Is it Theology, Misogyny or Power?

Is it Theology, Misogyny or Power? February 16, 2013

Two weeks ago the subject of women’s ordination to the priesthood was briefly in the news again.  Father Wojciech Giertych, a Dominican and theologian of the papal household to Pope Benedict XVI, gave an interview in which he discussed the theological objections to ordaining women to the priesthood.  The interview was summarized in print and in a short video by Catholic News Service.

His argument for the most part does not break new ground, reiterating instead the basic arguments advanced in Inter Insigniores and affirmed by Pope John Paul II in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis:  Christ himself only ordained men and so the Church cannot do otherwise.  Moreover, that Christ was incarnate as a male means that maleness is intrinsic to the role of the priest as an image of Christ.

I was familiar with these arguments, and it is not the purpose of this post to rehash them or the arguments against them.  Rather, in reading about the interview with Fr. Giertych, I was struck by the other, secondary arguments he advanced in favor of this position.  They do not represent the core of the argument; rather, in fairness to Fr. Giertych, I think they represent an attempt by him to provide some additional explanations that he finds, if not compelling, then reasonable and suggestive.

These arguments were summarized by CNS as follows:

Men are more likely to think of God in terms of philosophical definitions and logical syllogisms, he said, a quality valuable for fulfilling a priest’s duty to transmit church teaching.

Although the social and administrative aspects of church life are hardly off-limits to women, Father Giertych said priests love the church in a characteristically “male way” when they show concern “about structures, about the buildings of the church, about the roof of the church which is leaking, about the bishops’ conference, about the concordat between the church and the state.”

I find these arguments problematic on several grounds.  First, while I believe that there are differences between men and women that transcend the physical, I think that arguments that men are more abstract and logical and women are more emotional and intuitive are hopelessly naive and the product of social categories.   It is redolent of the 19th century argument that women should not receive higher education because it would cause their uteruses to atrophy.    Far too many women have demonstrated their abilities as systematic theologians (not to mention as engineers, physicists, and mathematicians) to give this argument much credence.  Some women think of God in more personal and mystical ways; so do many men (St. John of the Cross springs immediately to mind).  That both men and women have demonstrated both approaches suggests that these differences are more reflective of personal preference and cultural norms than they are of ontology.

In his second argument, Fr. Giertych seems to suggest that women do not (and perhaps cannot) think about the Church in the “right” way.   This fails in two ways:  as before, I find it absurd to suggest that  concern for the physical or institutional structures of the Church reflects “maleness” in any way.  One only need look at St. Catherine of Siena and her hectoring of the Avignon popes to find a counter example, or to the tireless and often unheralded service of generations of women cleaning and maintaining parish churches, rectories and convents.   Furthermore, I find these categories in and of themselves to be misguided, since they suggest that the most important concerns of a priest are with structures, and not with the message of the gospels.     I for one do not want as my pastor someone whose only strengths lie in these areas.  I do not think they are useless, but a pastor who lacks them can overcome this weakness by relying on laity with these skills.   There are other, more disastrous things for a priest to lack:  empathy, charity, passion for Christ’s flock–things that might be described as “womanly virtrues.”

Fr. Giertych then goes on to argue that

“The mission of the woman in the church is to convince the male that power is not most important in the church, not even sacramental power,” he said. “What is most important is the encounter with the living God through faith and charity.”

“So women don’t need the priesthood,” he said, “because their mission is so beautiful in the church anyway.”

In reading this argument I was immediately reminded of a hoary old Native American joke:  “When the white man came to America, we had the land and he had the Bible.  The white man said, ‘Let us pray,’ and we bowed our heads and closed our eyes.  When we looked up, the white man had the land and we had the Bible.”

If I understand Fr. Giertych, a male clergy (one which is to show special solicitude for “buildings of the Church,” “the bishops’ conferences” and “the concordat between Church and State”) is tasked with building and maintaining structures of power, one which defines those voices which are legitimate and those which are not.  At the same time, however, this same clergy is supposed to listen to women’s voices and realize, as St. Thomas Aquinas put it,  that all their works are straw.   Women, on the other hand, should accept their lack of power since (to paraphrase the Gospel of St. John), they have been given the better part.  The connection with the land and the Bible is unmistakable.

Equally germane is Harlan Ellison’s trenchant short story Silence in Gehenna.  The hero, Joe Bob Hickey, is a revolutionary in a near future dystopian America which has become a corporate/fascist state.  In the midst of a terror attack, he is kidnapped by aliens, who place him in a golden cage in the midst of their city.  Below him, he can see these giant aliens being drawn through the streets in chariots by slaves of another species whom they beat mercilessly.   Joe Bob, true to his revolutionary self, begins preaching revolution to the slaves.  The slaves ignore him, but whenever a master comes within earshot, he begins to beat himself instead of his slaves.  As he rolls away, however, he resumes beating his slaves.

In the same way, Fr. Giertych is not calling for an end to power, authority or domination—something which seems central to the Gospel message. Rather, he seems to want to maintain the status quo, while granting women the right to periodically make him and other priests feel guilty.

In the end, Fr. Giertych’s secondary arguments seem to be grounded in both a misunderstanding of the differences in unity that flow from “male and female He created them” and “in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female.”  He relies too much on outdated and incorrect notions of male and female, and on a clericalist understanding of the priesthood that seems more concerned with hierarchy and authority than with self-abegnation and service.

And here, I think, is the nub of the problem:  if the Church  indeed finds itself without the authority to ordain women to the priesthood, then it is imperative that it acknowledge that the priesthood as it exists today is inscribed into a social and historical context which invests it with power and privilege at the expense of women, making it both a source of alienation and an object of desire.

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  • Thomas Hostomsky

    Good analysis and perceptive insight. I find so many of these men reveal their true selves to be so disconnected with reality when they leave the patented principled argument and add their own 2 cents. This, more than anything else, is cause for sclerosis of the church’s arteries and its alenation of so many people.

  • Melody

    I think you are right about Fr.Giertych’s secondary arguments, that “….they represent an attempt by him to provide some additional explanations that he finds, if not compelling, then reasonable and suggestive”. I thought at the time I read his interview a couple of weeks ago that it was a well-intentioned attempt to help people understand the Church’s position. Trouble is that it is not convincing, relying, as you said,”.. on outdated and incorrect notions of male and female”. Sometimes it’s better just not to say anything. I guess I take a somewhat zen attitude toward eventual ordination of women; if it’s meant to happen, it will. If not, it won’t. If it happens it will be “…in God’s good time”, to quote Jules Verne completely out of context.

  • Mark VA

    Your conclusion seems to be that the reason the Catholic Church does not ordain women, is because She is invested in power and privilege being reserved for the males, at “the expense of women”.

    This is a serious accusation. Your concluding paragraph seems unequivocal. I think that before you discuss this any further, you should make clear to your readers where you stand:

    Do you support the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Catholic Church?

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      I am not going to answer your question for two reasons: 1) it would take more space to do it justice than this commbox; and 2) it is not completely relevant to the discussion at hand.

      However, let me amplify the point I was trying to make in my final paragraph. I was not saying that the Church was “invested” in power and privilege. Rather, she needs to acknowledge that the Church itself exists in a fallen world that cares a great deal about power and privilege, one in which women have historically been marginalized and oppressed. In this reality, any discussion or action based on gender difference must be examined closely, both to insure that it really reflects gospel values and not the prejudices of the world we inhabit, and that it is taught and implemented in a way that shows an awareness of those prejudices and the reaction against them.

      The Church teaches that it cannot ordain women to the priesthood. This teaching exists in a world where this is viewed by many as an exercise of power and privilege for men at the expense of women. Whether this is true or not, the Church needs to understand (really understand) that arguments such as those made by Fr. Giertych and discussed above only contribute to this feeling.

      • “any discussion or action based on gender difference must be examined closely, both to insure that it really reflects gospel values and not the prejudices of the world we inhabit”

        Nor the prejudices of the world each time a piece of Scripture was born, be it Old or New Testament, nor the prejudices of the world when Jesus walked in/on it with his clever use of parables/parabolic events.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          True, though when I wrote “gospel values” I was already (implicitly) thinking of the universal principles that are the timeless part of the gospels, and not those parts which are bound to a particular time/place.

    • Jimmy Mac

      Does the pope wear red shoes?

      • Kerberos

        Does bears wear Prada ?

        • No but I heard somewhere the devil does…

  • wjmwilson

    David … You take this guy’s fallacious arguments far too seriously. His nineteenth century concepts of gender differentiation are by Franz Kafka out of Lewis Carroll. He has no clue about what makes women tick. (Actually after 38 years of marriage, two daughters and two older sisters, I’m not sure I do!) His naive, self-serving arguments do, however, provide a telling example of why priests should marry. They might not understand women any better, but at least they’d know how a real woman looks and acts.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Well, I take them seriously if only because he is theologian of the Papal household, and therefore for in a position of prominence. I suspect that a lot of people will give them credence, and they need to be addressed at the level of ideas.

  • But why is the category of analysis “women”?? Isn’t this intrinsic to the fact that a lay/cleric distinction exists AT ALL.

    I’m a male who is never going to be married (not by the Church’s standards, at least) but also is at this point unlikely to ever become a priest.

    Am I “disenfranchised”? Does the fact that priests and I are both males somehow make me more “represented”?

    Rather than thinking of it as “100% of priests are males, and 0% are females,” I’d tend to think of it this way: 100% of women are lay, and 99% of men are lay.

    And at that point I feel like there is not so much a difference between men and women in the Church considered as classes.

    • Jimmy Mac

      Those men can change status/class. The women never can … in the eyes of the alpha males, of course.

      • Not if they’re married, they’re not changing anything. 99.9% of Catholic men are simply never becoming priests because they are just constitutionally incapable of that lifestyle, probably.

        • Jimmy Mac

          Tell that to the married Eastern Rite priests, those married ministers who “poped” and have been ordained, and – of course – the married newbies of the Orneryariate.

        • Those are not 99.9% of Catholic men. They’re a tiny group.

