Monday, November 17, 2014


CBS 60 MINUTES, November 16, 2014

A young reporter became a little more penetrating in her questions of Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston and presumably an adviser of Pope Francis, after some comfortable questions about progress in dealing with Vatican problems.  She did not seem satisfied with his assertion of a greater role for women and an existing high position of esteem for women in the church.

There may be practical reasons for not having women priests at this time, but the role of women and their relationship to Jesus was more extensive than seems consistent with the operation of society at that time.  Having only men among the twelve apostles closest to him was simpler than fighting societal norms of the time.  So the notion of Pope Benedict that relativism should be rejected, in favor of objective truth in moral and/or ethical decisions or their rules or guidance, could apply to favor women priests.  In the United States and many other countries women are taking their rightful place in society.  Unfortunately, not all countries offer them that role.

The church has enough problems with many celibate clergy having difficulty handling their role gracefully.  Add women to the mix - would that solve or exacerbate the problems?  I one time thought it would be a good idea to direct homosexual males into the priesthood; in my mind they had a reputation of being gentler, more social, and almost devoid of macho tendencies.  I think the past problems of pedophiles in the priesthood may be a separate problem of heterosexuals perpetuating the behavior they were victimized by as children.

The reporter said or implied that women were being discriminated against and denied a right.  But it is not anybodies right to be a priest.  I thought priests were special when I was a child.  I still think so, but now I know they are human and probably as prone to failure as anyone.  I was upset in early high school when a classmate informed me that a priest in a nearby country parish had a drinking problem.  It was later confirmed by reliable sources and may have helped me get a better sense of reality.  But people still expect more of the clergy and rightly so.

The church gets enough bad press without having to deal with unplanned pregnancies of clergy, remodeling rectories when the next pastor is a different sex, and the minds and actions of members unable to accept change.

Change can be good or bad.  It is good to challenge the status quo.  But change for change's sake is more likely to be a mistake in a well tuned system.  That is the principle we can get from evolution by means of natural selection.  But it also indicates changes that fine tune the system can be worthwhile.  I don't think voting on it is necessarily wise.  I hope the Pope is in a better position to wisely make that decision.  But now can 60 Minutes find out the chances of the next Dali Lama being a woman?

About twenty years ago I sent a long letter to Pope John Paul listing all the scriptural and other reasons I thought ordaining women was appropriate.  I doubt if the letter every reached him, but I had enough postage on it.  About ten years ago I wrote another letter to a pope about the compatibility of evolution and religion when some catholic publications were printing anti-evolutionary views, but I never mailed it.  Now it is evident the pope does not need it [see post of October 31].

Joseph Engemann       November 17, 2014

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