Thursday, September 26, 2013

The 'Mess' At America Magazine And How To Solve Some Thorny Papal Problems Regarding Women And Ordination

Thanks for the thumbs up.  Dispensing qualified Catholics from the lay state and granting them some priestly faculties in some situations might solve a multitude of problems associated with the ordained priesthood.

I spent the morning reading the comments to the National Catholic Reporter articles on the editorial mistake America magazine made with Pope Francis' interview for the English language Jesuit publications.  I really appreciated the fact the Dr Phyllis Zagano reported on the lines from the interview that America editors state were accidentally drop kicked into the garbage icon.  Those lines clarified a part of this interview that made no sense to me.  The America translation was the one I read and Francis' take on women and their place in the Church, especially with the words 'feminine machismo' made no sense to me, as they came across as an attack on women who seek other than the usual allotted roles.  I found this so out of context with the rest of the paragraph and interview that I determined he must have meant 'machismo' limited women's roles.  So I was glad the lines Phyllis found in Spanish and Italian translations clarified Francis' meaning as pretty much what I thought.  In reality Francis is calling for a far more incisive role for women in the Church and again, for a much deeper theology of women.  

But the give and take between Phyllis and some of the editors and translators of America's version in the comments section was something to behold.  I think all sturm and angst point to more than just who wrote what about what, and what was really done, and why accidently doing what was done really was an accident and not a reason for impugning America's journalistic creds.  I think it was the Holy Spirit that might have seen to the drop kicking of some important lines about women into that garbage icon on one of America's computer screens.  Perhaps it was a case of forcing some Jesuit discernment.  Perhaps it was a method of outlining just how fragile the relationship is between Holy Mother Church and her real women.  It's pretty fragile, and it's a situation Pope Francis seems very much aware.  He has not stated a word about how much his male relatives influenced his own relationship with the Church, but he has stated a great deal about how his grandmother, mother, and sister have effected his relationship with the Church.  He knows when women walk out the doors, generations leave with them.

I have not suddenly decided Francis understands the role of women any deeper than I did in my post about mothers and sons and mothers and daughters, but I do think he knows his view is not particularly deep, and that the real situation on the ground is that the Church's very survival is wrapped up in women not walking out the doors.  He seems really willing to prevent that by any means short of ordination.  And so lots of people are suddenly talking about the potential for opening the deaconate to women and elevating women to the position of cardinal.  These are nice, long overdue concepts for giving women a more incisive place in the Church.  They would be easy to enact and not require much of a change in Canon Law.  Those are the pluses.  The negatives are two fold.  They leave the celibate male clerical structure in place with all it's attendant problems and they still leave women (and married men) with a second class status vis a vis baptism.  In other words, close but no cigars.

And yet the path to full equality has been seriously blocked by both his predecessors and Francis hasn't said one thing that indicates he will buck Ordinatio Sarcedotalis.  Not even on the celibacy rule.  So what does a Pope do?  If he's serious about elevating women and removing narcissistic clericalism he could consider bypassing the whole question of ordination to the priesthood and invent a different path.  He could give special dispensations to any qualified lay Catholics to exercise certain priestly faculties in limited or emergency situations.  Lay Catholics can already do this with the Sacrament of Baptism.  There is precedent. This might solve a lot of problems.  Not just the issue of women's ordination, but this would also provide sacraments in priestless parishes and areas in which the priest to lay ratio means no Eucharistic celebration and no opportunity to enjoy God's mercy through confession.  A pope could get really creative with these dispensations.  They could be powerful signs of God's mercy and provide lots of nurses for working in God's field hospital.  It could start with laicized married priests and vowed religious, but it wouldn't have to stop there.  It could evolve in it's own way and eventually we might find there is no longer any need for the ordained priesthood that the Church can't ordain women into and that men have to be celibate for--viola problems solved. 


