punchy line

...and he (Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ... not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. - Jn 20: 6-7
-Jn 20: 6-7

Monday, February 25, 2013

I Met A “Woman Priest” The Other Day. On the Sidewalk. This is How it Went.

You may or may not be familiar with the Woman Priest movement or the Woman’s Ordination Conference.   I still don’t understand the difference between the two.  In any case, the latter can be credited with such fine contributions to salvation history as this gem (and yes, they are completely serious in this video):

…no doctrinal problems there.

I’ve done my fair share of laughing at them from afar (which just goes to show what a great Catholic I am…not) as well as regarding them with the same degree of seriousness as I would a Mickey Mouse shaped nebula somewhere.

Then I met one.  At the sidewalk.  Here’s how that went.

First, to her credit, she was participating in 40 Days for Life.  How rare or cool is that?  I thought all “women priests” despised Paul the VI’s Humanae Vitae and were all for “choice” (at least, if they were anything like the Leadership Conference for Women Religious’s higher ups whom I’ve often opined to be on the same level.)

At first, unsure why she was wearing a Roman collar, I innocently asked, “Oh, are you a minister somewhere?” expecting a response of the yes, Episcopalian, variety.

“I am a Catholic priest.” She declared.  My response: shock, silence.

When she saw I wasn’t responding, she softened and added, “It’s a long story.”  I have no doubt it is...and I could probably tell most of it to her.

For, not long ago, as a confounded Catholic, growing up in the Bay Area, I was indoctrinated with a pseudo-catechism from those who insisted that contraception, abortion, homosexuality and especially women’s ordination was completely compatible with Church teaching.

Don’t think these priests/nuns/theologians didn’t have volumes of secondary sources to confuse me and every other lay person who innocently came wanting to know more about their Faith (and who only received a weird, up-in-smoke, 1970s version).  Missing in my mis-education, of course, were the primary sources, like say, um, the Catechism and scripture. I am guessing the woman priest I met had a similar education.

Then, I’m sure some spiritual director somewhere confirmed that she did have a vocation to the all-male priesthood (that’s usually all it takes).  Then, she networked with likeminded, identically spiritually counseled women championing the “reforms of Vatican II,” and the rest is history.

Here’s the cool thing though, and I can’t come back to this enough: she was praying for an end to abortion.  She was very kind, though clearly confounded, as I had been.  And she had an obvious zeal for justice and love for Our Lord. 

Speaking with her helped me be less condescending to those like her whose hearts are clearly in the right place but whose actions are the fruits of both being misled and, perhaps, influenced by their own personal disdain for Church teaching.

Our conversation together, mostly about the evil of abortion, helped me see that, beneath her Roman collar, was a good woman with a strong, passionate desire to change the world.

Now, you might be wondering, as I still am, why, if she truly wanted to change the world for the better, end abortion, and have a ministry distributing hospital supplies in Peru (which she apparently already has), why not just do the same while living in accordance with the Church?

Is there any reason she couldn’t pray and minister to others as a lay woman and not be equally, if not more effective in reaching more hearts and converting all to the Gospel of Christ?

The answer is: yes, of course she could.  But she’s chosen not to.  She’s chosen the path of dissent, and, as a result, ironically, will probably never completely fulfill her own baptismal priestly vocation, to which we are all called.

But isn’t that just like the devil?  He’s very convincing when it comes to persuading some good, intelligent, hardworking woman somewhere that she is called to the Church’s all male priesthood.  He’s created the perfect distraction as she seeks illicit ‘ordination’ all the while not realizing that she’s missed out on the immeasurable potential she had should she have walked the path of fidelity to the Church instead.

Women priests such as the one I met don’t deserve judgment or ridicule, especially from imperfect Catholic women such as myself who purport to be all adhering to our Faith.  They need our love, and especially our witness to the fullness of a woman’s true priestly vocation, which is not present for us in the same way it is for men in the way of ordination to public ministry.

Ours is a different, but just as important “priesthood.” Among other things, for some it means bringing new life into the world and nurturing it in the Faith.  Yeah. How about them, apples? 

