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Worldview Watch

periodic commentary and analysis on news items from a worldview perspective

 previous issue                                               issue #39  posted 7 / 20 / 2014                                           archive of all  issues

 Catholic Women Priests: More Jesus, Less Hierarchy

in the news:  The Rev. Rose Marie (Ree) Hudsona member of Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCW), which Roman Catholic Church authorities consider an outlaw groupgave a talk today at the Granite Peak Unitarian Universalist Church in Prescott, Arizona. Her talk touched on both her own religious calling, which she described as "to love God and love your neighbors as yourself," and the ongoing battle over prohibitions against women serving as Catholic priests. With respect to the latter she pointed out that apparently the "Roman Catholic hierarchy" (as Hudson termed her opponents) see her transgressions as more serious than those of  the many Catholic priests now recognized as pedophiles since they served her with excommunication papers and did no such thing to the numerous sex offenders/rapists they employed. With regard to her excommunication, Hudson admitted to being "very proud of it." Around the time of her ordination in November, 2007, in a Huffington Post story by Angela Bonavoglia headlined "Catholic Bishops Say No to Women Priests, Yes to Hookers" in downplaying the threats made by St. Louis, Missouri diocese Archbishop Raymond Burke, Hudson was quoted as saying, "What is he going to do, burn us at the stake?" The story also reported "another Roman Catholic bishop in the City of Portsmouth, England, the Right Reverend Crispian Hollis, came out in support of legalized prostitution."

commentary and analysis (by Stephen P. Cook, project Worldview, Certainly themes such as #8A  Monotheism and #8B Belief in a Personal God are important parts of the worldviews of a majority of (predominantly Christian) USA church goersas are others (noted in various lists on project Worldview's page "Connecting Group Beliefs, Religious, Spiritual, Ethical Traditions with Worldview Themes".) Here we wish to make some distinctions relevant to the issue we've raised. 

In contrast to religious liberals, I'd guess that conservatives in the Catholic Church who object to ordaining women as priests have worldviews built more around themes such as #34 Valuing Traditions and Status Quo,  #14A  Moralistic God #20A   Elitism and #20B Authoritarianism.  Clearly in pursuing this battle with the Catholic Church and wanting to augment the apparently dwindling number of priests, women like Hudson are not only #35B Working for Change but  showing they also value themes such as  #16 The Golden Rule, Village Ethic of Mutual Help, #21A Populism and #21B Service to Others. I've long felt that poet and author Carl Sandburg was on to something when he distinguished elitism and populism in terms of the exclusion vs. inclusion. 

While Catholic conservatives in citing the Roman Catholic Book of Canon Law's "only a baptized male can receive the sacrament of holy orders" edict, seek to exclude women, I'd argue that the divide between them and religious liberals in this regard is perhaps even more fundamental than characterizing God in terms of love vs. patriarchially seeing Him as a moralist, maintaining tradition vs. progressivism, exclusion vs. inclusion, freedom vs. restraint, etc.  Rather I would direct one's attention to project Worldview's page Steps Toward Characterizing A Worldview: #1 Basic Choices and in particular to two of the eight choices described there. 

The first is between  hierarchical rigidity and egalitarian progressivism. The former is defined as "associated with accepting inequality and with a typically centralized organizational / power structure based on adhering  to rules, conforming in a cultural and/or moral sense, and valuing the status quo"; the latter as "associated with valuing equality, belief that all human beings should have the same rights, opportunities and privileges, and with progress involving gradual social, political, and economic reform." Certainly the battle some have waged with the 1700 year old Catholic Church to change its ways provides a wonderful example of this divide.

The second is between "intolerant pain" and "generosity, love." Christians who prefer to emphasize that Jesus died on the cross to save you from Hellfire and damnationso behave yourself and follow God's lawsI'd link with the former; those who emphasize giving freely of yourself to serve others, equating God with love, andto use Hudson's phrasefeeling "Jesus is full of joy" (see note #1 below)I link with the latter.  Seems for that matter you don't even have to be a Christian or religious true believer to get excited about the inclusive, tolerant, generous, loving, serving aspects of Jesus' teachings. Even well known author, scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins has talked of wanting to join a (fictitious?) group such as "Atheists for Jesus"! Nor do you have to be a religious conservative church member to value the efficiency associated with strictly adhering to rules / order and feel comfortable with being part of organizations built on hierarchical rigidity: agnostic career military people provide an example.   

In ending, I should note my suspicion that, in considering their worldviews, few people among religious/spiritual folks would consistently come down squarely on one side or the other of the divides/strong distinctions I have made above. Seems many human worldviews are painted in shades of gray rather than black and whites! And the worldview themes provided, rather than being the last word, are ideally a useful starting point tool to spur thinking and discussion. 

from SPC: To me the most unexpectedly refreshing remark Hudson made was "If it doesn't bring you joy, don't do it!" Seems this is something we might associate with a (theme #28A) #28A  Hedonistic Orientation rather than a Catholic priest!  

Comments (received through July 22 2014, posted July 23, 2014)
With respect to the Working for Change aspects of this issue, we received the following:
from JLP: If Ree really wants "more Jesus, less hierarchy", she is in exactly the wrong group.  And she is not only in it but she wants to be further into it and to be accepted by the hierarchy as a legitimate part of the hierarchy by being a priest.  That makes no sense to me, no more so than if a vegan joined a hunting club and then was bitter about the rest of them eating meat. I do not understand people who join repressive groups - be it the Roman Catholic church or the Republican party - who then feel surprised at being repressed themselves when their individual traits butt up against group laws and norms.   Homosexuals of the Log Cabin Republicans complain about homophobia from their "fellow" conservatives; a Republican Muslim women complain about not being accepted by her "fellow" religious conservatives.  Well, duh.  I think it irrational for them not to know what will happen.  But then, religion and rationality are normally not linked closely together.  All the quotes Ree used about women being less than fully human, etc., were old quotes, hundreds of years old in some cases, so they were published and known long before she became a Roman Catholic, what, three decades ago?  Ree also knew it was against Roman Catholic law for women to go to seminary or to be ordained as priests before she converted.  It's at the very least disingenuous for her to get indignant and self-righteous about it now...
I think the Roman Catholic church will only change if it wants to and right now, it looks like they don't see any reason to change.  They claim not only historical precedent but papal infallibility too.  How wonderfully convenient it must be, to be able to state - in writing! - words to the effect of, "I and the Popes that follow after me are incapable of making an error when it comes to church policy and actions because God loves us best" and have tens of millions of people smile, nod, and obediently fall into line. Power corrupts and absolute power...well, you know!
And so, even IF the Roman Catholic church decide to change, then that change will only be from the inside.  And as the inside is all male-dominated, a confrontation by women - "In your FACE, fella!" - is not likely to work.  At the lower end of the ranks, at the level of individual church priest or monastic monk, there could be much more sympathy for the whole idea, but once men in religious orders are promoted up the ecclesiastical ladder, bureaucratic mindset and corporate self-defense tends to override other considerations. "Go along to get along" and all that.  I saw a lot of that in the US military, also a rather large and ginormously powerful organization.  Appealing to the better natures of the highest-ranking church men will probably work better when it comes to making permanent changes.  After all, the church did eventually stop burning people at the stake and threatening to excommunicate world leaders if they don't obey the Pope no longer works for them, so they might be open to eventually loosening up even further.

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