Twenty-five years ago I delivered the McDougall Lecture at the Cathedral of the Madeleine. Some modest part of that essay recommended that it is time and beyond time to ordain women to both the Mormon and Catholic traditions and, by implication, all other faiths. A productive firestorm erupted that continues still. How tragic, how brutal, how disconnected to real people with real hearts, real children, dear mates to be so abused as the Mormon church discards with no more than a pious statement, or simply a sniff, their best and brightest.
I’ve said before that Mormon leadership all too often reflects an anti-Darwinism, that is, the survival of the least fit, by cultivating a culture that obeys leadership with no sense of the necessity of checking any act of leadership with one’s own brain, one’s own agency. This tendency,if unchecked, will produce at least two terrible results: poor leadership at the top and right on down the ecclesiastical ladder. Second, leadership will continue to boast of growing membership but it will be looking only at those coming in the church’s front door but not noting those exiting the back door either formally, or just by staying home on Sunday, de facto un-churched.
Mormons need not fear its loving critics. Mormonism, Catholicism, and all faith traditions really should be terrified at the prospect that huge numbers now see churches as irrelevant to their lives. People who engage their leadership quite obviously care very much about their faith, or they would not give such enormous time and energy to help, as they see it,their churches. The really scary elephant in the room is apathy. An even scarier specter is when hundreds of thousands of members, each year, determine that perhaps, just perhaps we really don’t need priests or bishops to mediate between God and all of us. We can, after all, talk directly to God and cut out the middleman and his ten percent finder’s fee. Women should hold any priesthood for which they qualify by abiding neutral rules. And priests and sisters should have the god-given right to choose marriage or celibacy, as they choose, by serious thought and by prayer.There is nothing in holy writ that requires that men mediate God to women.