Women Priests in the Catholic Church?

On the Ordination of Women, Pt. I

The Catholic Church in the modern world has faced numerous petitions to alter her doctrine in regard to several theological and moral matters. The ordination of women is amongst such petitions, particularly after the Second Vatican Council. Several Protestant religious traditions have authorized women ministers and preachers. Many churches in the Anglican Communion already permit women to serve at the altar. The Catholic Church is virtually alone, with the sole exception of the Eastern Orthodox, in her commitment to an exclusively male priesthood. Despite these realities, the late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II solemnly declared in his apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis “…the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” Despite the Holy Father’s attempt to reaffirm the Church’s tradition of male-only priests, the question, at least in debate, still remains. Despite the sincerity of advocates for conferring the sacrament of ministerial priesthood on women, theologically and doctrinally it is impossible. Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) too has reiterated that the church teaching regarding women’s ordination is “founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.”

It seems that the current debate over women’s ordination cannot be viewed apart from its historical context – at a time, in which the movement for women’s rights in terms of socio-political opportunities in society is animated and enduring. The Papal “No” by Deborah Halter fully brings this point to life. She examines the reasoning of the Church in regard to the sacrament of Holy Orders and attempts to make a case against it. Halter ultimately rejects traditional Christian anthropology and the ontological difference between men and women. Or at the very least, one may argue she dismisses it as irrelevant to the question of priestly ordination. Halter demands that women be elevated from “subordination to ordination.” She finds it dubious that there are “…seven sacraments for a man, but only six for a woman.”

The problem with such an assertion is that it is framed in a contemporary “equal rights” feminist perspective, not a theological perspective. It is definitive Catholic teaching that “no one has a right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Indeed, no one claims this office for himself; he is called to it by God.”

Moreover, such a rejection of the Catholic view of the human person complicates matters because a clear Christian anthropology is related to the sacrament of the priesthood. In some respect, much of the Church’s teaching, if not all of it, is grounded in what she teaches is revealed truth about the nature of the human person and the difference between man and woman in God’s divine plan. Additionally, the debate over ordination begs a more fundamental question: what precisely is a priest? A priest, in Catholic theology, is a man who has received the sacrament of Holy Orders, which is a call by Christ and the gift of “a special grace of the Holy Spirit, so that he may serve as Christ’s instrument for his Church. By ordination one is enabled to act as a representative of Christ, Head of the Church, in his triple office of priest, prophet, and king.” The priest is a sacrament—not just a sign that makes visible the invisible, but a medium by which God confers his grace. The priest acts and exists in persona Christi, that is, “in the Person of Christ.” The priest is, as it were, a stand-in for Jesus Christ, the High Priest described in the Letter to the Hebrews. The priest represents Christ, who Himself was a twofold representative as mediator; Christ is us [man] to God and God to us [man]. Jesus Chris is the ultimate sacrament of God and the priest represents, and is, this sacrament that is Christ Himself.

Sr. Sara Butler in The Catholic Priesthood and Womenpresents the issue of women’s ordination as settled: women cannot properly be ordained to the ministerial priesthood. The heart of her thesis is that the disagreement on the issue of women’s ordination is often a disagreement on the priesthood—whether it is a social or sacramental reality. The “social” understanding is an improper understanding of the priesthood as an office of leadership that women can claim equality with men. This is often the understanding when advocates of women priests refer to the Pope and the Magisterium as the Church “hierarchy.” This view takes little notice of the priesthood as a divinely instituted office of the New Covenant, in which, the priest is a sacrament of Christ, through whom God confers His grace upon the world. Instead, this view sees priestly minister as a “career,” or a type of religious leadership, out of the context of vocation, which in turn leads to a view that the Church’s exclusion of women “is based upon ‘sex’ taboo.” Sr. Butler astutely highlights Pope John Paul II’s teaching on the dignity and vocation of women. She argues there is no special status or power or reign in the priesthood. Rather, priests are the lowliest because they have in a special way taken on Christ’s role as the servant of all—“to reign is to serve.” Sr. Butler emphatically makes the case that reserving ordination for men does “not imply a negative judgment on women” because the Church, regards men and women as equals in Christ, but this does not in any way support the notion that “the equalization of rights requires the identical treatment of women and men.”

The differences between men and women are not the sole reason the Church withholds priestly ordination from women, but it is essential to understanding why women cannot be ordained as priests. If one considers the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Roman Catholicism gives such reverence to her person in relation to her place in the economy of salvation and personal holiness that many Protestants suspect that Catholics worship rather than honor her. Yet despite her status as t he Mother of God, Mary is absent from the table—as is the case of all women—when Jesus instituted the Eucharist (ordaining the Apostles) and does not receive the specific charisms given to the Apostles at the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. From a Catholic perspective, the fact that Mary wasn’t called to the ministerial priesthood does nothing to diminish her feminine dignity of the world of her role in God’s plan of salvation.

C.S. Lewis in his essay Priestesses in the Church makes a case against women’s ordination in the Anglican church on the basis of the difference between men and women and keeping with Christian tradition. Lewis inquires, “Why should a woman not in this sense [as a priest] represent God?…she may be as ‘God-like’ as a man.” Lewis in his answer to his own question suggests that one look at the question the other way around. If one were to say God is Mother instead of Father, or suppose that the Incarnation of God had taken on a female form instead of male, which would mean that the Second Person of the Trinity would be referred to as “the Daughter,” the first instinct, Lewis thinks, is to accept it. At first glance, there seems to be no reason not to. God is not a biological being characterized by gender. However, Lewis argues a more careful consideration leads to the realization that carrying through this imagery would lead to the reversal of the role of Christ as the bridegroom and the Church as the bride, and in the end, one would say this is a “different religion” with its own symbolism and theological context.

More importantly, Lewis emphasizes that there is an objective nature to gender. The idea of manliness and womanliness is not wholly a social construct, but rather, there is a fundamental reality in human nature that makes men and women inherently different. Cultural norms only recognize these differences and translates them into societal gender roles; it is not the vice versa. In Genesis, it is written that “make and female, He created them.” Men and woman are equal as they have the same causation, but as “male and female” they are different.

Lewis’ ideas are expressly consistent with Catholic theological anthropology remarkably expounded upon by Pope John Paul II, after St. Edith Stein’s attempt in harmonizing phenomenology and Thomism, which highlights the difference between men and women. St. Edith Stein in her writings sought to demonstrate that a difference in body constitutes a difference in spirit, that is, the soul is not unisex. The difference in body structures lead men and women to different lived experiences—emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and so forth. For example, a woman is created—ontologically—for motherhood. Women are created n such a way that gives rise to psychological, spiritual, and emotional characteristics that would be necessary for motherhood; this is true even if a woman has no children, she has still the capacity for maternal love in spiritual motherhood. Obviously from this perspective, a man can never, even with the best imitation, be a mother.

Given the understanding that “manhood” and “womanhood” do not reflect solely the body, but the soul as well, the question of the priesthood can be looked at rather differently.

Jesus of Nazareth, God incarnate, was not just a human, but he was a man. Given this, only a man may properly obtain the sacrament of the priesthood—a sign of God in the flesh, masculinity personified. God, the bridegroom, Who gives and provides for His wife, the Church, the mother, bearer, and nurturer. This, physically and sacramentally, confirms the imagery used throughout all of scripture from God and Israel in the Old Testament to Christ and the Church in the New Testament.

It is agreed that Jesus chose only men to be His Apostles. Had he wanted women apostles, He would have chosen them. Otherwise, Lewis argues,  one would have to make the absurd case that God Himself was restrained from a necessary, perhaps even just, action because of cultural taboos despite the fact that Jesus lived a countercultural life. In fact, no time favored the creation of women priests more, as a great number of pagan religions had priestesses and it would have been perfectly normal, perhaps, even natural for Jesus to choose women—the Gentiles surely would not have objected, if the Jews did. There were prophetesses in the Old Testament. Why not priestesses?

Lewis eloquently points to an often forgotten fact. Christians do not call God “Father” because of the influence from a patriarchal, anti-women society. God Himself became incarnate and taught us to call Him “our Father.” God the Son chose the image of “son” to describe Himself. God has chosen how man should speak to Him and of Him. This is consequential; moreover, it is from the priestly traditions of the Old Testament that God would create His new ministerial priesthood. From Lewis’ perspective, which would indicate also the Catholic position, to dismiss Christian anthropology— literally the symbolism used in Scripture and written all over the human person—is irrational. Ultimately, the argument in favor of women’s ordination reduces the scriptures in their richness. One must argue that the nuptial imagery of notion of gender roles are not inspired, but of human origin, or at best, arbitrary and unessential. This is not an acceptable Christian view.

