Women as Priests

A slideshow posted at the New York Times site

Women as Priests

by JUDITH LEVITT

REFORMERS within the Roman Catholic Church have been calling for the ordination of women as priests. The Vatican, however, refuses to consider the possibility and uses its power to silence those who speak out. Catholic clergy in Europe, Australia and the United States who have voiced public support for female ordination have been either dismissed or threatened with removal from administrative posts within the church.

For those who disobey the prohibition, the consequences are swift and severe. In 2008, the Vatican decreed that any woman who sought ordination, or a bishop who conferred holy orders on her, would be immediately “punished with excommunication.” It went a step further in 2010, categorizing any such attempt as delicta graviora — a grave crime against the church — the same category as priests who sexually abuse children.

Despite the official church position, clergy and laity have been fighting for the ordination of women since the early 1970s, hoping to expand upon the Vatican II reforms. And according to a 2010 poll by The New York Times and CBS, 59 percent of American Catholics favor the ordination of women…. (snip)

I photographed priests and bishops of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement to alter my own deep-seated perception of priests as male. I tried to capture their devotion and conviction and pay tribute to their efforts to reform the church.

Animals

I think one of the main problems with the Patriarchs (the writers of the Bible – the creators of Western religions) is that they had too high of an opinion of themselves  – and of humans – relative to the rest of the world.

It is common knowledge that people went from thinking that humans and the earth are the center of the universe to the relatively recent understanding that we tiny specks living on a bigger speck somewhere in a vast universe. Most figure that it is likely that there are other planets with life and we have little way of knowing how often this could have occurred.

The Bible was, of course, written when people had little understanding of the physical world and how it worked – relative to our knowledge today – which is still limited.

Fundamentalists who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible know that it is premised on the idea that humans are special. If humans were not created by God – in “His” image – to be special, dominating creatures – as is proclaimed in Genesis – much of the Bible falls apart. When you accept that human life is a somewhat random development that happened as our features worked better than some other possibilities – it means that people need to get down off their high horse and have more humility.

Basically we are just lucky. And yes – some are luckier than others and some are more ruthless than others. Some are better at hoarding – some are better at enjoying life. Theoretically – religion ought to offer some guidance in understanding life. I think that many religions – especially the God-based ones, must be suffering a crisis because –  so many religions are not keeping up with our scientific understanding of the world. Some do – the ones not based on God.

Liberals are ahead of the game and sensibly choose those things from whatever religions are compatible with our current knowledge about relationships and the universe. Kudos to those who can make a religion that is compatible with the real world instead of a world as it was understood 3000-4000 years ago.

 

Sunrises, Gods & Goddesses, & Sex

Where I live, I have a good view to the east. I usually take a walk first thing in the morning – and it is often around the time the sun is rising. I’ve taken hundreds of sunrise photos. (My header photo is of a sunset I took while on vacation).

My religion has evolved to where it basically involves being happy to be alive and appreciating the awesome world that I find myself in. I count my blessings which include having wonderful parents, husband, & grown children. I try to live simply; I meditate and practice yoga.

My philosophy is partly based on a liberal understanding of Christianity (minus the divinity part), along with some Jungian, feminist, and other readings. I strive for a somewhat Universal understanding – I am interested in ideas from India, China, & Japan – especially as they relate to our relationship with the earth and with each other.

It has taken me awhile – but I have come to appreciate the way that sex is integrated into the religions of India. The idea of sex and especially the yoni (vagina) representing life, is so basic and sensible. Temples have at their core a room that is based on the idea of the womb. Carved, stylized yonis with a lingam (phallas shape) within the yoni – as a symbol of life are normal and everyday artifacts. And of course – what simpler way to represent life? The Egyptian ankh symbol was likely based on the same idea.

The more I have learned about this way of understanding the world, and the more the acceptance and appreciation of the symbols of sex as life become integrated into my mind, the more I see that Christianity and especially Catholicism is messed up.

I have enjoyed reading Elaine Pagels books The Gnostic Gospels (1979), & Adam, Eve and the Serpent (1988), which have helped put into perspective what happened early in Christianity. Basically that while there were people who embraced spirituality and equality with women, the ones who won were the ones who wanted to squash women’s influence. The ones who won were more interested in creating an authoritarian model that demanded obedience as opposed to a more inclusive model based on love and acceptance. Many ‘heretics’ were killed along the way.

To this day we have those who are interested in using religion to dominate and control – to keep men elevated and women subservient. That would include the fundamentalists who demand a ‘literal’ (cough) interpretation of the Bible as well as the Catholics with their Pope who has decided that birth control is evil. While the vast majority of Christian denominations adapted and made women more equal partners, the Catholics remain inflexible.

Many denominations in the 70s and 80s moved to have more inclusive language – such as describing God not as He – but as the creator. Five hundred years ago, various (non-Catholic) Christians began thinking of God as more abstract than physical. The maleness of God has remained important to the Catholic hierarchy – with the Pope saying that it would be a different religion if (the) God(s) were not male.

The fundamentalists and Catholics – while they may be saving the patriarchal nature of their religion – are becoming more and more polarizing as many of the rest of us see that the patriarchy is not the model we wish to follow. I think that where there could have been more liberal Christians, the effect of the extremists is to encourage people such as myself to abandon Christianity altogether and look for something more reasonable and women-friendly.

What women like myself are discovering is that there is a whole world of Goddesses that I, for one, grew up knowing little about. The Greek Goddesses we typically learn about had been made subservient (for the most part) by the Greeks as they imposed patriarchal concepts long ago – as well as in their retelling by an educational system that wanted to promote male power over women.

To find out about the Goddess(es) who were thought of as being the creator(s) of the world, etc. you need to find out about the Goddesses before they were dominated and recast as inferior beings.

Nearly all of the artifacts representing humans prior to about 6000 years ago were of women. It is no coincidence that 4000 BCE marks the time when fundamentalists say that the world began. What happened at the “fall” was that the Earth Mother, Eve (along with a symbol of the earth – the snake) were denigrated and demonized. Men asserted their power over women. Men also began taking credit for life, itself. Many men don’t want to give that up. (Santorum and Limbaugh to name two).