Friday, April 02, 2004
Being God's spouse Discussing elsewhere online today the metaphor of marriage as traditionally applied between Christ and the Church, or between the priest and the Church. As a person of artistic sensibility, I appreciate this metaphor. If I were ordained, I would probably have a keen liking and deeper understanding of it from a sense of the priest-parish relationship, especially at Mass. But the use of such a metaphor has limitations in theological applications. The Vatican has denied the possibility of ordaining a woman, in part because it would violate the bridegroom-Church relationship to have a woman standing in the role of the person who is our Bridegroom. This goes too far. Holy Orders are a given in the Catholic Church. A full understanding of this sacrament is a mystery to human beings. The image of priest as Christ and Bridegroom is not a literal reality. It helps us understanding something of the sacrament, but it does not contain the fullness of the meaning. Some, but not all, aspects of this relationship are similar to marriage. But to reverse the logic and say that the metaphors are running the show does a disservice to both theology as well as the sacrament. Likewise, the concept of banning homosexuals from the ordained priesthood gets some attempted mileage out of this argument. A gay man cannot be a bridegroom to a woman, hence, he cannot be a priest, hence he shouldn't be ordained, and hence, if we've made a mistake in ordaining him, we should kick him out of the clergy on his duff. Not buying, for the same reasons as above. This kind of theological/artistic proof-texting is an empty exercise. If you don't think women should be ordained, fine. But find some good theological reasons for your position. And if you think gays shouldn't be priests, you have to come up with something better than the bridegroom metaphor.