Monday, January 10, 2011

feminism and matters of obedience...

... "I would make a good Deacon." she dejectedly informed me one evening. And I have no doubt in my mind that she would, in fact, make a wonderful devoted deacon ... were she a man.

This heartfelt, and no doubt painful, admission does not make her a heretic in my eyes. She is not trying to subvert the Church with liberal feminist ideology. She doesn't march around the parish collecting signatures for a petition on women's ordination or chain herself to the pillars in front of the church and other such nonsense.

She is quietly obedient to the Church's teachings on the matter despite the fact that she doesn't fully understand them. Like a parent who sets down rules for their children, who may not fully understand the reasoning behind said rules but out of love for their parents and fearing the repercussions, the children faithfully obey.

As a young girl I liked to test the boundaries of my mother's rules. I thought they were unfair and restrictive so I sought to break them at every opportunity. It wasn't until I was a grown woman with a child of my own did I see the boundaries were set for my own good. And in hindsight, no good ever resulted from me intentionality going against my family's wishes.

My dear friend, we'll call Mrs. J, is very active in the parish and involved in several ministries. I have no reason to doubt her love for Christ's Church. I just wish she could see that her role within our parish is valued and means so much to so many. Instead she feels like the only positions within the Church that are of any significance are of priest and deacon... roles held by men.

Feminism has taught her that unless she is pursuing man's work her efforts hold no worth. It is shameful that so many believe following the role of a Catholic woman within the Church is some how less than that of a man's.

Finding out she secretly desires the diaconate actually made me appreciate her even more and proves to me that she is of greater faith than most. She doesn't bemoan the unfairness of it all or attempt to slander the Church. Ironically, Mrs. J reminds me of a woman dutifully obeying her husband; "Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything." Ephesians 5:21-25

No where in there does it say you must fully comprehend in order to obedient. It doesn't say "obey without question", just obey out of reverence for Christ, which Mrs. J does with every ounce of her being.

I feel the same way towards young girls who want to be altar servers, of course now there is nothing to stop them. But it's just another instance where they are trained by society and well meaning feminist mothers that nothing they accomplish is of worth unless it's a job typically reserved for a man. There is no loss of dignity in embracing a femininity similar to that of Mary. Women shouldn't feel like that have to compete and behave like boys to live meaningful spiritual lives. Personally, I wish the practice of female servers could be replaced with the Handmaids of Mary.

Moms and Fathers of daughters reading this [especially priests], the Handmaids of Mary is a unique society of young girls that "serve" the mass by kneeling at the altar modeling the strength exhibited by Mary at the foot of the Cross.

I hope Mrs. J reads this and knows that she is valued and admired, that she doesn't have to doubt her worth and sacrifice her femininity. That really goes for any woman reading this.

40 comments:

Piotrek said...

OK, this one deserves a "wow". I hope "Handmaids of Mary" catches on.

Angela Messenger said...

Great post! St. Therese of Lisieux wanted to be a priest but like your friend Mrs. J. she didn't bemoan the fact she couldn't.

Blipfillypicklepoo said...

Thanks for the post. Very interesting.

Anna said...

The other day I was trying to articulate with Orthodox friends why women couldn't become priests. We really didn't come up with anything satisfactory, but "feminism has taught her that unless she is pursuing man's work her efforts hold no worth" would have been a good starting point.

Kate said...

Thank you. I was an alter server when I was young because it was the ONLY way to participate in my church at that age. I would have loved to be a Handmaiden Of Mary (and still would as an adult). However I did greatly enjoy carrying the candles in the procession :)

Nan said...

Anna, Jesus was incarnate man. The 12 Apostles were all men. Only men can stand in Persona Christi. The Church is the bride, Jesus is the bridegroom. These are all reasons that women can't be Priests.

Anna said...

Nan, my friends and I were trying to come up with something to explain to others why women can't become priests. As Orthodox Christians we are satisfied with that answer, but to others that often doesn't go over well

Anna said...

P.S. Nice icon, I assume it's by your hand?

Terry Nelson said...

Couldn't female altar servers be considered another variant of the handmaids of Mary?

priest's wife said...

Anna- another 'arguement' to explain my women can't be priests- Theotokos mary, martha, Mary, the Magdalene, etc- all sat at the feet of Christ as true disciples- a cultural water shed- they were not apostles/priests. So if the Theotokos wasn't ordained by her Son- no way can I become priest

elena maria vidal said...

