It's Just the Coffee Talking: Pondering this over morning coffee... a woman Episcopal priest realizes the Catholic Church is the true home

Lots of things in this short piece, to ponder over morning coffee.  



A woman priest comes home

Written By Jane Brock

Jane Brock is a former Episcopal priest. She received the sacrament of Confirmation in 2008, and is now the Funeral and Bereavement Coordinator at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Charlotte, NC.

Fourteen years ago, I walked into my Catholic parish and was confirmed in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the culmination of a year of discernment, prayer, study, questioning, and wrestling with the enormity of this move both professionally and personally. 

While I was certain about the decision to convert, many other people, family included, weren’t convinced. Some of the questions I’m asked over and over are versions of, “How could you leave the priesthood?”, “How could you come into a church that doesn’t value inclusivity, especially of women?”, and “Shouldn’t the Catholic Church ordain women?” The Episcopal bishop with whom I met to resign my holy orders asked the latter two. 

But these questions are begging a bigger question: that the Church has authority to confer priestly ordination on women (it doesn’t). Priesthood isn’t a prize that goes to the one who desires it the most, but to the men God calls to that vocation. Good priests know the sacrifice and loneliness as well as the joy and fulfillment it can bring. It is far more than dressing up and playing at the altar at Mass, which is where most people encounter a priest. I can affirm that it is not glamorous to be called out in the middle of the night to pray with the sick, to forgo a day off to bury a parishioner, or to listen to unjust criticism without reacting inappropriately. Whether women are able to perform this work is really not the issue. If women could be priests, don’t you think Jesus should have ordained his mother?

The fact that the priesthood isn’t open to women brings up other questions: why did God make us male and female? Are our differences important in the scheme of things? Ontologically, women and men are equally valued by the Creator. Both sexes together represent the fullness of the imago Dei, but we are not the same in how that plays out, e.g., women can never father children.

The competition between the sexes began in Genesis 3 when Eve decided to disobey God’s orders to refrain from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. One of the consequences, said God, was enmity between man and woman: “your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall be your master” (Gen.3:16). And so, the conflict began and continues to this day. 

Current culture says that for women to have equal worth, they must be the same as men, but this is a lie of the Enemy. In my experience both as clergy and as a social worker, I’ve met women who rail against men while at the same time trying to be more like them. They consider themselves superior to men, especially when they are successful in some area of life and work.  Failures are often blamed on the patriarchy that held them back rather than personal shortcomings. These arguments are not only false but also rob women of moral agency and set up a logical fallacy. Women were created to be different from men in function, but since there is no hierarchy of human dignity and worth, there is therefore no need for competition between the sexes.

This doesn’t mean women are rarely to be “seen and seldom heard,” relegated only to the home and the raising of children, as crucial as that work is. Scripture is filled with references to women who did important and courageous work outside their homes: Esther, Deborah, Judith, the ideal wife of Proverbs 31, and Priscilla come to mind, as do the women who followed Jesus on his way to the Cross.  Women can both be feminine and courageous, feminine and brave, feminine and learned. In the Catholic Church, we read and study Scripture alongside men, and so 'build ourselves up in our most holy faith’ (Jude 20). The point of women and men, our highest calling, is to glorify God and build up His Kingdom - that is the true goal of human life.