Thursday, October 10, 2019


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Sharon Tighe-Mooney

It is worth setting this book in context from the outset in case I lose the run of myself with one of my hobbyhorses later on.
'What About Me? Women and the Catholic Church' is an exploration by an ordinary woman, born into the Catholic faith of the arguments given to exclude her from ministry.

Using her research skills, Sharon examines the New Testament, Christian writings and Papal documents. It is a personal quest to shed light on the story of women in the Christian movement from its earliest days to the present.

The objective of the book is to explore, inform, speculate and question and it should appeal to a general audience.

The context of the book is the 2010 move by Pope Benedict XVI to elevate the ‘crime’ of ordaining women to Catholic ministry and the subsequent censoring of religious personnel who questioned this edict. This book details a quest to find out where the strong antipathy towards women in the Roman Catholic Church's institutional mindset comes from.

No Wimmin

That's me, the male altar boy on the left, around 1960. On the right, out of the picture, behind a high railings is a community of nuns. They have dedicated their lives to Christ. But they are not allowed to serve on the altar because they are female.

The male priest on the altar, who has just consecrated the host and wine, is a serial child sex abuser. According to a reliable source, he is the worst abuser ever. The Dublin diocese protected him, shifting him around parishes, for nearly half a century.

At one point he was vice-postulator in the causes of Edel Quinn and Matt Talbot and a diocesan administrator. When the Guards finally caught up with him they had to penetrate a battery of civil and canonical lawyers to get him into court.

This man could say mass, hear confessions and lay down the law. These women were not allowed to even serve on the altar.

I hope you are suitably shocked.

Well, you'll be more shocked when I tell you whats in this book - how an all male ministry conned the faithful into believing that God did not want women to be priests, period.

The Gospels and other fairy tales

The headings in this piece are mine and mine alone. I am also responsible for choosing the illustrations. In exoneration I'll have to plead that the book's great cover set me off.

This is probably the best place to mention that, in the absence of an index, Sharon has been generous with chapter and section headings so the book is easy to navigate and refer back to.

Sharon takes you on a journey through the gospels and early church writings pinpointing the real role of women in the evolution of Christian communities and eventually the Church itself.

She shows how the suppression of a significant body of early writings and the wilful misinterpretation of the rest has facilitated the evolution of a celibate male clergy. Once in power this group went to any lengths needed to hang in there.

Messing around with Mary and Mary Magdalene was de rigeur. Any significant involvement by women in Jesus's mission or legacy had to be downplayed or exceptionalised. They were not part of the action. How many Popes does it take to get this message across?

It's a fabulous journey and one I'm sure that will convince you that there is a more than thousand year wrong out there just waiting to be righted.

Ex Cathedra

My favourite Ex-Cathedra picture

I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly authority on women and that this judgement is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.

Page 84
This statement by the then Pope, John Paul II, is as near as you are going to get to an ex cathedra statement from any pope in modern times. The last such statement that I remember was from Pius XII on the Assumption. Safe enough you might think.

Mind you, there has been much discussion about the degree of authority attaching to Paul VI's Humanae Vitae, some arguing that it carried the cachet of infallibility. And look where that led.

If I may digress for a moment. The Catholic Church I grew up in was a closed system, intellectually speaking. There was no way to break out of their mind control once you got trapped inside it. Two examples should illustrate this, one from way back and one, unfortunately still with us.

Connie Lucey was the longstanding Bishop of Cork in my day. He was the Gatekeeper of religious orthodoxy. I quoted him in a paper I gave to the UCD L&H in the heady days of 1967 when, with Vatican II, we thought we'd left this stuff behind us.
Dr. Lucey, Bishop of Cork, while defending freedom of the press as a Good Thing, defined a free press as one
free to print what it is morally justified in printing. ... And who is to decide what views are fit for publication? The answer is that the Church is entitled to decide when the views are views on faith and morals.
My second example of the closed system involves Vincent Twomey and the informed conscience.

The Catholic Church has signed up to the primacy of conscience. But, of course, there's a catch, they mean an informed conscience. And how do you know your conscience is sufficiently informed. Well, as Vincent informs us that the Church can teach no wrong, you'll know you've hit the G spot when your conscience and the Church are in agreement. QED.

