To some in the Church, “Father knows best” is seen as fundamental to Catholicism. I’m not referring to our biological fathers, but to our religious fathers who lead us in the Sacraments every day. This belief endows these men of God absolute authority in everything, especially anything related to the Church. In this mentality, we are not allowed to question and we are not allowed to engage in dialogue. This idea is bought hook-line-and-sinker by those who argue that women should be allowed into the priesthood.
The view that priests and bishops have autocratic power over all things Catholic is, at best, an incomplete look at the dealings of the Church. While the Church is not a democracy, it is not a dictatorship either. The order of the Church was made by God and God isn’t a heart-less ruler, He is Love itself.
When I was in an Ecclesiology class years ago, a classmate of mine made an apt analogy. “The Church,” he said, “is like a pyramid.” If you are looking at it from the ground, it appears to be a strict hierarchy with the many laity at the bottom, the few leaders at the top, and the pope at the very top. But if you look at it from above, from God’s view, it’s a square and all appear to be equal. We’re told in Matthew 5:48 that we are to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. As He does not discriminate, neither should we. We should look at the Church as a square, too.
The answer to clericalism isn’t more clerics. We need to challenge and support our Church to do better, to become truly the Body of Christ. This means more involvement by the laity. To use yet another analogy for the Church, the Church is supposed to be a huge family. Families are built on trust, love, and communication. When a problem comes up, somebody eventually has to have the last word (usually mom or dad). If that leader is to be just, however, they must listen to everyone else and respond appropriately.
As another blogger recently noted: “Are there abusive husbands, bad fathers, tyrannical priests and overbearing prelates? Of course. But the solution is not to get rid of patriarchy, but to get rid of bad patriarachs. Neither does ordaining women to the priesthood rid the world of overbearing and tyrannical priests and prelates.”
The priesthood isn’t about power. Jesus told the apostles to serve as he does. As another blogger recently said: “The priesthood, then, is a radical rejection of the world of power with its earning and owing. The priesthood is not an institution of power, but of weakness, for it is neither a creation of man, nor an achievement, nor a reward, nor anything that can be said to come from some power of man — it is received.” Women are not missing out on power by not being priests. They are only missing out on one of a myriad of ways to serve.