Thursday, May 09, 2002

A Category Error, or Something Like It

Interesting post over at Fool's Folly today.

One reader (a Franciscan University grad, thank you very much) writes:

"The Holy Father points out that the climax of the Mass is, of course, the consecration of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. At that moment, Christ - the Groom - acts through the (male) priest - offering Himself sacrificially to His Bride, the Church. Quite simply, for a woman priest to stand act as the conduit for the consecration would make for a lesbian relationship."

Yup – and lesbians can’t have babies by each other. Homosexual relationships can not be fruitful. The marriage of Christ the bridegroom with the Church His bride, however, is always fruitful; it always produces souls for God. Priestesses simply can’t signify the bridegroom. They are a bad sign of the mystical union.

There may be good reasons to oppose female priests, but this isn't one of them. This is a category error, confusing a metaphor for the thing itself. It can be helpful to talk about the relationship between Christ and the Church as like a marriage, and liken the priest to the bridegroom, but it is only helpful, it isn't the actual thing. In fact, it is fairer to turn it the other way around, and say that a marriage between a man and a woman symbolizes the relationship between Christ and the Church. That makes it clear that the merely human version is the inadequate reflection of a Divine something, rather than putting the human thing first. A human marriage is such a weak and fragile thing, and it depends on many things besides the partners themselves, that it can only be a pale shadow of the Divine.

In any event, since the Christ-married-to-the-Church bit is only a metaphor, it breaks down pretty fast when you start throwing around human sexes and lesbianism, and so forth. To the extent that a metaphor extends understanding and enlightenment, it is to be welcomed. To the extent it constrains, or begins to replace the object, it needs to be abandoned.

I'll take on the larger issue of ordained women some other time (after I've done my homework). But this particular dog, I am prepared now to say, don't hunt.


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