In many ways, the argument in favor of women’s ordination must dismiss scriptural authority by reducing biblical text to writings that assist man in attaining salvation, but despite its divine inspiration, majorly lacks in a comprehensive view of the human person because the authors at the time could not possibly have a coherent view of the human person without the scientific understanding and historical criticism available today.  Christian tradition, as follows, is nothing more than a mere continuity of this tragic, flawed way of thinking, thus it must be reserved. The two sources of Divine Revelation—Scripture and Tradition—are entirely trustworthy and both inaccurate on the matter. Therefore, the argument is self-defeating.

In the end, the argument in favor of the ordination of women is an argument against Christianity. The Holy Spirit has not been with the Church for the last two thousand years because the Church has taught falsehood and deception about the sacraments, about the nature of man, and what God has revealed. If this is true then, any advocate of women’s ordination is misplacing their efforts. If their case is true, why should Catholics make women priests instead of work to abolish Christianity?

106 Responses to Women Priests in the Catholic Church?

  • It seemed fitting that since I officially earned a degree in Theology, my return from the slumps of non-activity should have something to do with God and His Church directly.

  • An excellent post. I look forward to reading the follow-up (it is part 1, right?). I hadn’t read the essay of Lewis, but I want to read it now.

  • Great post! I’ll be sure to share it with all my inquiring non-Catholic friends interested in the subject.

  • Wonderful. The issue is settled. Nothing against women- essay should have listed the outstanding lay and religious ladies who have buttressed the Church throughout Her (capital H) history. But closed case.

  • I don’t think the difficultly is with seeing the sacramental reality of Holy Orders or at least that difficultly is easily overcome with basic catechesis. The greater difficulty that supporters of women ordination have is in seeing why God would want to restrict the priesthood to men.

    Unlike other teachings which have a natural law justification or at least a “He does it because He loves us” justification, an all-man priesthood seems somewhat arbitrary on God’s part.

  • It seemed fitting that since I officially earned a degree in Theology, my return from the slumps of non-activity should have something to do with God and His Church directly.

    Watch it. Most of your co-bloggers have written off theology and theologians wholesale.

    And by the way, the Church has forbidden us to talk about women priests, so I’ll have to report you to your ordinary….

  • Gerard E.,
    Her (capital H) history.

    Her history, exactly. The Church is the bride of CHrist, the priest, acts in persona Christi is married to the bride… Perfect. No lesbians priestesses.

    Unlike other teachings which have a natural law justification or at least a “He does it because He loves us” justification, an all-man priesthood seems somewhat arbitrary on God’s part.

    no more arbitrary than the fact that man can not bear children.

    Michael I.

    hes not talking about women priests (how can one talk of something which doesn’t exist, never exists, nor could it ever exist). He is reiterating the teaching that it can not occur, what is forbidden is to explore the false notion that it could be done.

  • Actually RR it has always struck me that God is quite arbitrary by human standards. One people, the Jews, granted revelation from God. One generation in a backwater province of the Roman Empire granted the privilege of seeing God in His human incarnation. God being born as a man rather than a woman. God being born as a Jew rather than into some other creed. Those of us lucky enough to be born into the Faith. Of course when humans act arbitrarily they often act unjustly. In regard to God I think that what we perceive to be arbitrary is not so if we could perceive with the mind of God which of course is completely beyond us on Earth.

  • Not allowed. Can’t talk about it.

  • Great post Don.
    Fr. John Pacheco wrote a very good paper on the same subject a year or two ago – can’t recall right now the website its on. But I took a couple of copies of it and had a face-to-face with a couple of local feminist activists for female ordination.
    Result – red faces and venom.
    Loved it :-)

  • no more arbitrary than the fact that man can not bear children.

    A specialized gender for childbearing makes sense from a biological efficiency standpoint. But a specialized gender for the priesthood? There’s no biological reason why it should be so.

    Donald R. McClarey,

    Yes, but in those instances we say that God blessed or favored a people. So then is the correct way of looking at the priesthood an exclusive blessing upon the male gender (or part thereof)?

  • No more so than God giving women the joy and pain of giving birth. As for God favoring the Jews, I think more than a few Jews throughout their blood stained history of persecution have echoed the line from Fiddler on the Roof: Couldn’t you choose some other people for a while? God’s favor or blessings often do not seem to be so in purely Earthly terms. In the hereafter I suspect priests will be held to a higher standard by God, so whether the priesthood is a blessing for men depends upon the particular man. We moderns make a fetish out of equality, but in the Bible I think it is clear that God often does not act in those terms. An interesting question to raise with God in the hereafter although I suppose the response might be: What is that to thee? Follow thou me.

  • A clear and well written article. I’m looking forward to the next part. (I’d never run into that piece of Lewis’s. Interesting.)

  • I try never to miss an opportunity to recommend Peter Kreeft. His lecture on this topic: http://peterkreeft.com/audio/09_priestesses.htm

  • RR,

    A specialized gender for childbearing makes sense from a biological efficiency standpoint. But a specialized gender for the priesthood? There’s no biological reason why it should be so.

    Our nature goes far beyond our physical biology. The role of the priest is a spiritual father for his flock, not a spiritual mother.

    Men and women are different they have different callings and different natures, God chose men for the priesthood for a reason, He is not capricious, or arbitrary. And yet his reason may not be clear to us until we are with Him.

  • I must have missed that memo from God, Matt.

  • Is it possible to get the bibliographic information on this essay so that it may be used in a paper?

  • Yes, presupposing that its used honestly.

    Pope John Paul II. Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, (May 1994).

    Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Concerning the Teaching Contained in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis Responsum Ad Dubium, (October 1995).

    Deborah Halter. The Papal “No”, (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2004)

    Catechism of the Catholic Church
    , 2nd ed. (Washington: United States Catholic Conference, 1997).

    Simone M. St. Pierre. The Struggle to Serve: the Ordination of Women in the Catholic Church (London: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1994).

    Sara Butler, MSBT. The Catholic Priesthood and Women, (Chicago: Hillenbrand Books, 2007).

    C.S. Lewis. God in the Dock, “Priestesses in the Church?” (Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Compnay, 1970).

  • The Episcopal Church took it on it’s own to ordain Women in 1978 . This was done to be PC rather then anything Theological. The decline of both the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion Started with Women Priests. These women have supported the Gay agenda since one sex can sub for another sex in the sacrement of ordination. Why not at a wedding ?
    They resent being called Priestesses as they are subbing for Christ and He was a man. Bad idea Priestesses
    On the plus side thousands of High Church Anglo Catholics are leaving the Anglican Communion for Rome every year and that movement started with rejecting Priestesses.
    Pray for an Anglican Rite and more will swim the Tiber.

  • The Episcopal Church took it on it’s own to ordain Women in 1978 . This was done to be PC rather then anything Theological.

    That’s simply untrue. Know any Anglicans?

    A female friend of mine was ordained an Anglican priest a couple months ago. I have no doubt that she is a priest of Jesus Christ forever.

  • Eric,

    Sorry, I should have been more clear: can I get the bibliographic info of the actual post? Namely, who wrote it?

  • I wrote it. I’m not sure how you would cite that.

  • “I have no doubt that she is a priest of Jesus Christ forever.”

    A priest in the universal priesthood of all believers, yes. A priest as a proper recipient of the sacrament of Holy Orders and a person who exists In Persona Christi, impossible.

  • In terms of perspective, yes, according to the Episcopalian tradition of Anglicanism, she is a priest and meets all their criteria.

    Objectively, if Catholicism is true, again, that judgment is only a subjective reality and cannot be true in any real, external sense.

  • Not only is it impossible because she is a woman, but because Anglican orders are invalid. So she is no less a priest than any other Anglican priest, or my aunt Fannie.

  • I have no doubt that she is a priest of Jesus Christ forever.

    No doubt? I know you do not accept the teaching of the Church on the ordination of women, but are you so confident in your own opinions to think the Church couldn’t possibly be right?

  • Objectively, if Catholicism is true, again, that judgment is only a subjective reality and cannot be true in any real, external sense.

    I understand folks who want to cling to the Church’s teaching. I really do. I stood by it for a long long time. But I find this statement truly bizarre, connecting the teaching on women’s ordination to the very center of the truth of the Catholic faith, as if the whole of Catholicism would stand or fall based on this very non-central teaching. It’s a sign that we have placed our system of Catholic “rules” at the center, probably displacing what is really important.

  • Ah, “the Iafratians” — a very tiny sect of modernist heretics who who regard themselves as Catholics even though they hold certain infallible teachings of the Catholic Church to be wrong. The teachings regarded by this sect as objectionable are conveniently composed of those teachings with which they are in disagreement, and which therefore are not at “the center of truth,” a theological concept that describes those teachings with which the Iafratians agree. It is a tidy little theology that seems to attract people who think anarchy is a good idea.

