Time Has Come
Congratulations on the issue that focused on women in the church (11/27). The contributors provided an excellent overview of both the contributions of women to the life of the church and an exploration of issues that remain unresolved. It was interesting to read in the editorial your comment that the restoration of the diaconate for women is a possible first step in responding to the call of women for greater participation. In 1977, following the 1976 Vatican Declaration on the Question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood, the National Council of Catholic Women responded with a statement declaring itself in harmony with the teaching church, yet calling for an examination of the feasibility of establishing the diaconate for women, a question the Declaration’ left open. Perhaps after more than 20 years this is an idea whose time has come.
Executive Director, N.C.C.W.
All May Find a Home
I appreciate the fact that you devoted a recent issue (11/27) to the vitally important topic of women in the church. Certainly there are myriad women’s issues that require ongoing dialogue and pastoral sensitivity.
I think it is apt to say that the church needs the full and active participation of women. I think the problem arisesas it does in the case of liturgyfrom different perspectives as to what full and active participation really means. If the term means equal access to all the various functions in the life of the church, which seems to be an impoverished interpretation not in keeping with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, then the issue is simply one of power and asserting one’s rights.
I’d propose that a lay person most fully enters the sacred liturgy not by usurping the priest’s role, but by offering his or her own gifts as a lay person (Rom. 12:1). Similarly, a woman most fully serves the church by being fully a woman. How a woman is to strive for holiness in today’s changing world raises many important questions, and America is right in asking them. However, without going into great detail, a downplay of woman’s maternal rolewhich is neither paternal nor at all limited to physically bearing childrenseems counterproductive.
In this vein, I note Professor Cahill’s insistence that discussion of women’s morality issues should not be monopolized by reproductive and family issues. That much is true. However, Professor Cahill dissents from several church teachings on reproductive and family issues. If these teachings are misunderstood or rejected, won’t our views concerning human anthropology, church authority and morality in general also be flawed?
In addition, there was some mention about the restoration of the diaconate for women. This advocacy raises false expectations, inasmuch as [t]he Church confers the sacrament of Holy Orders only on baptized men (viri) (Catechism
of the Catholic Church, No. 1598).
Further, permitting women to become ordained as deacons was revealingly called a first step, which again posits the discussion as one of power and equality, not service and complementarity.
At root, I think we need to restore a sense of the church as not merely the people of God but the family of God (cf. Catechism, No. 959), where all may find a home. It’s not a unisex, impersonal institution to be refashioned pursuant to effective lobbying or fashionable agendas.
Leon J. Suprenant Jr.
President, Catholics United for the Faith
A Living Wage
I wish to add three observations about the plight of women in the church (11/27). First, sisters who minister within the diocesan structure proper do not earn a living wage. They and their religeous congregations contribute their services. Annual stipends range from about $10,000 to $14,000 for each sister working full-time. Second, women are not included in the decision-making process. Though qualified, they do not hold leadership positions. Third, while the male diaconate has been reinstated in the Western Catholic Church, the same cannot be said for the female diaconate, an important ministry in the early church. Some Eastern churches have already reactivated the order of deaconess. If we concur that women have a role of leadership in the universal church, what is the nature of this leadership, and how do our bishops put this leadership into practice?
Joan L. Roccasalvo, C.S.J.
A Long Time Ago
I went to a Catholic grade school, a Jesuit high school and to Villanova University for a B.A. Women’s ordination is not an idea whose time has finally arrived; it is a practice that should have been in place a long time ago (11/27). Women are equals in the name of God and should have an equal place in our church today. I am ashamed to call myself a Catholic when the church holds women in such a low regard. Show the world that Catholicism believes in equality and ordain women!
Chapel Hill, N.C.
Just Stop and Listen
You write in your editorial (11/27): Though Ordinatio Sacerdotalis stands, it is clear that this topic is not going away.
There is a popular force in contemporary American culture that affirms (for want of a better term) women in business, in politics, in sports and in other areas. And this has found its way into the Catholic Churchwhy not women priests? Just because current culture posits a popular argument in favor of women, must we now change universal Catholic practices to conform to what contemporary American culture and society define to be the truth? If the ethnicity/race issue becomes stronger in the future, must we now redefine the central biblical characters to conform to contemporary notions of ethnicity? Are practices and teachings now to be driven by polls in contemporary society?
The church has 2,000 years of tradition and wisdom and the pope is Christ’s vicar here on earth. Has the papacy suddenly lost its wisdom? Because we live in a materially prosperous country that is globally dominant, does that carry a license to wisdom in matters not of science and commerce but of faith and religion?
At some point, shouldn’t we just stop and listen to the wisdom of the papacy to strengthen our faith and freedom?
Daly City, Calif.
Recently an article in America (11/27) noted that women’s congregations resent having to import eucharistic ministers. It is fair, I think, to note that such ministers do not line up volunteering for export. When they find themselves in that situation, they are relieved to learn the Mass will be celebrated according to the noble simplicity of the Roman Rite.
George Ratermann, M.M.
Lisa Sowle Cahill presents a compelling redrawing of the popular connections between women and Catholic ethics. My mother raised four illegitimate children by herself in a culture where machismo ruled and the church generally looked the other way. I cheer Ms. Cahill and her vineyard sisters on.
But something’s missing in the article. In her plethora of ethical issues that concern Catholic women in North America today, why has Ms. Cahill conspicuously left out mention of the unborn’s right to life?
Manuel M. Roxas Jr.
Las Vegas, Nev.