IS THE CATHOLIC CHURCH BEING FEMINIZED?

As celibate male Catholic priests age, die and disappear, what is happening in the parishes? You may be surprised by the answer. I was.

Today’s reality is that, save for Mass and the other sacraments, most people’s experience of pastoral ministry in the Catholic church is increasingly with a layperson rather than a priest. At the present time there are 31,000 lay ecclesial ministers working in Catholic parishes in the United States (I expect the figures are proportionate for Canada) compared to 29,000 diocesan priests. And this is the kicker. Roughly 80 per cent of lay ecclesial ministers are women.

In some quarters this rapid shift in parochial leadership toward women will exacerbate alarm about the “feminization” of the church. There is also the worry that this state of affairs is a stalking horse for the ordination of women.

Are you alarmed or excited by the increased role of women in the Catholic Church?

Will Catholic men begin to feel they are being discriminated against?

Should the bishops begin to practise a form of “affirmative action” and hire more men?

Is there a good deal less here than meets the eye? After all, these female ecclesial ministers have only the power parish priest gives them.

28 Comments »

  1. 1
    Cate McB Says:

    I am excited — and indeed, overjoyed by the increased role of women in the Catholic Church.

    If men feel discriminated against, maybe that’s a good thing because just maybe, they can then have understanding and empathy for the discrimination women have felt for centuries.

    “Hire more men” is and has been the problem not the solution. Hiring should take place on the basis of qualifications and in recent years, women have rapidly been out-numbering men in acquiring the theological education and expertise necessary to do what needs to be done.

    Ultimately, female ecclesial ministers have only the power that God and the people of God give them. The parish priest can choose to be a local irritant, but often, he’s not a major player in the big picture and/or over the long haul. Mary Ward (1585 – 1645) knew that. Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620 – 1700) knew that. In the recent past in the US, Anita Caspary and the California IHMs knew that. These great women and many others like them knew and acted accordingly … and still today …

  2. 2
    SUZANNE Says:

    The Church is being feminized, and the problem isn’t really gender as that the women who get into these ministries tend to be feminists and doctrinally lax. The problem is that dioceses and seminaries screen out doctrinally sound seminary candidates.

    Men don’t want to go to a church that’s too girly. That’s the reality.

  3. 3

    Cate –
    The great women that you cite had it right. No question. Thanks for the comment.

    Suzanne –
    “The problem is that dioceses and seminaries screen out doctrinally sound seminary candidates.”
    Now, where did you get that? All the evidence I’ve heard is that by and large seminaries are full of earnest young men who want to roll back the advances of Vatican 11. The only progressive priests left are those 60 and over.

  4. 4
    SUZANNE Says:

    Just look at who’s being ordained in Quebec. Could be true in Ontario– but in Quebec, I have no reason to believe that the seminarians are not dissident.

  5. 5
    Randy Says:

    It is true that the more recent ordinations have been more orthodox. Really priests ordained after JPII became pope tend to be more orthodox. They don’t want to roll back VII. They want to interpret it like B16 does. That is to embrace both VII and what was there before.

    As for the feminization of the church, the important thing about male priests is they are able to act sacramentally in the person of Christ. Once we have that we don’t have to worry about the influence of too many women. We need to get as many men as possible but to many women is not an issue. Men will come when you have a logically coherent faith. When people dissent they render the faith inconsistent and irrational. Men tend to be bothered by that more.

  6. 6

    Randy –

    “The important thing about male priests is they are able to act sacramentally in the person of Christ.”
    Won’t it be marvellous when women priests are able to do likewise? Thanks for your comment.

    • 7
      profling Says:

      Why marvelous? The only ones to see this “wonder of the world” will be other women. The men will all be playing golf.

  7. 8
    SUZANNE Says:

    Ordaining women priests is like casting women to play male roles in Hollywood movies. It doesn’t work.

  8. 9
    Barbara Says:

    If there was anyone in the history of humankind who was given the mission of converting bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, it was a woman, the Blessed Mother Mary.
    Your theology is coloured by sexism.

  9. 10
    Chimera Says:

    “Ordaining women priests is like casting women to play male roles in Hollywood movies. It doesn’t work.”

    Sez you.

    Linda Hunt got an Oscar for doing exactly that.

