1

St. Augustine: the Proper Role of Shepherds

“Yet there are shepherds who want to have the title of shepherd without wanting to fulfill a pastor’s duties;”
—St. Augustine of Hippo, Sermon on Pastors from The Office of Readings, 16 September, 2018

St. Augustine, as usual, had something to say 1800 years ago that hits the nail on the head today.  As I read excerpts from his Sermon on Pastors, while doing the Office of Readings today, I thought why isn’t someone in high ecclesial place saying what he said?

I’ll give some pertinent quotes.   For those of you interested in the whole reading please go to the link in the quote.

“The word of the Lord came to me and said: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel and speak to the shepherds of Israel. We just heard this reading a moment ago, my brothers, and I have decided to speak to you on this passage. The Lord will help me to speak the truth if I do not speak on my own authority. For if I speak on my own authority, I will be a shepherd nourishing myself and not the sheep. However, if my words are the Lord’s, then he is nourishing you no matter who speaks. Thus says the Lord God: Shepherds of Israel, who have been nourishing only themselves! Should not the shepherds nourish the sheep? In other words, true shepherds take care of their sheep, not themselves. This is the principal reason why God condemns those shepherds: they took care of themselves rather than their sheep. Who are they who nourish themselves? They are the shepherds the Apostle described when he said: They all seek what is theirs and not what is Christ’s.”
—loc. cit.

and what should be sent as a message to all Cardinals and Curial Officials:

“In addition to the fact that I am a Christian and must give God an account of my life, I as a leader must give him an account of my stewardship as well.”
—loc. cit.

9

Let’s Starve the Church?

“Because the story of Theodore McCarrick isn’t just a story about sexual abuse. It’s about institutions and power.”
—Jonathan Last, The American Standard, 15 Sept. 2018.

There is a fine article in The American Standard by Jonathan Last giving a long view on the current crisis in the Church.  He gives a good summary of what has gone on before and, most importantly, puts it all in a context of who has power in the Church and what that signifies.

“The institutional damage is done not by the abusers but by the structures that cover for them, excuse them, and advance them. Viewed in that way, the damage done to the Catholic church by Cardinal Wuerl—and every other bishop who knew about McCarrick and stayed silent—is several orders of magnitude greater than that done by McCarrick himself.”
loc. cit.

As Last points out, the Pope has absolute authority as a moral judge; he can ignore immorality or he can deal with it.

The Catholic church is unlike any other earthly institution. It is strictly hierarchical, with its ultimate power derived from the son of God. The head of the church—the successor of Peter—is elected to a lifetime appointment by his peers, and his authority over them is total. He can allow them to carry on sexual affairs in broad daylight, as Francis did with Father Krzysztof Charamsa, a priest who worked for years in the Vatican curia while living openly with his gay lover. Or he can drive them from the church, as Francis did with Father Charamsa after the priest made his situation public in the Italian media in 2015. He can make either of these choices—or any choice in between—for any reason he likes. Or none at all. Such is the supreme power of the vicar of Christ.”
loc. cit.

Last goes on to talk about how a cabal of four “progressive” cardinals acted to get Bergoglio elected Pope, and the consequences of this.  He then projects four possible scenarios for the future:

  1. Francis could resign;
  2. Catholics could resign themselves to the moral mess to which some of the hierarchy has led us;
  3. A low probability option is schism;
  4. Finally, Catholics could resist the changes the liberal hierarchy is trying to install (a la the liberal resistance to Trump?)

And how would this resistance be carried out?   One weapon Last suggests is to

“..starve bishops such as Wuerl, Cupich, and Tobin of funds. Not a dime for any church in any diocese headed by a bishop who refuses to root out abusers and their enablers.”
loc. cit.

And resistance plus organization might work …in another 40 years or so.   Is that too long?  I’m not sure.

So, what do  you think, dear reader?  (Go here to read the full article.  It’s well worth the 20 minutes.)

