'I have to do this'
January 11, 2017 8:00 AM   Subscribe

Why some Catholic women are defying church doctrine and becoming priests. Canada's only female Catholic bishop has ordained the country's newest female Catholic priest. Previously, previouslier.
posted by heatherlogan (44 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Laudable disobedience, but I think it's a stretch to call them "Catholic priests."
posted by mikewebkist at 8:14 AM on January 11 [18 favorites]


It's weird for Pope Francis to say something like [we should look at theological questions with discernment] and then turn around and say [on the question of women priests, discussion is closed]. Uh, why? Why would discussion be closed on that particular issue when everything else is worth examining with discernment?
posted by Jpfed at 8:16 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


Jpfed: I suspect the response would be, "we *have* done that and decided not to change church doctrine."
posted by mikewebkist at 8:26 AM on January 11 [5 favorites]


The problem with that immutable view of the Catholic Church's doctrine though, is that it wasn't always this way --- up through the 3rd or 4th centuries there were female priests, and there were married male priests well into the 12th century. Indeed, according to some sources I've read, the church had more female than male priests in its early years.
posted by easily confused at 8:32 AM on January 11 [23 favorites]


Why would discussion be closed on that particular issue when everything else is worth examining with discernment?

Because other questions of theology do not have such direct implications to the power structure that he is the head of?

It's one thing to flex the papal muscles to get the cardinals and such to at least agree to consider not excommunicating people over a number of social issues that don't actually affect them. It's an entirely different thing to keep the hierarchy of hats from going into revolt at the idea of treating women as equals.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:42 AM on January 11 [11 favorites]


For any other type of organization it would be illegal to actively prevent women from reaching the highest positions of leadership. I would like to see at least one government go after the Catholic church, especially in countries where the Catholic Church receives money from the state or doesn't have to pay taxes.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:47 AM on January 11 [14 favorites]


Reading some commentary on Pope John Paul II's Ordinatio Sacerdotalis seems wise here.
posted by mikewebkist at 8:50 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


Bless them.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:53 AM on January 11 [4 favorites]


The problem with that immutable view of the Catholic Church's doctrine though, is that it wasn't always this way --- up through the 3rd or 4th centuries there were female priests, and there were married male priests well into the 12th century. Indeed, according to some sources I've read, the church had more female than male priests in its early years.

Pre-Nicea?

This is hardly the first thing the Catholic Church has twisted itself into inconsistent knots over, but it does seem to be -- and man, forgive me -- a sort of original sin for the structure of the Church. How different would Western history be if Nicea had had a different outcome?
posted by schadenfrau at 8:58 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


The problem with that immutable view of the Catholic Church's doctrine though, is that it wasn't always this way

Indeed. See: Women in the Catholic Church, a lengthy article on Wikipedia that notes "Through its support for institutionalised learning, the Catholic Church produced many of the world's first notable women scientists and scholars," but "Petra Munro contrasts the early Christian Church as being inclusive of women as opposed to the medieval Church, which she describes as being "based on a gender hierarchy" (Google books preview).

And from another point of view, The Neglected History of Women in Early Church from Christianity Today, which notes that early Christians didn't kill off "unwanted female babies," and women often converted to Christianity "while their male relatives remained pagans, lest they lose their senatorial status."
posted by filthy light thief at 9:02 AM on January 11 [6 favorites]


Wouldn't just be healthier to, you know, abandon that horrible institution altogether once you realize it's wholly full of shit and responsible for much of the world's evils? I mean, just speaking from my perspective as someone put through 12 years of the Catholic "educational" system.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 9:54 AM on January 11 [9 favorites]


Wouldn't just be healthier to, you know, abandon that horrible institution altogether once you realize it's wholly full of shit and responsible for much of the world's evils?

Nature abhors a vacuum.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:59 AM on January 11


When are the male nuns arriving? I'll bet they really wield a ruler!
posted by jonmc at 10:04 AM on January 11 [4 favorites]


Wouldn't just be healthier to, you know, abandon that horrible institution altogether once you realize it's wholly full of shit and responsible for much of the world's evils?

on the one hand yes but on the other hand this always always always comes up when it's women or gay priests, never when it's regular old theoretically heterosexual male priests. it's always Why do you fight so hard to get in when they don't even want you and aren't that great anyway? and never Why do you have such miserable moral standards that you accept and wallow in a privilege denied to women, what do you do with all the shame you must feel, is it really worth carrying that terrible burden every day just for the feeling of superiority it grants you?