Excellent post!

Patty Lee said...

We could see this a different way: women don't need to be priests. The gifts and strengths God has given to most women, whether or not they choose to embrace them, are those that priesthood can confer on a select group of men who embrace them: profound humility; the ability to serve as a medium for life and transformation; the power to nurture and guide. The priest is a Father, but he is a parent in ways that are not unlike that of a mother. He is "domestic" insofar as the Church is his domicile, and he is entrusted with life (and Life) in a more profound way than men generally are.

By the way, St Therese of Liseux did say that God would sort it all out in heaven; she thought women go the bad end of the stick, but that the first will be last and so forth. I was quite amused at her thoughts on that score, actually!

. said...

As Cardinal Arinze once said, if the Lord wanted women priests, for sure He would made His Mother priest.

She was not so, there's no need for women priests at all. We have other missions.

I linked to this post at This burning fire.
http://thisburningfire.blogspot.com/

Mary B said...

Where Christ gave his apostles the Mass and the call to preach and the ability to forgive sins-- we see Sacraments. Where Christ grew in a family and made wine at a wedding we see Marriage raised to the level of Sacrament.
I see Christ calling women to kneel at his feet or serve as Martha did as Sacrament. Somehow we have allowed women to become consecrated without an understanding that it is a sign of Christ's presence. Perhaps that is why so many women living their calling keep looking.

Richard Truman Michael said...

I think the church could easily bring back the consecrated (not ordained) deaconness that taught, helped the sick, and assisted female converts. But it would need to be clarified otherwise nutty woman would start preaches the church accpets woman priests or something silly.

Seraphic said...

Deaconnesses would be the thin edge of the wedge. Ask the Anglicans/Episcopalians.

We don't baptise women naked and by immersion anymore. That was the sole function of early Church "deaconnesses."

I thoroughly agree with Crescat that this idea that men's traditional roles, functions, sports, whatever, are SO UTTERLY SUPERIOR to anything women have, and therefore to be a real complete woman-with-the-mostest, a woman must take them, is completely stupid.

If you want to read a sad story, read the story of the first woman to join the National Hockey League. She spent most of her time on the bench while her countrywomen soared as Olympic women's hockey gold-medallists.

And then watch the Anglican Church. For every clergyman who leaves to join the Catholic church, there's a woman to replace him. And, heaven only knows, if there's anything churches lack, it's women. /sarcasm

Sid said...

Splendid post!

The Little Way said...

The one thing I try to focus on when this subject comes up with some of my liberation theology friends is that humility is at the core of our faith. And the priesthood is not a job, it's a vocation, and just like motherhood, the equal opportunity tag does not and cannot apply. There's no such thing as having too much humility. I don't need to be in charge to serve Christ. I would also second what Patty Lee said about the gifts and strengths we have as women and add that I wish more women would value what they have rather than bemoan what they think they don't.

I'm a tad sensitive about some of the generalizations I hear about female servers because I'm the mother of one. My daughter doesn't serve out of some misguided demand for equal treatment. We simply couldn't bear to hear our pastor begging for servers and seeing no one step forward. Now that a few boys have been recruited into the ranks, my child is stepping aside. Despite having many physical problems to overcome, she served reliably and with the utmost reverence and attention. Neither she nor I have any delusions about the priesthood. I'd like to think that being so close to the Holy Sacrifice has planted a seed for a possible vocation to the consecrated life. We'll see. But rest assured we're more than thrilled to finally see Father with a corps of male servers.
God's Blessings on all

Auditions for All said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
romishgraffiti said...

One of the most outrageous appeals to finer detail I have ever seen was in an Amazon book review of a book defending male-only priesthood (by a woman religious fyi) in which a commenter said yes, he accepts the Church's teaching on male-only priesthood, but guess what? The Church hasn't formally defined what maleness is. /facepalm

Donna said...

True confession here, Kat. Something you don't know about me. Long before I converted to Catholicism, I felt I might be called to ordination. I strongly desired to serve the Church in that way, and it didn't leave after conversion. Surprise. Surprise. I had a lot to work through, but I finally came to the conclusion that my call to Catholicism pre-empted any call to priesthood. I was in the Episcopal Church for 10 years and knew a terific woman who was a priest in that Churh. She didn't have a wacky theology. Her desire was to serve. She is no longer with us, and I think of her often. I still don't have all the answers, but I keep my mouth shut about it. I assent to the Church's teachings in every way, including priesthood.

vic said...

