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Last week, Father James Martin, SJ, tweeted:
“It is stupefying to me that women cannot preach at Mass. The faithful during Mass, as well as the presiders, are missing out on the wisdom, experience and inspired reflections of half of its members. St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.”
The context was the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, an online debate broke out amongst Catholics about women giving homilies. Father Martin’s tweet linked to an “America” magazine article written by a woman who used to preach at Mass before restrictions were enforced.
Here is what the Church law lays down:
Can. 766 “The laity may be allowed to preach in a church or oratory if in certain circumstances it is necessary, or in particular cases it would be advantageous, according to the provisions of the Episcopal Conference and without prejudice to can. 767 §1.
Can. 767 §1 The most important form of preaching is the homily, which is part of the liturgy, and is reserved to a priest or deacon. In the course of the liturgical year, the mysteries of faith and the rules of christian living are to be expounded in the homily from the sacred text.
The nature of man is to initiate and the nature of woman is to receive. The extreme parody of this complementary balance is for initiation to become authoritarian dominance and for receptivity to become sickly passivity. They are not the same thing.
From an official pronouncement of doctrine point of view, public teaching per se is inherently masculine as Jesus Christ the God man is The Teacher par excellence who chose men to officially, publically, teach His doctrine in word and deed.
While these are not “proof texts,” we see the fittingness of men as public teachers reflected in the NT in places like: 1 Timothy 2:12, 1 Timothy 2:11, 1 Cor. 14:34-35
Why do feminists like Father Martin assume that “power” and “influence” only really matter if a public teaching role is involved? This is obviously not true. Why doesn’t he complain that zero women are Jesuits? Isn’t the Jesuit Order badly hobbled by not having the wit and wisdom of female SJs?
Here are some powerful women who are also natural teachers, starting with the most powerful:
The Blessed Virgin Mary, the ultimate Jewish Mother, the one prophesied in Gen 3:15, who crushed the head of the serpent, who gave the Word flesh, the one who stood traumatized at the foot of the cross, and who lovingly assented to the torture and murder of her divine Son for our salvation, the one who nurtured the early Church and who to this day intercedes for us before the throne of God, made incarnate because of her yes to the angel Gabriel.
Yes, that woman.
And every female saint.
Not one of these women ever preached at Mass, and all of them have profoundly influenced—and taught—the universal Church in ways too many to name.
So please, my feminist brethren, enough with the power rhetoric. The Church is our mother.
She knows best.
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