Saturday, December 29, 2012

What are the Contributions and Challenges of an Inclusive Model of Priesthood Renewing Eucharistic Theology and Eucharistic Spirituality? by Josie Petermeier

An inclusive model of priesthood offers several contribution and challenges in renewing Eucharistic theology and spirituality. An inclusive model of priesthood means that all are welcome and included, all are invited to the table. This includes women, whether single or married, straight or gay. This inclusive priesthood reflects the communities they serve, which includes LGBT and divorced/remarried people.

This model stands in contrast with the Catholic Church as a whole, where many are excluded. Only males, and single ones at that, are allowed to be priests. The communities they serve also exclude women who want to be priests, people who are LGBT and divorced-remarried people. Many of these people still feel themselves to be faithful Catholics, but for reasons, often not their own choice, they are excluded from the sacraments. Being a woman is not a choice, being gay is not a choice. It's who we are, and who we understand ourselves to be. Being divorced is not always one's own choice. And it's not right to stay in a relationship that is abusive and unhealthy. Why must these people pay a price for the choices of others. They should be allowed to remarry and build a healthy life. And they should be welcome to the eucharistic table as full members of the body of Christ.

Having an inclusive model of priesthood offers several contributions to renewing Eucharistic communities. First of all by having women as priests, we recognize the whole body of Christ and acknowledge the contributions and insights that women bring to all the roles of service in Priesthood. It offers insights into God as having female qualities, as one who brings to birth something new, and as one who nurtures.

Priests who are married or have partners, can bring to their ministry insights into relationships and better understand people who are in relationships. These relationships give new understandings of our relationship with God. How do we understand God's love if we have never fallen in love? How do our human relationships enlighten our relationship with God? How does our relationship with God enrich our relationships with others?

Many women priests have had children and this experience stretches us in many ways. (No pun intended). The whole experience of pregnancy with all the health challenges that can present, really makes you realize that you have given of yourself, even your own body so that another might live. It gives new insight into the words of consecration “This is my body and blood, given for you.” As children grow, they struggle to understand their own independence. These struggles stretch parents in their patience, their compassion, their understanding, and their ability to love even when their child is pushing them away. This helps us understand what it means to love like God loves us. To love no matter what, without limits, and never give up. Parent love goes longer than the terrible twos and beyond teenage rebellion. It never ends. God's love for us never ends either. Even if we think we don't need God, God is always there, always calling us back, always loving. Like the wine skins of the gospel, we are shaped by what we bear.

By having a more inclusive model of priesthood, helps us to understand God in a wider more inclusive way, as Mother as well as Father, as birthing and nurturing, It changes our image of God. That doesn't mean that we are changing God. Rather we are recognizing all the aspects of God.

An inclusive model of priesthood seems to be more authentic to Christ's message. Jesus welcomed everyone. He chose women and men as disciples. He chose Mary Magdalen as the apostle to the apostles. Jesus called sinners and saints. He forgave sinners. The inclusive model of church doesn't have a hierarchical structure. It doesn't value symbols of power and wealth.

An inclusive model of priesthood is committed to following conscience and obeying the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

An inclusive model of priesthood has it's challenges though, how to reconcile these differences with the wider Church, should the Church ever accept women as priests. It makes it harder, yet how could women priests exclude these other groups if they themselves want to be included?

The Church in Inter Insigniores, 1976, says that women with their female bodies can not image Christ and therefore they can not be priests. But after the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, Cardinal Timothy Dolan eulogized one of the teachers, Anne Marie Murphy, and described how Christ-like she was to give her life to protect her students. So women can image Christ. I think that imaging Christ means living and loving and serving like Christ did, not something so superficial as what body parts you happened to be born with.

The Catholic church does not accept LGBT people. But they are all God's children. Their love and commitment to each other is a sign and witness of God's love for each other and to the christian community. So by including LGBT people, it makes it harder for the Church to accept an inclusive priesthood.

Accepting divorced and remarried people is another challenge. The Church upholds marriage no matter what, abusive or not. So anyone who divorces and remarries is considered as living in sin and is not allowed to receive communion. Because an inclusive priesthood allows them to receive communion, this would be a challenge to be reconciled..

There are some things that an inclusive priesthood sees as challenges in the Church.. These are differences between the church and and inclusive priesthood. An inclusive priesthood is not hierarchical, is not necessarily celibate, does not vow obedience to a Bishop, but to the Holy Spirit and their conscience. Inclusive priesthood practices simplicity and does not look for signs of power and wealth. It is hard to justify expensive gold altar appointments and brocade vestments when they are serving the poor and marginalized people.

And then there is inclusive language which offers contributions as well as challenges. The inclusive priesthood uses very inclusive language, Where God is acknowledged as Father and Mother, and words of power like King and Lord and rewritten to more equal terms. The advantage of this is to be more open and inclusive of women and all people. The Catholic Church has been working on inclusive language since the 1970s, but moving rather slowly. And recently, some of the advances have been rescinded. The Church struggles with changing language and still being doctrinally correct. Regardless, some of the translations are just awkward. There is no easy gender-neutral Mother-Father word in English. Something like “Our Progenitor, who art in heaven...” just doesn't sound right.

I look at the Catholic Church and inclusive model of priesthood, and wonder if Jesus showed up today, where would he feel the most comfortable? I would like to think that he'd feel more at home with the inclusive priesthood model of church because it is more open and welcoming to everyone. It portrays the church more as it was in the first centuries, before the church made rules about excluding women and celibate priesthood, before the church amassed power and wealth.

Sacraments and Sacramentality by Bernard Cooke, 23rd Publications, 1999.

Cardinal Dolan: Anne Marie Murphy Was Like Jesus.

Communion of Divorced and Remarried, Colin B. Donovan, STL,

Extravagant Affections: A Feminist Sacramental Theology , by Susan Ross, Continuum, 1998

Inclusive Language: Is It Necessary? Kenneth D. Whitehead,

by Josie Petermeier
December 26, 2012
TH565 Feminist Sacramental Theology

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