I was harassed by someone on my own mailing list this week. After months of following me, I guess she just now realized that not only did I have a call to priesthood, but that I was going to be ordained. She blew a gasket, and felt she must—for my own good—try to stop me.
In the first email, she sent a link to a blog post of a canon lawyer who explains why the ordination of women is not valid. The next morning—before I had a chance to respond—she sent me another email with a link to an article about a woman excommunicated for receiving holy orders. This time she proceeded to lecture me on the particulars of excommunication (as if I didn't know), and then implored me to “cease and desist” with my sin of ordination.
Being a good Jesuit, I put the best interpretation on her messages. I explained to her that I understood that she felt genuine concern for me and I appreciated that. I went on to say, however, that we were in very different places on the issue. I encouraged her to educate herself, and to consider confronting her own internalized sexism. Then, I asked that she refrain from emailing me anymore about it.
Naturally, she ignored my request and sent another more forceful—almost nasty—email quoting the classic arguments (*yawn*) of John Paul II’s Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. The Church has no authority to ordain women, she exclaimed! Didn't I know that as a woman I cannot act in persona Christi! She demanded that I stop my “fake ordination” before I jeopardize my soul and the souls of those I serve.
Dear God. Again, I responded only that she educate herself on the issue and nothing more. And, guess what? Yup, she emailed me AGAIN! This time a full-on snarky message daring me to refute her, and sarcastically telling me to check with Pope Francis to see if anything has changed on the position of women’s ordination since JPII’s pontificate.
I could go on and on about this email exchange, but instead I will spare you and say only two things. First, her behavior so clearly reveals the sinfulness of the Church. This woman, an otherwise intelligent human being, actually believes deep down in her heart that an all-powerful Creator simply cannot work through women's defective bodies and, therefore, women must be subjugated to a male authority. Not only is this heartbreaking to witness, it is a moral outrage that a Church with a mission of salvation for all people maims its disciples in this way.
And second? The thing that exasperates me most about this exchange is the same thing that sent me skyrocketing to the moon after reading Paul Baumann’s appalling article in Commonweal: people have the gall to speak to me or about me as if I am a child—as if I am anything other than a thinking, praying, discerning individual who is capable of making mature decisions rooted in a vibrant relationship with God. Somehow, simply by virtue of being female, I am to be dismissed as incapable. It is, in a word, *infuriating.*
The thing is, the woman who harassed me this week acted just like Joshua in today’s first reading. Deeply threatened by the prophetic work of the Spirit, her impulse was to try to stamp it out—to obliterate it. While it's easy to point the finger at her, every single one of us is guilty of behaving like this sometimes. After all, it is natural to want to cling to what we think we know. However, this just isn't the Christian way. Instead, our path as Christians is to be docile enough that we are continually changed by the wisdom of the Spirit.
May we all have the humility to be so transformed.