When the Anglicans were holding the General Synod last year women bishops were the hot topic. When the vote was lost in the House of the Laity one of my optometrist colleagues asked me what I thought. He and I have interesting conversations on religion sometimes in the staff room (as you do), he's a Jain and very open about his beliefs. He thought, bless him, that I would be upset at the prospect of not being able to become a bishop. I quickly explained that I am Roman Catholic and that there are large differences between us and Anglicans even though we are both Christians. Since the shop was quiet for a moment we had a brief chat about it. He said that he felt a person's gender should not be a deciding factor in whether or not they are eligible for a job and that the decision was unfair. This is something that a lot of people outside of the Church have said to me, they genuinely don't see why it is that Catholics don't have women priests. And then you get videos appearing on YouTube like this one...
I have to say that is not a good video, it really doesn't do much for the advocates of women's ordination. I've seen quite a few blog posts today asking how they honestly believed that it would be a good promo. Some have even said it looks more likely some traditionalists made it to harm their cause as it's really...rather ridiculous. What worries me more about this (and all the questions I get asked from time to time) is this idea that the Church does not ordain women simply because she wants them to "...kneel to patriarchy's way" as the simple fact is that it isn't true.
So why does the Church maintain that it cannot ordain women? One thing people always say to me is that Christ had male and female disciples so therefore there should be female priests. And, yes, Christ did have disciples of both genders and he treated women with a radical equality that shocked people at the time. But, that being said, out of all of his disciples he chose twelve male apostles to carry out ordained ministry, acting in persona Christi. Blessed Pope John Paul II clarified this issue back in 1994 in his apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis in which he said; "In fact the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles attest that this call was made in accordance with God's eternal plan; Christ chose those whom he willed (cf. Mk 3:13-14; Jn 6:70), and he did so in union with the Father, "through the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:2), after having spent the night in prayer (cf. Lk 6:12). Therefore, in granting admission to the ministerial priesthood,(6) the Church has always acknowledged as a perennial norm her Lord's way of acting in choosing the twelve men whom he made the foundation of his Church (cf. Rv 21:14). These men did not in fact receive only a function which could thereafter be exercised by any member of the Church; rather they were specifically and intimately associated in the mission of the Incarnate Word himself (cf. Mt 10:1, 7-8; 28:16-20; Mk 3:13-16; 16:14-15). The Apostles did the same when they chose fellow workers who would succeed them in their ministry. Also included in this choice were those who, throughout the time of the Church, would carry on the Apostles' mission of representing Christ the Lord and Redeemer."
In choosing only male apostles Christ shows clearly one of the vocations to which he calls some men but in doing so he is not undermining the role of women in Church. On the contrary Blessed John Paul goes on to say, "Furthermore, the fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, received neither the mission proper to the Apostles nor the ministerial priesthood clearly shows that the non-admission of women to priestly ordination cannot mean that women are of lesser dignity, nor can it be construed as discrimination against them. Rather, it is to be seen as the faithful observance of a plan to be ascribed to the wisdom of the Lord of the universe."
So, do I as a woman feel oppressed by the Church and "...the Pope in a hat..."? There seems to be these days a misunderstanding that being equal means being the same. Men and women have different roles to play within the Church, each have equal value but they are different just as men and women differ in the most basic ways. If the Church were trying to say that a priest is worth more than I ma simply because he is a man then yes I would be unhappy, if the Church was saying that women are in any way inferior to men then I would feel oppressed but the Church is not doing that. In fact the Church spends as much energy in encouraging priestly vocations as it does in supporting the roles of women; in helping mothers and families, in encouraging religious vocations and consecrated virginity, by helping women to play full and active roles within the community. In fact I feel quite the opposite to oppressed and held back, I have had nothing but the love and support of Christ and his Church since I started attending Mass. All of my questions have been met with answers or at least help to find them, my efforts to discern God's will in my life have, for the most part, been heard kindly and, again, supported by those around me. I have been not just allowed but asked to help organise parish groups and events. I am not restricted by the Church, I am set free by it to fully explore my faith and to live it passionately. What videos like that have more to do with is the desire for power. Because, of course, that is what faith is all about, who stands at the front each Sunday and preaches from the pulpit, who makes the decisions within the parish, not about striving for holiness, not about trying to be a saint, not about proclaiming the Gospel, not about working to strengthen the Body of Christ by being obedient and loyal to the Church.
When I see these women one thing I do think, however, is that it must be very difficult if you think you are called to be a priest. What do you do? The sarcastic part of me instantly snaps, "get a better spiritual director!" (I have a good one...my friend has a good one...) but in all fairness there is a problem. We need better catechesis on all levels; in schools, in the home, in the parish community. The questions people have need proper answering and they need to help open up and explore the faith and explore their own calling and take it seriously. Yes it is evident from their lyrics that they don't respond well to the authority of the Magisterium but if we speak with love and generosity then we can hope and pray that they'll realise how pointless their argument is?