  1. It's funny - I wrote the following on a couple of other blogs about possible paths forward.

    "What Pope Francis could do is create some woman cardinals. There is nothing preventing him from doing this. A cardinal need no be a priest. Then woman would be part of the deliberation in the election of the next pope. Women would be involved in various congregation which help formulate the policies that guide the Church. Woman's perspectives would then be involved in those formulations and need to be taken into account. The very ecclesial landscape would change. Various cognitive dissonances would arise that would have to be confronted and in time resolved. The paradigm would shift and the milleau under which we operate today would take it's place within the pantheon of past ecclesial anachronisms... Just one possible practical action that could change the game as it were. Then, some day, hopefully in the not too distant future, the idea of doctrinal prohibition of women priests would seem as anachronistic as a prince archbishop or a commendatory abbot..."

    But I think that your approach is what is really happening. We are a sacramental people and we will celebrate our sacraments whether "official" or not. My Catholic faith community has been celebrating liturgy and sacraments without benefit of "the cloth" for almost 20 years now - Beautiful, genuine, heartfelt and prayerful sacrament infused liturgies. The people will have their Icons. In Time the pointed hats will turn...

  2. WomanHangingInThereByAThreadSeptember 27, 2013 at 1:57 AM

    Thank you for posting this very important information & also thanks to Phyllis Zagano. What a choice of words to leave out. Maybe the dog ate that page that was lost.....

    " What was lost in the English translation has been found. The Italian editor wrote about Francis: "In an interview he had affirmed that the feminine presence in the Church has not fully emerged, because the temptation of machismo has not left space to make visible the role women are entitled to within the community."

    After speaking of his idea for a "theology of women," Francis said: "It is necessary to widen the space for more incisive feminine presence in the church."

    I'm glad that Pope Francis is seeing that the Holy Spirit is big enough to include women in building up the Church. At least I hope he is seeing that. It should follow that the Church be big enough to open up the space in its heart for women in leadership roles.

    The RCC can't evolve quickly enough for me. It is long overdue for substantial space to widen for women to minister in important roles.

  3. Jamez I think sometimes being prophetic is just recognizing what's already happening. The ordained priesthood is dieing and intentional communities are replacing it. Pope Francis can tinker with the existing dieing system, sort of put it on life support which I believe the women as unordained cardinals pretty much would be, or he can recognize the mutation which is giving life and let the Church evolve.

  4. There's no question women have to have more input, especially in Vatican City, but when I think about the question of women's ordination I can't help but see that the current doctrines on the priesthood exclude 99.8 % of the Catholic population--all women and virtually all the men. Eventually Pope Francis has to deal with the fact his call for an inclusive Church can not be founded on such an exclusive ministerial foundation. It's almost an oxymoron.

  5. I am bothered by the idea that Francis could appoint a token woman as a cardinal and thereby cancel out some 2000 years of oppressing women. Granted a true conservative woman might not accept the position. But suppose that a conservative woman - one who accepts the position of women in general as equal but separate, their primary role is passivity, motherhood [in the literal sense], helpmate to her husband, no sense of independence allowed, essentially invisible. And acts on that view officially as a Cardinal. I would think this could set back women in the church rather than help. In this instance, the Holy Spirit has used a woman to put Her stamp of approval on that view. Such an outcome would certainly test my faith. I have a hard enough time listening to some of he blowhard conservatives now...

    But suppose that the initial cardinal appointments consisted of a panel of 3 women - a conservative, a moderate and a progressive. And then suppose that at least half the cardinals appointed after that are also women, until we have a college that is 50/50 by sex. Now there is a start on the path to unity. And then we might begin to correct the current ideas about the priesthood.

  6. I agree Veronica, the single or couple of token cardinals concept is way too susceptible to manipulation. It doesn't make me feel any better that the two women Francis has appointed to his special commissions are both conservatives or downright OD sympathizers.

    Women might be better represented if the cardinal slots were switched from a form of preferential papal appointment to a form of geographical representation. If these were then based on actual numbers of active members, women would hold most of the slots by default since the participation of women is much higher than men.