Catholic News Service ran a story yesterday called Why not women priests? The papal theologian explains. Recent head-lines have told of silenced, banished and laicized priests, punished for their open questioning of a male-only priesthood. The Pope’s own theologian felt it was time to set the record straight.
Dominican Father Wojciech Giertych begins by giving all the well-known reasons. Jesus chose only men to be his apostles on earth. God chose to take on the form of a man (male) therefore one must be a man (male) in order to act in the person of Christ. Jesus acted against societal norms in his relationship with women, therefore he would have chosen women to be his apostles if he so desired – but he didn’t.
Father Giertych then begins to muse on why men are more naturally suited to the priesthood.
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.
Hmmm. First of all, I enjoy studying philosophical definitions and logical syllogisms. I get a charge out of spotting the fallacies in arguments – whether on discussion boards or from papal theologians.
And then came this wee gem,
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.”
The friend who forwarded this article to me summed it up with these words, “It’s all about leaky roofs. So that’s why women can’t be priests”!
So, what is the role of women in the church? Fr. Giertych explains it with obvious clarity,
Women are better able than men to perceive the “proximity of God” and enter into a relationship with him, Father Giertych said, pointing to the privileged role played by women in the New Testament.
“Women have a special access to the heart of Jesus,” he said, “in a very vivid way of approaching him, of touching him, of praying with him, of pouring ointment on his head, of kissing his feet.”
“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.”
This form of biological essentialism is at the root of gender stereotyping. Historically, women have not fared well in the stereotyping department. The simplistic view that men rule the head and women rule the heart becomes a back-handed argument for maintaining leadership in the male realm. Look carefully at the argument above. While praising the holiness of women with one breath, in the next they are told that they do not need the priesthood. They are already holy enough!
Men don’t fare much better in this narrow-minded world view. Men have to be tough. Rational thought is masculine. Emotions are feminine. Masculinity is equated with strength that excludes any outward show of emotion.
This theological argument, if taken to its extreme conclusion, also tells us that holiness is not as critical to the priesthood as logical thinking and the ability to swing a hammer. And, it gives women the unenviable task of ensuring that priests do not abuse their role in the church. It is our task (our “mission”) to show priests that faith and charity are more important than power. Does this mean that when dysfunctional leadership trumps faith and charity, women are somehow to blame? (Just making a logical assumption based on the premises given.)
Sadly, the rationale that Fr. Giertych presents is not a personal eccentricity. This is the view of male and female based on the theological anthropology of John Paul II, pared down to the bare bones. It is the basis of the “new feminism”, that raises the gifts of women to such heights that any desire for the priesthood should vanish away. If we, as women, are called to such a special holiness…why would we want to be priests?
And now for something completely different….