It is no surprise that the call to ordain (or to pretend to ordain) women as priests comes mainly from people who wish to marry (or to pretend to marry) a man with a man or a woman with a woman.
We see that, at the Synod, the topic of women’s ordination has come up, as if the rest of the Christian world that has gone along with this innovation—and in the teeth of clear New Testament instruction—has not been pitching itself into deeper and more accelerated decline, and as if the contemporary Church has had anything even worldly to boast of, to attempt to justify her presumption that she knows better than the apostles Paul and Peter did, not to mention the Fathers, the schoolmen, the saints, and the countless faithful men and women before our time.
I have long noticed that in any social situation raised slightly beyond the level of an artificial routine, if you switch the sexes, imagining every male to be female and every female to be male, and having them say and do exactly the same things in exactly the same way, you could not get three seconds into the experiment without laughter at the absurdity of it.
When Rob Petrie tries to model a mink coat he wants to buy for his wife, Laura, and he puts it on and looks at himself in the mirror, unconsciously making a couple of motions that women commonly make, we laugh out loud because it doesn’t “work.” You might as well portray a dog tiptoeing gingerly atop a railing, or a cat with his tongue hanging out, waiting for you to throw a stick so he can fetch it.
In my lifetime, almost all of the controversy regarding the relations of men and women to one another can be summed up in a sentence or two. It is held that there are not supposed to be any special relations between men and women, that men and women are interchangeable, that each sex owes no peculiar duty to the other, and that their spheres of characteristic action in the home, at work, in the neighborhood, in the larger society, and in the Church are exactly the same. Anything else is held to be but the residue of old and unjust ways, the mulish bigotry of the past.
Anyone who says that there are distinctions between the sexes that are profound and important, and that each sex is made for the other in a relationship characterized by interdependence, hierarchy, and equality all at once, is to be scorned or ignored or accused of being hateful (if male) or stupid (if female).
And, of course, this insistence not so much on equality as on indistinguishability, not so much on each sex’s assuming its rightful place as on neither sex’s having any rightful place at all, not so much on the beauty and wonder of male and female but on their meaninglessness, has played the devil with the Church, too. It is no surprise that the call to ordain (or to pretend to ordain) women as priests comes mainly from people who wish to marry (or to pretend to marry) a man with a man or a woman with a woman, or from people who seem to believe that a man can become a woman by asserting it, perhaps assisted by a mink coat and a full-length mirror.
Yet, even now, I notice that nature reasserts herself when people are distracted by emergency. For example, in the accusations hurled back and forth between the supporters of Israel in the current war and the supporters of the Palestinians, regardless of the sexual politics of the accusers, the targeting of women and children is marked as peculiarly abhorrent and criminal. Imagine the officers on the Titanic keeping women and children at bay at gunpoint, crying out, “Men first!” And imagine a woman gently pushing her husband away from her, as her husband weeps freely, and she says, “Dear, you must go now. Get into the lifeboat. It’s my duty to stay.”
No, we acknowledge that women and children are to be protected because they are physically vulnerable and because they are the hope of the rising generation. Nature herself gives us a clue to this real duty in the high pitch of the woman’s voice, her smooth chin, and—by comparison with a healthy grown man—the childlike softness of her musculature. Protected, not despised; for in the order of ends, that association with children is more centrally important than is the man’s building of roads or digging of mines. And we have Jesus to remind us that unless we become as little children, we shall not enter the kingdom of Heaven.