Sunday, February 15, 2015

Altar Girls and Taking Offense

An interesting (partial) conversation over at another PrayTell blog, which started with the question of altar girls, moved on to the issue of female ordination, and then to the notion of offence.  I must say that I was surprised they published any of my comments, because the last thing they seem to be interested in over here is presenting a healthy range of opinion.  I was beginning to wonder whether the blog censors had gone on holiday, or died, or (could it be possible?) no longer thought it expedient to stifle dissent.  But eventually, of course, the censors woke up. 

Why shouldn't girls be altar servers?  Why should they?  The answer, I think, depends on 2 things:  (i) does altar service have any connexion (possibility of progression) to priestly service, and (ii) should ordination be restricted to males? 

As I explained in a comment that somehow got published,  I was an altar boy both in the last days of the simplified, vernacular Tridentine rite and in the new Montini-Bugnini rite that was imposed on the church around 1970.  From the point of view of an altar boy, it was a world of difference.  Overnight we went from performing an important, critical part of the Mass to being wallflowers.
I suspect a lot of vocations were nurtured by serving the old Mass.  The new mass, no.  Consequently, I don’t see a problem with girls serving the Novus Ordo mass, because it has nothing to do with vocations.  It’s just another silly, unnecessary, make-work job, like ‘extraordinary’ ministers or busybody ‘welcomers/greeters’ or overbearing cantors. 

I’d encourage you to go over there and read the conversation, keeping in mind that you’ll never know what comments were deleted or suppressed.  What is it about the’ Spirit of Vatican II’ set that makes them want to control discourse?

The most interesting series of comments was provided by Rita F, who apparently feels ‘offended’ that the Catholic church only ordains men.  At one point she stated,

There’s a persistent confusion being made above between the psychological state of taking offense and the objective reality of giving offense….[T]he way [women] are treated is actually and objectively offensive.
...The uneasy conscience is evident in the number of times men in this thread have brought up women’s ordination.... It’s all about keeping females away from the altar, and they know it, and they have a bad conscience about it.

You see?  It’s has nothing to do with Rita if she’s offended.  It has nothing to do with her presuppositions, her ideology, her worldview.  No, other people’s opinions are inherently, ‘objectively’ offensive.

Re-posting a comment binned by the censors in their zeal to control discourse & suppress dissent.  [Update:  I don't agree there's such a difference (no.46) between perceiving offense & 'objectively given offense'.  Essentially this is an attempt to negate & silence someone else's opinion by claiming it is 'objectively' offensive.  I can assure Rita I have no uneasy conscience over a male priesthood.  The issue of female ordination arose because of the question of whether altar serving is a means of developing a priestly vocation. In the Novus Ordo, I don't think it is.]

Re 42/44:  I think people have got far too adept at being offended.  Consider this:  in Israel, only Levites were allowed to become priests.  Did the Benjamites complain they were ‘oppressed’?  Did the Ephraimites & Gadites complain this was ‘unfair’?  Did the Reubenites clamour for ‘tribal equality’?  Now we certainly shouldn’t equate the Israelite with the Catholic priesthood.  One may legitimately wonder (pace Luther) whether Jesus actually ever instituted a separate priestly caste.

As a married man, I can’t become a priest either.  Is that fair?  I’m not sure I care, or expect life to be ‘fair’.  I do think we should examine what it is a priest can do that is any different to what you or I can do.  The one thing I keep coming up with  is:  a priest can administer (certain) sacraments that I can’t.  & that’s about it.   A layperson can, in principle, run a parish from administrative point of view, preach, & do anything else we think of as typically pertaining to a priest except that.  So when I hear people say, ‘Women should be priests,’ I have to ask, what exactly is it that you think they should do that they can’t do now?

Yes, I think ‘gender equality’ is a silly concept & is ultimately doomed to failure.  Men & women aren’t equal.  We’re not even from the same planet.

Now, I don’t for a minute deny the genuineness of Rita F’s complaint.  I merely suggest that this kind of resentment is a learned response.

The whole notion of 'objectively offensive' continues to astonish and  intrigue me.  I can see how something can be 'objectively false' (eg, black is white), or how something can be 'objectively immoral' (eg, abortion),  the latter of course requiring that we first accept the notion of objective right and wrong, good and evil (which an atheist would be hard pressed to do, if he is intellectually honest).  But can something be 'objectively offensive'?  You can't be offensive unless there is someone to take offense--it's a one-hand-clapping kind of thing, only more so.

What Rita doesn't acknowledge as that there are women today, and have been throughout history, who do not and have not taken offense at a male-only priesthood.  Are they too stupid not to notice this 'objective offense'?  Or could it be simply that their presuppositions differ from hers?

Have a look at no 44 while you're at it. Here a commenter proclaims that 'science' proves that men and women are substantially the same, psychologically.  I don't know the commenter's background, but I think we can safely conclude that she knows little of how modern science operates, since she clearly thinks it is ideology- and value-free.  As for cherry-picking convenient links from the internet to prove a point, I'll leave it to you to decide how 'scientific' that is!