  10. 11
    Randy Says:

    Neil,

    You said on Dave Armstrong’s blog you were unaware of any infallible interpreter of the bible. I was confused by that because the catholic church does have something called the doctrine of infallibility. One of the infallibly defined doctrines is that the church has no authority to ordain women priests. It is not that they choose not to but rather that God had no granted them that grace. Ordinations of women are always invalid. It cannot change any more than the trinity can change. It is dogma. To deny it is to deny Catholicism.

  11. 12

    Randy: –
    Thanks for your comment. The teaching that the church has no power to ordain women priests has never been infallibly defined. The Scriptural arguments for such a position are feeble. I have no doubt whatever that eventually the Catholic church will ordain women. Meanwhile we must respectfully pay attention to the magisterium which teaches that we should not even being discussing the subject. Did you know that?

  12. 13
    willcubbedge Says:

    “The teaching that the church has no power to ordain women priests has never been infallibly defined.”

    Keep on building those castles in the sky:

    “Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.

    Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

    -John Paul II, ORDINATIO SACERDOTALIS (1994)

    If you are waiting for ex cathedra statements on the subject to convince you, you are one who simply will not be convinced. In that case, please see a doctor.

    It will NEVER HAPPEN because it is a theological impossibility, so says the Church over the course of 2000 years. Please deal with reality when relating news to the public.

    WAC

  13. 14

    WAC: –

    As I said, the Church does not teach infallibly that women cannot be ordained.

    Nor is women’s ordination a theological impossibility. Tradition can change as it has in the case of artificial birth control, as it will fairly soon in the matter of male priestly celibacy and as it will eventually in the case of women’s ordination.
    See this space tomorrow (Tuesday) for the case for Church reform.
    A significant number of the Catholic public shares my view on these matters as every poll taken on these subjects attests.
    Thanks for your comment.

  14. 15
    Chimera Says:

    “…It will NEVER HAPPEN because it is a theological impossibility…”

    Pronouncements like this have a way of coming back and biting someone in the butt. The widely-respected journal, Scientific American had something similar happen back in the early part of the twentieth century, when they published an article claiming that man would never be able to fly because it was scientifically impossible. That article went to print in 1905 — almost two years after Kittyhawk.

    The Catholic church as an organization has two choices: adjust or die. It has adjusted in the past, due to overwhelming public pressure. It will do so again. Or it will cease to be a factor in the lives of people who know they can shop elsewhere if the price is too high at the Vatican.

    Women will be ordained. Priests will be able to marry. The people want it so, and thus it shall be.

    And I seem to remember that the infallability of the pope is an idea that is less than two hundred years old, and that there have so far been only two times when that attribute has been used — to confer the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, in that order. Pretty safe pronouncements, considering that no one is ever going to be able to “prove” otherwise.

  15. 16
    willcubbedge Says:

    Chimera-

    I don’t remember Scientific American having been given any degree of Diving Authority by Jesus Christ.

    I do seem to remember, in the course of creating the Petrine Office, a certain Someone declaring that “the gates of Hell will not prevail against” the Catholic Church.

    What the people want is inconsequential. People want geese who lay golden eggs. Like women’s ordination, what the people want in this case ain’t gonna happen.

    And you can say it over and over again as much as you like, it won’t make one goose ovulate a precious metal.

    Oh Most Former of Former Jesuits;

    When did the Church’s teaching on artificial birth control change?

    WAC

    WAC

  16. 17
    John Says:

    Whenever I hear someone preach about the permanency of Church doctrine, I think about those who, in time past, knowingly ate meat on Friday…..the poor folks whom George Carlin described as “those doing time in hell on a meat rap.”

  17. 18
    Will Cubbedge Says:

    John,

    Doctrine is one thing. Discipline another.

    One cheapens both by not making the distinction.

    Doctrine is permenant. Discipline can change.

    The Pope could make a married man a priest. The pope could not make that man’s wife a priest.

    Simple enough that even a liberal can figure it out.

    Ugh.

    WAC

  18. 19
    Chimera Says:

    “I don’t remember Scientific American having been given any degree of Diving Authority by Jesus Christ.”

    Well, considering that the inventor of diving apparatus wasn’t even born until five years later, I’m not surprised…it’s impossible to have the authority without at least having the means. ;D (Yeah, I know it was a typo)

    In case you can’t read, and evidence suggests the likelihood of that, I made the reference to Scientific American in order to support my statement of what happens when hubris grabs you by the gonads and makes you say things you can’t possible support. Your zeal is writing cheques on a bank acount you don’t even own.

    “What the people want is inconsequential.”

