Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 24, 2003
Married priests a given -- O'Meara
U.S. theologian predicts women's move to diaconate
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The ordination of married men to the priesthood and of women to the diaconate is only a matter of time, says a U.S. theologian.
Speaking at Newman Theological College March 15, Dominican Father Thomas O'Meara also lashed out at the Vatican for banning discussion on the ordination of women.
"Looking at the world scene, I really think it's difficult to imagine that we won't have the ordination of married men or that we won't have the ordination of women to the diaconate," O'Meara said in answer to a question following a lecture on ordained and lay ministry.
He said the shortage of priests and the growing number of Catholics around the world dictate that married men be ordained. "But I have been wrong in the past," he laughed.
As for the ordination of women as priests, O'Meara criticized the Vatican for banning discussion on an issue that is quite new and so important to the Church. "It was just beginning to be discussed when they said it shouldn't be discussed," he said. "So here is a momentous topic that after nine years is not supposed to be discussed."
O'Meara gave the 2003 Anthony Jordan Lecture Series at Newman Theological College. The series, sponsored by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, offers students and academics of various fields an opportunity to hear world-renowned scholars address topical subjects in theology.
O'Meara, a former professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, has contributed numerous articles to learned and popular journals and has written more than a dozen books including A Theologian's Journey, Theology of Ministry, Thomas Aquinas: Theologian, and Fundamentalism: A Catholic Perspective.
The Dominican gave three lectures on ministry during the March 14-15 series: Ministry Today-Where Are We? Ministries in the Churches of St. Paul, Ministry: A Cultural Journey Through The Centuries, and Variety and Harmony in Ordained and Lay Ministries. About 120 people attended each of his talks.
The Catholic Church does not consider itself able to ordain women to the priesthood for a number of reasons, among them Christ's example in choosing only men as Apostles and the fact that in celebrating the Eucharist, a priest acts in the person of Christ, who was a man. It also has said the issue is not open to discussion.
A 2001 Vatican statement asked for courses that appear to be preparing women for ordination as Catholic deacons be discontinued because the Catholic Church "does not foresee the possibility" of ordaining women deacons.
In answer to a question, O'Meara said the main question regarding women is not whether they should be ordained as priests but whether they should have public roles in the Church. "As of right now, strictly speaking, they don't. It's not to say that women aren't public in their ministry of the Church, just as the sisters are, but that the Church doesn't accept them formally in these roles."
"You honestly think it matters to God whether we are male or female?"
- Caroline Giammarioli
The priest said it is hard to argue that women should not have public roles because the Holy Spirit doesn't discriminate on the basis of biology. "The other thing is if you look at Jesus' teaching, it's about how everyone has access to the kingdom of God. You don't have to be born into the right tribe or the right race to enter the kingdom of God.
"Everybody has access to the kingdom of heaven and indeed the disenfranchised and the marginalized often get to enter first. Now, if everybody can enter the kingdom of heaven, then how is it that the public roles in the Church are not available to women?" he asked, adding that excluding women is a pre-Christian practice.
"If everybody can enter the kingdom of heaven, it is very hard to imagine that half the human race wouldn't have any public roles.
"That's what we have to discuss when it comes to the ordination of women, not whether there were any women among the 12 Apostles."
Caroline Giammarioli of Plamondon, near Lac La Biche, liked what she heard. "It's true what he said. I mean, the kingdom of God and the charisms of the Holy Spirit come to all people," she said. "Excluding women, like he mentioned, is pre-Christian."
Culture of exclusivity
The main problem, Giammarioli said, is that the Church is influenced by culture and "we still live in a culture of exclusivity. For that reason we exclude women from ordination. You honestly think it matters to God whether we are male or female?"
Laurel Lutes of St. Albert said there was nothing new in O'Meara's answer but she fully agreed with the priest's assertion that "we have to discuss and dialogue around that whole issue because in our Church and in our culture and in our homes we don't make decisions anymore by silencing people.
"When the Church comes down with a silencing kind of request (like the one around the ordination of women), it doesn't sit well in our understanding anymore," Lutes said.
"So we say, 'Why can't we discuss it?' No matter which position we are taking, we should be encouraging people to really open up and dialogue around this issue."