Look! Over There! A Female!

My facebook group, one fine day in June, had a re-post of “Question of the day” that appears on a member’s blog, which I have reprinted here:

Jeannie Boudreau Richards via Miriamne the Magdala – The First Chapter in the Yeshua & Miri Novel Series

Today’s Big Question: What’s YOUR Point Of View?

“In 2012 a survey of Roman Catholics, on behalf of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), showed that 87 percent believed priests should marry and 77 percent were in favor of women being priests. Another 22 percent believed matured married men should be ordained … Father Sean McDonagh said it is the obligation of the Irish bishops to raise these issues in Rome and added that it is not an issue unique to Ireland. He also noted that Pope Francis has indicated that he is open to such suggestions.”~Irish Central.com

Do you support the clergy’s right to marry? Are you in favor of the ordination of women priests? Tell me what YOU think! As always, your comments are appreciated and validated!

JB Richards

Author of “Miriamne the Magdala”- The First Chapter in the “Yeshua and Miri Novel Series” and Content Creator for The Miriamne Page

Now, I like Jeanne. She is the very talented Mom of one of the guys my kids went to high school with, who is, as the saying goes, an old soul adept at singing, writing poetry, interrupting US Presidents during speeches, and passionately defending the poor and oppressed.  She is like me in that she frequently finds herself homebound due to her disabilities, and we both share the feminist sensability that both women and men are human and good.  Some days I have had to call her off, as she was cross posting from her blog onto mine so frequently that the regular members were beginning to get fed up with her.  Her blog is pretty specific to a particular kind of Catholic, where mine is a big tent that lets every denomination, including Romans, in and then I act as the lady with the whistle who sometimes has to order everybody out of the pool.  She has very firm beliefs in a lot of things, I have this one belief that when God nudged me and said “Everyone in, or no one gets to go” that he was serious and somehow He will, like a good gardener, get us all in shape and in order so we are each individual, yet taken together a glorious testament to His Unending Love.

Needless to say, she makes more money than I do at blogging, and probably has about 6 times the number of friends, a shocking percentage of which she can actually talk with on a regular basis.  I chalk that one up to the fact her kid is going on 24.  The last of my 15 I have birthed, adopted, or cared for is 11.

The comments started right away, as usual with Jeanne herself:

Jeannie Boudreau Richards: RELATED ARTICLE: The “PUSH” is on! From Huffington Post via Religion News Service: “Top Catholic and Orthodox church officials in North America are calling on the Vatican to let married men become priests in Eastern rite Catholic churches, another sign that optional celibacy could become a front-burner issue under Pope Francis.”

What’s YOUR opinion?…See More
Something’s Gone Terribly Wrong

This was followed by:

Stephanie B. Alles: I think it IS indeed time for both married ane (sic) women priests. And for the argument that the apostel (sic) were all male: If “latecoming” Paul is an apostel (sic), then Mary of Magdala IS in fact an apostel (sic)! And as she first whitnessed (sic) Jesus risen from death, she is one of the most important! Jesus did NOT say: “Hold your mouth shut and wait until the boys come here”

Jeannie Boudreau Richards write back in my absence:  Thanks for commenting, Stephanie B. Alles, I love your example!

Via private message:

“What about those clergy who LIKE being celibate or who feel it is a special calling?  Will they become the new second class citizens of the Roman church?”

“Great. Now all the abusive nuns on power trips will be clamoring to get into seminary and get ordained so they can make us even more miserable.”

“Read Jeanne’s most recent.  Is anybody paying attention to the fact that the more buzz there is about married and female clergy, the less attention gets shed on the fact that so far Francis hasn’t actually done anything about the pedophile crisis? What’s he going to do when a Mary Jo Letorneau gets ordained and starts wreaking havoc?”

“Somehow, I think some Romans are sure that if they open the door just enough so that married and female clergy are ok, they can go shut it again before any GLBTQ clergy can get in openly and NOT be celibate.”

“Even if Francis does allow married priests and bishops, even if he does create a female deaconate, it isn’t going to fix anything long term.  It is just going to set up a lot of people who feel called to be clergy for a complete dressing down when he dies and the pendulum swings back.”

“OK, so there is all this discussion about married and female clergy, while at the same time Francis still hasn’t stripped the Ugandan Cardinal for making statements supporting that country’s new laws that it is ok to execute someone for being born gay.  I can’t find one word he has said publicly about all those dead babies at those Irish homes run by nuns.  Yeah, he fired those bank cardinals, and put put good people in to get the money under control.  But why is he moving so fast at fixing the money problem, and dragging his feet in Uganda and Ireland?”

“Oh please.  As if the Vatican bureaucrats are going to keep putting up with all this nonsense.  Do you ever watch the mass in St. Peter’s now?  All those mucky mucks in the plain ordinary cloth vestments, and you can see them seething with anger.  He’s a cagey one, but Francis is mortal, and eventually the assassins will get him.  Honestly Brenda, why do you persist in this belief that the Romans are salvagable?  They are Paul’s failed experiment, and have survived only due to corruption.  All of the Church is better off if God just continues to prune them out of existence.”

