Friday, August 22, 2008

A City on a Hill Cannot be Hidden

Freshman academy is over! Let the people say "yea!". I have been spending most of my waking hours in the least plausible way possible, in a Boston charter school. And why wouldn't a theology major find herself teaching high school math in a public school? Actually I also will be teaching reading and writing. I, in fact, will be teaching reading, writing, and 'rithmatic. In fact, I will actually be tutoring, but again, whose keeping score?

I have a horrified respect for the school which is kind of cult-like - especially in the wide crazy eyed passion of some of the faculty. You WILL be assimilated! And freshman academy is a large portion of that assimilation. The kids are drilled in the one way to dress, the one way to take notes, and the one way to be a good little student. I can't help wondering how long I would have lasted before my rear was shown the door. I was a quiet student in high school, but not a good one. I was, I now know thanks to the freshman teacher academy, being quietly non-compliant.

Still I worry. Are charter schools a good idea? The question of urban public education, I confess, had not, until now, intruded itself into my thought processes. And I would be the first to admit that the school is effective, but it is also very small with a very large waiting list. Thus I have that one burning question of conscience, a grand philosophical quandary. Is it better to do greatest good for a few, or to do lesser good for the many? Are the money and resources being poured into this project worth it in the end? Is it in fact vital in the end? It brings to mind a quote from Augustine which a friend of mine uses as an email tag: "Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by accidents of time, or place, or circumstance, are brought into closer connection with you."

That being said, I have already been indoctrinated enough to know that I will make sure that "my" kids do well, even if nothing else happens! I have fallen in love with a number of the Freshmen, even if they do still intimidate me. In two weeks the rest of the school returns. Only I still don't know all the Freshman class' names. For those who enjoy a good comedy of errors, stay tuned! Updates will follow which should be interesting reading. Especially when I am forced to actually start teaching something!

Friday, August 8, 2008

The only way to get published!

I wrote this and sent it to my local diocesan newspaper which had an inexcusably weak argument against women's ordination. This is my attempt at a response. What do you think?

I write this without the expectation that it will ever see the light of day, but if I could help, even in this small way, to raise the caliber of the discussion, then I have done some good today. I am writing in response to an editorial piece on the group Womenpriests in the August 8 issue. To start my argument with all my cards on the table, I must confess I am sympathetic to these women who have gotten themselves ordained although I could wish they worked less on rebellion and more on actual change. Nevertheless, I do not fault a diocesan newspaper for taking the side of official Church teaching. What I do object to is your employing of such poor arguments to do so.

Your arguments, as presented in the editorial and as I understand it, are as follows. First that for ordination women are not valid “matter”, that Jesus did not ordain women at the Last Supper, and finally that ordination was “more than just a game of holy tag”. I will overlook the oblique quip equating those who question the Church’s teaching with Lucifer, since I believe I have sufficient material without such pettiness. Were I to be so petty I would feel called to chastise your use of quotation marks around “bishop” when referring to the Anglican Communion’s recent assent to female bishops. Agree with them or not, Anglican bishops are Anglican bishops, validly ordained according to the teachings and discernment of the Anglican Communion.

My main concern is with your major argument regarding proper “matter” for sacraments. This, if I may, is not the strongest presentation you could make. It borders dangerously on magical thinking. It is not a matter, so to speak, of gathering the proper ingredients and reciting the proper incantation. This sounds more like magic than sacramental theology. Rather I would argue these women are not truly ordained for a far simpler though less glamorous reason. In order for a sacrament to be valid the minister must intend what the Church intends. This is the same reason, of course, that a validly ordained priest can’t go into a bakery full of fresh baked valid matter and consecrate the store. The priest does not intend what the Church intends.

As for your second argument that Jesus did not ordain women, this argument frankly has always mystified me despite my efforts to understand (faith seeking understanding!). It does not seem to me that Jesus ordained anyone, especially in the modern sense. The twelve apostles were not the only ministers instituted by Jesus. I would bring to your remembrance the seventy sent out on missions. There is no indication that Jesus had the ministerial priesthood in mind at the Last Supper. The priesthood and all the structures of the Church are a product of the Spirit’s movements in and through history. There is a seamless evolution from the actions of Jesus and the movements of the early Church. We need not trace the priesthood to Jesus’ overt intentions. History and Tradition are important.

However, history gets tricky, which is perhaps why current arguments steer clear of it. You mention that male domination has nothing to do with Holy Orders, and in God’s economy it has nothing to do with it. Unfortunately the human history of this very issue is dangerous ground indeed. Historically male domination was not only part of the issue; it was the whole of it! The thinking then was that women were not valid “matter” because of their deficient natures. I need only reference Thomas Aquinas’ argument about this very issue – so much for it being a novel issue!

As a parting blow, and this is I admit my weakest point since this traverses the area of mystery, I question your assertion that historical circumstance would have no bearing on Jesus. If we take the humanity of Jesus seriously, than such things must have had an effect on him. Jesus was not God wearing a human suit. This is the wonder and marvel of the incarnation – that the second person of the Trinity truly entered into our humanity. He became truly man even as he was truly God. How this works is a mystery, and I would not presume to know exactly how and what Jesus thought, but to say with the certainty you employ in your article that Jesus would remain unmoved by his historical time does seem to me to deny the fullness of his incarnation.

In conclusion, the only argument needed, and really the only argument I consider valid, is one of obedience. In obedience to the light given to it, the Church at this moment does not allow this. Therefore to act contrary to this is not to be doing what the Church intends. It is not magic. God does not obey the commands of humanity because we have gathered the correct “stuff” but acts in loving communion with the Body of Christ, and the Church which was the natural historical expression of this heavenly reality.