After Mass this evening, I drove round to Fr Stephen Boyle's parish of the Good Shepherd in New Addington to give the first in a series of talks for young adults. The theme was "The male priesthood and the theology of gender". In preparation, I used two previous pieces that I did some years ago. One was a talk in 1992 to the Kings College Catholic Society on the question of women priests. It was interesting to see that it was given shortly after the decision of the Church of England to ordain women priests. The other was an editorial I wrote for Faith Magazine in 1997: Male and Female: does it matter?. (The link takes you to the EWTN library which has stored the article.)
The question has moved on quite a bit in the last nine years. When I wrote the editorial, it would have seemed rather "extreme" to suggest that people would regard "gender" as something merely contingent rather than being a necessary aspect of our created human nature. The question of the theology of gender is now one of the most important challenges to the Church. The women priests question is something of a side-issue in this wider debate. If being male or female has no essential meaning, then the question of women priests is already settled. And if the Church maintains on the contrary that our gender is an intrinsic part of our being a human person, then those who do not accept this will likely rail angrily against this rather then the specific question of women priests.
Excellent company this evening and some lively and helpful discussion. The young people were all eager to promote the teaching of the Church and we were mainly focussed on the most effective way to do this.
(Fr Stephen used the services of Flyerboy to produce promotional postcards for the series of talks. This is something I must get into!)