The quote comes from Father Bourgeois of the Maryknoll order, and he is commenting on the ordination of women. In fact, the support he is being given by other priests forms one of three substantive challenges to the Vatican’s rigid and threatening position on the ordination of women. People involved in these actions are brave men; they risk excommunication, which amounts to being expelled from the Church. That could mean they do not have any job or any support for retirement, among lots of other things.
Here’s what’s happening:
More than 150 Roman Catholic priests in the United States have signed a statement in support of a fellow cleric who faces dismissal for participating in a ceremony that purported to ordain a woman as a priest, in defiance of church teaching.
The American priests’ action follows closely on the heels of a “Call to Disobedience” issued in Austria last month by more than 300 priests and deacons. They stunned their bishops with a seven-point pledge that includes actively promoting priesthood for women and married men, and reciting a public prayer for “church reform” in every Mass.
And in Australia, the National Council of Priests recently released a ringing defense of the bishop of Toowoomba, who had issued a pastoral letter saying that, facing a severe priest shortage, he would ordain women and married men “if Rome would allow it.” After an investigation, the Vatican forced him to resign.
Though what is now going on is unlikely to change the church, it does constitute a hopeful moment. But it also is a very obvious thing to happen. We have a very male dominated church with men possessing much of the power in the Church. Surely, the most reliable way to change the church is to start with changes in men. In fact, that seems extremely obvious.
As we turn to philosophy, we see women putting in an enormous amount of effort, but I wonder if it would be fruitful to assess these efforts from the point of view of how they are changing those with the power.
Let me try going at this at a slightly different direction. A number of Rutgers’ female graduate students have described the department as providing a wonderful atmosphere for women. There’s also some talk about the sensitivity to women’s rights on the part of new male appointees. These look tightly connected; you don’t need much more than that sensitivity to provide an atmosphere in which women can flourish, and there isn’t much you can do if the men don’t regard women as having equal rights. (I’m simplifying; correct me, if please, if you think there are bad distortions here.) This is because the department, like most others, is heavily male as far as faculty go, and graduate students are majority male.
So I’m wondering how focusing more on the role of men in supporting women would provide some efficiency for the efforts of women to create a better profession for other women. Some efforts are in this direction. This blog’s gendered conference campaign is one, and it would be great to hear of others. What else might be characterized in this way? What else could we do? One thing might be to use conferences more to address this issue, perhaps in some sort of lunch-discussion session.
What do you think?