 

16

“Ex Opere Operato”
A Convert’s Reflection on Church Scandals

“…the sacraments …are efficacious because in them Christ himself is at work: it is he who baptizes, he who acts in his sacraments in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies…. This is the meaning of the Church’s affirmation49 that the sacraments act ex opere operato (literally: “by the very fact of the action’s being performed),[emphasis added] i.e., by virtue of the saving work of Christ, accomplished once for all.  It follows that “the sacrament is not wrought by the righteousness of either the celebrant or the recipient, but by the power of God.”50 From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of the personal holiness of the minister.”[emphasis added]
—Catholic Catechism, 1127, 1128

A Convert’s Qualms

When I came to the Catholic Church some 23 years ago, I did so in spite of some misgivings. (I should add, that after deeper study I found that these misgivings were not altogether justified.)   Among these qualms were the treatment of Jews during Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, the Galileo Affair, the doings of the Renaissance Popes (Medicis and Borgias), and what I thought was the Church’s requirement for a literal interpretation of Creation according to Genesis.  Nevertheless, these misgivings paled, as I realized that Christ had truly risen, and, if the New Testament was to be believed not only in the account of the Resurrection, but in other matters, the keys of the kingdom had been given to Peter.  Christ’s Church is the Catholic Church.

Since that time I have learned that priests are human and thus subject to human faults and frailties.  I have respected almost all of the priests I’ve known as a convert, liked—qua persona—most of them, and tangled with two on ecclesial matters (writing some angry letters, before I came to realize—as a Benedictine oblate—the necessity for humility). I have known several of the priests mentioned in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury’s Report, not personally or well, and I was much surprised and saddened to see their names listed.

In thinking about these scandals and about the reactions of higher ecclesial officials (including that of Pope Francis), I try to maintain a respect for their positions as priests, bishops, and pontiff, even while my intellect is telling me they are either fools, liars, or some combination of both.   My wife (who has her graduate degree in Medieval History and is an expert on the Albigensians) has told me that history gives a perspective  on the current situation that enables one to keep from getting one’s knickers in a twist. (Not her exact words, but a version more suitable for a family friendly article.)

So, let’s look at history and see how our current situation ranks compared to the past.

A Historical Perspective of Misdeeds in the Church.

The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.
—Hilaire Belloc: a comment made to William Temple and quoted by Robert Speaight in The Life of Hilaire Belloc.

I saw this quote first in a recent comment on an article in this blog.  Queen Kristina of Sweden said much the same when questioned about her conversion to a Church so full of misdeeds. Let’s see what the internet tells about the Church’s “Bad Popes.”  (See here and here for a more complete account.)

  • Pope Stephen VI (896–897), who had his predecessor Pope Formosus exhumed, tried, de-fingered, briefly reburied, and thrown in the Tiber.
  • Pope John XII (955–964), who gave land to a mistress, murdered several people, and was killed by a man who caught him in bed with his wife.
  • Pope Benedict IX (1032–1044, 1045, 1047–1048), who “sold” the Papacy.
  • Pope Boniface VIII (1294–1303), who is lampooned in Dante’s Divine Comedy
  • Pope Urban VI (1378–1389), who complained that he did not hear enough screaming when Cardinals who had conspired against him were tortured.
  • Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503), a Borgia, who was guilty of nepotism and whose unattended corpse swelled until it could barely fit in a coffin.[3]
  • Pope Leo X (1513–1521), a spendthrift member of the Medici family who once spent 1/7 of his predecessors’ reserves on a single ceremony.

Now there are many other instances of a culture of worldliness and corruption by priests and monastics.  It would take a much longer article than I could write to discuss all these.   Rather, I will list the saints who attempted to reform the Church and monastic orders (I’ll admit the list is by no means complete):

These saints founded monastic orders in which a simple life, austere and devoted, could be followed in the footsteps of Christ.  Do we need new religious orders such as these?

Summing Up, Ex Opere Operato

The catechism quoted at the beginning of this article assures me that even though the priest who consecrated the Eucharist I am about to receive might be in a state of sin, his consecration was valid and effective, so that I will truly consume the body and blood of our Lord.  (Note: this doctrine stems from the reforms of the monk Hildebrand, later Pope Gregory VII.) The history I have read tells me that  some of those in high places in my Church were sinners.  But do I not see myself as the sinner with his head cast down, praying in the Temple, rather than the proud, sinless Pharisee? And did not Peter deny our Lord three times?  Our Catholic Church is a Church of forgiveness AND repentance, a Church that has survived sinners and will do so in the future.

28

What Would Jesus Do…About Priestesses?

