Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Instead of that other garbage... see this film!

While we are on the topic of films in this post-Oscar week, this documentary of a Carthusian monastery seems fascinating... and it is getting fine reviews (even from the likes of the NY Times, no less!). Read the NY Times review (I especially like his conclusion--highlighted in bold):


Lives Lived at a Monk’s Pace, Allowing Time for the Spirit to Flourish
Published: February 28, 2007
The Carthusian monks who are the subjects of Philip Gröning’s documentary “Into Great Silence” do not, as the film’s title suggests, have a great deal to say. Living in a light-filled stone charterhouse (as the order’s monasteries are called) in a picturesque valley in the French Alps, they bind themselves to a vow not of literal silence but of extreme reticence. They pray and sing aloud, alone and together, and once a week the elders take an outdoor stroll during which some chatting is permitted.

Mr. Gröning’s cameras (one of them operated by the pioneering digital videographer Anthony Dod Mantle) observe the brothers from afar, or unobtrusively within their cells, a discreet approach that occasionally gives way to head-on portraiture.

Only one monk, elderly and blind, speaks directly to the camera. Appearing near the end of the film, he muses on the nature of his vocation and the texture of his religious devotion. Past and present are human categories, he says, but “for God, there is no past, only present.” Viewed from this perspective — from the standpoint of eternity — “Into Great Silence,” with a running time of 162 minutes, is absurdly short.

Mr. Gröning, a German filmmaker, waited 16 years for permission to document the Carthusians, and this too seems like a trivial interval. The order was founded by St. Bruno of Cologne in 1084, and it appears that not much has changed in the lives of its adherents since then. A few concessions to modernity are visible: electric lights, a computer for keeping the books, and oranges and bananas in the middle of winter. But the rhythm of work, prayer and reflection —the attitude described as “joyful penitence” — flows in a cycle that feels not so much ancient as timeless.

And the film’s achievement is to capture, within a brief, elliptical span, this slow, delicate rhythm. “Into Great Silence” is not about the Carthusians in the conventional sense that documentaries are about their subjects. It offers no background on the history or theology of the order, nor any information about the biographies of individual monks. Though we do witness the initiation and adaptation of two novices, we learn nothing about their previous lives or their reasons for joining.

The psychology and philosophy of asceticism are not Mr. Gröning’s concern. He is after something more elusive and, from an aesthetic as well as an intellectual point of view, more valuable: a point of contact with the spiritual content of intense religious commitment.
He finds it by means of a visual style and an editing scheme that match the feeling and structure of the days and seasons as they pass through the charterhouse. Snow gives way to greenery, early morning light cycles around to darkness, and the viewer witnesses ordinary moments that add up to a persuasive representation of grace.

Not the thing itself — Mr. Gröning is not so vain as to suppose that a movie can provide a religious experience — but a preliminary understanding of its shape and weight. The sensual beauty of the images is part of this, but the film has more than lovely alpine vistas and arresting compositions of light and shade. Like the monks themselves, it is both humble and exalted.
And, in its way, eloquent. The idea of removing yourself entirely from the world is a radical one, and Mr. Gröning approaches it with fascination and a measure of awe. At first, as your mind adjusts to the film’s contemplative pace, you may experience impatience. Where is the story? Who are these people? But you surrender to “Into Great Silence” as you would to a piece of music, noting the repetitions and variations, encountering surprises just when you think you’ve figured out the pattern. By the end, what you have learned is impossible to sum up, but your sense of the world is nonetheless perceptibly altered.

I hesitate, given the early date and the project’s modesty, to call “Into Great Silence” one of the best films of the year. I prefer to think of it as the antidote to all of the others.

Opens today in Manhattan.

Written (in English and Latin, with English subtitles), produced, directed and edited by Philip Gröning; director of photography, Mr. Gröning; released by Zeitgeist Films. At the
Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, west of Avenue of the Americas, South Village. Running time: 162 minutes. This film is not rated.
The official website of the Carthusian order:
A Wikipedia article on the Carthusian order:
Who was their founder St. Bruno?

