Thursday, August 25, 2011

No Altar Girls = No Justice = NO LAW!

Okay, I'll admit it. One of my favorite things is to "tweak" reactionaries with provocative words or statements. Hence, the last part of the title of today's "musing." They aren't "conservatives," for they don't seek to maintain what is - the meaning of conservative. Rather, they seek a return to the 1950s (which, in fact, is a return to the 16th century for the Roman church). They'd like to pretend the Second Vatican Council never happened.

Ah, Vatican II. Ecumenical councils, teaching authority, the hierarchy of authority...okay, I gotta focus. That's for another blog.

The bishop of Phoenix has declared that girls may no longer serve on the altar in his diocese. This, he states, is for boys who can thus be groomed for the priesthood. Well, as bishop he can say whatever he likes. The truth is, every parish in his diocese has the right to continue having girls serve (bet they have more girls than boys volunteering for that, as females do for everything else!). The bishop's ruling has no force of law because - like the prohibition on ordaining women - it's unjust. As Aquinas says, an unjust law is no law and therefore has no binding force! He doesn't say we can disobey an unjust law - he denies it existence as law.

Papal teaching - at least in places - is that females have precisely the same value, the same human nature, the same Savior as males. Things like equality in housing, employment and such are due to women no less than to men. (When we get to the religious arena things change radically - once you work through the doublespeak - but again, that's another "musing.") Justice demands - according to papal teaching - that women be accorded such equality. While teachings are consistent in denying that such equality extends to ordination, they do extend that to ministries performed by the non-ordained. They might be more than a little reluctant to do so, but they do. Serving at the altar - by any non-ordained person - is therefore open to females as well as males.

That service is open to females based on their equality with males, as persons. In justice to females, a ministry open to a non-ordained male must be open to females.

To deny females access to a ministry based on their gender, and the desire to encourage young boys to pursue a priestly call, is to treat females as not equal. It is therefore inherently unjust. And an unjust teaching lacks any authority - as with an unjust law - which frees pastors to ignore it. In fact, they would be required to "do the good" - to continue treating their people, male and female, with equal justice. (CAN one "pursue" what only God can offer? hmmmm...must muse on that one.)

I know media statements have been made by various organizations protesting the bishop's action. Phone calls flooded his office, at the urgining of groups like Womens Ordination Conference. These things are good. Perhaps, though, we should be writing to all the pastors in the diocese, providing them with the means to bypass this dictate - the teachings on women's equality, the injustice to females of any age in denying them access to a ministry open to males, and what Aquinas has to say about an unjust law (in this case, episcopal ruling - but it comes to the same thing!). We might remind them that justice is required of all Christians, it's not optional. And maybe we could even get their opinion on whether one can/ought to "pursue" a call?

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