Evangelii Gaudium (the Joy of the Gospel) is Pope Francis’ first apostolic exhortation. It is less authoritative than an encyclical but still an important pronouncement. It boggles my mind how the pope can call for inclusion in every aspect of the Church and totally exclude even the thought of women priests. Again echoing his predecessors, Francis said that ordaining women to the priesthood “is not a question open to discussion.” He acknowledged that “many women share pastoral responsibilities with priests,” and said, “We need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the church.” But he didn’t say how. These “broader opportunities” were in fact given to women by Jesus. It’s only the male hierarchy who closes mouths, minds and hearts, and tries so desperately to shut the rest of us up as well. What in heaven’s name are they afraid of I wonder? Therefore I humbly present some hopefully “incisive” comments of my own to OPEN THE DISCUSSION:
When my daughter was eight years old she was told because of her gymnastic skills, she had “made” the intermediate cheer-leading squad for the boys’ football team of our small town. She declined the offer in no uncertain terms. I remember hearing her tell the coach, “I will not cheer for a team to which I’m told I can’t belong!”
I counter your argument on the exegesis of the “Church,” that Jesus only chose male apostles (disciples) so only males can be priests:
- It is not the exegesis of the Church. It is the exegesis of the male hierarchy. The Church is the People of God, the Creation of the Spirit, the Body of Christ. It is NOT an elitist club of and for, in the words of MLK, “the privileged class preserving its privileges.” One need only call upon the Spirit, listen to People and rely on the Body to be open to, and understand the meaning of inclusion rather than exclusion.
- The exegesis you speak of is solely from the canonical texts, those chosen by the male hierarchy to underpin, hold-up and otherwise insure their hegemony. If one researches the Gospel of Thomas or the Gospel of Mary one could only conclude that women were indeed chosen by the Master as his disciples.
- But let us concentrate on the canonical texts as I am sure you would insist upon. If one takes the syllogistic argument, “If only males were chosen by Christ, then only males can be priests,” to its logical conclusion, then only Jewish fishermen, farmers, tax collectors and zealots can be priests because the argument is restricted to first century societal, cultural, and geographical limitations. Jesus could have chosen Romans, he didn’t. Jesus could have chosen Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, even Ethiopians, all of whom were present in first century Palestine. He didn’t. (He did actually choose a Samaritan woman to bring the “good news” to her clan!) The Church doesn’t confine itself to first century choices because frankly it wouldn’t be here if it did. I can’t think of one present day male Israeli or Jewish farmer, fisherman, accountant, etc., who would convert to Catholicism even if (or perhaps more aptly ‘especially if’) the prospect of priesthood were presented to him. Moreover biblical scholars are now asserting that the choosing of the disciples by Jesus in the gospels most likely did not happen the way it was recorded, as symbolic and emblematic literary devices were used to convey a deeper meaning to their “calling,“ and that indeed women were ‘called’ as well.
4. Speaking of the societal mores of Jesus’ time: Women were considered the property of men. They were not considered “persons” in and with their own intrinsic rights. (I might add that black men were once denied the priesthood for the same reason http://salt.claretianpubs.org/issues/racism/unsworth.html) Jesus was well aware of the stigma which would have been placed upon women if they left their fathers’ or husbands’ houses and followed him. They would have been ostracized as harlots or stoned to death for leaving their husbands. (Did it ever occur to you that perhaps the writers of the gospels were protecting the first women disciples by not naming them?) http://www.craigladams.com/blog/files/jesus-had-female-disciples.html
“What about the apostles’ wives?” You ask. I answer that of course they were called by Christ. Didn’t he send his disciples out in pairs? Women weren’t counted as persons themselves; only as belonging to and with their husbands. And speaking of pairs: We have no evidence that Christ ever called gay men to be his disciples, yet gay men can be priests (even though this would seemingly challenge your other specious argument of males imaging Christ in a “marriage” with his ‘female’ Church), and rightly so because Jesus is NOT about exclusion but rather inclusion! Did not Jesus tell Martha that her sister Mary, by attending to his words rather than domestic pursuits, had chosen “the better part”? Again the hierarchy picks and chooses only the words of the cannon which support male dominance and exclusion.
5. Finally and most importantly: A priest is called to consecrate bread and wine to the body and blood of Christ. The body and blood of Jesus was first “consecrated” in the womb of a woman. It is interesting that the hierarchy totally ignores the fact that God, God-self, chose a woman not a man to incarnate the body and blood of Jesus. All the pious words and devotions directed toward to his mother obfuscate the fact the early Church (as does the Orthodox still) considered Mary Co-Redemptrix with Jesus. Boston College Theologian, Mary Daley, once wrote syllogistically, “If God is male, then the male is God.” I would add: If priests are male only, God cannot be reflected and revealed in God’s INCLUSIVE entirety.
So tell me: If a hermaphrodite wanted to be a priest, would he/she be turned away? What if he/she was raised a male? What about a female who had a sex change operation and became a male? Does this whole ludicrous argument come down to body parts, or the lack thereof, being the prerequisite for ordination?
Whether it does or it doesn’t, in the words of my daughter: I will not cheer for a team to which I’m told I can’t belong!