      • Kerberos

        Only if the men are allowed to test their vocations. Many aspirants don’t get that far.

        The CC is basically a lay movement, wagged by a very small tail. There are many times more women religious than priests. It’s tempting to regard the priesthood, in a most untheological way, as a “comfort zone” where men can be free of the harpydom. If men wanted somewhere they could be free of the ladies, fair enough. Women have access to almost everything else.

        In all seriousness, I often wonder whether female desire for ordination may owe something to that: for when X is the one thing forbidden, it tends to absorb people’s attention – the many things that are not forbidden, are ignored. The Adam & Eve story is a fine example of this – we hear scarcely a word about all the trees that were not forbidden. The tree of knowledge of good and evil fills the story. Did women long for ordination when many things were not accessible to them ? It would be instructive to know.

  • Ronald King

    David, the answer for me to the question of the post is that it is all three with theology being developed from misogyny and the competition for power in male relationships.

    • Kimberley

      Therefore, the answer as to the reason that why we women are the only ones that can bear children is obviously misandry.

      • Anne

        Not unless you equate biological attributes with cultural circumstances and/or institutional protocols that favor one half the human race over the other.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    Many people, myself included, would like to see a variety of organizations change their male-only focus towards a more inclusive sense. Here’s hoping!! But in the meantime, let us be clear about what various exclusions mean, even if they are not fair in any ultimate sense. There is an aspect of male-only organizations which is desirable if it leads to greater
    understanding of maleness, both positively and negatively. It can be very helpful to have a group that understands male motivation and weakness, and doesn’t make any bones about it. But let’s be frank. Does anyone think anything like that, in terms of humane savvy, obtains with the Catholic priesthood?? I think even its most ardent supporters would have a hard time coming up with supports for that idea. That tells you something. There may be, and have been , metaphysical supports for the priesthood’s male-exclusivity that can be adduced. Yet isn’t it telling that even its greatest fans would not look to for any real inter-male wisdom, which other all male groups do have, and are known for??! That is very telling, I believe, and worth meditating on.

    • Interesting, Peter! Here’s a though: if the clergy is considered a sort of “third gendered” space, perhaps it would make more sense in light of what you’ve said.

      In other words, the clergy wouldn’t be expected to have “male wisdom” as a strong “male space” sociologically, if instead (seeing also as they’re celibate in the West) they are a “third gendered” space for “eunuchs.”

      And though I wouldn’t deny the potential existence of third-gendered females, really the third gender concept is made up of males in “traditional” sociology, and the introduction of females would disturb what the “hijra” are supposed to be all about.

      I’ve actually heard an argument that the “conflict” surrounding this issue (and other issues) in the Church is because society has transitioned from a traditional gender-structure of Men’s Spaces, Women’s Spaces, and Third-Gender Spaces…to a public structure of Mixed (Heterosexual) Gender Space, Women’s Space, and LGBT Space.

      So, under this model, the clergy is now torn in a conflict not knowing what it’s supposed to be. Does it try to adapt to become a traditional Men’s Space (such as are being phased out in society in favor of Mixed/Heterosexual Space) that it, ironically, never traditionally was? Or does it fight to remain a traditional “third gender” space but which, in the modern context, will thus have inevitable associations with LGBT (the modern equivalent of third-gender in the new structure) that they are uncomfortable with both for moral reasons, and for what it implies about gender politics?

      It’s a fascinating question. But either way, as a gay man myself, I definitely think that a valid argument can be made (even from a “liberal” perspective) that the clergy should NOT simply be made into a Mixed Gender/Heterosexual gender-space through the introduction of women. Whether the clergy is to function as a strong “male space” such as are absent from our society, or as a “traditional” version of Third-Gender space (as an alternative to the modern LGBT construction)…remains to be worked out, I think.

      But thinking that these complicated questions of the sociology and politics of gender will be solved just “heterosexualizing” the priesthood through turning it into a mixed gender-space (when society ALREADY has so much mixed-gender hetero-space already)…I think is very naive about the whole issue, and belies a very heterocentric imagination about the whole thing.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs

        A Sinner,

        Excellent comment. And I am happy for you that you seem to have integrated your own sense of self more obviously in your discussion of things. Congrats.

        Of course, they have gone in exactly the opposite direction from such candor. They are trying — and of course no one remotely believes them — to portray the priesthood as just filled with “regular guys”. LOL.

        At the same time, I cannot say that most of the people I knew in the seminary or priesthood would have fit a sort of “eunuch” vibe. Let’s try to be fair and precise here. The good side of the priesthood was always, if history is guide, a kind of energetic spending of self for the world. I don’t think that fits the eunuch vibe at all. At the the same time, I know what you are getting at. There is an essential detachment from the reality of sexual commonsense involved. The curious unintended result is then, not a eunuch, but a hale fellow well met type, who doesn’t seem to really get the dark side of that persona at all.

        Cardinal Dolan could not be a better evocation of that bifurcated type. The most revealing thing I ever saw with him, was when I caught a bit of his speech in front of the Knights of Columbus, covered on EWTN. There he was in front of a roomful of avuncular and grandfatherly types, who if anything, looked content with their life choices. At one point Dolan digressed into an odd conceptual space in discussing sex, and trying to keep up his regular guy patter, he stumbled into what sounded like a hazy memory from his highschool seminary days. He said: “We know what the Lord wants for us in sex is for us to CHANNEL OUR URGES to his great purpose.” And his voice grew strained and accelerated on those capitalized words. The point is that all those grandfathers in the audience did not look one bit like they had spent their sexual life “channeling their urges” but in living their sexual lives in the comfort of a faith system they were born into. They looked comfortable.

        There is an insoluble matter for the RC clergy, thus. Their won experience is involved with these sorts of “channelings of urges”, assuming they are not dallying as some surely are. The ones that are not dallying are thus embroiled with a whole world of explanations and re-affimations of self, which normal people are not. I never heard so much discussion of sex as when I was in the seminary. I don’t know anyone gay or straight who as an adult spends time in social situations discussing sex. Priests can’t shut up about it in my experience. I don’t know what that makes them, fish or foul, metaphorically so to speak. But not eunuchs. Whatever they are, because there is so much category confusion, they can’t use the deep wisdom of male groups very well at all. I love the more unflinching honesty of male groups if they have candid leaders. Men feel better if they are understood, even if that means that their weaknesses and drawbacks are assessed more clearly as well.

        • I think the attempt in some places to “butch up” the priesthood and portray them as “regular guys” comes from that tension I described wherein they can’t seem to decide whether they’re still a third-gender space (threatening given the modern manifestation of that as gay) or whether they should try to become a male-space in a world that has fewer and fewer of those. I think the “butching up” affectation are part of the attempt to adapt towards the former even though that’s not, historically, the structural gender-role that world played.

          As for priestly personalities, I’m not claiming they are all of the “eunuch” type personally. But I am saying they’re a group of unmarried men who go about wearing pink and purple dresses. There is no doubt a “third-gender space” dynamic to the Catholic priesthood, and there’s nothing wrong with that (though perhaps using the term “eunuch” was inaccurate). What it does mean, however, that analyzing priestly power in terms of the power of men, or according to a notion of a gender duality in which men are lording over or excluding women…is overly-simplistic, given that the clergy is NOT a “Men’s Space” really either

          Though some have been trying to re-make it into that now, and probably have been for 150 years (and maybe that tension has ALWAYS existed). I think of the tension between Cardinals Newman and Manning; Newman as exemplar of the “third gender” archetype and Manning as the “man’s man” archetype.

          So there is a confusion, but the only solution (besides turning it into a mixed-gender space, which just seems further heterocentrism) is not just embracing the wisdom of Men’s groups. It could also be fully embracing their heritage as Third-Gender space without trying to affect a normative masculinity that their frocks and silk capes already betray…

        • Peter Paul Fuchs

          A Sinner,

          Somewhere in the archives of the The Voice, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami, is an article, if memory serves, detailing with pictures how I am several other seminarians were “just regular guys” with descriptions of us doing jockish things which we were basically instructed to do by Bob Lynch our Rector. So….I know from this issue. Therefore, with no particular feeling of superiority, but great poignance, I present the best comment on your observations, which involves one of the pillars of this blog, in a (if I may say so) not very convincing video:

        • Peter Paul Fuchs
        • Peter Paul Fuchs

          I am so inept with computers. Just go to Youtube and search “Jesuits and Sports” and you will come up with it. Enjoy! Pobresitos!

          • Ronald King

            You gave me a good laugh this morning with your ineptness. You are not alone.

    • Thomas Hostomsky

      I have known many priests here in America as well as England and Ireland. I have found that for the most part, older priests (60-80) are less clerical and affirming. I think the problem in Catholic priesthood is not its male exclusivity necessarily. The scourge or cancer long debilitating the church is a lack of authentic maleness resulting in officiousness of clericalism. I had this experience beautifully and painfully demonstrated for me this past week as I explored a diocese in upstate NY. With the exception of a house of younger “clergy,” I was gretted by priests with their first name and a genuine sense of hospitality. The younger ones gave forth no energy of inner, authentic authority and insisted upon being called “Father” despite being at least a generation yonger than myself. Of course, they felt no need to reciprotcate by addressing me as “Mister.” They placed themselves above me and more important than myself. I felt their insecurity. It is teeling that they get their world view from Fox (fake) News.

    • Anne

      Pardon me if I don’t immeidately empathize with all this talk about understanding maleness. If there’s a felt need for all-male enclaves in the Church, wouldn’t monasteries suffice? The main problem with restricting the priesthood itself to males — aside from the lame excuses and bad theology so often used to justify it — is that that particular restriction eliminates women from all major leadership positions in the Church. Of course, we can still lead groups of nuns and children, but without ordination, the episcopacy, the house of cardinals and of course, the papacy remain all-male enclaves. In the past couple decades, several church historians and theologians have joined ranks in a concerted effort to have women ordained deacons, and every now and then somebody suggests there are no specific rules disallowing the appointment of women as cardinals. But the truth is women are second-class citizens in the Church and have been since at least the third century. Even though both Jesus and St. Paul had female assistants who figured prominently in their ministries, their open attitudes gave way quickly enough to the usual misogyny of the larger culture from then to now. All arguments for keeping women out, whatever the office, come down to the same thing: Women aren’t good enough; men are more suitable. There was a time when churchmen weren’t afraid to put it quite bluntly, e.g., St. Damien’s rant about all women being “scum” who lead men to sin. Like Eve. The history of these restrictions isn’t much more uplifting than the history of any prejudice. We can all do better.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        Anne, could you be more specific with your reference to St. Damien? I am not familiar with it, and a few minutes on Google did not turn up anything useful.