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A review of Pan's Labyrinth

Catholic movie and cultural critic Barbara Nicolosi has an interesting review of
Pan's Labyrinth--a movie that is all the rage... does it live up to the hype? Check it out:

The movie's official site:
A site with good reviews of movies from a Catholic Christian perspective:

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Monday, February 26, 2007

American Psychological Association on the Sexualization of Girls

Catholic media commentator Theresa Tomeo comments on the American Psychological Association “Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls”.

Apparently, the psychology profession is beginning to report what Catholic moral theologians have been saying for years. The term "sexualization" as used in the report refers to the phenomenon whereby "a person's value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;
a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person." Anyone who is a parent should read this report in its entirety. The Report also includes positive steps that can be taken to avoid sexualization of women. After a brief perusal, I have included a few lengthy excerpts from the Executive Summary of the Report. The Report and the executive summary can be read in their entirety on the APA's website:

"...Virtually every media form studied provides ample evidence of the sexualization of women, including television,music videos,music lyrics, movies, magazines, sports media, video games, the Internet, and advertising (e.g., Gow, 1996; Grauerholz & King, 1997; Krassas, Blauwkamp,& Wesselink, 2001, 2003; Lin, 1997; Plous & Neptune, 1997; Vincent, 1989;Ward, 1995). Some studies have examined forms of media that are especially popular with children and adolescents, such as video games and teen-focused magazines.

"In study after study, findings have indicated that women more often than men are portrayed in a sexual manner (e.g., dressed in revealing clothing, with bodily postures or facial expressions that imply sexual readiness) and are objectified (e.g., used as a decorative object, or as body parts rather than a whole person). In addition, a narrow (and unrealistic) standard of physical beauty is heavily emphasized.These are the models of femininity presented for young girls to study and emulate. ...

"...Although extensive analyses documenting the sexualization of girls, in particular, have yet to be conducted, individual examples can easily be found.These include advertisements (e.g., the Skechers “naughty and nice” ad that featured Christina Aguilera dressed as a schoolgirl in pigtails, with her shirt unbuttoned, licking a lollipop), dolls (e.g., Bratz dolls dressed in sexualized clothing such as miniskirts, fishnet stockings, and feather boas), clothing (thongs sized for 7– to 10-year-olds, some printed with slogans such as “wink wink”), and television programs (e.g., a televised fashion show in which adult models in lingerie were presented as young girls). Research documenting the pervasiveness and influence of such products and portrayals is sorely needed.

"...If girls purchase (or ask their parents to purchase) products and clothes designed to make them look physically appealing and sexy, and if they style their identities after the sexy celebrities who populate their cultural landscape, they are, in effect, sexualizing themselves. Girls also sexualize themselves when they think of themselves in objectified terms. Psychological researchers have identified self-objectification as a key process whereby girls learn to think of and treat their own bodies as objects of others’ desires (Frederickson & Roberts, 1997; McKinley & Hyde, 1996). In self-objectification, girls internalize an observer’s perspective on their physical selves and learn to treat themselves as objects to be looked at and evaluated for their appearance. Numerous studies have documented the presence of self-objectification in women more than in men. Several studies have also documented this phenomenon in adolescent and preadolescent girls (McConnell, 2001; Slater & Tiggemann, 2002).

"...Cognitive and Emotional Consequences
Cognitively, self-objectification has been repeatedly shown to detract from the ability to concentrate and focus one’s attention, thus leading to impaired performance on mental activities such as mathematical computations or logical reasoning (Frederickson, Roberts, Noll, Quinn, & Twenge, 1998; Gapinski, Brownell, & LaFrance, 2003; Hebl, King, & Lin, 2004). One study demonstrated this fragmenting quite vividly (Fredrickson et al., 1998).While alone in a dressing room, college students were asked to try on and evaluate either a swimsuit or a sweater.While they waited for 10 minutes wearing the garment, they completed a math test. The results revealed that young women in swimsuits performed significantly worse on the math problems than did those wearing sweaters. No differences were found for young men. In other words, thinking about the body and comparing it to sexualized cultural ideals disrupted mental capacity. In the emotional domain, sexualization and objectification undermine confidence in and comfort with one’s own body, leading to a host of negative emotional consequences, such as shame, anxiety, and even self-disgust. The association between self-objectification and anxiety about appearance and feelings of shame has been found in adolescent girls (12–13-year-olds) (Slater & Tiggemann, 2002) as well as in adult women.

