If I'm an atheist, does it make sense to criticize the Catholic church for practices such as the exclusion of female priests? Suppose that a Catholic authority replies to such criticism by saying that there is strong Biblical evidence to show that priests must be male. Since I am an atheist, I may be unpersuaded by this argument, and still insist that the church would be more just if it gave women equal status with men. But then, if I reject this Biblical argument it seems that I may as well reject Catholicism itself.
In other words, I think there is something strange in the suggestion that Catholics should improve their religious practice by incorporating certain progressive reforms. The justification of these reforms often seems arise of a view that would invalidate, not just the allegedly objectionable practices at issue, but religion altogether. Practices such as the exclusion of female priests may strike me as irrational, but then why should I care if I think that Catholicism quite generally is irrational to begin with? Put differently, it seems that if we accept that it is reasonable for others to practice Catholicism, we then have no grounds to object to particular aspects of their practice. We can't simply pick and choose for them.