        • Anne

          First of all, my apology to the original St. Damien of “Cosmos and Damien” fame; the quotation I mentioned actually was spoken by St. PETER Damien; big difference. Still, this St. Damien could go on. Here’s one example of an exhortation to women in general: “You…appetizing flesh of the devil, that castaway from paradise, you, poison of the minds, death of souls…the cause of our ruin…you bitches, sows, screech-owls, night owls, she-wolves, blood suckers [you get the picture]…From you the devil is fattened by the abundance of your lust, is fed by your alluring feasts.” Quoted by theologian Gary Macy in The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination [as deacons], 2007.
          Peter Damien was a 12th century reformer intent on purifying priestly life and enforcing celibacy.

      • But I’d suggest, Anne, that the celibacy of the Western priesthood also excludes “Men” from power as well, at least if manhood is considered in the modern Western “heterosexualized” sense in which marriage and family are a sine qua non. The problem is, I think, considering the priesthood according to a gender duality when, really, gender systems are usually secretly TRIpartite (and the priesthood plays into this in a major way, traditionally).

    • Jimmy Mac

      My feminine side tells me a lot about my maleness … and I don’t need to belong to an all-male group to know that. Unless some of them are very cute.

      • Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean there is no place in the world for women’s spaces, men’s spaces, queer spaces. The whole world doesn’t need to turn into a mixed (and therefore heterosexualized) gender-space.

  • Mark VA

    I find it interesting, perhaps a little dismaying, how many of you march in rigid lockstep with the Western feminist metanarrative of the day. Then along comes someone who dares to think outside of that little box, so of course he must be denounced as a power hungry medieval male misogynist.

    Here is a little parable, a variation on the theme, if you will:

    A young man, soon to be engaged, invited his impending fiance on a date. While in the car on the way to the restaurant, discussing his desire to be a stay at home husband, the car got a flat. As it was cold and raining, and since he was wearing his brand new suede penny loafers, it was decided that she will change the tire. Her high heels get better traction in the mud, anyway.

    At the restaurant, he did not forget to let her pay for both of them, including the tip. Anything else would be a subtle form of male dominance and oppression. They also decided not to get engaged after all, and instead he proposed that he should move in with her. As of today, he awaits her decision while continuing his righteous quest as the Moon Wisp of the Lower Realm, in his parents’ basement.

    • And your point is?

    • Ryan Klassen

      So Mark, please correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems the point of your parable is that it goes rather badly for men when women have power in a relationship. I know parables can have multiple meanings, but that is what I hear you saying. I wonder if it doesn’t work the other way as well, and that perhaps the answer is to think outside the box of hierarchical structures in relationships, including that of clerical and lay. This doesn’t mean that women must be ordained, but it does change what it means to be a priest and what characteristics are laudable in a priest, even if priests are still all men.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      So what, in your view, is the Western feminist metanarrative of the day? The dignity and equality of women? The objection to using the complementary nature of male and female as an excuse to subordinate women?

      • Mark VA
      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        Such a non-answer: a laundry list of movements, ideologies and scholarly categories which, when taken together, may or may not have anything in common.

        • Mark VA

          See below – threads get too narrow as replies accumulate.

  • Fascinating writing … so the reason we don’t ordain women is that Christ did not. Christ did not speak English or Latin, so we should not? Because Christ lived in a misogynist culture, we also should? And of course those who brought us our Bible did so in a misogynist culture a few hundred years after Christ died for us, so we can be sure they accurately identified all of Christ’s material thoughts without any extraneous cultural additions or omissions of his or their own day? Or is it that when God inspires, He nevertheless is stuck with the human materials of the day? These are questions we need to consider, and not peremptorily answer in a hurry.

    We have learned to read the Bible with awareness, as best as we can muster, of the mental context in which it would have been read or listened to when first written down, in order that we might discern the lesson for today with greater accuracy. We struggle to appreciate the context of the then reader/listener, since we are aware our context affects our listening/reading today, such as our colloquialisms and awareness of the world. That method has fancy names like historical-critical, or exegesis.

    Much of Christ’s teachings in Jewish society in those days were stealthily presented, such as by his use of parables, telling a story that would be listened to with open ears, with the story’s sometimes shocking implications dawning too late for the listeners’ ears to have protectively closed. Was Mary Magdeleine herself a parable?

    We sometimes seem to remain unable to think with awareness of how those thoughts would have been received back in those days, in order that we might discern what is and what is not the lesson for today. What would have been the reaction of Jewish society had Jesus had six women among his twelve disciples? Would that have automatically closed too many ears? Are there societies today where that would close ears? Are there societies today where that would open ears?

    In American society that is too large a question to be dismissed out of hand.

  • Chad Donovan

    I agree with your analysis. When I read the original article I was deeply saddened that the man making these thoroughly discreditable secondary arguments was the pope’s personal theologian. I also wondered why he was violating JPII’s diktat that the subject was not up for discussion. Apparently arguments for a male clergy may be advanced but counter-arguments are unacceptable. Pray for Christ’s church.

    Chad Donovan

    • Peter Paul Fuchs


      I know where you got your screen-name from!! LOL

      • Jimmy Mac

        Me too!

      • Chad Donovan

        From my parents in 1950, actually.

        • Peter Paul Fuchs

          Didn’t mean to question or disrespect the name you were given, from that very chi-chi age the 1950’s.

  • Anne

    Mark, I’d say your take on “thinking outside the box” is somewhat skewed, considering the fact that the gentlemen in question was trying his best to justify the status quo inside his box, i.e., the Church. Women have fought and won most of these arguments in the world at large, and I have to say it’s painful to see Catholics excusing prejudices few outside the Church even try to justify at this point in history. Unfortunately, the teaching on women’s ordination seems to require as much, which is undoubtedly why few want to talk about it at all.

    Why do so many women seem to go along? I think a lot of that has to do with the simple fact that so few modern women would even consider becoming priests (how many men want the job, after all?). Most Catholic women feel more or less aloof from the issue until, that is, someone says something akin to what Fr. Giertych ventured.

    Back in the 90s a sociologist named Christel Manning did a study [God Gave Us the Right] of conservative Catholic women (as well as Evangelical and Orthodox Jewish women) and how they stood on “women’s place” in the home, at church and in the workplace. Not surprisingly, virtually all accepted their religious community’s traditional views on women’s place at home and in church — from male-only church leadership to “male headship” in the family — but almost to a woman, all argued simultaneously that women should be granted complete equality in the workplace. None accepted traditional arguments claiming women’s “natural” inability to handle hard labor, abstract thinking or the leadership of men.
    Yet when the same arguments were applied to church or household leadership, they either abandoned the reasoning they’d just used or turned it on its head to justify male supremacy or claimed complete inadequacy to even speak on the subject at hand. Her conclusion: The women placed more value on what they knew of religion than in their own common sense. I can understand that. But what a choice to have to make.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Thanks for the reference to this study: it sounds interesting. I think we cannot underestimate the tension that exists between the sacred and the secular in women’s thinking—or indeed in the thinking of anyone who has a strong commitment to the sacred as identified in a traditional religious setting. The Church is not (and should not) be just like the secular world, but it can be tricky to articulate the divisions and differences.

  • Mark VA

    The discussion so far only makes it increasingly clear to me what powerful spell Western types of feminism have cast on the mode of thinking of many among us (

    I have to compliment the Sisterhood here – not even real Marxists, all males by the way, with the entire apparatus of the state at their disposal, ever managed to achieve such voluntary thought synchronicity.

    This is not about just causes such as equal access to education, or equal pay for equal work. At its root this is about femininity vs. feminism. It is about remaking the female into a likeness of a male, and calling it “liberation”. This is not about adapting the world to the true rights of the female, to help her grow in the genius of her femininity, it is about forcing the female to simulate the male.

    The first problem that has to be dealt with is her fertility. The second is to condition the male to help her subjugate her fertility. Everything else is built on this foundation.

    • Kurt

      This is not about just causes such as equal access to education, or equal pay for equal work.

      Proposals that the Right fought tooth and nail. Maybe get that house in order before criticizing others.

    • LM

      Mark, I would be interested in knowing which aspects of feminism you find objectionable, or rather, which type of feminism, as there are as many flavors as there are feminists. You support equal access to education and employment, ideas that would have been radical even fifty years ago (remember, Harvard, Yale, and the other Ivies were all-male institutions until the 1970s or so). So it appears that you do support liberal feminism, which believes that the inequities between the sexes can be resolved through legal reforms, though I’m sure you are opposed to abortion. Like the participants in the study Anne cited, you don’t mind secular institutions becoming more welcoming to women, but hold the Church to a different standard, as if it was above the power dynamics of other institutions. The real issue at the heart of the women’s ordination question is not about whether men relate to Christ in X way or whether women relate to Christ in Y way, but with power. In the Catholic Church, the ability to make decisions is limited to those who have been ordained as priests. While it is true that only a relatively few number men will ever become priests, it is also true that no woman can ever aspire to holy orders, thus permanently shutting them out of the decision making process. In this context, the ability to be a priest and the ability to biologically give birth are simply not the same at all. Part of the problem may be that pregnancy and childbirth in the West has gotten so safe and routine that is has become easy to romanticize them as great callings that are imbued with religious meaning. In the developing world, where maternal deaths and infant mortality are common and the inequalities between the sexes are glaring, the comparison would be even more absurd.

