Swimming Upstream

August 11, 2007 at 8:49 pm (feminism, opinions, religion)

On my way into work this afternoon I was listening to a story on NPR about the ordination of female priests in the Roman Catholic church. Of course I always listen to stories about the Catholic church with a cynical and very critical ear, so my bias is obvious. I tried to find a link to the story on NPR.org but couldn’t, but it has been well established that only men can be officially ordained as Roman Catholic priests because of some rule about preserving the unbroken lineage from priests to bishops back to the original 12 apostles, blah blah blah. But the woman they were interviewing is a member of a group that advocates the rights of women to be ordained into the priesthood. Now I am of course all for equality and it seems absolutely absurd to me that an orginization as widespread and powerful as the Catholic church still gets away with this discrimination. My real question is, why would women want to become ordained priests if they are told that it is illegal within the church, and that they will be essentially kicked out of the church if they choose to become ordained?

It completely boggles my mind that women would be supportive of an orginization which is so fundamentally patriarchical and anti-female. And not only be supportive of it, but they would also want to dedicate their lives to preaching its ways and spreading its message to the world. I’m sure it would take days to discuss all of the ways in which the Catholic church spits in the face of everything feminine. That’s not really what I wanted to get into here, and we all know those things anyway. These women have pretty much had to say to themselves – “hmm, I know the church views me as a second class citizen. I accept that women historically in my religion are viewed as temptresses and sinners. I shouldn’t be allowed to say when and by what means I can plan my pregnancies. I shouldn’t be able to reach the highest level of power within this orginization. But darn it, this is what I want to dedicate my life to!”

I have the same line of questioning when it comes to the so called “log cabin republicans“. Now these people are self-loathing to the point of being politically in favor of everything that will keep down. I can’t think of a single republican stand on an issue that is pro-gay rights. Marriage? Adoption? Military Service? Not so much. I can understand being fiscally conservative, which is probably the driving force behind their motivations (I would hope anyway). But wouldn’t the fact that republicans are patently against your life style, rights, and very exsitance override your stance on economic issues? Apparently the answer is no.

Its not only an uphill battle, its like going uphill with people throwing boulders at you. You are not wanted at the top. You are not meant to be there. And there must be some seriously delusional thinking going on to keep you fighting that losing battle.



  1. Timothy said,

    Greetings! Read your post and have some comments.

    >” the Catholic church still gets away with this discrimination.”

    Probably because the discrimination is not aimed solely at females, but at both males and females. It has to do with the underlying requirement for a sacrament to have “valid matter”. Not only are all females invalid matter for ordination, but also most men. See my earlier post on the topic:


    >” an orginization which is so fundamentally patriarchical and anti-female.”

    Um, the Catholic Church is anything but anti-female. Mary, a female, is venerated far above any comparable male. Catholics get a lot of grief over Mary’s status by the way. The Church routinely upholds the dignity of women and has fought vigorously against those sins that enslave women – pornography, abortion, violence, etc. History clearly shows that women were liberated by the early Catholic Church and they have maintained that status for centuries because of the Catholic Church. Women have long served in leadership positions within the Catholic Church.

    God bless…

  2. mysterybea said,

    Thank you for reading and commenting on my post, I always welcome and outside perspective. However, I wanted to respond to your comment. In regard to your second point, I do realize that Mary is revered withing the Catholic faith. But the characteristic for which she is praised (virginity, purity, motherhood), while virtuous, are not on the top of the list of what a woman should be judged for, in my opinion. Please correct me if I am wrong, but Mary’s role in the bible is limited to her being the pure and chaste mother of Jesus. She is not widely known or praised for her thoughts, opinions or writings. And what or who exactly would be a “comparable male” to Mary in the bible?

    Additionally, as you could probably tell, if you have read other posts on this blog, I disagree that abortion qualifies as something that enslaves women. I fail to see how a woman’s ability to choose when and under what conditions she bears children is any type of enslavement. Obviously violence against women is vial and deplorable, but I think that in general, women’s “enslavement” has more to do with lack of education, opportunities and a general dependence on others (spouse or parent), than it does with the act of violence itself.

