Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Not That *I* Would Want to be a Priest

I've been thinking about posting this, not because it outs me to anyone, but because it outs me to myself more than anything else.

My crisis of faith has gone on for years.

It started when I was fairly young, because of something, O Great Internet, I won't be telling you about. It continued on because I was an inquisitive, questioning child, and most of the nuns who taught me just told me not to ask such questions. It meant I wasn't a good Christian for questioning things. That's not something you should a curious kid! I went through a time where I didn't believe in God, and hen I thought I did, but I wasn't Christian, and now I've moseyed back around. I'm a Christian. I believe in God.

But am I Catholic?

That's a scary question for a cradle Catholic to ask. I was steeped, brewed in a culture where if you weren't Catholic, you were an outsider. Other. Not Us. I didn't know any people who weren't Catholics until I joined my synchronized swimming club team. My family freaked out when they realized I was going to marry Vor because he isn't Catholic. (Holy argument city, that one. That's a breach that sometimes has yet to heal)

So since I've started asking myself that question, I've been praying, still going to church (though not necessarily a Catholic one), and dragging my mind through the problems I had. One of the first on the list was women as priests. Most of the time I've heard an argument against this, it's been along the lines of "Because we said so!" See above to learn how an inquisitive person deals with that. There's a nice little post over here that handles the argument against women priests, logically. The post is a good one, and long, and my time is limited as Telly is starting to approach the witching hour where he goes from calm puppy to crazed animal, so I'm only spitting out my thoughts at you.

I really have never felt the tradition argument. There is the argument that Jesus choose only men, the 12 apostles continued that tradition, and the Church follows that tradition today. I've always thought, of course He didn't! Look at the time frame He existed in! Anytime I've said that, I've had people respond that Jesus was counter cultural, so if women were meant to be chosen, He would have done it. I'm not so sure. The sociocultural pattern has to be considered. (Now bear with me, I'm pulling some of this stuff from memory as far as proper citations go, and the rest from google books). It's entirely too possible that making a choice like this would have destroyed his work from the beginning. There comes a point where revolutionary is too revolutionary, and the good gets lost. (O'Collins, "Ordination of Women,") God would know what His people could handle.

Jesus may have treated women much better than those men around Him, but the fact remains that society was not great for women at the time. 'If Jesus had lived in a society in which the cultural status of the two sexes had differed from that of his own time, would he not have made a different choice? A choice that was already beginning to show itself in the completely new approach which he adopted toward women in a patriarchal society?' H. M. LEGRAND, 'Views on the Ordination of Women,' Origins, Jan. 6 1977.

In the end, we only have the fact that Jesus didn't choose any women. It's up to us to discern why. I think it's far more likely that Jesus did this because only men could assume these toles at the time, and His message needed to be taught. In the end, I think that the issue of women priests was a pragmatic issue, not an eternal truth.

If I think that, then the tradition argument crumbles on itself, at least for me. It used to be tradition to discrimiante, to have slaves, etc., but it isn't anymore. The same follows. The tradition argument always reminds me of a conversation from great West Wing Episode, Midterms:
BARTLET: I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an

JENNA JACOBS: I don't say homosexuality is an abomination,
Mr. President. The Bible does.

BARTLET: Yes, it does. Leviticus.


BARTLET: Chapter and verse. I wanted to ask you a couple of
questions while I had you here. I'm interested in selling my
youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7.
(small chuckles from the guests) She's a Georgetown sophomore,
speaks fluent Italian, and always clears the table when it was
her turn. What would a good price for her be? While thinking
about that, can I ask another? My Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry,
insists on working on the Sabbath, Exodus 35:2,clearly says he
should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him
myself or is it okay to call the police? Here's one that's
really important, 'cause we've got a lot of sports fans in
this town. Touching the skin of a dead pig makes us unclean,
Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the
Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can
West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to
stone my brother, John, for planting different crops side by
side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering
for wearing garments made from two different threads?

(all this compliments of a west wing transcript)
Tradition would suck if it still held, wouldn't it?

Oh, I can hear you now. Slippery Slope! I can just hear my dad
screaming it. But refer yourself to where we have come from
already. I don't feel like I am at the bottom of a slippery slope
from where my great grandparents were. I like being able to vote,
not be in the kitchen all day, have an opinion, live by myself, hold
a job, be valued for more than just my ability to reproduce. I feel
like someone rolled me inside a boulder up to the top of the hill,
then let me out.

Well. I guess this means that I don't buy this argument against
women as priests.

Yes, there are more arguments. There is the argument that priests
act as Christ, and Christ was a man, so priests must be men.
There's also the idea that priests are married to the Church, so
the Church is female and priests must then be male. I'll drag
this blog through those later, I think.

I'm not proofreading right now. I'll do it later. Maybe I'll even
refine this, because I feel like I'm nearing the end of my journey
through crisis, and I'm ready to emerge again, just as full of
faith as I always will be of questions. Questions fuel faith for me.

Telly is staring me down, and I think he wants a walk. He keeps
putting his head across my laptop keyboard. I'm a bad mother.


Kacie said...

Yeah, I get that. I mean, I'm on the outside so it's easier for me, but I have struggled through some of the same things with evangelicalism... feeling like if I still believed but didn't define myself as a conservative evangelical, I was just out...

I have looked at Catholicism seriously because I love the intentional approach to tradition, liturgy, the intellectual thought... there's a lot about it that is attractive to me.

There are some things, though, that I can't get around, and one IS that sense of "we are the only true church". I feel like it's putting faith in the institution instead of the gospel of Christ.

There's other things too. I am drawn to the solid history of the CAtholic church BUT actually when I look back far enough, it seems to me that it's actually the Eastern Orthodox church that was most faithful to the line of history, and the CAtholic church scorned them in pride...

just some of the things I'm processing through there...

That Married Couple said...

I agree that it's terrible to tell children not to question their faith. It's not just a Catholic thing - I think it's what many adults who are not sure of the answer fall back on. I remember my college roommate's boyfriend had a similar experience growing up in his Methodist church - he asked lots of challenging questions, got shut down by his Sunday School teachers (who were mostly annoyed by him), and became one of those people who "hate organized religion." I always thought it was such a pity, because he's smart and a great debater, and Christianity would do well to have more people like him on our side! (Coincidentally, he also became a lawyer!) Anyway, I'm glad to hear that your faith crisis seems to be winding down. I agree that questioning our beliefs makes us much stronger in the end!

As for the culture argument, I hear you that there is a point where it seems like revolutionary could have been just too revolutionary. I think the hardest part really is that we just can't know. Not until we can get up there and ask Him ourselves will we know whether Jesus was acquiescing to restraints of his time or intentionally chose only men. I guess my only question to that would then be, why not have him come at a different time? You know? He obviously knew that this would become an issue in our day and age (that whole omnipotence thing), so if he wanted to clarify it, he could've just done some things differently, including coming at a time where that might've been accepted. Maybe? Just throwing that thought out there.

The West Wing script is funny. I don't think that "Catholic Tradition" means following all the truly culture-bound Old Testament laws - that's one of the reasons Jesus stepped in, right?

Okay, this comment got way too long too fast. Sorry! Just a note to Kacie: I know you mentioned Eastern Orthodoxy the other day, but I'd be interested to read how you think they're more faithful. And this belies some ignorance on my part, but aren't the Catholic and Orthodox churches in agreement somehow?