Now, Seán Fagan would have settled for best efforts, and, of course he'd be right. But he wasn't around in my day.

However Paul VI came to my rescue. His Humanae Vitae, and Pius XII's Vatican Roulette, were such blatant rubbish that they proved to me that the Church can teach wrong and grievously so.

Mary McAleese has likened this closed system to an area surrounded by a wall which is not to be breached. Well those two popes gave me the means to vault over it.

If all this is getting a bit heavy for you, and you're not yet totally put off by any word associated with Brexit, you might enjoy the Carthaginian Monolithic Church, Michael Freyn's "withdrawal" poke at the Church in 1964.

The Last Male Circus

The International Eucharistic Congress, held in Dublin in 2012, gave the Church the opportunity to show it was serious about reform. The about-to-be-silenced priest, Tony Flannery, made an interesting suggestion. Why not replace the mitres and shiney vestments with attire more resembling sackcloth and ashes as a gesture of humility and repentance.

Did they? NOT!

Instead they commissioned a vast wardrobe of new flashy gear.

These guys are tough.

Sex and the Eucharist

After some discussion of the Bride of Christ stuff, which most of us managed to live with without blowing a fuse, Sharon now throws us in the deep end at the aptly numbered Page #101.
There is more. If you think sex is excluded from all of the above, you would be wrong. And despite my well-developed Catholic sense of embarrassment about discussing this topic, I am going to tell you about it anyway.

Believe it or not, the male seed is dominant in many aspects of the theological discussion. For example, if the representative of Christ on the cross can only be a man, then giving up the body to death becomes an act of coitus, as does, in turn, the symbolic function of the male priest on the altar presiding over the Eucharist.

Here is what Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar, a member of the Papal Theological Commission, and Pope John Paul II's favourite theological advisor had to say in 1965. In Wer ist die Kirche? Vier Skizzen (Who is the Church? Four Sketches), the Cardinal wrote:
The priestly ministry and the sacrament are means of passing on seed. They are a male preserve. They aim at inducing in the Bride her function as a woman.
Unfortunately he did not stop there but went on to ask:
What else is his Eucharist but, at a higher level, an endless act of fruitful outpouring of his whole flesh, such as a man can only achieve for a moment with a limited organ of his body?
In one fell swoop, Christ's death, wherein he identified with human death, is now all about male ejaculation. Sheer mortification prevents me from discussing this further, but I am quite sure readers feel that I do not need to say any more.

This clearly runs deeper in the psyche than I realised.

But let's have some fun and take it a little further.

So, if the consecration is ejaculation (never-ending) for the male, what would it be for the ordained female?

Why, an orgasm, of course.

And what if we were to have a mass concelebrated by a male and a female?

You see where this is going?

Pure Communio, coming together, in all possible meanings of that phrase.

Now you see the problem!

Rush to judgement

We saw above how it was the Vatican elevating the ordination of women to the sin status of child sex abuse that sparked Sharon into looking closer at this whole area.
The Congregation for the doctrine of the faith has been very active in this regard. Indeed, it has been amazingly swift in addressing and investigating dissidence with regard to female ordination, which, in light of their previous reluctance to deal with child abuse investigations, is striking.

Page 192
Look at it this way. How long did it take to silence Tony Flannery once he questioned the origins of the priesthood? For how many years did Morgan Costello abuse children while under the protection of the Dublin diocese? QED.

I'm running out of steam now. I hope I haven't given you too many spoilers and that they turn out to be teasers and tempt you to buy and read the book. It really will open your eyes and boil your blood.


  1. Woman's Body

    Did the woman say,
    When she held him for the first time in the dark of a stable,
    After the pain and the bleeding and the crying
    “This my body, this is my blood”?

    Did the woman say,
    When she held him for the last time in the dark rain on a
    After the pain and the bleeding and the dying,
    "This is my body, this is my blood"?

    Well that she said it to him then,
    For dry old men,
    Brocaded robes belying barrenness,
    ordain that she not say it to him now.

    This completely undermines Balthasar's masturbatory rubbish (above).

  2. Here's the question: how can we keep seeing this stuff and go on? How did bishops and priests see this stuff and go on?

  3. With the exception of Balthasar, I suspect this was kept private insofar as it existed. I had never made the connection in all my years.