Thursday, March 15, 2007

Gender Roles, Male Priests, Equality, and Feminism

By Dave Armstrong (1997)

The Male Priesthood

One reason for the male-only priesthood is very straightforward and (should be, anyway) uncontroversial. Jesus Christ was a Man. Given the fact that every validly-ordained priest functions as an alter Christus at Mass (since it is Christ Himself who transforms the elements and performs the supernatural consecration, not the priest, who "stands in" for Him), it is altogether appropriate that men only are ordained. Of course we also have clear instructions and examples of Scripture which ought to be sufficient in and of themselves to settle this question. None of the twelve disciples were women. Jesus must have had a good reason for that, whether or not we understand it. I myself would much rather trust Him and apostolic, Christian Tradition, rather than the fads and fancies of our post-modern, sexually-libertine age.

The Greatest, Most Exalted Creature

The highest of God's created beings, and the only sinless creature who ever lived - according to Catholicism - is a woman (the Blessed Virgin Mary), and a woman first saw the risen Jesus (Mary Magdalene: John 20:11-18). No man - by virtue of "unfair" biology - ever had the immense, unfathomable honor of "bearing God" (Theotokos) and thus entering into incomprehensible biological intimacy with Deity. Protestants give us misery for allegedly venerating Mary as next to God, while feminists excoriate us for lowering the status of women vis-a-vis men! Ironies never cease!
God gave the Blessed Virgin Mary the special grace of sinlessness and removal of original sin (the Immaculate Conception). Now if He could do that for her, why not me too? I've been treated unfairly!!! Not only that: whether or not I get such special treatment, at least God could have caused Joseph or Paul or David or Moses to be without sin. This is so unfair! Why did us men have to be created so unequal and inferior to women? If women get to have a created Co-Redemptrix and Queen of Heaven as a "role model," why can't we men have one of our kind in such a lofty estate? Jesus doesn't count because He is the Creator, not a creature like us.

{NOTE: The above is an example of argumentum ad absurdum, which - however zany - is dead serious in intent and absolutely relevant to the subject at hand}

There is no notion of inequality involved in a male-only priesthood, since if that were the case, it is neither likely nor plausible that God would raise Mary to her supremely exalted state (i.e., as a creature). If anything - in light of that fact - it might be stated that Christianity teaches the superiority of women, not men (which tends to be my own thinking - I think women exceed us men in many, many ways).

And - even beyond the Blessed Virgin - there are plenty of women role models in Catholic history to look up to and emulate: St. Teresa of Avila, or St. Catherine of Siena (who rebuked popes), or St. Therese of Lisieux, or St. Clare, or St. Hildegard of Bingen, or Mother Teresa, or Dorothy Day, or Blessed Edith Stein, or Deborah, Esther, Ruth, and many other biblical heroines. Theological and sexual liberals often appear to look at things as if they were a matter of social psychology, rather than the biblical and Christian theology of creation and spirituality: ultimately the mystery of Christ and His Church.

Role Differentiation is Not Inequality

There is no inequality here whatsoever (e.g., Gal 3:28). If women are unequal to men in orthodox (i.e., Nicene and Chalcedonian) Christianity of whatever stripe, then Jesus is not equal to the Father, since He subjected Himself to the Father (Phil 2:5-8) and even to Mary and Joseph (Lk 2:51). The Holy Trinity is a very apt analogy because it offers a clear example of an equality which nevertheless includes (by its very nature) subjection and differential roles - exactly analogous to marriage and male ordination. Thus, radical feminism logically leads to heterodoxy with regard to the Holy Trinity, or else undue skepticism towards the Bible. That's why sexual and theological liberalism are so closely allied - it is no coincidence.

God could have made my nipples produce milk like my wife's, so I could have the "equality" and closeness and "maternal bond" of nursing my 2-month-old baby son like she does. But He chose not to and I accept His wisdom in that. He also could have not only called all to the priesthood regardless of gender, but saved all, if He had so chosen, without having to take on flesh and thus subject Himself (in His Human Nature) to the limitations of human beings. Jesus chose to be "unequal" to the Father (Phil 2:6-11). Perhaps we should protest that inequality ought to be stamped out even in the highest levels of heaven? Away with the suffering Messiah and the "oppressed" Jesus, who is being exploited by the Father?

"Maleness" and "femaleness" mean much more than mere possession of certain genitalia. Rather, they are complete roles and ontological realities created by God. It isn't orthodox, traditional Christians who are hung up on maleness; rather it is the "gender radicals" who favor women's ordination. We are quite content to accept the fact that God came to earth as a Man and taught His disciples and recorded in His inspired Revelation that only men ought to be ordained, just as He gave Mary the unfathomable honor and privilege of bearing God and serving in a sublime way as a Co-Redemptrix and Spiritual Mother.

