Women’s ordination is easily one of the hottest of hot topics in Catholicism today. Pope John Paul II and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have clearly stated that it is a closed issue. Yet, the theology supporting a male-only priesthood is still questioned by scholars and ordinary folks alike.
Do I believe that women should be priests? Yes. Do I think that this will happen in my life-time? No. Am I willing to fight actively for women`s ordination? Not at the moment. Does this sound non-committal? It probably does! 😉
Some find heated debates energizing. I don`t. They suck the life and energy out of me, especially when a stale-mate or dead-end has been reached. I still cling (sometimes hopelessly) to the belief that there is more power in dialogue. With the issue of women`s ordination, power rests with the Vatican and they have made it known that their doors are closed to further discussion. This atmosphere of finality is hardly conducive to dialogue. Instead, we have ever-deepening polarization. Any questioning of a male-only priesthood is interpreted as unfaithfulness, and excommunications abound. For those of us who struggle with this issue, what options do we have? If official dialogue is closed on who can be ordained, perhaps we can promote dialogue on some of the other issues surrounding ordination.
First of all, we have the issue of clericalism in the priesthood. Men as priests are not the problem. Men who view their parish or diocese as their personal fiefdom are the problem. In the realm of business, education, politics or church, we need more servant-leaders and fewer leaders obsessed with power and control – whether these leaders are men or women.
Secondly, we have the issue of the present leadership structure in our church. All decision-making power is tied to ordination. Is ordination necessary for all the leadership, teaching or administrative positions presently held by priests and bishops? Is it possible to share decision-making power at all levels by taking advantage of our diversity of voices and experiences? Can we work together to reform the leadership structure in our church so that it is less hierarchical and more participatory, egalitarian, and dialogic?
Perhaps if we had less clericalism and more inclusive leadership in our church, then the issue of women`s ordination wouldn`t seem so rebellious or far-fetched. Maybe, just maybe, it would be seen as the natural thing to do.