  • Petrik – Is that intended to be a constructive comment or just a silly jab?

  • Also, Petrik – Are you suggesting that my view on women is a “modernist” one? Or the view that some teachings are more central than others? If so, how? Or are you just throwing words around that you cannot control?

  • Michael I,

    I understand folks who want to cling to the Church’s teaching. I really do. I stood by it for a long long time.

    You’re a Catholic theology PHD student? And you wonder why some of us don’t think too highly of the profession of theology these days. Augustine of Hippo would be turning over in his grave.

  • Surely Manfred Hauke’s 500 page book has all the information and theories and opinions enough to dowse this pointless discussion.
    Amusing was Elizabeth Schuessler Fiorenza’s change of heart. First she wanted women priests. Then she realized that ordination also entails subordination and she wants no part of that.
    Unnoticed in the discussion is that it is a woman who is the greatest of purely human beings – the Blessed Mother.

  • Augustine of Hippo would be turning over in his grave.

    Would you like me to send you a recent essay I wrote on Augustine’s christology?

    He’s also be turning over in his grave at the sight of folks like yourself who use Church teaching to give ideological support for your own sexism.

  • Unnoticed in the discussion is that it is a woman who is the greatest of purely human beings – the Blessed Mother.

    Mary has not gone unnoticed in the discussion, not for Dom Helder Camara at least. He points out how bizarre it is that folks like Matt do not think the Blessed Mother is suitable material for priesthood.

  • 1:16 comment above should read “He’d” not “He’s.”

  • Iafrate,
    I enjoy taking jabs at arrogant Catholic theology students who not only think they know better than the pope on matters of faith and morals, but also characterize orthodox views as “bizarre.” It is one of my many hobbies, in fact.
    Happy Memorial Day!

  • Halter ultimately rejects traditional Christian anthropology and the ontological difference between men and women. Or at the very least, one may argue she dismisses it as irrelevant to the question of priestly ordination.

    Which is it? These are two entirely different positions.

    The problem with such an assertion is that it is framed in a contemporary “equal rights” feminist perspective, not a theological perspective.

    The two need not be opposed to one another. The concept of “rights” is NOT foreign to the Catholic tradition. The question hinges precisely on the theological grounding of the concept of rights, which is the dignity of the human person.

    When the idea of “rights” is invoked with reference to the unborn (“right to life”) I’m guessing you have no problem with contemporary “equal rights” language. Also, imagine for a moment that the Church excluded black men from the priesthood. Would it offend you to hear the protest that black men have an equal right to the priesthood? It’s curious that when the question shifts to the rights of women, suddenly we cannot include the concept of “rights” in the discussion.

    Yet despite her status as t he Mother of God, Mary is absent from the table—as is the case of all women—when Jesus instituted the Eucharist (ordaining the Apostles) and does not receive the specific charisms given to the Apostles at the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

    How do you know Mary was absent at the institution of the Eucharist? How do you know she was excluded from receiving charisms at Pentecost?

    In the end, the argument in favor of the ordination of women is an argument against Christianity. The Holy Spirit has not been with the Church for the last two thousand years because the Church has taught falsehood and deception about the sacraments, about the nature of man, and what God has revealed.

    Bizarre. So because we believe that the Holy Spirit has preserved the Church from fatal error, it immediately follows that every sacramental form and regulation and tradition has been 100% perfect and has not changed and will not change? Unconvincing.

  • I enjoy taking jabs at arrogant Catholic theology students who not only think they know better than the pope on matters of faith and morals, but also characterize orthodox views as “bizarre.”

    Riiiiiiight.

  • Michael,

    But I find this statement truly bizarre, connecting the teaching on women’s ordination to the very center of the truth of the Catholic faith, as if the whole of Catholicism would stand or fall based on this very non-central teaching. It’s a sign that we have placed our system of Catholic “rules” at the center, probably displacing what is really important.

    While you’re not loyal to Catholic teaching, you’re not necessarily dumb, so I should think you’d be able to see why it’s rather more than a “very non-central teaching” that you’re questioning here. Let’s be clear, you’re not just saying that — contrary to both the teaching of the Church — women can be validly ordained priests, you’re saying that your friend who is a female Anglican minister is in fact a valid priest from a Catholic point of view — or at least your view, as a supposed Catholic. (You see how thinking separately from the Church get’s difficult to parse very quickly!)

    Now, that would mean that not only can women be priests, but Anglican orders are valid, contrary to the teaching of the Church for the last 500 years or so. This would also bring up the problem that Anglicans don’t necessarily have very similar ideas to our own about what the sacraments _are_, and of course maintaining that their orders are valid calls into question a lot about ecclesiology, apostolic succession, papal and conciliar authority, and a host of other topics.

    So if you think about it from a rational point of view, your simple assertion that your Anglican-female-priest friend is in fact a true priest actually does end up questioning a very great deal of what makes the Catholic Church what it is. You could still be some sort of Anglican mere-Christian, but that rather defeats the point of claiming membership in the Church.

  • So much in this thread shows the ignorance of many on the issues. They think, for example, that the issue of women priests is settled as an infallible teaching, and yet Pope John Paul II’s own position was “we don’t know if they can” which is not the same as “they certainly can’t be.” So if the idea is that “they can’t be” has to be held, JPII would be declared a heretic by some of these people. JPII wanted the discussion closed, but did leave it open for future revelation on the matter (it’s not in our authority, but God can show us, if God so pleases). In this way it clearly is not dogma, nor is it really high level in doctrinal authority (despite the CDF’s non-infallible interpretation).

    Moreover, the material in the Catechism are not all of the same level. One should show respect for what is in it, but one can dispute with much of it as well (if one follows proper form, which many do not do).

    Finally, I will remind people they don’t have the authority to issue anathemas. There has been no anathema from the Church for people who follow Michael I’s viewpoint. And, even if it became infallibly declared (very unlikely), it wouldn’t make it high up on the hierarchy of truths.

  • I have seen very little in this thread that suggests ignorance on the issues, Henry. And I think your characterization of John Paul II’s position in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is implausible at best:

    Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_22051994_ordinatio-sacerdotalis_en.html

    I have a hard time reading “I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever,” to mean “we don’t know if they can.” Furthermore, JPII went on to say this should be “definitively held by all the Church’s faithful,” which suggests to me that it does possess (contra your assertion above) a high level of doctrinal authority. As to anathemas, none have been issued here; it is not issuing an anathema to observe Michael (by his own admission) does not accept what the Church has asked its faithful to accept.

  • Henry,

    Though your comment is more or less accurate (your summary of JPII’s position as “we don’t know if they can” is dead wrong, as I’m sure you know since you state it differently farther down) you seem to be missing where Michael went way off the rails, which resulted in Eric’s comment which Michael took exception to: Michael didn’t just argue that the Church actually could ordain women as priests, but he also asserted that his Anglican minister friend is a “a priest of Jesus Christ forever”.

    Now he could have simply been referring to the priesthood of all believers (that’s your out, Michael, feel free) but that would make it rhetorically a very odd point to bring up since it would have nothing to do with the point that Michael was attempting to make about women receiving valid orders. If he did mean that Anglican orders are in fact valid, then he’s calling into question not only the Church’s ruling on that matter (which given the age of that conflict probably does have some anathemas behind it) but also the authority of the Church to determine what are and are not valid orders, and arguably also the entire idea of apostolic succession and a fair amount about the nature of the sacraments. So no, it’s not a minor thing that Michael’s calling into question there, and no amount of rhetorical weaving and dodging on your part will make it go away.

    Lest it seem, however, like I’m trying to run my own anathemas here, I’ll point out that it’s likely that Michael didn’t actually mean what he said seriously — but rather sought to make a show or emotional and political solidarity with his friend while tweeking the sensibilities of the great unwashed of non-theology-student-progressives. Still, the fact that one hadn’t really meant it is not much of an excuse for sounding off in a silly fashion. Though being a punk is much preferable to being a heretic.

  • Karlson:

    Pope John Paul II’s own position was “we don’t know if they can”

    What John Paul II really said

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_22051994_ordinatio-sacerdotalis_en.html

    4. Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.

    Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.

    Chalk up yet another case wherein the Vox Nova crowd sells out in support of dissenting positions . . . which is fine, as long as they stop beating the “we’re more Catholic” drum.

  • John,
    The reason you cannot read “I declare that the Church has no authority whatseover” to mean “we don’t know if they can” is that you are not a theological scholar. Not being a Constitutional scholar, you probably cannot locate the right to abortion in our Constitution either.

  • DC

    Actually, the issue with Anglican orders is also not closed. There are many reasons for this, among of which, they don’t all trace to the same line, some lines connect to Old Catholic orders, etc.

