Be not ordained

Be not ordained

Forty-five years ago, I wrote a parody of a then-popular Catholic hymn. The same parody works today:

Be not ordained
Priesthood is for men only
Don’t follow me, for they will give you grief.

We laughed then, but decades later, it is not very funny. In fact, it is rather tragic.

What is tragic is that women and some supportive men, non-binary people too, have had to put enormous energy into something about which the institutional Roman Catholic Church is so recalcitrant.

Imagine if those energies were unleashed to attend to the everyday needs of people who look to ministers for support and guidance, or if human and financial resources were trained on climate change, anti-racism, reproductive justice and reproductive justice and LGBTQI+ rights.

I am not suggesting that the work to make ordination inclusive is unimportant.

To the contrary, it is crucial and appreciated.

But that it must be done, and redone, and done some more for almost 50 years, is something to lament.

Anecdotal evidence and several studies show that the institutional Roman Catholic Church’s continued refusal to ordain women is a major reason why American Catholics (among others) have left it in droves.

Let’s be clear, the bald ask is to allow women to be part of the clerical system and the decision-making apparatus of the institution, and even that is rejected.

Proposals for new models of ministry in a renewed church are not even entertained.

In a sense, I am delighted by the exodus.

Why participate in and support something in which most people are second-class citizens by design?

Women are the majority of Catholics. The contradiction is so blatant as to be beyond discussion.

Airy-fairy notions that a Petrine principle and a Marian principle determine such matters is hocus pocus, not theology.

Ditto for the newly minted notion of an “administrative way” that Pope Francis thinks women are more gifted in, for example, being a secretary or manager.

Talk about a Hail Mary pass.

Nuptial imagery of Jesus as the “bridegroom” and the church as the “bride” is theo-babble that no serious theologian would attempt to argue today.

Decades ago, the great theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether listened to some poor clerical chap try to explain that women could not be ordained because women do not bear a natural resemblance to Jesus in the Eucharist.

She is reported to have asked the priest to show his natural resemblance.

Audience laugher ensued and that should have been the end of that. Alas, it was not.

Most people have no idea what these allegedly theological things mean.

But they do know that women and nonbinary persons are as much “fit matter” for ordination as people with male genitalia.

The skills, commitment and training necessary to minister have absolutely nothing to do with anatomy, symbolically or otherwise. Period. Biblical and theological scholars settled these questions a generation ago.

Still, some people trot them out as if for the first time.

Be not deceived. Continue reading

  • Mary E. Hunt is a feminist theologian who is cofounder and codirector of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Additional reading

News category: Analysis and Comment.

Tags: ,