Many feminists would assert that men and women are different physiologically, yet not in any other way They are supposedly exactly the same, except for the sexual element, where they are simply "yin and yang," "positive and negative," etc. But God has informed us differently as to "ontological difference": 1 Pet 3:7, 1 Cor 11:3,7-9, 1 Tim 2:12-14, Eph 5:22-25. God said it (through the Apostles Paul and Peter), not me.

Second-Guessing God

Perhaps "unisexists" object also to the fact that God the Father chose to become incarnate in a male body? Maybe God should have come as a sexless eunuch or a woman? And on what basis can mere fallen human beings (of either gender) question the will and wisdom of Almighty God? I'm sure many of this mindset justify their views by the questioning of Holy Scripture (either its content, or its faithful manuscript transmission). But in this instance, I'm not aware of any scholar, however unorthodox, who denies that Jesus was a Man! The Church of Christ can't call someone who isn't given a certain gift and vocation - by virtue of God's will and "spiritual ontology," so to speak, any more than it could call me to bear a child and suckle it after birth. This "unisexist" mentality is in outright denial that there is an ordained, God-created and -willed, ontological difference between men and women. As such, it directly challenges divine prerogatives, and as such, must be fought against and refuted at all costs.

Jesus and Women

In the course of one of my online dialogues, my discussion opponent asserted that Jesus didn't choose women disciples because he knew women wouldn't be accepted in that period by the Jews. I responded as follows:

I don't consider this a "perfectly good reason." It is sheer speculation and nothing more, with no biblical support. Since when did Jesus care a whit about what the Jews would think of His actions and teaching, anyway? No one can observe His constant battles with (and rebukes of) the Pharisees and conclude that He had any thought of conforming His ideas (i.e., Truth) to their pet beliefs and "golden cows." Furthermore, why would Jesus forgive an adulteress publicly (Jn 8:1-11), speak to the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn 4:4-29), accept financial support from several women (Mk 15:40-41), let women anoint His feet with their hair (Jn 12:1-8; Mt 26:6-13) and first see Him resurrected, etc., if He was at all worried about the "acceptance" of women among the Jews?

Jesus wasn't bound by pragmatic and "peer pressure" considerations, as so many of us are. He clearly treated women as equals to men, so that if He intended for them to be ordained like men, it is altogether plausible to assume He certainly would have made that teaching publicly also. The Pharisees objected to all these things just as much as many vainly imagine that the Catholic Church wants to "keep women out" of the priesthood out of bigotry and chauvinism rather than obedience to God's decrees.

Then my friend said that Jesus (or His disciples) was also waiting (as with women) for the right time to introduce Gentiles into the Christian fold. I answered:

He was the Jewish Messiah, for Pete's sake! In any event, we already see Him speaking favorably to and about the Roman centurion (Mt 8:5-13) and in the same passage and elsewhere obliterating the Jew / Gentile distinction. He started with the Jews because they were the Chosen People and that was the milieu in which He was born. They were the ones who had been prepared by God for centuries to understand even what "Messiah" meant - not the Gentiles. Then Peter shortly after the Resurrection actively seeks out Gentiles after receiving instructions from God. This is no parallel to women's ordination, by any stretch of the imagination.

Serious Exploitation: Women and the Sexual Revolution

Most women have succumbed to the self-serving male notion that they must "give it up" and engage in sex before marriage. In so doing they have yielded up their most precious asset: themselves and their most intimate "secrets." Men now expect virtually all women to "put out" relatively early in relationships (and women have tragically bought into that, thus making themselves "objects" even more so). In the Christian view, it was assumed that women would "hold out" this "reward" for the man who would renounce his passions in exchange for love and the long-term benefits accruing from a committed, lifetime relationship. Men are certainly habitually (and characteristically) guilty of having alterior motives when it comes to getting to know women (yes, sex, of course). The sexual revolution has only greatly exacerbated that immemorial problem for women.

Just my own "sociological" opinion (meant to place the lion's share of the blame on men, not women). All the sexual revolution amounts to, in my opinion, is the mass "buying into" (on women's part) the traditional, older-than-the-hills exploitative sexual tactics of men. Once women were hoodwinked by that, I believe many of our current societal woes became inevitable. Certainly people aren't happier because of this so-called sexual "liberation." That much is certain . . .

Also, it is noteworthy that many surveys have shown that practicing Christian couples (say, who go to church every week, etc.) have a considerably more fulfilling sex life than their secular counterparts. Of course, this is shocking to many, but doesn't surprise me in the least, as I believe the Christian view of marriage is the route to the most satisfying sexuality. I believe God knew what He was doing when He set up the "ground rules" for sexuality, and that He had our happiness and true "liberation" in mind, not our "bondage" and "repression," as the anti-Christian, anti-traditional stereotype goes.

George Gilder, in his magnificent book Men and Marriage (Gretna, LA: Pelican Pub. Co., 1986) - one of the most profound I've ever read - says that the foundation of civilization is this "pact" between a man and a woman. The man gives up his sexual passion temporarily in exchange for the love and commitment of one woman, and the woman in turn gets protection, an assurance that her husband is trustworthy, security and adoration in exchange for "sexual favors" (in marriage, of course).

