The same weekend as the "ordinations," I joined 30 fellow lay Catholics gathered in Birmingham, Ala., for a sold-out retreat at the Casa Maria convent. The retreat is run by a group of Dominican-Franciscan (they follow both saintly models) religious sisters. Now in their 18th year as an order, the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word are as far away as one can imagine from that scene in Boston.
"As an active woman religious working in the field of retreats and catechesis in the Bible Belt South, I have to say that I am far too busy . . . to feel slighted by the fact that the priesthood is not open to women," insists Sister Louise Marie, a member of the order. She suggests that if Catholics and non-Catholics understood what a "powerful role women religious have," they would never "feel sorry for [us]."
I could write about how much I agree with Sister Louise Marie and ultimately with Kathryn Lopez about how being a busy, happy, faithful Catholic woman doesn't leave you much time for disgruntled speculations about how Our Lord would have ordained women if Constantine and the Council of Trent and Dan Brown and Leonardo da Vinci and Tom Hanks hadn't formed their cabalistic conspiracy to keep Him from doing so (wait...have I got that right?). But I've got to brag about family, first: one of my younger sisters is a nun at Casa Maria! I can tell you that Ms. Lopez is right about them, too: they're a vibrant young order of happy orthodox sisters who care way more about doing God's work than engaging in a tired old Marxist-feminist power struggle over the priesthood, which doesn't really respect God's plan or the Church's laws or the ancient ties to the sacrificial nature of the priesthood or anything else except the feminists' own peeved sense that somehow, somewhere, some man is doing something that women don't get to do.
I hope Ms. Lopez is right in saying that the womenpriest movement may be dying out; certainly, the average ages of those faces behind the tie-dyed chasubles would support that theory. But I've got an idea of how the Church can approach these ladies to bring them back into the fold: we can let them start their own religious order. No, they can't be priests or offer the Mass; but the order will allow them fifteen minutes a day to complain about the unfairness of it all in between doing good works and caring for the poor, sick, and needy. They can be called the Sisters of Persistent Grievances, or something; but that fifteen minute daily limit will have to be strictly enforced, lest they spend more time complaining than actually doing the Lord's work.