In the wake of the newly released apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia, outrage seemed to have once again sparked — but this time from both traditionalist and feminist corners of Catholic social media. One side generally believes the document is too ambiguous regarding the ordination of women in the Amazon and is freaking out that not enough is being said to lay the issue to rest on a global scale. Thus, further enabling the eventual possibility of (dun dun dun!!!!) women priests.
The other side seems to think the Church is stuck in the past and refuses to acknowledge the value of women and the possibility of ordaining them as clergy. Therefore, as some feminists would say, the Catholic Church is once again succumbing to its patriarchal roots and further solidifying itself as a vessel of misogynistic, systemic oppression.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say I don’t think redefining leadership roles in the Church is going to reduce corruption, though I am open to discussing the possibility of deaconesses. If the theology of orthodox Christianity is based out of a family model where the father is the head of his household, then it would seem that Christ Himself had established an inherently patriarchal system of following God through apostolic succession.
If ‘smashing the patriarchy’ is the goal of certain feminist Catholics, what do they even mean by that phrase? Is it to decolonize the Church from the influence of Constantine? Or does it mean undoing what Christ Himself had initially founded when He said to Peter, “…upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven (Matthew 16:18-19 DRA)?”
I’m sure I’m going to get some heat for posting this, but this is where Christian feminism loses me, and makes me wonder why more Catholics haven’t turned to the Anglican/Episcopalian Church. Why follow a belief-system that descends from a Patriarch if they want to destroy it? If the latter is the reason why some stick around, then maybe (and I cringe while I say this) Dr. Taylor Marshall might actually have a point about those plotting to destroy the Church from within.
What is it that draws certain women to want to become a priest? To lead? To serve in their community? To become celibate? To wear vestments? To consecrate the host? I think if a woman wants to become a priest, she would likely find herself at home in the Anglican/Episcopalian Church where female priests are recognized. However, if Catholic Christianity is truly founded by Christ Himself, switching to a different denomination would mean breaking ranks with the apostolic line of Saint Peter. We have enough shortages of priests already, but that has always been the case since the dawn of the Church — as Christ Himself said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”
Despite the media’s romanticism with Pope Francis as a supposed liberal progressive, he has not moved an inch on female ordination. If women’s ‘ordination’ to the diaconate isn’t on the table, it’s possible that an order of ministry for women could be created which they would enter through consecration (as a nun typically would). This ministry might include teaching and preaching within the order’s own context if they were qualified in theological education to do so. It might even include a ministry of community and liturgical service. Then again, this is the sort of thing religious sisters already have been doing for centuries. But then you have celibate nuns and consecrated virgins, who are already empowered as influential teachers of the faith in schools and in missions. I’m convicted of how much I’ve sinned and fall short of the glory of God whenever I’m in the presence of nuns. I’m always struck by the appearance and presence of religious sisters because they are meant to embody the persona of Mary, who is an influential figure of the Church as God’s chosen Mother. If the vocation of sisterhood isn’t a demonstration of humble, influential, spiritual power, then I don’t know what is. They have little difference from the priests in the Latin rite, aside from having the right to preach sermons during mass or consecrate the host in persona Christi.
I think this is where the source of contention lies, that feminist women are tired of being viewed as mere vessels of giving life, that men are often compared to Christ and women are often compared to Mary as a created being. I think every Christian can agree that the value of women is far greater than their chromosome type. But if the lines are blurred between the definition of male and female, then the uniqueness of creation would also be rendered unmentionable. Hence why the titular position of ‘Priest’ and ‘Father’ associated with Christ is inherently masculine, and a nun being called ‘Sister’ or ‘Mother’ is an expression of femininity.
I think it is worth contemplating (for both men and women) whether the desire to lead comes from a place of wanting to be in the positions of those in authority. If the desire for recognition outweighs the desire to serve and bring people to Christ, then it might be worth considering whether those who push for ordination (whether for women or married men) may be rooted in a covetous hunger for power.