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Portland, OR, United States
I am finishing up my midwifery apprenticeship and plan to be a real midwife early in 2014!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Who Are We?

On Friday, I attended a discussion led by Fr. Roy Bourgeois, the founder of the School of the Americas Watch. This organization, year after year, calls for the shutting down of the school here on American soil that trains assassins and terrorists. But on Friday, he was not talking about the senseless violence of war and physical killing, but of the senseless injustice done to women in the Catholic church. He has been involved with the Womanpriest movement, which has ordained women as Catholic priests and has enough female bishops to keep the movement going, continuing apostolic succession. His mantra that began to play inside his head, and that he turned outward as his conscience would not let him be silent about this issue, was: "Who are we, as men, to say to women 'our call is valid but yours is not'?" He has been outspoken about it and has even put his own vocation on the line, ultimately finding himself with a letter threatening excommunication if he did not recant within 30 days. He chose to follow his conscience, and has not had any response to his letter to the Vatican explaining his position, two years ago.

We spoke with one of the Womanpriests after the talk, who responded to the question "how can you be in solidarity with those who are still in the church, when you are excommunicated?". She calmly said that she does not consider herself to be excommunicated because you cannot kick out family, and she is part of the Catholic family. You can get mad, you can have happy times and not so happy times, and you can have conflict. But family is family, and you can't change that.

That same day as I went to the talk, I read a blog post from an Orthodox priest. He spoke lovingly of bringing his little 18 month old son into the altar with him for a weekday liturgy during Bright Week (the week following Easter). He joyfully recounted all the things his son did and noticed and how he helped out, and was less distracting than some altar boys who are "old enough" for the job. I read of this account with wonder, because I had never heard of a priest bringing their baby into the altar, except for a baby being churched. And I had to wonder: if this baby had been a little girl rather than a boy, would he have brought her into the altar? This priest was needed in two different capacities: as priest, helping to serve the liturgy and as father to his own baby. And he was able to function in both capacities very well.

I have experienced injustice in a very small way. When I used to chant in church, all the chanters would gather in the sacristy (the little room beside the altar) and go over the order of services and the music. And then we'd all head out to the chanter's stand. Except that we took two different routes: the men through the altar (the most direct way) and the women around the long way. A friend of mine recently told me of her experience: the route that the women take was blocked because it goes through the room where the priest hears confession. So, it was either take the route through the altar, only about seven steps, or take the route clear behind the altar, through the long hall outside the church, in the side door, and across the front of the church to the chanter's stand. She spoke of the extreme frustration of not being allowed to go the obviously easier way because of the uproar it would cause, to see a woman coming out of the altar! And yet, I have to wonder, why? Why is the act of being a woman in God's altar scandalous?

I stand with Fr. Roy, and ask of the Orthodox church as well: who are we to decide who is called and who is not? And hoping that the family will be reunited.


maria said...

Well... no one is supposed to be in the altar when they have nothing to do there. Out of respect, those men should not have gone through either.

Not getting in to the doctrine of male priesthood :-P

Xen Xen said...

I always liked this one, not sure if you've read any of her stuff before, but it is pretty good. You may have to copy and paste.


Anonymous said...

You're 41???????????
why do you look like you're twelve! Get some wrinkles, lady! It's just not natural :(

Elizabeth said...

Um. Wow. Really? I wish I could feel complimented but I don't. Maybe you didn't notice the greater-than-average for a 41 year old amount of gray hair that I do not hide by coloring. I do have wrinkles, but they are just starting. I certainly am not one to try to perpetuate the fountain of youth. I want to grow into my crone-ism in time, and I value wisdom. Perhaps if you saw me in person....? Dunno. Just...whatever. Are you just very young and think that 41 is ancient?

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Haven't visited your blog in ages, but came here after connecting to something of my son Andrew on Face Book where you left a comment.

You probably already know this, but Fr John Angelus has been taking ALL the babies, male and female, into the altar and around it, when he does 40 day blessings, not just standing in front of the ikonostasis with boys or girls.

Finally, and it was about time. I don't know what I would've done if I had been still having babies after becoming Orthodox, because I wouldn't have settled for the truncated version that we've been doing all these years.

The silly reasons for keeping women out of the alter area, as well as not letting them receive communion during their periods (I know the Church doesn't do this, but the women themselves do, because it is passed down ignorantly in their families) seem to be based on the Old Law (Torah law).

I suppose if a woman cannot ikonically represent Christ as a priest in the Orthodox Church, we will never have women priests, but what do the altar boys and the deacons ikonically represent? The angelic host, and menial servants? Well, in that case, we should only let eunuchs be altar boys, since the angels are sexless as far as we know. And since women make the best servants, perhaps we should abandon the male diaconate and only have women deacons. Wouldn't that be a change in the right direction? (LOL)

Word verification: ovives