Comparing St. Thérèse of Lisieux to Abusive Priests? Another Vatican Fail

Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be inside the church.  More specifically, I wanted to be a priest.  When I was younger and had not yet realized my sex meant I could not fulfill this vocation, I was 100% sure of my calling to ministry.

As a teenager in the Baptist church, I heard that I could not be a pastor because Scripture willed it not: I was to be married and be saved through childbearing.  I realize there are Baptist communities that allow women as pastors, but they were not my community, and they did not mean my calling would be recognized by those I held closest.  It was not a real choice; I could hold the role of pastor yet was forbidden to function as a pastor in my community of faith.  Moreover, I certainly was not called to be a housewife, as noble and as fulfilling a calling it is.

At 17, I was exposed to Liberation Theology while traveling around South America, and I became hooked.  I had not yet converted to Catholicism, although I considered myself Catholic.  It was a time of excruciating yearning for the Eucharist, compounded by my near daily attendance of mass.  As a Catholic, I had more options for living inside of the church.  The Catholic reasoning against my ordination was not so blatantly misogynistic: it was not that scripture denied me that right, indeed, the Vatican Pontifical Biblical Commission ruled in 1976 that the New Testament had no admonitions against women as priests.  Instead, it spoke of tradition, of the male sex as a sign of apostolic tradition and symbolic of Jesus as man.  Women could not be priests, but they could be saints, they could be Doctors of the Church, a title given to those who have given great advantage to the Church.  In the past 2000 years, only 33 persons have been recognized.  Three, including the most recent addition, are women.

I had not felt called to the specific act of consecrating the Eucharist, so I turned my eyes to the convent.  After a period of discernment that near the end sporadically lasted until last fall, I found myself lost in a world of doubt.  I am certain that I am not meant to be a nun, although I know I could fill the role quite well, and possibly be quite happy.  It seemed the opposite problem in the Catholic Church.  Many of the functions of priest I felt called towards: teacher, theologian, activist, parish “mother” (which seems to function the same as a parish shepherd) are allowed to me, yet the role of priest is not.  There are groups like Roman Catholic Women priests that ordain women, but the same problem I faced with the Baptists is evident: I cannot obtain the role and function of priest in my community.

Unlike many of my friends post-college who do not know what direction to orient their lives and vocation, I struggle in that I do know, quite specifically, what I want to do with my life.  And quite specifically, I am forbidden from doing so.  I cannot give up my faith, which is more foundational to my sense of self than anything but my sex.  I could more easily conceive of myself denying my citizenship and remaining stateless than I could imagine being excommunicated from the church.

I find myself sustained in this turmoil, of knowing my place and not being able to assume it by St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the most recent Doctor of the Church, who also knew her calling to become a priest.  Yet, I most likely will not die before the age I could face ordination the way St. Thérèse of Lisieux did (24, she died of tuberculosis).  I will attend mass for the rest of my life.  I will bring my future family up in the Catholic faith.  I am, after all, a faithful Catholic, even if I disagree with the Vatican (which I do on a few other matters as well).

It is for this reason I rage against the possibility of (confirmed by Pam’s House Blenda new Vatican document that equates Women’s Ordination with Pedophilic Priests. I am not a threat to the community of the Church.  It is another wound by a hierarchy that less and less remembers that it stands for and with a community of Catholics instead of a kingdom of it’s own.  My sex is neither “incomplete” nor offensive to God in any way, and to compare my sex tied to the deepest desires of my heart with the manipulative priests that prey on young children is more than wrong.  The hierarchy of the Church is perverse to make the comparison.  As St. Thérèse of Lisieux has said in her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, “If I were a priest, O Jesus, with what love would I give you to people!”  I couldn’t say it better, and I know it’s still true of me as well.

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Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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