Sexism in Church merits discussion
Letter to the Editor | Sunday, September 20, 2009
In response to Christopher Damian’s letter entitled “The sexist Church” (Sept. 18): The idea that refusing to permit the ordination of women is akin to men’s inability to have babies is flawed. Men’s inability to have babies is a biological limitation, while the Church’s refusal to allow women into the priesthood is a limitation imposed upon women by the institution of the Church. Men cannot have babies because they do not have what is required to have a baby: for example, a uterus. Women, however, are not permitted to become priests even when they possess what is necessary to be effective priests: exemplary leadership skills, an enduring faith and understanding of Christ’s teachings and a desire to serve others. The two cases are completely different and comparing them trivializes the importance of the issue.
Additionally, Damian’s use of quotes around the word “calling,” i.e. “Women who experience a ‘calling’ to the priesthood,” implies that these women are misguided in their interpretations of God’s voice in their lives. If we refuse to consider these women’s desires to become leaders in the Church as earnest and heartfelt – if we dismiss their claims that they feel called by God to serve in that manner as impossibilities – then we are refusing to engage in a discussion that recognizes the importance of women’s voices in the Church.
We do not have to be judges of God’s Church, but as members of it, we should engage in meaningful discussion about how we can grow in our attempts to serve according to the mission of the Church. In writing that by “challenging authority and engaging in dissension … we forget our place in the cosmos,” Damian seems to be saying that women have forgotten their place and he has taken it upon himself to remind them where they belong.
The idea of women becoming priests will become even more relevant as the number of men entering the priesthood continues to lag behind the number of priests reaching retirement age. As long as women are kept out of the priesthood, the Church is advocating a very real power differential between men and women. This is an issue that we must acknowledge and discuss with careful thought and respect for all who feel passionately about it.