Anna Githens
Women priests - Another feminist fad?
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By Anna Githens
September 8, 2014

For over fifty years now, the "women's movement" has continued to gain momentum. Women have succeeded in attaining high-ranking positions in virtually all professions. Recently, the General Synod at York voted to allow women to become bishops in the Church of England.

Women have finally arrived!

But have they? Have women reached the pinnacle of their destiny where they can, at long last, stop, gaze at their accomplishments, give themselves a firm pat on the back and be content in knowing they can do everything men can do? Or is the women's movement still moving?

I suspect the latter. I believe that the women's movement is a train wreck waiting to happen, and if it continues in the direction it is headed the ramifications on society will be devastating.

I was once on board that train myself. Working on Wall Street as a trader, I recall trying to maintain a professional appearance while in my sixth month of pregnancy with my first child. Since I thought the maternity clothes looked too matronly, I squeezed my expanding figure into what I considered a fashionable business outfit, and rode the subway in ninety-degree heat. Upon arriving at work a colleague said to me, "Don't you think you're pushing it with the non-maternity clothes, Anna?"

I mention this moment only for its metaphorical significance: I felt like I was trying to squeeze myself into a life that no longer fit. I saw other women who had multitasking down to a perfect science; many who gave me advice and scheduling tips to help me prepare for life as a working mother. But I knew that daily grind – one that involved breast pumps, a nanny, client business dinners, and a two-hour daily commute – would take a toll on my family and my health. I was also worried about my family's financial future. However, I experienced an inner yearning to submit to motherhood, to which I cautiously acquiesced. And when I left, I felt a lot like a failure. I am now thankful that I made that decision, although at the time I thought that I was not equipped to handle it all.

I realize that many couples raising children today need a double income, or that the wife may hold the job with health insurance benefits. Over the years women have made great sacrifices that enabled them to achieve enormous success in all walks of life. Had it not been for the women's movement I probably would not even be able to write this blog. For this and for all my experiences I am grateful. But somewhere along the ride I sensed imminent danger. Has the women's movement gone too far? Is it taking us into a harmful direction that may cause – or has caused – irreparable damage to society?

To me, women becoming priests is just another manifestation of the feminist movement. I believe it is imperative for us to take heed of the fad that is feminism, lest it should cause irrevocable harm to the social order. For this purpose, let us briefly consider what it means to be feminine or masculine since our natural attributes affect our distinctive roles in the church and in the world.

To uncover what it means to be truly feminine, perhaps we can begin by acknowledging what femininity is not. Femininity by its very nature lacks the capacity to initiate human life. For, a woman does not have the biological composition necessary to plant the seed that will initiate life; she is the receptor of that seed. The human family, then, consists of a father who initiates life, and a mother who receives that life – these two features of our biological design are inalterable. The father is the initiator and protector, and the mother is the receptor and nurturer. This is a truth that is plainly evident and reveals a great deal about human behavior.

It is also one of the most conspicuous reasons God is called Our Father. The Creator is the Initiator. He planted the seed of Creation and breathed life into humanity. At the culmination of His Passion, Jesus – God incarnate – planted the seed of the Church, which initiated the divine life of the Church; and Mary, his mother, stood at the foot of the cross and received it.

Each day at Mass in the offertory and the consecration of the Eucharist, the Passion is reenacted. Jesus, not Mary, was the sacrificial lamb. Jesus selected men as his apostles and are the ones with whom he celebrated the Last Supper. To them he said, "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19), and "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (John 20:21).

Through Jesus' crucifixion, death and resurrection the Church was born; Mary is the mother of the Church, not vice versa. Mary is also bride, the spouse of the Holy Spirit, as well as mother, in that she held the seed that was planted in her womb by God the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way she is intimately associated with the Holy Trinity.

Shortly after the favorable ruling for women bishops in the Church of England, the New York Times published an op-ed by Jane Gardam entitled, "Give Us a Bishop in High Heels." Although the article gushes on about the many "benefits" it presents to women and the Church, the provocative title the author chose accentuates the anomaly in blending high heels with priestly vestments; a banal provocation considering we live in an age where oddity is celebrated and the traditional is reviled as if it were some kind of ancient infectious disease.

In my humble opinion, a woman standing at the altar consecrating the Eucharist seems to completely turn things upside down. While most of us desire to express our uniqueness and make a difference in the world, at what point do we stop and ask: Is my current life-choice mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy for me? Is it beneficial to my family, to society, or, as far as religious callings go, to the Church?

More specifically, regarding religious vocations, our primary concern should always be what God desires for us – how we are called to live as human persons in His image. While there are many physiological and psychological points to make concerning the appointment of women priests or bishops, the position the Catholic Church holds is essentially theological and ontological, derived from the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Family, and Creation.

Perhaps years ago, the question of women priests was not as hotly contested as it is today because the natural design of the human family, and thus the Holy family, was implicitly understood. In these modern times, scientific innovation can mislead us into believing that the roles of mother and father are synonymous and interchangeable. In the past, because man-made devices like baby bottles and breast pumps did not exist, a woman had to be physically present to her children.