    Ah, Opus Dei heard from. Are you related to Suzanne, by any chance?

    But at least you’re honest in your hatred of and contempt for the human race. Would that our politicians could be equally as blunt. Target practise would be so much easier.

  19. 20
    Will Cubbedge Says:

    “In case you can’t read, and evidence suggests the likelihood of that”

    I have large, expensive pieces of paper from accredited universities that would tend to prove otherwise.

    And, since you have descended into the realm of the ad hominem attack, I retort thusly: Faithless Jackass.

    “I made the reference to Scientific American in order to support my statement of what happens when hubris grabs you by the gonads and makes you say things you can’t possible support. Your zeal is writing cheques on a bank account you don’t even own.”

    Swell. How about this: I proposed that, following a hermeneutic of continuity, or historical momentum, or magisterial biblical exegesis, or, in short, a concept bigger, older, and more important than you or I, that the Church would stand by its pronouncements, both recent and ancient, and conclude that the Church WILL NOT ordain women.

    You, on the other hand, seem to reach out into the future based on a whole lot of wishful thinking on the part of the disaffected modernists who, getting older and greyer, keep on chanting mantra-like “the Church must change, the Church must change.” Hubris! I say it is YOU and your ilk who think themselves God-like, as if their good intentions could move mountains, change history, or rewrite theology to serve their own needs. Bah!

    “Ah, Opus Dei heard from”

    Nope. Just saying that truth is not relative to public opinion. Truth, indeed, is not relative to anything. It simply is.

    (But, if I was in Opus Dei, I am sure I could get you together with an albino monk or something. What’s your address, again?)

    WAC

  20. 21
    Chimera Says:

    “I have large, expensive pieces of paper from accredited universities that would tend to prove otherwise.”

    Size and money are not necessarily everything. There are a lot of expensively-“educated” people out there who have little reading comprehension, and are therefore functionally illiterate.

    “And, since you have descended into the realm of the ad hominem attack, I retort thusly: Faithless Jackass.”

    Thank you! Doubtless, you think that you were being insulting. Doubtless, you also think I will engage you in an “am-not-are-too” verbal tug o’ war. Doubtless, you are wrong.

    But my guess that you harbor hatred for those who do not hang their lives blindly on articles of faith, as well as contempt for the so-called lower species of animals, has just been reinforced.

    “I proposed that…the Church WILL NOT ordain women.”

    Fine. You just keep thinkin’. Time will prove me right. Nobody needs to change history or move mountains. We ARE all gods, something some of us already know and that the rest will realize one of these days. Possible even you, if you live long enough.

    “…I am sure I could get you together with an albino monk…”

    And if I am the albino monk? Put here to test your faith? What then?

  21. 22
    Will Cubbedge Says:

    “Size and money are not necessarily everything. There are a lot of expensively-”educated” people out there who have little reading comprehension, and are therefore functionally illiterate.”

    Agreed. But I ain’t one of them, honey. I would say “trust me”, but, as you are a pure rationalist, I didn’t figure that would work. I therefore attempted to make what we literates refer to as “an argument from authority,” that is, the authority of my doctoral status, substituting my degrees for the volumes and volumes read in pursuit of said degrees. Is this lost on you? I will type slower, if you are having trouble keeping up.

    “Thank you! Doubtless, you think that you were being insulting. Doubtless, you also think I will engage you in an “am-not-are-too” verbal tug o’ war. Doubtless, you are wrong.”

    Doubtless you are in fact a faithless jackass, which is why I felt it was okay to call you exactly what you are. I figured, “he’s gonna call me illiterate, which is both ad hominem and is not true. Fine. I will respond by calling him a faithless jackass, which is ad hominem and is also true. Therefore, I can show him to be, in the end, an artful dodger, skirting argumentation and plowing into the personality of the one with whom he disagrees, and I can do it by only saying things that are, in fact, true.” See, I don’t want to get into a ad hominem teat-a-teat because it is stupid. But I wasn’t going to say something outrageously false to you like you did to me. Get it?

    “But my guess that you harbor hatred for those who do not hang their lives blindly on articles of faith, as well as contempt for the so-called lower species of animals, has just been reinforced.”

    You guess about my motivations and at the same time complain of my supposed hubris? You continue the ad hominem assault? Come out of your cave, sir. I can argue with you, if you want to argue, but I can’t defend myself against your suppositions, nor can I dismantle your prejudice. Put your broad brush away. Fight like a man.