My first post on the conversation on the group was:

Mary Magdalene was recognized in the early church as an apostle, as were other women.  Women were not just the keyholders to the homes where the early church gathered, they were active builders of the faith.  There is plenty of evidence that women and married men were clergy in the early church, and the removal of these two groups had more to do with maintaining political power over the so-called Holy Roman Empire than in any theological issue.

Some denominations had female and married clergy until into the middle ages, and One denomination of Orthodox Catholics had female deacons up until fairly recently.

As far as married clergy, which even Rome had for quite a long time, the Romans need only look at the other denominations that have chosen to be ruled by the Vatican – many of which have married clergy.

I think one facet that can be added to this is that in the Episcopal, Old Catholic (Utrechtian), Independent Old Catholic, and Independent Catholic churches women have been clergy for a long time, including as bishops, and many of them have shown that theological knowledge, managerial ability, pastoral care, ministry dedication and all that goes into being a Catholic clergy is possible for either gender (or even for the third gender).

So too, all of the above have had male clergy who were married, with same good result.

I propose that Celibacy can be a person’s natural, genetic relationship orientation, irregardless of gender orientation or sexual orientation.  While I do think it is possible for a person with a monogamous, serial monogamous, or poly-amorous orientation to choose to be celibate as a religious observance, it is not necessarily a requirement of God’s to be an effective, spiritual, dedicated clergy person nearly as often as the previous Roman Bishops of Rome have wanted us to believe it was.

I think it is much more likely that the ranks of the celibate within that denomination were so simply because that is how the rules were written.  As for the argument that a celibate clergy can stop nepotism in a particular denomination…two words: The Medici’s.

Ultimately, what matters is that the clergy person live his or her life as true to whatever orientations God gave them, and to keep sacred the promises they make.  Even Francis would agree, I believe, on that one.  His biggest problem will be figuring out how exactly to “redefine” papal infallibility so that the changes that denomination needs can be made.

The problem?  Celibacy isn’t the only problem to fix. Sexism isn’t the only problem to fix.  They do, however, have a common cause.

It is the entire view of humans as sexual beings, of holding the ideals of marriage and celibacy while harboring the reality of infidelity and pedophilia, that the Roman denomination has to look at first, because for nearly 2,000 years they have been trying to stuff square pegs into round holes and caused misery to everyone from Renaissance brides to modern gay men.

Will adding female and married clergy solve the vocations crisis and put a priest back in front of the pews at each church?  Maybe.  Will it in the end solve the theological, ministerial, and legal issues of that denomination?  No.

It will be the equivalent of seeing a festering infected 2,000 year old sore, washing a bit of water through it, slapping a bandage on it, and then paying the injured party to ignore the pain, stench, and worsening health and pretend it is all ok.  Victims of pedophilia will still be created, as will mistresses and whatever name we are going to make up for the male equivalent.

Those of us outside the Roman denomination have no excuse to sit back, pat ourselves, and say “Ha! We’re so much better!” because with very few exceptions at least a part of our history, theology, or customs are at least partially influenced by that group of gentile Jesus followers started by Paul and (if the legends are half true) co-opted by Peter that grew into the Constantinian Wrecking Ball, killing off the other denominations before the differences might have been able to show that none of those humans had it exactly right anyway.

If anything, those of us who did have at least the concepts:

  1. That children are not for sexual recreation,
  1. That when a clergy person has an affair it hurts more than just the spouse and family

have been far too lax, for far too many years, in bringing our example and our history to the public  and to our fellow bishops.  For example:

  • When was the last time an Independent Bishop took the time to write to his brothers in the Roman denomination?  Not just to brag “We didn’t have any pedophile problems for 5 years” but to thoughtfully and carefully outline HOW that result was achieved.
  • As for transparency, when was the last time an Orthodox or Old Catholic denomination had a press release to announce that they had turned over a pedophile suspect in their ranks to the police?
  • How many non-Roman denominations have been rocked by infidelity scandals, or worse, had such affairs among the clergy but covered it up?

Some days, I wish that more than anything Francis could issue a good scholarly Jesuit rebuttal of the way Vatican I was handled and rushed out into opening, occurring, and making pronouncements not in keeping with the One Church or with early church history, before Rome’s own theologians could finish the work they were doing on the topic.  That such an important work was rushed out the door just so one man could have it become official during his favorite jubilee year should be evidence enough for Francis to reopen and reexamine the entire affair.

It may indeed have been Vatican I, and the unholy deification of clergy it birthed, that accelerated the clergy pedophile crisis in the Roman church.  However, Francis does a disservice to the concept of clerical reform and abuse prevention if he only looks back that far.  The problem of clergy having relations with children has existed for centuries – long enough that hundreds of years ago Irish writers were composing limericks about not letting your altar server son get too close to the pastor.  It remains to be seen, if Francis can ever open up the convent records to the light of day, as to whether the disease of pedophilia was purely a male clergy issue or not.

