Can a man be a feminist? This question usually starts a lively discussion in any women`s studies class. Sure, there are pro-feminist men who believe in equal rights and opportunities for women. But who should be leading the struggle to ensure that these equal rights and opportunities become a reality in our homes, our church, and our world?
During the first wave of feminism (late 19th and early 20th centuries) and the second wave (1960`s and 1970`s), women`s issues were seen as just that. Women`s issues. Many unfair generalizations about feminists from this era continue to haunt women`s rights movements to this day – feminists are militant, anti-family, male-bashers. (Note to self – the term `feminist` is not welcomed in Vatican circles, unless it refers to the `new feminism` promoted by John Paul II.)
It is as impossible to categorize all feminists as it is to categorize all women. At its simplest, a feminist believes that women deserve all the equal rights and opportunities that are accorded to men. Yes, I believe that men can be feminists. I know many, and happened to marry one. Even priests can be feminists…
Fr. Roy Bourgeois has publicly stated that he will not recant his belief that God can, and does, offer a priestly vocation to both men and women. Therefore, the ordination of women priests should be allowed. For this public disobedience to his superiors and the official teachings of the Church, he faces probable dismissal from the congregation of Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers and laicization from the Vatican.
I have the deepest respect for the courage and conviction of this man. Upholding the teaching of a male-only priesthood is a litmus test of obedience for priests and bishops. There are many who quietly believe that women should be priests. But, how many ordained men are willing to stand publicly beside women in their struggle for the priesthood? How many would sacrifice their financial, professional, spiritual and emotional security in order to be true to their own conscience?
Only a woman can speak from a woman`s experience. And we need to have our voice heard, for others have spoken for us for too long. But, we need to work side by side with like-minded men to break into the glass ceilings of the corporate and political world. And, we need to work side by side with like-minded men in our Church to break through the marble ceiling that has kept us from having a voice in decision-making and leadership. We need men like Fr. Roy Bourgeois.
According to the NCR article, 6,000 persons signed a petition of support for Bourgeois. I wonder how many, if any, priests signed this petition. We all know that petitions signed by lay women and men hold little clout in official circles. What would happen if hundreds of priests stood up and publically stated their support for women`s ordination? In this time of priest shortages, would they all be threatened with laicization? Or would they finally force open the doors for discussion?