By William Markiewicz
A friend, concerned with justice for women and with justice in general, asked my opinion about denying the priesthood to women in the Catholic Church. I believe that those social issues evolve inevitably, though slowly, toward the "golden rule." Nature has a lot of patience and evolution has a reputation for slowness. There is no social life without sets of hierarchies, humans change those sets through evolution or revolution. Animals don't know hierarchical evolutions or revolutions; their behaviour remains frozen forever in instinctive rituals.
Hierarchies depend on the rapport of forces. In mammals the male usually predominates, in insects it's usually the female. Humans, because of their innate creativity, have associated patriarchy with morality and beauty. So, masculine power in mythology, history, arts and letters, is beautifully represented, and also beautifully represented is feminine weakness, in its physical and psychical vulnerability, sensitivity, rules of behaviour, dependence on the male extraverted vigor... Weakness has been prized if attached to femininity. This fashion lasted a long time; generations have been raised in this spirit and nobody even dreamed that this hierarchy would not be immutable forever. But in the Western world, the rapport of forces changed; economically and socially women are not the weaker sex, and physical strength has lost its importance. The ritual relationship of the sexes has also lost its past importance. -- the behaviour of both is equally robust. The charm linked to a specific 'feminine' behaviour is no more in demand. The modern man wouldn't even get the message, those values have the aura of the museum. Behaviour linked to gender has lost its importance; anatomical, (very) visible sexual differences perform the job of attraction. It's less poetic, but even poetry's criteria has changed; now it has to be more or less humorous, sarcastic, 'cool.' Paradoxically certain gay men hold on to the old fashioned 'feminine' charm postures, perhaps an archaic habit. As gender patterns tend to disappear, the distinctions applied till now between men and women may one day be abolished, and not only in the Catholic Church. As for hierarchy itself, it will never disappear from society because the rapport of forces remains forever; the game will continue, only the pawns will not be the same.
Another factor linked to this topic is what I would call the rapport of "intertemporal embedment", the relationship we feel between past and future. It answers the questions: are you contemplative or dynamic, guardian of the past or engineer of the future? Both have coexisted and confronted each other constantly from the beginning of humanity and probably to its end. If the 'contemplative' ones are introverted, entranced by constant revelation of eternal, infinite, immutable cosmic order and beauty, the 'analytical' ones need constant challenge, intellectual gymnastics, restless investigation. They are catalysts of Evolution. The 'contemplatives' see the whole picture, while the 'analysts' -- pieces of the puzzle.
Let's compare their respective functions: if the 'analysts,' predominated, they would, like termites, devour the past and present for the sake of an uninterrupted trend toward change and perfecting. The notion of history with its vestiges and sites, even landscapes, would change constantly. The concept of permanence itself might disappear from dictionaries. Civilisation, not culture, would be honored on the banner of the human termitary .
The 'contemplative' ones if left alone would represent, on a planetary scale, cultural static empires like those of old India, China, Egypt... The 'contemplative' ones would not develop diversity in sciences nor philosophies; everything would be based on empiricism. If the 'analytical' ones triumphed, the computer-mind would rule the world, no humanist values linked to spirituality and sensitivity would persist, no sense of justice, freedom, beauty.... Having both 'contemplatives' and 'analysts', so opposite and complementary, on our world stage, we can find our preferences. We don't have to be the Movers and Shakers of the universe, like those very much involved in those issues. Thus from Actors or Pawns we can become detached Observers --- like gods...
Coming back to the initial topic: the Catholic Church, a monumental, pyramidal structure, cannot afford drastic fluctuations which might shake its very foundations. The Church must avoid extremes in either direction. Too much traditionalism may convert the Church from religion into a sect while too much reform could change the religion to ideology. I think that the Church’s tactic is to alternate conservative and liberal Popes, thus maintaining the balance.