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(The opinions expressed in this column are my own.)
I can speak for many Catholics when I say that I’m in favor of the idea of a woman who is ordained as a priest, if a woman is interested. What makes this point particularly clear, though, is what is not stated in the debate, and that’s “who is the woman?”
This question comes up quite often in our culture, and has long been the topic of the feminist critique of Catholic theology: What does it mean to be a woman? (What is it that makes a man a man, and what does it mean to be a woman?)
It must be pointed out here that many of these concerns are not new. For the most part, they are not even close to being new. But the issue has been raised for quite a long time. This debate has taken place not just through women, but through men as well. There is now a significant difference on the issue of women priests, not only in terms of how they were treated in church, but also outside of it.
The reason, of course, is that the doctrine of the Church has for the most part been changed in the last century, and has undergone considerable changes since Vatican II. The question of whether or not women are permitted to become priests has become an extremely contentious issue.
It’s a question that is being raised, more than anything, by Catholics who are tired of hearing it repeated over and over. It is very likely that this question has brought out feelings of rage and resentment from women as well. I remember one incident from my youth when one of my classmates gave a lecture on women priests to the college women. She said that as a woman she could relate to so many of their problems because of her own situation. Her fellow female students began to laugh hysterically. It was clear from that moment that she must have known, though she just didn’t understand why anyone would take offense at the idea of a woman becoming a priest.
But it’s not as if there hasn’t now been a change. In fact, the Church has changed dramatically over the last thirty years, and I think many of its teaching authorities were wrong when they wrote about doctrine in the 1960s and 1970s. Their ideas about the nature of women changed quite a bit. But what’s going on now is that we’re seeing a new attitude being
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