  3. James said,

    The point of Log Cabin Republicans is to work with Republicans to help them understand the importance of equality. It’s not that conservatives dont’ get there. it just takes them longer to do so. Think of it as ‘No straight Person Left Behind” There are states that will always be Republican. if you think the way to win equality is to convert conservatives to liberals, we will never get there. And our strategy is working. A recent national poll of Repubicans showed that 77% of REPUBLICANS oppose allowing employers to fire someone for being gay or lesbian. (And 67% of Social conservative rank and file support that as well). 49% (a plurality) support openly gay and lesbian military members and 42% support legal recognition of same sex couples. (See the full results of the poll at http://ca.logcabhin.org) Would we have accomplished that by following your strategy of demonizing them at worst or ignoring them at best? Knowing someone gay or lesbian (and 45% of Republicans say they do) makes you more supportive of equality. Republicans won’t get to know us if we are standing on the street outside hurling insults at them as you would have us do.

    If you really want to achieve equality, you would tolerate Log Cabin at worst and embrace us at best. We certainly have more courage than the average gay activist who seems to be afraid to engage Republicans in head to head (heart to heart) conversations in person. It’s safer to throw verbal rocks from afar than talk to them, right? And without our work you would not have had the Republican heroes we’ve had in the past and present from William Weld to Richard Riordan to Arnold Schwarzenegger (signed 19 pro-equality bills, more than any governor in the nation. He supports same sex marriage personally even though he vetoed the bill but that is still more than Sens. Clinton, Obama, Boxer, Feinstein…. who don’t even support the goal of marraige, much less the way we get there.) etc. We achieved those results by working with Republicans not demonizing them. If your goal is Democratic dominance rather than equality, please simply be honest enough to say so… That would be the only reason why you would make the statements you do despite the facts. Are all Repubs great? Of course not! (Neither are all Dems) but we will never wrap up the battle for equality until we win over many Republicans. Next time you want to bash a Republican, remember that according to the polling there’s a 50/50 chance you are attacking someone who believes in equality.

  4. mysterybea said,

    James – Thanks for providing interesting perspective and facts on the issue. You definitely make a good point about the only way to change the minds and actions of Republicans is to work with them and not against them. I did not mean to “throw verbal rocks” as you say, because I respect that everyone has the right to choose their political affiliation. My point in my post was that I can’t understand how one can align themselves with and support a group that tends to attack their lifestyle and personal choices. Even your own statistics show that most Republicans still don’t favor civil unions let alone marriage. I agree that its an uphill battle and I admire those of you trying to change the system from within.

    I am very glad that you took the time to write your comment. We all form opinions about things without all of the facts, and part of why I like this type of forum so much is that those better informed than I on certain issues can inform me. I still stand by my sentiments but thank you for contributing.

  5. judgesnineteen said,

    As a female former Catholic, I have a little understanding of how women would want to be active and dedicated to the Catholic church. I completely agree that the Church has not treated women well and that their veneration of Mary serves to keep women in inflexible roles, but people in the Catholic church tend not to see her role as limiting, probably because a lot of them believe that such roles are appropriate and fulfilling. If you take it for granted that virginity is one of the highest virtues a woman can attain, and after that, motherhood is the top for a woman, then Mary looks like an amazing female role model. There’s also confusion over “benevolent sexism.” We can’t be sexist if we put a woman on a pedestal, right? (sarcastic.) But also, I think people who deeply believe in Catholicism don’t look at the church the same way I do. They don’t look at it critically because they think it’s true and if they have a problem with it, it’s a problem with them, not with the church, and God will help them change. Or they focus so much on the part of Catholicism that speaks to them, like Jesus or Mary or the Mass, that they don’t worry about what the Pope is doing or what the deeper meaning is behind one tradition or another. And I don’t say that as in “they’re so ignorant.” I kind of smile to think of all the Catholics who stopped listening to the Pope after the birth control encyclical but still consider themselves Catholic. A lot of women who want to be ordained are kind of like that. They feel called to the priesthood and want to follow the call because they believe in it so much (in the call, and in Catholicism – just not in the rule against it).

    Also, a devout Catholic female once told me that being a priest is being a servant, and if you really want to serve that much, you won’t care what capacity you serve in, because your desire will be selfless. She sees that as beautiful selflessness; I see it as a way that religions keep women from standing up for themselves. It’s interesting to me how people can see the same thing so differently. I think when I started learning about the history of the oppression of women, it affected the way I viewed Christianity a lot. Virginity sounded great, till I realized that it fit pretty well into a pattern of ways to keep women subordinate to men.

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