    Secondly, I have studied JPII’s position quite well, and what I said IS his position. He said we don’t know, we don’t have the authority. The first is an ontological issue (can they? we don’t know) which is why he based his argument on the issue of authority, not whether they can be, but whether the Church can ordain them.

  • Mike

    Your inability to understand theological categories is evident. That we don’t have the authority just states that; it doesn’t say if they can or cannot, just where we stand in the authority today. Yet many people, even when JPII made his statement, saw the slight opening left in his comment, where he didn’t answer the ontological question, and also left open some future “revelation” which could reverse the issue of authority.

  • Henry,

    did leave it open for future revelation on the matter

    Since public revelation is closed, what revelation do you have in mind? The Church does not reverse doctrine due to private revelation.

    DC,

    Though your comment is more or less accurate

    what exactly of Henry’s statement is accurate??? It’s all false or misapplied at the very least.

  • I have a hard time reading “I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever,” to mean “we don’t know if they can.”

    Actually I think Henry’s reading is accurate. JPII seemed to be saying that the Church does not have the authority to change what seems like Jesus’ intentions for the Church. JPII admits that we do not have access to Jesus’ precise intentions for the Church (he spends a lot of time making arguments for what he thinks Jesus’ intentions were). The Church’s current teaching on the matter does suggest that, since we do not have a memo from heaven with precise instructions, the Church is bound to have a policy based on our best guess.

    Furthermore, JPII went on to say this should be “definitively held by all the Church’s faithful,” which suggests to me that it does possess (contra your assertion above) a high level of doctrinal authority.

    I agree that this particular statement, as it is worded, does have a higher level of authority than Henry seems to suggest. It uses the strongest language possible without going into “infallible” language. Whether use of this kind of language is in any way justified is one part of the debate.

    As to anathemas, none have been issued here; it is not issuing an anathema to observe Michael (by his own admission) does not accept what the Church has asked its faithful to accept.

    “Accept” is a term that is more complicated than you make it out to be. I “accept” that the Church currently does not feel that it has the authority to ordain women. I do think that the Church will come to recognize that it does have the authority to do so.

    Now he could have simply been referring to the priesthood of all believers (that’s your out, Michael, feel free)

    As you guessed, I’m not merely referring to the priesthood of all believers…

    If he did mean that Anglican orders are in fact valid, then he’s calling into question not only the Church’s ruling on that matter (which given the age of that conflict probably does have some anathemas behind it) but also the authority of the Church to determine what are and are not valid orders, and arguably also the entire idea of apostolic succession and a fair amount about the nature of the sacraments.

    …but no, I am not making any sort of statement about Anglican orders being “valid” or not. Nor am I “calling into question the authority of the Church to determine what are and are not valid orders.” I’m not at all questioning the “entire idea” of apostolic succession, nor do I have any doubts about the Catholic understanding of the nature of the sacraments.

    I do think that what the Church teaches about the validity of Anglican orders and apostolic succession are much more ambiguous and debated than you make them out to be.

  • Michael I,

    you believe that there are actual women ordained priests then?

    That some Catholics have been excommunicated for attending real ordinations of women, rather than for simulating a sacrament as the Church has declared?

  • Michael I

    While the language is important and interesting, it nonetheless is in an Apostolic Letter, which also helps determine the kind of authority being addressed, and that is how I am reading the level of authority in the letter, not basing it upon the kind of language used (since things without authority can be said in similar language, too).

  • Matt

    Disobedience can lead to excommunication: case in point, SSPX. Their orders were valid but illicit. This is what happens when you continue to misunderstand ecclesiology: whether or not an ordination leads to excommunication does not indicate its validity. On the other hand, I don’t think these women were ordained, not on the basis of the excommunication, however.

  • Secondly, I have studied JPII’s position quite well, and what I said IS his position. He said we don’t know, we don’t have the authority.

    Far from saying “we don’t know,” JPII said quite expressly that the Church’s position is beyond “all doubt,” that it “has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium,” that it is no longer “open to debate,” and that “this judgment is to be definitively held.”

    To interpret this as some sort of waffling disavowal of knowledge is really weird, stupid, dishonest, or some combination of the three.

  • Henry Karlson,

    Disobedience can lead to excommunication: case in point, SSPX. Their orders were valid but illicit. This is what happens when you continue to misunderstand ecclesiology: whether or not an ordination leads to excommunication does not indicate its validity. On the other hand, I don’t think these women were ordained, not on the basis of the excommunication, however.

    Henry, I may not understand “ecclesiology” the way you do (I stick to the simpler more concrete explanation in the catechism, you prefer Hans Kung and other dissenters), but I can read English. Try to follow instead of making points which may or may not be true, but do not follow from my statement. The excommunications of the participants in “ordinations” were not for disobedience, but for participating in a simulated ordination (ie. not a real one). I don’t believe the Church has in the last 30 years excommunicated anyone for a disobedient but valid priestly ordination, only for episcopal ones.

    Why don’t you think the women were ordained?

  • Matt

    Your misrepresentation of who I am and my position now ends the communication between us. You should have learned by now, from many people on here, that the way to communicate is not to suggest sources of interpretation, especially if you have not studied the issue at hand beuond a “simpler” understanding based upon the catechism. The catechism is not the end all of all discussion, and indeed, its contents are not all of the same level of authority. This means what is found in the catechism can be many things from dogma to suggested teaching, and without any background, you will not know which is which, nor how to properly read the catechism to know which questions are still open to other possibilities. Case in point: I don’t follow Hans Kung. Nor do I follow dissenters.

  • Henry Karlson,

    Your misrepresentation of who I am and my position

    actually I was responding directly to your misrepresentation of who I am and my position. I am pretty confident that I know who you are, it’s in Pascendi, another simple document without the nuance y’all prefer.

    I don’t follow Hans Kung. Nor do I follow dissenters

    The first statement may be true I can’t know where you got your erroneous opinions from, but the second one is demonstrably false.

  • you believe that there are actual women ordained priests then?

    That some Catholics have been excommunicated for attending real ordinations of women, rather than for simulating a sacrament as the Church has declared?

    I’m not sure what you are asking me. The second question is not a complete sentence. If you are asking me whether I think the “Roman Catholic Womenpriests” are really ordained priests, the answer is no.

    For the record, no, I don’t “follow” Hans Kung either. Your invocation of his name in reference to Henry’s theology shows that you don’t know much about Kung’s theological positions. In fact, I doubt you could describe the distinguishing features of Kung’s ecclesiology for us, save perhaps his questioning of the infallibility of the Pope.

  • Michael I,

    If you are asking me whether I think the “Roman Catholic Womenpriests” are really ordained priests, the answer is no.

    why not?

    My allusion to Hans Kung is related to modernism, read Pascendi.

  • why not?

    Because ordination is a calling from God and the community of the Catholic Church. They acted outside of the bounds of the community. Do I think it’s likely some (if not many) of them have an actual calling to the priesthood? Sure. But one can’t simply go through the motions and magically be ordained outside of the context of the Catholic Church.

    My allusion to Hans Kung is related to modernism, read Pascendi.

    Ah yes, of course, the dreaded devil of “modernism.” Further proof that you have no idea what you’re talking about if you want to link Henry and Hans Kung.

    Your ball cap is pretty modernist, dude.

  • I understand folks who want to cling to the Church’s teaching. I really do. I stood by it for a long long time. But I find this statement truly bizarre, connecting the teaching on women’s ordination to the very center of the truth of the Catholic faith, as if the whole of Catholicism would stand or fall based on this very non-central teaching. It’s a sign that we have placed our system of Catholic “rules” at the center, probably displacing what is really important.

    Well, I think any Catholic wants to remain close to Church teaching since Catholics believe that the Church is the Bride of Christ and the true agency that both shares and protects God’s true teaching on earth. The heart of Christian teaching, the very center, is the Resurrection and in a particular way, we encounter this reality in the Eucharist. Therefore, the question of women’s ordination is two fold: the truth about the nature of man and whether women can ontologically and sacramentally exist In Persona Christi, not In Persona Christi servati (the diaconate), but the former.

    You clarify later in regard to “equal rights” perspectives and what is valid theologically that

    the two need not be opposed to one another. The concept of “rights” is NOT foreign to the Catholic tradition. The question hinges precisely on the theological grounding of the concept of rights, which is the dignity of the human person…When the idea of “rights” is invoked with reference to the unborn (”right to life”) I’m guessing you have no problem with contemporary “equal rights” language. Also, imagine for a moment that the Church excluded black men from the priesthood. Would it offend you to hear the protest that black men have an equal right to the priesthood? It’s curious that when the question shifts to the rights of women, suddenly we cannot include the concept of “rights” in the discussion.

