Sharon Tighe-Mooney What About Me? Women and the Catholic Church

I have just finished reading Sharon Tighe-Mooney’s What About Me? Women and the Catholic Church with a Foreword written by Mary Malone whom many of you will remember from her time teaching at the Toronto School of Theology and St. Jerome’s University before she returned to Ireland. I have many fond memories of Mary who presented on two occasions at Forum.

The book was just published in 2018 and it was the first time I was aware of the name Sharon Tighe-Mooney. Sharon teaches at Maynooth University,The National University of Ireland in the Centre for Teaching and Learning. Once I had picked up her book I could not put it down. I was not that it contained anything that I was reading for the first time but as Mary Malone begins “What I liked immediately about this book was its straightforward, clear and explicit title: What About Me. Women and the Catholic Church.

The book has seven chapters, followed by a conclusion where the author states:

In my view, the scriptures are clear about the value of all in the eyes of Christ Jesus, in contrast to the implicit and frequently explicit Roman Catholic Church worldview that appears to pride itself on distinctiveness. What I can also say is that a lack of certainty about what Jesus meant by everything he said and did, given the circumstances in which his story has been transcribed, does not, in my view, undermine the faith. However, as it stands, I can also say that in the current model of the male-centred and male-focused institutional Roman Catholic Church, there is no place for me.

What I so liked about Sharon’s thesis was the clarity with which she illustrated that every single time the institutional Roman Catholic Church invokes “the word of God” what they are referencing is in reality the words of men. This is the same whether it is “the Bible as well as Christian texts and history, written by men, about men, and for a male audience. Moreover these works have been interpreted and taught by men. Thus women are presented from a male perspective.” So when John Paul II explained his reasons for denying ordination to women and claimed that the Roman Catholic Church “has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for his Church” it is in fact the male popes, bishops and priests plan for the church.

There are many more implications from Mary’s book beyond the fact that the denial of women’s ordination has bugger-all to do with God and everything to do with men. For example in Chapter 6 The Celibate Man versus the Carnal Woman the author notes:

while the Catholic Church did not initiate the denigration of women, it certainly perpetuated it by promulgating the role of Eve as temptress in the creation myth, and by focusing to an alarming degree on the unfounded sinful past of Mary Magdalene. We have seen how quckly attempts to exclude women from the Christian story began, and how women were sacrificed to achieve the goal of male celibacy within the priesthood.

But it is not just women who are sacrificed, it is everyone in the Catholic Church. who is not a celibate ordained priest. The seven Sacraments are to all intents and purposes under the control of the ordained priest. He:

presides at Baptism

as bishop he confers Confirmation

is the magic man who says the words of consecration

sits in for God in Penance

anoints the sick and dying

“marries” the couple because if you want a church wedding your “witness” cannot be any other

and in the Roman Catholic Church the sacrament of Holy Orders that gives the person the rights to “control” these other six sacraments must be male.

If you are just beginning to look at this topic or would enjoy an easily readable, well-referenced review I wholeheartedly recommend this book. But please remember it is about much more than adding women to a priesthood that prepares its members by isolating them from the community. The push for women’s ordination makes most sense as a step towards a complete reformation of the current model. This “new” model posits a return to a much earlier era when ministers, both male and female, were called for from within the community that nurtured them to minister to that community

Sharon Tighe-Mooney references some outstanding books, journals and newspaper articles in her bibliography including the following which I have read and obviously recommend

Mary Malone & IWomen & Christianity Volumes I, II & III.

Mary Malone The Elephant in the Church : A Woman’s Tract for Our Times

Tina Beattie New Catholic Feminism : Theology and Theory Tina would have presented at Forum 2018 had I not had to cancel and close Forum.

Gary Macy The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination : Female Clergy in the Medieval West

Peter De Rosa Vicars of Christ : The Dark Side of the Papacy

Tony Flannery A Question of Conscience 

and of course

Hans Kung Can We Save the Catholic Church?

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