why a male priesthood? men care more about leaky roofs!

leaky church roof

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….

11 thoughts on “why a male priesthood? men care more about leaky roofs!

  1. There is no reason to continue to appeal to the Vatican for dialog. They see themselves as right and beyond questioning. Talk is an exercise in frustration. The time for action is at hand.

    • At least in the dialogue we can learn more about the thought processes of others. Of course, hearing these words coming from the upper echelons of our church is depressing and disheartening. I continue to cling to the belief that many (perhaps the majority) of Catholics do not subscribe to this view of women and men.

      Your call for action is valid, Jerry, but what action?

  2. Fr. Giertych’s views are exactly the reasons why the men in the pews do not identify with the men on the altar. Theirs spirituality is boys’ club and not healthy spirituality, ‘we are wear special clothes”, “our hats are higher than yours (bishops”, “and sit up front on special chairs”; and, “our standing in ‘the club’ has put us above you”.

    There is no male or female way of loving the Church, thoughts and not more holy than emotions.

    Also, If we must ordain men based only on their physical likeness to Jesus, are priests who are not circumcised as Jesus was validly ordained?

    • I’m blessed to know and love many men who discount Fr. Giertych’s narrow-minded and antiquated view of humanity…men who are kind, caring, and compassionate. And, I’m blessed to know and love many brilliant women whose intellect shines as a beacon of rational thought. Pegging these qualities as ‘male’ or ‘female’ is an insult to us all.

      Society is slowly moving beyond the old boy’s club mentality. Here’s to our church doing the same.

  3. And the good news Is:
    * there are no leaky roofs in B.C., in Alberta, in Ontario, in Québec… where women serve as premiers
    * nor in Germany, nor in the U.S. where Hillary Clinton may be the next president, nor…
    * and the good news is:
    * that women are speaking up and defending themselves more and more in India and Africa and Asia…
    although there is still a long way to go… there is still a glass ceiling… but let me tell you, most of the women I know expect equality, period.., at home, in public, and in the workplace… despite what some people would have us believe.
    And the good news is:
    * that women are seen to remain active and steadfast in our parishes, whereas many men have left off involvement and religious practice… what would our churches look like without the faith, the leadership and the energy of our women?

    • Amen, Gilles! 🙂 It`s true that there is still a long way to go (especially in our church…sigh), but we really do need to rejoice in the progress that has been made. BTW….proud to be a Canadian! 😉

  4. Behind the ordination of women issue is the recent evidence from the collaborative findings of diverse researchers working together that challenge one of the central doctrines of the Church – apostolic succession. This was not a plot by liberal scholars. Interdisciplinary research now concludes that this powerful notion of apostolic succession had been superimposed on the Church at a much later time than and was recorded in an objective way by early church “historians”.
    Those who invented apostolic succession were ambitious men who desired to become leaders of the next generation of Christians. “Looking for a potent way to establish their own authority they seized upon a way to establish their own authority, they seized upon a very compelling idea. They claimed the right to rule from the first disciples, and that they themselves possessed ‘apostolic authority’ because they formed a part of what they began to call ‘apostolic succession.’ This was a self justify fiction.” (Cox, “The Future of Faith’, p. 66)
    Apostolic succession is withheld from women by refusing them ordination but there are now clear challenges to the doctrine itself.

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