So sad that there are still so many conservative, narrow-minded people who are full of prejudices in the world! How can the world be a better place with those opinions? Why does a woman have to give up the dream of her life just because that is blindly considered to be a "man's job" while men will never have to give up their dreams?

Now I understand why there are people who are ready to kill their female fetus or baby to wait for the birth of a baby boy!

The world would never have to suffer from those terrible things happenning years after years like unreasonable wars if women ruled it.

Poor men! They cannot do anything but "men's jobs". If all women took their places, where would they go? To the museums, maybe?

The Crescat said...

Vic, was that sarcasm or an attempt at an intelligent reply because it reads like you just had a stroke at your keyboard.

vic said...

These ideas sound exactly like those of the Talibans or the Muslims, nothing better. I give up!

Nan said...

@Anna, yes, St. Michael is my first attempt.

I went to Russia in Sept. and among my companions were two Methodist women ministers. Before we went, one said that she was interested in Orthodox spirituality, which I eventually concluded meant that she likes icons. Another companion was a newly-ordained Orthodox priest who is an absolute delight. The methodist girls asked us both questions, me about Catholicism, him about Orthodoxy and I could see that the longer we were there, the more frustrated they were.

First, Fr. was the honored guest when we had lunch at a couple of rectories, and got bumped to the head of the line in his cassock. They felt like second-class citizens. Second, the only responses they got were straight up Orthodox doctrine, which they don't agree with. At one point, one of them said she was getting frustrated and needed to change the subject. Third, they expected Russia to mirror the US, which is unreasonable on many levels. I wasn't at all surprised that they were frustrated and could see it coming.

One of their big frustrations is that the Anglican communion is fragmenting, in part due to women's ordination. In the Methodist church, anyone who can pay for seminary can enter and become a minister and they were more about anger and power than about serving.

romishgraffiti said...

Why does a woman have to give up the dream of her life just because that is blindly considered to be a "man's job" while men will never have to give up their dreams?

A). priesthood is not a job, it's calling. B). There is both an interior call and an exterior call to priesthood. The latter is the discernment of the Church. C). Not even men get to unilaterally decide they have a calling and D). Episcopal church is just down the street if people don't like it. ie. The Taliban will kill you if you attempt to leave Islam. There is no such equivalent in Catholicism. Hyperbole much?

Denita said...

OK, here's my 2c worth: I don't think women need to be priests, deacons, etc. But at the same time, they don't all have to wives and mothers either. St. Therese is a good saint in many ways, but he was a consecrated sister. What I need is a female saint who never married, never took the habit, never had kids. In other words, one like myself. My only problem with the Church is the fact that there is emphasis on marriage and family, and to some extent vocations to religious life, but no place for a woman like me. I'm a 48-year-old virgin and proud of it. I don't want to be a sister, and definitely don't want to be a deacon or priest. I love the Church. I just wish people in the Church would respect me for my decision and not act like I don't matter. Just because I'm not a wife doesn't mean I'm ot worthless as a woman. 'Nuf said

K said...

"Feminism has taught her that unless she is pursuing man's work her efforts hold no worth. "

Cat, you have summarized in a nutshell the fundamental logical fallacy of so-called feminism. Thank you.

vic said...

Okay, so it's not a real job like the jobs that people do in society, I agree. But they do live by that calling, right? I mean they do not have to find a job besides that "calling" to earn a living.

The Talibans will definitely kill or harm a woman if they dare to do whatever is considered to be "men's jobs". The Muslims consider women to be inferior to men. And the Catholics do not favour women, either. That's why I see no difference in these opinions.

So, it's your own choice: to live in freedom and enjoy it OR to be abused, despised and unfairly treated by men. Who do you want to be?

By the way, what do people think about those sexual harassment and abuse done by our "respectable" bishops recently? Will those bad things happen if the bishops are female?

Nan said...

vic,

The priest at my local Ruthenian Church has a job in addition to his Vocation as do many Orthodox priests.

Catholics do favor women.

By including women in his followers, Jesus permanently changed society.

