Dear Paul Baumann,
The article that you wrote for Commonweal in response to the New Yorker article on women called to the Roman Catholic priesthood was remarkably sloppy. Rather than waste my time with the exceedingly boring task of deconstructing an argument that simply boils down to good old-fashioned sexism, I want to address your lack of basic journalistic integrity.
To start, you claim in regards to us women who are called that “there is something jarring about [our] conviction that the Church exists to ‘meet [our] needs’ and will ‘fall into irrelevance’ if it does not.” Here, you are attributing the words of a parishioner in a female priest’s community to the four of us. Yet, none of us offers any such sentiment about the Church existing to meet our needs. Rather--if you actually read our stories carefully—it is plainly obvious that each of us has been deeply shaped by the Church to serve the Church. So much for your claim that we have “little appreciation” for the Church’s role in forming us.
You go on to characterize us as clamoring for “self-determination.” Once again, the four of us do not speak about our vocation to priesthood in this manner. Quite the opposite: our stories point clearly to the reality that it is God who is determining who we are—not us—and we are simply struggling the best we can to honor God’s desires. Nonetheless, you take Natalia Imperatori-Lee’s comment regarding women’s desire in general “to be seen as human beings with the capacity for self-determination” out of context and use it to reduce our vocations to mere “self-expression.” What you call “self-expression," we call honoring the Holy Spirit within us.
Next, you say that we “repeatedly declare a love and attachment” to “Catholicism’s ‘rituals, its liturgy, and its tradition of service to the poor.’” Yet, again, you extract a phrase Talbot uses to describe the type of Catholics who are drawn to worship in one particular congregation, and weaponize it as a way to dismiss our vocations as some kind of “liberal Western sensibility.” And so what if we love ritual and Catholic Social Teaching? We are Roman Catholic, after all. And while you get to sit on your throne with every male privilege and judge us, we have to draw from the very bedrock of a faith that is nourished by liturgy and the social justice teachings in order to have the grit necessary to walk the excruciating path of a call to ordination.
Finally, at the end of the article, you claim that “some of the women” in this article are “sadly” telling Roman Catholics to basically “forget their common past,” which amounts to telling them to “’get lost, die off, and disappear.” However, not one of us says anything remotely resembling this sentiment. In fact, many of us are educated ministers with seminary degrees from reputable institutions who practice a faith and leadership deeply rooted in the Roman Catholic tradition.
Frankly, I am not sure how it is possible to read the article by Talbot with any care whatsoever and produce the article you did. If I made errors of this magnitude at my job, I would be fired. What I find most appalling about your piece is that it is plainly evident that you do not trust that we as women are mature, thinking, praying adults who are quite capable of discernment. Thank you for modeling so clearly the manner in which some men feel they are entitled to dismiss women as if we are children. This is precisely the problem, is it not?
In closing, let me wrap it up for you: you messed up, dude, and big time. You owe us an apology. I expect to see it in the next issue of Commonweal.
Fr. Anne Tropeano, ARCWP