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  • Deacon Dan Wright serves the Diocese of Austin, Texas. His work outside the parish is as a special education teacher serving students with significant cognitive disabilities.



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« Atheists in Foxholes | Main | How Easter Killed His Faith: On Lee Strobel Responding to Ricky Gervais' Easter Message »

April 14, 2011


Paul Stokell

The sheer fact this comes from Frances Kissling, who heads up the pro-abortion "Catholics for a Free Choice" movement, renders this particular attempt at the discussion invalid. And shame on the WaPo for giving Kissling that much more legitimacy.

I would recommend Phyllis Zagano's approach on the topic, which is far more level-headed and without any of the baggage carried by Kissling, whose excommunication has been publicly stated more than once.

Best to you from the new digs in Columbus, OH!


Thanks for commenting Paul. While I assuredly disagree with Kissling on a number of topics, I don't believe that her position on abortion in itself invalidates her discussion on the topic of women's ordination. I don't see one as having anything necessarily to do with the other. However, I do believe that her being a feminist means that she is bringing a certain perspective into the argument and I seriously doubt that she would be willing suspend her feminist bias--even momentarily--in favor of understanding the Church's reasons for not allowing women to receive Sacred Orders. Therefore, when we engage with the Kisslings of the world we have an especially tough time at having any meaningful dialogue because of the presuppositions that stand in the way.

With Kissling, and others like her, we have to take it one issue at a time. The fact is that the Catholic Church in its reasons for not allowing women's ordination has really little, if anything, to do with the agenda of feminism (or opposition to it), rather the reasons are more theological. In my understanding the reasons (at least in part) have to do with sin coming into the world by a male, with the remedy for sin also coming into the world by a male, (See Romans 5: 12-15) and with the understanding that this situation necessitates that those who stand in persona Christi to offer the sacrifice of the Mass also be male. Therefore, it is our theological understanding of the situation of sin and the efficacy of the Mass that dictates who may receive Holy Orders. In this I think we may be different from other world religions in their exclusion of women from roles of leadership.

Also, I believe it's quite important to point out that women do, in fact, hold many positions of leadership in the Church. Indeed there are many avenues for women to serve and lead in the Church, the least not being the consecrated life of nuns and sisters. Back in the Protestant seminary my wife and I attended a dinner where this was all the hot topic. A woman minister asserted, "It's all about power!" My wife replied, "Power is no gift, rather it's more of a burden, if not a curse." Truly ministry, if we look to the model of Jesus, is about letting go of power.


I remember watching something a while back on early Christianity that one reason women were attracted to Christianity was the fact they were equal. That's why you have women such as Mary Magdalene and Veronica following Jesus. The apostles also got a lot of financial support from women. The men weren't going to do that - they'd be kicked out of temple. And it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James who - when going to his tomb - remembered that Jesus said he would rise on the third day. However, one faction believed in equality (Peter) while Paul's didn't. Each faction won a few battles - such as whether to allow Gentiles or whether they had to keep kosher. Paul's won the battle against making women equal. Some women consider Paul a misogynist.


I too have many times heard the criticism that Paul was a misogynist. However, I think that at least a couple of pretty big interpretive errors take place in putting that label on him.

First, it doesn't help us in any way at all to understand a document of antiquity by looking at it through the lens of today. To get an idea of what was being communicated we need to suspend our modern-world judgement with all the baggage it carries. We understand Paul's writings from the world of his time, not ours, and once we get a clear idea of what he really wanted to impart then we apply to our world.

The next thing to consider, and I've seen it a lot in the writings of atheists and other detractors, is that we shouldn't take one portion of biblical literature and apply it to the whole--or to some other section of the bible. Each section or pericope should be analyzed discretely, then if disparate parts lend to the understanding of the whole they can be, and perhaps should be, applied in such a manner.

The last point I'd like to make is that it was St. Paul in the book of Galatians (3:28) who said that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female but that we are all heirs to the promise of salvation.

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