Women as Priests? Vatican won’t budge on holy edict

This is a story from March 24, 1988

Cathy Baroco

Construction workers, stock car drivers, politicians, media correspondents, doctors, lawyers, pilots: all these occupations at one time were seen as naturally and necessarily male, and women have conquered them one by one.

One occupation, though, has not been a new frontier or successful conquest in the women’s liberation movement – women in the priesthood.

“Right now the church’s stand is enunciated by John Paul II, who says he believes it’s the teaching of the church from the time of Christ that women are not called to the priesthood,” said the Rev. Neal McDermott, O.P., dean of campus ministry.

“Jesus himself did not ordain women,” he said, “even though for that time he was very revolutionary in his attitude.”

On Jan. 27, 1977, “the Vatican released (a declaration which) states that the exclusion of women was founded on Christ’s intent and is basic to the church’s understanding of priesthood…therefore it cannot be changed (and) will not bear examination,” said Rosemary Ruether and Eleanor McLaughlin in the book, “Women and Spirit.”

“(The Vactican’s) is not the opinion of everyone, though,” McDermott said cautiously. “Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit there is room in the new church for a married clergy and for women priests. My feeling is optimistic.”

Flossie Caffrey, religious studies senior, spoke confidently of the possibility of women as priests.

“Personally, I really don’t see any reason why women shouldn’t be priests. I do think it will change eventually, but I think it will be a while.”

“I certainly believe that women should be able to be ordained,” said Libby Tisdell, associate campus minister. “The church needs to access the gifts of everyone. I don’t think John Paul II is ever going to make that decision,” Tisdell said.

For any changes to come about, “there needs to be an honest, philosophical discussion,” McDermott said. “The present lack of dialogue only creates more problems than it solves.”

“I think (women’s ordination) would revolutionize the church in a lot of ways,” Tisdell said. “It would make our attitudes on all kinds of subjects different, such as sexuality and peace. So many world leaders are men.”

“What’s to say it’s not the Holy Spirit calling (women) and asking them to serve in all capacities?,” McDermott asked.

Much has changed since Vatican II. Mass structure has been changed; authority of priests, deacons and especially lay people in the church has been amplified.

“People are very resistant to change, though,” Tisdell said, somewhat sadly. “Change isn’t always comfortable. People will just have to learn to deal with women in a new way.”