The Day I Met a "Woman Priest" on the Sidewalk

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collarwoYou may or may not be familiar with the Woman Priest movement or the Woman’s Ordination Conference.   I still don’t understand the difference between the two.  In any case, the latter can be credited with such fine contributions to salvation history such as this gem (and yes, they are completely serious in this video): 

[youtube_sc url=http://youtu.be/Y0S2WlvNTU8] 

…no doctrinal problems there.

I’ve done my fair share of laughing at them from afar (which just goes to show what a great Catholic I am…not) as well as regarding them with the same degree of seriousness as I would a Mickey Mouse shaped nebula somewhere.

Then I met one.  At the sidewalk.  Here’s how that went.

First, to her credit, she was participating in 40 Days for Life.  How rare or cool is that?  I thought all “women priests” despised Paul the VI’s Humanae Vitae and were all for “choice” (at least, if they were anything like the Leadership Conference for Women Religious’s higher ups whom I’ve often opined to be on the same level.)

At first, unsure why she was wearing a Roman collar, I innocently asked, “Oh, are you a minister somewhere?” expecting a response of the yes, Episcopalian, variety.

“I am a Catholic priest.” She declared.  My response: shock, silence.

When she saw I wasn’t responding, she softened and added, “It’s a long story.”  I have no doubt it is…and I could probably tell most of it to her.

For, not long ago, as a confounded Catholic, growing up in the Bay Area, I was indoctrinated with a pseudo-catechism from those who insisted that contraception, abortion, homosexuality and especially women’s ordination was completely compatible with Church teaching.

Don’t think these priests/nuns/theologians didn’t have volumes of secondary sources to confuse me and every other lay person who innocently came wanting to know more about their Faith (and who only received a weird, up-in-smoke, 1970s version).  Missing in my mis-education, of course, were the primary sources, like say, um, the Catechism and scripture. I am guessing the woman priest I met had a similar education.

Then, I’m sure some spiritual director somewhere confirmed that she did have a vocation to the all-male priesthood (that’s usually all it takes).  Then, she networked with likeminded, identically spiritually counseled women, championing the “reforms of Vatican II,” and the rest is history.

Here’s the cool thing though, and I can’t come back to this enough: she was praying for an end to abortion.  She very kind, though clearly confounded, as I had been.  And she had an obvious zeal for justice and love for Our Lord.

Speaking with her helped me be less condescending to those like her whose hearts are clearly in the right place but whose actions are the fruits of both being misled and, perhaps, influenced by their own personal disdain for Church teaching.

Our conversation together, mostly about the evil of abortion, helped me see that, beneath her Roman collar, was a good woman with a strong, passionate desire to change the world.

Now, you might be wondering, as I still am, why, if she truly wanted to change the world for the better, end abortion, and have a ministry distributing hospital supplies in Peru (which she apparently already has), why not just do the same while living in accordance with the Catechism?

Is there any reason she couldn’t pray and minister to others as a lay woman and not be equally, if not more effective in reaching more hearts and converting all to the Gospel of Christ?

The answer is: yes, of course she could.  But she’s chosen not to.  She’s chosen the path of dissent, and, as a result, ironically, will probably never completely fulfill her own baptismal priestly vocation, to which we are all called.

But isn’t that just like the devil?  He’s very convincing when it comes to persuading some good, intelligent, hardworking woman somewhere that she is called to the Church’s all male priesthood.  He’s created the perfect distraction as she seeks illicit ‘ordination’ all the while not realizing that she’s missed out on the immeasurable potential she had should she have walked the path of fidelity to the Church instead.

Women priests such as the one I met don’t deserve judgment or ridicule, especially from imperfect Catholic women such as myself who purport to be all adhering to our Faith.  They need our love, and especially our witness to the fullness of a woman’s true priestly vocation, which is not present for us in the same way it is for men in the way of ordination to public ministry.

Ours is a different, but just as important “priesthood.” Among other things, for some it means bringing new life into the world and nurturing it in the Faith.  Yeah. How about them, apples?

But it is also to call other women to deeper fidelity to the Church.  I pray the prolife movement continue to be one such catalyst for uniting all those who still live in dissent to many of the Church’s teachings, and that they, like the woman priest I met, come home their Faith fully in a beautiful, wholly assenting and final way.

Copyright 2013 Marissa Nichols

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