Yes, I'm taking the bait. I don't know why I do this to myself. Usually I try to blog about harmless things like frugality and eco friendly cleaning. But every now and again, I try to blog about faith and, even less often than that, I try to tackle a subject that is near and dear to my heart, yet controversial. Don't worry. After this post, I will self medicate with some chocolate and swear never to blog about faith again. And that should last at least a week or so. I do apologize for an underlying level of snark. I don't mean to be snarky, but my writing sometimes comes across that way (especially after I spend month being bombarded with comments about how the Church doesn't respect women).
There is a huge misunderstanding by non-Catholics and by many Catholics as well that, because the Church doesn't allow women's ordination, the church doesn't love or respect women. Some people seem to think the pope has the option to say women can be ordained. We all heard about that with the recent conclave. News sites love to speculate on what the pope will change. As if the Church has ever changed. As if the Church will ever change. But it might take the world another 2,000 years to get that. As often happens, well meaning non-Catholics (and even misunderstood Catholics) don't know about in persona Christi which, in very plain terms, says that Jesus instituted the priesthood and the priest acts in the person of Christ during the Eucharistic rite. Jesus being a man, and choosing only men to carry on his mission, means that only men can act in persona Christi.
Now, I know a lot of people will come back with, "But Jesus lived in a very patriarchal time! Of course he didn't choose a woman then. But times have changed!". And here is my response. You do realize that Jesus was about as counter cultural as counter cultural gets, right? If he wanted female priesthood, I have no doubt he would have instituted it. He certainly didn't let the time he lived in dictate anything else he did (remember the woman at the well?), so why would we think this is any different? I also have people ask me if it bothers me. It honestly doesn't for the simple fact that I understand the love the Church has for women. I don't feel like less, but I do recognize that I have a different role. It's sort of like feminism versus new feminism. The first says that women can do anything men can do, and men are often portrayed as not needed or useless. The second says that men and women are equally valuable, but have somewhat different roles. Women are so valued in the Church, and I do not take it personally that my role is different. Clearly, only women can have babies. I don't hear people asking if the pope is going to change it so men can have babies, even though that was also instituted by God. The next time someone asks me if I hope the pope changes the Church's stance on women's ordination, I do believe I will say that first I want the Church to change her stance on women giving birth.
So beyond that.... wait, there is a beyond? YES! Lots of people can NOT see beyond the point of women's ordination. So everything else that the church does and believes is totally ignored because we don't have female priests. You know how I talked about different roles? The roles of being a sister and a nun are so needed and highly valued in the Church. Sisters teach so many of our children, are often passionate about affecting change in their communities, and nuns spend their entire lives praying for US, for you and me and everyone else! If those things are not huge levels of responsibility that the Church entrusts to women, I'm not sure what would 'count'. (And yes, I do realize men can do similar things, but the title of 'sister' and 'nun' are obviously reserved for women.) And for women who don't feel called to become a sister or nun, there are so many ministries inside our parishes that we can join. If you belong to a small parish without much opportunity to get involved, create something, talk to your priest, or see what your neighboring parish is offering. My parish is pretty small and there are still between 5-10 women's ministries and groups! Think about becoming an NFP instructor (yes, yes I will address NFP below). Instructors are always needed and the Church is dying for us to know and understand our bodies! I'm not an instructor, but I would imagine that the ministry of teaching NFP is pretty powerful... helping people to create, plan, and space their families and children as well as monitor their health in a totally natural, great for the body and soul way.
But back to women and the Church. Take Mary. Wow. She is seriously the most loved woman in the world. We do not worship her, but we do love, adore, and honor her. Have you counted the number of approved Marian apparitions? I haven't, but I know there are a lot! Mary comes to us in so many different ways and the Church LOVES her. Check out all the shrines and churches dedicated to her! She is such a beautiful example of how powerful a woman in the Church can be. We are not expected to sit back and let men run the show while we twiddle our thumbs. She bore the Savior of the World and in a time when women were not empowered like we are today.We are called to be spiritual mothers in our families, workplaces, and communities. This is a role that only we can do!
Along similar lines, I have heard a lot of criticism against natural family planning. I've heard people say that it is a way for Catholic pews to get filled and money to be put in the basket (implying that it doesn't work and everyone who uses NFP will have large families). I've heard people say that it is a way to keep women barefoot and out of the workforce (again the large family implication that a woman will get pregnant by accident enough times that she won't be able to afford childcare). I've heard it all. And guess what? I shared similar negative feelings about NFP before I bothered to learn exactly what it is, what it is about, and the Church teaching behind it. After we took classes in NFP, we discovered quite a few issues I was having. Here is a crazy tidbit of information: Did you know that many mainstream doctors will let a woman miscarry three times before doing a simple progesterone level check? Thanks to the Church's teaching on NFP, I learned that I have low progesterone before we were even married! And thanks to the Church's teaching, I am not waiting on pregnancy to correct it. I have a doctor who is working on treating it NOW. But even if I wasn't working to correct it now, we would know that going into a pregnancy, would have the blood test done immediately, and would treat with progesterone injections. The Church loves women so much that she wants women to know their bodies, know the biology, know the science, know and treat (rather than mask) any issues. She also wants us to know how to space our children if we need to without putting class one carcinogens into our bodies. She wants our men to respect us, to accept all of us- yes, even our fertility, and to have open lines of communication about what is right for our families. I wasn't getting any of that from the secular world, who supposedly loves women.
I'm not saying that there is nothing good about how the secular world views and treats women. What I am saying is that the Church loves, protects, and values us so highly, but the secular world seems to have completely missed that. I know this is a pipe dream, but I wish that the media would talk to Catholic women who are fully living the faith and following the teachings. I am in multiple groups with those women (some groups as small as 25, some as large as over 1,000) and yes, it can be challenging, but it is so worth it and the satisfaction level is very high. I honestly never understood my worth before reverting back to the Church and really learning what it means to be Catholic. I sold myself short constantly. I know the people in the Church aren't perfect (which is very different from saying the Church isn't perfect... because she is), but I do hope that non-Catholics and Catholics who recognize that they have more to learn and understand would come to the source.... the Catechism, church documents, and women in the Church living it out daily, and hear the challenges and rewards from us. Ask us your tough questions and, if we don't know the answer, we will find it for you! Ask us how NFP affects our marriage; ask us how we feel as women of the church; ask our husbands and families if we seem 'oppressed' by the Church. Again, this comes from someone who was on the other side and made a lot of judgments and excuses, so I know what that's like. I just wish that years sooner I had taken someone aside and asked questions. I wish that I hadn't gotten my information on the church from secular sources who don't at all understand the Church. If you don't already, get to know the Church a little more. I think she'll surprise you :).