A former associate pastor at my parish once addressed a question about offering communion to anyone who would like to receive it by relating it to the question “What would Jesus do?” He said to consider a slightly different question; “What did Jesus do?” If the last The Last Supper was essentially the first Eucharist, it seems Jesus was very particular about who was in attendance and thus able to receive; much different than the Eucharistic foreshadowing that occurred at the multiplication of loaves in today’s Gospel reading, which was kind of a free for all (see John 6:1-15).

There were also no women at The Last Supper, which is a strange thing according to this article I happened upon about the Passover Seder meal. Apparently, Jesus broke with tradition and did not celebrate the Passover with family even though Jewish tradition holds that the mothers of the house and the children have an important role to play. Why would Jesus not invite his female relatives and followers? Not even his mother. No doubt he would have been with them at previous seder meals and knowing this would be his last, wouldn’t it have been even more appropriate to invite them all? It all points to the fact that his was no ordinary seder. This time he was conferring the Eucharist and the priesthood to his apostles and to no one else; this is the most reasonable explanation.

The Church is clear about the ordination of only men to the priesthood (see CCC, par. 1577). Jesus and his followers chose men to be their successors. Some might say that is only because they were bound by the times; people in those days would never accept women as leaders. But if Jesus is Lord then he is not “bound” by anything unless he chooses to be, like choosing to feel hunger, thirst and pain just like we do; and I don’t think he cares so much what people think in terms of social norms. It seems to me that if Jesus really wanted women to be his successors it would have happened.

Men as priests also connects with the idea that being male or female is not only a physical reality, but also a spiritually reality. As a priest, the man acts in the person of Jesus offering the Eucharist to his Church, which is literally the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine. If Jesus is “The Life”, then this giving and receiving of Jesus mirrors the giving and receiving that happens between a husband and his wife to bring about new life. No wonder the Catholic Church takes the definition of marriage so seriously!

If we view male and female as something only physical, we miss the greater reality. This not only leads to thinking a male-only priesthood is evidence of bigotry and a way to suppress woman, but also leads to confusion about marriage, gender and a whole host of other Church teachings on what it means to made in the image an likeness of God.

“For, once the idea is abroad that the changeless things can be subject to change, no peace is possible”

– David Warren

17

Jeremiahs or Jerks  ?

 

In the last few weeks some things have happened that have stunned me – and caused me to think and rethink writing about and discussing what I see as a the devastating crisis in Jesus’s Church.

A priest was introduced to me, ordained fifteen years, who is very active in parish work, not Judas social justice work, but real parish work, bringing the sacraments to the faithful. I mentioned the exhortation Amoris Laetitia and he said he had heard of it, but he had not read it.

In speaking with a close relative, she referred to the saintly man now wearing papal white and how she loves to hear the words he speaks to the faithful. She has only heard the “words” recounted from the pulpit at her local parish and as repeated to her by her fellow parishioners.

Another close relative told me he knows about all the corruption, wickedness, heresy and depravity of the priests, bishops, cardinals, and man wearing papal white, but he ignores it all, and would prefer I not speak of these things to him. He has a master’s degree in theology and teaches extensively in parish programs.

When I told both the priest and the one close relative that Jorge Bergolgio wrote and published the statement that “No one is condemned forever,” at first they did not believe me. I said that those were his actual, printed, proclaimed words. The priest said “that could be understood to lack clarity.”

I then asked the close relative had she heard of the homosexual cocaine orgies in the Vatican with male prostitutes or the pervert addicted to child pornography whisked away from the authorities in Canada, to the diplomatic safety of Vatican City,  and now recently arrested in the Vatican. She asked me never again to tell her about such things and to send her no emails with any such information, or with anything derogatory about Jorge Bergoglio.

These are not three folks in outer Mongolia who have never heard the name, “Jesus.” These were cradle Catholics, one ordained who daily acts in persona Christi,  all of whom, many times since the age of reason and literacy, have heard that Jesus said there is a hell and there is everlasting fire

So. This has made me think. Do I keep on keepin’ on ? Do I continue to say, when the occasion presents itself, I believe Jorge Bergoglio is a heretic and, while wearing the papal white,  he has proclaimed his heresy? Do I go on in telling people the bishops and cardinals, some of whom themselves are perverts, pederasts, pedophiles and the abusers and assaulters of women, girls and boys, that these men have stolen billions of the widows’ mites and the faithful’s  dollars, some  to live a life of perverted luxury or to  pay off those victims and their lawyers who speak out? Insuring that the details of their perfidy and the actions of the wicked are kept secret under the seals of the many, many courts who are dealing with these crimes?

