Friday, November 23, 2007

So how's that new Pentecost thingy coming along?

Diogenes at Catholic World News has a good post about the failure that has been women's ordination in the Anglican Church. As the Telegraph story he discusses says, "Supporters of women priests predicted that the church would be transformed, and pews would overflow." But instead of a surge of young, vital women, the church has been inundated by a herd of grey-haired duds, while the laity who were supposed to be so thrilled to be ministered to by Reverend Grandma have been silently heading for the exits, taking their children with them.

This must be why the article writer thinks that "On the surface, few ceremonies could offer more hope to a Church of England fighting for survival than an ordination." Most people would think that a BAPTISM would be a real "sign of new life, at a time when Sunday attendance threatens to dip below a million," but the supply of those is shrivelling fast. Maybe because, as Diogenes says,
this is partly due to the fact that the churches that ordain women are pro-abortion, which means the whole spiritual dimension of maternity must be amputated. The glint of the new-sharpened knife is never far from their feminism.
This is very true, and seems to be a constant wherever feminism and religion come together. In the Catholic Church the infection fell upon its women religious. As Anne Roche Muggeridge wrote in 'The Desolate City'
Commenting on the transformation of religious orders in the United States, the American historian of the Catholic revolution, James Hitchcock, remarked that "a literal self-worship has now replaced the worship of God among nuns in the United States." Before Vatican II, nuns were totally committed to the traditional eschatological world view. I remember with awe from my several years as a novice in a religious order the intensity of their sublimation of natural maternal yearnings and the energy and passion it lent to the work of the church. The shock of the revolution was too much for many of them to bear. Their souls became like the empty house into which wandering devils enter and dwell. There is a real stink of brimstone at gatherings dominated by feminist nuns, especially at their liturgies, a creepy neo-paganism with strong suggestions of sexual perversion.
Bad as this was, though, the refusal to ordain women to the priesthood kept it from spreading throughout the entire Church. The infected limb could be treated with a tourniquet, and there are signs that the disease is retreating. No such luck for the Anglicans - letting this foulness into the sanctuary was like letting blood poisoning spread to the heart. Now the sickness has been pumped to every cell of the body.

But few of us are likely to meet high-profile harridans like Susan Russell and The Swan of Newark. What about the average female clergyperson?
But women's ordained ministry, even on its own terms, has been an undeniable flop. Putting aside the fact, enunciated by Catholic doctrine, that sacramental priesthood is void for women, one might still expect that the opportunities provided by non-sacramental ministries would have thrown up someone of substance -- or at least lasting influence -- over the past couple decades. Yet we find no Margaret Thatchers and no Hannah Arendts and no Jeanne Kirkpatricks among the clergy but, in their place, a inordinately high number of women who are just plain daft.
That's something that surprises me, too. Why are they such duds? Where are the brilliant women whose talents have finally been liberated? (I mean REAL brilliant women, not the faux-"brilliance" of Mrs. Schori's cheerleaders.) Men write books - where are the great books by these unbound Prometheuses? Fifteen years is plenty of time, we should have seen SOMETHING by now. And though we can laugh at the grey hairs among so many new female ordinands, being old is not ALL bad. If they don't have the freshness and energy of youth, they should at least have the wisdom of age, yet the insights of these women are immature and shallow. As a middle-aged woman myself, I'm embarrassed by these representatives of my demographic. Their "contributions" amount to vapid touchy-feely greeting-card level sentimentality:
"I remember speaking to a woman who had had a stillborn baby," says Christina Rees. "Her vicar had suffered a series of late miscarriages. She went to her and just held her. Nothing could have been more comforting at that time. That kind of instinctive compassion is part of what they are bringing."
That's nice. Did she also hold the father of the stillborn baby? Is that what women's "ministry" amounts to? Floating about dispensing hugs? Most of us have mothers or sisters or friends who can do that, too. It's kind of natural. We don't think of it as something to put on a resume. (I don't know, though; for a while there was a fad for calling EVERYTHING a "ministry" - music ministry (choir), reading ministry (lector), greeting ministry (sidesman). Dean and I were feeling out, so I suggested our calling was in "attendance ministry".)

As I said, where are the great women, the brilliant women? As Chesterton wrote somewhere when talking about divorce, it was always sold as something that should be available for the real hard cases, like the man with a mad wife - the noble souls who suffered unjustly, who really were innocent and who everyone could agree deserved to be released from an impossible burden. The funny thing was, those noble souls were often too noble to take advantage of such an escape clause. They were the ones who persisted in sticking to their promise no matter the consequences. The ones who did flock to divorce were the shiftless, the frivolous, the careless and the downright stupid.

