Outdated Views on Women Stunt Catholic Church

By James A. Roemer
South Bend Tribune
October 16, 2010

As a retired lawyer and committed Catholic who spent four years in seminary training for the priesthood, I find myself at the age of 80 quite critical of the Vatican and the overly conservative nature of its leadership with regard to women. My major concern is the discrimination against women which the church shares in common with many religious faiths all over the world. The two Vatican commissions which are investigating Women Religious Orders are particularly ridiculous. They should instead investigate wayward priests who abuse kids or the bishops who transfer them without sanctions.

Why do these leaders in the hierarchy, who have such remote connection with women, have such little regard for them? That attitude does not accord with the wonderful experiences I have had in my life with my mother, my wife, my daughter and women friends. Women are smarter and more steeped in common sense and virtues like compassion, humility and care than we men are.

To add insult to injury, the Vatican announced a short time ago that any efforts by officials to ordain women are as serious an evil as sexual abuse by priests. Wow!

Pope John XXIII led a brief Vatican movement when our leaders concluded that "we" are the church and that we can form our own conscience if we are conscientious in our research and seek prudent counsel. That same revolution also replaced in our liturgies the Latin language which priests themselves do not speak.

There is now a "reform of the reform" movement which apparently hopes to roll back these changes. Many of us will refuse to "go back."

Jesus dressed as his disciples and friends did. He was born in a stable in poverty. His friends were ordinary people, fishermen, women and the poor. Women helped him when he carried his cross and were with him at the crucifixion. Women discovered he had resurrected. Few of his men friends were present in those critical times.

Women are among God's greatest creations. Would a married priesthood attract more heterosexual men? Would the ordination of women lead to significant numbers of women priests in the Catholic Church? I think more vocations to religious life will happen when priests can marry and women can be ordained. Women today are educated as well as men but they are still "held down" in many segments of the workplace by lower wages and more limited opportunities.

In my lifetime and for decades, until new leadership arrives, priests will not be allowed to marry and women will not be ordained. The church is dying by slow degrees in European countries. Maybe these changes will happen in the lifetimes of our grandchildren?

I would prefer that my grandchildren have the blessings of their own parenthood if they would ever contemplate the religious life. Can a celibate priest ever fully enjoy the love that comes from the sacrifices which are inherent in raising kids and enjoying the tender love that flows in all directions in family life? Yes, they have been raised by healthy parents but there is no substitute for the love that a parent has for his or her own children.

As a committed Catholic, I regard my criticism of the Vatican leadership for this discrimination against women as healthy and loving and respectful. Treating women as equals with all the rights that men enjoy will enhance the long-term good of this marvelous institution, the Catholic church. It may die on the vine without the changes that are discussed above. My thoughts are not original. Many of my friends, men and women, share these hopes for the future.

We are inspired by the life of Jesus Christ who showed on Earth his respect for women by including them in his circle of friends.

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