I am thinking about the apostles, arrested by the church hierarchy of the time, and told you may not henceforth speak publicly in  the name of Jesus of Nazareth. I am thinking about St. Peter’s response, the response of the Rock Jesus chose for His Church, the first pope, when the hierarchy told him to shut up: we can obey you  or we can obey God.

I am praying.

I am also thinking about St. Dismas who, from his own cross, himself tortured and dying, ignored the crowd, ignored the ruling Romans, ignored the (so-called) “high” priests, and gave no heed to the soldiers of power gathered around celebrating Jesus’s suffering and crucifixion. St. Dismas, unlike his brother hanging nearby who was ridiculing Jesus in his agony. St. Dismas, the first and in some ways the most knowledegable evangelist of the passion, death and crucifixion of Jesus, who said, for all the world to hear, that Jesus is “Lord.”

 

10

The Son, The Ordained Priest At The Cross

 

Why, hanging on the Cross, did Jesus single out His mother and St. John and say, “Woman, behold your Son” ?

Presented here is a theory, a possibility, an opinion that, just before He died on the Cross, when Jesus said “Behold, your son,” He was announcing that, after He died, He would be present in person in this young man, the apostle John, and in all men subsequently who would receive, and whose being would be changed by, His new sacrament of Holy Orders. He instituted this sacrament the night before Good Friday and then administered it to John and the remaining men, all apostles. This happened before Pentecost, the birthday of His Church.

 

At the Foot of the Cross

On Calvary when Jesus was crucified and died, His final significant act, before saying “I thirst,” and “It is accomplished,” was this, as the divinely-inspired words of John’s Gospel tell us:

“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, behold your son,” and to the disciple, “Behold your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.  “ (Jn 19:26,27)

Of all the people present, in these words Jesus speaks directly to only two of them – He singles out His mother and the “apostle whom He loved,” John. There is no give-and-take conversation, only the words of Jesus.

 

Traditional Interpretations

Some traditional interpretations of what happened and why Jesus did what He did are that: Jesus wanted John to care for His mother after he died; Jesus is recognizing His mother as the mother of not only John, but of all Christians; and Jesus is saying that the Church, His Church,  all of us, are now His family.

Some writers have that John, who had been ordained in the sacrament of Holy Orders less than twenty-four hours before, was present at the Cross as an ordained priest.  No other apostle – no other ordained priest – was there. (For example: The Blessed Virgin Mary’s Role in the Celibate Priest’s Spousal and Paternal Love;  Monsignor John Cihak, S.T.D.; Ignatius Insight;  http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2009/jcihak_maryandpriests1_july09.asp).

 

What Jesus Did Not Say

Jesus could have chosen to say anything. He knew that John was there and He knew that some years later John, divinely inspired,  would write down His words, and then for all time people would read what He had said. Interestingly, Jesus did not say any of these things, which He could have said:

“Mother, behold your children.” [referring to not only John, but the other Marys present, including Mary Magdalene].

“Woman, behold your son, John, and your daughter, Mary Magdalene.”

“John, treat this woman now as your own mother.”

“John, take care of My mother.”

“Mother, behold everyone here.” [including the women, any representatives of the high priest, the Roman soldiers, the Centurion,  the two thieves, and the Gentiles].

“Woman, behold all these people here ”

“Everyone, love one another.”

“Woman, this young man is now to be like a son to you.”

“Everybody hear Me. My mercy will now cover all your sins and all sins for all time.”

But Jesus chose not to say any of these things.

 

Why Speak Only To Mary, and Only To John?

Jesus chose to speak to Mary and John. So why the words reported in the Gospel of John and why did He speak only to  Mary, His Mother, and only to the young apostle John?

Perhaps there is no reason to ask why and the words should simply be taken as written. Considering, however, some facts –  that John was the only ordained priest present; that this was done immediately before Jesus dies; Jesus uses the word “son;” and that years later John was inspired by God to recount verbatim  what happened for everyone to read until the end of time; that the sacrament of Holy Orders had changed John’s very being –  there may be some interesting paths to pursue, even if clear, certain, and  unambigous insights are not possible.

 

Opinion etc.

What follows, although stated in declarative sentences, is opinion or theory; and, if these make no sense, some more learned can, and there is hope they will, explain why this is “mere” opinion and “mere” theory.