Mental and Physical Health
Research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed mood (Abramson & Valene, 1991; Durkin & Paxton, 2002; Harrison, 2000; Hofschire & Greenberg, 2001; Mills, Polivy, Herman, & Tiggemann, 2002; Stice, Schupak-Neuberg, Shaw, & Stein, 1994;Thomsen,Weber, & Brown, 2002; Ward, 2004). Several studies (on both teenage and adult women) have found associations between exposure to narrow representations of female beauty (e.g., the “thin ideal”) and disordered eating attitudes and symptoms. Research also links exposure to sexualized female ideals with lower self-esteem, negative mood, and depressive symptoms among adolescent girls and women. In addition to mental health consequences of sexualization, research suggests that girls’ and women’s physical health may also be negatively affected, albeit indirectly.

Sexual well-being is an important part of healthy development and overall well-being, yet evidence suggests that the sexualization of girls has negative consequences in terms of girls’ ability to develop healthy sexuality. Self-objectification has been linked directly with diminished sexual health among adolescent girls (e.g., as measured by decreased condom use and diminished sexual assertiveness; Impett, Schooler, & Tolman, 2006). Frequent exposure to narrow ideals of attractiveness is associated with unrealistic and/or negative expectations concerning sexuality. Negative effects (e.g., shame) that emerge during adolescence may lead to sexual problems in adulthood (Brotto, Heiman, & Tolman, in press).

Attitudes and Beliefs
Frequent exposure to media images that sexualize girls and women affects how girls conceptualize femininity and sexuality. Girls and young women who more frequently consume or engage with mainstream media content offer stronger endorsement of sexual stereotypes that depict women as sexual objects (Ward, 2002;Ward & Rivadeneyra, 1999; Zurbriggen & Morgan, 2006).They also place appearance and physical attractiveness at the center of women’s value.

Impact on Others and on Society
The sexualization of girls can also have a negative impact on other groups (i.e., boys, men, and adult women) and on society more broadly. Exposure to narrow ideals of female sexual attractiveness may make it difficult for some men to find an “acceptable” partner or to fully enjoy intimacy with a female partner (e.g., Schooler & Ward, 2006).
Adult women may suffer by trying to conform to a younger and younger standard of ideal female beauty. More general societal effects may include an increase in sexism; fewer girls pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); increased rates of sexual harassment and sexual violence; and an increased demand for child pornography."

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Archbishop Hanus responds to the cloning bill vote

The following is from the Iowa Catholic Conference email newsletter (2/25)
( ):

"Cloning – Senate File 162 goes to Gov. Culver

It was an interesting week but ultimately a disappointing one as the Iowa House approved SF 162 – the cloning bill – by a single vote on Thursday night, Feb. 22. (Rep. Betty DeBoef – R mistakenly voted aye). The bill passed the House 52-46. Fifty-one is the constitutional majority needed to pass.

Two Democrats, Rep. Michael Reasoner and Rep. Dolores Mertz opposed the bill as did all Republicans. (Also, if you were listening to the debate, you noticed that Archbishop Hanus’s testimony and recent op-ed piece were read from the floor.) Please thank your legislator if they opposed the bill.

A public hearing held Feb. 21 brought many pro-life supporters to the House chamber. Thanks to the Knights of Columbus and other pro-life groups, Iowa Right to Life, Iowans for LIFE, and the Iowa Christian Alliance for their efforts. Information about defeating the bill also was distributed to Christian school supporters.

SF 162, when signed by Governor Chet Culver, will repeal Iowa’s current ban on cloning and put in a ban on “reproductive” cloning – bringing a cloned embryo to term. SF 162 will make it possible for human embryos to be created by cloning and then destroyed to extract stem cells from the embryo. Those embryonic stem cells will be used for research.

