Monday, June 22, 2009

VI The Seven Devils of Women's Ordination, or, She Who Lie Down With Dogs Catch Fleas


I have used the word ‘pathology’ a lot in this paper. Clericalism (as distinct from the people it destroys) is a kind of contagious sickness. It is inherent in a hierarchical system. It infects clergy without distinction and without their knowing. It sets them apart as a class, which is a very different matter from the setting-apart of holiness that indwells the interior solitude of each human being. Clericalism is inherently destructive, both to the person who is already infected and to those affected, and therefore often infected, by that person’s life; it perpetuates the classic co-dependent cycle and its denial.

It is denial that makes clericalism intrinsically abusive to others. [24] It gives the impression of sacramentalising the seven devils: Power, Pretension, Presumption, Pomposity, Privilege, Preferment and Patronage. Clericalism is doubly destructive in that it reinforces the abuse people receive from an increasingly violent culture, which they bring to the Eucharist to be healed. Clericalism traps them in a depressive self-consciousness that is one of the most subtle and pernicious effects of any sort of abuse, and is the opposite of the freedom from self-consciousness that is called ‘salvation’.

Clericalism is a collusion among those who deliberately choose to be deaf and blind especially to themselves (Jn. 9). It arises from a need to hide: to hide from oneself, which gives the illusion of hiding from other people. The need to hide is itself pathological. Clericalism creates a Dives and Lazarus abyss. There is no way to cross it. Even supposedly well-intentioned groups such as Affirming Catholicism ‘forgot’ (I quote two of the organisers) to invite the laity to its initial meeting, and seems merely to be yet another mask behind which the old evils hide themselves.

Sometimes clericalism takes the form of clergy creating problems or eliciting them from people so that they, the clergy, will have someone to ‘help’ and can thereby feed their egos on another’s suffering. Some clergy have a genius for tapping into other people’s most vulnerable spots and throwing them off balance into dependence. Sometimes clericalism, especially when it is linked to sexual problems, takes the form of excessive devotion to Mary with its consequent hatred of flesh-and-blood women. Sometimes sexual problems are expressed in excessive, even compulsive, concern with ritual. The variations are endless.

Clericalism like other forms of addiction always needs a bigger fix. Witness the history of orders in the church. Witness the ecumenical dialogue conducted at the official level where the power stakes are highest, a dialogue that without question accepts claims that appear to have little foundation in fact for which there is scholarly evidence.

The problem is that clericalism creates a Girardian spiral: [25] when the abused take power, they become the abusers. In a society where women are held in contempt by men, women cannot but have contempt for each other. When they have had all the ground on which they might stand taken from them, they will try to take from each other the little scrap another might have in order to have the illusion of a slightly surer footing. And when women take power, they have exactly the same potential for abuse of others as men do. The men, of course, often say they have been abused by women.


[24] Not only psychologically, sexually and socially abusive: there is the shocking fact that the inventor of the neutron bomb is an Anglican (ECUSA) priest.

[25] ‘Girard’s work has been devoted to analysing these cycles of violence which emerge because we only desire that which another person finds desirable. Our acts of imitation, therefore, generate conflict. This mimetic conflict reaches a point where a victim is found who can act as a scapegoat. The scapegoat then unites the warring factions and creates a synthetic panacea which, in its turn, is deemed to be sacred. Girard develops his ideas on the scapegoat mechanism in his books Violence and the Sacred (1972, tr. 1977) and The Scapegoat (1982, tr. 1987). In his book Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World (1978), Girard examines how Christ effectively absorbs and defeats the scapegoat mechanism and the cyles of violence it both pacifies and perpetuates.’ —Graham Ward.


Anonymous dfish said...

"freedom from self-consciousness that is called ‘salvation’."

Reminded of the rich, young man, the question of "gaining eternity" and Jesus' invitation to shelve away his self-absorption. My self-absorption though i'm not rich...

6:49 am, June 23, 2009  

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