    The issue of the “rights” of the unborn is something due to them by basic necessity of their humanity. Being a priest does not guarantee you salvation or grant you a safer course to heaven. There is no right to be a priest. Even if a black man were being denied the “right” to be a priest; I would not call that an “injustice.” I wouldn’t join in such a protest because of the problematic intellectual error regarding “rights” and priesthood. From Scripture, we see this vocation to be a call, not a right. If anything, preserving the priesthood from black men, could be argued against on the basis that being of a particular race is not a requirement to receive the sacrament of holy orders and Christ indeed wished His Gospel be preached and His Eucharist celebrated to the “ends of the earth” — that includes all people. The first ordained were Jews and they “laid hands upon” Gentile converts. There is no racial discretion in ordaining, if the candidates are qualified.

    I don’t follow the analogy. It’s like saying that the issue of gay rights (particularly the “right” to marriage) is like the civil rights movement of black people. While much the arguments are the same in style, while the sentiment may be similar, I don’t think it is all substantially the same. I don’t even there exists such a thing as a “right” to marriage. The “right” to marriage was introduced, problematically, with the issue of interracial marriages. I’m not opposed to interracial marriages at all; however, I am not enthusiastic about the argument used to achieve that good.

    I highly doubt that I am opposed to the “rights of women” since I consider myself a feminist and shift left than most on the dignity and vocation of women, but I don’t think the priesthood is at all in the realm of what people, women included, have a “right” to.

    “How do you know Mary was absent at the institution of the Eucharist? How do you know she was excluded from receiving charisms at Pentecost?”

    Well, if she is there, it is not explicitly there. Traditionally, from the earliest times, Jesus’ command to “take and eat” and “do” — the action of standing in his stead and celebrating what He is instituting — was directed to the Twelve. Second, after the descent of the Holy Spirit, we are told that the Apostles went preaching and baptizing. I’m not saying no one received the charisms besides the Apostles; I said “specific” charisms unique to their status as Apostles.

    Bizarre. So because we believe that the Holy Spirit has preserved the Church from fatal error, it immediately follows that every sacramental form and regulation and tradition has been 100% perfect and has not changed and will not change? Unconvincing.

    No. That’s not the case at all. If anything, sacramental theology has developed tremendously over the ages. In fact, no sacrament has changed so drastically than that of the Anointing of the Sick. The sacrament of reconciliation used to be a public sacrament until the 400s when the private and secretive practice of “confession” by the Irish became more widespread. So, obviously, there is room for growth, development, and different “expressions” of a sacramental reality. The most obvious example of this is the most holy sacrament of the altar and the different Rites of the Church and the variant celebrations of the Eucharist.

    But none of that is any reason to presuppose that these sacramental developments, that these traditions are not working within the boundaries of dogma. Dogma being an “infallible exegesis” of the scriptures as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger once asserted. So, it seems to me, that to if the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, has had Pastors and layman for centuries teaching that women could not be permitted the sacrament of holy orders based on their “difference” — ontologically or simple physiological gender — seems to be 2,000 years of an improper understanding of a sacrament being virtually universally preached by the Magisterium, promulgated in Catechisms, incorrect teachings about the very nature of man (with specifications using ontology and “complimentarity” etc.). Given the “authority” of the Church, such a drastic change would seriously call into question the Church’s capacity not to be wrong on other matters. If we can no longer make serious distinctions between male and female and a “difference” in roles, or at least, specific gifts unique to each gender, etc., what exactly would be the argument against gay sacramental marriage? Would we extend Paul’s teaching to say there is no “gay or straight” in Christ? Or, would we say, the Church teaches that Jesus seems to have wanted marriage (c.f. Matthew and the discourse with the Pharisees on divorce and Jesus recalling the institution of marriage in Genesis, defining what marriage is) be between a man and woman and does not think she has the authority to bless marriages between gay men and lesbian women, but then there may come such a time when she realizes she has the authority to do so? What’s the difference?

    It seems to me that Truth is whole and entire and while something may seem insignificant, it’s implications can be very far-reaching. If Christian soteriology is wrong, I can’t imagine how our sacramental theology is correct, and if all this is incorrect, then we may have a new question for theodicy: what is God’s justice if we don’t have all the resources available to us to effectively work out our salvation? Perhaps not…

    Nevertheless, I think all these questions and teachings necessarily hinge upon one another and I don’t think the ordination of women is a small question — it is a question with powerful, far-reaching implications, and I don’t think the women can ever be ordained to the sacerdotal priesthood.

    One clarification, to the question of women’s ordination, Pope John Paul II says, “Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents…” — although, it seems to be a settled question, in which the answer is a firm and resounding “no,” — it still seems to be the thought of many Catholics that the matter is “still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.”

    If the members of the Catholic community that the Pope is addressing thinks the matter is “a mere disciplinary force” and he is writing for clarification, it is the Holy Father’s understanding that the Magisterium, both past and present, “in the constant and universal Tradition of the Church” has expressly deliberated on by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. (The ordinary Magisterium, though dispersed, though, in complete unity, with the Pope, speaking in a unified way on a matter constitutes an infallible teaching to which full assent to the faith is required).

    Therefore, the Pope seeking a Catholic community where “all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren,” reiterates that the Church “has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” It doesn’t seem that Pope John Paul II thinks Jesus appears to have suggested something or that it is a question that will reappear at the next ecumenical council — “whatsoever.” It seems to be a firm and unyielding “no.” That’s Catholic teaching.

    Just in the same way, Pope Benedict XVI expressed that the prohibition against women receiving the sacrament of holy orders is “founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.” It is a matter of infallible teaching.

    Therefore, I suppose unless you’re “clinging” to Catholic teaching, you’re only seeking to re-write it. Unless you’re “standing by” Church teaching, why else be concerned about it?

  • Even if a black man were being denied the “right” to be a priest; I would not call that an “injustice.” I wouldn’t join in such a protest because of the problematic intellectual error regarding “rights” and priesthood. From Scripture, we see this vocation to be a call, not a right. If anything, preserving the priesthood from black men, could be argued against on the basis that being of a particular race is not a requirement to receive the sacrament of holy orders and Christ indeed wished His Gospel be preached and His Eucharist celebrated to the “ends of the earth” — that includes all people.

    But what I am asking is what if race WAS an institutionalized characteristic of suitability for the priesthood, as gender currently is. Would the correction of the institutionalized exclusion of black men from the priesthood be a matter of “rights” or “justice” just as much as a theological necessity?

    If we can no longer make serious distinctions between male and female and a “difference” in roles, or at least, specific gifts unique to each gender, etc., what exactly would be the argument against gay sacramental marriage? Would we extend Paul’s teaching to say there is no “gay or straight” in Christ?

    I’m not opposed to recognizing a difference between males and females, especially when it comes to recognizing “gifts” that are “unique” to each (although, of course, “unique” is a problematic word). But that in fact contributes to my position, which is that admitting women to the priesthood would allow for a greater contribution of varied gifts. What you are suggesting amounts to a fear of a slippery slope… “If we do this, what’s to prevent us from ordaining cats?” I don’t find such arguments convincing. And yes, I do think Paul’s idea can be extended to say that in Christ there is no gay or straight. Absolutely.

    It really does come down to the issue of power: who has the power to define that race is not a barrier to holy orders but sex is, that an all-male priesthood was “intended” by Christ (what arrogance), that the Church’s practice is “founded on the Word of God,” that women are “ontologically incapable” of being priests, etc. Such arrogance.

    I highly doubt that I am opposed to the “rights of women” since I consider myself a feminist and shift left than most on the dignity and vocation of women

    But certainly you are a feminist in the tradition of the “New Feminism,” no?

    …but I don’t think the priesthood is at all in the realm of what people, women included, have a “right” to.

    I agree that “rights” is limiting when it comes to discussions of the priesthood. Certainly no one has the “right” to be a priest. Of course. Which is why it really isn’t the dominant way that I even talk about the issue. But it IS about the abuse of power and the systematic exclusion of gifted (and called) human beings from a sacrament when there is no real theological reason for doing so. It’s sexist exclusion dressed up in Ratzingerian theological vestments. And by sexist here, I do not mean personal tendency toward chauvinism but sustained, communal social sin. In other words, I do not think the princes of the Church sit around and think of theological ways to spin their deliberate exclusion of women. Rather, they truly believe they are right and doing the “will of the Lord” but are totally blind to the utter ridiculousness and arrogance of the claims that they make.

