Peter Stanford's July 9th article in The Guardian/Observer, "Women on a mission to storm the gates of Rome," reveals the sad silliness and theological vapidity of those desperate to be priestettes. For instance, the first paragraph:
It feels so good to be discussing this,' Victoria Rue tells me, the note of mischief clear in her Californian drawl. 'Officially the Vatican has decreed that Catholics can't even talk about women priests, let alone ordain them, but here we are doing it.'
You can't even talk about women priests?! Than why is that all we seem to hear about in some quarters of the Catholic Church? Heck, even Ignatius Press has published a 497-page book about "women priests", Fr. Manfred Hauke's Women In The Priesthood (1988), which systematically, carefully, and fairly explains why the Church does not, can not, and will not ordain women to be priests. Please, be done with the silly and disingenuous stance of "Oh, we just ordained some women as Catholic priests, but the Vatican won't acknowledge them." No, you aren't "doing it." You're playing games and looking like fools in the process. But Stanford is more than willing to go along for the ride, coyly noting that "Rue, professor of religion at San Jose State University, California, looks and sounds every inch a Catholic cleric" (because, of course, it's a matter of looks):
In July 2005, she was ordained as one of the world's first Catholic women priests. On Saturday she is in Britain to say mass in Leeds with members of Britain's 300-strong Catholic Women's Ordination movement. The service will take place in an Anglican church because, in the eyes of the Vatican, Rue, 59, is not a priest. It has responded to the ordinations of a handful of American, German, Austrian and South African women with threats of excommunication.
The "eyes of the Vatican" here is nice and purposefully limiting phrase. Make that "in the eyes of the Catholic Church," from the pope to the Catholic girl next door who loves Jesus and doesn't think it insulting or demeaning that only men are ordained, just as she doesn't find it peculiar that a lowly Jewish girl was chosen to be the only mother of God. Meanwhile, Stanford keeps referring to women preparing to become "Catholic priests," which sounds eerily like those men who are preparing "to be become" women because, well, they've always felt like they were supposed to be women.
Not surprisingly, we are told that Rue follows the common blueprint for Catholic priestettes: disgrunted former nun who is now a lesbian and who rejects large chunks of Catholic teaching.
Victoria Rue tried life as a nun in the late Sixties but then turned her back on the church to work in the theatre. A trip to Central America in the Eighties brought her back into contact with Catholicism. Seeing it operating alongside the poor in the slums of Nicaragua inspired her to take up studying theology. At college she met her partner, Kathryn Poethig.
Rue was back as a regular mass-attender but felt excluded by her gender and her sexual orientation from more traditional forms of Catholic liturgy. She began taking part in and leading an unofficial 'women's mass' in Oakland, California. That experience confirmed her vocation and eventually led her to seek 'ordination' last year.
So she attends an "unofficial" (read: not real!) liturgy and seeks "ordination" (read: not real!). The air of unreality only intensifies when Stanford makes a pathetic pass at explaining why the Catholic Church does not, in reality, ordain women:
But Rome has been forced on to the defensive by the large numbers of women now studying theology and realising that Catholicism does not really have a decent argument against women's ordination. According to the Vatican, the issue is that women were not at the Last Supper. However, since we have no real evidence who was at the Last Supper, this can scarcely be regarded as a knockout blow.
With theological acumen like that, Stanford should consider becoming a journalist! Oh, wait, he already is. Anyhow, it's worth noting that Fr. Hauke's book, which, in the interest of fairness and integrity, presents arguments for women's ordination more cogently than those interviewed for Stanford's piece, spends all of two paragraphs (out of nearly 500 pages) on the Last Supper, and that in the larger context of Jewish culture and how Jesus' attitude toward women was actually rather revolutionary. Suffice to say that Hauke is very familiar with feminist arguments and attitudes; his other Ignatius Press book is God or Goddess? (1995), a 350-page critique of feminist theology. An excerpt can be read here.
Finally, Stanford ends his piece of "journalism" on this highly objective note:
On Saturday, Rue will try to put some balm on the wounds. As she stands on the altar, she will be a walking, talking reproach to the foolishness of a group of men who believe that they can simply order those who disagree with them to be silent and fall into line with a teaching that has almost no theological or historical basis. Inspired by the changes afoot in Anglicanism, Catholic women with a vocation are no longer in the mood to put up and shut up.
Hmmmm--"Inspired by the changes afoot in Anglicanism." If that isn't one of the most cheerless and uninspiring battle cries around, I don't know what is. As for the lack of "theological and historical basis," perhaps Stanford should spend less time at seances and more time reading works of real history and theology.