Consider Tradition

A Case for Ordaining Women

As a Southerner, reverence for tradition is part of my inheritance. I cherish the traditions of my ancestors, of my region, and especially of my church. Far from alienating me, an appeal to tradition tends to warm my heart. On the other hand, since I am all too aware, again as a Southerner, of the damage wreaked by the misuse of tradition, I have begun to ponder the meaning and nature of tradition and to look critically at its role in the Christian life. What is it that makes a traditional practice honorable (a fine Southern word), not to mention valid, for a Christian? Is it the fact that we have always done it that way? Or is something more required?

I would like to consider three kinds of tradition, which I would call negative, subsidiary, and Tradition with a capital T. All three are implicated in the current controversy about the refusal of the Roman Catholic church to ordain women to the priesthood.

When I was in high school, our service club occasionally visited different churches on Sunday mornings. One denomination permitted no musical accompaniment for its robust hymn-singing because the organ is not mentioned in the Bible. This is an example of what I would call a negative tradition, one based on something not done, rather than on something done. Such an approach to tradition can be risky. After all, much of the secular and religious activity we take for granted...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Rose Hoover, RC, is on the retreat staff of the Cenacle in Metairie, Louisiana.