Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Are Women Hated by the Catholic Church?

***Republishing a piece I wrote a few years back on the dignity of women in the Church and how ordination is not a means of increasing a woman's dignity and value in the Church. It seemed timely.

Are Women Hated by the Catholic Church?

By Kathryn Vestermark, MA (c) 2016

August 30, 2010

It has been announced that the Vatican is preparing to release an update to the 2001 norms established to deal with allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy. In essence, the Vatican is simply putting on paper what has been in practice since 2001 in relation to these norms. However, at the same time, while updating this particular portion of the norms, they also decided to address the issue of attempted women's "ordination." Both matters, sexual abuse of minors by clergy and invalid attempts to ordain women, fall under the classification of "delicta graviora," the most serious crimes against Church law.

Does this decision by the Church to measure these two issues under the same category show an insensitivity, or even misogyny, toward women? Is the Church equating women with sex offenders?

This is what many women who disagree with the teachings of the Church on the male-only priesthood would have you believe. But theirs is a shallow argument based on a desire to grasp for power, and subordinate sacred tradition to modern politics. Their claims of "misogyny" in no way prove any level of disrespect for women by the Church. Rather, their treatment of the issue is where the disrespect lies.

What is being listed and codified are actions: the act of attempting to ordain women, and the act of sexual abuse of a minor by clergy. Both of these actions are against God's law, and the laws of His Church. Women and men are created and called good by God, but what they attempt to do knowingly and of their own free will can seriously violate Divine law.

Perhaps examining this from a secular perspective would help. The act of murder is unlawful and can be considered a felony offense; the act of prostitution is also unlawful and can also be considered a felony. Both are felony offenses, but this would not mean equating murder with prostitution. They are similar only in that the acts are grievously criminal and can be categorized under the same heading: that of felony.

If this can be understood in relation to a secular example, why would some women have a difficult time relating it to Church law?

Jesus established a male priesthood, a teaching the Church has maintained since its beginning. But Eileen Di Franco, an invalidly ordained female "priest," attempts to pin this apples-to-oranges comparison of sex abusers to women's ordination on the Church in an op/ed piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Vatican has informed her, and other women invalidly "ordained," that they are not priests, and have incurred excommunication.

This step acknowledges publicly the grievous nature of their disobedience, and removes them from licit reception of the sacraments. Without a doubt, and with a basis in Scripture, the Church has the authority to do this (cf. Mt. 16:19 -- power to bind and loose).

The conclusion Di Franco draws is illogical; she believes it is all a result of the Church's hatred of women. She goes as far as to call into question the Early Church Fathers' position on the Blessed Virgin, proclaiming it to be "pathological veneration of the Virgin Mary." This suggests that the Church Fathers conspired to find one woman to use as their "poster child" so that they could maintain exclusive power and subjugate women. Obviously, this is a bizarre, anachronistic claim with no sound basis in historical fact.

Since Di Franco is clearly in violation of Church law, her situation is easier to adjudicate. In the case of sex offenders, there are any number of variables that must be considered. It is certainly a more intricate process of adjudication. And, as such, these two issues are not comparable, save for where they land under the code's classification. One is an obvious and overt breach of Church law; the other needs to be carefully investigated to protect and preserve the rights and reputations of all involved.

Indeed, the Church does love and respect women in their holy vocation to the religious life, as wives and mothers, or in a single life, as is beautifully stated in John Paul II's Mulieris Dignitatem. Mother Church entrusts women with many vital functions empowering them to be fully active participants in the life of Divine grace. Women do not need to change what is good and true and necessary for salvation in order to feel a sense of value and purpose. That is a function of a well-developed relationship with Our Lord in the Sacraments.

Sexual abuse of minors and women's ordination are not equivalent; one cannot compare the two in terms of the acts themselves, beyond their being serious and impermissible. Furthermore, in the case of alleged sexual abuse, one must carefully determine if there is abuse at all. In one case, guilt is obvious from the start; in the other, guilt must be clearly determined. Thus, the Church is updating the treatment of both issues, to adjudicate both forms of scandal appropriately.

This is done not out of "hatred" for women, who are made in God's image, but from a desire to prevent both sexual abuse and sacrilege.

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