What role do you see women playing in the Ordinariates? If there is an Anglican liturgy that preserves Catholic aspects of a traditional Book of Common Prayer liturgy, should altar girls be allowed? Should women be reading the Scriptures? Handing out Holy Communion? Where will women fit in the Ordinariates? In the Altar Guild and that's it?
Interestingly, Father Z has a post about whether altar girls, and women lectors and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should be allowed in the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Mass. According to Archbishop Burke, the answer is no.
Here's a translation of Burke's words with Father Z's emphases:
The application of these two principles to the cases mentioned leads to the conclusion that neither the service at the altar by persons of the female sex nor the exercise of the lay ministries of lecturer or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion belong to the basic rights of the baptized. Therefore, these recent developments, out of respect for the integrity of the liturgical discipline as contained in the Missale Romanum of 1962, are not to be introduced into the Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite. The commentary presents here in an impressive manner that the mutual enrichment of both forms of the Roman rite is only possible if discipline peculiar to each of the two forms is accordingly carefully observed.
I do not want to see altar girls or women lectors during whatever traditional Anglican liturgy is approved by the Holy See. Why? Because I believe doing so interferes with the vocation to priestly ministry, which is never going to be open to women in the Catholic Church. When girls are involved, the boys will stay home. Ask my 3 1/2 year old grandson, who has already told me via Skype that he does not play with girls. (Though he does, and one of his favorite programs is Dora the Explorer.)
Of course, there are those who will argue, well Rome allows women lectors, women as EMHCs, so why shouldn't we? Well, for those Ordinariate parishes that opt for the new translation of the Novus Ordo Roman Missal when that comes into effect, knock yourself out. But I think the message is confusing to both men and women, and for those of us who wish to carry on with a traditional Anglican-Catholic patrimony. Let us keep a sound respect for complementarity and let us teach what is really going on in the Eucharist and why a woman can't be a stand-in for Christ.
This week, I covered a conference of the Catholic Women's League, the largest women's group in Canada and a counterpart to the Knights of Columbus. The keynote speaker addressed the issue of sexual abuse in the Church and called on the members of the audience to be "astounding women of hope" like those the Gospel of Luke records who told the Apostles of Jesus' Resurrection.
The speaker, a little firecracker, a Sister of Charity, a professor emeritus of medical ethics, and a retired pediatrician, spoke at length about clericalism and the special role clergy have had in society as one of the reasons for the priestly sexual abuse crisis. It was also one reason why abuse was kept secret, she said. It was a lively talk that called for everyone to draw closer to Jesus and deal with the systemic problems that led to the abuse. One thing she mentioned was the need to empower women, especially since women are seldom involved in sexual abuse.
I look around, and I see another problem, though. It's not male privilege or power. Maybe clericalism was an issue before the Second Vatican Council, but these days, I don't see the priests and bishops having much power at all. They could pronounce the truths of the faith all they want, but few will pay much attention, or, if they do, it will be to heap scorn and vitriol. I see many priests and bishops bending over backwards not to be sexist, to be sensitive and affirming. I see too much empowerment of women and little or no correction of assertive women who may need it. I see too much of women running the show and at the same time undermining the Church's teaching on Holy Orders and the Eucharist.
There is a great tension in the Catholic Church as people grapple with what seems to be a vocations crisis in many quarters. It has been met with efforts to professionalize ministry with trained lay people, both women and men, who now do many of the things priests or religious used to do. When you have ratios like one priest to 1,000 people, there's a problem, but I'm not sure some of the fixes many people have in mind are good ones for the Church. There is a flattening out, a democratization, that I find troubling. I like hierarchy and proper authority.
This is not to say I don't have some sympathy for many of my cohorts of a certain age. We can all remember a time when you could literally not get credit without your father's or your husband's signature, or when gals like me with a good college education were sent to the secretarial pool and it never occurred to anyone to put us in the track to be become licensed account executives. We experienced some of the downside of patriarchy, where male privilege was assumed and sexism was a real problem in the work place and in the home. We were groomed to find someone to marry and it did not occur to people that we might want to be professors or doctors or journalists. Many women in my generation broke through those assumptions — for better or for worse, I don't know — but still see this big "glass ceiling" in the Church.
Today, I see the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction. Where, when I was growing up, men were automatically privileged, today men are devalued and fatherhood is diminished and even ridiculed in the popular media. The priesthood is smeared as a haven for pedophiles. Fathers are chumps. Women can do without them, even when it comes to raising children.
Look at most churches, even Catholic Churches, and what is the ratio of men to women? 60 women to 40 men? Lower than that? Why are men checking out? Why would they rather play golf or watch TV than go to church?
For many women in my age group, the fact that men are up there at the altar and heading the dioceses and running the Vatican like a male-only club feels like a slap in the face. Some resent the special status men have, when they do a lot of the real work in keeping a parish or a diocese running, but they have none of the real decision-making power or recognition.
I do not want to be a priest. But I do want to exercise some form of ministry in the priesthood of believers, a concept that for me is still imbued with evangelical connotations involving the exercise of supernatural spiritual gifts such as prophecy, discerning spirits, healing, evangelism and so on. It doesn't mean the same thing as it means to liberal Catholics, who want the priesthood of believers to be, for example, a democratic force to overturn strictures against artificial contraception or see the priesthood open to women.
So — for the Ordinariates — what role for women? When women ask to be empowered in the Church, what do they mean?
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