Friday, May 31, 2013

Pope Francis Doesn't Value Women's Issues?

I thought long and hard about whether or not to respond to this article I saw posted online yesterday. It seems to me that the author doesn't know fundamental things about Catholicism. Maybe I'm being unfair in assuming she doesn't want to know. I would like, however, to give her readers the benefit of the doubt. Even if you don't agree with the Church, it's always good to understand people who are not like you. So, let's take this article apart and explain some things.

The Vatican has enjoyed religious authority worldwide, directly controlling more than a million bishops and nuns who are followed by 1.2 billion worshipers: more than any other Christian sect.

First of all, the Church doesn't work that way. Yes, the Pope is in charge, but he rarely exerts direct control over the other bishops. She makes it sound as if he micro-manages. He usually steps in on another bishop's turf only when stuff seriously hits the fan. Pope Francis seems to have  this view of the papacy, as he prefers to be referred to as the Bishop of Rome, not the Pope. Otherwise, the hierarchy is a lot more messy than she indicates. Nuns are not equal to Bishops, but some religious superiors are not answerable to any Bishop other than the Pope. And it just gets more complicated from there.

There is little doubt that the latest sex abuse scandals have played a major role in shrinking the Church's membership and undermining its credibility.

Actually, statistically, no. Although it has undermined our authority in "pelvic issues" among the general public, the sex abuse crisis has had little to do with the numbers of people leaving the Church.

Ending mandatory celibacy would go a long way to deal with much of the hypocrisy witnessed over the years.
Also, no. Think about it: If someone told you that you could never have sex again, would you start messing with kids? Pedophiles come in many different guises, many are "happily" married men and many never took a vow of celibacy. While the cover-up in the Church is deplorable, the rate of abuse in the Church isn't any higher than any other institution. The priesthood doesn't turn people into pedophiles, pedophiles are attracted to the priesthood because they get unfettered access to kids.

It's no coincidence then that American nuns are also leaving the church in record numbers, according to Catholic World News. Their number has  dropped from 180,000 nuns in 1965 to 75,000 in 2002, and to 56,000 today. They are expected to drop to well below 40,000 by 2020.
I'm sure there are nuns leaving the Church, but the bigger issue is that the vowed religious women are dying. Orders are disappearing because of a lack of vocations to replace those elderly nuns, not because they are jumping ship.

It is common sense that women who make up the majority of the Church's worshipers, should have equal influence over a church in crisis and incapable of truly reforming itself.
And now she shows her whole hand. She has absolutely no understanding of the Catholic priesthood or how the Church actually works. Yes, women make up the majority of the worshipers. They also make up the majority of the catechists, the majority of pastoral staff, the majority of parish councils. The Church isn't about one celibate old man pontificating from on high (pun intended). It's a community. It's the body of Christ and we all have our roles. No role is less important than any other. As Paul says:

Now the body is not a single part, but many. If a foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, “Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. If they were all one part, where would the body be? But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.

- 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 

In every parish I've ever belonged to, the true power behind the throne has been a woman. The priest was there to administer the Sacraments which are necessary for salvation, but the woman was largely in charge of day-to-day finances and staffing. She helped make sure the priest made it to his appointments and had everything he needed to do his job. Women educate the young, including those who will one day become priests, and pass the faith down to future generations.

The way I see it: I can no more become a priest than a man can give birth to a child. It isn't a glass ceiling to break through as if the Church was some kind of corporation. That's just not how the Church works. I'm not being held down in some subservient role because I'm a woman.

I can still speak up and I can still be heard. Some of the best priests I've ever met held their female staff in high esteem and often rubber stamped whatever the staff wanted to do. Not to say that the priests were doormats, but they listened and they saw running a parish as a truly collaborative job.

Women have come a long way in recent years in the Church. We still need more women theologians. Women as well as men need to learn more about their faith in order to accurately and effectively pass it on. But women don't need the priesthood.    

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