Thursday, September 23, 2010

Catholicism and Women's Rights

It's bothered me for as long as I can remember that women are not allowed to be Priests. Have you ever wondered why that is? The way it was explained to me is a two part answer. First, at the very basic level, was that when a man (a future-Priest) takes his Holy Orders, he begins to act as an instrument of Christ; in a way, he takes on Christ's essence and some of his Christ-ness. Since Jesus was a man, only men can do this. Since women are by their very definition not men (well, duh), this is an impossibility for us. To summarize: "Priesthood isn't so much about the things a Priest does, it's who a priest is". Secondly, this is the way it's always been done. Since Jesus' time, with the 12 Apostles, our religious leaders have always been men. It's always been this way, and it always will be this way. It's tradition.

It's hard for me to know where to begin in my rebuttal, because in my opinion, these two rationales simply don't make any sense. Yes, Jesus was a human man. In addition to that, He could walk on water and turn water in to wine; somehow the latter two attributes were dropped as pre-requisites to being Christ-like. Further, and I don't mean to be cavalier, but how Christ-like is the current Priest sex abuse scandal? As for tradition being a rationale, I'm surely glad we don't follow all traditions held over from the past 2,000 years. We would all be wearing loin-cloths, I would be my (future) husbands property, and America wouldn't exist.

Furthermore, the Vatican describes the attempts of women to become ordained as being a "crime against sacraments" and that it is alongside pedophelia in being one of the "most series crimes". It troubles me deeply that highest leaders of my faith think that women Priests are as wrong as pedophiles.

Let me be honest here for a second. I can move past this women-can't-be-Priests thing pretty quickly, because, frankly, I feel pretty removed from it. I don't want to become a Priest, and I don't know any women who do. I don't read about the in the media, I don't see their faces. Is that a bad reason? Yes.

What I can't ignore is the way that the Church tries to categorize me. As I have mentioned, Scott and I have begun to work on our Catholic Marriage Prep (the outdated term is Pre Cana). We were assigned an article called, A Catholic Physician Talks to Engaged Couples. Certain portions of it describe the roles that the to-be-husband and to-be-wife should be in their marriage. For instance, the book instructs: "I know that it is fashionable these days for women to have jobs... but I think we also know deep down inside that something is missing in this modern rat race" (p4). Further, "Ladies it is womanly..to be a homemaker" (p4). The article (required reading for my Catholic Marriage Preparation) clearly indicates that a woman is to be responsible for home and nurture, and the man is the protector and providor.

Let me be clear - every marriage, like every couple, is different. What works for one might not work for mine. This kind of "traditionalist" thinking is uncomfortable for me, as it's not the kind of life - or marital relationship - that I want and need. Fortunately, my partner feels likewise. If I didn't know this before, I know it know: Reading the article in black and white terms caused a conversation between us. It also caused me to be surprised that an arrangement (woman's best place is in the home raising a family, while the man is out earning a living) would be utilized in a 2010 conversation about marital dynamics.

While I can admit to being surprised, perhaps I shouldn't have been. In the first book of the Bible, the first mention of a woman comes in this way: "It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make him a helper fit for him" (Genesis 2:18). In the beginning (religious pun intended), women have been made to be a "helper", a sidekick. As a woman, it's tough (and insulting) to think of your role as exclusively a "helper".

And yet, a helper is exactly what the Church calls women to be.

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