A recent petition was made to the Australian Catholic Bishops, calling them to recognise the crisis that has gripped the church on the issue of a lack of priestly vocations, and calling on them to include among their ranks married and female clergy. The Author thinks that a response to this attempt is necessary. The issue of married clergy has to be treated as a separate issue, and so this current wonderblog entry will focus on the issue of female Ordination.
The logic that normally underpins arguments for female ordination stems from Liberal notions of equality. This tied in with the cultural phenomenon of Feminism (not to be confused with Feminism as a political theory), has yielded a strange distillate whereby on the one hand, it asserts upholding the dignity of women, a laudable goal. On the other hand, unfortunately, the most strident form of feminism in our postmodern culture has sought tirelessly to uphold that dignity by making - and by that I mean almost forcing- women mimic men. This comes from, as Pia De Solenni argued during her April 27 conference at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, a confused notion of power and authority. According to what is an essentially Liberal argument, particular roles, rather than being seen as part of a complementarity of roles within a social organism, are seen as avenues of privilege that in reality, all individuals should be entitled to access. Dignity, seen in this light, is dependent on the acquisition of what is misconstrued to be a position of power.Thus, rather than see the role of the priesthood as acting as an incarnation of Christ in soul and body, it is seen as a site of official authority and power. Denial of this "position" to women, thus, is seen as a form of sexual discrimination.
The logic of female ordination, according to David Fitch, if it indeed rests on Liberal notions of egalitarianism, is flawed on several important aspects. First, it proceeds from a Hobbesian ontology of a war of all against all, which runs contrary of a Christian ontology of participation in God and one another. Proceeding from a liberal starting point that accepts the irredemability of "the wounds of sin and division" cannot hope to achieve any form of unity. Secondly, it achieves equality by forcing a stripping down of all cultural and even gender differences into one homogenous reduction. Thirdly, and most importantly, the reduction advocates of women priests seek is ironically is virtually always defined in masculine terms.
According to de Solenni, the Liberal line of argument inherent in the arguments for female participation ignores the complementarity of roles within the Church in accordance to the masculine and feminine natures of humanity, which are not incidental and thus insignificant, but rather the core of human identity. The loss of the image of the Church as a truly social reality - a corpus verum in William Cavanaugh's parlance - and instead the misconceptualisation of the Church as merely an institution with individuals scurrying around working their own salvation or political careers, has contributed greatly to this malaise, which de Solenni argues is underpinned by an "overemphasis of the masculine". Talking about ordaining women into the priesthood, thus, is taking on board the feminism of fashion, and forcing a masculine paradigm onto women, thereby undermining the dignity that is due to women qua women."No doubt," continues de Solenni, "women need a voice in the Church, but it must be an authentic voice and not their voice made to sound like a man's."But critique of the feminist line is one thing. Positing an alternative model is another. In this, de Solenni argues that the history of the Church is comprised of a litany of the "active participation of women".
Most significantly, "It was the consent, understanding and devotion of a woman that brought the Church to us," and the fact that the Virgin Mary was not chosen by her son to be a priest "indicates that the sacrament does not discriminate on the basis of dignity or merit".
Labels: Church and Culture, ecclesiology, philosophy, politics