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Friday, November 16, 2007

William Barry SJ - women and ordiantion

I learned how to un-delete :-)

For those who are interested, here's most of my earlier post which features a bit of what William A. Barry SJ wrote about women and ordination in one of the chapters of his book Paying Attention to God: Discernment in Prayer. He begins the chapter mentioning the callings of Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux, then speaks of some women with whom he's aquainted ....


[...] In the contemporary Catholic Church in the United States and elsewhere there are hundreds of women who identify with Therese's desire [to be a priest]. They feel that God has called them to ordained ministry in the church, and they find themselves unable to follow through on the Lord's call because of the stance of authority in the church .....

For a number of years I have been a co-worker in ministry with and sometimes spiritual director to a number of women who feel so called. Their experiences are not in the public domain, nor do these women want to publicize themselves. Yet, I believe, the church needs to know about their experience as as part of its ongoing discernment of what God is trying to accomplish ... I have felt some urgency to try to get into the public domain the experience of the women with whom I have worked. The urgency is compounded by the growing realization that many of God's people are being deprived of Eucharist because of the death of priests. As more and perhaps different experiences become part of our shared life the church will gain more charity about God's intentions ....

Each of the women I have in mind has been praying seriously for years and has sought regular and competent spiritual direction. Each makes at least an eight day directed retreat every year, and a number have also made the full Spiritual Exercises (30 days) under capable direction. Those whose prayer experience I know best have developed a relationship of intimacy with God and his Son Jesus that has moved from the discernment of the beginner to that of a companion of the Lord. They have asked to be with Jesus on mission, even on dangerous mission, and have been consoled by his acceptance of their desire. They open themselves honestly and humbly to their spiritual directors and look for challenge because they want to follow their Lord and not go up a garden path. In other words, they are continually testing the spirits as best they can. They ask the Lord whether they are deluding themselves about the desire for priesthood since the door seems to be even more firmly closed now than ten years ago. Nothing in their prayer experience points towards such a discernment of delusion. In fact the opposite seems to be the case ......

All my instincts, training and experience lead me to the conclusion that these women are experiencing an authentic call of God ..... All of us in the church need to take seriously the experiences of women such as I have described. Is God saying something to us about ministry in the church through them? And if so, what is he saying? In Experience and God John E. Smith affirms the necessity of shared experience for a religious community: "A living religion, or rather a religion which hopes to save its life, cannot ultimately afford to avoid the critical test of shared experience. On the contrary, from shared experience comes its life." So too new life for the church's ministry may only come by reflecting on shared experience.



Blogger Steve Bogner said...

Thanks for posting those words from Barry. I doubt I'll ever see women ordained in my lifetime, but I still think it's the right thing to do.

And thanks for the earlier post on Pedro Arrupe - I was going to post something this week about him but didn't find the time. Maybe I'll get to it today. Yes, he was/is controversial, but I certainly like him and what he did. Those were tough times for society and 'The Society'; would anyone else have done any better? I think sometimes we lose sight of those sorts of questions.

5:04 AM  
Blogger cowboyangel said...

Maybe when the average age of priests reaches 87 instead of the current 64, the Church will finally mull over the idea of allowing women to be priests and priests to be married.

"Uh, your Holiness, we only have four parish priests left, and two are on life-support. . . ."

7:01 AM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...

It reminds me of a conversation I had with an Orthodox Priest while studying in Edmonton. Currently Orthodox Priests can be married but Bishops cannot. He forsaw, in his lifetime, a change in that particular church law based upon the fact that they are rapidly running out of unmarried priests and soon would have no choice but to select married ones as bishops.

I have no problem with women being ordained and think it's silly to have surreptitiously closed the door on the subject becasue Christ choose men as his Apostles in the gospel accounts. Given the fact that both scripture and the constant and consistent sacred Tradition of our Church refer Marry Magdalene as an Apostle chosen after the resurrection much as Paul would later be, I think it's safe to say that God has spoken quite clearly on the subject.

11:09 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Steve, thanks for dropping by :-)

I look forward to seeing what you post on Pedro Arrupe - I think he was pretty impressive.

