Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Women in the Priesthood

I was once  a believer and a Catholic priest.  Then I lost belief.  This fact, in my humble opinion, should not deter me from speaking my mind on matters within the organisation of which I once was a member - a privileged member at that.

If I were still within the fold I would be very very angry at many developments there at present.  In particular, I would be angry at the present Pope Benedict XVI and his immediate predecessor, John Paul II.  These two men turned back the clock of reform that had been installed by Pope John XXIII, the man who opened the windows to let fresh air into the Church..

Although a "conservative" Catholic in many respects, John XXIII was more concerned with the humanity and love he could foster and  instil in the human spirit than he was with "binding heavy and insupportable burdens and placing them on the shoulders of others". He called an ecumenical council to sidestep the stifling of the Vatican by doctrinaire and pompous Curial civil servants who had appropriated power to themselves.  The first session met on 11 October 1962 and ended in December.  In that short period there had been a revolution of thought and action in the Church.  Pope John XXIII died before the next session began.  With him died the steel and iron of purpose to open the windows of the Vatican.  But the road to which he pointed could never die in the minds of millions whom he had inspired by his goodness.

Pope Paul VI re-convened the Council in 1963.  He vacillated on many questions, but ultimately several Council documents and decrees were ratified and published. Many minor reforms were incorporated in these, especially with regard to the liturgy.  The larger questions were not dealt with.  Paul continued to outlaw contraception in an encyclical, Humanae Vitae.  The ban on the ordination of women to the priesthood was continued.  Priests were forbidden to marry and condemned if they left the priesthood.  In Paul's time the internal workings of the Vatican went from bad to worse.  The Vatican was in close contact with high and important members of the Mafia.  Its Bank laundered money for them and even dealt in contraceptives for profit!  When Paul died, he left a corrupt and divided Church behind him.

For thirty three days the Pope who succeeded him looked like a man inspired.  The smiling Pope who took the double-barrelled name of John Paul the First was humane and just and strong.  His campaign to clean up the unholy mess in the Vatican’s finances ended when he died suddenly on his bed, most probably poisoned.  His death was never investigated in the Vatican.  An extensive account of what had happened to this good man by investigative journalist David Yallop was dismissed by the Vatican as utter rubbish.  Yallop believed he had been purposely poisoned at the behest of the highest Vatican officials in order to stop the reforms that would expose their own wrongdoing.  Lies were broadcast to the world about the time and place of the finding of  his body.  His secretary and nurse, both of whom knew the truth, were made to swear that they would remain silent.  The death or murder of this good man was hushed up.

John Paul the First was succeeded by a man who took the same name, John Paul II.  Never was a name more inappropriate to Karl Wojtyla.  He took the name  but did not investigate the untimely death of the good man whose name he took.

John Paul II remained as Pope for nearly 27 years.  Corruption in the Vatican and in the Church was not addressed.  Instead this strong-minded man travelled the world to  try to bring Catholics into line with his own thinking on orthodoxy.  Voices of questioning or dissent were silenced.The notion  of Women priests was outlawed on theological grounds as was the notion of married priests (except as converts).

Benedict XVI has now been Pope for over seven years and has continued the policy of his predecessor in these three respects: No married priests, no dissent of any kind and NO WOMEN PRIESTS.

These three pillars of the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI sit uneasily with the scandals that have erupted and have not been repented of within the Church during those same two pontificates.

Of course there should be women priests.  Priesthood confers material as well as spiritual privileges - including the power to influence world events far beyond the confines of the Catholic Church.  To deprive about half of the world's population of the right to aspire to these powers is a scandal, unjust, wrong, inexcusable, criminal.
Those who deny these women's rights are men.  The reasons put forward are specious and indefensible.

The behaviour of John Paul II and Benedict XVI affect all of us whether or not we are in the Church or outside of it.

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