I recently attended a conference on women in the church. During one panel, two young Catholic women sought to present the Church’s teachings on women and gender through an orthodox perspective, offering advice and ideas on the roles of women in the Church. One woman stated that she would not be discussing the issue of women’s ordination, as it was not germane to her paper. Her co-panelist did the same, quoting Pope Francis’s statement that the door to women’s ordination “is closed”.
But despite these caveats, the first two questions raised after their presentations involved the issue of women’s ordination. The second question is a common one for the generation preceding the panelists, “Why can’t we ask these questions? Why are we being shut down on the question of women’s ordination in the Church?”
These questions, posed by a theology professor, manifest the infantile intellectualism of the American university. It reveals the modern university’s distain for answers. For, these questions have been asked, an answer has been given, and now some detest the fact that they have been given it. They have knocked, and a door has been opened. The problem is that the door doesn’t look like what they wanted it to, and now they’re running around the building trying to find another way in.
The relationship of many Catholic theology professors to this question reveals not only a common rejection of the “paternalism” of the Church: it also expresses a revulsion against the idea that, when we ask a question, we might actually get an answer. And that answer may not be the one we wanted. Of course, this is one thing that has always attracted me to Catholicism. It’s a house of many rooms, but it won’t let me bust holes into the walls if I don’t like the door given to me. It’s fine (and quite good) to ask questions; just don’t be surprised when you actually get an answer.
To suggest that those who continue to ask the question are engaging in an “infantile intellectualism” merely because they didn’t like the answer given, is to assume that the answer given is the correct answer and those asking are now just behaving like petulant children. However, I would posit that there is just as likely a possibility that they continue to ask not because they do not “like” the answer given, but because they believe the answer could be in error. Thus the asking would be considered “intellectual rigor” rather than “infantilism.” And, lest one argue that the response could never be in error, let us remember occasions of recent memory when the Church has apologized for its intellectual missteps of the past.
Let me add, I’m not saying yea or nay to the issue at hand, I’m merely arguing that to say, in effect, “you’ve been given an answer, now sit down and shut up,” is no more an intellectually mature response than the type of question-asking that is chastised in this post.