11:15 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

William, yes, it's pretty bad priest-wise in Australia, for instance, and I think that's one reason why retired Bishop Robinson advocated such changes.

11:25 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Cura,

I didn't realize Othodox Bishops had to be unmarried. Yeah, I like that idea of Mary M being the first "preacher" :-)

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since age 6 I felt a strong desire ot priesthood . Some 60 years later I know I would not want to be one in the present hierarchical mode. It has the making for me as a woman of needing to be very masculine to succeed. Priesthood has to change for todays world in calling our giftedness not our power to serve.I hope that would happen through elimination of outdated clerical garb and something suitable to clothe those called to discipleship of service compassion and communion.

12:40 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Helena, thanks for your comment. I kind of like the old fashioned garb :-)

12:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm Baptist -

At the risk of sounding argumentative, I must admit to disagreeing with the ordination of women.

I also disagree with the ordination of men.

9:42 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Wendy,

I don't know anything about Baptist beliefs - why are you against ordination, if you don't mind saying?

12:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Baptists are generally pretty conservative re women's roles.

I think ordination lets the rest of us off the hook a bit. It's as if ordained ministers are paid to do what the rest of us should be doing but reckon we don't hsve time for.

I have also wondered if the growing strength of the Catholic Church since the 60's can be partially contributed to the lack of ordained priests and the subsequent shift towards lay ministries.

6:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I meant "partially attributed to..."

6:24 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

I see what you mean. I have a friend who is a Quaker and I think they feel much the same way about the priesthood.

One thing about priests that's different from most of us is that they can focus on their calling without worrying about money, family responcibilities, etc.

12:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not because they're priests.

Their freedom from fiscal and famial responsibility is due to 1/ singleness, and 2/ rejection of secular perceptions of "success".

Unordained people are just as capable of focusing on their calling if they are prepared to relinguish family and material wealth.

8:29 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Yeah - priests are, after all, unordained people before they're ordained :-)

I don't mean to say that priests are better or more holy than other people. I think any person, male or female, could do the same thing, given the right circumstances.

1:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so how does that impact on your thinking about women's ordination?

4:23 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

I recall Tinothy Radcliffe saying something about gay priests once ...

[...] a vocation is a call from God. It is true that, as the document says, it is “received through the Church, in the Church and for the service of the Church”, but it is God who calls.

I think that's true for women too - I think it's believable that they are called by God to be priests, just as men are.

11:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you. 1 Peter refers to all believers as "a royal priesthood".

It seems to me that there can be no doubt about God calling women to be priests - just doubt as to the role of the "ordained" priests in all this

5:39 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

The ordained thing is probably perceived differently because of our different denominations .... we may have to agree to disagree on the details :-)

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am an ordained woman as well as a member of a religious order. It's curious to me that folks seem to accept me as a "nun" much more readily than as a cleric. Go figure....

12:46 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Interesting. I wonder if Protestant women ministers notice being treated differently?

3:28 PM  
Blogger sdor67 said...

This site has an interesting comment on Therese's desire to be a priest. Although this blog was started a while ago I think it is an important subject today.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Joy said...

I am ordained Baptist minister and I am supposed to be doing my prayer time right now!!! First, Baptists are as different from one another as flowers in an English garden. At too close to 60 years old, in all of the Baptists churches I have attended or served, all pastors were ordained, as I was almost 30 years ago.

Yes, we notice being treated differently in both positive and negative ways.

I now am the executive director of a nonprofit and deal with disagreeable treatment far to often even though this is 2016. This is true especially for strong women. And we do not have to rhyme with the witch word to have these issues. This comes in the form of bullying, being condescendingly taught about something that you may know more about than the other person, sabotaged...need I go on. Thank you Fr. Barry for your words back years ago in support of women in ministry. The skeleton of our nonprofit work is Ignatian Spirituality and your own writings have been much appreciated and used by me. I led the 19th Annotation for 4 years and hoping we can get our board of directors to grasp at least a glimpse of this!

7:06 AM  
Blogger crystal said...


Thanks for your comment. I participated in a 19th annotation retreat myself and thought it was very helpful.

1:16 PM  

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