Joan Chittister is wrong. Married priests would not lead to real change (NCR, Dec. 4-17). I agree with the late biblical scholar Fr. John McKenzie. Hedging his words to duck censure from his religious superiors I am sure, he said, "I once suggested that the apostolic church rejected the whole category of the sacred as known in its predecessors and contemporaries--sacred places, persons, objects--and that the reintroduction of the sacred was an intrusion of a pagan element into Roman Catholicism."
He said further, "Possibly I am arguing that women are not ordained and men should not be."
There was no "possibly" about it. The priesthood swept into the Catholic church along with a tide of other pagan practices, including celibacy and the subjection of women, as Christians attempted to escape persecution, prove that theirs was a real religion, and find some acceptance in the surrounding society.
The mixture of mystical priesthood with institutional celibacy is a toxic combination. It devalues not only women but children and, frankly, anyone who is not a priest. It is wrong.
When we see a historical wrong, we as Christians should make it right. Becoming aware is the first step.
JOSEPH P. MARREN
I have a mixed response to ordaining women, mainly because I don't think it's a great idea to continue a priestly caste system. Women in vestments presiding in the same way the male priests preside do not encourage me. There may be a new way to be in a "presiding community" for the future of the church.
I have been to countless liturgies where priests were concelebrating, that is, on the altar, having sometimes a spoken part of canon, and extending hands at the consecration, concelebrated by priests or not. After Vatican II, priests were no longer allowed to celebrate in private--a sea change in our understanding of liturgy as a public and participatory celebration that must include a community of worship.
Now as I attend liturgy, I am drawn to extending my hand as the priests do during liturgy. My theology of Eucharist is changing, as I understand the community as being integral to the totality of celebration, including the consecration. For me, the priest and the community together bring a "real presence" to the most important action of the liturgy, the consecration.
Over time, the church has changed its understanding of sacraments, including the Eucharist and how Christ comes among us in the liturgy. This new understanding of the moment of consecration cements the relationship between celebrant and community. We no longer look on while a "special" person performs an action. It is the power of the believing community in communion with the celebrant that brings Jesus present in our midst at each liturgy.
(Sr.) SUSAN OLSON, SNDdeN