In response to Pope Francis’ explanation of Why women cannot be ordained.
Clare Julian Carbone ARCWP
Firstly, regarding the Marian Principle which Pope Francis alludes to - Mary is not primarily a spouse. She is essentially the Theotokos – the God Bearer. She is Mother - mother of Jesus and nurturer of the values of the Divine Feminine in him. And she is Universal Mother to all peoples of all faiths and persuasions.
If Mary is to be considered “spouse” then her espousal is primarily, not to man, but to the Holy Spirit, to whom she acquiesces wholeheartedly. In this, she invites each of us into this same espousal relationship with the Divine, to bear and nurture the Christ of compassion, truth, and mercy in our own lives. She is subversive and powerful in her defiance of patriarchal domination. (ie. Magnificat – “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones; He has sent the rich away empty”)
Secondly, what about the Joseph Principle? Clearly Joseph models the male role of supporting and protecting, (not subduing) the female. Joseph protects Mary from those who would subvert her calling, and takes a back seat, as it were, giving his all to support her fulfillment.
And what about the Magdalene Principle? Through commissioning her to be the witness and messenger of the Resurrection, Jesus is clearly validating woman's priestly, authoritative stance of leadership, of teaching, and when necessary, correcting the male. In the third century, Mary Magdalene was officially acknowledged as the ‘Apostle to the Apostles’ by Bishop Hippolytus of Rome.
My hope is that Pope Francis prayerfully reconsiders the shallow and patriarchal argument he offers for not ordaining women.
Diane Dougherty ARCWP
The Doctrine of Complementarity is a teaching of the Church that embodies the differences and purpose of the male and female. The male is always the head of the church, the family, the faith community, the corporation, the social activity, the war effort. From the male comes the “seed” from which all human life is created. The male is considered the minister/administrator—a role modeled by what is known as the Petrine Principle.
The female is considered the heart, the moving spirit, the nurturer of the church, the family, the faith community, the spirit of social awareness, the vessel from which human life emerges. The Church even goes so far as to use the analogy that Jesus is the bridegroom and the female is the church-bride, the faithful spouse of the male church—a role modeled by what is known as the Marian Principle. This principle encompasses the belief that the femininity of the church is mirrored in this dedicated role of the female.
From this Doctrine of Complementarity came Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body.” Most dioceses in the US have adopted this theology in all the institutions of religious education within their purview.
From this teaching comes hierarchy, patriarchy, autocracy, caste systems, misogyny, the notion that the female cannot think clearly and decisively, which leads to the overall disrespect and abuse of women.
But Francis doesn’t stop there, he goes on to explain that the female can also be the secretary! Yes, she can serve the male in duties that are beneath their stature. She will organize, announce, and take notes—what Francis refers to as the Administrative Principle!
Clearly, Pope Francis has not evolved in his view of the place and purpose of men or women. Until that happens, until another pope with more enlightened understanding comes along, nothing in the present teachings of the Catholic Church will change in this regard. Clearly, Synodality can never be actualized until women are recognized as equal partners with men, with the ability to stand next to them in all aspects of church life.
If a church is built on a firm foundation, it will flourish. If the church believes Jesus is the cornerstone of the church, then it also must embrace the reality that Jesus was inclusive of men and women. So, if a church is built on sand (read: without women), it will fall. Women cannot be ignored. If they continue to be dismissed, the church will surely fall.
But all is not lost, my friends: Women Priests are Here! The Spirit isn’t waiting for Francis! We are the recipients of the Spirit’s energy and vision as we lead faith communities with justice and equality. Regardless of how unaware Pope Francis is, we are the prophets of our time! We are living the change that needs to happen. And by our commitment and calling to ordained ministry, we shall be known.
I was astounded to read the latest interview with Pope Francis which was published in America Magazine in which he attempts to justify the exclusion of women from ordained ministry. My focus shifted. I could hardly believe what I was reading.
By appealing to a dichotomy between the “Petrine principle” and “Marian principle” a fictious segregation of men and women is created. The Petrine principle upholds the long-stated position that only men can serve as priests. The Marian principle, which Pope Francis admits is still in need of a developed theology, places women in a subordinate role. The appeal to medieval spousal imagery of an active-receptive relationship disregards the fundamental message of the Gospel and contradicts our baptismal oneness in Christ. “. . . there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Baptism rests on faith, not on gender, nor nationality, nor other forms of discrimination.
It was my hope, like that of many others, that the invitation to participate in the Synod process would provide the opportunity to explore together the visions and viewpoints of all those seeking a big tent church, where all would be welcomed and accepted in the fullness of the gifts they have been given. This attempt to justify the exclusion of women from ordination and pigeonholing them again by the men of the church is disheartening.
Would that Pope Francis meet with women who are called to ordination. If he needs to develop a theology of women and their role in the church, who better to help him?
It should be incumbent upon everyone to recognize when they have become unequal in any relationship and at that moment work with the other person to figure out how to balance it. Even if both decide that the work distribution stays the same, it will be so due to an earnest attempt to figure out true equality in the relationship.
When someone is impaired or unlearned as in children, the disabled, as someone caregiving an impaired person, or those who are impaired due to life circumstances, we need to work diligently to find a solution with the impaired rather than deciding what it is we think they need to do and/or do it for them. It is very hard work to get to the bottom of a problem because the problem inevitably is because one type of work is seen as more valuable by someone outside of your personal relationship. Society can further compound this as in the case of money being exchanged for work out side the home, leaving the person in the home to be economically dependent on the person doing paid work. It’s all work. When paid work allows for freedoms that unpaid work doesn’t, it’s a grave injustice and imbalance. We can get selfish about the paid work because of something outside of the relationship, now it’s status and the money to act freely in our society, literally the choice to be free. This is an extraordinary violent act to the relationship.
