I personally know many priests who privately believe the Church should ordain women to the priesthood. And though I don't rub elbows with Bishops, I imagine there are a fair number of them who think the same. So, the question is, why--for the most part (thank you, Germany and now Ireland)--aren't they speaking out?
Practicing dissent in the Catholic Church is *tricky* business. It's easy enough to internally dissent on this or that issue in the quiet of our own hearts. We can also privately dissent with a friend or colleague--even with a priest or bishop--without much ado. But open and public disagreement with official Church teaching? This is much harder, especially if the end goal is to inspire movement on a teaching. This is because the magisterium generally relates to acts of dissent as threats to its teaching authority rather than as promptings to discernment. And though Pope Francis has a gentler touch on these kinds of things, obedience is deeply, deeply etched into the Catholic psyche. We all know what happened to theologian Charles Curran and Fr. Roy Bourgeois for challenging the magisterium on points of Catholic teaching. Public dissent means potentially attracting the Eye of Sauron, and with it grave punishment.
In such a climate, priests and bishops who believe in ordination justice for the most part simply stay quiet, opting to minister as best they can under the circumstances. It's understandable. Still, we have to ask: what is the cost of this silence? Women suffer psychological injury, girls are taught they are less than human, boys learn they are inherently superior, and men never have to relate to women as true equals (and you better believe this also shows up at home and in the workplace). Further, the Church not only loses out on the gifts of female leaders, it increasingly forfeits its power to participate in the public square in meaningful ways. Understandable or not, the cost of this complicit silence is enormous, and as long as these priests and bishops stay quiet, a great moral maiming continues at the hands of the Catholic Church and, very sadly, in the name of Jesus.
Yet, things could change--and change rapidly (at least in Church time). What if our brothers who have collars and wear mitres transitioned from private allies to public dissenters? What if they called for open dialogue on ordination? What if in one collective and prophetic voice they made a stand on behalf of women, on behalf of God? Imagine, just imagine, the difference they would make.
So, gentlemen, how about it? We need you to use those balls God gave you and make a stand for justice.
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