Further to recent correspondence on women and the priesthood in the Catholic Church, that all-male celibate power structure is hardly going to act against its self-interest and the laity has no decision-making role. However, for secular society, anti-gender discrimination is enshrined in law, a basic principle which underlies a fair, moral and decent society. Of course the State has to allow religions to discriminate against women in their own structures, as this is a matter for their clerical power-structures and theological beliefs. They have and should have freedom of religious belief.
It does not follow, however, that the State should have to subsidise as well as tolerate discriminatory beliefs.
Perhaps all religions that exercise their right of exemption from anti-discrimination laws should be disqualified from receiving state subsidies by way of the enormous tax advantages that they get? In European Union partner states, such as Germany, these tax subsidies run to billions. Furthermore in Ireland and Britain, the Catholic Church’s all-male power structure controls a substantial proportion of state-funded education.
Birkdale Gardens, Croydon, London.
Letter to Irish Times 4 July 2014
If people still need to be affiliated to a religion, then the possibility of women becoming priests should not just arise because there is a dearth of willing, able and suitable men. If willing, suitable and able women ever get to be ordained, it might very well turn out to be that the best wine was saved until last.
Glendale Park, Dublin 12.
2 letters to Irish Times 3 July 2014
Fr Joe McVeigh, in his letter on women priests (July 2nd), gives the same opinion, in almost exactly the same words, that brought the heavy hand of the Vatican down on me.
Joe can expect a letter from Cardinal Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, any day now.
Except, of course, it won’t come directly to him and there will be no signature!
Fr TONY FLANNERY,
Athenry, Co Galway.
I have noticed in recent days that the issue of women priests in the Catholic Church has returned to this page.
The present position espoused by church authorities arose out of a mixture of fundamentalist interpretations of scripture, structures of society that were based on the superiority of the male, and attitudes that sexual needs were signs of human weakness. These positions are no longer acceptable to society and adherence to them amounts to blatant discrimination rather than theological insight.
However, I also believe that the use of scripture to oppose the present position regarding both women priests and married priests is an exercise in futility because the church authorities are not for changing and all the arguments in the world will not change that.
I should like to propose that insofar as church authorities continue to exclude women and married persons from the priesthood, they owe it to us to explain what their plans are for when they run short of priests to serve us.
Will our children who wish to have their marriages take place within the context of Mass be obliged, as in some countries, to marry in communal marital ceremonies at times allocated to suit the priests’ availability?
Do the church authorities plan that funerals will no longer be blessed during Mass but coffins brought to church will be given a simple blessing by a lay person or deacon appointed to do so?
I choose these two examples because I believe that the majority of Catholics in Ireland still take it for granted their marriages and funerals will take place within the context of Mass.
Let the bishops direct the priests to explain what they have planned for the faithful when they run short of unmarried male priests. Are Pope Francis and the bishops thinking ahead or are they just saying “so be it” to whatever happens?
Orchardville Gardens, Belfast.
3 letters to Irish Times 2 July 2014
According to the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, women were indeed the first witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus and played a key role in the formation of the early Christian community and in witnessing to the Risen Christ ever since and especially in the world today.
The exclusion of women from priesthood can no longer be justified by using the scriptures and by selective quotations from the Gospels, which were put together long after Jesus. The only basis for excluding women today is the tradition of the Catholic Church. That argument is now beginning to look threadbare, given that the modern world has begun to recognise the equality of women and also given the decline in male vocations.
The claim that Jesus ordained only males to the priesthood has no biblical basis. The fact is that Jesus never ordained anyone to the priesthood. That men only were ordained was a later development and a gradual development mainly in keeping with the Roman culture of the time. Nowhere in the Gospels does it state that men were the only ones to be ordained as priests. Presumably those disciples of Jesus who were present at the Last Supper were exclusively Jews and that could hardly be used as an argument that only Jews should be ordained.
Jesus went out of his way to include everyone in his new community.
A fundamentalist interpretation of scripture has done neither the church nor Jesus any service in creating a new and inclusive world or in building up the reign of God in the world. Outdated superficial interpretations of scripture are a real hindrance in furthering the message of Jesus of peace, love, forgiveness, truth and inclusion.
The Holy Spirit is calling on us to think again about this issue and to open up the discussion about ending the marginalisation of women in our world and in our church.
