by GINA VIANNEY
AT a time when Catholics are crying out for married priests, women priests, male midwives and female everything, I had occasion to study the minds, manners and working arrangements as well as the desires and needs of real women, and real men, actually doing this thing, in the religious scene.
1 mean people who are getting on with it, not talking much, but yearning to say why the people who are not living it are quite mad.
For a true picture of life as a priest's wife, talk to a housekeeper Ask her why the Pope goes on and on saying "No". He knows more about human nature than most give him credit for, bachelor that he is.
For a true picture of the woman priest, get into a presbytery and work at the level where you throw away untouched food, answer the telephone to the inconsiderate, hide mail in case the parish priest sees it. and thank God you are not a priest — but a woman.
The closer you ?et to the reality of day-to-day priesthood in the Catholic Church, the more you realise two things. One, there is a desperate need for mature. good, devout Christian women to be Mary to our Peters and Pauls. Two, the last thing the average priest wants or needs is a woman with a sacramental right to be there all the time.
This role of women is being played about with, for intellectual and perhaps spiritual exercise; interesting, fascinating. Let's do something about it. Problems all solved and a new liberated Catholicism where all can be utterly fulfilled and no bars anywhere. Just what they want,
But is it what God wants? The second I sense the Women's Lib motive I get worried. This society has its own ideas of' what a woman is, and would he if she could. An arnating number of women are still contented. fulfilled, happily occupied and vocationally satisfied doing nothing more than just look after a home and a man — not necessarily a husband. The role of "char", and "housekeeper" has been derided so often and so much, women who spend most of their time charring and housekeeping hide like rabbits on the run and daren't "raise" the burrow life.
This is the will of God for them, and quite all right with them, thank you. They have their intellectual pursuits. They have their relationships. They have their hobbies. They do not all wear hairnets and play Bingo and go to Morecambe in August.
I am well aware that certain exceptional women could make a very good job of being priests in the scholastic, educational, "star" field. I just tend to wonder who would cook their meals and do their housework and the ironing because s. these things are becoming a major problem all over the world.
Women want to do all the things men do. They want to be free of all the things women have always had to do, and it leaves something of a gap: Nobody is doing a woman's job — just caring for people.
Women were meant to release men for jobs they were called to. They were meant to he at the service of something bigger than both of them. Is it intellectual snobbery, or sexual envy, or femalepride, or a sense of inadequacy perhaps, that sends women striving after the two things left they cannot do?
Priests are notoriously difficult to relate to and to live with. So are strong-minded, educated, forceful, pioneering women. Priests are extemely men — notjust male and masculine, but formed and attracted by a life that is unique. socially and spiritually.
A woman barging into there would not be the equivalent of the first woman doctor — who, God knows, had it rough. She'd be burned at the stake. Which is a fine Christian example to set after a new ruling by the Pope. Who wants to be liberated to be crucified?
know rare women who do work very closely with priests — one woman one man, like brother and sister. The more perfect their relationship becomes, the closer they grow, and the more use they are as a team, the less they are interested in marriage, human exclusive love, and an exchange of roles.
They each live in their own "community" — family, presbytery, anywhere. They work together, pray together, then each goes back to refuel. One does what the other can't, and outside of the job they have their own lives.
Why change the rule? Where is the need for change when these partnerships are possible, and working satisfactorily? God has given women all they need. There aren't enough to till these saintly roles. Why diverge on to a new kind of training and task, which often has the air of a professional "status" Christian women cannot live.
An apostle must always be selfsufficient, self-supporting, able to care for herself without servants. This is a harsh, cruel world and we are at both the mercy and service of it.
A bishop, now dead, once sighed in my presence; "As a Church, we talk too much". He knew where women were needed, and it wasn't on altars or marrying his priests. We live in perilous times where seduction from Christian duty is heavy as well as powerful. We need lay apostles.
Priests need women as reforming, strengthening, faith-giving, tempering, balancing influences. Not professional rivals in an army life. where their defects as men as well enough known to themselves and a delicate subject they want to keep hidden, When we publicly discuss their defects, failures, private lives, houses, manners and needs. can we not exercise a little more love, and a little less self-willed brilliance on a matter about which they are quite loudly silent?
We are invading their privacy. We arc thrusting on them, with violence, an issue which fills them with very real dread, and fury and
fear not anti-feminist prejudice, an issue on which they cannot reply honestly, on equal terms with the laity.