    • Anne

      Mark, with all due respect, to call this a matter of feminity vs. feminism is classic male chauvinism, or certainly a predominantly male, not female, point of view. It’s also the usual conservative response to any social change, but that’s neither here nor there.
      Taking offense at being excluded from the full life (and decision making) of any community is, I proffer, a normal HUMAN response. The thing is there was a time — not all that long ago — when women were not accepted as fully human, when even Christian theologians referred to us as naturally inferior and too impure (because of menstruation) to serve on the altar. That, I’m afraid, is the real reason women were never allowed to be priests, not some wise consideration for delicate male psychology or concern for sacramental symbolism.

      • Ronald King

        Anne, as always, I like your perceptions. Without Eve there is no Adam. The DNA of mitochondria are passed along through the mother daughter connection. Adam only realized this after he had knowledge and then called the woman Eve.

    • Anne, thank you for a gentle response. Mark, yours was a perfect example of courteous misogyny. Femininity is a virtue, feminism is a fault. Kinder, Kirche, Kuche as a skilled propagandist named Joseph G. used to push.

      My own bride of 41 years (a phrase I learned from my Dad) is definitely, and thankfully, a ‘liberated woman’ with whom I can have very good and challenging conversations, and is also a loving mother and grandmother. We are a team, not a hierarchy.

      • Mark VA


        I rather like your reply, for the most part. Yes, I get the allusion to a certain P.J.G.

        Now, why did you place “liberated woman” in quotations marks? Are there two types of liberated women, those with, and those without quotations marks? Which ones are truly liberated?

        You know, w8kwses, one could propose that these quotations marks are really a form of a Freudian slip…

        • Neither doctors, nor psychiatrists, are in the habit of diagnosing without a personal conversation. The quotes were an emphasis, a marking out of a term of art. Be that as it may, she is wonderfully independent, indeed to tell her to do something is a guarantee she won’t. We worked that out prior to the marriage ceremony. No hierarchy either way.

  • Ronald King

    If anyone is interested I would highly suggest watching Eve Ensler on youtube, Embrace Your Inner Girl.

  • Jordan

    re: MarkVA [Mark VA February 17, 2013 3:01 am] [transferred]: with regard to your spare tire analogy: what the heck are you talking about? My mother knows how to change change flats and do routine maintenance. Heck, she can double-clutch an old MG like a racer, as well as parallel park better than I ever could. Now she’s not physically capable of changing car tires, but she was very mechanically adept as a younger woman. Heck, even a young Elizabeth II served as a mechanic during WW II. Bizarre, really. By the way — my Mom never wears heels. Is a woman less a woman if she likes to wear tennis shoes and flats?


    I’ve been following A Sinner’s and PPF’s discussion of the clergy as queerspace intently. I’ve long been convinced that the priesthood is indeed a queerspace, and should not be stigmatized because priests, who are very often gay, exhibit male and female affective qualities.

    A Sinner [February 17, 2013 1:31 pm]: And though I wouldn’t deny the potential existence of third-gendered females, really the third gender concept is made up of males in “traditional” sociology, and the introduction of females would disturb what the “hijra” are supposed to be all about.

    I agree that the hijra of India are a useful example of the way in which a society have integrated third gendered persons. There are some complications when comparing hijra to the priesthood, however. Perhaps it’s better to think of the hijra as a combination of the homosexual but anatomically complete nature of the priesthood with the role of castrati in early modern Catholic regions of Europe. The term “hijra” encompases a range of homosexual/transgender/transsexual experiences: some hijra are men which do not identify as women and would be considered “gay” in the West. Others regard themselves as MTF and are at varying stage of sex reassignment. Where the priesthood and the hijra experience interact is the way in which both groups interface with the larger population. Hijra, who are usually shunned and forced to beg or engage in prostitution, are often invited to weddings to dance and bring good luck to the couple. In Catholic societies, many gay young men, who, especially in previous years, would have had to live with harsh stigma, become empowered through the high esteem of the clerical caste. Both the hijra and the priesthood show valences of the shift between exalted value and abasement common to marginal social groups in many societies.

    • Thomas Hostomsky

      This is still true in the third world countries where there are abundant vocations. America & Europe represent the first time the majority Catholic populations have been well educated (frequently better than their priests) and affluent enough that priesthood is a social & economic step down.

    • I agree, I guess my point is just that the introduction of women, turning it into a mixed gender space, might “empower” women, but it would just be robbing queer or third-gendered men (in whatever cultural form that takes) of their “space,” would represent just another heterosexualizing intrusion against males who are not “hegemonic men,” and would thus be ill-advised. This is why I said when people think of the priesthood as “men excluding women,” they are forgetting that priesthood is already NOT hegemonic manhood in the West, and that the limitation to males is in some ways a lot more about keeping the Third Gender dynamic alive than about giving “first gendered” men more power. Letting women in the priesthood would not be an act of feminist resistance of patriarchy. It would be an act of queerphobia. The last thing the “queer” priestly class needs is being either amalgamated with Women, or else heterosexualized through becoming a mixed gender-space.

      • Anne

        “Letting” women into the priesthood would be “an act of queerphobia”?! Well, I’ll give you this, Sinner, yours seems a highly original point of view.
        Misogynist still, but original.

        • If it’s misogynist, it’s equally misanthropic. The Western priesthood is a “third gender” enclave for “eunuchs” (“for the kingdom of heaven.”) Making it a mixed-gender space just takes away one more space for “eunuchs” in society in the name of heterosexualizing forces.

        • Anne, the conversation that has been going on here between Peter Paul and Sinner has been, in my opinion, one of the most beautifully honest, sincere and vulnerable-making that I’ve ever seen at Vox Nova, and, frankly, I don’t see how anybody who can assess the clerical caste as a “queer space” can be considered “misogynist,” when, in the actual terms of the history of modern feminism, “queers” have generally been the staunchest allies of empowerment of females–especially within the Church, where we (I’ll count myself as one, even if, strictly speaking, I’m not), have consistently argued that women should hold positions of leadership, just short of the sacerdotal state. In fact, the only argument that makes sense to me for the continuance of an all-male clergy, is one that shades into a vaguely homo-erotic one: it’s on account of a passionate, all-consuming mystical love for the Incarnation of God as a male.
          I would also like to suggest to Sinner and Peter Paul that a far more interesting Victorian case of homophobic theological discussion is that between Newman and Charles Kingsley: Kingsley practically accuses Newman of being some kind of freakish shaman-figure who’d subvert “muscular Christianity” in Britain. And Catholic historians have always like to shy away from the fact that the effeminate tone of Newman’s style literally unnerved the “muscular Christians” of the Victorian age; their term for those who “apostacized” to Rome was “pervert,” and I think the sexual flavour of that term is self-evident.

        • Thank you, digby. Allies of women, yes, but not to be collapsed or assimilated into them. It is important for minorities to have their own space and eunuchs need theirs. Turning the priestly enclave into a mixed-gender heterosexualized space would be a sort of cultural genocide I think. It’s interesting you mention “shaman,” as “two spirit” is another manifestation of third-gender males. If men have the power of politics and business, and women the power of fertility, the “two spirited” (queer, third-gender, etc) are granted the power in the spiritual realm. The heterosexualizing intrusion of women into the “shamanistic” enclave of the priesthood would be a cultural colonialism of disasterous effect, trying to, as it were, pillage the spiritual power which is proper to the third gender dynamic and divide the spoils up between the first and second genders. That any women think of this in terms of “patriarchy” offends me; sexless men in dresses who renounce marriage and family and taking up arms…are definitely NOT “the patriarchy” but rather a force that has worked to balance its power for over a millennium.

        • Peter Paul Fuchs


          Well thank you for your affirmations. I think one should look to Pre-Raphaelite paintings to really get the vibe of some of what you are talking about with Newman. It is not so much effeminate, as medieval in its idealized gender neutrality. This is something that Victorian culture was both drawn to as a sub-culture (Catholic that is, or Anglo Catholic) and made queasy by. Of course, comparing it to Pre-Raphaelites — much as I enjoy the paintings, and am looking forward to the show that just opened here at the National Gallery– is to also allude to the rather put-on nature of the whole vibe. And that is what I think of Newman, very put on. The point is, Newman and Acton, in a different way, were all counter-cultural in their environment.

          Ironically. the real “downfall” of Catholicism in our age is that they have lost the Newman-esque counter-cultural vibe which worked so well for them. As the largest Christian denomination, they are forced to jerry-rig some sort of macho structure for their celibate priesthood and demands of the sports fandom culture for reassuringly sports-spewing guys. You would think it is intrinsically unworkable as a juxtaposition, but communities are pretty malleable. There were cooking a new brew when I was in the seminary already. And here is a true story to go with it, that shows some of these issues very interestingly, now that I think of it.

          To wit, weird story but true: in my first year of seminary, I quickly noticed that there was no skim milk to be had in the place. I never have really liked drinking whole milk very much. So I, and a few others requested of the Bob Lynch administration that we get skim milk in addition to whole milk. Sounds pretty reasonable and uncontroversial, eh?? Well, this was long enough ago that some of these “lactose” issues were not as prevalent as they seem to be now in their ubiquity. Anyways, I remember either Lynch or one of the other machers there saying to me something like “Is this like the princess and the pea, you can’t have regular milk– not good enough?” I know this sounds ridiculous, but I swear this is what happened.

          Anyways, the following year a new blond haired seminarian entered the seminary, and he was sort of a jockish muscular guy. Since that year another blond muscular guy who was a fave before had gone off to Rome, somehow the arrival of this new different one (not as cute as the other, but still muscular and blond) seemed almost on cue. Anyways, I remember distinctly that guy saying one morning at the breakfast table: “What we need here is skim milk; how are we going to stay in good shape with all these regular milk?!” Just about that time I started noticing Lynch and this blond fellow often together around campus. It was not a surprise to anybody, as Lynch was known for this, and people commented on it. But the surprise came when almost overnight, lo and behold, we finally got skim milk.

