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Why Not Women Patriarchs? (5694)

COMMENTARY: Is women’s ordination simply a matter of sentimentality, civil rights and practicality?

08/26/2014 Comments (21)
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Church of England clergy celebrate after the Church of England General Synod approved the ordination of women bishops in July.

– Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

If Catholic and Anglican bishops were called “patriarchs,” would there be a move for women to be consecrated as bishops?

Calling Catholic priests “Father” hasn’t stopped feminists from becoming Anglican priests, so one presumes that ordained women would probably have no problem being called “patriarchs.”

It might sound ridiculous to call a female priest “Father,” but the question is connected to a deeper theological question: Is women’s ordination simply a matter of sentimentality, civil rights and practicality?

If so, then we should ordain women because it feels right and good to do so, they can do the job well enough, and it is fair to give them equal rights.

However, if ordination is linked to deeper theological questions about the very nature of the human person and God’s revelation of himself, then we must look more deeply than the superficial sentimental, utilitarian and equality arguments.

When I was a priest in the Church of England 20 years ago, the debate over women’s ordination that has now culminated in the decision to ordain women as bishops was brewing in the church. The women pushing for ordination said solemnly, “This is not a theological issue. This is a civil-rights issue. This is about equality. No more. No less.” 

Once they were ordained, it was not long before feminist theologians were saying, “Gender equality is a theological issue. We wish to challenge the idea that God is in some way a ‘father.’ We are not happy that God is imaged as a male progenitor.”

The feminists also got busy on the words of worship. Prayers and liturgies were produced that were gender neutral. God was not referred to as “the heavenly Father,” but as “God” or “Creator-God.”

Wherever possible, Jesus Christ was not referred to as “the Son,” but “the Redeemer.” Blessings were devised in “the name of the Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer,” and when such formulas were used in baptism, the validity of the   baptism came into question.

All of these practical questions came back to a more essential question: Is Christianity intrinsically and necessarily patriarchal? Feminists have adopted the modernist idea that all religions are constructed by human beings. Religion, they argue, is merely the byproduct of certain historical cultures and circumstances.

The Judeo-Christian religion is patriarchal simply because it developed within a patriarchal culture in the Middle East thousands of years ago, they say. They point to other cultures that produced matriarchal systems and religions and say this proves that religion is merely a cultural by-product. Furthermore, they argue, because religion was created by culture, it should adapt and be changed by the surrounding culture. 

These progressivist assumptions are challenged by classical believers who argue that religion is not relative, but revealed.

Instead of religion being created by culture, they say culture is created by religion — and that the Judeo-Christian religion is revealed by God himself to humanity. Because it is revealed by God, the essentials cannot change, and one of the essentials is that God is revealed as “Father.”

There are few commands that are clearer from Jesus Christ himself than “When you pray say, ‘Our Father.’” Because God is revealed as Father, the family is led by the Father, and the Church is led by fathers.

The classical argument is that Christianity is indeed intrinsically patriarchal, and because this is revealed not only by God, but by the created order, it cannot be changed.

Mary Daly is a typical feminist theologian. Beginning as a Catholic, Daly hoped the second Vatican Council would bring about greater equality for women. In 1968, she wrote The Church and the Second Sex, and in 1973, she produced Beyond God the Father, in which she repudiated the notion of “Father-God” and famously quipped, “If God is male, then the male is God.” Her progress away from God led her in her third book, Gyn-Ecology, to reject the idea of God completely. She then acknowledged that female spirituality is best expressed in witchcraft/paganism. 

Daly’s move from Catholicism to witchcraft is not unusual. Feminist thought often merges into pantheism, polytheism and other forms of primitive paganism.

Thinkers such as Naomi Goldenberg argue that the Judeo-Christian God is the architect of patriarchal society and must be rejected. Goldenberg and others want to replace “God” with “Goddess/es” or with an abstract universal principle or energy force of creation. “God,” they say, “is not other. God is within me. I am my own god.”

Do most women clergy in the mainstream Protestant churches espouse such heresy? What about Catholic sisters? In my experience, the radical feminist theologians are very influential in the movement for women’s ordination and in certain women’s religious orders.

Whether most of the women are radicals is doubtful, but in Changing of the Gods, Naomi Goldenberg stated, “We women are going to bring an end to God.” She insisted that their version of the Bible would usher in a totally new religion, and she acknowledged that most feminist Christians are not aware of the radical aims of feminist theology.

In his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope St John Paul II definitively stated that women cannot be ordained as priests. The exclusive male priesthood may be a scandal to society in the developed world, but it is a bulwark against the creeping heresy brought in by feminist theology.

Those who push for women’s ordination — even in the Catholic Church — will protest that their cause is one merely of equal rights and justice. This is a lie.

Any quick look at their sources will reveal that they are highly influenced by feminist theology and that they wish to overturn not just the male priesthood, but the very language and imagery of God himself — and with it the entire Christian religion.

The radical feminist theologians have ascertained one truth correctly: Christianity is intrinsically patriarchal.

As they move toward paganism and an open espousal of witchcraft, they must also admit that, as Christianity is intrinsically patriarchal, the concept of women’s ordination is intrinsically non-Christian.

Father Dwight Longenecker is a former Anglican priest.

He blogs at Standing on My Head.

isit his website at DwightLongenecker.com.

Filed under caholic church, catholic church, catholic priesthood, father dwight longenecker, god the father, national catholic register, ordinatio sacerdotalis, ordination of women to the priesthood, our father, st. john paul ii