It was a woman, The Blessed Virgin Mary, who gave birth to God and raised him.

It was to a woman, Mary Magdalene, the risen Christ first revealed himself.

It was a woman, St. Catherine of Siena, who hounded the pope to return to Rome from France. He did.

Many women have taken exalted positions within the Church. Not being priests or deacons is totally irrelevant.

Bad things are happening for Christian sects that ordain women as that is contrary to the Church Jesus founded. He chose men as his apostles. Period.

Women who want to be ordained seem to view ordination as a ticket to power. The priests I know are holy and humble and were ordained because they answered God's call, not because they wanted any sort of glory, but because they were obedient to God. The Church saw that they truly had a call and ordained them. Many of these men are later vocations who had successful careers in the world, which they gave up, together with all thoughts of having a family of their own so they can be Father to many. This is a sacrificial act, not a bid for obtaining power.

I can't comment on Anglican Bishops as I'm not familiar with any of their acts. I can however, state affirmatively that if you put women in a position of power there's no reason to believe they won't use it to their personal benefit, especially as ordination of women is contrary to God's law. Note particularly that married Anglican priests is an innovation dating only from the 19th century, at least that's what I'm told. Married bishops is another abomination as the Episcopacy has always been celibate in Christian tradition.

vic said...

I'm sorry but the bishops who commited sexual crimes I mentioned are CATHOLIC.

Donna said...

Freedom=freedom from sin. God is with me in my response to His grace. He has never left me and gives me great solace. No one comes to Him without paying a price. A priest must give His sexuality back to God, knowing He wanted to have a wife and children. A nun says that it is then given back to him with great and transformed power. A woman who knows she would be a great priest gives that longing, which I believe came from God, back to God and He gives great empathy, compassion, and understanding, and a life that she would never have imagined. A same-sex attracted male who knows he would be a great priest and yet knows that the Church, in charity, deems it best that he not take Holy Orders, gives that back to God, and He returns with healing. Life is not perfect for anyone. I am convinced that many people could be great priests but are not called, for whatever reason. If we turn it over to God, He, in turn, gives back to us in ways we never could imagine. It is a mystery.

Seraphic said...

Denita, St. Catherine of Siena was not a wife, mother or nun. She was a third order Dominican, but she was not a nun.

Many of the earliest female saint weren't nuns, wives or mothers, either. Before monastic life for women took off, Single women opted for life-long virginity and lived as sacred presences in their family homes.

Louisa May Alcott--not a Catholic, of course--is one very well-respected woman who lived Single all her life. Oh, and Flannery O'Connor WAS a Single Catholic woman all her life!

Seraphic said...

Meanwhile, I find it odd for a man to liken the Catholic women writing on this blog about the priesthood to the Taliban. Under the Taliban, we wouldn't be able to read, let alone show our grasp of orthodox Catholic theology and our comfort with our feminity and our faith.

Sorry, but if I can't be faithful to the doctrine of the Church, it ain't my revolution.

Suburbanbanshee said...

Heh. Women being ordained is an excuse for men to let them do all the work and be left holding the baby and the blame, too. And the sad thing is that a lot of women are perfectly willing to do all the work, if they can boss people around a little.

Look at the Episcopalians. Schori probably would have been a lot happier as a wife, mother, and oceanographer. Now everything that happens is her fault, and I bet it's been years since she's been out on the water. But somehow, the male Episcopalian bishops (like that guy in New Hampshire) seem to have plenty of time for vacations and parties. Hmmmmmmmm. ;)

threehearts said...

Denita
Read the life of Teresa Helena Higginson. You can find it on the 'net. The reasons she was never canonized are stupid but she was a single woman who is a shining example to one such as you. Her devotion was to Wisdom or the divine intellect

Denita said...

Seraphic- Thank you for the information. I didn't know Flannery O'Connor was single. I'll need to read more.
theehearts- Thank you, too. Was Teresa Catholic? Devotion to Wisdom sounds very New Age. But I will look her up.

Jane said...

Teresa Higginson has the title "Servant of God." Her cause for canonization was closed in the 1930s.

Buster Kitty said...

Can we change the subject?

The woman in the picture looks like she got yelled at in Confession. I know the feeling...

David L Alexander said...

"We don't baptise women naked and by immersion anymore. That was the sole function of early Church 'deaconnesses.'"

Not exactly. Click here.