    “Fine. You just keep thinkin’. Time will prove me right. Nobody needs to change history or move mountains. We ARE all gods, something some of us already know and that the rest will realize one of these days. Possible even you, if you live long enough.”

    You accused me of hubris before, and here you articulate self-deification!

    If we are all gods, sir, why would anyone then need to be ordained a priest?

    Why do you take issue with a Church with which you hold no affiliation?
    And as for my thinkin’, why yes, thank you, I think I will keep on thinkin’. Someone here aught to.

    “And if I am the albino monk? Put here to test your faith? What then?”

    Then I say bring it on.

    WAC

  22. 23
    Chimera Says:

    LOL! You seem to be of the opinion that I deem your “authority” to have any value for me. Why would you think that?

    “You accused me of hubris before, and here you articulate self-deification!”

    Oh, I didn’t deify myself. Nobody does (with the exception of government leaders who operate under a whole different set of rules — just ask them). We are all born this way. Some simply take a longer time to realize it. But that’s okay. We’ll wait for you.

    “If we are all gods, sir, why would anyone then need to be ordained a priest?”

    Indeed, that is a very good question. Perhaps you could expand it to ask why anyone would need for anyone else to be ordained a priest?

    “Why do you take issue with a Church with which you hold no affiliation?”

    Are you sure I have no affiliation? You do assume an awful lot, don’t you?

  23. 24

    We are not all Gods, sir, but we are all priests. Ever heard of the “priesthood of the laity”?

  24. 25
    Chimera Says:

    We may well all be priests, depending upon your definition and social construction of the term, “priest.” In the sense that a priest serves a god, or acts as an intercessor between lay folk and a god, then no, we are not all priests. At least, we are not merely priests. And only those who are content to have no input in the direction of their own lives must remain laity.

    Those of us who are determined to steer our own lives, however, and make our own decisions, are by definition gods. With or without input from other sources, if we are self-determining, we are gods. If we take final responsibility, we are gods. And if we say we are gods, and we survive the saying of it, we are gods. Who else would we be?

  25. 26
    Russ Says:

    Seems I am a year late for this debate however…

    I agree with Suzzanne the parishes do tend to “over hire” women Educational directors,Faith formation,Sacraments,Religious education,female alter servers etc… Just look at your Sunday bulliten Are there more women than men seeking these position be it lay or paid. Personally I do believe it. There are books on the subject Good Bye Good Men,Liberal American Catholics several more.

    I was truned down for my call to be a deacan ONLY because of my statement that boys were the ones to be alter servers because it serves as a stepping stone to the priesthood. Now they will not return my calls.

    Neil Your wrong Quote ” the Church does not teach infallibly that women cannot be ordained”

    Or perhaps you ignore the Vatican?

    The Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, “On Reserving Priestly Ordination To Men Alone,” affirms the teaching of Christ that the Church has no authority to ordain women to the priesthood. This teaching is infallible because it meets all of the criteria for an infallible papal declaration.
    Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful. (Apostolic Letter of John Paul II, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, On Reserving Priestly Ordination To Men Alone, May 22, 1994, n. 4.)
    Between now and Christ’s return, the Church cannot validly ordain women as priests, because Christ did not give that authority to the Church. Upon the Return of Christ, this teaching becomes moot.

    What part of this do you not understand? really?

    God and the church are not pollitically correct. They dont have to be.

    John Paul even stated “IN ORDER THAT ALL DOUBT BE REMOVED”

    Thats like an adult talking to thier child.

    The church is not a democracy nor are the TEN COMMANDMENTS voted on.

    It is what it is or its not the Roman Catholic Church.

    Are you saying the Holy Spirit is wrong for not ordaining women?

    Or do you just like to pick and choose what is just and injust in the church teachings?

    Read your bible does it seem fair that God destroyed cities with men women and innocent children?

    The stress Job went through, Abraham to sacrafice his only son,Noah was a drunk, Moses had a major speach impedament Arron had to do most of the speaking, King David fell in love with another mans wife Yet
    these are the people God choose.

    Some things may seem “unfair” or cruel even but who are you to judge?

    As John the Baptist said “Gods ways are not our ways”

    Simple and profound. I suggest you study those 6 words.

  26. If you want to hear a reader’s feedback🙂 , I rate this post for 4/5. Detailed info, but I have to go to that damn yahoo to find the missed parts. Thanks, anyway!


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