Friday, December 25, 1992

Ask Episcopal Church About Women Priests

Aidan J. Kavanagh, Professor of Liturgies Yale Divinity School, in a letter to the editor of The New York Times, published December 25, 1992, replying to an op-ed by Archbishop Rembert Weakland.
...his plea for admitting women to the priesthood. I suspect this is due to his overweening romanticism regarding modern culture -- political, academic, economic, journalistic. The program he advocates for his church is to embrace this culture, learn from it and follow it.

Mainline Protestant churches have tried this program for years, including ordination of women, egalitarian diversification of ministries and genial regard of the Zeitgeist. All these churches find themselves in moderate to steep membership declines. There is no evidence that this program would have different results in the Catholic Church.

If the Episcopal Church is any model, ordaining women has not checked the slide in membership. Women's ordination has increased the number of members of the clergy, who minister to parishes that are getting smaller.

This may create a new sort of clericalism, a malaise that seems to follow when the clergy becomes overnumerous in relation to the laity. Having less to do, the clergy engages in make-work that ends in driving everyone crazy.

God knows that the Roman Catholic Church has its problems. But it does not need to add problems like these. Such distractions would lead a church deeply aware of an ecumenical mission with the Orthodox and other Eastern Churches, a mission rooted in the core of the Gospel, very far afield.


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