  • In fact, the issue of arrogance is important. I was accused of being “so arrogant” that I think I “know better” than the Pope on this issue. That’s precisely backwards. The fact is that my views on women’s ordination are based on an epistemological humility about what we can know about “Jesus’ intentions” for the Church. JPII is the one who said he got inside Jesus’ head and “knows” who Jesus intended would be the recipients of Holy Orders. He did this because just about every other reason for excluding women from the priesthood has been demolished and exposed for their obvious sexism. The way he protected this exclusionary sacramental is to keep it safe inside the “mind and heart” of Jesus where no one, except the Pope, can have access.

  • Yes, of course. The Church hierarchy are a bunch of sexist, patriarchal old men…

  • Well, Michael, I profoundly disagree with you. Since you “accept” (allegedly) what the Church calls you to right now — I don’t think so — but I’ll take you at your word, then, what happens over time will surely be telling. I have faith that it (the ordination of women) will never validly happen. We shall see. Don’t mistake me, I’m not saying it can “validly happen.” If such a thing does occur, I think the theological validation will be flimsy, it will cause a break in the church, and/or it will be done invalidly.

  • “But what I am asking is what if race WAS an institutionalized characteristic of suitability for the priesthood, as gender currently is. Would the correction of the institutionalized exclusion of black men from the priesthood be a matter of “rights” or “justice” just as much as a theological necessity?”

    Are you making a distinction between the will of God and the institutionalized teaching of the Catholic Church? It might explain our difference in opinion; I don’t view the Church as a merely human organization.

    If it’s the will of God, even if it seems arbitrary to my reasoning — like the prohibition against women priests — then I will embrace it. Do I think women could “perform” magnificently as priests? Absolutely. Women are impeccable creatures with great wisdom, intellectual stature, and nurturing and maternal gifts that potentially could assist them in such a ministry. It could have been this way. I believe, as the Catholic Church does, that this, for whatever reason, is now how God has sought to arrange it and therefore, women are asked to use their gifts in a different way — not as priests.

    As aforementioned, the disagreement here boils down to a single question: what is the priesthood?

    We’re working from different premises and won’t reach the same conclusion. My working definition of the priesthood is identical to that, that Benedict XVI and JPII are working from. I’m not sure what yours is, but it has to be an alternate vision seeing that one of the elements that the Magisterium has declared to be vital, you dismiss as “sexism.”

    So, I’m not sure if any sort of agreement can be reached until there is a consensus on the definition of “priest.” As can be expected — something I have no shame in — I don’t intend, or expect, to ever move from the definition given by the Catholic Church and I don’t consider the “alternative,” allegedly “just-as-valid” theological definitions given by dissenting theologians, who may mask their arguments behind “humility” to be sufficient to answer my question. God gave authority to the Magisterium not theologians. Surely, the Magisterium has not always acted wisely or prudently, but they have been gifted nonetheless and I’ll follow the “institutionalized” Church until the end. Thanks, but no thanks Michael.

  • JPII wanted the discussion closed, but did leave it open for future revelation on the matter (it’s not in our authority, but God can show us, if God so pleases)

    Henry, could you clarify what you mean by “future revelation”? I am trying to envision what that would look like, particularly since JPII said the Church has “no authority” current position was “to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” I assume ‘future revelation’ would have to refer something already present in the deposit of faith, but, if so, why is it “future revelation”? Perhaps a historical example of a previous “future revelation” after apostolic times would help me understand you here (not that you need to answer to me, I’m just curious what you meant).

  • The Church hierarchy are a bunch of sexist, patriarchal old men…

    Clearly you either didn’t read or did not take seriously what I said about the nature of the Church’s sexism, in effect calling me a liar.

    Since you “accept” (allegedly) what the Church calls you to right now — I don’t think so — but I’ll take you at your word, then, what happens over time will surely be telling.

    What does taking me at my word mean if you are simultaneously throwing in “allegedly” and “I don’t think so”?

    I have faith that it (the ordination of women) will never validly happen.

    Well, you have faith in a rule about the exclusion of women. I have faith in the Church and in the Holy Spirit and in the goodness of God’s people.

    We shall see.

    Um, no we won’t. What kind of super-human future prediction do you have that allows you to make claims about what the Church will or will not do until the end of time? I’m certainly not betting that the Church will ordain women in MY lifetime.

    If it’s the will of God, even if it seems arbitrary to my reasoning — like the prohibition against women priests — then I will embrace it.

    So you are saying that if the Church systematically excluded black men from the priesthood that you, in this day and age, knowing what we do about the sin of racism, that you would STILL uphold the teaching of the Church that black men cannot be ordained because the hierarchy says it’s “the will of God” that they cannot, that they are “ontologically unsuitable” for priesthood even though your conscience tells you that the exclusion is wrong?

    I’m not sure what yours is, but it has to be an alternate vision seeing that one of the elements that the Magisterium has declared to be vital, you dismiss as “sexism.”

    I truly do not have an “alternative vision” of the priesthood, whatever that might mean. My understanding of the priesthood, in its essence, probably does not look much different than yours. I simply do not think that one’s gender has anything to do with the meaning of priesthood.

    God gave authority to the Magisterium not theologians.

    Thank God!

    Surely, the Magisterium has not always acted wisely or prudently, but they have been gifted nonetheless and I’ll follow the “institutionalized” Church until the end.

    Gifted, yes. But they certainly have not always been correct in their gigantic claims about “the will of God.”

    Thanks, but no thanks Michael.

    I’m honestly not trying to convince you to advocate for women’s ordination. I simply take issue with some of the utterly nonsensical claims that you are making, such as “In the end, the argument in favor of the ordination of women is an argument against Christianity.”

  • I have to wonder what the original founders of Vox Nova are thinking . . . I remember when they were blogging at “Evangelical Catholicism,” and thought they were a refreshing voice of non-partisan orthodoxy. But now they’ve got themselves saddled down with one blogger who thinks opposing gay marriage is “heterosexist” (MI); one blogger who disagrees with the Church on the ordination of women (MI again) and one who flatly misrepresents that teaching as being more tentative than it is (HK); one blogger who vehemently opposes Church teaching on the need to pursue legal restrictions on abortion (Campbell), another blogger who doesn’t do a good job of hiding his agreement (MM), and another blogger who spins the most absurd defenses of that position as somehow consistent with the Church (HK again); one blogger who for no apparent reason disagrees with Church teaching on the need to provide subsidies to Catholic parents to educate their children (Campbell again) and another who spins absurd defenses of that position (HK yet again).

    So, it’s a pickle.

  • Michael,

    “Well, you have faith in a rule about the exclusion of women. I have faith in the Church and in the Holy Spirit and in the goodness of God’s people.”

    I don’t think it’s a “rule.” Pope John Paul II in his statement, I mentioned earlier, that this prohibition is not a mere disciplinary rule. The Pope at the time, nor the current Pope find the matter to be disciplinary, but rather dogmatic. That’s the point of disagreement that they sought to correct and it’s on the reality of the ‘no’ being disciplinary that your argument hinges.

    And ‘we shall see’ is a statement that I believe will testify to my position: that it won’t happen. It is a statement to end the discourse. I don’t think we will see valid ordination of women in our lifetime or any of the ages to come.

  • John Henry,

    I believe your answer is here:
    5. Divine revelation is imperfect, and therefore subject to a continual and indefinite progress, corresponding with the advancement of human reason.

  • Eric – Can you answer my last clarifying question about the exclusion of black men from the priesthood?

  • That is, this one:

    So you are saying that if the Church systematically excluded black men from the priesthood that you, in this day and age, knowing what we do about the sin of racism, that you would STILL uphold the teaching of the Church that black men cannot be ordained because the hierarchy says it’s “the will of God” that they cannot, that they are “ontologically unsuitable” for priesthood even though your conscience tells you that the exclusion is wrong?

  • Does anyone find it odd that the same guys who will argue absolute infallible doctrine based on ambiguous references in the catechism and a speech to the international red cross by the Holy Father in regard to “torture” being intrinsically evil, will turn around and argue that after the 2000 years years of precedence and a definitive statement by the Holy Father addressed to the universal Church that only men can be priests is reformable?

  • I hesitate to step in here again — as John and Eric are both doing a great job and both have degrees in theology, which I don’t — but it strikes me as key to highlight this piece of Michael’s reasoning:

    In fact, the issue of arrogance is important. I was accused of being “so arrogant” that I think I “know better” than the Pope on this issue. That’s precisely backwards. The fact is that my views on women’s ordination are based on an epistemological humility about what we can know about “Jesus’ intentions” for the Church. JPII is the one who said he got inside Jesus’ head and “knows” who Jesus intended would be the recipients of Holy Orders. He did this because just about every other reason for excluding women from the priesthood has been demolished and exposed for their obvious sexism. The way he protected this exclusionary sacramental is to keep it safe inside the “mind and heart” of Jesus where no one, except the Pope, can have access.
    In fact, the issue of arrogance is important. I was accused of being “so arrogant” that I think I “know better” than the Pope on this issue. That’s precisely backwards. The fact is that my views on women’s ordination are based on an epistemological humility about what we can know about “Jesus’ intentions” for the Church. JPII is the one who said he got inside Jesus’ head and “knows” who Jesus intended would be the recipients of Holy Orders. He did this because just about every other reason for excluding women from the priesthood has been demolished and exposed for their obvious sexism. The way he protected this exclusionary sacramental is to keep it safe inside the “mind and heart” of Jesus where no one, except the Pope, can have access.