But it is also to call other women to deeper fidelity to the Church.  I pray the prolife movement continue to be one such catalyst for uniting all those who still live in dissent to many of the Church’s teachings, and that they, like the "woman priest" I met, come home their Faith fully in a beautiful, wholly assenting and final way.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Before I was a Pro-lifer, I was a Judgmental Pro-Choicer

I’m looking forward to upcoming the Lenten 40 days for life campaign.  Just saying so is really a miracle.  I was not always pro-life, you see, and it was not an easy, nor a pretty road that lead to eventually seeing the world with God’s merciful eyes. However it was worth every aching step and in many ways it has saved my life

My pro-choice stance actually stemmed from a disdain for women. My liberal upbringing was full of examples where women bullied other women.   Indeed, it was dog-eat-dog amongst gals who seemed to be in a perpetual competition with each other, all of them also professed liberals.  I hated it and I disliked other women for it, but I knew no other way.  I fooled myself that pro-lifers were the ones judging others, but really, it was me all along.

It might sound strange to say, but being pro-choice allowed me to adjudicate women from afar.  It meant that I never had to go out of my way to really sympathize with a woman’s situation or get to know her personally. If a she had an abortion, I could just decide that she was just making a benign choice that didn’t affect me.

Plus, to my mind, if I told myself she was too dumb to realize that sex equals a possible child, then I could congratulate myself on being her intellectual superior.

More sinisterly, my liberal beliefs lead me to believe that, practically speaking, the world was a better place because it didn’t have to contend with paying for her ‘mistake.’

Here’s the cold, cruel reality underlying the false compassion that typifies liberals, and especially pro-choicers: despite all their talk of women’s rights, deep down, they’re grateful that they don’t have to go outside their narcissistic comfort zone and actually deal with real problems faced by real people everyday.  They don’t have to bother with whether a woman has low-self esteem, was bullied into her “choice” or whether it’s a true injustice when innocent human life is ended.  Nope, pragmatically speaking, it’s just one less kid to spend our tax money on. 

I should know, I was such a liberal.

Then after I became pro life in college, my judgementalism evolved to condemning not only the act, but the people involved in the sin of abortion.

I didn’t do this consciously.  It’s completely natural to recoil in horror once one comes to understand what abortion actually is.  Nor is it difficult to make the emotional leap from applying the same reaction you have to an abhorrent situation to the people involved in it. 

Now, I was never one who felt like people deserved to be stoned to death, or anything, but I was someone who would cast a condescending eye upon others.

I had succumbed to the oldest tricks of the Devil, that of mentally drawing a line between “me” and “them” and how I would never do something as bad as what “they” did and may God have mercy on them (because I sure wasn’t.)

Really, I just didn’t understand God’s mercy and my unforgiving attitude was rooted, ironically enough, in exactly what I most shared in common with post abortive parents and abortion industry workers: my own brokenness and need to discover God’s inexhaustible love and forgiveness.

Long story short, it wasn’t until I sought healing for my own wounds and my own wretched sinfulness that I was able to feel love for my fellow man and, finally and most especially, women.

At long last, I could embrace them as my sisters in Christ and get to work trying to  spare them the pain of abortion as well as find them healing for those wounds they believed were beyond God’s healing power.

I could do this because the prolife movement forced me to personally encounter that:

Nothing is beyond His mercy, not even my hideous judgementalism. 

Becoming prolife and really practicing my faith made me get out and love people even more than I believed I could.  It made me seek my own healing for my anger and residue issues from childhood.  It saved my life, and, as result, other lives since.

How could I not bring this powerful message to the women I’ve prayed for at the sidewalk for years now?  It was the entire message of the gospel, and without the pro-life movement, I might have completely missed it for myself and others. 

This Lent, please remember to pray for judgmental people like me.   Don’t give up on us.  We can and do change.  We are broken inside on fundamental levels that we may not be even aware of.  Abortion is a horrible sin that requires love and mercy to heal, as does judgementalism.  Pray that more of us seek it in the prolife movement.  And may God protect us as we once again head to the sidewalk this Lent.