The words Jesus chose, “woman” and “son” have meanings deeper than what they literally signify.

 

The Woman, Mary

It is fairly well accepted that Jesus, in addressing Mary as “woman” is calling to mind Genesis 3:15:

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
This – “woman” – is how He addressed her previously at Cana, when He performed His first miracle.

It is Mary’s offspring, her Son, who defeats Satan and all evil.

 

The Son, John

The word Jesus uses for “son” is the same word used throughout the New Testament, in the words of the angel Gabriel to Mary and to Joseph, in the words of Jesus, in the words of His apostles, in the words of demons, in the words of the evangelists, and in the words of the other New Testament writers. He does not say to Mary “John here is now like me, like your son.”

 

Why Did Jesus Say This?

This is the opinion/theory:  In saying “Woman, behold your son,” Jesus is saying to His mother, and to all of us who through the centuries and who today read these words:

“This ‘son,’ John, is now Me in person. I have made him so, changed his very being, by the change effected in My new sacrament of Holy Orders. Woman, I am your only Son, and when I am no longer here, I will be here as your Son in person in all men ordained and for all time to be ordained My priests. Here right now, after I have said this, I will offer the sacrifice of my life on this Cross, I will die.  Then, I, from now until the end of the world, will be actually present for you and for all, and with you in person – body and soul, and body – in a special sacramental way in these men, and not in this way in any other human beings. I will act in person in these men who will re-present for Me to My Father this sacrifice of Mine.”

 

Holy Orders – Priests & Priests Only, In Persona Christi

The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it clear that Jesus is present today in person in His priests in a way in which He is not present in anyone else:


“In the person of Christ the Head . . .

“1548 In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis:[citing Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 10]

“It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person his minister truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi) [citing Pius XII, Mediator Dei].” (Catechism 1548)

“1563 ‘Through that sacrament priests by the anointing of the Holy Spirit are signed with a special character and so are configured to Christ the priest in such a way that they are able to act in the person of Christ the head.’ ” (citing Vatican II, Presbyterorem Ordinis). (Catechism 1563)

“1591 . . . the task [of the ordained priest] is to serve in the name of and in the person of Christ the Head in the midst of the community.” (Catechism 1591)

 

Sacrifice of the Mass – Jesus In Person In His Priest

Jesus in present in person in His priests at each Mass, and only in His priests who are there in persona Christi:

“1566 ‘It is in the Eucharistic cult or in the Eucharistic assembly of the faithful (synaxis) that they [ordained priests] exercise in a supreme degree their sacred office; there, acting in the person of Christ and proclaiming his mystery, they unite the votive offerings of the faithful to the sacrifice of Christ their head, and in the sacrifice of the Mass they make present again and apply, until the coming of the Lord, the unique sacrifice of the New Testament, that namely of Christ offering himself once for all a spotless victim to the Father.’ “ (citing Vatican II, Lumen Gentium).

 

In Person?

No matter which accepted definition of “person” is used and followed, a “person” is not only a soul or not only a body. A person is a soul/body, a body/soul, an “ensouled body,” or an “embodied soul.”  No matter how you define “person,” the body is there.

When Jesus is present with us today in person, He is with us totally, wholly, soul/body, body/soul. He is with us in the person of His priests, their persons which are both soul and body, in the person of their embodied souls, in the person of their ensouled bodies. This is why from the time of the Last Supper until today the Church has faithfully obeyed the Command Of The Lord that only males be ordained; and why is it senseless, in terms of theology, sacramentality, and ecclesiology to think that anyone other than a male even could receive Holy Orders and be ordained a priest to be Jesus, in person, for us.

 

Clues From The Original Greek of St. John’s Gospel

Here is a literal translation of John 19:26-27 :

“Jesus therefore seeing and knowing the mother and the disciple having stood by whom he was loving, says to the mother, Woman see and know the son of you. Then He says to the disciple, See and know the mother of you. And from that hour the disciple took her into his own.

The verb Jesus uses, typically translated as “behold,” means more than simply “see.” It means to both see and then to realize what you are seeing, to see and to know. Jesus is telling His mother, and us today, you see this young man here, he is now more than he was, he is now configured to Me so that in him I can be with you, in person, in the “son of you, mother,” in the person of My priests.

