By Adolfo Huerta Alemán (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Letras del Norte
June 27, 2011
"For most of history, Anonymous was a Woman" -- Virginia Woolf
Who the hell cares about women priests? Well, you and me -- or at least it should matter to us -- and the subject should be included as an item on the next agenda at the Vatican, one of the remaining tasks of the Catholic Church. It's not just that the Church continues to bury its head in the sand, and act as if nothing is happening, and we're fine.
How do we put the issue on the table? Given a hierarchical Church led by men only for little more than two thousand years, and given parishioners who have been educated in a traditional manner from the male perspective and by male priests. How do we become sensitive and open to this proposal? One that, in my opinion, is already delayed and perhaps is coming late for our universal Church. Perhaps the priesthood of women will come when there are no more Catholics who want to live and celebrate their faith, therefore, Catholic churches will only be large tombs - mausoleums that remind us that there once were faithful.
As they say over there, maybe the Church isn't done for, but what is true is that it's going to be more and more alone. I hope to be wrong.
Here the task is inclusion rather than dignity. Women's dignity and their equality are not being disputed -- let's not forget that we believe in a God who created us woman and man equally, in His image and likeness. Nor is it that women have to have Holy Orders in order to be equal to men, or have the wrong idea about earning their dignity that way.
The dignity of every human being is not given to them by a state -- a government, or an alleged church/religion in particular. Every human being has dignity simply by being born and being alive -- every woman and man has dignity, it comes intrinsic to their Being, regardless of their skin color, race, nationality, religion, sexual preference, or social status.
And when I speak of inclusion, I mean including women in the Holy Orders, not within the Church, since we know they are the ones who really work in our churches; only women are the majority who have ministries in our Christian communities.
During the 19th century, the greatest moral challenge was slavery. In the 20th century, it was totalitarianism. In this century it's the brutality against so many women and girls around the world: the traffic of thousands of girls and young women in prostitution and sex trafficking, child pornography, acid attacks on women who aren't virgins, bride burning, and mass rape. One study found that 39,000 girls die every year in China because their parents don't give them the same medical care as male children. (Letras Libres No. 136, April 2010, page 15). Let's not forget the Chinese proverb that says: "Women hold up half the sky."
The world is waking up to a powerful truth: women and girls are not the problem, they're the solution. What a pity that the Catholic Church isn't waking up to that truth and isn't going hand in hand with humanity, that once again the Church is standing aside and is both being cowardly and not accompanying humanity in its evolutionary process. So, I don't advocate for a church that doesn't accompany humanity or stand at its side in its dreams and frustrations.
Sure, it's fair to ask: "Give more power to women? That's fine, but how do you do it effectively in our Church?"
We would do well to begin with education in all its aspects starting with education in the family. I come from a family of five and I have three sisters, whose parents taught us that we all have the same opportunities, rights and obligations. Machismo does not begin in the Church or in culture; it begins in the family. And education has a lot to do with the early influences of our training, then it goes on in school, continues in the Church, in society, and then in culture. We must end this cursed phrase: "If you're a woman, why are you studying if you're just going to get married? What's left for you if you were born a woman?"
It's not fashionable to talk about the priesthood for women, nor is it to distract from other urgent social problems such as corruption and violence. Rather, it is the result of evolution and women's awareness of the irreplaceable role of her Being -- in the family, in society, at work, in culture, in politics, in social matters and in the Church.
If I'm writing these lines, it's in response to a sad and age-old reality: we still see oppression, injustice and exploitation towards many women today. We must acknowledge that almost ALL of us have caused this situation, and on more than one occasion women themselves have gone from being the victim to being the aggressor -- the executioner -- and they themselves are complicit in their own tomb.
It is very necessary even to talk and write about the great debt that man and his Church have with respect to women in all fields of social and cultural progress, and I'm not saying it just to open the priesthood to women. Let's not forget this in a country like ours [Mexico], where more than 21% of households are supported only on a woman's shoulders, where over 39% of families are broken by divorce, and it's the divorced women who raises their children. How does one be a woman and not die trying? An exaggeration? You think so? Women, what do you think?
It's a challenge to women themselves today to recognize their own identity -- dignity -- and not underestimate themselves because they are women.
Don't rule out that the things we have become accustomed to end up changing, from our narrow point of view -- part of nature and of an immutable nature. Custom becomes law, and it ends up being the qualified exponent of reality. The dominant social order, at least in Western cultures, established a hierarchical social system determined by sex. This gender order determined human structures and relationships, so men imposed themselves, and not to mention that our Church ended up being directed exclusively by chauvinist men.
We have the task of removing the prejudices that have accompanied our history with respect to women. Not to mention in the Bible -- in the biblical texts about women, they are like the tip of the iceberg, the merest hint of what is submerged and hidden in the silence of history. But well, that leads to another essay, which we'll talk about later. What kind of God are we Christians proclaiming when women are always in second place?
How do we open ourselves up to priesthood for women? By spreading the discussion in our families, our communities, and in our groups. Sure, women should be the first not to oppose this and underestimate themselves for this beautiful task.
Women have been educated as "women for men". Consequently, women fear losing their feminine identity and prestige in the cultural and religious spheres if they are no longer worthy of their relationship with Jesus, the perfect man for whom they live. (from Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza in her controversial book Cristología Feminista Crítica...Hacia una Cristología Rosa; Ed. Trotta; 2000)
Let's not be afraid to break with traditionalism and prejudice, since they no longer respond to faith experience in contemporary society. Let's fight for the new faces of the Church, so that it will really reach women and men of this era.
I'm not saying that with priesthood for women, many of the problems of Church and society will end, but if we would share them, and complement them with the female point of view...our priesthood lacks your point of view, WOMAN!
For example, if in my diocese there are little more than 160 priests to serve the entire population covered by my diocese, if there were women priests now, there's no doubt that we would double in number and have little more than 160 women priests -- along with the men, we would be a little more than 300 men and women pastors. There would be more people served and guided, there would be more parishes in our diocese, there would be more promotion about the tenderness of God...but, in the end, I think we the Church end up losing more by closing the priesthood to women.
It seems to me that the Vatican, with all its bishops and priests, is afraid to let go of power to women since if women were now priests, they would be more committed and would work more alongside our people. Ahhh, how macho! No. What very small men....
Let's see when the Catholic Church will react and we'll see the birth of the first seminary for women seminarians. Who will sign up to become the first woman priestess of Letras del Norte?
From Sojourner Truth, an African-American former slave who could not read and write:
Where did your Christ come from?
From God and a woman!
Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made
was strong enough to turn the world
upside down all alone,
these women together ought to be able
to turn it back, and get it right side up again!
And this is even better: "Get up every morning and live, Woman, because when your feet touch the ground, even the pinche Devil himself says: 'Hell! That one's already up. What a bitch!'"
To start opening our minds, watch the film "Whale Rider". You can rent or watch it via internet.
Adolfo Huerta Alemán is a priest in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico, who blogs on Letras del Norte.