Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Women in the Church: Impasse? Or "fully alive?"

I'm getting a paper ready for presentation at the CTSA, the annual meeting of the Catholic Theological Society of America, this year in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Updated the passport, but where the heck did I put it?  (And, note to self:  save passport photo for my future mortician, so the make-up is done the right way, instead of mistakenly trying to make me look too ... you know... life-like.)

The theme of the conference this year is "Impasse...and beyond."  Taking the theme to heart, I'll be talking about women's ordination -- well, actually, about women's "non-ordination."  More on that later (yes, I'm still working on it).

The theme itself has taken hold in my imagination.  Reading the Times this morning, I ran across an interesting piece of reporting by Laurie Goodstein, on two women whose business energy is keeping a group of monks afloat.  Please read it yourself, complete with the women's sense that they have several adult male children, and the monk's observations that they are just "not set up to sit around and answer phones," preferring to pray (they're "professionals," I term I don't recall from the Rule of Benedict) and dabble in arts and crafts.  

Check out the visuals: the busy woman chained to the keyboard for $30, 000 a year compared to the monk standing serenely in a field, looking like he takes pretty good care of himself.

The women are there freely, of course and, to the reporter, express satisfaction with their lives. Furthermore, the Church story is not usually like this -- in the more likely "co-worker" scenario of a busy male pastor and mostly-female parish staff, the effort and headaches are divided more evenly.    

But reading this should be a little warning to women who intend to work in the Church.


But it gets more serious...  

In the light of the out-pouring of pro-life discussion in the wake of the murder of Dr. Tiller, I had to read this story on the toll of illegal abortion in Tanzania.   Any defense of the position that abortion is always wrong will be incomplete -- and immoral -- if it ignores that frail woman clutching the rail of the hospital headboard, and all her sisters, with limited access to contraceptives, little education, and no power.  


My touchstone for questions about "how to be human" is always Irenaeus' claim that 'the glory of God is the human person fully alive.' That's the message that gives rise to "Today's Reading," which is a series of photographs of dancers in action, a glorious celebration of being fully, vibrantly, hummingly, human.  

But the moments of impasse remain, and seem insurmountable.  Back to writing about the non-ordination of women....