We've seen the fruit of the opposite "sexual revolution" viewpoint: broken hearts and homes, abortion-on-demand, shattered lives, illegitimacy, STDs, more rape (including "date rape"), more child abuse, more sexual perversion, pornography, child molestation, wife-beating, crime and drugs resulting therefrom, sexual harassment, etc. ad infinitum. Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? Who would dare to assert that this is a better, happier, "sexual world" than the one which was cultivated by the Christian Church for multiple hundreds of years? The greatest irony is that studies have consistenly shown that practicing Christians have a far more fulfilling and rewarding sex life than their "wild" counterparts who fell for the lie of "try before you buy."

Another lie is the unbridled pursuit of materialism by many women (I'm not saying that they should never work outside the home - which would be ludicrous), thus falling prey to one of the shortcomings that men have traditionally labored under (no pun intended).

I think that there is a growing realization on all sides that the world of "liberalism," libertinism, moral relativism, and so-called "liberation" and "(sexual) freedom" has not turned out to be the Utopia which was foolishly hoped for. And us Christians knew this full well all along, of course, but cultures invariably have to learn the hard way - that's one of the things history teaches us. People never change. Sexual chastity was just as difficult in times past as it is now. The difference is that now we have the sanction of liberal religion, saying that several or all of these things are now okay (i.e., calling evil good), because we are now "progressive" and "enlightened."

The current chaos and wholesale destruction of the family and moral values, is largely due to faulty views of sexuality and marriage. The alarming breakdown of the black family is a case in point. What survived slavery could not survive the "Great Society," presumptuous, elitist social (albeit well-intended, I grant) planning and the sexual revolution....

Who will argue with a straight face that the post-Christian society we now have is in any sense morally, institutionally, emotionally or spiritually superior to what preceded it? If someone has, I would love to see it. Have men habitually dominated and brutalized women? Of course. But the traditional Christian view of women is the best thing that ever happened to them. Some examples of the lack of same: in ancient Rome (and I believe, Greece), the husband basically "owned" the wife, as if a slave, the utter subordination of Muslim countries, the self-immolation of widows in Hindu cultures, aborting of female babies in China (sex selection abortion) and also forced abortion, the routine clitorectomies of Africa. Even in ancient Israel (e.g., according to the rabbinic school of Hillel), a wife could be sent packing at a moment's notice, for something as trivial as making lousy dinners. It took Christianity to radically change all these hideous, grossly unjust practices.

The Catholic Church is "Behind the Times" (Thank God!)

Then the charge was made that "Rome" was slow to recognize feminine equality, while many other denominations are "enlightened" and therefore do ordain women. I replied:

For how long have these other "branches" ordained women? And why did they wait so long? Did they need the "illumination" of radical feminism and the sexual revolution to "wake up" and "see the light?" Are we now in a sufficiently-enlightened age to finally grasp what sexual liberals and feminists apparently think is self-evident, while ages past were hopelessly regressive and "primitive?" It is the height of arrogance and folly for any of us moderns, with multiple hundreds of millions of dead in our century and enough slaughtered pre-born children to fill up Yankee Stadium to the brim, field and all, to wax eloquent about our "progressive" understanding of men and women!

It is utterly implausible to think that a century as corrupt and evil as ours (hence, Communism, Nazism, and abortion as the quintessential examples of this, just as slavery and genocide of the Indians were in the 19th century) would be the one to discover these moral truths which sexual liberals consider so self-evident. It just doesn't make any sense. Of all the twenty centuries since Christ, we are the ones to discover the "truth" that men and women are essentially no different from each other (or that abortion is morally permissible), and that virtually all Christians previously were dolts and chauvinists, who couldn't see that women ought to be ordained?!!!

The Contraception Connection

Similarly, the Anglicans allegedly discovered "normalcy" and "orthodoxy" with regard to contraception in 1930 (the first Christian body ever to have done so)? England in 1930 - of all places - a country in the throes of spiritualism, rising agnosticism and cynical skepticism, Fabian socialism and head-in-the-sand pacifism, was the environment where Christians shook off the yoke of unanimous Christian Tradition and figured out at long last that contraception is okay?! Whatever the truth is, it can't be that!!! Some theories and ideas are just too vacuous and inane to merit any credence at all.

Contraception and abortion flow from radical feminism, which presupposes the nonexistence of inherent gender differences (another cause is men's selfish, self-serving desire for free, ultimately manipulative sex without consequence). Broadly and sociologically speaking, the same mentality produces the call for women's ordination. So these ideas at least share a common parentage (in terms of history of ideas). One must necessarily take a long historical view in order to see the connection. But it is assuredly there. The traditionalist has a vastly different perspective than the so-called "progressive."


Lady Lioness said...

I was having a tough time finding Biblical evidence of the role of women in the church until I stumbled upon your blog! Thank you for putting such things in your blog, and taking the time to study them thoroughly.

Dave Armstrong said...

You're most welcome. God bless ya!