This article levels many claims against the Church, too many to post. But here are a few
Science has revealed that a person’s sexual biology is far more intricate than the sex organs that are visible on a person’s body. Genes and hormones coursing through the bloodstream affect the development and expression of a person’s “biological” sex. Some women and men have three chromosomes (XXY); others have female sex organs but, on balance, more male sex hormone than female sex hormone. All of this is to say that human biology is infinitely more complex than the “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” statements from new parents (or their doctors or midwives) might lead us to believe. Scientifically, even biologically, there are many factors that contribute to “maleness” and “femaleness.” Any claim that there are only two kinds of humans, male and female, is simplistic. Similarly, even if “femaleness” is biologically anchored, what counts as “feminine” is culturally constructed and varies through time and place. For one community, femininity might mean being shy and retiring; for another, a person who is proudly beautiful and wears makeup and attention-getting clothing might be viewed as very feminine.
Sociopolitically, rigid complementarity cheats both men and women of their full humanity. To assume that women make up for what men lack, or vice versa, reifies stereotypes of masculinity and femininity by dictating the relative strengths and weaknesses that people are to have if they are true to their genders. This ideology proceeds as if all men and all women were alike, instead of the variety of persons we meet daily. Our human experience contradicts the assertion that all men are aggressive or that all women are overly emotional. As the mother of two sons, I can attest that each human is different from the other in interests, abilities and talents and that my boys are more different than alike—and they came from the same gene pool and have the same upbringing! We can also affirm, from our experience with others, that not all men and women fit into this complementary mold, and that human relationships are infinitely more complex than “she makes up for what I lack.” At the very least, human relationships are based in reciprocities that change over time.
In the social and political spheres, we also see the damage done to boys who are not allowed or encouraged to express emotions other than anger, and to girls who are called bossy for taking initiative or, worse, for standing up to bullies. Sexual stereotyping, then, does not just disadvantage women; it stunts men’s possibilities as well.
Second, casting the church in a feminine role and assigning obedience (as in Mary’s fiat) and receptivity to only the feminine aspect of the church, as opposed to the Petrine and clerical aspect, means that the role of the laity is obedience and receptivity. Does this fit with the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council, which says in “Lumen Gentium” that the whole people of God are called to minister in the church? If leadership is only Petrine, and Petrine only means clergy, then some men in the church image the masculine aspect of the church while other men (in the laity) image the feminine. But the reverse is impossible: Women, because they cannot be ordained, can only ever image the feminine. This rules out women’s leadership in a church that celebrates Teresa of Avila, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and Catherine of Siena as models of faith.
Pope Francis may or may not have ruled out the possibility of seeing women priests in the Catholic Church on the plane from Sweden this week. But in reaffirming the Marian and Petrine construct of the church, he (intentionally or not) sent a message about the people of God that truncates our imaginations and limits our possibilities for full human flourishing. And that’s a bigger issue than who stands at the foot of the altar.