He is also speaking to John, and in speaking to John speaking to all priests for all time: You, now that you have been ordained My priest, see and know that you are now so changed in your very being that you are My mother’s Son, taking my place here in earth, her son in a way that no one else is.

 

Holy Orders

There are three sacraments you can receive only once: Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders. This is so because they effect a real change which cannot be reversed and is a change forever. This has been described as an indelible mark on the soul and the imprinting of a sacramental, spiritual character on the soul. (See, e.g. Catechism 1582; and Canon Law 1008 and related commentaries)

By His sacrament of Holy Orders, a man is changed, a new reality comes into existence in the person of the priest. Jesus is not  there merely in spirit, He is there in person, in His priest:

“The ordained ministry, which may never be reduced to its merely functional aspect since it belongs on the level of “being,” enables the priest to act “in persona Christi” and culminates in the moment when he consecrates the bread and wine, repeating the actions and words of Jesus during the Last Supper . . . The Eucharist, like the priesthood, is a gift from God “which radically transcends the power of the assembly” and which the assembly “receives through episcopal succession going back to the Apostles” (Encyclical “Ecclesia de Eucharistia,” 29). The Second Vatican Council teaches that “the ministerial priest, by the sacred power that he enjoys … effects the Eucharistic Sacrifice in the person of Christ and offers it to God in the name of all the people” (Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 10).” (Letter of John Paul II to Priests, Holy Thursday, 2004).

Conclusion

This is what is being proposed here. Jesus is telling Mary that, since He is going to heaven, and as He is her Son, the offspring who crushes the head of evil, these men He has really, sacramentally changed are now her sons, her offspring through His sacramental power and they will now be here on earth for Him, in person.

1

Words of Hope from St. Ambrose

Today, 7th December, is the feast day for St. Ambrose, the saint who led St. Augustine to the Church.  In the daily Office of Readings a letter of his was the second reading, and it offered words of hope for the troubled times that have engendered so many posts in this blog.   I’ll quote from this:

“You have entered upon the office of bishop. Sitting at the helm of the Church, you pilot the ship against the waves. Take firm hold of the rudder of faith so that the severe storms of this world cannot disturb you. The sea is mighty and vast, but do not be afraid, for as Scripture says: he has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters.

 

The Church of the Lord is built upon the rock of the apostles among so many dangers in the world; it therefore remains unmoved. The Church’s foundation is unshakeable and firm against the assaults of the raging sea. Waves lash at the Church but do not shatter it. Although the elements of this world constantly beat upon the Church with crashing sounds, the Church possesses the safest harbor of salvation for all in distress. Although the Church is tossed about on the sea, it rides easily on rivers, especially those rivers that Scripture speaks of: The rivers have lifted up their voice. These are the rivers flowing from the heart of the man who is given drink by Christ and who receives from the Spirit of God. When these rivers overflow with the grace of the Spirit, they lift up their voice.

 

There is also a stream which flows down on God’s saints like a torrent. There is also a rushing river giving joy to the heart that is at peace and makes for peace. Whoever has received from the fullness of this river, like John the Evangelist, like Peter and Paul, lifts up his voice. Just as the apostles lifted up their voices and preached the Gospel throughout the world, so those who drink these waters begin to preach the good news of the Lord Jesus.

 

Drink, then, from Christ, so that your voice may also be heard. Store up in your mind the water that is Christ, the water that praises the Lord. Store up water from many sources, the water that rains down from the clouds of prophecy.

 

Whoever gathers water from the mountains and leads it to himself or draws it from springs, is himself a source of dew like the clouds. Fill your soul, then, with this water, so that your land may not be dry, but watered by your own springs.”

Go to the link above for the rest.

30

Male Priests Only; Can This Command of The Lord Be Disobeyed?

Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus commanded that only males were to receive His sacrament of Holy Orders – ordination as deacon, priest, and bishop. Before the first Pentecost, the birth day of His Church, Jesus commanded that only males, and not females, could receive His sacrament of Holy Orders.

With only the eleven remaining Apostles present, before His ascension, He ordered the Apostles to “go to the mountain” which He designated and there He said to them: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. “ (Mt 28:19-20).

Can the Commands Of The Lord regarding the male-only priesthood now be disobeyed ?

