Not long ago, the Cincinnati archdiocese banned Sr. Louise Akers from teaching because she supports the ordination of women.
That was bad enough. Then, Dr. Carol Egner, a laywoman and a gynecologist who was incensed by this injustice, wrote a letter supporting Akers to the Cincinnati Inquirer. Her pastor read the letter, and had the gall to demand that she write another letter retracting her position. When she rightly refused, he banished her from her volunteer teaching position with a 6th grade religion class at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.
What is it that these men fear? Exposing children to the gospel ideal of gender equality? Open discussion of an issue of great importance in our church? The thought of actually sharing ministry equally with women?
The issue of women’s ordination seems to have produced a new level of clerical emotion in the last year. Perhaps -- because of the clergy shortage, the theological indefensiblity of this discriminatory position, and the widespread acceptance of women in other denominations -- this is the issue on which they feel most vulnerable.
The comments to this post are rehashing all the hundreds of comments that have accompanied the other posts on the Akers/Egner stories. This one from a Fr. Angelo Sotello gives the traditional response succinctly:
Submitted by Fr. Angel Sotelo (not verified) on Sep. 18, 2009.
Maureen, you make it sound as if no one has been allowed to speak about women's ordination, ever. The inconvenient truth is that Catholics have been arguing about ordaining women since the Gnostics first ordained women, only to have their women priests rejected by the larger Church. As far as Dr. Egner, she may have the right to speak her mind, but she doesn't possess a right to speak in the name of the faith community without a mission from the pastor.
And if you want to point to what is theologically and scripturally defensible, I don't get the argument that because Jesus valued the role of women, that He automatically gave them a call to Holy Orders. It's as if Jesus' call to men for leadership is irrelevant. And the gender equality argument continues to ignore what even sociologists now state emphatically--gender equality does not equal having the same exact roles for a man and woman within the family and household setting.
The household of Catholicism and its leaders has resoundingly responded "no" to women priests over the long trajectory of its pilgrim journey. The new generation of young priests and seminarians are solidly unsympathetic to the cause of women's ordination, which means that they have more than "emotion" on their side. Their opponents will simply die off and the resurrection of a Gnostic women's priesthood will go that way as well.
There are a number of things I take issue with in this comment, but unique from others, Fr. Sotelo does admit women were ordained in the early church--although by those heretical Gnostics. That's a start.
He then brings up the canard that Jesus ordained the twelve to Holy Orders, which of course is not true. He did commission them to leadership in the temporal church. No one is disputing that, just the fact there could have been a lot more than twelve people at the Last Supper.
Fr. Sotelo continues with the appeal to the long tradition of male dominance in the pilgrim church and the fact the new seminarians are solidly unsympathetic to the cause of women's ordination, somehow concluding they have more than 'emotion' on their side. He ends by assuring us that this whole Gnostic notion of women's priesthood will die off with the Vat II generations. For some reason I'd rather be told to become an Episcopalian than have these constant references to the good my death and those of my generation will do for the Church.
Sometimes though, God does work in mysterious ways. Fr. Sotelo's denigration of the historical fact of the ordination of women as a Gnostic heresy tripped a rebuttal in my mind. Gnosticism was far more involved in the notion of life as a personal spiritual journey and they looked for mentors who they deemed to have spiritual authority. Although I don't particularly think much of a lot of gnosticism--the extreme mind/body duality was surely on the wrong path--the emphasis on spiritual authority, as opposed to temporal sacramental authority, is a major problem to Institutional religious authority. Anyway, I had to add my two cents.
Traditional and theological authority should never be confused with Spiritual Authority. Men have no claim to sole authority over the things of the spirit. If this were not so, men would have been the first witnesses to the Resurrection and more than one would have witnessed the Crucifixion.
These two truths, which are thoroughly seated in the realm of the Spiritual, were shared and witnessed by women. The same is true of the Incarnation. It was another woman, Elizabeth, who witnessed and proclaimed this spiritual truth. It was the seer and prophetess Anna who recognized Him at His temple presentation, as did Simeon, who said to Mary, "and you yourself a sword shall pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts shall be revealed."
This statement indicates Mary's spiritual authority and her own spiritual gift. It is then at Mary's bequest, and not His own desire, that Jesus starts His spiritual mission at the wedding feast of Cana.
Men may indeed keep the temporal authority to themselves by their own decree, but I look far more frequently to women for spiritual authority. Perhaps it is this truth which clerical men are afraid of.
I could elaborate a lot on this difference between temporal sacramental authority and true spiritual authority. Indigenous tribes freely recognized that the spiritual path was easier and more truly expressed by women than by men and that when expressed by men it was linked genetically, frequently passing through the maternal line. For the sake of this post, I'm not going to get into the differences between genetic psychic talent and spiritual gifts. I only bring this point up to underscore the differences between men and women which the Church is flat ignoring in order to shore up the male definition of complementarity as it is to be expressed in the Institutional Church.
Temporal sacramental religious authority is NOT the same as spiritual authority. It can however manifest in religious authority as it did in Padre Pio. St Pio was also pierced so 'that the thoughts of many hearts shall be revealed'. It was that gift that gave him his spiritual authority, not just his ordination.
I will be going back and reading the New Testament with different eyes. Perhaps the Gnostics got something correct and having women as spiritual leaders makes a great deal of sense. Perhaps it's precisely that leadership which is both lacking in the current institution and greatly feared---unless it's under their control.
The history of the Church is replete with clerical men persecuting psychically/spiritually gifted women. It still continues to this day, or why else the recent pathetic statement on reiki? I could go on, but I'll leave it here for today. Feel free to comment, as I think this is an area about women's complimentary gifts for the Church which needs to be discussed and not suppressed.
PS, I'd also be interested in comments about Tom Robert's lastest post in the National Catholic Reporter concerning the emerging church. He conducted a fascinating interview with Fr. Richard Rohr, in which Fr. Rohr states the emerging church will center around the contemplative tradition. I happen to think Fr. Rohr is correct and this will lead to a very different church with a very differenct cosmology, theology, and world view.