It always saddens me to see yet another instance of a Christian church exercising exclusion but that is what this article is all about. This time it is the Roman Catholic church. They stripped Rev. Bill Brennan, a 92-year-old Jesuit priest (that is him in the picture here) of his duties because he performed a liturgy in with a female priest not sanctioned with the Roman Catholic church. Here are some bits and pieces from the source article for our discussion today:
A Milwaukee-area Catholic priest was stripped of his priestly duties after he presided over a Mass with a woman priest last month in Georgia….
The Catholic Church prohibits women’s ordination, saying it has no authority to ordain women because Jesus chose only men as his apostles….
About 59 percent of American Catholics are in favor of women’s ordination, according to a 2010 poll by The New York Times and CBS, but the Vatican sees the initiative as having the potential to cause a rift in the church….
Brennan, who lives with other retired Jesuits in the Milwaukee area, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he understood the risks when he decided to perform a liturgy alongside a woman priest.
“Sometimes in our lives we have to trust our conscience and bring about the consequences,” he told the newspaper. “I wasn’t trying to show off for the ladies.”….
I have heard of two reasons now why the Catholic church does not allow priests to marry. The first was that King Constantine who hijacked the church in the fourth century to make it a State religion did it so that priests could not pass on their power given by Constantine to their children. He insisted that he alone had that power and that is would not be inherited.
The second reason now is that all of the apostles were men and therefore Jesus did not intend women to be faith leaders. If you know even the slightest amount of history during this period you know just how little power women possessed in those times. They were for the most part considered property of either their fathers or their husbands. Documents that have been appearing in archeological digs since the 1940’s sheds a seemingly new light on early Christian female leaders. Mary Magdalen comes to mind first but there were several other women leaders in the early church despite the fact that it was generally culturally prohibited at the time. I’m just a simple guy but this excuse for limiting spiritual leaders to only men seems kind of lame to me standing here in the 21st century.
So here we are with a 92-year-old priest who has given his life for his God being chastised by the church hierarchy for trusting his conscience. There seems to be an ongoing conflict between American Catholics and the Vatican in recent years and this is one of those cases. But, like most other Christian churches the Roman Catholic church is has a very vertical hierarchy. The person at the top is given predominate power over those below him. That often results in very slow changes from the grass roots level.
It is sad to see the church spend more time excluding others than to welcome the stranger as Jesus taught us. I am hoping that the emergent church movement will eventually correct this anomaly.