric upon conferral of tonsure if they chose to confer tonsure. And of course, the Eastern Churches haven’t changed a thing. They are not affected by the Latin Code of Canon Law.

  • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

    Catechism of the Catholic Church, p.1620:
    “Whoever denigrates marriage also diminishes the glory of virginity. Whoever praises it [marriage] makes virginity more admirable and resplendent. What appears good only in comparison with evil would not be truly good. The most excellent good is something even better than what is admitted to be good.”

    Bl. John Paul II, Theology of the Body: “The ‘superiority’ of continence to marriage never means, in the authentic tradition of the Church, a disparagement of marriage or a belittling of its essential value. It does not even imply sliding, even merely implicitly, toward Manichean positions, or a support for ways of evaluating or acting based on a Manichean understanding of the body and
    of sex, of marriage and procreation. The evangelical and genuinely Christian superiority of virginity, of continence, is thus dictated by the motive of the kingdom of heaven. In the words of Christ reported by Matthew 19:11—12, we find a solid basis for admitting only such superiority, while we do not find any basis whatsoever for the disparagement of marriage that could be present in the recognition of that superiority.”

    You were saying?

  • Cindy

    Bravo!!! Excellent article.

  • Unbeliever Prime

    You merely prove my point.
    Even now, the Catholic Church honors and respects religious celibacy far more than marriage (regardless of how nicely their saying it in the modern era).

  • Unbeliever Prime

    The Church itself claims to be feminine.
    Just think of all the times that priests refer to Holy Mother Church.
    Now I personally think that the Catholic Church is an it and not a she, but that is not what those who officially speak for the Church say.

  • TreeOfLifeSword

    Great article. I usually refer to them as ‘priestesses’ which stops any conversation about ‘female priests’ dead in it’s tracks.

  • Donna

    I was saying that being invested in comparing the value and respect due motherhood relative to the priesthood or vice versa is unseemly and inconsistent with the nature of both, which is to love and serve others, not glorify the self.

  • TreeOfLifeSword

    If anything, she probably encouraged Peter as a Mother would. And knowing Jesus’ mercy and forgiving nature, she probably counseled him ll the more. She didn’t need to take Jesus’ place to do it.

  • Donna

    I was saying that being invested in comparing and weighing the dignity of and respect due motherhood relative to the priesthood and vice versa is unseemly and not consistent with the nature of both vocations, which is to love and serve others, not seek to glorify the self. I wasn’t disparaging marriage as a vocation, so I fail to see how the passage from the catechism applies.

  • David J. White

    A Sag Harbor grandmother says she has become the first Long Island woman
    to be ordained as a priest in a group that seeks equality for women in
    the Roman Catholic Church.

    I give Newsday credit for phrasing the story this way, and not saying that “she was the first Long Island woman to be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest,” as some other news outlets might have done.

    used to stage pretend Roman Catholic Masses in her house,

    Well, she can continue to stage pretend Masses!

  • TeaPot562

    Two thousand years ago, most then religions EXCEPT JUDAISM had women priestesses as well as male priests. Jesus could have ordained St. Mary Magdalen, if He had intended for women to serve in that capacity.
    Note that St. Mary Magdalen carried the news of His resurrection to the Eleven. In effect, she is “the apostle to the apostles.”
    So Jesus set the pattern that the Church follows today.
    This does not mean that men are more holy than women. After all, Judas was a male.
    And many men reach heaven in part because of the prayers of their wives.