Once the Romans solve the problem of placing a man higher than God, the female / married clergy, along with issues like GLBTQ clergy, Intersex or third gender clergy, and about 3/4 of the abuses committed by religious and clergy can be truly dealt with.  Now, as things stand, they are painted into a corner by statements of previous popes that “can’t” be redefined or undone.  The only two examples I can think of that Francis could use to buttress his argument that even a Pope can be wrong is the statements made by JP II apologizing to the Jews and the “un-excommunication” as it were of Copernicus and other scientists.  Even though JPII’s statements were primarily about the Shoah, the fact is that the Holocaust was born of centuries of ex-cathedra statements by Popes of the most vile accusations against the Jews, complete with sanctions to be placed on them, which created the scapegoat that turned the “us” who crucified Christ out of ignorance,  wrath, avarice, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony into a “them” of nameless, faceless Jews.  Had those Popes not erred, the seeds of hate that bred the Shoah would never have been able to germinate.

Likewise, had it not been for clergy with “secret wives” (reportedly still a problem that the Romans have yet to deal with in Africa), Popes who went along with such misbegotten notions like kings being allowed to have as many mistresses as they wished, so long as they didn’t actually want to marry one, such characters as the Medicis, and the simultaneous claim that married for benefit of procreation was both blessed and lesser than celibacy, we might not have had such problems as the Massachusetts priest who took off when his drug addicted mistress suddenly overdosed and died on him.  If nothing else, it might have saved us from the ennui and boredom of the slower parts of The Thorn Birds miniseries.

In short, to simply create a female deacon-ate, or to permit widower deacons to become priests, or to allow married deacons to progress to priesthood…is beside the point.

First, Francis must go back, open up all his archives of 1st and second century materials, and carefully search forward with impartial scholars and researchers to see where and when the concept of celibate clergy gained so much ground it became the norm, and settle once and for all when the issues of clergy having relations with children and supposedly celibate clergy having relations with others originated.

So far, we know that it was not unusual for a Roman gentile male in the first century to have male slaves of fairly young age that could be “used” for sex.  We know that Paul was a Jew who was also a Roman citizen.  We know that a lot of his letters are to Timothy, but the guy who actually wrote about him was a doctor named Luke.  We know that at least on one occasion he sent a newly converted slave back to his community, and however much Paul may have preached that in Christ all are free, the Roman owner of that slave most probably didn’t agree.  How old was Timothy when he started following Paul around? Who gave Luke the Q gospel, the here’s what Paul did stories, and what stuff did he leave out?  Were there early Christian converts in Paul’s community who were child sex slaves, and did Paul do anything to change the status they had or the life they were subjected to? My bet is that it is back there, with a Roman gentile convert to Christianity, that the answer to the pedophilia crisis origins can be found.

The case of celibate clergy doing the nasty on the other hand, may very well trace back not to deification of clergy at all, but simply on the basis that celibate to most clergy of the times was translated as “I won’t get married legally, so my kids won’t take over my pointy hat or my funny collar, ok?”  If sexual contact had become divorced as it were from the issue of marriage, as it so obviously had by the time the Renaissance came around, then the solution is so much simpler.  All the Romans need do is go back to the early church practices of

  • the community of believers bringing forth the candidates for ordination
  • the community of believers voting for who is or is not the bishop

and add a good DNA testing protocol for pastors and higher.  There, no more nepotism, and the marital status, sexual orientation, and relationship orientation can be whatever they are, and everyone can focus on whether that candidate has qualities like theological knowledge, pastoral training, and a good sermon.

Then, just as soon as the Romans are done, all of us outside the Vatican can put the same approach to the various abuses and mistakes we all have in our denominations, and get ready for a true ecumenical church council.  Every bishop goes who has at least 2 unrelated souls who follow him, and no one bishop is higher than any other.  I hope I live that long, if just to see how many bishops with garage cathedrals or waiting arrest warrants look around to find they don’t make the cut because the only thing they catch with that crosier is air as they wave it around.  Rome can turn off the lights, and let Bernie Law do a walk around once every hour to make sure no one breaks in.  Not sure what the other bishops will do, but with a garage cathedral to maintain, those belonging to the liturgical drag show can always dust the chandeliers.

When the happy day arrives, and the entire Catholic church gathers for a true ecumenical council, hopefully the Roman Pope and his fellow bishops who actually have flocks will be there, with a healthy and strong denomination, alongside each of us, equally healthy and strong.  Barraging the media with buzz over what Francis may or may not do about married or female clergy isn’t the answer.  Debridement, surgery, proper assessment, and complete professional wound care is what is needed.  The noisy buzz does a disservice not only to the Romans, but to the Catholic Church as a whole.

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