Senior presents capstone about ordination of women

By The Beacon | April 13, 2011 9:00pm

(Sarah Hansell -- The Beacon)

By Sarah Hansell, Staff Writer --

On Tuesday, senior Elisabeth Loren stood behind a podium and presented her Founder's Day senior capstone project on one of the most controversial subjects in the Catholic Church – the ordination of women as priests.

Her faculty advisor, Sister Kathleen McManus, OP, announced that Loren did not want an introduction. Loren introduced herself before launching into her presentation, which explained the Church's long-standing opposition to becoming priests.

As a theology major and social justice minor, Loren was interested in women's roles in the church. Her passion really began to grow when she took McManus' "The Mysticism of Resistance," a theology class about gender roles.

"Her interests were in the role of women in the Church and justice for women in the Church," McManus said. "She was drawn to narrow it down to women's ordination in the Roman Catholic Church."

Loren said she had seen other theology capstones that were just regurgitations of classes the seniors had taken. She wanted her project to be more original and to be about something that mattered to her, which is how she landed on women's ordination.

"It was more my own," Loren said. "It was something I was passionate about."

In Loren's presentation, she went over the documents that stated the Church's reasons for not allowing women to be ordained as priests. The reasons included keeping with the age-old tradition and the fact that Jesus was incarnated as a man and did not call any women to be one of His Twelve Apostles. These documents can be hard to understand, so it was Loren's goal to make them clear for her audience.

"You're pretty much decoding something in another language," Loren said.

Loren responded to the Church's reasons with both historical evidence and references from the Bible. She talked about how before ordination existed, women performed functions now reserved for priests. She also talked about how Jesus called both men and women to follow Him.

"I thought it was interesting that she argued with the Church with its own documents," audience member and freshman Will Cooper said.

She also talked about the inequality of denying a woman the right to be a priest if she feels called to the priesthood.

"Prohibiting women from fulfilling their calling from God is an injustice," Loren said in her presentation.

Some audience members were extremely supportive of Loren and the movement for women's ordination.

"Presently it's something I think that a lot of people in the church haven't thought about, so I think it's great we have people like Elisabeth," junior Andrew Lundquist said.

Others agree and have their own views as to why women should be allowed to join the priesthood.

"I used to be against ordination of women until I heard Sister Kathleen talk about feminist theology," sophomore Edith Guerrero said. "(Jesus) actually came to liberate women, not oppress them."

Loren said there were many different opinions about this issue among faculty, staff and students, which gave her an opportunity for good discussion.

"With such a strong connection with Holy Cross I knew off the bat there would be some resistance from the priests," Loren said. "(But) I never encountered somebody telling me I can't do it."

Although women's ordination is something Loren feels passionate about, she does not think it will happen in her lifetime, and she believes the change needs to be gradual and brought on by conversation and discussion.

"Change takes time," Loren said in her presentation. "My opinion is that the next and continuing step is education."