Written on: February 24, 2021
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ.” Galatians 3:28
All are baptized as brothers and sisters in Christ, not baptized a little bit – but as full members of the church – fully incorporated. The world still struggles with the sin of slavery and its many consequences. People suffer on a daily basis because a dominant culture doesn’t want to share and are blinded to the truth by the benefits dominance provides. How is it that today, the Catholic Hierarchical Church cannot see that the exclusion of women at any level causes pain and limits the kingdom of God here on earth?
In A Short History of Christianity (2011), historian Geoffrey Blainey suggested that the majority of first century Christians were women. In Romans 16: 1-2, Paul exhorts the faithful to receive Phoebe, a “deacon” of the church, and to assist her when she needs it. Paul asked leaders of the church of Philippi to help women who have been at his side in the cause of the gospel. While we do not know exactly what these women were doing, it is clear that the work was related to spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. Women all throughout history have been faithful witnesses to Christ’s message; they were even willing to die for it. In 304 St. Agnes submitted her name to the Roman ruler as a Christian and was martyred for it.
I have five sisters and five brothers. We understood what fair was and how to cut the pie equally. My brothers have great respect for their sisters and vice-versa. Family decisions did not exclude anyone. My brother, Michael writes,
“As we struggle with the enormity of the issues facing the Church today, women’s voices must be heard, respected, and acted on in an equal footing with men’s voices. I believe for the Church to survive as a true vehicle of Christ’s presence to the people this equality should not be treated as a vague idea, but rather become a true component of the Church’s day-to-day functions.”
It is clear that the Catholic Church does not allow females to receive all of the sacraments (Holy Orders). Zagano, (2012), cites Code 129 remarking on the exclusion of women from governance: “Those who have received sacred orders are qualified according to the norm of the prescripts of the law, for the power of governance, which exists in the Church by divine institution and is also called the power of jurisdiction.”
Why in 1983 does the Code of Canon Law 129, deliberately exclude women from any real decision-making? Jesus, in speaking to a Samaritan woman, in touching the leper, in curing the blind, in healing on the Sabbath, broke barriers of the day. He did not set more barriers up. While women are faithfully serving the people of God in their own way: health ministries, education, advocacy for social justice, justice is not served by restricting women from full participation at every level within the Church. It is alleged that Pope John Paul II asked Mother Teresa to consider being a cardinal. It is relatively recently that ordination is required for being a cardinal. Zagano (2012) remarks that while Pope Benedict would surely at this point not grant full access to all the sacraments to women, recently he commented that the church should open its doors for meaningful and recognized positions in the church. It seems Pope Francis would like to do more but is being held back by some of his brothers from doing so. Is there anyone given a greater duty to bring the presence of Christ to the world than Mary? If God trusted a woman for this sacred duty, shouldn’t our brothers in the hierarchy see that exclusion of women from full participation will always limit God’s kingdom here on earth? As a woman religious in the church, it is clear that I am not able to make the changes needed but my brothers who clearly see the injustice of exclusion of women within the church are called to make the changes. Now would be better than later! I can tell you that you have wronged me but only you can decide to do what is right. For starters, yes; deaconesses would be a good idea, particularly since the early church had them.
Zagano, P. (2012). Women in Ministry. Paulist Press: New York
Blainey G. (2011) A Short History of Christianity. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers : New York.
Sr. Bridget Mary Connor, GNSH is a part of the Leadership of the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, and as such knows firsthand the gifts women bring to the Church. She is a published author and has taught young children through adults. She enjoys finding connections between science and theology. In her free-time, Sr. Bridget enjoys painting, walking and biking.
Featured photo courtesy of Thomas Vitali/Unsplash