A Matter of Honesty, Part IX--Stop with this "Clericalization" Nonsense

Imagine a society that is multiracial, but where one racial group (let's say, just to be provocative, Caucasians) were not eligible to hold public office.  Can't be the President or Prime Minister, can't be in the legislature, can't be a member of a local school board or community board.  No positions of public authority, and the rule is enforced by law.

No doubt, there would be a segment of folks who would be upset about this state of affairs and would be pushing back.  They would point out that the origin of this rule (let's say) was a view that Caucasians were intrinsically inferior to people of other races.  "This rule is a product of rank bigotry and must be changed," they would say.

"No, you have it all wrong," responds the President of our fictional republic.  "Sure, maybe back in the day we thought that Caucasians were a lesser form of human than those of other races, but we absolutely reject that now.  We love you, and we value you white folks for all of your unique talents and gifts--gifts that are not found at all in other races."

"Um, OK," you might imagine the response from our hypothetical Caucasian activists.  "I'm not sure about this 'unique talents and gifts' business, but whatever.  If you think we are equal, then how about you change the law and let us run for and serve in office?"

"Oh, no no no, we can't do that," comes the response from the President.  "You see, there is way too much politics in the world as it is.  Everyone focuses on politics and who is in office and what politicians do.  It's not good for our society.  What is really important is all of the other stuff in society--the teachers and the doctors and the business people.  Those things you get to do already.  If we let you folks become elected officials, it would just further the idea that only politicians are important in society.  That would be a net negative, and so we are going to maintain the status quo, where we get to be politicians and you cannot."

"Wait a minute," comes the response.  "You say that there is too much focus on politics and politicians, and maybe that's true in a conceptual sense.  But politicians are the ones who get to decide how we live our lives in this society.  They get to decide how our marriages work, the rules under which we can serve in the public interest.  We have no say in any of these things.  We will always be working for you, and under your rules and at your pleasure, unless you change this rule."


Our hypothetical Caucasian activists are clearly right, aren't they?  This idea that excluding people from political leadership is justified because politics has become too much of a focus is either crazy or overtly pretextual, right?  No serious Caucasian activist would accept this explanation, would they?

And yet, it appears that John Allen of Crux expects us to accept this very argument with regard to women's ordination.

Pope Francis is right to be worried about opening the door to women's ordination, Allen suggests, because he is just so concerned about dreaded clericalism.  Clericalism is super duper bad, and if we allow women to serve as priests, then all that would do is lead to more clericalism.  There are things that are more important than what priests do, and so we must do everything possible to emphasize this point by not allowing women to become priests.

The argument is nonsense in our hypothetical Caucasian example, and it is nonsense in Allen's formulation as well.  If a person doesn't have access to the full range of roles in a society, for whatever reason, then that person is a second-class citizen.  Period.  Saying "well, we shouldn't care so much about the particular role that you don't have access to" doesn't make you any less of a second class citizen, even if it is true that there is too much focus on that particular role.  Pope Francis may very well be right that there is too much focus on clerics in the Church, but that is absolutely no justification for excluding women from the clerical state.  It is a non-sequitur.

It is particularly a non-sequitur in a Church where all decision making is in the hands of clerics.  If you are a lay person, and if you are a women you (by definition) are, you have absolutely no guaranteed say in the life of the Church.  We hear vague gestures toward bringing women into the "decision making" of the Church.  How?  Parish councils have no authority that a parish priest is required to respect, and dioceses have absolutely no collaborative or deliberative bodies.  Every lay person has decision making authority only insofar as a cleric allows that lay person to have such authority, and that same cleric can revoke that authority at a moment's notice.  And, by the way, deacons aren't at the end of the day any different from lay people in this regard (making Allen's musing about the women's diaconate a distraction).  That's the heart of clericalism, and there is absolutely no signs that this is going to change in any meaningful way.  Having groups of bishops meet to discuss things, or having big meetings where lay folks make suggestions that a bishop can ignore at his leisure, doesn't move the needle on clericalism at all.

Women are second-class citizens in the Catholic Church, and they will be second-class citizens unless and until they have access to every role in Catholic life, which includes priests, bishops, and the Pope.  There is no way around this fundamental fact.  If Pope Francis believes he can finesse this issue by beating up on clericalism, he is delusional.  Particularly where he is not actually doing anything about clericalism.  If he were issuing new rules that put the selection of bishops in the hands of the lay people of a diocese or making parish priests answerable to the parish council, then he would have at least a colorable argument.

But he is not, and so all of this is, frankly, bullshit.


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