Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

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Lawyers of the Should

Last night's trip to migraine-land was very special. I probably should've skipped the souvenir shop there.

Assorted thoughts on the debate over female priests in Christianity (with possibly some additional thoughts on non-straight priests as well):Working entirely from my standard perspective, the controversy lacks a lot of depth - I lack too many of the normal interests in the discussion. Let's instead accept, just for the sake of argument, an alternate set of assumptions as a more interesting place from which to explore the controversy (note that one should not accept this alternate set as one which I would want to draw policy from, e.g. handling of congressional chaplains or other instances where we might reluctantly be forced to deal with state-related clergy due to other compromises):

  • That Christianity was a religious movement that intended to be one, with a clear philosophy that was intended by Jesus instead of as created after-the-fact by Peter and later authors.
  • That we should care about preserving that original intent, either because it is true or because we value tradition
  • That preserving the communion is important (not the ceremony, the relation)
  • That an understanding of church jurisprudence is an appropriate basis for approach to the matter
  • Otherwise, we operate from a standard liberal perspective, with generally liberal values. I might imagine this constructed perspective is vaguely near what liberal christianity means in the United States. I should note that as a caveat, I am not a religious scholar (nor a Catholic/Anglican nor even a Christian) so my knowledge on Church law is incomplete.
With this understood, we approach the question, "Is it acceptable for women to be priests and are ordainment ceremonies for female priests valid?" (I believe there is no essential difference between Roman Catholicism and Anglican for this question).

The latter part of the question is more straightforward - by Apostolic Succession, we should assume that any valid ordainment by a Bishop continues the valid line of ordainment dating back to the Patriarch Peter. Valid ordainment presumably means that it is not forbidden (either specifically or generally) and performed correctly. Additionally, admitting the possibility of excommunication, in order for ordained people to be Roman Catholic (or Anglican) Bishops rather than those with just a proper claim for Apostolic Succession, those performing ordinations must have been in the Church and permitted to ordain at the time - violating this leads to a separate communion (still with a valid claim to succession) an example being the mutual excommunications that separated the Anglican Church from the Roman Catholic Church. By being forbidden, we assume that a simple statement of disapproval is not enough, and that an ex cathedra decree or at least church law on a matter would be necessary to make invalid such ordainment. The church may forbid such things now, but any female priests would remain within that line if ordained before it was forbidden, and be valid Bishops in the church (unless excommunicated, which the church is threatening). I can't take the second clause further, not knowing of a good way to search all the ex cathedra writings of the papacy for mention of the matter nor having a solid grasp of church law.

