New legal thriller Created Equal goes where no other lawyer dramas have gone: inside the Catholic Church’s continued condemnation of the ordination of women. Could a woman who wants to become a priest use the law to her advantage? We talked to author R.A. Brown about whether the church might ever change its ways, what the legal issues are, and how modern Catholics feel about female priesthood.
We obviously support ordaining women, but why do you think it’s particularly important?
In order for one to be a priest, that person first must have a calling to the vocation from God. Let’s take two people who both have the calling and are both spiritual and essentially have all the traits to be a successful priest. The church, however, and not God, says one is qualified and the other is not solely because of the lack of male genitals. That is the only difference between the two people. What does the presence of a penis have to do with being a priest when a priest is forbidden to use it in a sexual manner anyway? There are no male genitals involved in the performance of priestly duties, so why the qualification? Unless God has instructed otherwise, man is interfering with a calling from God, which doesn’t make any sense and is discrimination on the highest level.
Based on your research for this book, what, if anything, do you think could change the Catholic church’s mind on this issue?
This is a teaching that is born not out of the teaching of Jesus, but out of papal proclamation through the centuries. The present pope has put the ordination of women by a bishop in the same category as pedophilia by a priest! He obviously will not change his mind. So what change, if any, would have to come from future popes? This could only be achieved by bringing the issue to the forefront and debating the inherent sense of it all. The church has a dogma that no Catholic can disagree with, and that is men and women have equal value in the eyes of God. Another dogma that Catholics may not disagree with is that only men can be priests. The first was taught by Jesus and the second by a pope. First of all, is there a conflict between the two? If so, which should predominate? This is not an issue that the church cares to discuss, and awareness can only be achieved by the Catholic faithful.
Could a woman actually sue in the U.S. for the right to become a priest?
I believe a woman could sue the church for gender discrimination without just cause. In my book, I lay out a credible story of a woman who does just that. A very conservative member of the Catholic clergy confided to me after reading the book that he was quite concerned that my book might trigger such an event.
So how does the church still justify excluding women when no other entities are even legally allowed to do so?
The Catholic Church defends its position on this issue not because of what Jesus Christ said or did, but what he didn’t do. It is their position that since Jesus did not name one of his first apostles as a woman, he meant women should be barred from the priesthood forever. There are a number of valid reasons why he might not have named a woman as an apostle. For example, during his time woman were considered little more than slaves. To put a woman in a position of hierarchy would have been unthinkable. Clearly the customs of the times could have driven his inaction and when the times and customs changed, so would the prohibition of women from the priesthood have changed. There are many more possible reasons I raise in my book and what I perceive to be the answers to them by the church. Remember, there would only have to be one credible reason for Jesus not to have named a woman as an apostle other than to bar them forever for the church’s position to collapse.
How do modern Catholics feel about women in the priesthood?
The Catholics I have talked to seem evenly split on the matter.