Catholics Want Female Priests

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Some of the feedback I got about my prior post about the Catholic Church excommunicating women who tried to become priests was of this variety: why should the Church care what you (a  non-Catholic) think?   On one level that’s fair (a group of which I’m not a member need not take my views into account), though on another level it’s not: I’m an American and a professor of employment discrimination, and a major employer in my country is blatantly discriminating in its hiring.

But let’s assume that the “who cares if non-Catholics perceive sexism” perspective is fair.   The real problem for those who defend Church orthodoxy is this: most Catholics agree with me, not them.   That’s not just my hunch: it’s the result of a Zogby poll commissioned by Jesuit priests reported in an “orthodox Catholic perspective” publication:

[In a] poll of Catholics … 53% want women to be priests, and 54% want priests to be allowed to marry….   61% rejected the statement that “artificial birth control is morally wrong.” Even among the 46% who are weekly Mass-goers, 54% disagreed with that ancient, papally upheld condemnation of contraceptive sex.

This shows a puzzling anomaly … , since 72% strongly agreed they should stand up for and live according to Catholic values, … accept the Pope’s infallibility, and believe their bishops and pastors are doing a good job. Even so there is not only dissent on the above-mentioned issues that both Pope and bishops insist are binding, but 64% think the Church is wrong to withhold Communion from Catholics in invalid “marriages.”

Don’t respond by telling me, “this is a biased poll”: Zogby is a respected pollster; and the self-described “orthodox Catholic” publication reporting this didn’t attack the methodology, but instead simply blamed the results on the following:

(1) a bizarrely condescending  view that Catholics can’t answer such questions accurately (“these issues touch too close to home for a majority of Catholics to make an objective judgment”);

(2) the decades-old Vatican II reforms that are today quite uncontroversial (“more than a generation of post-Vatican II catechetics has failed to hold a majority of Catholics to Catholic thinking,” this paper dubiously asserted as a reason Catholics are more progressive on gender than is their Church), and

(3) “the damaging role of the press” — the last resort of those who simply dislike some piece of news that the press report.

In short, y’all are right that my opinion isn’t what the Church has to worry about; it’s the opinion of a majority of Catholics, mainly on gender discrimination, family, and  sexuality, that the Church has to worry about.   I doubt that it’s a great long-term strategy for Church orthodoxy defenders to ignore the issue by trying to pass the blame to past reformers, the media, and the ignorance of dissenting Catholics.

- Scott Moss

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0 Responses to Catholics Want Female Priests

  1. larryalobo says:

    If the Catholic church was a democracy or run as some protestant church run, a poll might make a difference. What I have found about polls is that the results depend on several things: 1) What type of person you ask – how random is a sample – there are degrees of randomness depending on who they could contact; 2) How you phrase any question – Do you want to have a woman as a priest – is a different question than – would it matter to you if women became priests; 3) Which questions you put in what order – which quesitons come first and which questions you put next to others.

    Especially since the results of these polls are somewhat close (50 – 60%) these issues and others matter. This is not an employment issue, though you might seem to think so. This is a tradition which is part of the hstory of the church from the beginning. Yes, I know there were deacons that were females and women had important positions early in the church. That does not mean the logical conclusion is that they should be given a free shot at priesthood – only that at a time they had more positions than they did at other times in history.

    There have been places for women in the church and there are even more now that the laity are much more involved. What has been changed is more a change in church workings is married priests. Once upon a time the Roman Catholic church had them but after about 1200 years the church changed its discipline and no longer allows male priests to marry. Many other churches close to the Roman rite have married priests – Orthodox, Eastern rite, Anglican, Episcopalian – Some priests from those churches have joined the Roman rite and kept their families and are in good standing with the Roman Catholic church and the laity.

    The laity did not buy the contraceptive ban for lots of reasons – the laity and priests and nuns/sisters thought the practice would change – it was the 60s and individual freedom was paramount so when the church did not change people reacted badly and disregard what the church teaches. The church did not cave and change its position just because the laity has not followed – (leadership not stubborness). How the church handles and deals with those who do not follow church perscriptions is up to the church, including excommunication. They did the same thing to Bishop Le Fevere from France many years ago who chose to not follow Rome’s rules and perscriptions and ordained priests and others without proper sanction. He resolved his issues with Rome before he died and was accepted back.

    A desire for ministry does not mean you get to choose the ministry you want. We still don’t have a woman president in the USA and this is a democracy where majority rules. Other countries have had women as presidents or head of the government. Democracies are different animals than are churches – not the same decision making structure. I think any memeber is free to explore issues but when a decision is made then its done, at least for now. Theologians can explore what issues of faith may mean (using our tradition, study of scripture and an approach to philosophy) but once the heads of the church (bishops of the world) decide what will be, that’s the way it is. Even our politicians may vote in ways that don’t fit with the majority of people or with their constituants but in a democracy the people have the power to recall or vote someone out – not so in the church. Different type of group and power.

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