In a homily entitled “…and Mary was welcomed,” preached at the Pax Christi National Assembly on 22 July, retired Detroit Auxiliary Bishop His Excellency Most Reverend Thomas Gumbleton opined that there are Scriptural arguments in support of the ordination of women.
Because of them, he holds, the Church should rethink its opposition.
There’s more. Bp. Gumbleton did acknowledge that one can cite contrary Scriptural passages!
Among these, are two from St Paul:
"Let women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted them to speak, but to be subject, as also the law saith." (1 Cor 14:34 D-R)
"Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to use authority over the man: but to be in silence." (1 Tim 2:11-12 D-R).
Nevertheless, Bp. Gumbleton believes there are passages in the New Testament that counteract these passages and that open the door for women’s ordination, among them those that speak of women in teaching roles and women who offered hospitality in their homes to the Apostles.
(Hmmm, those texts seem compelling!)
But the bishop thinks that the strongest pro-ordination argument may come from last Sunday’s Gospel (Ordinary Time’s 16th Sunday), concerning Martha and Mary. He makes much of the fact that Mary was seated at Jesus’ feet and that this is the position reserved for male disciples!
“We have today’s gospel, Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus as a disciple would, and in that time, only a man would.”
(Okay, I’m convinced!!)
But I think we can do better than this in our use of Scripture in order to become the Really Cool and Relevant Church.
Why stop with the ordination of women??
The same Gumbletonian scriptural hermeneutics used to challenge Holy Mother Church’s doctrine on the inadmissibility of women to Holy Orders can be used to challenge the Church’s doctrine of the inadmissibility of animals to the Holy Communion.
Of course, we wouldn’t be the first Christian "Church" to give form of communion to animals.
Anglicans have already beat us there, just as they already "ordain" women to the priesthood.
But at least we don’t have to drag our feet for animal communion as we have with women’s ordination!!
However, in order to find biblical reasons for giving Communion to animals, we first have to offset those passages that seem to oppose the idea.
As usual Bishop Gumbleton has lead the way! He shows us how to find passages countering St. Paul’s admonition that women should should be quiet in church.
After all, Scripture commands us … JESUS commands us "nolite dare sanctum canibus… Give not that which is holy to dogs" (Matthew 7:6).
Can we justify admitting Fido to Holy Communion in the face of that biblical reproach?
Just as Bishop Gumbleton cited the passage in which Mary sits at Jesus’ feet – something that in that time only a man would do – as reason for ordaining women, so too we can cite biblical passages that urge us to give the Eucharist to animals.
“Jesus said… Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them.” (Matthew 6:26 D-R).
“Who giveth to beasts their food: and to the young ravens that call upon him.” (Psalm 147:9 D-R).
We need to remember that the Word did not descend only into human being (man AND woman). Indeed, the Bible refers to Christ as “the Lamb of God … who taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29 D-R).
Moreover, early Christian art frequently depicted Jesus as a – wait for it – a lamb and as a fish.
Didn’t St Francis love animals? St. Anthony of Padua preached to fish! Who can forget St. Bernard and those dogs.
It’s time for us to get over our species-centrism!
Stop the discrimination, say I!
Stop barring animals from receiving the Eucharist!