Here is the reaction from Archbishop Hanus to the vote:

“With deep sadness, I regret the recent action by the Iowa House and Senate to change Iowa’s law which banned human cloning.

“In recent weeks and months, I strove to explain Catholic teaching. This teaching is inspired by Jesus’ call to respect every human being, especially the most vulnerable among us. Catholic thought also supports scientific research based on sound ethical principles. Experimentation on non-embryonic stem cells has produced many medical therapies which have helped persons suffering from a wide range of ailments. Let us pray that Iowa tax dollars will be used only for these efforts.

“Many legislators formed their consciences correctly. I thank them and invite Catholics to show their appreciation.

We have just entered the season of Lent. Lent is a time when we are called to intensified prayer, generous almsgiving and penitential fasting. I urge all members of the Catholic community to enter into this season with greater seriousness. Let us all do penance.”

Thank you so much for your efforts on this legislation. We were fighting an uphill battle against Governor Culver and the legislature’s Democratic leadership as this bill was a top priority. An effort to appropriate money for an embryonic stem cell research center will come later in the session."

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Archbishop Hanus on embryonic stem cell research

On Ash Wednesday, February 21, Dubuque Archbishop Jerome Hanus spoke out against the proposed bill to repeal Iowa's ban on human cloning (veiled as a bill regarding embryonic stem cell research). Iowa House Republican leader Christopher Rants published the Archbishop's statement on his website ( ). Unfortunately, the House passed the proposed bill 52-46 on Thursday. Governor Chet Culver has promised to sign the bill into law. Another victory for the culture of death.

[note: do not consider this a personal endorsement of any party, although, I feel it necessary to point out that it would seem that the Democrats have failed the people of Iowa more on this particular issue--in particular, Govenors Tom Vilsack (a Catholic) and Chet Culver (who excitedly agreed that he would sign the bill).]

Archbishop Jerome Hanus' statement:

I am Archbishop Jerome Hanus of Dubuque, IA. I speak in name of the Iowa Catholic Conference.

Catholics support most forms of stem cell research.

The Catholic Church supports most forms of stem cell research. Research using adult stem cells, cells from umbilical cord blood, the placenta, or from amniotic fluid is ethically acceptable. All the successful treatments that have been developed by scientists up to this point come from this kind of stem cell research.

Just last year, Pope Benedict XVI affirmed, “Somatic stem-cell research also deserves approval and encouragement when it felicitously combines scientific knowledge, the most advanced technology in the biological field and ethics that postulate respect for the human being at every state of his or her existence” (16 September 2006).

Scientists have kept a record of the medical treatments which have been developed from research using adult stem cells.

Listen to the list. Successful therapies have been developed for 26 forms of cancer; 14 forms of auto-immune diseases; 2 forms of cardio vascular disease; ocular disease; immunodeficiencies; neural degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s; spinal cord injuries; sickle cell and other anemias; metabolic disorders; liver and bladder diseases. More than 70 effective therapies have been developed as a result of adult stem cell research. How many therapies or treatments have developed from embryonic stem cell research? None. Not a single helpful therapy has been developed from embryonic stem cell research.

Why should Iowa tax money be used to support unpromising research? Why should Iowa tax money be used to support research which many Iowan citizens find ethically unacceptable?

The basis for the Catholic position is the Golden Rule. “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” In the medical science field, this rule has been articulated by the basic principle of the Hippocratic Oath: “As to diseases, make a habit of two things-to help or at least do no harm” --The Epidemics

Medical ethicists and philosophers have developed sound principles. Many of these principles are enshrined in the laws of our country and our State. These laws prohibit unethical experimentation on humans. Legislators are passing laws to protect animals and to protect the environment. There is a federal law which makes it a crime to damage the embryo of a bald eagle.

Human subjects should not be subjected to unethical experimentation. This is an important moral principle. Exceptions to it are regulated carefully by important statues. Human subjects may not be experimented on unless they give their consent.

Consent may be given for experimentation on human subjects who cannot give consent themselves, if the experimentation has some promise of good for those subjects themselves.

This proposed legislation would make it legal to experiment on human subjects without proper consent being given. This legislation would permit damage and death to be done to living human beings.

