I came across an abhorrent display of ignorance Saturday when reading an article quoting the Pope’s theologian, Dominican priest Wojciech Giertych, on why women cannot be ordained. This man is in charge of reviewing speeches and texts submitted to the Pope to ensure that they are free of doctrinal error. Once you read this, I am sure that many of you will have the same thoughts that I do ranging from – that explains a lot — to — we are in serious trouble!
Giertych touted the common arguments made against ordaining women – Jesus was a man, Jesus chose only male disciples, etc. However, then he put forth statements about, (1) the theologian’s task, (2) why maleness is essential to the priesthood, and (3) what the vocation of women is and is not.
What is the Theologian’s Task?
According to Giertych, the theologian’s task in determining the definition of priesthood:
“In theology, we base ourselves not on human expectations, but we base ourselves on the revealed word of God” without the freedom “to invent the priesthood according to our own customs, according to our own expectations.”
“Theologians throughout history have promulgated the riches of the Catholic tradition by venturing new ways to imagine and express the mystery of God and the economy of salvation revealed in Scripture and Tradition. This is a Catholic style of theological reflection that very many Catholic theologians continue to practice today. The teaching of the Second Vatican Council in its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) is especially eloquent on this responsibility” (See Gaudium et Spes #44).
“Such endeavors, which theologians offer in service to and love for the Church, should be encouraged by all in the Church. To suggest that a theologian who engages in the difficult task of interpreting revelation for present times and cultures is denying the knowability of the very revelation—the Word of God—that theological reflection takes as its authoritative source, strikes us as a fundamental misunderstanding of the ecclesial vocation of the theologian.”
Clearly, a huge disparity exists between the Vatican’s own theologian and CTSA. Anyone who read the Canonical Warning issued against Sr. Margaret Farley knows that the theologian’s task has been redefined to require explicit agreement with church doctine, warning theologians to not challenge the Church’s teachings. I guess this attitude would also explain the Church’s recent crusade against theologians and the rash of women who have been blacklisted from getting jobs for being outspoken and disagreeing with the Church.
Why Maleness is Essential to the Priesthood?
After recognizing the courageous nature of Jesus, as “countercultural,” not following “the expectations of the powerful,” and doing his own work and mission, Giertych explains why only men can be priests:
“The son of God became flesh, but became flesh not as sexless humanity but as male” and “since a priest is supposed to serve as an image of Christ, his maleness is essential to that role.”
This is more of the same kinds of antiquated arguments used to justify the subordination of women. I will respond with the same response that most people use against this statement – an ancient baptismal rite that appears in Galatians 3:28,” in Christ there is no more male or female”– meaning simply that the resurrected Christ is without gender, disqualifying the argument that men must “serve as an image of Christ.” Maleness has no place within the biblical interpretation of the baptized.
“Men are more likely to think of God in terms of philosophical definitions and logical syllogisms…a quality valuable for fulfilling a priest’s duty to transmit church teaching.”
As I understand this statement, Giertych is implying that women are not intelligent enough to understand, let alone convey church teaching to the faithful without error. If this statement isn’t offensive enough, he also stated:
“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 concordant between the church and state.”
If I understand this correctly, Giertych is saying that men love power and things. Nowhere in this statement do we see any concern for the people of the Church. Could this way of thinking that he attributes to men be the root of problem dividing the Church today? We see a Church more concerned with buildings and power, than people – no wonder there is such a swift backlash by the Church spokesmen against people who challenge their way of life.
Dare we imagine, if you will, a Church that loved and nurtured as a Woman loves and nurtures?
What the Vocation of Women is and is not:
A woman’s statement that she is called to the priesthood, according to Giertych, is “a ‘subjective’ belief [that} does not indicate the objective existence of a vocation.” While he states explicitly that this does not mean women hold an inferior place in the church, he also acknowledged that:
“women are better able than men to perceive the ‘proximity of God’ and enter into a relationship with him” as demonstrated by the “privileged role played in the women in the New Testament.” Women had “special access to the heart of Jesus…in a very vivid way of approaching him, of touching him, or praying with him, of pouring ointment on his head, of kissing his feet.”
This and another aspect of women’s faith as he understands it are reasons women should not be ordained:
“women are more apt to draw from the mystery of Christ, by the quality of their prayer life, by the quality of their faith.”
I think that having special access to Jesus and being able to perceive God (despite our stupidity, as he cited earlier) is a truly sound reason to exclude women from the priesthood. Seriously, what kind of Church would we have if priests had a deep faith and deep prayer life, with the ability to draw from the mystery of Christ, not to mention the ability to understand God that is “special” and unique to women!
“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.”
This statement seriously contradicts his reasons women cannot be ordained. Moreover, I think that I can state with great confidence that women as well as men (even ordained men) are reminding men all the time that power even SACRAMENTAL power is not the most important thing in the Church. However, when people do speak up or act, they are excommunicated.
In his concluding remarks, he tells a bizarre story about a “contemplative nun” who stated to him “oh, wouldn’t it be horrible if Jesus were a woman?” This statement revealed to him that relationships of love and attachment, as well as spousal relationships, are easier for women than men.
I guess I don’t understand how ordaining women would be a bad thing, based on his very own words. As I conclude this post, I leave you with a thought to ponder:
Imagine a Church that loved as a woman loves and nurtured as a woman nurtures. Imagine a Church that can enter into a special relationship with God and provide special access to Jesus’ heart. What kind of Church would we have?
Michele Stopera Freyhauf is currently a doctoral student in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University. She has a Master of Arts Degree from John Carroll University in Theology and Religious Studies, performed post-graduate work in History focusing on Gender, Religion, and Sexuality at the University of Akron, and is an Adjunct Instructor in the Religious Studies Department at Ursuline College. Her full bio is on the main contributor’s page or at http://durham.academia.edu/MSFreyhauf. Michele can be followed on twitter at @msfreyhauf
Categories: Abuse of Power, Bible, Catholic Church, Catholicism, Christianity, Christology, Church Doctrine, Community, Embodiment, Feminism, Feminist Theology, Gender and Power, General, power, Scripture, Second Vatican Council, Textual Interpretation, Thealogy, Theology, U. S. Catholic Sisters, Vatican, Vowed Religious, Women and Ministry, Women in the Church, Women Religious, Women's Ordination