(ok not never, I think that all the time and sometimes say it. some other people do too. but questioning why someone is willing to participate in corruption is something we should always ask of men in power before we ask it of women who are just trying to get a shot at power they don't yet have.)

like I too feel the urge to wonder why people cared so much about integrating, just for example, whites-only golf clubs when golf is such a goddamn dumb game to begin with. at least the Catholic Church is marginally less dull than golf and whatever else you can say about them, the clothes are better. but I try to hold my tongue on the Why do you even want to do this dumb thing until it's well established that everybody is permitted to. It's the principle of the thing. bigoted exclusion is bigoted exclusion.

also it's that powerful men love dumb things, so if you want power, you have to infiltrate dumb institutions. the way of the world. great taste in exclusive clubs never got world domination for anybody.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:06 AM on January 11 [34 favorites]


Wouldn't just be healthier to, you know, abandon that horrible institution altogether once you realize it's wholly full of shit and responsible for much of the world's evils?

The thing is that a lot of people really believe in the better teachings of the Church: to do good works, teach, feed and clothe the poor and whatnot. I suspect a fair number of them would rather work to change the direction of the entire institution rather than abandon it to flail and cause harm.

I mean... say you really believe in God, Jesus and so on - do you want to leave their instrument in the hands of child molesters and sexist pigs and whatnot, or do you want to try and grab the steering wheel and put it back on track?

*shrugs*

Personally, I was much happier to leave, but I'm a non-theist. Like, so non-theist that 'atheist' doesn't fit right. I couldn't do something like this, wouldn't be right.

However, their actions make sense to me given their professed beliefs and values, and I do think they may be able to do some good. A *lot* of people listen to the Pope - if they can get some of this through that thick hat of his, they could make a difference on a broader scale than if they just splinter off. More power to 'em.
posted by mordax at 10:08 AM on January 11 [12 favorites]


This is just kind of bizarre to me. They've clearly splintered, but are acting like they haven't splintered? This isn't even new; usually they're just called "Protestants".
posted by corb at 10:33 AM on January 11 [7 favorites]


For any other type of organization it would be illegal to actively prevent women from reaching the highest positions of leadership.

Pretty sure gender-based restrictions/discrimination is still very much legal in a lot of places. It's not like the Catholic Church is some lone holdout in the otherwise sexism free world we all live in.
posted by ODiV at 10:44 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


This is just kind of bizarre to me. They've clearly splintered, but are acting like they haven't splintered? This isn't even new; usually they're just called "Protestants".

Oh, that's easy:
They're not going off and forming their own thing, they're refusing to comply with an unjust order in the hope that the powers that be will listen to them.

If they just formed their own organization, the Catholic Church would memory-hole them. No addressing this. By protesting internally, they're forcing further discussion. When that likely fails, they'll probably finish with the whole splinter thing, but presently, this is an internal dispute.
posted by mordax at 10:54 AM on January 11 [15 favorites]


The thing is that a lot of people really believe in the better teachings of the Church: to do good works, teach, feed and clothe the poor and whatnot. I suspect a fair number of them would rather work to change the direction of the entire institution rather than abandon it to flail and cause harm.

I dunno, man. I also like the ideas of doing good works, teaching, feeding and clothing the poor, driving the moneymakers out of the temple, etc. I wouldn't try to pitch those at the GOP convention, though, because I know that, while they pay lip service to the New Testament, they're fundamentally misogynist shitheels who will never change because the whole enterprise is rotten from the top down. Me joining up with them isn't going to magically steer the party back toward sanity; it's just going to publicly announce the fact that I'm OK being lumped in with incorrigible misogynists. Maybe if enough people stopped letting their good names be attached to such a wretched hive, they'd stop being big enough to have any political clout.

Maybe you can see where I'm going with this.
posted by Mayor West at 11:00 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


Maybe if enough people stopped letting their good names be attached to such a wretched hive, they'd stop being big enough to have any political clout.

