Saturday, January 21, 2012

Why I write

When I was in third grade I wanted to be a third grade teacher. In fourth grade I wanted to be a fourth grade teacher, and so on up the grades. The top grades of high school were as far as I dared go with these aspirations. College was a must for me in spite of the fact that my oldest siblings weren’t allowed to go to high school. In retrospect, my matriculating for college seems almost unbelievable. Where did that daring come from? At the time I couldn’t imagine life without college; it would have been the end of life for me.

Young people will not understand what a big deal this was. It was 1961, before the counter-cultural revolution; the only post-college careers for women were teaching and social work. In my totally-Catholic world, the only women in college got there by joining a religious order. My dad, a farmer born shortly after the turn to the twentieth century, was certain that his children didn’t need more education than he did—eight grades. Because he did well, didn’t he?

My decision to attend college and other turns in life happened TO me as much as they were directed BY me. There’s a thread inside each of us pulling us into certain paths. But it is possible to go against this pull, more commonly called our vocation or calling. I know women who, I have no doubt, were led toward divorcing their husbands, but they resisted out of fear. I know that fear intimately, experienced the agony of it. But scuttling back into a corner of supposed safety does not bring lasting peace.
I’ve digressed. My point is that education is in my DNA. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t want to educate others. The thread pulling me through high school and college teaching didn’t stop there but led me to another occupation in education—writing as a dissenter in my religion. This also required, and still requires, confronting expectations, confronting fear, and confronting my exasperating desire to please others.

In my un-remunerated role of educating adults, I try to bridge traditional Christian beliefs with new currents in spirituality, which does not mean “throwing the baby out with the bath water.” In a version of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, I reassure those who feel bereft because they have lost childhood beliefs, and I disturb the fixed mental paradigm of persons who cling to those beliefs. 
I invite them to consider concepts foreign to their accustomed world view, to enlarge their perspective and expand their consciousness, to face down discomfort with the unfamiliar. I also try to mediate between academic research and ordinary people who don't have the time or inclination to read the experts.

Yes, my writing is provocative. That's how change happens, and change is required of us all. But we don’t have to give up what is important in our spiritual upbringing—the essentials of love, wisdom, hope, and the assurance that the spirit world stands ready to assist us in meeting any challenge.
Cradle Catholics have the challenge of repudiating Church authority, which we were trained to treat as the law of God. If there is any good coming out of the clergy sex abuse scandal, it’s the lesson that divine authority must not be confused with Church hierarchy. There are plenty of provocative Christian experts who can help us to grow out of childhood beliefs and into a richer understanding of spiritual reality.

One is  Robert Funk who writes these words:
The plot early Christians invented for a divine redeemer figure is as archaic as the mythology in which it is framed. A Jesus who drops down out of heaven, performs some magical act that frees human beings from the power of sin, rises from the dead, and returns to heaven is simply no longer credible. The notion that he will return at the end of time and sit in cosmic judgment is equally incredible. We must find a new plot for a more credible Jesus.
Offended, a traditional believer asks plaintively,
Why is Catholic teaching not enough?
 It is enough if properly taught. Truly Catholic teaching includes all humans everywhere—women, non-clergy, GLBTs, and people of faith who imagine spiritual ideas in non-Christian terms. It recognizes Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as Christian symbols, not actual persons. It applies doctrines such as Trinity, Incarnation, Christ’s Death and Resurrection universally. It does not limit divinity to a certain man or a set of male individuals remote and inaccessible except through Roman Catholic rituals and clergy.

I had written most of this post when a minor change in my life grew into a significant signal for me. It turns out that this post is peculiarly apt for announcing that I will either post sparingly in the future or discontinue this blog. I have been promising to organize my writings here into a book and that’s impossible as long as I’m both blogging and supervising student teachers.

But please stay tuned before I say goodbye.

