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Does the Church cause women’s oppression by refusing to ordain them? Diane Winston in the LA Times thinks so and says as much in response to Pope Francis’ recent call for a theology of women.

Winston mentions how “the advent of the birth control pill, severing sex and procreation, catalyzed profound changes in family life, the workplace, and the marketplace,” while failing to realize that the Church’s teaching seeks to preserve the dignity of women that was degraded as a result of such a culture.

The “profound changes” found in family life and the workplace that Winston refers to, and proponents of women’s ordination are recipients of, stem from an unfortunate conflation between “vocation” and “career.” Proponents of women’s ordination need to see the priesthood not as a job opportunity to exert authority within and onto the body of Christ, but as what it actually is, a vocation to be a servant to God and to His Church. It’s an office of servitude, not careerism (which I find hard to extract from the rhetoric surrounding women’s ordination; see also Pope Francis warning priests against clerical careerism).

Winston asks “why Francis can all but countermand Benedict’s directives on gays but not John Paul’s on women.” The answer is simple: Francis never reversed Benedict’s directives on men with strong homosexual tendencies who sought the priesthood. Francis simply articulated what the Church always taught on the pastoral care of homosexual persons. Francis does the same in regards to the teaching on women’s ordination, which all goes to show that he remains quite consistent in defending the Church’s teachings regarding faith and morals.

Winston complains about communities of nuns “beggared by declines of vocations.” In fact, vocations to religious life are on the rise in Britain , Australia , and perhaps the United States (numbers are hard to come by). It is somewhat awkward for Winston’s argument that the communities where vocations are growing—Dominican Sisters of St. Cecelia, Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist , the Little Sisters of the Poor, some monastic Carmelite communities, Norbertine canonesses in California—are not likely to share Winston’s views on women’s ordination.

Pope Francis realizes that the Church needs “to develop a theology that addressed the role of women.” A theology can be articulated through the beautiful examples of mothers, wives, consecrated women, and professional women faithful to Christ and to His Church. (A re-examination of John Paul II’s Mulieris Dignitatem is also in order.) Given the importance of the task and the richness of the Church’s resources, it is a pity that Winston and others think the dignity of women contingent upon priestly ordination.

“The door is closed,” said Pope Francis on women’s ordination, and thanks be to God that is. Can we move on now?

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