Friday, March 09, 2007

Missing the sign

This article hits home as I spent time debating with people who make similar claims of the Church and the all male-priesthood.

Former advocate for female priests now explains Vatican's stance
via The Curt Jester

Polls generally show that 50 percent to 60 percent of Roman Catholics in the United States believe that women should be eligible for the priesthood.

Sister Sara Butler understands this impulse - because she once felt the same way. In 1978, she headed a task force of the Catholic Theological Society of America that came out in support of female priests.

But as she continued her work as an increasingly prominent theologian, her thinking began to change. Now, in a new book - "The Catholic Priesthood and Women: A Guide to the Teaching of the Church" - she attempts to explain the underpinnings of the all-male priesthood to doubters and skeptics who think the way she used to.

"The tradition is traced to the will of Christ, not to decisions made by the church," Butler said last night at St. Joseph's Seminary, where she has taught for four years.

The church's teachings must be better explained, she said, because many Catholics see the all-male priesthood as a symbol of patriarchal power and sexism, and many more who stay silent are probably befuddled.


Butler made the case last night that the all-male priesthood is grounded in Jesus' choice of 12 male apostles and the Catholic Church's sustained understanding of what this meant for the priesthood.

"The answer is discovered in a tradition of practice that is traced back to the Lord's choice of the 12," she said.

To change the church's traditional understanding of the priesthood, she said, would be to change the priesthood itself and disconnect the church from the apostles, ending what Catholics believe to be their church's God-given power to teach.

In recent decades, Butler said, "Christian feminists" have seen many Protestant denominations and Anglicans bring women into ministry. As a result, she said, many have lost sight of the Catholic Church's different understanding of the priesthood.

She also discussed theological arguments that she explores in her book, that the priest is a sacramental sign of Jesus - "who is and remains a man" - and that Scripture presents Jesus as a "bridegroom" wedded to the church, a role exclusive to men.

The sacramental sign of Jesus is where so many miss the boat. They get caught up thinking the Church is just another worldly organization. They see the people in power as all men and think they are missing out. But Christ set down the rules and the Church can't change them.

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