FutureChurch is deeply disturbed by the September 9, 2019, America Magazine essay by Dr. Pia de Solenni, “Should Catholic Women Preach at Mass? Here’s a Better Question,” in which she narrowly conceives the Church’s teaching on a priest acting “in persona Christi” in the Sacraments to justify the practice of excluding women.
At best, her argument is ill-conceived. At worse, it is dangerous.
While acknowledging that women are often better at preaching than priests, she reasons that “no matter how wonderful or how terrible” the priest who is in persona Christi with a soul “indelibly marked” and who has undergone an “ontological change” is given priority of place “by virtue of his ordination, not his moral character.”
Dr. Solenni denies that this is clericalism. Yet, one has to ask if such an anemic metaphysical model -- one that makes moral character optional -- also allows that priests represent Christ when they commit acts of abuse and rape against children, steal money, or engage in other criminal acts?
If we look deeply into what the Gospels and Church teaching reveal, we see a different truth. It is clear that Jesus and the early Christians were disgusted by their leaders’ arrogance and self-glorification. When the Pharisees seek to silence the joyful voices of the people (Lk 19:39-40), Jesus rebukes them.
No matter what framework or theology is used to justify making faith-filled, baptized women second class members of the Body of Christ or seeks to sequester them to certain patriarchally-sanctioned corners of the Church, it is wrong.
For nearly three years, FutureChurch and our partners have been bringing forward the preaching of Catholic women every week and on some holidays at www.catholicwomenpreach.org. Women such as Sr. Joan Chittister, Sr. Barbara Reid, Kerry Robinson, Sr. Norma Pimentel, Professor Natalia Imperatori-Lee, Sr. Sandra Schneiders, Sr. Christine Schenk, and over one hundred and seventy other qualified, faith-filled women have preached.
And thousands of Catholics – lay and ordained, female and male, young and young at heart – flock to the site monthly, hungry for the Word of God as it comes through the lives, experiences, witness, and faith of Catholic women. And each week we receive email from viewers of Catholic Women Preach telling us that they are hearing the Word, understanding it in new ways, and more fully integrating it into their daily lives.
That is the Good News!
Women will not be silent or silenced. We will continue the quest for full equality in the Roman Catholic Church and we will not stop until that vision -- God’s vision -- is fulfilled.
Russ Petrus and Deborah Rose-Milavec