So it is with women's ordination. The brilliant women, the holy women, disdain the fraud of phony ordination. They stay away from the priesthood, leaving it to the flakes, the frustrated and the abnormal.


Blogger HumbleAccess said...

Canon Edward Norman says it better than I ever could on women's ordination:
"I was originally in favour, on rationalist liberal grounds. Now I'm against it, on the evidence. We were told that a whole dimension to humanity was missing from the ministry, but that enrichment hasn't happened...Women emphasize caring, relationships, suffering, healing and love. Men are interested in truth, ideas, conflict, sin, wickedness and virtue. Those are caricatures, but there was wisdom in Our Lord entrusting the office of the priesthood to men. The priesthood is about teaching, not just conveyance of the sacraments. If you think Christianity is all about love and relationships, then it will disappear in the flood."
No one can accuse me of rushing to judgement on WO, but I've given it 30 years and the more female 'priests' I see, the more I'm against WO. I've been assured that the female clergy at my current church are 'orthodox,' but if they were really orthodox they wouldn't be dressing up as priests. (I'm an urban-dwelling, latte-drinking, late-Boomer-aged woman, by the way.)

1:22 pm  
Anonymous ellie m said...

Hmm. I'll go out on a limb here and venture a contrary opinion. The thing is, I don't have a problem with WO, in part because I don't belong to a sacerdotal tradition. My problem with the she-priests I've encountered so far is not their gender but their politics. I have yet to meet one that wasn't not only feminist but radically so. I think it's mainly this radicalism that's turning people off. And the male priests, on the whole, are just as bad as the women. Which may be why attendance is declining right across the board, and not just in parishes with women clergy.

I'm not thrilled about kooks like Susan Russell and the Lady Novelist being in the priesthood. But I'm none too thrilled about John Shelby Spong and Michael Ingham being in it, either.

3:48 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

The crappy male priests area problem, no doubt about it. But I don't know if they're part of the same problem, or if they'd be the way they are whether women had "gotten the collar" or not. I suspect the latter. I just think it's odd that the women priests have been such a uniform disappointment. The arguments "for" seemed plausible - when women were admitted to higher education and the workforce, there WERE great success stories. It *seemed* as if the same thing should have happened here, but it didn't. It flopped. We're not used to thinking of God's curse falling on us, but this does almost feel like an Old Testament judgment.

4:37 pm  
Anonymous ellie m said...

I blame the seminaries, and I note that I'm not alone in that sentiment. Divinity schools across the continent have been churning out nothing but strident, entitled, radicalized activists-in-priest's-clothing for decades now, and we are reaping that whirlwind. Lucky us.

7:25 pm  
Anonymous captainyips said...

TEC management has been selecting for two qualities for a long time: ideological purity and mediocrity. As far as the quality of ordained women, it's varied. The best simply do their work without much fuss. The worst make fusses all the time. I know of one who has pulled a crisis-ridden parish together and moved it along without dealing with EpiscoLeft nonsense. There's another who is creating a laity-education course for national use. And there are a lot who are purely political beings, but that can be said of a lot of the men, too. Excellence is rare across the board.

7:16 am  
Anonymous canary said...

I agree with much of what is being said here. The quality of the women priests is not there. And the quality of male priest has deteriorated badly too. Victoria Mathews is the only woman in leadership that comes to mind who might qualify in my books as "quality" and when she was denied advancement I was terribly disappointed although I am happy to hear she is now bishop in Residence at Wycliffe. As several have said- I think it is less a problem of gender than it is of politics. If you are not of a certain mindset you can't get anywhere - male or female. There are now only a few pockets of what I call "true" Anglicanism left. I am lucky enough to have found one such. One can hope this will change around and that the people we have lost will return but I am not holding my breath.

12:34 pm  
Anonymous ellie m said...

Bishop Matthews is at Wycliffe? Awesome news!! I have been meaning to pay them a visit, I really must do so soon.

Matthews would have been a much better primate than the [uncharitable epithet] we're stuck with now. Shame.

7:42 pm  
Blogger SpongJohn SquarePantheist said...

"But I'm none too thrilled about John Shelby Spong"

*sniff*. Guess I'll go eat worms.

11:30 pm  

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