Written by Marianne Mansfield
Kate Kelly, the founder of “Ordain Women,” was excommunicated from the LDS Church on Monday. Did this surprise anyone? It didn’t surprise me. And, I’m guessing it didn’t surprise her.
I was raised Roman Catholic, so although I have little understanding of the Mormon Church per se, I have more than a passing familiarity with male-dominated, patriarchal religious hierarchies. The Catholic Church’s refusal to budge on the issue of women in the priesthood is one of the many reasons I left. Where my circumstance varies from Ms. Kelly’s, however, is that I didn’t get booted out.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume the church’s leaders really do want Ms. Kelly to repent and return, as they have publicly professed. They stipulated, though, that she may do so only if she ceases advocating for others to join her in questioning why women aren’t allowed to become priests. They imply that she is free to contemplate questions of faith, but only privately or with her church leaders. Any public espousal of differences of opinion constitutes apostasy, which leads to proselytizing.
That’s how I read their position. If my memory serves me correctly, we heard similar arguments from the now-retired Pope Benedict XVI, and as recently as September 2013 from the current Pope Francis
. He declared the “door closed” to women in the priesthood.
In the case of both churches, the underlying doctrinal rationale that strongly implied, but not verbalized, is that God just doesn’t want women as clergy. In fact, if God wanted it to be so, He would communicate that to the church leaders (all male, ironically), who could then carry out God’s desires.
Let’s see how that logic plays out in other instances in history and current times for us. A higher power somewhere must not have wanted women to vote in this country until 1920. A higher power must not have wanted a woman to lead the good ole US of A, although that same power seems to have okayed it for countries like England, Australia, Germany, and Brazil, to name but a few.
A higher power must have determined that male-dominated legislatures are better qualified to decide about the health and surgical services available to the weaker sex. A higher power must have decided that for the time being, oppression, slavery, genital mutilation, and rape are just hunky-dory.
The powers that be, however, both religious and secular, have assured us that they’ll keep checking with their higher powers, and if anything changes, they’ll get right back to us.
So, Kate Kelly and the rest of us should be content to know that our best interests are being protected by those who have a direct channel to The Higher Power.
You’ll understand if I remain skeptical.
Women’s rights have never emerged simply because men thought it might be a good idea to loosen their grip on their sources of power. Sharing just isn’t a common behavior when one group holds power and another suffers because of it.
Change has been affected only after hard-fought wars for equality, often with accompanying loss of life. Although men are represented in the ranks of those who advocate for women’s issues, and we welcome them, it is the passionate fury of women that dismantles the walls of discrimination, one brick at a time. These are walls, unfortunately, that continue to be thrown up, and that people like Kate Kelly continue to challenge.
The recent decision of the LDS Church regarding Ms. Kelly is a setback, but not a surprise. Her decision to appeal her excommunication signals the fact that the Church hasn’t heard the last of her. Moreover, the grassroots movement Strangers in Zion
has now advised its members to seek church discipline for themselves as they stand in solidarity for those whom they believe have been wrongly excommunicated or otherwise disciplined. The next salvo has been fired.
Kate Kelly may have been devastated by the decision to excommunicate her, but she hasn’t been silenced. There are many of us out here who are cheering her on. It’s a big wall she’s charging, but it isn’t impenetrable.