Dear Sister Joan-
I felt compelled to write a response to your article titled “Ordination of married men would cause other major changes within the church” dated November 6, 2015.
You believe that ordaining married men to the priesthood in the Roman-rite of the Catholic Church will lead to the Church ordaining women. This thought of yours jumped out at me: “Why do they have ordained women priests in other Christian denominations? Think. Because they have married male priests, that's why.”
I see that you have forgotten the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches that have a hallowed 2,000 year tradition of ordaining married men to the diaconate and the priesthood. There is little or no ‘push’ from the feminine believers of these Churches to be ordained to ministry. In fact, you might be disheartened to learn that the altar space is reserved for clergy. There are no female altar servers, and only deacons and priests distribute the Holy Eucharist.
Where does this leave me, my three daughters, and other female believers? We sing the Epistle, organize fellowship, serve on councils, cantor the entire lay-portion of the Divine Liturgy, help with the day-to-day running of the parish, write the bulletin, work on the web site, and paint icons for use in church and home. A blessed few women live traditional lives as monastics and sisters in faith. The list of women’s service in the Eastern Churches is long and respected.
In the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church (in my family, Byzantine) and the Orthodox Churches, lay people know that they are a vital part of the liturgical life of the Church. A holy priest is not a tyrant; he is a servant leader. He guides the people in a back and forth style of all-chanted worship to Christ the Merciful. Women who might feel attracted to a priestly ministry humbly accept that, if Jesus did not make His all-immaculate mother a priest, they also will serve the Lord in other ways to emulate Mary the Theotokos.
You continue: “How many conferences for how many years do you think a male priest could come home at night, throw his briefcase on the desk and say victoriously to his wife and daughters one more time, "Well, I voted against all of you again."
I can assure you that my husband, a Byzantine Catholic priest of over ten years, has never lorded his supposed power over me and my daughters. He does not share information flippantly. I know plenty of other married priest couples both in the United States and Europe where the relationship is complementary and loving. All are equal in dignity as Christ-followers.
An ardent feminist might not be satisfied with my lifestyle, a married woman of four children who has never used artificial birth control. I feel empowered by not allowing chemicals disrupt my body and by having a relationship based on respect and communication. I feel empowered by having a spouse in my life who is a mutual support. Although I have a Master’s degree and teach at the college level, I have no desire for power in the Church. I try to serve the Church. My husband has no aspiration for domineering power in the Church. His ordained ministry gives him the grave responsibility to die to himself, just as Jesus did.
Sister Joan, the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches might be too inconsequential for you to consider, but I encourage you to look past privilege and see how our Churches worship Christ in our tradition. 2,000 years of married men being ordained to the priesthood in the East have not lead to women ministers. Lay women and men work with their priests to bring ‘heaven to earth’ in the Divine Liturgy. All baptized Christians are part of the mystical priesthood of Christ. A few men can be called, like the apostles, to an ordained priesthood.
Anne Boyd, ‘priest’s wife’