Why the Priesthood Needs Women
Source: New York Times
By Alice McDermott, who is a novelist and essayist.
Far more than celibacy or sexual repression, barring one gender from the Roman Catholic Church’s highest ranks provides the implicit rationale for clerical abuse.
No Christian should need to be reminded of the moral error of discrimination. We hold at the center of our faith the belief that every human life is of equal value. And yet the Roman Catholic Church, my church, excludes more than half its members from full participation by barring women, for reasons of gender alone, from the priesthood.
The moral consequences of this failing become abundantly clear each time another instance of clergy abuse, and cover-up, is revealed. It is the inevitable logic of discrimination: If one life, one person, is of more value than another, then “the other,” the lesser, is dispensable. For the male leaders of the Catholic Church, the lives of women and children become secondary to the concerns of the more worthy, the more powerful, the more essential person — the male person, themselves.
The Catholic Church needs to correct this moral error.
I was visiting a Catholic university in Boston in 2002 as the clergy abuse scandal involving Cardinal Bernard Law was breaking. I was there to discuss a novel I had written, but the questions from the audience at my talk — and at the book signing after, and on the sidewalk as I walked to my car — were mostly, if passionately, rhetorical: What do we do now? Where do we go from here? Do you think the church understands our pain? Do you think the church understands what we’ve lost? How much corruption should we tolerate?
At the time, I could offer only small commiseration — as well as my regret that these Catholics had been so betrayed by their spiritual leaders that they were left to seek solace from the likes of me, a reluctant and often contrarian Catholic, a novelist, a woman. “Awful, yes,” I said. “Outrageous, yes.” “Hope,” I said now and again. “Hope for change, perhaps.”