When Women Become Priests: The Catholic Women's Ordination Debate

When Women Become Priests: The Catholic Women's Ordination Debate

When Women Become Priests: The Catholic Women's Ordination Debate

When Women Become Priests: The Catholic Women's Ordination Debate

Synopsis

While numerous provocative works have sought to justify why women should be ordained as Catholic priests, When Women Become Priests is the first sustained reflection on the differences that would obtain with women at the altar. In the face of a centuries-old tradition of a male priesthood, what are the implications for the Catholic church of ordaining women? Would women priests become co-opted into the male clerical caste, particularly in relation to celebrating the sacraments? In an analysis that deftly unites feminist criticism, psychoanalysis, and Catholic theology, Kelley A. Raab explores the symbolic implications of women at the altar, providing rich insight into issues of gender, symbolism, and power. When Women Become Priests addresses critical issues about the effect of a female priest on the parishioners she would serve, on the sacrament of communion, and on the significance of the symbolism of Jesus that priest maintain during certain ceremonies. Rooted in her firm belief in the place of women within the Catholic priesthood, Raab's work is one that -- rather than reducing religious convictions to psychological construct -- seeks to re-invigorate these convictions for the contemporary world. Supported by interviews with women in the Episcopal priesthood (which has ordained women since 1977), Raab draws upon object-relations theory, Freudian concepts of the unconscious, and French feminist thinkers Julia Kristeva and Luce Irigaray to show how the celebration of mass by women priests would require a constructive reenvisioning of core dimensions of Catholic theology.

Excerpt

This book is about what will happen when women become Catholic priests. Specifically, it concerns how women clergy will affect the celebration of the sacraments, in particular the Eucharist. While many books focus on why women should be Catholic priests, none have entertained this question: what difference will it make when the priest is a woman? Beginning with this question will lead to answers to other questions, such as why the Vatican is so resistant to the idea of ordaining women. These questions move us beyond the current point of stagnation concerning the Vatican's refusal to admit women to the priesthood. Entertaining just what women priests might mean will result, I submit, in enormous progress in the Catholic women's ordination debate.

To make my position clear at the outset, I should say that I wholeheartedly support the ordination of women to the priesthood. Since there are as yet no Catholic women priests, the topic “when the priest is a woman” is by necessity somewhat hypothetical. I say “somewhat” because the example of women Episcopal clergy offers clues concerning what Catholic women priests would be like. So we do have women priests, but not Catholic women priests. This book uses a psychological approach to address the question of what difference women priests would make.

I believe that the crux of the controversy about women priests in the Catholic Church revolves not only around issues of religious leadership but also around concerns about the nature of God and Christ. The heart of my argument is that women priests celebrating mass challenge traditional understandings of priesthood and . . .

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