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A Story | Catholic Life

A Story

There is a story that I have heard over and over again. It is not precisely my story, though it contains echoes of what I have experienced. Because of all of this I assume that others know it. Not merely that they have heard it, but that they know it just as well as I. And yet it is apparently unknown to many. It is a truth which is whispered only behind closed doors in certain circles. I am free from these circles, though oh so closely united to them, and so I will repeat it here.

It starts with a little girl. She has been gifted with a special love for God, the Church, and the liturgy. She is, in many ways, the most innocently perfect example of what the entire Church should be. She longs to serve God in every way possible, and naturally draws near toward the fullest participation in the liturgy possible. She wants to serve God at the altar.

Her joyful anticipation of giving herself in this way is quickly squelched. She may not serve at the altar because only boys may do so. She is told that this is simply the way things are. The Church wants boys to serve at the altar, and because she is a girl, she may pray quietly in the pew–she may pray for the boys that they will serve God well. Certainly she can see that the boys need prayer, but the news that she is unworthy of joining them in the great privilege of serving at the altar is wounding beyond any of those instructing her can understand, most likely because they have never been full of such a pure desire for God.

Perhaps this is the greatest damage of the situation. But the full ramifications and more obviously problematic results do not show up for years. When the girl is in her late teens or perhaps even her twenties she learns that those who told her she simply could not serve because she was a girl were wrong. There is nothing in the Church’s infallible dogma which prevents her from serving.

The traditions which arose and led to the complete exclusion of women from all ecclesiastical office were a result of Hebrew and Roman influence–not the earliest traditions of the Church. The arguments used to prevent girls from serving at the altar are, in fact, often rooted in a deep misunderstanding of the tremendous privilege of serving at the altar.  Even the language of privilege rather than rights is used as a mask for turning something holy into a petty boys club for the utilitarian purpose of compensating for a culture which has lost its authentic faith and thus lost the Spirit which should rightly inspire vocations.

The girl, now a woman, is sick. It is not the fact that she could not serve which makes her sick. It is the fact that she cannot trust her Church. If the Church which told her she could not serve at the altar was simply making up petty rules to keep her from God when there was, in fact, no real reason that she could not serve, how on earth can she trust that Church when it says that only men can be priests?

When she does a bit of research she realizes that all of the arguments she has heard against the ordination of women to the priesthood are not in fact from the Vatican. The Vatican says very simply that Christ did not count women among the Apostles, even though they were counted among the disciples, and so, in keeping with that the Church can not count women among her priests.

But it is too late. It is clear that whatever the Vatican may say at any given point, the Church as a whole is still deeply sexist and happy to crush girls at whim in hopes of building up a warring empire of boys. It is clear that the actual history of the Church will be tossed aside in order to make a new tradition based only on the past 500 years, and that TRADITION will, in fact, mean whatever the good local traditionalists want it to mean.

And so, this girl who never would have dreamed of being a priest now questions her Church. She questions not because she served at the altar and thought she should advance in the ranks, but precisely because she was denied the opportunity to serve when there was no valid reason to deny it.

It is precisely the confusion of those who imagine that all actions surrounding the altar are the same, and thus exclude girls when there is no spiritual reason for exclusion, which has led to a doubt which will never be healed in this lifetime. She may continue to live with the rest of her Church and appear to be the most docile of congregants, but she will never trust the way that she should have been able to–the way that she would have--had we not placed worldly ideas of Church organization above the truth that our Lord taught.

Let the little children come unto me.

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