Monday, September 30, 2013

A Tiddlywinks Response

ASM826 has left a comment that makes him appear to think that my church was founded and controlled purely by old men who never let women do anything.   Awwww…poor things.   Women are so unable to make their own informed decisions that they sign up for and remain in a church that has made its teachings clear for 2,000 years.  I feel sorry for them.  I assume force is involved.

On my part – and I’m female – I studied Church teachings (i.e what the Church teaches, not what others say she teaches) and history for years and made an informed decision that I have never regretted.  It was the first place where I met men who truly valued me simply because I exist and am made in the image and likeness of God.  It was the first place to challenge me in study, debate, and Socratic thinking as well as prayer.   

The Church had certain core founders.  We don’t know the ages of many of them - there just isn't enough information on them.  But the birth and death of Jesus can be ball-parked pretty well from historical information within the Gospels.  So the founder and head of all Christianity, the One to whom the Catholic Church looks as its founder, was roughly in His early 30s when He was crucified.  John the Evangelist’s age at that time seems to have been mid- to late-teens.  Paul of Taursus is pegged at about 30 years of age at conversion.  Even in an era of shorter life spans, not so old.  And just for grins, jump forward a couple thousand years to the 1960s and Vatican II.  One Karol Wojtyla was an advisor.  He would have been 42ish.  He’s better known as Blessed John Paul II.  Another fellow named Joseph Ratzinger was a theological consultant at that council while in his mid-30s.  He’s better known as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.  Maybe it’s my own age, but men in their 20s, 30s, 40s don’t seem like old men to me.

Yes, bishops do tend to be older - it's called experience, and administration requires experience.  But the Church has never been an old man's cabal.

Ignore the Catholic Church’s veneration of Mary, and look at a few other ladies of the Church.  The Church, with its support for institutionalized learning, has produced women physicians like Dorotea Bucca in the 15th century.   It has produced philosophers like Elena Piscopia in the 17th century, and mathematicians like Maria Agnes in 18th century.  Of the 35  Doctors of the Church – so named because of their contribution to Catholic theology and doctrine - four are women:  Hildegard of Bingen, Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, Therese of Lisieux.  Thousands of women are venerated as saints.  Abbesses are the equivalent of bishops in their jurisdiction over property and territory and the Middle Ages produced abbesses of great authority: a newly appointed bishop was sometimes required to go to a particular abbess in order to receive the signs of his office.  He didn’t get to do no bishopin’ until Mother Superior said so.  And holy women like Catherine of Siena and Mother Teresa have bent more than one pope to their will.  Since the beginning, when Jesus performed his first miracle at Cana at the behest of Mary, women have had a voice in the Church, sometimes a big one. 

But I think at the core of the comment are a combination of some common mistakes and the "I want" culture we live in.  It's the view of the priesthood as a position of power, not as something tied to the structures of spirituality.  The spiritual is as real a structure as is the physical and the priesthood is at core governed by this, not by the false concepts of power and control.  Marriage is also at core governed by this. You can say you are married all you want, but if the requirements of that sacrament have not been met, then no marriage exists.  The Church of England has been sued by a gay couple for refusing to marry them, the money quote as to why the lawsuit being "We didn't get what we wanted."  In one sense it doesn't matter - no ceremony can can make the sacrament of marriage exist where it simply does not.

The other mistake is that we live in a culture that denigrates women by demanding that they not be who they are.  It denigrates women by denying both their physical and spiritual differences from men.  This seems to come as a shock to people, but women are both physically and spiritually different from men. That doesn't mean better or worse for one or the other - it just means that we are different.   And it is sad that so many people are so caught up with the demand that women be priests that they completely ignore the fact that a woman can do something that no priest can do - she can bring new human life into the world.  It is the sign of a sick, anti-woman society that ours thinks that being life bringers is "less" than doing some other thing.

In the end, unless someone is being held captive, they are free to go to another church, with other beliefs.  It won't change reality - they still aren't a tiddlywink - but at least the action acknowledges free will. 


  1. I agree with everything you say here until you get to the "women can't be ordained". It's clear that in the early Church women were at least ordained as deacons. Now we are at the point where the Church has said that it is not even permissible to discuss women's ordination. Some very talented, highly educated, lifelong Catholics disagree. They will proceed. I expect over the next generation they will prevail and women will come to be accepted a ordained ministers. I also expect, although I will not live to see it, that some day some of them will be canonized.

    Take the time to read about these women. Read their biographies and consider the way they have come to their position. I will let this go, we don't have to agree, and it's okay to respectfully disagree. If this movement is of God, it will prosper. If it is not, it will wither.

  2. This isn't a strictly Catholic problem, either. I grew up S. Baptist, currently go to a Bible church (may actually join at some point), and the undercurrent (never spoken out loud, of course) is that women teach Sunday School, play the organ/piano, sing in the choir, and work in the office. Never understood why, of course, but we humans do tend to cling to our traditions.

    There may be some denigration of women (objectification, perhaps?) with regards to advertising and the "size zero is the perfect size" trend, but I've noticed, with disgust, that men are being put down a lot as your standard TV sitcom, and more than likely the husband is the meeker, not-quite-sharp-as-a-marble blundering clown character, aka Al Bundy. Commercials (especially on radio...I don't watch much TV these days) are really bad about that, the "wife" has to explain to the befuddled "husband" what's going on, at which point the husband utters some comedic line to get you to laugh (and have a favorable memory of the item being hawked) at how he still doesn't get it. It makes me sick, all of it.