          The moral being, cultural signifiers are not stable. When I requested skim milk, it was a sign of prissiness. Because I was already known as an aesthete, and proud of it. But when blond jock boy requested skim milk, it was a macho stay- in -shape necessity. Bingo, bring on the skim milk, double-quick! LOL. Who cares now? But it is revealing of the complexity culturally of that environment. And I have to think those complexities are probably tame compared to the ones that obtain today. Pobresitos!

      • elizabeth00

        A Sinner, what I can’t understand is why, if indeed there is a third group (and I agree with you that there is, though quite how its boundaries are drawn, I’m not sure) you would restrict it to males. I think there are plenty of women whose sense of identity is formed and anchored in a framework that isn’t dichotomous, and that has an incarnational, erotic edge that can’t easily be contained inside a marriage and heterosexuality. I wonder whether, if this third group exists, and tends to congregate and find community inside the priesthood, we need better articulation of the kind of identity found in that type, and whether that articulation might be made only once its women (who don’t have convenience of belonging to the clergy and are often isolated and misunderstood, unless they’re in religious communities – which doesn’t quite solve the problem) receive and create a framework for full belonging.

        One book I think is quite helpful on this point is Caroline Walker Bynum’s “Holy Feast, Holy Fast.” Not only does she explore medieval concepts of the priesthood as a third-gendered space – quite explicit in medieval art – but she explores this question of women’s exclusion and female responses: much as sexuality was an issue/symptom for the men, so food for the women. In their case, it could be used as a way of demonstrating belonging despite overt exclusion, of having authority and voice, but as CB points out, the women’s responses centered around a common humanity that transcended male-female dichotomy. Obviously it doesn’t map onto the situation today in a very straightforward fashion, but I find lots to think about there.

        • Traditional third-gender is restricted to males because of how manhood is constructed. There’s a phrase and anthropological truth something like “Manhood is achieved, but womanhood is eternal.”

          Describing the “third gender” as “eunuch” helps explain this difference: only males can be eunuchs, only males can be castrated, because only men have testicles to “take away” in the first place.

          Eunuchs are therefore males who have been denied hegemonic manhood. Females, on the other hand, are simply never expected to have it in the first place.

          As a gay male, trust me, being a “failed man” (as it were) is a MUCH different experience than just not being a man in the first place.

          A female can’t be a “failed man,” and there’s no such thing as a “failed woman” because womanhood/femininity doesn’t work that way as a construct.

          Queer womanhood is still a womanhood; but hegemonic “manhood” is denied to queer males.

          Womanhood simply IS, whereas “first gender” manhood is a fragile construct that is conferred (and can be taken away). Womanhood simply happens to a girl (at menarche), but a boy “earns” manhood (or doesn’t) in terms of how the anthropology of gender works.

          To lump queer males with women (even queer women) is, as I say, a cultural genocide. What queer males go through in being denied hegemonic manhood is already “enough,” trust me. The last thing we need to be is “equated” with women (even queer women).

          This is why, I think, you will note that gay bars (for example) are pretty much always gay male bars specifically, and why many of my friends have expressed feeling a bit uncomfortable at regular venues. Because if it becomes a mixed-gender space (even if, at first, the women are themselves lesbian), then the hipster straight couples start to come there and before you know it the “gay chic” has, in effect, once again rendered the real gays invisible because you can no longer tell who is gay and who isn’t. A mixed gender space inevitable becomes a “heterosexualized” space.

          Open the seminaries to women and both queer AND “straight” women would start coming (since they don’t segregate like the two male classes do). And as soon as straight women start being there, “first gender” men who want to MEET straight women start showing up. And then the whole point of the space as an enclave falls apart.

        • Peter Paul Fuchs

          I don’t particularly want to get into the meat of this discussion, but I have to say that I have never felt like a “failed man, ” being a gay male. And having had at one time a practice that put me in close contact with a lot of people wanting to casually spill their intimate understandings of themselves, I have to say that a lot straight guys feel thwarted or maybe “failed” by the expectations of women. I really don’t envy straight guys in ANY way. Compassion all around is my answer.

  • Aegis

    “Of all this [creation of aristocratic dynasties] the priesthood (and all philosophy in so far as it is priesthood) is the direct negative. The Estate of pure-waking consciousness and eternal truths combats time and race and sex in every sense. Man as peasant or aristocrat turns towards, man as priest turns away from, woman. Aristocracy runs the danger of dissipating and losing the broad being-stream of public life in the petty channels of its minor ancestors and relatives. The true priest, on the other hand, refuses in principle to recognize private life, sex, family, the ‘house.’ … He does not entirely die who lives on in sons and nephews. But for the true priest media vita morte sumus; what he shall bequeath is intellectual, and rejected woman bears no part in it. The phenomenal forms of the second Estate that occur again and again are celibacy, cloister, battlings with sex-impulse fought to the extreme of self-emasculation, and a contempt for motherhood which expresses itself in orgiasm and hallowed prostitution and not less in the intellectual devaluation of sexual life down to the level of Kant’s vile definition of marriage. Throughout the Classical world it was the rule that in the sacred precinct, the Temenos, no one must be born or die. The timeless must not come in contact with time. It is possible for the priest to have an intellectual recognition of the great moments of generation and birth, and to honor them sacramentally, but experience them he may not.”

    -Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West, Volume II, page 337.

    As for the original post, David Cruz-Uribe mentioned that he thinks there are differences between men and women beyond the physical ones. I am curious about your position: what are the non-physical differences between men and women?

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      A valid question and the short answer is that I am not sure. I sense differences that seem to run deeper than cultural conditioning, but I have a hard time putting them into words. It seems clear to me that the physical/biological imposes some differences that are ontological, but I have not gotten much further than this.

    • Anne

      I’m not David, but as a mother, the main difference I’ve observed is a certain aggressiveness on the part of boys that girls seem not to show, or at least not in the same way. That may be the only real difference, i.e., that males and females tend to communicate similar feelings in slightly different ways. Boys chase each other apparently at random with fingers-for-guns, while girls chase interlopers to snatch away something they want. Boys shove; girls pinch; both bite and kick if so inclined. Come to think of it: There isn’t that much difference at all. Yet parents still get panic attacks at the sight of their little boys playing with dolls or dragging around mother’s old purses. Separating nature from nurture is easier said than done.

  • Mark VA


    This is not about tire changing abilities of the two sexes. However, since you’ve asked (“what the heck are you talking about” ?), then fine, here it is:

    Can a contemporary Western woman still invoke the traditional female privilege and request that certain tasks be performed by the male, without being denounced by the Sisterhood as a sellout to the patriarchy? Or is this choice now taboo for all women, by Sisterhood’s diktat?

    Have you followed the Feminist thinking here to its necessary limit, do you realize what this limit represents, and are you prepared to live in such a world?

    • Jordan

      Mark VA [February 18, 2013 8:24 pm]: Mark, with all due respect, you are making more of this issue than actually exists. I have more often worked for women than men and prefer working for women. I find it easier to understand their requests and demands. Also, women often foster a more collaborative, less competitive enviroment. Women, in my opinion, are also better doctors and dentists — in fact, I make a point to seek out women physicians. The latter is simply a prejudice of mine, but perhaps there is some empirical basis for my intuition.

      As for your contention, Can a contemporary Western woman still invoke the traditional female privilege and request that certain tasks be performed by the male, without being denounced by the Sisterhood as a sellout to the patriarchy? Or is this choice now taboo for all women, by Sisterhood’s diktat?

      I find this statement both confusing and irrelevant. Most women I know have no absolute use for a man other than as a DNA sampler. Other than that, women are capable of performing almost all of the same tasks of men. I have never heard of a woman being denounced for selling out “to the patriarchy” for changing a tire, varnishing a deck, barbecuing, or playing rugby. Perhaps it would be better if you give a specific example of a task which women can do but would prefer a man to do. I can’t think of any.

      As an aside, I am convinced that women are quite capable Christian preachers. One of my favorite preachers is a (woman) Anglican priest. Her gender, however, is irrelevant to her homiletic abilities. Rome’s prohibition on women clergy strikes me as an entirely abstract prohibition. Women are just as intellectually capable of preaching the Word as men, and are often better at this task. Clerical ontology, then, cannot be a question of intelligence or aptitude.

    • LM

      And what exactly are these “traditional female privileges”? The right to be up on a pedestal? The only reason some women could even be on a pedestal is because they had other women, mostly women of color, leaving their own families and children doing all their housework for them. Whatever these “traditional female privileges” were, eh certainly weren’t universally available.

  • Dante Aligheri

    It seems to me the only explanation for the male priesthood rests on Tradition and that the Apostles were male. Now, I have seen some arguments on the part of N.T. Wright that Mary Magdalene was being taught as an Apostle-like figure when she sat Jesus’ feet. Thecla baptized herself presumably. Putting those aside for a moment, it would seem to me that Tradition as far as we understand it did not include women priests.

    In the same sense, only men from the tribe of Levi could be Jewish priests. The reason for this ultimately is non- or super-rational on this side of the Eschaton. Yet, God for some odd reason chose to do this. To try and give any other explanation than this beckons essentialism, I think.

    With regards to the anticipated objection that Jesus was living in a misogynist culture, I would suggest that that never stopped Him before in “bucking” the system when it suited Him – even with regards to women.

    On the other hand, I really do not like fideism either, but that’s honestly the only explanation I think makes any sense.

    Hope that doesn’t come off wrong.

    • Perhaps, but its no more hard to swallow than saying that only water can baptize, or chrism confirm, or only wheat bread and grape wine can be consecrated. These things are contingent on the time and place of the incarnation, yes, but that’s the “scandal of particularity”…

      • Sinner, I think I need to apologize to you for some of the tone I’ve taken with your writings in the past; I’ve too often taken you to be a jerk-knee “reactionary.” You’re not; you are, instead, a “thinking conservative,” which, in the context of the present atmosphere of public discourse, a radical. One “radical” thinker should cherish the inputs of another, whether or not he or she agrees with everything stated.

        • Ronald King

          Digby, you are a most excellent human being

        • Peter Paul Fuchs

          I agree with Ronald’s statement, and btw, i like the cute picture, from youth I am supposing.