Males Only

The constant Church teaching on the males-only-priesthood Command Of The Lord, since the first century, is reflected in current Canon Law: “A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly.”   (Canon 1024; Code of  Canon Law, 1983). Papal teaching has always held, proclaimed and made clear what Pope St. John Paul II said in his apostolic letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (May 22, 1994):

“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, 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”

This statement by Pope St. John Paul is in accord with the conditions for an infallible statement and is clearly worded in such a manner.

Failed Ordination Attempts

A rebel bishop lays hands on a woman, says the words of the Sacrament of Holy Orders for deacons, correctly; says all the prayers, performs all the associated gestures and ritual. He then says, “I have just conferred on this woman the Sacrament of Holy Orders and she is now an ordained deacon!” A dissident archbishop lays hands on a woman, Jane Doe, goes through the required rubrics, says the mandated prayers and words, and does the stipulated gestures and actions, and declares, “I have ordained this woman to the priesthood. She is now Father Doe.”

To any of these fictional scenarios, add this: “But my bishops conference said this was legitimate, this is OK, this is valid, and that I can do this.” Or, purely hypothetically, fantastic as it may sound, ratchet this up a few more ecclesial notches, “But the Pope said this is in accord with his magisterial teaching and that now women can be ordained deacons and priests.”

The woman is not a deacon.   Why not?  Jane Doe is not Father Jane. Why not? The hypothetical episcopal and papal changes and validations had no effect. Why not?

What Actually Happened ?

To answer these ‘Why not?’ questions, beginning in the beginning is always a good place to begin.

History is important here.  Did the Church, after it came into existence on the first Pentecost, after it then received the Holy Spirit, did it form a Committee On Getting Grace To Flow from Jesus to His Christians? Did it hold a synod with 10% of the Apostles to create ways to bring God’s life to people ? Did this new Church develop rituals, signs, regulations, prayers, and rubrics for the Church ? Did the Church set all this out and make it subject to change in the future by a group of bishops, by a pope in concert with a council, or even by a pope alone?

The chronology in fact was this: in time, the sacraments came first, then the Church. Jesus made and gifted us with His sacraments before He ascended into heaven, before the first Pentecost. Before His Church was instituted, Jesus gave us his words, directives, instructions, laws, limitations, orders, His “commands,” regarding His seven sacraments, including His sacrament of Priesthood.

What Is a Sacrament ?

Catechisms have answered the question:  ‘What is a sacrament?’ :

Baltimore Catechism No. 1, 1885 A.D. : “A sacrament is an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994 A.D. :  The seven sacraments are “this treasure from the Lord.” (1117). Quoting from the Council of Trent, 1547 A.D.: “Adhering to the teaching of Holy Scriptures, to the apostolic traditions, and to the consensus . . . of the Fathers,” we profess that “the sacraments of the new law were . . . all instituted by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1114).

This is the clear and unambiguous teaching of the Church, including that of Vatican II: “ They [the sacraments] must always however be referred to Christ, from whom their effectiveness derives . . . Of themselves, they certainly express the effective will of Christ the Savior  . . ..  (from the General Catechetical Directory, paras, 55, 56, published by the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy,  in accord with the directive in the Vatican II Council’s Decree on the Bishops’ Pastoral Office in the Church). 

The Sacrament of Holy Orders

Two keys to understanding the Sacrament of Holy Orders from these definitions are: 1.  that Jesus made the sacraments; and 2. they are gifts to us from Him. As His gifts, the sacraments are not mere incidental unimportant signs that the Church now today can substantially change – the Church must take them as Jesus has given them. Pope Pius XII, in accord with the teachings of the Council of Trent, stated, “The Church has no power over the substance of the sacraments, that is to say, over what Christ the Lord, as the sources of Revelation bear witness, determined should be maintained in the sacramental sign.” (Sacramentum Ordinis, No. 5).

Through All Church History

Holy Scripture, the tradition of the Church, and the constant teaching of the Church for now almost two millennia is that Jesus commanded that only males would be His priests, that females can not be ordained bishops, priests, or deacons.

Scripture

Only twelve males were selected by Jesus as the first Apostles. When Jesus said “He who receives you receives me,” He sent out only males. Only the twelve Apostles were present at the Last Supper when He instituted the sacrament of Holy Orders and, by His command, ordered them, and only them, to do what He was doing in remembrance of Him, to act as priests in persona Christi in re-presenting Jesus’s sacrifice to His Father.

