The Meaning of Life RTE ONE Sunday 20th. November 2016
Last night I watched RTE ONE’s “The Meaning of Life” with Gay Byrne. He was interviewing Archbishop Charles Brown, the Papal Nuncio to Ireland or the Vatican’s Ambassador to Ireland and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps here.
What made me particularly angry with what he said was his defence of an all male priesthood on the basis that to have women priests would be inconsistent with the idea of the priest as a bridegroom of Christ.
I remember arguing along these lines about 20 years ago, fortunately I have moved on. It is probably the only argument there really is for the dominance of men in the church and it is anachronistic in the extreme. This ecclesiastical metaphor (that is what it is a metaphor) relies on a mind-set that seeks to sublimate true human sexuality by making it something spiritual and non-corporeal. It is a denial of the physical body and a substitution of a mystical body in its place. Psychologically it can be dangerous but that aside it is symptomatic of the church’s clinging on to outworn images from the middle ages. How important is this image to the idea of priesthood? I would argue that it is not very important at all. Priesthood is a sacramental empowerment to perform certain sacrificial rights or sacred offices given by Christ to his followers who happened to be men at that time. Its embellishment with this kind of quasi sexuality is unnecessary and embarrassing to most people. That the nature of priesthood has become dependant on the Authority of the church and so also a male dominated authority rather than a sacramental grace is lamentable and repressive.
All one has to do to allow the possibility of women priests is to dump the anachronistic imagery of repressed sexuality and embrace the idea of a sacramental grace.
He went on to defend the ex pope Cardinal Ratzinger and say what a devout and understanding person he was. This is the man who raised Fr. Brown to the heights of Archbishop and the diplomatic service and who clearly saw in him this deep lack of imaginative flare. This the very man who branded Gay people as deeply disordered and who advised John Paul on the child abuse cover up.
Finally we heard of Archbishop Brown’s conservative attitude to prayer which though devout by some standards lacked in my opinion the inclusiveness to the presence of God and Spirit everywhere in the physical cosmos, the planet and the body we inhabit. What a total failure to inspire any resurgence of Christian spirituality in 2016.