Maybe you can see where I'm going with this.


Everyone emigrates out of america?
posted by Greg Nog at 11:08 AM on January 11 [7 favorites]


Cue the excommunication of those ordaining them in 5... 4... 3... 2...

Oh, and "Women's Ordination Worldwide"... I'll leave this to the professionals.
posted by prepmonkey at 11:18 AM on January 11


I suspect the response would be, "we *have* done that and decided not to change church doctrine."

I'm pretty sure "No gurls allowd" is carved over the doors to St. Peter's.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:24 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


Well, except that there's a long tradition of Catholic individual congregations, priests, and orders dissenting from the hierarchy and pushing back in order to be able to keep doing good works. Nuns in particular have a long history of taking a good strong look at the hierarchy, looking at the community of people their order serves, and choosing who is worth following. There's value in that.

I don't know. As someone who left the Church but carried away the belief in good works over good thoughts, and who has been delighted to see some of the values my Catholic upbringing left me reflected elsewhere in orgs I can get behind... but who also has been cheerfully talking to lots of people who feel much more strongly connected to the God part of things, and encouraging them to push back and stay? I think it's about figuring out where you feel most connected and working out where to pick your battles. I left because I didn't feel connected deeply enough to fight it, but I know people who feel differently and I'd rather support them than try and tear them away from things they feel strongly about.
posted by sciatrix at 11:26 AM on January 11 [14 favorites]


Cue the excommunication of those ordaining them in 5... 4... 3... 2...

You read the article, right?
The female priest movement began in Germany in 2002 when a bishop in good standing with the Catholic Church, referred to within the movement as "Bishop X," ordained seven women in secret.

Having a bishop within the Church perform the ordinations, members of the movement argue, allowed the apostolic succession — the line of bishops stretching back to the time of the apostles — to be preserved.

[...]

When women in the movement get ordained, they are automatically excommunicated by the Vatican.
posted by heatherlogan at 11:31 AM on January 11 [6 favorites]


This is just kind of bizarre to me. They've clearly splintered, but are acting like they haven't splintered? This isn't even new; usually they're just called "Protestants".

There've been plenty of schisms in the history of the Church, once with three Popes at a time.

Not that anyone has noticed, but there's an Anti-Pope in El Palmar de Troya and the whole saga would make a nifty Coen Brothers film.
posted by sukeban at 11:32 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


Which is all to say... The Church isn't the hierarchy, any more than America is the GOP. Before you push these women to leave, think about why it is that all liberal Americans haven't left other conservative areas and communities they were born into. The idea that you can walk away from something as tied into support networks as churches often are without facing any drawbacks is certainly a peculiar blind spot here, especially given how frequently folks here have patiently tried to explain it.
posted by sciatrix at 11:35 AM on January 11 [31 favorites]


Maybe you can see where I'm going with this.

I can see that you're making a lot of facile comparisons, and assuming things that history simply doesn't bear out.

When you cede the ground to the bad guys, the bad guys don't dry up and blow away. Then they're just in charge. Your GOP derail is the same: they didn't dry up and blow away. The inmates just started running the asylum. Institutions are like that - they have inertia behind them. They endure. They can be steered, but burning them down? That's hard.

The Catholic Church has been around for what amounts to forever. There's no obtaining a critical mass of defectors to make them historically irrelevant without mass extinction, give or take. People should leave if they feel like leaving. People who want to see their values represented by the Church should stay and fight, and we should be kind to them for taking a stand.

The idea that you can walk away from something as tied into support networks as churches often are without facing any drawbacks is certainly a peculiar blind spot here, especially given how frequently folks here have patiently tried to explain it.

Yeah. The world is actually pretty messy, and telling people 'just go' is often impractical and callous.
posted by mordax at 11:43 AM on January 11 [16 favorites]


I qualify for automatic excommunication, having helped more than 1 young woman get access to abortion. 12 years of RC education. I have no love for the Church. But this bishop - badass.
posted by theora55 at 12:18 PM on January 11 [4 favorites]


Why some Catholic women are defying church doctrine and becoming priests.