After posting this, I learned that the St. Cloud Times published my piece: In case of womenpriests, justice & truth will prevail.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Womanpriest Mass 2

I obtained permission from Judi to quote her.
Jeanette, It was great to read the article about Mary [in previous post]. I have heard that we have women presiding at masses somewhere here in Milwaukee. I am open to male or female and never quite understood how we got to where we are. We had popes with children, priests with children, and yet some say we need to go back to the early church. Which early church was that?
Judith Kittleson Kearney
Judi asks a shrewd question. Going back to the way things were might mean going back to a church so corrupt that Martin Luther was forced to take a stand against church authority. It might mean having 3 popes or having popes direct wealth to their children or having popes with armies. It might mean most priests openly having sexual partners and having children. The Church didn’t get serious about celibacy until after the first millennium.

Campaigns against women have risen and fallen throughout Church history but always there were the underlying assumptions that infested our entire patriarchal paradigm, secular and religious. Like Blacks, women were at times said to be less than human, to have no soul, to belong naturally in a servant role, subordinate and submissive.
Early Americans didn’t educate women and didn’t let them participate in politics. Girls didn’t go to school; they learned “domestic arts.” In Founding Mothers: Women Who Raised Our Nation, Cokie Roberts writes,
 Husbands essentially owned women. They had some rights to inheritance, . . . but in the context of the marriage itself they owned nothing, not even their own jewelry. . . . Men legally owned their wives under English law.
Judi again.
I may live to see married male priests, but something tells me it will take longer for the Church to accept that women too may be called to serve as priests. I choose not to spend a great deal of time thinking about what Rome tells me. Like all humans, many of our leaders have changed their message over the years.
I often think that Jesus, the humble teacher in sandals and rough clothing, must shake his head when He sees some of the things that have become Church.
Keep up the good work and remember how powerless we are over the thoughts, opinions, feelings, and actions of others. It is really hard to listen and note other perspectives calmly when they are so contrary to what we believe to be true. Have a grand day!
Kathleen emailed these questions:
Do you think if we were to live another 50  or 100 years-- would we see a change in how the Catholic Church will look?
Would there be more women in the hierarchy as there were in the early church?
I have no doubt the Catholic Church will have womenpriests in the future, and I also expect the Vatican to lose its tyrannical power, to become more of a central clearinghouse and less the seat of power. Finally, I expect Christian beliefs to morph. Christianity has already lost its place of premier opinion-making in our society.

Someday, probably not in our lifetime, the official Church will apologize for its treatment of women, specifically its denial of ordination to women.  The embarrassment over that wrong-headed stance has already begun.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Womanpriest Mass

Our womanpriest community, Mary Magdalene, First Apostle was covered by the St. Cloud Times today. The article does a good job of laying out the issue to people who know nothing or very little about it. I like the quotations he chose to include by Mary Smith, our pastor, and Kelly Doss, one of our planning group.

In previous posts I’ve refuted the hierarchy’s false, tired, sometimes amusing, arguments against womenpriests. The funniest argument against ordaining women is explained by Florian:
Women are not valid "matter" for the sacrament of holy orders to begin with, at least in the eyes of the church. So, ordination of women priests is not valid, even if "ordained" by bishops who are intending to properly administer the sacrament, because no sacrament takes place anyway without the proper matter.
The valid and proper matter must be the penis.

The hierarchy claims that our Catholic tradition does not include women’s ordination. Wrong. Archaeology reveals that women were ordained priests and bishops in the first centuries of our church’s existence.
And more recently, in the 1970s our tradition was moving toward approving ordination for women. This seemed to be the consensus among bishops,
Bishops who speak on the subject are simply content in observing that the traditional arguments put forward against the ordination of women are no longer convincing
Well known theologians have explicitly stated and written that they see no dogmatic obstacle to the ordination of women.
and the “people of God.”
The position of women in the church up until now has been due to social and cultural factors. . . . the Lay Apostolate asks the Catholic Church to give women all the rights and responsibilities of a Christian.
Clearly Catholics in the 1970s saw no impediment to ordaining women and were getting ready to proceed. What happened? Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI couldn’t stand the idea and forced the Church to accept their position. They appointed bishops who toed their traditionalist line and found theologians to manufacture spurious arguments against women’s ordination. In Ordinatio Sacerdotalis John Paul declared,
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.
A declaration that history will ridicule as certainly as the one against Galileo. People of conscience will win this one—it’s just a matter of time.