Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Rome, Women and Children

In the real world and in the world of the Internet, there is discussion among Christians about the relationship between women and the Church. Professor Kirk at Storied Theology discusses the former and relates the latter. Recently, there was a New York Times (NYT) article that discussed a recent revision to Vatican law. And even in the Anglican Communion there has been discussion about the ordination of women.

According to the article in the NYT, the Catholic revision went on to add the ordination of women to a list of "more grave delicts."
But what astonished many Catholics was the inclusion of the attempt to ordain women in a list of the “more grave delicts,” or offenses, which included pedophilia, as well as heresy, apostasy and schism. The issue, some critics said, was less the ordination of women, which is not discussed seriously inside the church hierarchy, but the Vatican’s suggestion that pedophilia is a comparable crime in a document billed a response to the sexual abuse crisis.
While discussion within the Church of England has been slowed in the past due to a desire to maintain ties with the Church of Rome and Eastern churches, the Anglican Church is now moving towards the ordination of female bishops. This decision by the Roman church to include ordination of women on a list with pedophilia does not make things easier for the English churches. Or for other communions who have already moved in that direction, for that matter.

As one who is not acquainted enough with canon law, Catholic dogmatics or even the Catechism, this finding by the Roman church is devastating--to say the least. One could only hope for a retraction (if possible) of this internal ruling, but for the time being this is unforeseeable. As one who advocates for the ordination of women at all levels, it is unfortunate to read such a thing. While the Catholic Church might be fighting against would-be do-it-yourself ordination and unsanctioned, unsupervised ordination the internal law only raises more theological questions than it tries to answer.

In a letter to the NYT, Frances Stelz laments concerning the finding:
it is incredible that the Vatican can equate ordination of women and the vile, pathological behavior of some Catholic priests who abuse defenseless children.
She closes her letter in this way:
Some of the same women the Vatican has shut out of the priesthood tirelessly minister to wounded and damaged children throughout the world. Fortunately, it is through them that the real work of Jesus in the Catholic Church continues

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