Dear Cardinal Maradiaga,
I am writing again to you and to each of the other members of the Council of Cardinals to ask you in anticipation of Lent to discuss at your next meeting a core issue of structural reform—ecclesia semper refor- manda—an issue that disrespects every aspect of our church’s identity and mission: the decision to see women as unworthy—body and soul—of ordination to the priesthood.
Of all the things that Pope Francis has said and done, his opening of the Synod on the Family in 2014 was perhaps the most extraordinary. He asked the bishops to speak “freely,” “boldly,” and “without fear.” This exhortation is incredibly shocking, that he would have to ask his fellow bishops—grown men and the teachers of the church—to speak honestly to each other. Given the atmosphere of the Vatican, however, his exhor- tation was not only necessary but even some small sign of hope in our church so seriously challenged dialogically.
If you know from your own experience that any given woman is as religiously mature and able to provide pastoral care as any given man, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If seeing women and men through a complementarity lens or in light of precious patriarchal symbolism is not pertinent to women being worthy of ordination, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If you find that the ordination of women to the priesthood is neces- sary for the integrity, mutuality, vitality, and viability of our church going forward, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If you find nothing in Scripture or tradition prejudicial against women or precluding their ordination to the priesthood, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If you know that the letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: 1) was the fruit of doctrinal fiat not of dialogue; 2) was written in the face of—and argua- bly to cut off—serious scriptural-theological dialogue actually taking place; and 3) then concluded by ordering that no dialogue at all on wom- en’s ordination—let alone anything fearless or gender-inclusive—will be allowed, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If you understand that the letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, is an his- torical explanation of ordination rather than a theological explanation, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If you think the theological explanation put forth by the Vatican in the 1970s and 1980s—that women cannot be ordained because they are “not fully in the likeness of Jesus”—would be silly if it were it not so he- retical, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If you wonder why seeing women created fully in the image and likeness of God fails to mean seeing them created fully in the image and likeness of Jesus—if this puzzles you or strikes you as bizarre Trinitarian theology—I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If the church’s present practice directly undermines our God’s rela- tional Three-in-Oneness—if a huge patriarchal log is stuck in the eye of the church, worshipping the Father as male, the Son as male, and the Holy Spirit as male—I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If you know that the church’s opposition to the ordination of wom- en is seen—within the church and throughout the world—as affirming the inferiority of women and justifying domestic violence, infanticide, and many other atrocities, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If you understand why so many of the adult faithful are leaving the church in droves over the injustice of women unworthy of priesthood—if a “patriarchal Jesus” is a colossal contradiction—I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If you believe that bishops and theologians need to work together in openness and dialogue on this pressing identity issue we are facing— much like their working together was indispensable at the time of Vati- can II—I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
If you believe that all the other structural reforms you are under- taking will be wanting as long as women are not fully in the likeness of Jesus, I ask you in respect for care and justice within our church to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
Cardinal Maradiaga, is rank injustice in the church to cripple the Christian message forever? Like the reformation of inclusion in the infant church, can you and your fellow bishops see and hear and name what Pope Francis is not able to see and hear and name?
Copy: Pope Francis
John J. Shea, O.S.A.