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

UPDATE:
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.

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