In ancient Rome, the cradle of democracy, women had no rights. Their place was in the home under the custody and control of the master of the house, which would often be the husband or father. Her job was to take care of the house and family. She had no vote, could not govern, nor even conduct her own affairs without the oversight of a man. These are actions viewed as crude and uncivilized by today's standards.
However, even during these primitive times of democracy women were still allowed to be priestesses in Rome. The Vestal Virgins were honored and revered by men and women alike for their years of sacrifice and service to the Goddess Vesta. So how is it that over two thousand years later, the Catholic Church still refuses to ordain women for service in the Church as priests?
Admittedly, it has been only very recently that most of humanity has decided to allow women the privilege of being acknowledge as an equal with men. In fact, it is only within the last century that American women have been allowed to vote or hold a political position. However, during this time women's rights have made significant advances. Women now work outside the house, hold political office ? even at a national level, have ready access to equal education, and yes, they even conduct religious services in many religions.
Even Jewish congregations have women serving as rabbis. In fact, a woman was recently selected to replace the retiring male rabbi of a conservative congregation with over 500 families. This is a first for Conservative Judaism, which ordained its first female rabbi in 1985.
I have the utmost respect for Scripture and its importance in society, so I do recognize the passage from the Apostle Paul requiring women to be silent in churches and saying it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church. Paul instructs the women to wait till they get home to ask their husbands any questions they may have about the service. (1 Corinthians 14:33-35)
Having acknowledged the importance of Scripture, my reverence for the Bible, and my knowledge of Paul's teaching; I now admit that I vehemently disagree with the sexism of this passage.
I think it is important to recognize the culture from which Paul is speaking. In fact, Paul was a Roman citizen. He was raised in the type of backward culture we have already acknowledged as crude and uncivilized by today's standards and his remarks on this subject are no doubt a result of his cultural upbringing.
The Church has always accommodated change as humanity has grown and matured. Even Pope John Paul II, who passed this week, met with the leaders of countries who were far from Christian. He met with Islamic leaders, Jewish leaders, and even rock stars like Bono from U2. These are all people the Church would have condemned or even burned at the stake for their heretical beliefs or ungodly actions during The Middle Ages.
Likewise, it is time for the Catholic Church to mature to the level of accepting that women are equally viable as a candidate for priesthood as men. The times of believing women are on a lesser plane - whether intellectually, socially, or spiritually ? are long over and the Vatican would do well to acknowledge this fact.
The Church's churlish remarks on women serving in the role of a priest are dated and a clear demonstration of the need for a more progressive Pope that will be more responsive to the changing times and to the disenfranchised women of the Catholic Church, whose ministerial participation has dropped significantly over the last few decades.
I pray the soul of Pope John Paul II finds peace and comfort in the Kingdom of Heaven. He deserves so much for his sacrifice and service to the Church and to God,
I also pray the next Pope will override John Paul II's remarks on women in the priesthood and allow the Church step into the 21st century. If this happens, perhaps one day we will have a female Pope. Now that would be something to praise God about.
About the Author:
Stella Ramsaroop is a western world traveler, a life-long student,
a wanna-be stargazer, and an Aquarius in all its forms (if you know what that
means). Her articles emphasize the importance of the continued development and
protection of gender equality in all aspects of a woman's life.
Visit Stella's Website at http://www.newsparade.com to read her current articles and to contribute your thoughts on women's issues.