Each Sunday, the Congregational Church of Weston (in Weston, Massachusetts) hosts a Catholic congregation called “Spirit of Life.” “Spirit of Life” is led by Jean Marchant, a woman who was unofficially ordained as a Catholic priest four years ago. I say “unofficially” because, in 1994, the Pope formally stated that the Catholic Church cannot ordain women.
Over the weekend, the Boston Globe traveled to “Spirit of Life” to talk to Marchant and Father Roy Bourgeouis, a former priest who was excommunicated from the church after participating in the ceremonies where women were ordained.
From the Boston Globe:
In an interview yesterday, Bourgeois, 70, a Louisiana native, said he has stopped wearing a clerical collar and celebrating the Eucharist and other sacraments out of respect for the church’s view that he has been excommunicated.
But, he also said at one point, simply, “I am a priest.’’
He said he is confident his position on women priests is the correct one.
“If anyone should be excommunicated, it is the patriarchy involved in this discrimination,’’ he said. “But I don’t believe in excommunication – no one has a monopoly on the truth.’’
Despite the slight implicit sexism in the fact that Bourgeois is quoted repeatedly in the article while Marchant is not quoted once, the article highlights an important issue. Now that other churches are currently debating the inclusion of LGBT clergy, it seems like a logical progression for the Catholic Church to consider ordaining women for the first time. Though religious doctrine may be thousands of years old, practices and traditions are constantly evolving and changing, across all faiths. So why not this one?
Some supporters of female priests say that the Church is on its way to amending its traditional stance. From the Boston Globe:
Roberta Robinson, 60, of West Roxbury, said she now worships at an “ecumenical Catholic congregation’’ – a group not recognized by Rome – and that she came to the event “to support the movement.’’
She said she believes the Catholic Church will change its position on women’s ordination, saying, “it has to, or it will fall.’’
The sentiment is logical — as society progresses, so must social institutions. As more Catholics become accustomed to the idea of ordaining women, the Church will need to adjust itself to accommodate its followers, if it wants to keep those followers. But, in reality, it might not be so simple. According to a recent New York Times article, young people who are just now becoming nuns and priests, though more racially and ethnically diverse than ever, are more interested in upholding traditions than the generation before them. While the priests and nuns who were ordained in the 1960s frequently rejected traditional clothing, pursued degrees in higher education, and generally worked to modernize the Church, those in training today prefer to wear habits and observe traditional prayer rituals. If the statistics referenced in the article are accurate, I don’t think that bodes well for a shift in the acceptance of female ordination any time soon.
What are your thoughts? How long do you think it will be before we see officially ordained female Catholic priests?