Dr. McDougall is an associate professor of history at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the CUNY Graduate Center in New York.
“The modern Catholic Church is beset with serious problems. Among them is that not enough men want to be priests. Over the past three weeks, 184 bishops gathered at a Vatican summit to seek solutions for the Amazon region in particular, singled out because of myriad crises it is facing, including environmental devastation, violence and a shortage of priests to serve the needs of the faithful there.
The bishops’ solution: Do anything other than ordaining women as priests.
On Oct. 26, in a “revolutionary” decision, the bishops gathered at the Vatican voted 128 to 41 to allow an exception to what has essentially been a 1,000-year ban on the ordination of married men as priests. They recommended this change for only certain parts of the Amazon and for only married men already made deacons, meaning men already allowed to perform marriages and baptisms, but not to officiate at mass, which only priests can do. It is now for Pope Francis to decide whether the decision goes forward.
It is surprising in many ways that the bishops made this decision. Allowing a married man to be a priest violates several longstanding rules. They voted as they did despite the tremendous importance of chastity for the Catholic Church and the old idea that sexual activity is a pollutant that cannot be allowed near the holy ritual of the mass. They voted in favor of married priests despite a longstanding fear that for a priest to have a wife and a family would lead to serious conflicts of interest. There is a legend that the word “nepotism” was invented in honor of the grasping nephews of popes who sought and obtained more than they deserved thanks to their powerful uncles (and “nephews” we can sometimes see as a euphemism for “sons”).
These potential conflicts of interest and other dangers that family influence and obligations bring, therefore, are something Catholic authorities have long recognized and have eagerly sought to prevent. They voted as they did despite the symbolic importance, too, of the idea that a priest be united to only one spouse, the Church, just as Jesus Christ was united in an exclusive bond with the Church.”
Amen. Check out the recommended comments for this op-ed:
I am a 71-year-old woman who has been a practicing member of the Catholic church since I was baptized at one week old. I don’t know anyone of my generation whose children or grandchildren are church members. I cannot evangelize for a church which discriminates against me while paying out millions of dollars in reparations for, literally, the sins of the fathers. The bright spot is my 75-year-old cousin who left the convent after 25 years and joined the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. Of course, she was excommunicated. But she is the future of the Catholic Church, if there is to be one.
The greatest boon to human rights that the Catholic Church could institute would be to help free impoverished women of the 3rd World from the slavery of uninterrupted childbearing. End the ban on artificial contraception.
Amen to this OpEd. I saw the news on the church allowing married men to be ordained, and my first thought was “still no women.” Unbelievable. I‘ve never understood how so many women give of their time, money, and beliefs for a religious organization that doesn’t support their equality. And now, in this time, to emphasize that fact by again excluding women while opening up the clergy to married men – it’s just tone deaf.
as an ex seminarian, I have seen both extremely decent, compassionate priests and those who literally went through the motions and couldn’t care less about their priestly duties. more importantly, I have seen many women who served as so called secretaries or clerical assistants who were as competent and compassionate as any priest. I think women, who were priests in the church’s early days, would do a wonderful job and solve the clergy shortage problem. the church must move into the modern age.