      • Dante Aligheri

        So true.

    • Melanie

      Your explanation is what I’m digging up as well. Also that Christ is the bridegroom and the Church is the bride, which shows us nuptial love. That falls apart quickly, *for me*, since the Church is made of both men and women. On the one side, we are to be literal and have only male bridegrooms. On the other side, we put that aside and have either a multi-gendered bride or a genderless bride.

      • But isn’t that the complexity of St Paul’s symbolism, Melanie?

        “Because the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church. He is the saviour of his body.”

        Now, you might accuse this of “mixed metaphor.” The male’s body is female?? In what sense is he then male? The female’s head is male?? Will she even be recognized as female with a male head and face?? What sort of gender-chimera is Paul describing??

        And yet clearly this is a complex and very layered symbolism that is not the simplistic duality you’re making it out to be. What does remain constant, though, is that the Head saying “This is my Body” is male.

        “The Church” of course is not firstly the congregation, it’s the Body of Christ, which is His Bride. Christ is a male, but His Body is His Bride. The gendered layers here are not so simple.

  • Brian Martin

    I have always wondered if some of this unwillinmgness to embrace the minesterial gifts of women can be traced back to the perception of Eve as the “temptress” who led Adam into sin…and Mary as the “New Eve” of spotless virtue. I am not an expert in Church History, but when I think of Saints…Many of the men, such as Augustine, Ignatius of Loyola, etc. live pretty “worldly” lives before following a path to sainthood…while most women saints that I can think of lived “chaste” lives…even choosing death over marriage etc. Is there an institutional fear of women?

    • Julia Smucker

      Tell that to Cardinal McCarrick, who spoke in favor of the cause of Dorothy Day (which the US bishops advanced unanimously), saying, “Of all the people we need to reach out to, all the people that are hard to get at, the street people, the ones who are on drugs, the ones who have had abortions, she was one of them. What a tremendous opportunity to say to them you can not only be brought back into society, you can not only be brought back into the church – you can be a saint!”

      Or Cardinal Dolan who referred to her conversion story as “Augustinian.”

      • Brian Martin

        And that is certainly a change from the historic mindset…..and, it would be bloody interesting if she were still alive to hear her comments on the stand taken by the USCCB on various social issues.
        There was a reason when asked about sainthood, she responded with her famous “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.”

        But maybe that in part is what will make her a Saint…her fearless willingness to talk about God…and to challenge injustice.

        • Julia Smucker

          That response, and what provoked it, had nothing to do with sainthood in a canonical sense. In context, she was objecting to being called a “living saint” with the implication that she was somehow uniquely endowed to do what she was doing rather than living out the universal call of the gospel from which nobody is exempt. This example – the high standard of Christian commitment that challenged others to imitation, as well as the humility of objecting to being “dismissed” as exceptionally holy – is a mark of sainthood if anything is. As one friend of mine has put it, what saint wouldn’t say that?

          She did in fact critique certain stands taken by certain church leaders, such as Cardinal Spellman’s support for the Vietnam War. But she was also deeply committed to the church. To quote Gerald Schlabach, quoting Day in interviews with Robert Coles:

          “The church is my home, and I don’t want to be homeless. I may work with the homeless, but I have had no desire to join their ranks.” This, she frankly admitted, made it hard for her to know how to respond when friends called on her “to become a warrior, to take on a cardinal, to take on may cardinals, to wage war with the church.” She had not converted “with [her] eyes closed,” but neither had she “become a Catholic in order to purify the church…. I wasn’t trying to reform the church or take sides on all the issues the church was involved with; I was trying to be a loyal servant of the church Jesus had founded.”

          And given Day’s passionate defense of ALL life, womb-to-tomb, and her deep concern for the poor and commitment to social justice combined with her strident critiques of all forms of statism, I wonder if she would have more in common with the current episcopacy than you seem to be presuming.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Julia, your counter-example is pertinent, but I think, looking back over the history of the matter, Brian has a point. I talked about this from a somewhat different perspective in a previous post about virginity.

    • Dante Aligheri

      Historically, I think Brian is largely correct. Considering that the literate classes were largely – though not exclusively – male, any evaluation of women is inevitably from that perspective. Now, and this is as true of the Greco-Roman philosophers and religions in addition to the Judeo-Christian, women were seen as inhibiting the better side of men so to speak. Women, I believe, were perceived as having a strange, almost magical power which made men “fall” towards something more basic and irrational. Hypatia also had this mentality. Women became obstacles to holiness and conforming with the angels which was the goal of the early Christian ascetics, men and women.

      What this ends up in is a very warped image of women as all being temptresses, especially for men who didn’t know very many real women. Sts. Augustine and the later John Chrysostom (as opposed to his earlier self at least I understand it) did, on the other hand, and tended to value marriage more (relatively) than their contemporary Christian writers.

      On the other hand, however, I would also state that religious virginity for Christian women was liberating at that time because it provided a way of being which did not require being attached to a man. Granted, that only implies consecrated women as having this new authority – which is part of the reason why there was so much emphasis on it. Indeed, consecrated women would be powerful “movers and shakers” in the Church.

      Now, I think early on Christian women probably tested the boundaries – so to speak – in ecstatic prophesying or having mystical ascents, which were not uncommon in Second Temple Judaism, during the liturgy with their heads uncovered. Paul, probably for the sake of keeping the peace and not wanting to offend Roman sensibilities, put an end to this.

      Of course, the Middle Ages saw the decline in the status of women with the reintroduction of Roman law.

      Makes me wonder whether Paul’s injunction – while seeming to make Christianity less scandalous to the Greeks and Romans who were already inclined to see scandal in another Eastern mystery cult – is not unlike Henry Clay making compromise regarding slavery. Both sought to preserve the union at all costs. While I mean no disrespect to St. Paul, I wonder whether compromise was the right choice.

  • Mark VA

    Anne, Jordan and LM:

    Give some thought to certain major strains of Western Feminist ideology, and try to place them in their proper historical perspective. Yes, on occasion they did address real injustices affecting Western women – honesty demands that this be acknowledged.

    Yet, after a while, it should become apparent that the true goal here is to obliterate all distinctions between male and female, denounce them as oppressive, marginalize and punish the dissenters, and force a synthetic construct of identity on both men and women.

    These experiments are not new, they’ve been tried in certain Marxist regimes, and even predicted ahead of their time by clear thinking individuals ( The singular “New Man” identity for all, then as now, will not work with human nature.

    Perhaps one of the issues here is that you simply don’t know this historical background, and obviously, have never experienced it. As a result, all of this may feel enticing in its post-modernist verbiage, pointing to a bright and cutting edge mode of living. History suggests otherwise.

    • Jordan

      Mark VA [February 19, 2013 9:35 pm]: Yet, after a while, it should become apparent that the true goal here is to obliterate all distinctions between male and female, denounce them as oppressive, marginalize and punish the dissenters, and force a synthetic construct of identity on both men and women.

      Mark, I’ve studied the history of Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist-Maoist regimes. Yes, that particular form of sexual/gender “equality” not only did not work but also displayed the depths of inhumanity. For example, while women were miscarrying on the Long March due to malnourishment, Mao maintained a series of affairs which produced many healthy children. The true focus of each regime’s megalomaniacal and psychopathic leader was self-gratification and the exploitation of persons and resources for the gain of the regime.

      Barefoot, chained to the stove, and (damnit!) casserole on the table at 6 p.m. also bears unrealistic, contradictory, and even brutal valences. Remember, before the Industrial Revolution women worked alongside men in small agriculture. Even after the rise of industry, many women were forced by circumstance to become servants (be barefoot for a “more genteel” woman). Indeed, wet nurses were expected to break the taboo of premarital sex, conceive, and bear a child in order to lactate. The child was either killed or farmed out to professional infanticide practitioners. (Where are you, Tumarion?)

      All societies throughout time have always subverted morality to maintain certain norms, hierarchies, or conveniences. Not “sisterhood”, but human nature.

      • To be fair to history, some wetnurses were married, and at least SOME babies of wet nurses also nursed (women CAN breast feed twins sometimes, after all) and others were simply weaned early. What you describe may have happened, but its not practically necessary for wetnursing to exist.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          Also, we need to remember that with the very high rate of infant mortality in the pre-industrial era, many women had their infants die while they were nursing. They would continue to lactate for a short period after the baby died, so were in a perfect position to take over the nursing of someone else’s child. I have a vague memory that Therese of Lisieux had a wet nurse of this kind.

    • Peter Paul Fuchs

      I just saw this comment of MarkVA about the actual historical trajectory of Feminism, and I agree, and think he hits the bullseye. I would only add a few things: 1.) As you might expect I would distinguish this line of thought from gay and lesbian rights issues 2.) I would also distinguish it from gender identity issues per se. The fact that some people feel more feminine or masculine, and might want to “correct” that issue is OK with me. 3.) The excellent concept of MarkVA’s that what has been substituted is an ersatz and synthetic identity for men AND women is real problem. Freeing women to be women in the way they want to be is the issue, thus not creating a new requisite ambiguous sexual category for both is the crux. 4.) In the end, this odd situation has affected men more negatively in the First World more than women. Women are certainly discriminated against across the globe, and it must be stopped. But the ersatz identity has mostly been used to cast cultural aspersions on maleness per se, and that is a great blunder; and finally and most importantly, 5.) The result is that healthful societal acceptance of maleness has been dangerously reduced, and concomitantly the normal constraints on the dark side for femininity have bee naively ignored. The glorification of that dark side in all the Real Housewives shows, is a silly yet profound indictment of the predicament.!

      • Ronald King

        Peter, The dark side of men continues to be the greatest influence of violence in the world. The dark side of women, in my opinion, is a response to that violence or potential threat of violence within men. I do not think it is possible to develop a sense of true masculinity or femininity without the awareness, integration and healing of what we consider dark in each of us. Otherwise, it is always about control of the internal and external and facing the world with a false self.