Catholic social philosophy has as one of its primary principles the insistence on respect and recognition of the human dignity of every human being, no matter what the age or the condition of that human being.
Just because this living human organism was created by the nucleus of a somatic cell, and not by a sperm, does not prove that this is not human. The sheep, Dollie, was created by a similarly process, by a somatic cell nuclear transfer. Even without a sperm, Dollie became a sheep, a real sheep. The embryo formed by a human egg and a human somatic cell nucleus is a human embryo.

James Shipley is a stem cell scientist from MIT. He has written (Boston Globe June 12, 2006):
“As living human beings, human embryos, no matter how they are created, are protected [according to regulations that institution review boards are charged with enforcing] from research that threatens their life and well-being.”

Most scientests affirm there is no credible scientific debate about the fact that these are human embryos. There is no credible scientific debate!

Therefore, this particular bill, HF 287, is objectionable for the following reasons:

It uses public money to support medical and scientific experimentation which may find to be unethical.

It produces embryos which science recognizes as both human and living.

It requires that these human living being be destroyed.

This experimentation does not help these living human beings.

This kind of experimentation holds little promise of developing therapies which will cure or treat any diseases.

Iowa tax dollars would be put to better use if they were directed to more promising research.

Most Rev. Jerome Hanus, O.S.B.
Archbishop of Dubuque


The DesMoines Register article, in particular, is illuminating. Think where we might be in 5 or 10 years. Human cloning for the purposes of not just research, but also to produce designer babies, etc. We have already descended down the slippery slope... soon our society might resemble the world of bizarro sci-fi novels. How sad.

DesMoines Register:

Radio Iowa

Richard Doerflinger, National Review:

The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics (for news on legislation regarding embryonic stem cell research in the U.S. and around the world):

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Church signs discuss Ash Wednesday

This is a funny (and catechetical) discussion between a Catholic church sign and two Protestant signs. You'll learn something... check it out:

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Lenten Contract

Looking for things to do to renew your spiritual life during this season of Lent? This is a nice brief reflection by my friend Fr. Patrick Nwokoye on his blog. Check it out:

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Catholic Q & A: Confirmation at what age?

One catechist has asked me:
My 7 yr old granddaughter is preparing to make her confirmation soon followed by 1st Communion. My daugter feels that this is too young an age to be confirmed but this is the policy of the Diocese so there is not much she can do. Any thoughts?


Well, this is the policy of some bishops (bishops get to choose at what age confirmation will be administered in their diocese). The Church has traditionally identified age 7 as the general age of reason (the time at which young people begin to know right from wrong and can make moral decisions). In the recent history of the Latin rite Church this has been the age that First Communion is given (to be preceded by First Confession). The question, then, is why do some bishops want children to be confirmed before receiving first Communion?

Ideally, the order in which you receive the sacraments of initiation should be:
BAPTISM, --> CONFIRMATION (completes baptism)--> and then EUCHARIST (and you should receive first confession before holy communion).

That is the ideal order. That is why Eastern rite Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox Christians baptize and confirm infants... and then give infants a small piece of the Eucharist. These 3 sacraments are what initiate us, and make us full members of the Church. Once again, ideally, we receive Holy Communion as the culmination of our full entrance into the community of believers--the body of Christ. This, of course, is the order that adult converts in the Latin rite receive the sacraments during the Easter Vigil.

The reason why we have delayed confirmation in the west was so that the Bishop could confirm more easily (larger groups, fewer times, etc as compared with individual baptisms) (CCC 1290). The west has always emphasized the fact that bishop should be the preferred administer of Confirmation because this expresses a Christian's tie to the apostolic unity of the Church (the bishop--a successor to the apostles--being the head of each local church, i.e. diocese) (CCC 1312). This practice of delayed confirmation has assumed a theological significance of preparing young Catholics through catechesis so that they can make an adult decision for their faith.

In the East, priests generally confirm infants immediately after baptism (they use the term "chrismation" for this annointing).

