View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Catholic? Worker

A local Catholic Worker house has called a woman to be their priest, to adminster sacraments, etc. The woman is seeking ordination through an organization identified as "Roman Catholic WomenPriests."

This is not to debate the ordination of women - I have my own private views on that - nor even the qualifications of the woman in question (a complicated personal issue for me in this case.)

It's the Catholic part.

The Catholic Church has spoken pretty clearly against the ordination of women. There's debate over whether it is definitive teaching or not, but it is a very clear teaching.

And any organization that claims to be Catholic is supposed to support the teachings of the Church (at least publicly). Otherwise, the name is just an empty title.

Think of Catholics for a Free Choice, for example.

Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Worker movment, was pretty clear in her adherence to the Church. She said that she would shut down her house in a minute if the Church told her to.

I wonder how she'd feel about this?

This Worker House has a right to call itself whatever it wants.

But I think it has to be made clear that that its actions are not in line with the official teachings of the Church.

As for me - a former volunteer and live-in staff member of the House - I have asked them to take me off their mailing list.

I will continue to support other Worker Houses here and across the country and the good work that they do. This is a choice by just one particular house.


Anonymous Clare said...

The Catholic Worker movement has a strong history of protest and civil disobedience. Yes, they are usually targeted at the US government and its actions, but why should they not be also targeted at injustices within the Church? You support womens ordination in theory (at least, last I knew), and have posted about the lack of interest in the priesthood in the past. So, why shouldn't they do an act of civil disobedience on this issue?

2:06 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

St. Joseph's House can take that position as an independent agency. Individuals within it can even hold that position.

But as one identifying itself publicly as a "Catholic" organization, it can't and claim to maintain that identity. I was in the same situation when I was the editor of the diocesan papert. I was a representive of the Church, and could not publicly state positions counter to Chruch teachings.

As for targetting injustices, yes, the Worker has a fine record of that. But Dorothy Day was clear about submitting to Church authority.

So in doing something like this - not just saying they favor it, but in actually defying Church rules - they are going counter to her model.

4:56 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

From a review of William Miller's biography of Day:

"In any case, it is frequently assumed that because Dorothy Day was involved in politically liberal causes, she was therefore a spiritual libertarian as well. In fact, she was thoroughly conservative in her religion: She was constant in her fealty to the Church of Rome, disavowed the experimental folk Masses of the post-Vatican Council period, and rejected redical nuns who attempted to enlist her reputation in the cause of women's ordination."

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Clare said...

After reading your first reply, I did some research and found that same quote. So yes, you are right that Dorothy Day would not have approved of the St. Joe's community's actions.

But, I think she was wrong. I think that any organization that survives by never questioning itself and its founding principles is bound to weaken itself. The Catholic Church itself has gone through times of questioning, discernment and change (like Vatican II) and has survived because of it. Thus, I think that they are within their rights to use this action as a form of civil disobedience. I think that the Catholic Worker organization would also be within their rights to denounce St. Joe's if it is determined that their actions go against what the Catholic Worker movement of today stands for. But, I don't think that St. Joe's community is in the wrong here.

I freely admit that I have several different biases going on here that are influencing my opinion of this, but I am trying to look at it as objectively as I can.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Rich Leonardi said...

The Catholic Church has spoken pretty clearly against the ordination of women. There's debate over whether it is definitive teaching or not, but it is a very clear teaching.

In Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II stated the Church "has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful." The CDF then declared the teaching to be part of the Deposit of Faith. It doesn't get much more definitive.

8:30 PM  
Blogger Rich Leonardi said...

And I applaud your overall stand here, Lee.

8:31 PM  
Anonymous Phil Runkel said...

Dorothy was known to change her mind. In a private conversation, she reportedly said the following about women priests: "It's a vocation that doesn't attract me but I wouldn't disapprove of it. If there are women premiers and prime ministers, why not a woman pope?"
(Patricia McGowan, "Somebody Loves You When You're Down and Out," U.S. Catholic, October 1975, p. 30)

9:58 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Phil - the issue here is not what she might believe in terms of women's ordination - or what anyone believes about the issue - it is in taking a direct action that goes against Church teachings.

Day was obedient to church authority.

10:56 AM  

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