        • Peter Paul Fuchs


          I think we basically agree, but here’s the rub. ALL societies know that the dark side of maleness is a potential problem. That is not to say that they handle it well, but they know it. The aggressiveness of maleness, which when put in a good current manifests as beautiful determination, is everywhere as you aver often going in the opposite direction. Yet the point is again, that societies understand this and try to doing “corralling” tactics with military discipline, etc.

          My point above is that the synthetic or ersatz identity which was referred to, has had the effect of negating to the good side of the drives of maleness. And here we are talking on a level of public morality. While the femaleness is often spoken or symbolized in culture only by the very real benefits of that side of humanity. In other words, on one hand you have a cultural situation in which on one side mostly the negative side is highlighted in cultural ideals, and on the other the good side.

          The real tragic irony is that this set-up does nothing to change the actual continuing repression of women. For as Jung made so brilliantly clear, if the negative side is covered-over then it comes out in odd ways. In fact, more militarism gets emphasized and the desire to fight phony wars, when on a day to day level maleness and its energy and hierarchies is not acknowledged in peaceful society. Meanwhile, because society is looking to an utterly ersatz remedy in the supposedly more intrinsically cooperative
          approach of femaleness — not seriously though, which would actually appreciate feminine genius, but as a synthetic trope– it ends up apotheosizing almost a parody of womanhood. Thus everywhere is apotheosized the ueber-bitch of pop culture. This image, which is a dastardly calumny against women, encourages women to think that is how you get ahead, at least subconsciously. I don’t even want to think what it does to the psyches of straight guys– glad I don’t have that problem!!

          • Thomas Hostek

            It would be a mistake to focus on the “dark side of maleness.” In both men and women there exist the masculine and feminine traits. When one dominates to the exclusion of the other there is trouble. History and literature are repleat with women who have gone down the “dark” path: Lady MacBeth, Margaret Thatcher, and so forth.

          • Ronald King

            I see what you’re saying, Peter. If I recall correctly I think it was Mark who observed that the idealized identity of womanhood in our society is to become more like the compensating male. I think it was Gloria Steinem who said “I have become the man I always wanted to marry.” I have come to the belief that women will never be free to be themselves unless they can directly tell us men how much they hate us and fear us and it is just as critical for men to be strong enough to accept that hate without defense. However, in order for that to happen women must first be aware of their hatred. I have a feeling that these statements are going to have some consequences. I use the word hate because it is associated with the primitive hardwiring for rage and it seems to be verbalized as “I hate you” at a very young age until it must then be suppressed due to the negative reaction it triggers. Thanks for your response. You are a good man.

        • Peter Paul Fuchs


          I am not sure this is an apt answer to what you wrote completely, but I think it is a good one for this Catholic realm. One of the strange things to me as a gay man about those anti-gay rights religionists (many Catholic, natch) is that somehow it never occurs to them in their fight for the societal superiority of heterosexuality, to actually delimit what might practically be better about heterosexuality. Don’t get me wrong, I have been happy and lucky as a gay man. But even to me, I could think of some things — in terms of my rational imagination — that might be better about “man and woman”.

          Somehow its devotees never get around to that. And it makes me wonder that they may not actually be experiencing much of the good side themselves. I have met some happy heterosexual people. I cannot say that your idea about admitting “hate” for one another jells from what I knew from their happiness. But it does jell with the whole benighted “battle of the sexes” crapola which every generation seems intent on discovering and immortalizing in bad books or or TV shows.

          Have you seen the lavish extents to which people go to make movies like one we were watching just last night — an archetypal “misery-series” if there ever was one! — called Parades End. Man and woman hating each other in Merchant-Ivory surroundings. What is wrong with heterosexuality to me, as outsider as it were, is that people think there is something interestingly “universal” about shows such as that. I think they are absurd, though fun for the costumes and sets.

          It is really not so hard. If women are going to keep going after “bad boys” like they always have, what do they f—n expect. Of course the world keeps evolving into crap. Men are not innocent. But women, sure as heck, aren’t innocent either.

          On a lighter note: remember what Andy Warhol was supposed to have said why he cast his artful called The Women entirely with men. He responded: “Well, isn’t that what all women want to be…”

          Lastly, I recall a successful person whom I knew, who had spent a lot of time living in the Middle East. I asked him one day, why he liked living in that part of the world. I was startled by his answer, and the rapidity with which he gave it: “Because they hate women”

          The point is, human beings are no prize, and we should stop thinking we are all innocent and well-iontentioned. One of my problems with Christianity, is that for all its talk about of sin and felix culpa, it has a too sanguine view of humanity in my view. I don’t want the opposite, namely, the nihilistic. But a sane admittance that we all could use some improvement in our views and habits of thought — me included of course — is a better place to start. And that goes double for straight people!

        • Jordan

          Thomas Hostek [February 28, 2013 1:52 pm]: History and literature are repleat with women who have gone down the “dark” path: Lady MacBeth, Margaret Thatcher, and so forth.

          Lumping Mrs. Thatcher in with Lady Macbeth is a touch misogynist. Yes, Thatcher shattered Britain’s nationalized companies and allied labor unions. Half of Britain reserves a particular disdain for the baroness, to say the least. Yet, if Thatcher were a man, her policies would not be considered “unmanly”. Thatcher acted within the procedures of HM Government. She did not lose her “womanliness” (whatever that is) simply for shrewdly enacting Tory policy in a manner not unlike the way in which previous prime ministers advocated for their party’s policies.

          • T J Hostek

            C My point is not mysogenistic at all. Both women were overwhelmingly usung masculine energy. Male & female are to be distinguished from masculine & feminine energies, which ought to be balanced. An imitation of Christ would be a great teacher in this regard: Jesus teaches us how to be fully human by balancing the 2 energies within himself. So much is wrong in the world due to an extreme unbalance in favour of masculine energy, which is obviouslynecessqary but destructive without the counter weight of the feminine.


    “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you.”

  • Kerberos

    “Christ himself only ordained men and so the Church cannot do otherwise.”

    ## That is not convincing, as the Church has several times reversed its teaching. This is too well known to need further comment.

    “Moreover, that Christ was incarnate as a male means that maleness is intrinsic to the role of the priest as an image of Christ.

    ## While arguments from the symbolism of what He did in the course of His earthly ministry – such as calling God “Father”, or instituting the New Covenant – do have a certain force, given Who was doing these things, & why: it is hard to believe that the (Teaching) Church believes in the force of this argument, as it disregards His example and teaching. For instance: He forbade oaths, in very decided language – yet almost no Christian Church (not even Calvinism, why tries very hard to be guided by the Bible alone) pays attention to this. The CC tried very hard to make the OT prohibition of taking interest on a loan an effective reality – but no longer. The levirate Law & its contradiction in Leviticus were indirectly responsible – because the Church tried to obey them – for a well-known spot of bother in Henrician England.

    But as for the teaching – or what passes as the teaching – of Christ: the CC tries very hard to make His teaching on divorce effective, but not His prohibition on calling men Father; though this prohibition makes excellent sense, given the universalisation of family ties by Jesus, & His unswerving devotion to the preaching of the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Nor is it easy to see how the Petrine function in the Church is compatible with making the See of Peter into a “kingdom of this world” – to do that is singularly unwise, for reasons apparent from the Temptation-narratives, & from much of the rest of the NT. Especially as the Papacy is no stranger to the tendency to domination which Jesus forbade among His followers

    So the (Teaching) Church’s appeal to the example of Christ is unconvincing. It would help if this argument – “that Christ was incarnate as a male means that maleness is intrinsic to the role of the priest as an image of Christ” – were explained: why is that intrinsic, and not being Jewish ? Besides, Christ nowhere institutes a priesthood anyway – a Church order in which there is no ordained ministry is quite conceivable. So the Church’s arguments are not all of a piece: they are a patchwork. Not that there is anything wrong with patchworks – but the motives for the Church’s “domestic arrangements” are not all based upon a “word of the Lord”; or even upon the NT.

  • Jordan

    A Sinner [February 19, 2013 8:01 pm] [transferred]: As a gay male, trust me, being a “failed man” (as it were) is a MUCH different experience than just not being a man in the first place.

    I agree that male queerness is a very different cultural construct than female queerness in certain circles. This is quite apparent in Catholic practical ontology. Ever notice that ex-gay “therapies” such as Courage have a very weak analogous program for lesbians? Maybe this is because male homosexuality or bisexuality is perceived as a much greater threat to the male-only clerical caste. If women were admitted to major orders, perhaps Courage would exhibit greater concern about lesbianism or bisexual women.

    As another gay man, I don’t experience “failure” as a man. I don’t discount that in some ethnicities and cultures men who do not fit certain metrics and who happen to be gay are excluded from certain aspects of society or even victimized. This is absolutely not true among most educated adults in North America. Even very devout Catholic friends of mine are not concerned that I am ontologically gay. I am out at both my workplaces and I have never had any difficulties because of my disclosure. My experience might be unique, and perhaps yours has been different. I am but one person.

    The “failed man” valence of male homosexuality is relevant in the context of Catholic ordination and the clerical caste only because of the large proportion (some would say majority) of gay men in clergy. Outside of this crucial outlier, the “failed man” concept is fading rapidly in the developed world.

    • Maybe. I hope so. Certainly gay men who function (as we all do) in heterosexualized space may be recognized as men. But gay-male space is not the same as a Men’s Space; it is on this structural (NOT individual) level that the “failed manhood” construct holds regarding male queerness.

      But it doesn’t change the basic point about third-gender being necessarily male.

      I like what PPF said about the class being not so much “effeminate” as the ideal is rather “gender neutrality.”

      But the (true) irony of a gender neutral ideal is that only males can be neuter because only males can be neuterED.

      The “neuter” gender is constructed as a derogation of manhood specifically. Women are always women, even when queer, because they don’t have the original concept (manhood) to be neutered FROM.

      Manhood and womanhood are not “opposites” like left and right. They’re more like hot and cold or light and dark, where one is an “additive” presence and the other is the “default.” This is, biologically, why men have nipples.

      The male contains the female, but not the other way around. A male has X and Y, a woman only has X. Third-gender neutrality is a “subtractive” category, and only manhood can be subtracted from.

