You may have heard on the news that an Irish woman, the octogenarian Jennifer Sleeman, had urged Catholics in Ireland (and beyond) to boycott Mass today in protest over the Church’s “refusal” to ordain women.
The cause was a dubious one from the outset, as Pope John Paul II made it quite clear that ordaining women is not something the Church has the power to do, even if its leaders should ever want to do so. The campaign for women’s ordination often implicitly views priesthood in secular terms, as yet another job to which women should have access as a matter of socio-political right. It is of course a vocation, an order of sacramental service in and for the Church that finds its meaning and its rationale only within the context of faith. It is not another emblem of social equality and power. No one has a right to ordination.
Thankfully, despite encouragement from other women’s ordination advocates, the boycott has failed totally. Not only was there no noticeable drop in numbers attending Mass in Ireland, in some places there was an increase in numbers. It seems that the ordinary Irish Catholic, whether he or she agrees with the cause or not, realises that refusing to do one’s Christian duty in honouring the Lord’s Day by worshipping with the rest of the Church in one’s local parish is self-defeating. It damages the fabric of Church life which one would have hoped the women’s ordination lobby would be seeking to build up. Moreover, maybe ordinary Catholics realise that no purpose is served by denying oneself the grace of the Eucharist, and that indeed only spiritual harm could come of it. Maybe they also resent the politicisation of the Church’s most sacred act. Here we might legitimately detect the voice of the faithful, the sensus fidelium.
Let us pray that we might all be able to accept the teachings of the Church, especially those we find most difficult, if not for the sake of the Church alone, then for the sake of Christ who guarantees the Church’s teaching.