|Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, S.J.|
Problems of discrimination and exclusion are so manifest within the Catholic community today that the church “totters on the brink of compromising its self-identity as the basic sacrament of salvation,” a theologian told his peers here Friday. Speaking frankly to some 300 colleagues assembled for an annual meeting of the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA), Jesuit Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator said that of particular concern is the disregarded role of women in the church. Saying that women are often the “face of redemption turned visibly” toward those the church serves, but are often “banished beyond the borders of relevance,” Orobator said the state of their participation in the church community leads to an uncomfortable question.
“As a church, so long as we surreptitiously but tenaciously rehearse the politics of discrimination and exclusion, we stand before God, as Cain was, befuddled by a question that we simply cannot wish away at the wave of a magisterial wand,” said Orobator.
“And the question is: ‘Church, where is your sister? Church where is your mother?’” Orobator’s comments came in a plenary session Friday morning during the four-day CTSA convention. The 67th annual gathering of the group, the theme for this year’s event is “Sacrament/s and the Global Church.” Orobator is a native Nigerian who now teaches at the Jesuit School of Theology and Institute of Peace Studies in Nairobi, Kenya and also serves as the head of the Eastern Africa province of Jesuits, which encompasses Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Titling his talk “A Global Sign of Outward Growth: the Sacramentality of the World Church in the Era of Globalization,” Orobator covered a wide-range of topics, focusing on the meaning of the sacraments and the church’s sacramentality in a global context. Orobator’s addressing of the role of women in the church came after the priest said that while the liturgical reforms passed during the Second Vatican Council prioritized “active participation and wide inclusivity” of lay people in the church, they are “in reality, however … used by some to warrant exclusion of women from sacramental ministry and leadership.” Following his remarks on the role of women, Orobator also questioned a number of other areas where, he said, the church doesn’t reflect its notion of sacramentality.
“On the evidence of current events, this ‘socially constituted,’ hierarchically regimented, dogmatically policed, and clerically asphyxiated community called church increasingly signifies hurt and pain for some people of God on account of their vulnerability,
silence and intimidation for others on account of their honest engagement in the venerable task of fides quarens intellectum, and exclusion and marginalization for many, very many, on account of their gender, race, or social location."