Priestesses: a door of Opportunity
How on heaven or earth did we invent women priests?
Pope Francis is quite clear on this: there will be no women priests in The Roman Catholic Church. For Christian denominations who don’t have priests, but who have ministers or pastors, there is no problem: either term can refer to a man or a woman. “Priest”, however, is gender-specific and can only refer to a man.
Women who are priests are actually priestesses and that, as the tarot card above should remind us, is a very different role indeed. Women have Wisdom in a way that men do not, they are fountains of nourishment in a way that men are not and love pours from women by their very nature in a way that in men it does not. The priestess embodies the feminine nature in all her richness. Women are a total mystery to men until they discover the feminine within themseves: which some never do, especially if they live their entire adult lives in a society of men.
That door is closed.
Pope Francis, six months into his Papacy, said, “With regards to the ordination of women, the church has spoken and says no. Pope John Paul [II] said so with a formula that was definitive. That door is closed.” There is, however, no reason whatsoever that new doors might not open which recognise the priestly role of women. One of these is suggested by Cynthea Bourgeault when she writes, “ It is through his anointing at the hands of Mary Magdalene that Jesus is sent forth to his death, sealed in the fragrance of love. And it is this same fragrance–borne in the same anointing oils, by the same set of loving hands–that awaits him in the garden on the morning of the Resurrection.”
It is by amazing sleight of hand that the Catholic Church usurped the two sacraments of annointing from the priestly role of women: the annointing of the sick and confirmation. Indeed it is this sacrament of confirmation which, above all, should be in the hands of women, being the sacrament of coming of age, or releasing and being released from childhood.
Let us open new doors: bring back the Priestess.
I feel that women, especially those who value their own special gifts as women, should be arguing the case for priestesses not women priests and exploring all the possibilities of a thoroughly feminine role as leaders of Christian communities. Perhaps we need another good look at the sacraments to bring them back to the people as real parts of their lives, as real nourishment and fountains of motherly, as well as fatherly, love. As for us men, we need to let new doors be opened and create new spaces. As it is at present, women who are priests are just taking the places men once occupied; including, I expect, in the next few years that of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This, to me, makes God’s Kingdom seem very small and limited. There is plenty of space for proper Priestesses with all their mystery and wisdom and insights.
a blog post to accompany this: