Some people seem to think that the Church is simply a patriarchy run by a bunch of cranky old white men who just like to make up rules to make our lives miserable. If that’s true, get me out!
The Church I love can be summed up with one scene: Jesus washing the disciples feet at the last supper. The God of this universe not only humbled Himself enough to become man, but got down on His knees and washed His friends’ dirty feet. He told them to imitate him – the people who were the first priests of the Church. He told them to serve others. Whatever ways religion is misused and twisted for our own purposes, in the end it is about serving others.
I learned something in my Social Morality class this semester, which blew my mind but also gave me a whole new way of looking at my faith. The perfect world we are trying to achieve, the kingdom of heaven, can be found in God’s original design for humanity – the Garden of Eden. There, Adam and Eve lived in perfect harmony with each other and God. There were no power struggles and Adam did not dominate Eve. The word “Eden” means pleasure. Adam and Eve lived a life of pleasure. Why was this? Because they could eat whatever they wanted or have as much sex as they wanted? My teacher suggested that they found ultimate pleasure in serving one another. As soon as she said that, everything fell into place – that’s the ideal that we’re working towards and Jesus came to show us the freedom found through service. The need to dominate one another and serve our own pleasure came after the fall – original sin.
So if we cast off the lie that the Church’s structure is about power, it frees us to talk about how we can best serve each other. Let’s look at priesthood and the structure of the Church in this way. We are all called to serve the Church in a unique way, to live out our personal vocation. The men who fill these roles are doing so because that is how they are being called to serve the Church. They may have more authority objectively, but this also means that they have more responsiblity. A priest is responsible for all the souls in his congregation, which is not something to be taken lightly. Remember, God calls men to be priests, the Church never “makes” men priests.
Men and women in general have different ways of serving due to their differing natures. One good way to think of it is like a family, in which everyone has duties and responsibilities but ideally maintain equal dignity. The father is still seen as the “head” of the family and the main provider, but this does not necessarily make him above his wife. Men, especially clergy, are called to be the fathers of the Church. There are also some ideas about authority which inform this, but I haven’t researched that enough to comment on it. Fr. Robert Barron, an up and coming evangelist who is great at engaging the popular culture has a great video on papal infallibility which touches upon this idea:
Naturally, women, especially Sisters, are called to be the mothers of the Church. If women feel like they aren’t being heard, it may be because they are not fully utilizing their power to serve. Perhaps the role of women in the Church needs to be more closely examined. Oh wait, JPII did that too. (Pope FTW!) Here’s a good article briefly summarizing his thoughts on the genius of women. Women are generally looked to for the moral formation of children and I think that religious formation for the entire Church is one of the most important roles of women. Women are also more naturally inclined to see and do things on a relational level, which also effects the way they serve others. Women need to discover their own wonderfully unique “genius” which allows them to serve the Church, not just wish to hold the same positions as men.
You may remember I mentioned in my last post that people find their true identity by being in communion with others. More specifically, men and women are compatible; men understand themselves in relation to women and vice versa. Together, men and women convey the infinite aspects of the trinity’s nature. Therefore, the Church needs men and women to work collaboratively while staying true to their natures, in order to be a true imitation of the trinity.
And this segues into yet another post on Sisters, especially with the recent assessment of certain orders.