DELPHOS — When Trina Shultz, a pastoral associate at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church who ministers to the 60 and up age group, heard the Rev. Paul Schloemer speak at her daughter’s church, she knew he would be a great speaker for the women’s group at her church. Schloemer is the vocational director for the Our Lady of Consolation Province of the Conventual Franciscan Friars, located in Louisville, Ky.
“He was just fresh and appealing,” she said. “He was very uplifting and pastoral — into the feelings and emotions of the people.”
Schloemer primarily speaks and leads retreats and conferences on vocational calling. He only speaks about six times a year on other topics.
“Basically, I talk on whatever they want,” he said. “My expertise is in vocational work. This is only the second time I’ve talked on this topic — women priests.”
The first time he gave this talk on women priests, he was at Theology on Tap. This program meets in a local bar.
“It’s part social and part spiritual topic,” explained Schloemer. “The idea is to reach people where they are at, those who would be uncomfortable in a church.”
When Schloemer gave Shultz his list of topics, she chose his talk “Impersona Christi” which explores whether women can be ordained as priests.
“It’s a dialogue about the teaching of the church on the ordination of women,” he said. “It’s a great explanation of the church’s stance on this and the feminist theology that promotes ordination of women and the conflict between the two.”
Shultz explained that the topic appealed to her because it is somewhat of a hot topic in the Roman Catholic Church at the moment, and she felt that a good discussion about both sides of the issue would help people to understand how and why the Catholic Church takes this stand.
“After he got done speaking, I went right up to him to ask for his number,” she said. “Priests often give talks on areas of expertise. We were talking about the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and he said he could talk about women as priests and that sounded like it would be very interesting.”
Schloemer explained that as a friar, he takes the Catholic Church’s stance which is that women cannot be ordained. “As part of the clergy, I’m part of the hierarchy,” he said.
The Catholic Church’s position is that they do not have the authority to ordain women. In an apostolic letter (a document that is written on a doctrinal matter of the church) in 1994, Pope John Paul II made this stance a doctrine. His letter was followed up by a statement by the current pope, Pope Benedict XVI, that this statement was infallible, which means it cannot be changed.
Currently, no Roman Catholic Church has a woman priest. “Even if a bishop ordained a woman,” said Schloemer, “the church would not accept that ordination as valid. Ordination is considered one of the seven sacred sacraments in the church, so the church would see that as the bishop not having the authority to ordain a woman.”
The other side of this issue, the feminist theology, states that the ordination of men is only cultural rather than theological.
“They say that there is no Scriptural basis to deny the ordination of women,” explained Schloemer.
Despite his position with the church on this topic, Schloemer feels it is important to discuss the hard issues.
“When you are a child, it’s okay to believe what your parents believe,” he explained, “but when you get to be an adult, you have to come to terms with your faith. The places that are the most controversial and emotional — that is where you need to be at to really understand your faith.”
He hopes that by talking about this subject, people from both sides of the issue can better understand each other and the person of Christ.
“I hope that those with the conservative view will leave with an understanding of why this topic is so painful for those who are on the other side of this issue,” he said. “I hope those with a more liberal bent will see that it is not a cut and dried issue. The church does wrestle with deep theological issues every day. They don’t make these decisions speciously.”
Schloemer realizes that this talk will not necessarily put an end to the issue for the people in the audience on Monday evening.
“I am not under any allusion that my talk will answer all of their questions,” he said. “I do hope it will help them understand the issue and that their hearts will be more open to God and their own faith.”