New Jersey -- What is it with the Roman Catholic Church and women?
In the tent city Sister Mary with residents Katiana Yeye, 10, left, and Marvice Dorleis, 10. Sister Mary Finnick, in plain clothes, runs the retreat house, Matthew 25, in Haiti, that has cared for upwards of 2,000 people after the earthquake. (Aristide Economopoulos/The Star-Ledger)
What is it with the Roman Catholic Church and women?
Sunday, July 18, 2010,
Facing one of the worst scandals in its recent history--revelations of rape and sexual abuse of minors by priests, cover-ups by bishops here and abroad--the Vatican, on Thursday, issued a revision to its internal laws regarding sex-abuser priests AND, at the same time, in the same document, it puts the ordination of women as priests in the same, grave category of offense as pedophilia and child sex abuse?
The more grave delict of the attempted sacred ordination of a woman is also reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:
1° With due regard for can. 1378 of the Code of Canon Law, both the one who attempts to confer sacred ordination on a woman, and she who attempts to receive sacred ordination, incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.
2° If the one attempting to confer sacred ordination, or the woman who attempts to receive sacred ordination, is a member of the Christian faithful subject to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, with due regard for can. 1443 of that Code, he or she is to be punished by major excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.
3° If the guilty party is a cleric he may be punished by dismissal or deposition.
A delict, by the way, is an offense, or, in full, graviora delicta, or grave offenses. Why, though, include this offense in a document that was billed as a response to the sexual abuse crisis in the Church? And, right up there with heresy, apostasy and schism? Also mentioned as grave delicts are the possession of child pornography and sexual abuse of mentally disabled adults.
Still why the issue of women's ordination in this document? Why, to put it another way, undercut whatever good this document was intended to accomplish by creating such an unneccessary diversion? After all, everyone knows the Vatican stands firm against the ordination of women. Why the need to repeat it here?
Either the Vatican just doesn't get it, doesn't understand how the link may be perceived, or it doesn't care, or, could it be that some folks there actually think there is a connection between priest sex abuse and the ordination of women?
On the ordination of women, the Vatican certainly seems to be unaware of the thinking of its American faithful: In a poll released in May, by the New York Times and CBS News, 59 % of American Catholics favor ordaining women; 33 percent are opposed.
I look back--far back--to the Old and New Testament, and I see Jesus frequently in the company of women even though they were marginalized in society. Social convention, evidently, didn't limit Jesus Christ. Listen to what Luke's Gospel for today's Mass (10:38-42) reports: Jesus spends some time in a village in the company of Martha and her sister, Mary, the former engaged in domestic pursuits, preparing to serve him--and complaining that Mary isn't helping her--and the latter listening to and speaking with Jesus. Jesus says:
"Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."
Jesus didn't seem to have the problem with women that the organized Church leadership has today. It's odd, really, because in the early church, before the construction of formal edifices for worship, houses were churches and women were often the heads of these church houses. These women were persecuted; they were willing to die for their faith, for their willingness to show others the way. So, now, we excommunicate women--and those who aid them--as they seek to be ordained? And we label their efforts a grave delict in the same category as sex abuse?
The release of this document follows the launch of the Vatican's inquisition against American nuns. Apparently, two sweeping investigations are underway. As we contemplate what may be prompting this investigation, it may be useful to have a sense of what American nuns have accomplished in the last several hundred years. Try Writing women back into history: The first feminists." And take a look at Robert Braun's column today about a nun in Haiti.
On these current investigations, the following from Laurie Goodstein in the New York Times (July 1, 2009):
“In the last four decades since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, many American nuns stopped wearing religious habits, left convents to live independently and went into new lines of work: academia and other professions, social and political advocacy and grass-roots organizations that serve the poor or promote spirituality. A few nuns have also been active in organizations that advocate changes in the church like ordaining women and married men as priests.
“Some sisters surmise that the Vatican and even some American bishops are trying to shift them back into living in convents, wearing habits or at least identifiable religious garb, ordering their schedules around daily prayers and working primarily in Roman Catholic institutions, like schools and hospitals.”
A confidential report on what is called an “Apostolic Visitation” which is looking into “the quality of life of American nuns” is expected by the middle of 2011. A second investigation, ordered by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and running concurrently with the first, the Apostolic Visitation, will deal with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella organization claiming some 1,500 members from about 95 percent of women’s religious orders. The Leadership Conference has allegedly failed to uphold Church teaching on the male-only priesthood, homosexuality and the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church as the means to salvation.
According to Maureen Dowd, in "The Nun's Story," a column on the inquisition:
“There is no more unassailable patriarchy than the Catholic Church.”
Why the Vatican continues to provide more and more evidence of that reality is beyond me. Subtlety isn’t its strong suit, that’s for sure. Truly, those early church houses are sounding a lot more appealing. Hierarchy has its limitations but especially when the “leadership” is exclusive to men who want to see women, lay and religious, firmly fixed “in their place.”