As for the first part of the question, there are many possible approaches to the matter of why there have not been female priests. Are women, from the Christian perspective, meant to submit to men in the general case? There is a traditional perspective that women and men are meant to serve separate roles in life, in relationships, and in society. We could imagine two lines of argument on this ground, scriptural and intuitive. For the scriptural, we would need to examine scripture suggesting separate roles and judge whether leadership roles in the church fit with any role we came to understand women to naturally be meant for. For intuitive, we would examine arguments based on anatomy (perhaps even including technointuitive perspectives like examination of brain anatomy) and try to understand if any of those marked women as being inappropriate for leadership in the church (note that part of the issue is dodged by the idea of women clergy only leading other women). This speculation, we note, is illiberal - an aspect of liberalism as I understand and hold it is that gender should not lead to very different social roles (courtesy the race debates in American history, we reject the idea that separate can ever be equal), and so to take this speculation seriously we'd need to either make an exception from liberalism for the church or loosen our commitment to gender equity. Another argument is that female priests are nontraditional, which is a fact, although drawing a strong conclusion from it is difficult. This also has two parts, first that Jesus had no known male disciples, and second that the church has had negligible numbers of female clergy. On the first, we might ask why (related: Korean Christian Churches typically depict Jesus with Korean features - we accept the idea of non-Jewish, non-White bishops as valid despite presumably none of Jesus' disciples being non-Jewish or particularly Korean presumably because there was no opportunity for a Korean to be there). Was it that there were women available but he chose none, making that a deliberate choice (that we can then speculate on reasoning)? Was it to prevent romance/sex to be associated with his movement (the "leave your family and follow me" guidance would've turned out rather differently if it had instead been "bring your family and follow me")? If we follow this reasoning, perhaps we could've imagined if Jesus had taken female form, he (she) would've had all-female disciples. Were, in fact, all the disciples male (see here for speculation that a larger later group of 70 disciples was not)? We don't know why the known disciples were male, but there are lines of reasoning suggesting it has little to do with a role for women that precludes priesthood. Moving onward to tradition, we might imagine a number of reasons women were excluded from the priesthood. First, people might've drawn conclusions from scripture (once written) that seemed to reasonably exclude them. Second, they may have inferred a reason from there being no known male disciples (rightly or wrongly) and extended that into their present times. Third, cultural traditions for whom entered the priesthood ("spare sons") may not have provided a similar role for women (although consider that males and females both have separate monestary traditions, as well as the possible reasoning behind them being separate). In summary, apart from possible arguments from scripture and intuition, our willingness to consider arguments in some ways depend on our attitude towards tradition - would we continue to reject the idea of woman priests based on something that may have been an inability to lead two separate groups of disciples? Would we consider breaking some of the original structure of the church based on underjustified speculation as to the reasons behind there being no female clergy originally and for over a thousand years?

I suspect that the values a person brings to the table, the styles of reasoning they happen to prefer, the strength of phrasing of each argument they happen to hear first (lesser effects later on unless they're devoted to a very rigourous understanding of the issue), and the effects of beliefs of peers and spiritual guidance capture most of the variance of ideas on the matter.

Aforementioned diversion to non-straight priests, it's a bit more straightforward of a matter, as I understand Christianity (note that this is again written using my list of assumptions above, not my actual set of values) - male-homosexual acts are explicitly forbidden as I read the Christian bible, and so people who are inclined towards homosexuality but do not perform such acts should not be barred (being inclined towards sin is human nature, and efforts to avoid it are part of what every Christian should do). Those that do should be barred, as they have accepted sin and still wish to adopt a leadership role in the church. Those who accept doctrine's position on the matter and struggle against their inclinations, trying to repent and not sin in that matter but occasionally fail may be suitable, but anyone in a relationship or openly identifying as a gay priest has not done so and is in fact standing against biblical values, their involvement in leadership of a church corrupting that church as surely as those who openly commit other sins.

While (speaking again with my own values/perspective) I personally hold that sexual preference and gender are things that should not be barriers to employment, that designated roles for gender are harmful and inappropriate by my values, and that they should have no place in a modern society, I don't believe my perspective on these matters can easily be reconciled with Christian (particularly Roman Catholic or Anglican) belief, being challenging on the gender matter and nearly impossible on sexual preference. Not being Christian myself means that I don't have to. I've rarely seen liberal Christians (or their secular "cheerleaders" - fellow seculars who try to build bridges between secular humanism and liberal-leaning Christianity) do an adequate job at thinking these things through.

I have finally figured out what makes mplayer occasionally hose my terminal (the "reset" command usually fixes this) -- sending it a control-N, after complaining that I don't have anything bound to that key, it displays a character it shouldn't and nothing's good after then. This does not happen with a normal xterm, so I'm going to guess that it has something to do with the (good) unicode support in gnome-terminal (perhaps relating to why ircII runs best from an xterm). If I ever want to spend a day digging through the sources for ncurses, mplayer, gnome-terminal, and xterm, I suppose I could figure out exactly what's going on.

I recently heard some music from the hiphop group "La Coka Nostra" (notable in that it pulls together all the people from "House of Pain" back into the same band). They're only moderately good - better than Eminem but not as good as what House of Pain was.


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