    • Jordan

      A Sinner [February 20, 2013 2:27 pm]: But the (true) irony of a gender neutral ideal is that only males can be neuter because only males can be neuterED.

      I’ll readily agree that the idea of the gay man as a “queer space” or “third gender” is often a form of abasement or even violence. However, gay male “third gender” is peversely elevated in the Catholic clergy. This is the only one unique point of reference and experience left within the postmodern and postchristian “West”.

      However, I take issue with the notion that “women are always women”. Women, regardless of sexual orientation, who have declined male advances are not infrequently victims of domestic violence, rape, or even murder. Many women do not have sexual autonomy or the ability to define their own sexuality and exercise their sexuality at their discretion and without coercion. Sure, a gay man who makes eyes with the wrong man can be brutally assaulted or even murdered (e.g. Matthew Shepard). These two forms of violence, while both morally horrific, are not the same.

      “Gender thirdness” for gay men is a fluid concept which appears in certain sociocultural and religious constructs. However, the question of sexual autonomy is radically different across sex/gender. I wouldn’t be so quick to homogenize women’s experiences.

      • Mark VA


        The issues you raise are the common questions that arise over and over. Nevertheless, they deserve answers.

        (a) Here is a Greek Orthodox priest’s answer as to why Priests are called “Fathers”:

        (b) Here is one Protestant answer regarding the oaths (of course, in this denominational context, there are many, many others):

        (c) On the issue of charging interest for financial transactions, or more precisely, determining where ethical dealing ends and usury begins, I’ll refer you to St. Thomas (scroll down to “usury”):

        On this last issue (interest vs. usury), I think it would be wrong to conclude that it belongs to the past – it is very much alive, but exists under new names: predatory pricing, minimum wage, living wage, monopolies, fair trade, intellectual property, etc. etc.

        Overall, I think you approach many disparate issues pell mell style, then draw hasty and tenuous conclusions hostile to the Catholic Church. Not all that unusual, actually.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          Okay, this is a new one to me: the minimum wage as usury.

  • Ronald King

    The creation of divisions based on gender within the church seems to be a function of remaining within realm of instincts which are responsible for a sense of safety, identity and power. We are influenced as all other animals to remain with what we know because what we do not know can be a threat. Divisions within the church based on gender identification do nothing to promote a unity of love but instead seem to promote a unity of fear. Love is inclusive and those who experience a calling to the priesthood should have it open to them to pursue this calling. Being human and being made in the likeness of God seems to require that we break down barriers which separate us rather than building more constructs which further separate us. The unknown of God’s Love is what we must pursue rather than reinforcing the known beliefs of tradition which keep us connected through friction and resistance. The “failed man” term seems to be the symptom of the larger problem of “failed humanity”.

    • elizabeth00

      Thanks, Ronald: I wish I knew the story behind your being able to articulate this so well!

  • Brian Martin

    Julia, you are right, I probably misused the quote. However, I stand by the main thrust of my original comment. In regards to Dorothy Day, I suspect there are Bishops who are much more comfortable supporting her Sainthood in a historical sense…meaning they have the comfort of her not being an active, live presence …a bit of sand in their stew, so to speak. Yes, she was very faithful to the Church…but also her conscience. Also, I seem to recall her referring to certain Bishops as “Sharks”. She also stated that if Cardinal Spellman asked her to stop doing what she was doing in New York…as a good Catholic she would have to obey…..and move to New Jersey. I don’t have the book in front of me, so i could be misremembering.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      She said exactly that. At least one of her scholarly biographies records it.

    • Julia Smucker

      In regards to Dorothy Day, I suspect there are Bishops who are much more comfortable supporting her Sainthood in a historical sense…

      Suspect this if you want to, but the ones who spoke up about advancing her cause gave the opposite impression.

      • Brian Martin

        The wonderful thing about her is that she has something for everyone…for the “conservatives” she is an example of a Pro-Life stand and faithfulness to the Church…and they currently like her suspicion of the State… especially since we have a evil anti-catholic president :). And of course the “liberals” like her for her work with the poor, her anti-war stance, and her anti-captalist stance. It is much easier to support a rabble rouser who is dead than one who is alive and currently embarrassing you.

  • Faith Seeking Understanding

    “Fr. Giertych’s secondary arguments”.
    I think these are his primary WHY reasons.

    Fr. Giertych should be commended for setting them out – even though he exposes the paucity of his argument.

    Apologists who believe that the church does not have the power to ordain women should be encouraged to expand on the reasons WHY this is so. “Jesus only choose men as Apostles” – Why?. As these Why reasons are explored will they be refuted or confirmed?

    JP2’s Theology of the Body on male-female differences is sometimes cited as the Why. But this is full of generalizations (not the permanent universal male-female differences needed to sustain this argument). Most of JP2’s generalizations on the subject seem to correspond to the Thinking-Feeling dimension on the Myers-Briggs and other Jungian psychometric indicators. About 2/3rds of men have a Thinking preference and 1/3 have a Feeling preference – vice-verse for women. General differences are made into universal ones.

    We can understand Why the church does not have the power to baptize kittens – because of universal and permanent differences between cats and humans, their respective natures, abilities and potential – regardless of the social standing of cats through the ages and cultures and the degree of training they might receive.

    As the default social position of women reaches social equality, the claimed inability of the church to ordain women will increasingly be seen as obstinate injustice and a counter-witness to the gospel unless the underlying Why reasons are addressed eg

    Why are women improper matter for ordination?

    What is it about the nature, abilities and potential of women which renders them incapable of being ordained?

    Women act “in persona Christi” as the ministers of the sacraments of baptism and matrimony so the in persona Christi argument, on its own, is insufficient.

    If the priest represents the Christ the bridegroom and the church the bride, does that mean only women can be communicants?

    • Thomas Hostomsky

      David raises some very interesting and valid points. The reason, I believe, for an all male priesthood is probably for a reason we may not be able to understand but need to accept: Jesus chose 12 men for His apostles. He crossed just about every other folway & mores concerning women in His society.

  • Mark VA

    David Cruz-Uribe:

    Regarding the term “usury”:

    I stand corrected – precision of terminology is paramount. I failed to make clear that I was using this term in its evolved, broad definition:

    Mea culpa.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Te absolvo. Vade et amplius iam noli peccare.

  • Ronald King

    Peter, I have more for your consideration and I know that your time is limited so if you want to stop just let me know. In my experience with heterosexual couples I have observed a struggle for power within relationships that seem happy having this in common with dysfunctional relationships. The power struggle seems to be related to a primitive influence of a desire for safety which is consciously experienced within the woman as related to the desire to be connected to a male who appears strong in some sense. This would explain in part an attraction to “bad boys”. In the general hetero relationship there is this underlying influence within the female to seek safety and her relationship with the source of that safety takes a hit the first time she comes to him with a complaint about some perceived flaw with her hero. Gottman at the U of WA observed that when this happens the majority of time the male would react by escalating the complaint into an argument through being defensive. He did not get into the reason for the male’s defensiveness, but in my observation the defensiveness begins with the shame of not being a good enough male. The male will then get flooded with negative emotions and either escalate more as his mate wants to talk more about the issue or he will shut down and want to isolate. In either case the result with the female is a loss of a safe connection and a loss of trust. It is from there that the relationship begins to evolves into something to be controlled and endured, or escalates into a more violent scenario, or begins to be understood through some sort of intervention.
    In the second year of my marriage we would leave our small dog Chobi at a beautiful kennel outside of Penn State while we visited friends in DC. The owner would leave the kennel open on Sunday evening so we could get Chobi easily and head home. One night she forgot to lock up her 120 lbs. sheep dog. I opened the cage and Chobi came running out jumping for joy all over us. Out of nowhere came the other dog and grabbed Chobi by the neck. I started hitting the dog in the chest and face with no results. I was 5’8″ and 140 lbs. at the time somehow grabbed the dog by the neck and lifted it while shaking it until he dropped Chobi and then I threw him against the wall and yelled “Stay there you f***er”. I turned around and my wife and dog just looked at me in awe. My wife stated “You got bigger” That was 1977 and now it is Christmas 2004 and we are arguing about something to do with me “always” coming in between her and our son. It actually happened only twice. I was angry and she shut down. I knew that her PFC was offline and her amygdala was in charge. When I asked her why she shut down she said I get big when I am angry. It all made sense. So I focused on proving to her that my anger would not hurt her. It worked. Sorry for the length. We are closer than ever.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs


    I do see more of what you are talking about now. I think what you are describing is at a more subtle and interesting level than “men and women hate each other” type thing. And my stylistic advice only would be to veer away from that language because it sounds like a more banal category, which does exist for some people– unfortunately.

    What you are describing is the almost subterranean realm of power exchanges in any successful relationship. There are roles and little parts to play, and that is the stuff of life. And any relationship that is happy is a complex web of these day to day.

    Three years ago went to see my husband’s wonderful aunt in LA shortly before she died. I had been with her several times previous. She made a point of telling me something about my husband and how he was as a child that was very charming and amusing, but also very profoundly helpful to me in how I feel day-today with him. Talk about incredible female intuition! She knew she had to tell me before she died, and it was soooooo helpful to me. I don’t get my feelings hurt by that particular issue anymore.

    I don’t mind sharing this matter from our private lives obliquely here, because I think ALL
    couples have these things. there is some unspoken level of agreement and interchange emotionally which never can be made explicit entirely. I think THAT is what you were talking about before, and it is profound, even though your “hate” hermeneutic was infelicitous.

    The most broad way I could thematize it would be this: there are two poles. On the one hand, no one can love and respect a push-over or a doormat. On the other pole, no one can love and respect an aggressive and immovable thug or bitch. Virtue as always for us not so fabulous human beings is in the middle somewhere.

    • Ronald King

      Peter, THAT is what I was attempting to get at. It is that primitive circuitry of fear and rage which influences our relationships until we understand how they operate. I use “hate” in face to face conversations because of its association with intense feelings about significant relationships which may need further discussion. As always I enjoy and benefit from your insights. Thanks.