Where two are three are gathered in my name…what happens when two or three are gathered in the name of something outside your relationship as in how society (outside) views your work division and incentivizes it? Then we are no longer gathered in the name of our God, our shared God of our relationship, we are gathered in the name of something outside of our shared God. When this happens, and most importantly, the person you are in a relationship with is not to be looked upon as outside! Otherwise we are committing violence against them.
This same concept should be applied to working relationships anywhere. Are you an employer? How do you involve those you invite in to be empowered and equal in your workplace relationship? Are you a pastor or priest? How do you invite those in to be empowered in their relationship with you?
Violence begins in every act. We each have the power to stop all violent acts, one relationship at a time. World peace would begin today if we kept equality of personhood front and center. Learn where we begin and end and where others begin and end. When we seek to be in equal relationships with each other. When we respect the work others do and allow for flexibility in roles we perform in the world. When we give and receive with humility.
And lastly, to point, Roman Catholic Women Priests are not outside of the relationship with the institutional Roman Catholic Church. It is a violent act to “other” people when the relationship is unequal due to perceived status or economic wealth when one claims the position of authority. I don’t have the wealth of the church. It is a severe imbalance to my personal freedom and the freedom of all women, our ancestors and still today. I am however in a position of authority from God, authority to stand in my equality. But I have no perceived authority in the institutional Catholic Church. So the authority to be an equal partner in the relationship is unrecognized, due to a perceived and false flaw that our bodies or gender is somehow an impediment to the role of priest regardless of what God says. This dismissal is a great act of violence against women and against God.
Does not anyone who claims superior wisdom understand the story about the lepers? Why does Jesus tell the leper that he healed to go back to the priest and tell him that he is clean? So that the priest can perform the ritual to cleanse himself, the priest, of his sin of exclusion.
Let’s get on with the cleansing ritual! The time is now. Let’s work it out.
Adina Meyer RCWP Candidate for the Priesthood
A Satire for Meditation: Ten Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Ordained to the Priesthood (adapted; used with permission)
1. Traditionally, women were the ones who prepared the meals, including the Last Supper. So, while Jesus offered the bread and wine to men, women were the ones who prepared it. Thus, only a woman may confect the Eucharist.
2. Women were at the foot of the cross as Jesus gave His life, while the men had fled. This demonstrates that only women are qualified to act in persona Christi, giving their lives for their flock. Only they can understand the cross of Christ.
3. Jesus was betrayed by Judas, a man. His lack of faith and subsequent punishment demonstrates the subordinate position all future men must take. Peter denied Christ three times!
4. Men can, of course, still be involved and respected in the church, but they must confine themselves to traditional male roles like fixing the roof or unclogging the toilet.
5. A woman was the first to proclaim the good news of the risen Christ. The Samaritan woman was the first non-Jew to spread the good news of Jesus as Messiah. Thus, preaching should be done only by women. Men might be allowed to give a brief talk on Father’s Day.
6. Joanna, Susanna, Mary Magdalene, and many other women provided financial support for Jesus and the disciples. Therefore, only women are capable of managing church finances.
7. Men are too emotional to be priests. Their conduct at football games and other sporting events confirms this.
8. Women are great listeners, whereas men are always mansplaining. Thus, women are much better suited to hearing confessions.
9. Jesus’ closest friends at Bethany, Martha and Mary, demonstrated the roles as the first deacon and the first priest.
10. Mary, the Mother of God, was the first to hold Jesus within her body, to give birth and hold Him in her hands. Therefore, it is fitting that only women should be priests, since the Jesus came into the world through the body of a woman.
Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP
In response to the Petrine Principle cited by Pope Francis as the reason women cannot be ordained:
Scripture scholar John Meier concludes that Jesus gave his movement no authority structure. St. Augustine concluded that the Petrine Principle in Matthew16:18 -19 -referring to Jesus giving the keys of the kingdom to Peter and the passage in Matthew 18:18 on binding and loosening - mean that Peter is given the keys as a representative of the community. In the early gatherings of the followers of Jesus, the entire community had the authority to decide who to include and who to exclude. Gary Wills, What Jesus Meant, pp. 80-81.)
While Pope Francis claims that the Petrine principle means that only men can be ordained priests because Jesus have the keys to Peter, Roman Catholic Women Priests claim our spiritual authority to ordain women in the apostolic tradition of Mary Magdalene, first apostle, called by the Risen Christ to proclaim the good news of Easter and the thousands of women who served in diaconal and priestly ministry for 1200 years of Christian history. ( See The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination by Gary Macy and Women Deacons - Past ,Present and Future by Gary Macy, Phyllis Zagano and William T. Ditewig)
In recent decades many Catholic theologians have moved away from the theology of complementarity and embraced a variety of theologies that affirm the full equality of all genders as images of God. This theology opens the door to all who are called to serve in priestly ministry.
A theology of Complementarity, that enshrines male supremacy and the subordination of women as God’s will, has no place in the Roman Catholic Church. It is time for Francis and the hierarchy to let it go and listen to the voices of Catholics calling the Church to live the inclusivity that Jesus modeled.
Going forward, the bottom line for me is whether Pope Francis or the hierarchy accept women priests in our lifetimes or not, our egalitarian movement is a holy revolution that is here to stay.