Fr JOE McVEIGH,
Tattygar, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.
If the issue of women and the priesthood is primarily about fairness and equality, then surely men should be allowed, indeed encouraged, to become nuns? It could be win-win all round, with women keen to be priests, and men nuns, as sadly both ranks are greatly depleted.
In the happy circumstance of this happening, I can foresee a time when a keen and ambitious young man rises through the ranks and eventually becomes mother superior of his order. Wouldn’t we have something to talk about then?
PATRICK J COYLE
The Ninch, Laytown, Co Meath.
Barry Walsh’s letter (June 28th) saying that Jesus apparently only chose male apostles is fine and reasonable as far as it goes, but why stop at the Twelve? In Luke, another “72” are appointed with no indication of either name or sex. In Romans, mention is made of one “Junia”, a female name. Not alone that but she is described as “outstanding among the apostles”!
Shamrock Avenue. Douglas, Cork.
3 letters to Irish Times (1 July 2014):
Using Barry Walsh’s “entirely reasonable interpretation of the recorded words and actions of Jesus” (June 28th), it would not be just women who should be excluded from ordination, but any man who was not a circumcised Jew. There was no gentile among the 12. Too painful to contemplate?
Ascaill Abhoca, An Charraig Dhubh, Co Bhaile Átha Cliath.
When we remember that it took the thick end of some 1,800 years to unpack the concept of human slavery, the retaining of that concept bitterly fought under the banners of tradition and scripture, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that many Christians are still trying to work out the full implications of accepting that both female and male were made “in God’s image”.
There are thousands upon thousands of us women priests exercising ministry worldwide in different Christian denominations, our vocations having been discerned and accepted by other (male) priests and male and female laity.
Can we please just be left to get on with our work of God’s kingdom without having to constantly put up with what, from our perspective, is noisy splashing in the shallow end of the theological paddling pool?
Canon MARIE ROWLEY-BROOKE,
St Mary’s Rectory, Nenagh, Co Tipperary.
In the First Epistle to the Corinthians (14:34-35) Saint Paul teaches that “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church”.
Some may argue against female priests, based on the incongruity of a woman preaching such passages of the New Testament from the pulpit.
These and many other misogynist New Testament scriptures suggest to me that the problem does not relate to women in the Christian priesthood, but rather Christianity’s understanding of womanhood.
Church Heath, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.Letter to editor of Irish Times 28 June 2014:
Brendan Butler (June 27th) says that there is no justification for the continued exclusion of women from the priesthood in the Catholic Church because “nowhere in his recorded actions or words did Jesus ever exclude anybody, especially women”.
It is certainly true that Jesus counted many women among his close friends and disciples. However, it is quite incorrect to say that this extended to including women among those who he wished to carry his message to the world, since in fact his recorded words and actions suggest the very opposite.
The selection by Jesus of the 12 apostles is clearly recorded in the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke, with each of the 12 being specifically named by him and each of them being male. From the words used by Jesus to the remaining 11 following his resurrection, it is clear that he intended these apostles to carry his message to the world, essentially forming the basis for the church. (“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them . . . and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19). The 11 apostles, in turn, chose men to succeed them in their mission.
This tradition was maintained in the centuries that followed and, as the catechism of the Catholic Church states, this was not an arbitrary decision but was made because “the Church recognises herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself”.
Whether you agree with it or not, this seems to be an entirely reasonable interpretation of the recorded words and actions of Jesus, so it is hardly surprising that Pope Francis has taken a hard line on the issue. This stands in contrast to his statements on the question of priests marrying, a matter on which he has shown an admirably open mind, and on which Jesus himself was entirely silent.
Brooklawn, Clontarf, Dublin 3.
Letter to editor of Irish Times 27 June 2014:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has excommunicated one of its dedicated members, Kate Kelly, for daring to advocate opening the male-only priesthood to women (“Head of Mormon feminists is excommunicated”, June 25th). The Catholic Church also claims, through Pope Francis, that the door is shut to women priests.
These churches believe that Jesus of Nazareth has given them a mandate to exclude women from their priesthoods, but nowhere in his recorded actions or words did Jesus ever exclude anybody, especially women.
The Moorings, Malahide, Co Dublin.