Although some women witnessed to the Resurrection, Jesus did not make them Apostles. Only males were considered as replacement for the Apostle Judas. When, at the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells the remaining eleven Apostles that they must do what He has commanded, no women are present.

St. Paul, recognizing that in Christ there is neither male no female, still is inspired by God to write that what he is saying about order in the Church, including the male-only priesthood, is not simply his own personal opinion, a personal directive, or a church custom, but is a “command of the Lord” already in effect:

“Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.(1 Cor 14:36-38).

Church Fathers

Throughout Church history, through and past the Middle Ages, the Church Fathers, scholars, and theologians uphold the Command of the Lord that women cannot be ordained as bishops, priests, or deacons. “Whenever the Church Fathers have occasion to speak, directly or indirectly, about ‘women in the priesthood,’ they reject it clearly and unanimously.” (Hauke, p. 425).

Two Milllenia

“In fact, ordination of women has been rejected in the Church with remarkable unanimity throughout two thousand years. This testimony is all the more impressive when – above all during the early period in Church history – it stands in contrast to existing ‘emancipatory’ trends. If women are ordained among the heretics or even if they only take on official teaching or baptismal duties, then such behavior is branded not only as a breach of Church discipline, but as heresy.” (Fr. Manfred Hauke, Women in the Priethood? Ignatius Press, 1988, p. 478).

“In sum, the Tradition has been so firm throughout the centuries that, as  Inter Insigniores, no. 8 notes, “the Magisterium has not felt the need to intervene in order to formulate a principle which was not attacked, or to defend a law that was not challenged. … each time that this tradition had the occasion to manifest itself, it witnessed to the Church’s desire to conform to the model left to her by the Lord.” [Inter Insigniores,  Declaration of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, On the Question of Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood, 1976]. But of course such principles and laws have been challenged in the past thirty years. Hence, the recent Magisterium has had to respond, and it has done so carefully, patiently and firmly. (Mark Lowery, The Male Priesthood the Argument From Tradition,  https://www.ewtn.com/library/DOCTRINE/MALEPRIE.TXT.).

But . . .

All of the law, Holy Scripture, tradition, magisterial declarations, documents, treatises, reasoning, history,  teachings, and Jesus’s words themselves make no difference to those who now demand that women be ordained, first deacons, then priests, eventually as bishops, and finally, some day, a female pope. Their response to the Command Of The Lord that His priests will only be males and that women will not be priests is one of:

  1. There is no such Command
  2. There is such a Command, but it does not apply today
  3. There is such a Command, but it can be ignored
  4. There is such a Command, but it can be disobeyed
  5. There is such a Command, but it must be disobeyed
  6. There is such a Command, but it can and must be reinterpreted today
  7. There is such a Command, but a pope can countermand it
  8. There is [or is not] such a Command, and there are exceptions; there were female deacons, “deaconesses,” who were ordained; and there were female “apostles”
  9. Right, justice, social justice, equality, recent research, and/or good, and/or the changing times, demand that women be ordained deacons and priests

Full treatments of such positions, and the reasons that they are wrong, can be reviewed in detail in the Hauke and Lowery works cited above, and in Eamon Keane’s The Ordained Priesthood, at https://www.ewtn.com/library/PRIESTS/ORDAINED.TXT.

Conclusion

It is not possible to put in words this author’s debts to  Fr. Hauke, Dr. Lowery, and Mr. Keane – whose works are cited above – for the information and sources on the Command Of The Lord regarding male only priests. Of course, none of them is responsible for anything said here.

Why say it?  There was a time when the faithful heard that there was going to be a Synod on the Family, and what was expected was a discussion of glorious, sharing heterosexual marriage between a loving man and a loving woman, and the joys of children. In truth and reality, as it turned out, the event was explicitly a Sin-od on Virtuous Adultery and, by implication, a Sin-od on loving virtuous sinful relationships of all types. It was also a vehicle for the proclamation of new teaching, including that the reception of Holy Communion by continuing adulterous sinners is permissible, and that the  ecclesial community must “integrate” such ongoing, public sinners into the active life of the Church.

The faithful have now been alerted to what is termed a Synod ostensibly dealing with youth and “vocations.”  Based on how things have been going, it seemed  a good time to make clear that Jesus gave His Church a command that men alone will receive His sacrament of Holy Orders;  that women cannot and will not be ordained, priests, deacons, or bishops; and  His Church will never have a female pope.