Sunday, May 08, 2011

Fishers of men (Matthew 4:19)

A prominent Canadian bishop has plead guilty to possession of child pornography and is in jail*. After the sorry stories of priests acting badly with the underaged over the last decades, it's not surprising that people respond very strongly.
Speaking of the underaged, I say that I am grateful not to have been attracted to teenagers, much less children. A perusal of the male images on my blog gives you a sense of how oppositely inclined I am. I only admitted that I was a sexual being, really, in my late twenties. In fact, I have never had sex with a teenager...even, alas, when I was a teenager. I have had two romantic relationships with significantly younger men in my life: a sexual one with my ex, T, fifteen years my junior, but 30 at the time; and a non-sexual one with a straight man...yeah, I know...who was 11 years my junior, but in his early twenties. I did once connect with a man who turned out to be a few months shy of  21, but told me when I met him he was 24. So, no. No teenagers.

Anyhow, enough about me.
One of the themes that follows the sexual abuse phenomenon is that the Church should allow priests to marry and should ordain women. Righty that I am, I am not in favor. First of all, changing a millennial and bi-millennial structure, respectively, as a response to a recent scandal is not good policy. And aside from whatever arguments could be mustered in favor of doing these things, they would, especially in the current Western climate, just open the floodgates to more and more tinkering until...yes, my old saw...all you had left was Unitarianism in drag.

(Right now the local Catholic church, two blocks away, is ringing its bells for the 10 o'clock Mass. Nice sound. I remember my first Sunday morning in seminary in Rome, back in 1973, opening the window of my room to the pealing of all those ancient bells.)

My opposition to female priests is based on my sense that, despite the truth --oft bemoaned by feminists--that the priesthood and therefore the hierarchy of official power is male, the Christian Church, especially in its Catholic form, is highly feminized already and perhaps always has been. Contemporary experience with liberal Protestant and Jewish groups who ordain women shows that men, already a minority in the congregations there, flee in droves, creating hyperfeminized female (and gay male) ghettoes. What future is there in that?

A visibly gay-dominated priesthood is likewise a bad idea, and for the same reason**. Men will avoid it, both as parishioners and as priests. There is no status or honor in it.

As for married male priests...would that not actually help the too-feminine situation, by increasing the number of hetero clerics? I am not sure. Even contemporary Protestant denominations, who all have a married clergy, seem to demand  in their ministers a character structure that is heavily feminine. As I say, it may be a problem inherent in Christianity. Although Jesus, IMHO, always acted and spoke authoritatively, so that even his willing death was an exercise in courage, a lot of what he said, the Sermon on the Mount and suchlike, makes it sound as if his desire was for a community of very unmanly doormats and wimps. And the huge cultural change and financial and practical problems of a married priesthood would be far more disruptive and complex than people glibly imagine. Would it be worth it?

While I'm at it, one of the reasons I made my impious outburst at the parish years ago, was my realizing --with some help from that old pagan Jung--that following Jesus was not the same as copying Jesus. A central difference between any of us and Him is that once he began his ministry, he was never anyone's equal. A lot of the claptrap bumpersticker sloganeering nowadays about "the discipleship of equals" being his mission is based on a blindness: that He was never anyone's equal. (Have I emphasized that?)  Regardless of whether you follow Chalcedon or Jefferson about his divine Sonship, if you read the Gospels, Jesus never consulted, never asked for advice, never admitted losing an argument, never apologized, never ever sought consensus, never once stepped out of his role as "Lord and Master." Even when he washed the disciples' feet, that was only significant because it was The Boss who was doing it! And the only time he was ever meek or turned the other cheek or forgave an enemy was when he was at the end of his life.

The androgynous "gentle Jesus meek and mild" of much Protestant and even contemporary Catholic piety (like newly made nun-saint Faustina's Mercy Christ now imposed by John Paul II). Never liked him. 


But the Anglo-Saxon poet who wrote The Dream of the Rood , a song sung by the Cross itself, was a Christ more to my liking***. I used to read it sometimes before preaching.

The young hero stripped himself--he, God Almighty--
strong and stout-minded. He mounted high gallows,
bold before many, when he would loose mankind.
I shook when that Man clasped me. I dared, still, not bow to earth,
fall to earth's fields, but had to stand fast.
Rood was I reared. I lifted a mighty King,
Lord of the heavens, dared not to bend.

So when groovy Christians get all wet about things like "servant leadership" or poo-poo the Pope's claim to be "servant of the servants of God", I point out that Jesus' "service" was only valuable because he was powerful, authoritative, in charge. Otherwise, he'd just have been the janitor all along and no one would have known who he was.

Given the already complex task of being both an actual non-divine man and a Christian, I think that without access to some kind of real status and power, status and power that is recognizably masculine, men will continue to back away both from the religion and its priesthood. That is not a flaw of character, IMHO. It is a fact and a requirement of nature.

And I will spare you any further ruminations on the renewed global conflict between Christianity, its delinquent offspring The West and that most testosterone-fueled of religions, Islam.

*A personal note. One of my good friends, a woman, has been a courageously loyal friend to him. Not only for her character, but for her other gifts of mind, heart and spirit, she would be one of those women you would think of as candidates for ordination. As with gay marriage, on an emotional and personal level, I get it. But despite my sympathy, --and this includes ordaining gay men--my brain tells me that as policies for large organizations and societies, very problematic in the long run.

**The line in Matthew,  "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men" was sometimes a matter of uneasy humor among gay priests. 

*** I am aware of the erotics of this poem, but it was its heroics which I liked, at least consciously.

Good thing, though, that I am a non-practicing outsider with zilch effect on any of these things! I am just running my mouth here on my non-authoritative cathedra.


Anonymous said...

Hasn't the depiction of "Sacred Heart" (do I have the right phrase?) always presented an androgynous Jesus? more androgynous than the standard picture of Jesus (I forget by whom) used in ?Anglo-Saxony protestantism.

Anonymous said...

1. I see you refer to Jung, and your remarks on Jesus the authoritarian had reminded me of Jung's argument that in the course of the book of Job the incarnation becomes necessary on grounds that man endures what God has not and thus has a certain superiority to God (Prtoabel Jung p. 576).

I suppose this line of interpretation is deny'd by sacred doctrine in the teaching on the impassibility of God, and that Christ suffer'd in his human nature not his divine nature?

In any event, consider'd unPickwickianly, it is always pious to come up with an interpretation that we have no superiority to God in any way.

But we always interpret in God's or Christ's perfectness that only we endure certain things -- even if He bears the punishment for wrong-doing, only we do the wrongs. If Jesus seems irascible etc in the Gospels, as Jung notes, we should think that he has the right to be so since He is sinless and the Son of God, whereas anger and self-righteousness are always wrong in us. We have no right to anger and spiritedness except perhaps against ourselves (unPickwickianly speaking, still).

But then this means all these things, which are so necessary for "Christianity," are not experienced by God or Jesus Christ or even the better sort of saints. (The BVM has the right to gloat in the Magnificat that God will cast down the great, but we don't have the right to gloat.)

Anonymous said...

Also, the alternative images of the Crucify'd that you comprehensibly prefer to the angro-gynĂȘ? seem to me 'other' 'strange' etc, not manly or masculine. I wonder how a Marlboro Man type of guy would seem depicted crucify'd.

Leah said...

This Jew agrees with you on Jesus
Yes, you have to pay for the full audio, ain't capitalism grand!

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