The late author and artist Monica Sjoo wrote in her classic work The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth, “The burning question remains: Why do women continue to give our gifts–of spiritual devotion, of impassioned energy, of mental brightness, of profound social concern–to male-dominated and male-defined religious institutions which are based, structurally and ideologically, on a searing contempt and hatred for women? Why do women continue to give our physical endurance and biological endowment to patriarchal churches which exist, ontologically and practically by attempting to dominate and control human female reproduction like a bunch of cattle breeders controlling the fertility of their cattle?”
While her language is strong, and perhaps not the most gracious in attempting to understand why women continue to support patriarchal religious institutions which deny them a full spiritual experience as well as continue to put forth rules and regulations that involve, primarily, what women can and cannot do, the question is apt.
For myself, I could not continue to be a part of an institution which I felt not only denied me full spiritual experience, but limited and placed rules upon just how far I could take my devotion to the divine. There are those however, who are attempting to change the churches from within, and I think their contributions, their subversive activities, and their bravery are important. The truth is, there are a lot of women inside of these institutions who are waking up, but are not fully ready to leave. They want the comfort that the faith of their childhood brought them, without the dogma that stated they were ‘second’. Not all women are going to lay down their hymnals and march down the isle and out the door.
Enter WomenPriests. These women, who have defied the male-only hierarchy of the Catholic Church, are boldly and bodily calling out inequality. There are currently 208 WomenPriests worldwide, and as the feminine face of the divine continues to grow, I expect that number will increase. In an article in nj.com that discusses the WomenPriest movement as well as highlighting the ordination of 8 new WomenPriests last May, the author brings out some important differences between the traditional ordination ceremonies, and that of WomenPriests.
“But the differences between Rome-scripted ordination and the RCWP’s ceremony were apparent. One was the gender-neutral liturgy. The word Lord was absent. God was not exclusively called Father, but Creator God, Creator Spirit and Life-Giving Mother, Gentle Father. Christ’s disciples, a heavily male-oriented word, were described as friends. The prayer over the Eucharist is said by the whole church, meaning the congregation shares the power to bring the body and blood of Christ into their midst.”
In addition, a stark difference in the leadership roles is present as well. WomenPriests do not feel or pretend to be any more “holy” than the congregations they lead. These differences are refreshing, and important. I have always thought that the teachings of Jesus were more feminist than they were “Christian”. I love what these women are doing. And when I read through their website, and view the pictures of their ordinations I am moved. I can imagine being a part of one of these congregations. As I read this sentence in their About section, something stirs inside me. Women are rising, we are reclaiming, and in doing so we will tip the scales of the world toward justice:
“We women are no longer asking for permission to be priests. Instead, we have taken back our rightful God-given place ministering to Catholics as inclusive and welcoming priests.”