    What Michael seems to me missing here is that either way _someone_ ends up making a judgment about Christ’s intentions. If one supports ordaining women, one judges that _was_ Christ’s intention. If one opposes it, one judged it _wasn’t_ Christ’s intention. One can’t escape making a judgment one way or the other. So let’s not have any “they’re arrogant while I’m oh so humble” talk. Both sides are claiming to know what Christ’s intention was/is.

    Given that, two things come into play:

    1) It strikes me as much, much more of a reach (and thus, arrogantly putting much more faith in one’s own powers of discernment) to claim that while Christ did not Himself choose to ordain any women, and despite that fact that the Church has never done so up until now, that it’s in fact exactly what God wants and He’s only been waiting for us to be as enlightened and liberated as we are right now for it to happen. Thus, there seems to be a lot more burden of proof on the pro-women’s-ordination side — needing something rather more than “why not?”

    2) It’s also worth considering, though I think this thought process does not come easily to the theologically or culturally progressive, that the Church as guardian of the sacraments as channels of grace has a serious burden not to get fast and loose with our channels of grace. This is why the Church is a stickler about things such as insisting that the host really must be made of wheat, that you can’t use grape juice instead of win, and that you really do have to use the words of the rite, not something else really moving that the priest came up with for this particular occasion. One school of thought goes, “Why do you limit God by saying that He can only work on wheat, or only work if the priest is a man,” but this smacks rather dangerously of the idea that the sacraments are whatever we make them.

  • Actually, Matt I was thinking that earlier when I was talking about the Magisterium. Though, it wasn’t torture, I was thinking about the war in Iraq and statements made by the two most recent Pope about the conflict, the hesitation of the USCCB on the war, and the statements in the Catechism being asserted (by Mark and Michael) as almost irreversible, clear Catholic doctrine and the unequivocal, absolute Catholic “position” on these matters.

    Strikingly, I agree with their position and even argue it. However, I thought it is quite a contradiction to argue contrary in regard to the ordination of women and to say that it is a “rule” when Pope John Paul II clarified that it is not “mere discipline” but a teaching that must be “definitively held” by all the faithful, and to which Cardinal Ratzinger said was “infallibly” in place.

    Matt, dare I say, we agree.

  • It strikes me as much, much more of a reach (and thus, arrogantly putting much more faith in one’s own powers of discernment) to claim that while Christ did not Himself choose to ordain any women…

    Christ did not “ordain” ANYBODY.

    Thus, there seems to be a lot more burden of proof on the pro-women’s-ordination side — needing something rather more than “why not?”

    Do you really, truly, think that my position is merely based on “why not?”

  • Christ did not “ordain” ANYBODY.

    Okay, consecrate. Do forgive my semantics. Christ did not choose any women among the original twelve apostles who became the first twelve bishops of the Church, nor did those apostles choose any women to be among the episcopate or presbyterate.

    Do you really, truly, think that my position is merely based on “why not?”

    With an outraged sense of modern justice mixed in, perhaps, but basically yes.

  • With an outraged sense of modern justice mixed in, perhaps, but basically yes.

    Then there is simply no point talking to you about it since you are more interested in distorting my position than you are in understanding it.

  • Oh well, I suppose I shall survive even this. Actually, it would hardly seem like a conversation with you, Michael, if you didn’t declare at some point in it that there was no point in talking to me in the future. (I often think much the same thing myself, but I try to avoid saying it so that I won’t look silly when my resolve invariably slackens. “Someone on the internet is wrong” syndrome is a hard thing to resist.)

    However, you may at least congratulate yourself in frustrating me by focusing your replies up until despairing of me entirely on my first bullet below, when I’d personally thought the second to me rather more compelling. C’est la vie…

  • Michael I. hasn’t put forth an affirmative position that anyone could “understand” or contemplate. To the contrary, he’s contented himself with ridiculing the Church’s position as “sexism” and “arrogance” and “abuse of power” and “systematic exclusion” and “communal social sin” and “utter ridiculousness” and as comparable to the hypothetical exclusion of blacks from the priesthood (he wrung about four comments out of that one).

    In light of the complete absence of any theological argument beyond whining about the unfairness of it all, it’s absurd for him now to complain that people think his position is based in an “outraged sense of modern justice.” If michael’s position is based in anything OTHER than that, he has given no sign of what it might be.

  • Deconstruction of sexist theology is an affirmative position.

  • Um, right. Deconstruction on what basis, though? So far, you’ve offered nothing but an “outraged sense of modern justice.”

  • Lumen Gentium says it all, paragraph 10:

    “Though they differ from one another in essence and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are nonetheless interrelated: each of them in its own special way is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ.

    But the faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist. They likewise exercise that priesthood in receiving the sacraments, in prayer and thanksgiving, in the witness of a holy life, and by self-denial and active charity.”

    Sounds like women’s ordination to me!

  • Kate,

    Sounds like women’s ordination to me!

    The means of entering the priesthood of all believers is baptism, not ordination.

  • Well then I guess we have a moot issue here then, don’t we?

  • Kate,

    I’m not sure what you suggested with your post then. The line of discussion here is the erroneous proposal that women could now or at some time in the future be validly ordained to the “ministerial priesthood”.

  • Matt – It is profoundly arrogant to take a God’s-eye view and say that women will never be ordained.

  • It is a valid, not erroneous proposal. Jesus himself stated as much in Galations. “All who are baptised in Christ, have put on Christ.There is no longer any discrimination between Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female.” Galatians 3,28

    It’s kind of funny how those who want women ordination can find tons of support for it scripturally, and those who don’t want women’s ordination base their scripture support on the LACK OF SCRIPTURE supporting it!

  • Kate,

    It is a valid, not erroneous proposal. Jesus himself stated as much in Galations. “All who are baptised in Christ, have put on Christ.There is no longer any discrimination between Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female.” Galatians 3,28

    It’s kind of funny how those who want women ordination can find tons of support for it scripturally, and those who don’t want women’s ordination base their scripture support on the LACK OF SCRIPTURE supporting it!

    I’m sorry Kate, I do not base my belief that women can not be ordained as priests on the LACK OF SCRIPTURE, I base it solely on the Church’s infallible teaching, and accept it on Faith, at the same time I understand Her reasoning on the matter. I commend you to the Holy Father John Paul II document on the matter cited about Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

    There is no more discrimination in the acts of God in choosing who will be priests than in God choosing who will be able to bear children, there are simply different callings for the genders. As regards the sole authority of Scripture, the Church and Christ (and the Scriptures for that matter) have a different position than protestants.

  • It’s kind of funny how those who want women ordination can find tons of support for it scripturally, and those who don’t want women’s ordination base their scripture support on the LACK OF SCRIPTURE supporting it!

    Yes.

  • What, Michael, is this your moment to get all Sola Scriptura on us?

    The thing is, that we belong to a Church which teaches that it was put on earth to preserve Christ’s teachings and sacraments, and which is guided by the Holy Spirit in doing so.

    The right way to state the situation which the quote you like botches so badly would be, “Those who want womens ordination can point to a number of passages in scripture which they believe support their case, but the Church bases its case against womens ordination upon the practice of Christ and His apostles as shown in scripture, and the practice of the Church and its interpretation of scripture in the two millenia since.”

    At root, the case for women priests is very Protestant: Here I am right now with my bible and I say it should be this way.

    The case against is very Catholic, based on the Tradition and practice of the Church over 2000 years.

  • I just started this book, I think it will be instructive:

  • oops, I guess I can’t insert an image:

    Women Priests and Other Fantasies

  • What, Michael, is this your moment to get all Sola Scriptura on us?

    […]

    At root, the case for women priests is very Protestant: Here I am right now with my bible and I say it should be this way.

    The case against is very Catholic, based on the Tradition and practice of the Church over 2000 years.

    We could debate back and forth about whose approach is “more Catholic.” You would no doubt lose.

    My approach is not that of sola scriptura at all. There is little in the Bible that directly instructs us either way. Jesus did not “ordain” anyone.

    Your approach is the “tradition alone” approach which says “this is what the Church has ‘always’ done, so the Holy Spirit must be preserving this tradition, period.”

