Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: "We Need to End the World View That Structures Reality into Higher and Lower"

What would cause a Jesuit priest who is nearing the age of 80, who has been a Jesuit for 45 years and who has served as a provincial in his order, to make the unexpected decision to leave the priesthood? Father Bert Thelen, SJ, explains:

In plainer words, we need to end the world view that structures reality into higher and lower, superior and inferior, dominant and subordinate, which puts God over Humanity, humans over the rest of the world, men over women, the ordained over the laity. As Jesus commanded so succinctly, "Don't Lord it over anyone ... serve one another in love." As an institution, the Church is not even close to that idea; its leadership works through domination, control, and punishment. So, following my call to serve this One World requires me to stop benefiting from the privilege, security, and prestige ordination has given me. I am doing this primarily out of the necessity and consequence of my new call, but, secondarily, as a protest against the social injustices and sinful exclusions perpetrated by a patriarchal church that refuses to consider ordination for women and marriage for same- sex couples . . . 


A few other considerations may help clarify my path. The Church is in transition – actually in exile. In the Biblical tradition, the Egyptian, Assyrian and Babylonian captivities led to great religious reforms and the creation of renewed covenants. Think of Moses, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. I think a similar reform is happening in our Catholic faith (as well as other traditions). We have come through far-reaching, earth-shaking evolutionary changes, and a new (Universal) Church as well as a new (One) World is emerging. My decision is a baby step in that Great Emergence, a step God is asking me to take.

As I read, I think of the elderly former pope's decision in conscience to step down from his papal office, and I think of the new pope's defense of that decision of conscience, and his defense of the venerable Christian doctrine of the primacy of conscience in the spiritual and moral life. 

And I pray for more men of conscience (and with the courage to follow their conscience) in the top leadership positions of my church.

Later: I'm just now seeing that Rebel Girl at Iglesia Descalza links to a Facebook posting by Women's Ordination Worldwide discussing Fr. Thelen's open letter, with valuable commentary from both.  

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