As man progresses and produces new things he must ascertain how they may benefit or harm the totality of God's people, which is the Church. This is precisely why the Church regularly comes together to discuss these types of advancements and why the Pope writes encyclicals. Thus, what is best for the Church should always trump what is best for women only or what is best for men only; for in this way we can all reap the benefits as we seek to uphold all persons in the Body in Christ.

The Blessed Mother is the ideal prototype for discovering and understanding authentic femininity. She exemplifies perfectly the roles of mother and spouse. Her words, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38) reflect obedience, humility, and faith.

At the Wedding Feast in Cana when Mary informs Jesus that there is no more wine, Jesus responds, "Woman how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come" (John 2:4). Yet, in a demonstration of respect, obedience, submission, and faith Mary instructs the servants to "Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:5).

Jesus addressing his mother as "woman" may have additional significance. Perhaps we may glean from this passage the critical influence a woman can have in exercising her vigilant observation skills and her uniquely feminine gifts of keen perception and intuition.

While Mary herself did not perform Jesus' first public miracle, her intuitive foresight played a crucial role in influencing its timing and execution. Although it was "not yet" Jesus' time, Mary's intuitive perception prompted Jesus to begin his public ministry (John 2:11), thus providing for us a beautiful and perfect rendition of the harmonious and complementary relationship God intended between man and woman.

Women in the Bible such as Rebecca, Hannah, Deborah, Rahab, and Judith, to mention a few, aided the men in their lives in their own feminine and dignified way. They demonstrate that submission does not relegate women to a subordinate position, and obedience does not categorize her as inferior. On the contrary, when she attains such virtues she will be poised to be enriched by God's graces. Yet there are women in the Church today who claim their status is akin to that of second-class citizens.

Judith was acknowledged, "You are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the splendid boast of our people. God is pleased with what you have wrought. May you be blessed by the Lord Almighty forever and ever" (Judith 15:9-10). God crowned Mary Queen of Heaven. He prepared for her a place at the right hand of Jesus, which prefigures His plan for us. Does that sound like second class to you?

Lest we forget, a woman was Jesus' first and most faithful disciple. Mary held God incarnate in her womb and was His guardian on earth. Truly, Our Blessed Mother is "the highest honor of our race."

Sometimes our fixation on man-made distinctions and titles may blind us to spiritual realities. In the Old Testament, God commands the sacrifice of unblemished male lambs (Numbers 6:14) and firstborn sons be presented to the Lord (Exodus 13:12, Luke 2:23). God made a Covenant with Abraham and Moses, not with Sarah and Zipporah. He chose men to be Levite priests. Yet he chose Mary to be the Ark of the Covenant – the Living Tabernacle. He elevates women to holy positions of prominence that transcend earthly rankings of men. Mary holds the esteemed honor of being the Holy Mother of God. She is hailed as the Cause of our Salvation, the Advocate of Eve and Seat of Wisdom. These Marian titles call for states of grace that are specific to women.

Men and women are both created in God's image and likeness and thus are persons of equal dignity; however, we are sexually, biologically, and psychologically different. This affects our spirituality, how we interact with one another, and the personal gifts we have to offer this world.

In his Letter to Women, St. John Paul spoke of gifts that are distinctive to women, especially a woman's possession of what he called an innate "spiritual maternity." He explained that these gifts afford her a unique "feminine genius" which has "inestimable value for the development of individuals and the future of society." In his 1988 Apostolic Letter, On the Dignity and Vocation of Women, St. John Paul tells us that a woman can find her fulfillment in working with, not against, her feminine nature.

Original sin impaired the way men and women were to relate to God and to one another and marred their peaceful existence. God's plan was not for man and woman to dominate one another but to partake in "reciprocal enrichment" as St. John Paul calls it, which is necessary to live authentically as the "incarnate" communion of persons God intended.

It took many years for me to reject the fad that is feminism and I admit that at times it was challenging. But I believe it is one of the biggest struggles women face today. The ambiguity that presently surrounds authentic femininity has been, in part, self-imposed. It arose from a culture that is bent on conditioning women to believe that in order to be happy we must continuously strive to squeeze ourselves into a nature that just may not fit us. Yet, there is simplicity and richness to be found in living according to one's true nature: the reward that comes from embracing true femininity, God's gift to women.

Think about it. Is religion supposed to be a timeless tradition or a fleeting fad? As women within the Body of Christ, let us honor our tradition by being a source of constant inspiration to others – priests, bishops, and the entire Church community. For God Himself tells us, "It is not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18a). Let us strive to model our Blessed Mother, who in her Magnificat exclaimed, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior" (Luke 1:46-47).

© Anna Githens

 

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Anna Githens

Anna Githens is a freelance writer who is passionate about promoting Christian ideals and tried and true American values. With an M.A. in Theology from Seton Hall Universitys Immaculate Conception Seminary and a B.A in Economics from Providence College, she has diverse career experience in bond trading, teaching, and journalism. She is a mother of three wonderful sons and resides in New Jersey with her family.

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