Speaks at Vanderbilt Divinty School
UPDATE -- February 19, 2010 -- Video of Bishop Joan Houk's talk at Vanderbilt University Divinity School http://www.vanderbilt.edu/divinity/lecture_20100202.php
I was at Bishop Joan Houk’s talk last evening at Vanderbilt. It was really my first up close experience with the issue of the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church. I came away very impressed.
Bishop Joan impressed me, first of all, as a woman with both feet firmly planted on the ground. She seems to have done all things well. She is still very happily married celebrating fifty years with her husband. She talked about her six children and grandchildren and now two great grandchildren. She has taught grade school. She has been involved in the mission of the Roman Catholic Church working in priestless counties in Kentucky. She has the academic qualifications expected of priesthood candidates today.
I think I was most impressed when she departed from the prepared text and talked of her own passion for the equality of women. She spoke of her experience working in a women’s shelter with battered, abused and raped women. She linked this experience to the Roman Catholic Church and the many ways in which the church directly and indirectly treats women as inferior. The church is complicit in the abuse of women.
Bishop Joan seemed challenged and said she would think about a comment made to her from a man in the audience who is a lawyer suggesting she needed to get tougher in her approach to the church. You know, maybe knocking the bishop’s hat off. She offered that this was not her approach. What she did say, and what resonated with me, is that what really needs to be done is to get the story out. Bishop Joan and the other womenbishops and womenpriests are doing a ministry rooted in the gospel.
This is what also impressed me. Bishop Joan talked about how she already was doing the things a priest would do before she was ordained. Those things were rooted in her day to day experience, like the day she went to visit one of her sick sixth grader’s in the hospital and prayed for him and laid hands on him even though a “real” priest was in the background. She is the one who had the personal connection with the student. I think our present idea of ordination and who can do priestly things is too constricted.
Benedict and some of his bishops can try to build higher and higher walls to keep women like Bishop Joan Houk out. I see a rising tide against all these walls. I’d like to call it grace or the work of the Holy Spirit. This was a very good, even historic evening, at least for me.