    My approach draws from scripture, tradition, and experience, spirituality, Church history, the necessarily self-critical reflection of the Church’s praxis, critical theory, philosophy, etc. In short, my approach is catholic.

  • Michael I,

    We could debate back and forth about whose approach is “more Catholic.” You would no doubt lose.

    there we have it, Michael I. declares himself more Catholic than the pope.

    Your approach is the “tradition alone” approach which says “this is what the Church has ‘always’ done, so the Holy Spirit must be preserving this tradition, period.”

    No Michael, not because this the way the Church has always done it, but because this is what the she has declared definitively to be true.

    my approach is catholic.

    Just like Luther…protestant.

    Have you read Fr. Miceli’s excellent essay on the topic? I hope you clicked the link to see the truth about “women priests”.

  • My approach draws from scripture, tradition, and experience, spirituality, Church history, the necessarily self-critical reflection of the Church’s praxis, critical theory, philosophy, etc. In short, my approach is catholic.

    Well, except that your approach mirrors the conclusion that nearly all Protestant denominations have come to — and contradicts the definitive teaching of the Church. Aside from that…

  • Speaking of Scriptural support. Let me get this straight. God made man the head of the family, right? That’s in Ephesians. Now, Christ is the head of the Church, right? So how can it be that a woman acts in persona-Christi? Is that not a reversal of the ORDAINED order that God has a established?

    Now Adam is the first priest, not Eve. Adam makes the offering to God, as do his son’s Cain and Abel, not his daughters… All through the old testament, sacrifice is offered by men, clearly ordained by God to do so, not by some sexist cultural norm.

    After the flood, Noah and his son’s offer the sacrifice.

    Christ comes, and replaces the old, all male priesthood, with a new all male priesthood. Christ is the new Adam, not the new Eve…

    And we refer to God as the Father just as we refer to the priest as father. If there is “women priests” do we call them mother, and if they are then is not God to be called Mother?

    From the above mentioned paper by Fr. Miceli:
    Woman has the vocation being man’s historical God-bearer, Christ-Bearer (Theotokos, Christikos). Woman in Mary, gives the Son of God the opportunity of becoming the Son of Man, of becoming the High Priest of God, the priest representative, in a word, the priest-redeemer of men…Other men, continuing in the priesthood, always reflect the image of the Son of Man. Other women, continuing to be Christ-and-God-Bearers to their children, reflect the image of Mary, the perfect woman and also the image of the Church as mother of all the living in God.

  • Matt – You’re merely taking a bunch of images from scripture, throwing them together and hoping that they will stick. For example:

    God made man the head of the family, right? That’s in Ephesians. Now, Christ is the head of the Church, right? So how can it be that a woman acts in persona-Christi?

    None of these ideas flow one to the other. Even if God “made man the head of the family” (an idea that can be reasonably rejected) what that has to do with Christ being the head of the Church is unclear. Nor is connection to the claim that women cannot act in persona Christi.

    What you have is not a theology. It’s a mess.

    Miceli’s way of thinking is familiar to me. I disagree with it, but at least his presentation makes sense. He’s now just throwing things together and hoping it comes out all right.

  • We could debate back and forth about whose approach is “more Catholic.” You would no doubt lose.

    This is one of the most unintentionally funny things I’ve seen in a while. Dissident = “more Catholic.” Right.

  • Michael,

    Well it seems to be sticky since you’ve not offered any substantive response.

    You may not be aware of it, but the Scriptures are full ofimportant typology, the connection between Adam, Christ, the priest, and man as the spiritual head head of the family is one of them. The connection between Eve, Mary, and woman is another.

    You can refute that men are to be the head of the family, that I would like to see.

  • You may not be aware of it, but the Scriptures are full ofimportant typology, the connection between Adam, Christ, the priest, and man as the spiritual head head of the family is one of them. The connection between Eve, Mary, and woman is another.

    Of course I am aware of these typologies. None of them have anything to do with the Roman Catholic priesthood.

    You can refute that men are to be the head of the family, that I would like to see.

    Very few Catholic families that I know would use that kind of language to describe what their families are like. I say this not merely as a “Catholic blogger” but as someone who has worked directly for the Church for ten years as a campus minister, a high school religion teacher, and a pastoral associate.

  • Your interpretation of Ephesians as male headship has been rejected by JPII, by the way, in Mulieris dignitatem:

    “The author of the Letter to the Ephesians sees no contradiction between an exhortation formulated in this way and the words: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife” (5:22-23). The author knows that this way of speaking, so profoundly rooted in the customs and religious tradition of the time, is to be understood and carried out in a new way: as a “mutual subjection out of reverence for Christ” (cf. Eph 5:21). This is especially true because the husband is called the “head” of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church; he is so in order to give “himself up for her” (Eph 5:25), and giving himself up for her means giving up even his own life. However, whereas in the relationship between Christ and the Church the subjection is only on the part of the Church, in the relationship between husband and wife the “subjection” is not one-sided but mutual.” (no. 24)

  • Stunning refute. Not. Your assertion is truly absurd, the connection is obvious to anyone reading with the mind of the Church, or really just a reason.

    It wouldn’t matter if not a single family was modelled after the first family, Holy Family and Ephesians 5, it is what the Scipture calls for, as does the Church. This idea that doctrine is driven by the shared experience is pure modernism. Did you get a chance to read Pascendi yet?

  • Honestly, guys, there’s not any point in discussing this with Michael farther. Eric did an outstanding job of presenting the Church’s teaching in this piece, and we’ve already spent a lot of time making good faith attempts to respond to Michael, but he’s lapsed into making arguments from his own authority (like none of the rest of us have been working in parishes over the last 15 years…) and assumptions of victory (“You would no doubt lose.”) rather than arguments.

    Michael knows what the Church’s teaching is on this, and he knows that it’s not really going to change. If he wants to keep the charade going, we should probably let him do it like one hand clapping.

  • Like it or not, when most people hear the word “authority” they instantly think of power, domination, and being able to make people do what you want them to do.

    In a fallen world wounded by original sin, the temptation to abuse authority is probably as strong if not stronger than the temptation to abuse sexuality, money, and other created things. This is certainly true in secular government and business, and sadly is also true within the Church.

    It should never be forgotten that the kind of authority or leadership that Christ exercises over the Church involves suffering for her, sacrificing himself for her, and giving his very life for her. And this, St. Paul makes very, very clear, is exactly the kind of authority the husband is supposed to exercise over his wife — not a domineering kind of authority but one which is willing to accept pain, rejection, misunderstanding, and any other sacrifice if it is for her good and that of the family. The kind of submission the wife is called to have for her husband is not simply a matter of “taking orders” from him, but demonstrating her appreciation and consideration for the sacrifices he makes for her — the attitude we are supposed to have when we think of what Christ sacrificed for us.

    Likewise, if priests are meant to be icons of Christ the Bridegroom, that means they are called to have the same kind of relationship of self-giving, sacrificing love with their parishioners as a husband is called to have with his wife. I would extend this further and say a bishop is called to have the same kind of love for the people (not just Catholics, but all people) in his diocese.

    C.S. Lewis said that the image of Christ the Bridegroom and his Bride the Church is most evident not necessarily in a happy marriage, but in a difficult marriage, in which the wife may be physically or mentally ill, unfaithful, addicted, have a bad temper, etc. and the husband persists in loving her anyway (although that love may be “tough” at times). I would think priests have to exercise the same kind of forebearance in spades when dealing with their parishioners and even with their superiors (bishops, etc.)

    Unfortunately, too often men run from this calling and leave it to their wives to exercise this kind of patient authority and headship. Too often men (and women) want the “telling people what to do” part of authority, but not the taking responsibility and making sacrifices part of it.

    Lewis said in “The Four Loves” that “the sternest feminist need not grudge my sex (men) the crown (of dominance) offered to it either in the Pagan or the Christian mystery, for the one is of paper and the other of thorns.”

    Likewise, I’d say that if feminists really understood the kind of headship or authority involved in becoming a priest, they’d probably be grateful NOT to be called to it.

  • Your assertion is truly absurd, the connection is obvious to anyone reading with the mind of the Church, or really just a reason.

    If you are going to advocate for the exclusion of women from the priesthood, you need to be able to make the argument and you clearly can’t. You just throw crap together, hope it sticks, and say “it’s obvious.” That won’t do. Even the Church doesn’t do that. You can’t even parrot the Church’s own position on the matter — you just need theo-ideological cover-up for your own perverse sexism — so throwing a bunch of disconnected “typologies” together is all you can muster. I have no time for that. Darwin is right — let it rest. Especially if you aren’t going to take the discussion seriously enough to make a real argument.

  • I’m censoring my last post — the tone was questionable.

    I’ll let it rest. Good debate.

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