Because it's 2017?
posted by zachlipton at 12:27 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]


When are the male nuns arriving? I'll bet they really wield a ruler!

About the same time the female friars and monks arrive, probably. There are differences and variations, but if you are a male Catholic who wants to live in seclusion and pray with his brothers, or to teach in Catholic schools and frighten the children, or to serve the community within a religious order, or to wear an unbecoming long dress and get giggled at on public transit, you have a great many options for doing exactly that and have had for centuries and centuries. Nuns do not have a whole category of special privileges exclusive to women except for marrying God, if that is even a real thing, not that I would know. and frankly if anybody wants to marry him, whether or not they are a nun, I think it would be only polite to wait for him to propose.

now, if you'd rather be a priest and do everything that is permitted to and required of priests, that's also an option, if you're a Catholic man. lucky you, with all your choices.
posted by queenofbithynia at 1:32 PM on January 11 [15 favorites]


There are over 200 married Catholic priests today in the Latin Church. Several of the Eastern Catholic churches have married priests. See the Wikipedia entry on Clerical Celibacy.

Basically, you convert under some circumstances while married, or are in an Eastern Church which recognizes the primacy of the Pope.
posted by blob at 1:59 PM on January 11 [3 favorites]


This is just kind of bizarre to me. They've clearly splintered, but are acting like they haven't splintered? This isn't even new; usually they're just called "Protestants".

It's a Catholic tradition too though, after all the Catholics are the ones that rewrote the Nicene Creed and then went around pretending the Orthodox church was the one splintering from them.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 3:03 PM on January 11 [7 favorites]


There is a precedent for this, and that precedent worked: The Philadelphia Eleven.
posted by Polyhymnia at 3:43 PM on January 11 [3 favorites]


This isn't even new; usually they're just called "Protestants"

I'm astonished how many Catholics don't know they would be much happier as Protestants.
"Do you believe transubstantiation?"
"No, it's totally mad. It's obviously a wafer. I know it is because I eat it after."
"What about gay people and married priests"
"Sure they're not harming anyone and wouldn't it be healthier for all concerned if priests had families"
"Have you considered protestantism?"
"God no! My mother would spin in her grave! And the kids would have to change schools"
posted by Damienmce at 6:43 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


When women in the movement get ordained, they are automatically excommunicated by the Vatican.

So either they're not Catholic anymore or they don't think the Vatican can excommunicate...which also makes them not Catholic?
posted by timdiggerm at 7:42 AM on January 12 [4 favorites]


The topic of ordination of women is so fascinating to me. I have a relationship with a community of women religious*--for a host of complex reasons--many of whom would say that they experience a sense of equality within the Roman Catholic Church and would not want to become priests. However, it is unknowable how much of those words reflect coercive power structures that could very negatively affect their lives should they disagree publicly.

I hope someday the RCC will go back to the roots of early Christianity and allow the ordination of women. Although the church does hold that men and women are equal officially, in practice, it doesn't seem very equal when nearly all the members of the Curia are men and all final decision making power rests in the hands of men. Guess they aren't ready to make restitution for centuries of harm to women.

I wonder how the women in the article view LGBTQ people serving in the church and other social issues (e.g., reproductive rights, marriage equality, etc).

(*Tiny nitpick: Nuns live cloistered lives, while women religious enact their vocation in non-cloistered communities.)
posted by Excommunicated Cardinal at 8:40 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]


I wonder how the women in the article view LGBTQ people serving in the church and other social issues (e.g., reproductive rights, marriage equality, etc).

As far as I understand it, mainstream Catholic opinion is that LGBTQ people serving in the church is fine as long as they're perfectly sexually celibate--so hey, they make real great priests/nuns, right? (And in fact, historically, nunneries and monastaries were actually not bad places to be for a queer person or uncommon places to find one, particularly during the Middle Ages--although, uh, at that time the celibacy thing was also often more honored in the breach than in the letter.)

Today, that sort of sucks balls, because we have better options. That said, as someone who has been a part of asexual-spectrum communities for ten years, I certainly have run across queer Catholic people (as well as some people from other faiths) who identify as being called to be celibate, at least as far as sex goes but not necessarily in terms of family, emotional relationships, etc. I have also run across a whole lot of Catholics who view someone like me or like the folks I'm talking about as anathema and push heteronormativity without cease. *shrugs* Catholicism: land of contrasts.

