In which I potentially insert my foot into my mouth.

28Jan08

But I think it’s important anyway.

The liturgical reform that Benedict has (searching for the right word…) begun? instituted? inspired? makes me a little weary. Not because I think the grass is as green as the ordinary time vestments and we don’t need change, in fact we do. I admit that, and I have no problem admitting that. I’ve never experienced an Extraordinary Form of the mass; however I have been to extraordinary Novus Ordo celebrations of the Eucharist in a variety of places. So I do understand that there is some serious liturgical abuse going on. (Like the priest who asked for blessings on the Church, in her Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant forms last week at mass. That’s a whole other blog topic that I plan to get to. But thus far thinking about it makes me head hurt.)

But liturgical abuse isn’t actually what I’m concerned with, at least not here.

I’m concerned with what the impact of a more ‘traditional’ Church have on Catholic academia. I put traditional in quotation marks because I believe that even with the reforms of Vatican II we are a Church deeply rooted in our tradition and our use of it to critique modern practice.

And here’s where I’m worried I’m going to firmly plant my foot (and it is not a small foot) into my mouth.

What is the focus on Latin, masses facing Liturgical East (which consequently is impossible in my parish) and more traditional expressions of Catholicism going to mean for my ability to get a job teaching in a well respected Catholic University or Seminary?

That’s it. That’s my concern. And I feel petty and indescribably stupid to be so worried about it that at least a small part of me cannot trust that Benedict is doing the right thing.

I don’t study pastoral or youth ministry, catechetics or music; disciplines in Catholic theology that are generally, at least in my experience, more accepting of women. I study Systematic, Historical and Philosophical Theology. And I generally feel only marginally welcomed in the field. The concern that I wouldn’t fit in with the boyos was completely unfounded. They respect me and my contribution to the class.

But then, they are as completely rooted in a post-Vatican II church as I am. The resistance I’ve experienced isn’t from most of my professors either. They are willing to help me when I ask for it, and generally accommodate my requests for paper topics that push the boundary of the assignment, as soon as I explain that it is related to my thesis topic.

No. The resistance I’ve felt is institutional. When I had my graduate admissions interview, and I expressed my desire for to enter the Masters of Arts program, I was greeted with “Oh, you want to go into the academic program,” as if it was completely unheard of that a lay, married woman, might be interested in learning more about the church in a manner that doesn’t completely reflect ministry.

I am as highly, or more highly educated than a number of my classmates, simply because I’m further along in the program than they are, and I get less respect simply because I’m female and not going into ministry. As soon as I mention that I’m going to get my Phd or what I’m studying, everyone gets scared. Because for some reason my knowledge of the deeper theological meaning of the Eucharist would lead me to schism because I wanted to be a priest.

The other resistance I feel is frequently from students in the permanent diaconate. And I don’t know why. I have no aspirations to be a priest or to say mass. Did I once? Yes, but I trust in the Church to know what is right and wrong and I willingly accept that women shouldn’t be priests.

Am I going to have to metaphorically tattoo that on my forehead until everyone realizes I’m not a threat?

All I want to do is study Aquinas and push the boundary of what we can know about God through reason. That’s it. That’s my ambition. Along with knowing how we got here. So I don’t think I’ll be leading a coup any time soon.

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One Response to “In which I potentially insert my foot into my mouth.”

  1. 1 Clayton

    Hi.

    You didn’t quite explain yourself. Do you think that traditional forms of worship are unneccessarily biased against women, or promote bias against women? With that I do not really agree. In fact, some of the most educated tradition-minded people I know are women. In fact, you would be more under suspicion from that crowd if you were studying the “practical” theological arts, something that many Catholics, like myself, regard as just another cheapening of the priesthood.
    Perhaps, as you mentioned, there is need for you to worry about the liturgical changes if in fact you are not going to cooperate. Leaving aside the historical/theological question marks in the new liturgical movement (the movement towards tradition), which some still remain, I would note that they do, in fact, better understand the issues than the “experts” which put together the new liturgy in the first place. Nor is there very much that’s ancient in the new expressions of the mass as far as modes of expression (trust me, St. Gregory has a few words to say in the debate over guitar masses, and the universal expression of the Church has always been ad orientem, in both East and West). Leaving all that aside, I say, isn’t your job as a theologian to explain the “res” of theological inquiry, rather than the “signa,” as St. Augustine puts in his “De Doctrina Christiana?” The what of the liturgy is more your affair than the how, and, so long as you don’t start thinking that one trumps the other (we are talking about God here!), I don’t see how the new liturgical movement will ultimately cause you more problems than any thing else.

    Be qualified. Work hard.


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