My World of Religion, Politics, Entertainment and Social Issues

If you are visiting my blog, expecting to see 'Toward a Progressive Catholic Church,' I have changed my title to reflect my wide assortment of interests. Having retired from my secular job, I hope to devote the rest of my life to my hobbies, ministries and perhaps a part-time job that makes good use of my communications skills. This blog will be designed to address my multi-faceted interests.

My Photo
Name:
Location: Rochester, New York, United States

I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at www.youtube.com/priestray and I have a Facebook page.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Emancipation of Catholic Women

Dear Blog Visitors:

A good friend asked me a few days ago if I still had a copy of a feature article I wrote a couple years ago, entitled 'The Emancipation of Catholic Women.' I found I had saved it and then sent it to her. Since I find that this topic remains timely, I thought I would post the article to my blog as well.

Since my ordination as a married priest on December 10, 2006, I have been contacted by a few of my former female classmates from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. Some continue to fight for more inclusivity in the institutional church. Others have either moved to other denominations or have joined Spiritus Christi Church in Rochester. In any event, much more work needs to be done toward securing the rightful place for women at the Eucharistic Table.

Here is my article on 'The Emancipation of Catholic Women.'

THE EMANCIPATION OF CATHOLIC WOMEN
by Ray Grosswirth, M.A., M.Div

I am writing this in honor of International Women's Month, which was officially celebrated during the days of March. I thought this would be the perfect occasion to reflect on my recent visit to the National Woman's Rights Historical Park in Seneca Falls. (Seneca Falls is only a 45-minute drive from my home in Rochester.)

I am very fortunate to be a life-long resident of Rochester, New York, for our city was pivotal in both the Underground Railroad and the fight for the rights of women. In this regard, two of our most famous residents were Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. It was therefore fitting for me to make the short trip to Seneca Falls, for it was here that a convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious conditions of women took place in the Wesleyan Chapel on July 19th and 20th in 1848.

While in Seneca Falls, I had the privilege to visit the home of the late Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She was indeed a courageous woman, for she was instrumental in events that would lead to a series of conventions on the rights of women, some of which took place in my hometown, Rochester. Stanton was a key writer of the Declaration of Sentiments, which she read to attendees of the Seneca Falls convention in 1848. The declaration was signed by many women and men at the convention, whereby it laid the foundation for landmark decisions on the rights of women in successive decades. The culminating decision was the right to vote, which became official in 1920.

As I went through Elizabeth Cady Stanton's house and stood on her porch for a few minutes, I perhaps felt her presence. When I returned home from Seneca Falls, I reflected for several hours on the fact that while the rights of women have certainly advanced dramatically since 1848, there are still parts of the world in which women have yet to achieve their rightful place in society.

It is important to state that neither Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton were Roman Catholic. Obviously, a declaration of rights by Catholic women in 1848 would have immediately resulted in their excommunication. While we can perhaps rightly argue that Catholic women have many more rights than they did in the nineteenth century, we are still far behind most of our Protestant brothers and sisters when it comes to inclusivity. Therefore, I took some time to reflect upon The Declaration of Sentiments, so see if there might be some insights from the document that could influence dialogue between the laity and hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church that would have the potential of ending anything that resembles discrimination against women.

I have chosen a few statements from the Declaration of Sentiments, which will appear in capital letters, after which I will offer my commentaries:

1.) "WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT; THAT ALL MEN AND WOMEN ARE CREATED EQUAL.........."

This is a statement that needs to be submitted to the Vatican by all good people of faith. Tragically, our hierarchy still subscribes to the theory that all MEN are created equal, and that women are subordinate to them. I continue to maintain that ordination, if interpreted correctly, is not about power, but about calling and qualifications. In this regard, we cannot truly approach the eucharistic table as the Body of Christ until we can proclaim ourselves to be equal before God, which means erasing any artificial barriers between men and women.

2.) "HE ALLOWS HER IN CHURCH AS WELL AS STATE, BUT A SUBORDINATE POSITION, CLAIMING APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY FOR HER EXCLUSION FROM THE MINISTRY, AND, WITH SOME EXCEPTIONS, FROM ANY PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN THE AFFAIRS OF THE CHURCH."

Some are satisfied that women have increasingly found ministry positions in the Roman Cathlolic Church. As long as we focus upon apostololic authority as an excuse for barring women from ordination, we are still guilty of exclusionary practices.

3.) "THE HISTORY OF MANKIND IS A HISTORY OF REPEATED INJURIES AND USURPATIONS ON THE PART OF MAN TOWARD WOMAN, HAVING IN DIRECT OBJECT THE ESTABLISHMENT OF AN ABSOLUTE TYRANNY OVER HER............"

As I reflected on this statement, I thought back to my maternal grandmother, who by all accounts was a very devout Catholic. Yet, the imagery in my head is nevertheless sad. She, like millions of Catholic women of her generation and preceding generations, were expected to sit quietly in Church and go to weekly Confession. While participation by women has undergone several advancements since Vatican II, I would argue that it is perhaps time for another Council, which would be an ideal setting for women to claim their rightful place in the Kingdom of God.

4..) "IN ENTERING UPON THE GREAT WORK BEFORE US, WE ANTICIPATE NO SMALL AMOUNT OF MISCONCEPTION, MISREPRESENTATION, AND RIDICULE; BUT WE SHALL USE EVERY INSTRUMENTALITY WITHIN OUR POWER TO EFFECT OUR OBJECT............."

As tragic as our current sexual abuse scandal has been, it has also served as a wake-up call, in that our hierarchy can no longer hide behind a veil of secrecy. While those of us who work toward more equality in the Church may indeed face ridicule and perhaps face accusations of misrepresentation, we can no longer be silenced. The Vatican can no longer tell us that we are not permitted to speak about married priests or the ordination of women. We can rightfully claim history and theology as tools of truth. The great lie that has permitted mandatory priestly celibacy and the discrimination against women has been exposed. It is now time for dialogue toward a eucharistic table that is truly inclusive.

My thanks to Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton for providing the inspiration for this article.

1 Comments:

Blogger A said...

Ray,

Thank you for being a public advocate of women's ordination. I appreciate how you tied the movement for women's ordination and an inclusive priesthood to the struggles of our foremothers. It is essential that we remember our history, and you laid out an important part of it here. Thank you!

8:27 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home