Dear Cardinal Nichols,
Blessed Advent! — “Come and set us free, Lord God of power and might.”
I hope you are well and that your staff lets you read the enclosed letters. I write to share a perspective on the explanation we have on the ontological-theological status of women in the church—the status that blocks their ordination to the priesthood.
The bishops remain silent on the status of women in the church— perhaps out of loyalty, or acceptance, or fear, or ignorance, or the need to get along. The priests remain silent on this status—perhaps out of loyalty, or acceptance, or fear, or ignorance, or the need to get along. The mandatum theologians, even if they have the necessary expertise in theology and human development, remain silent on this status—perhaps out of loyalty, or acceptance, or fear, or the need to get along.
It seems rather clear that this complicit silence is helping no one— not women, not the faithful, not the pope and the other bishops, not the priests, not the theologians. Every day this silence keeps the church from honestly addressing the huge global challenges of pastoral ministry. Every day this silence writes off huge numbers of the faithful who leave an archaic, obtuse, deaf and dumb, dehumanizing, self-referential institution which they no longer trust and in which they no longer hope.
If you as a bishop—and as a teacher in the church—can address the body-and-soul status of women in the church—if you know in your heart that this is a wall that needs a door—I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.
John J. Shea, O.S.A.