Today’s Catholic Church is in crisis. The clerical sexual abuse scandal has shaken the Church. There is a shortage of ordained ministers and there are fewer numbers of religious sisters in ministry. The gifts and talents of women, including differing ethnic and sexual orientation communities, have not been fully appreciated.
Throughout Church history, God has used women to share his message. A woman was chosen to bear and nurture Jesus. And although only one apostle was at the foot of the cross when Christ was crucified, together with Mary, there were many women there.
It was Mary Magdalene who told Jesus’ companions she had seen Him alive. Mary Magdalene and the women at the foot of the cross continue to be models of strength, courage, commitment, and love for Jesus. They did not abandon Him as did the apostles. These women are reflective of women in ministry in today’s Church.
The essence of healthy working relationships in ministry relies on honesty, integrity and a desire for mutuality. Imperious clericalism threatens and impairs honest dialogue and healthy relationships. We need leaders who listen and make every effort to understand. We need leaders who are accepting and empathetic, who empower others, and who do not “guard their turf.”
“If they (women) were to feel that they really belonged to the Church, by virtue of the priestly Baptism, they would fight for the Church’s life, for her adherence to Jesus’ words, with all the weapons they have at their disposal. (Lucretta Scaraffia, editorial writer for L’Osservatore Romano, “Feminism and Clericalism, For the Healing of the Church” L’Osservatore Romano, Oct. 1, 2018)
Christ overthrew many centuries of law and custom. He consistently treated women and men as equals. The actions of Jesus of Nazareth towards women were truly revolutionary. If our church is to grow, leaders must bravely follow Jesus’ example of support and encouragement for all.
God has created human beings to achieve the full potential of their existence. The worth of every person resides in the intrinsic value which God has given to each individual. This affirmation is echoed in Jesus’ parables, in which each human being is valued individually, according to God’s special love.
When Jesus was challenged by a pharisee, He replied that the greatest commandment is “You shall love the lord your God . . . and your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. Ch.22, v. 34-40). God and your neighbor. Not one or the other. Both!
It follows then that the Catholic Church must welcome and involve all people. The moral imperative is to accept and include people regardless of their sexual orientation, their status as divorced or fallen-away from religious practice.
Anyone who places another person, by thought or deed, outside the possibility of human growth and development violates God’s sacred mandate to humanity: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This biblical command sets the conditions for human existence through justice, mutual respect, and trust. Our failure to fulfill this Christian responsibility is directly opposed to the Gospel itself. We must remember the dignity Baptism confers on all of us!