Also, lol at everyone who keeps going "disagreeing with the hierarchy makes you not Catholic now." Splinter Catholic groups, factions, and theological interpretations have been historically popping up and being reabsorbed into the Church--sometimes after having gained victory in the theology of the hierarchy, and sometimes just in the manner of Catholic rank and file being reabsorbed into the mainstream after rebellious movements have been broken. Again, the hierarchy is the leadership of the Church, but it's not the whole of the Church and it never has been.

Eyebrows had a good comment a year ago about orthopraxic vs orthodoxic faiths, in which she pointed out that the Catholic Church is very much an orthopraxic faith--that is, it doesn't necessarily matter about your opinions as much as in an orthodoxic faith as long as you keep to the right practices to demonstrate that faith. What that means is that the Catholic Church has a long, long history of dissent within its walls, with excommunication only happening in relatively extreme cases--usually those that make the hierarchy feel threatened.

There's more to being a Protestant than just disagreeing with the Catholic hierarchy on some point of politics or theology. The Reformation is a specific historical tradition and phenomenon; it... doesn't really make sense to lump in very recent splinter Catholic groups with the intellectual children of Protestant traditions, especially in cases where they have relatively little ideological overlap. Orthodox Christians aren't under the Catholic banner either, technically, but I wouldn't call them Protestant either. Think about these religious traditions as being like an evolutionary tree--a recent split like this off the Catholic branch doesn't magically just get picked up and dumped into the Protestant branches of the tree.

goddammit I'm an atheist and a temple Satanist why am I the one walking through all this
posted by sciatrix at 9:12 AM on January 12 [5 favorites]


Orthodox Christians aren't under the Catholic banner either, technically, but I wouldn't call them Protestant either.

And they'd be very upset if you called them Protestants, what with their perspective being that Catholicism split off from them a thousand years ago.

doesn't really make sense to lump in very recent splinter Catholic groups with the intellectual children of Protestant traditions

This is a very good point I hadn't thought about. I don't know what word the RCC would use other than "schismatics"?
posted by timdiggerm at 9:17 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]


Oh, well, "heretics" is the usual favorite if you've gotten to the point of excommunicating people over it.
posted by sciatrix at 9:19 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]


I'm mostly thinking about how the people themselves think about it, mind you. It's sort of like what you get when you ask who Taiwan is--you'll get different answers from someone who is Taiwanese than you will if you ask the People's Republic of China. Only with the belief about whether you belong in the big tent going exactly the other way.
posted by sciatrix at 9:21 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Here's a list of other more established independent Catholic groups.

The Old Catholics split in the 19th century when they rejected papal infallibility. They also ordain women these days. You've got the tiny ultratrad groups who say there's no valid Pope or they're the Pope, hate Vatican II, and definitely don't ordain women. The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association reports to the Chinese gov't, and is overall unacceptable to the Vatican, but on the individual level you've got schismatic bishops recognized only by Beijing, bishops recognized by both Beijing and Rome, and underground bishops only recognized by Rome.

So basically they're Catholic, but not Roman Catholic, which is a small but established niche...
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 5:10 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


This is just kind of bizarre to me. They've clearly splintered, but are acting like they haven't splintered? This isn't even new; usually they're just called "Protestants".
posted by corb at 10:33 on January 11
Corb, don't you still consider yourself a Republican?
posted by adrienneleigh at 9:36 PM on January 12


Well yes, but the Republican Party doesn't really excommunicate in the same way. I mean I broke out in pretty open rebellion this summer and I still haven't been stripped of party positions. If they had a Creed of Trump that I had to swear to in order to participate I'd be out in a flash.
posted by corb at 1:00 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Sure, but the Nicene Creed doesn't say a goddamn thing about female priests. (In early Christianity there were plenty, Paul and his weird hangups about women notwithstanding.) Lots and lots of Catholics have all sorts of issues with various points of dogma promoted by the hierarchy & still consider themselves to be Catholic. These women even maintain the apostolic succession! Go them, i say!
posted by adrienneleigh at 3:02 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


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