What are the benefits of confirmation at an earlier age: your granddaughter will already receive the graces from Confirmation. She will receive a greater outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and be fully initiated into the Church. These are real graces that will help her live her Christian life.

The drawback: she will not be able to make an "adult" choice to be Confirmed. (Also, without this "goal" of completing their sacraments, some families fail to continue to see that their children are catechized. This, of course, is a wrong way to view catechesis.)

However, that being said,...from my experience, many teens who approach Confirmation are not really in a good mind set to make an adult decision about Confirmation anyways. Many times, at the age of 15, they can be rebellious against their parents and religion in general. They can be so preocupied with their friends, social life, and sports that religion is not important to them anyways. They can be so influenced by the world that they are not able to see clearly the beauty and need for God's grace through this special sacrament.

So, all in all,... it might not be bad to receive Confirmation at an earlier age. The trick is that your daughter will have to work hard to keep teaching her child and forming her in the faith as she grows up. Prayer and a regular practice of the faith has to start in the home... and continue.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Political Activity in Iowa (embryonic stem cells; death penalty)

I heard on National Public Radio a woman commenting about this proposed bill to repeal bans on human cloning. She said (I paraphrase here), oh, it is not that extreme, because it only allows the creation of embryos for the extraction of their stem cells for RESEARCH purposes... this is not for REPRODUCTIVE purposes... these embryos will not be allowed to become human and be born.

DUH! - when you create a human embryo, you HAVE ALREADY created human life... this is already reproductive human cloning even if the human embryo is destroyed before it is allowed to mature in the womb and be born. Is this just stupidity on some people's part... or is it an intentional attempt to deceive voters? ...

This is the Feb. 18th Iowa Catholic Conference email newsletter:

The priority issue continues to be the bill to repeal Iowa’s ban on cloning.

Senate File 162 – Cloning bill – House contacts critical

The newest development is that there is a public hearing in the Iowa House on Wednesday, Feb. 21 from 7 to 10 p.m. regarding the bill, HF 287. It will be held in the Iowa House chamber at the Capitol. Please attend the hearing if you can – a good attendance on our part would be important.

Last week, the bill (SF 162, formerly SF 115) passed the Senate by a single vote, 26-24. All Republicans opposed the bill along with four Democrats; Senators Tom Hancock, Bill Heckroth, Brian Schoenjahn, and Joe Seng. If your Senator opposed the bill please thank them.
Supporters are making the argument that human cloning is not allowed by the bill. This is incorrect. This bill would allow human embryos to be created and then destroyed to extract their stem cells. Just because an embryo isn't allowed to be born doesn't make it less human. We are working to protect human life.

The outcome in the House is in doubt. Please contact your Representative to encourage their opposition to the bill. One Senator said he had received 183 e-mails; only one was in favor of the bill. If you haven’t already, please go to to find out who your representatives are and to send them an e-mail. This could be a very close vote and one of your contacts could make the difference!

Senate File 194 -- Death penalty

A bill to reinstate the death penalty was introduced late last week in the Iowa Senate as SF 194. It would bring back the death penalty for first degree murder, kidnapping and sexual abuse, against a minor. Gov. Culver has indicated he would be open to signing such a bill. In the past, Democratic leadership in the Senate has not been favorable to a death penalty bill. This bears watching and it is never too early to let your Senators know about our opposition to the death penalty.

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This is the first of a series of questions about the Faith that we commonly encounter. I have taken this paritcular question/answer from the Dead Theologians Society website (


Q. How should I respond to someone who asks me if I've been saved, or born again?

A: Answer with a resounding, "Yes!" Tell them that it is through Baptism that you were saved, just as the Bible says in 1 Peter 3:20 and that it is through Baptism, water and the Spirit, that you are "born again," just as the Bible says in John 3:5.

Many Protestants believe that they are saved by making a single act of faith at a single point in time in their lives. Nowhere does Scripture say such a thing. Catholics believe that salvation is a process which begins with our Baptism and continues throughout our lifetimes, just as the Bible teaches us.

Many places in Scripture talk about how one is "saved", but not one of them says we are saved by one act of faith at just one point in time. Again, 1 Peter 3:20 says that we are saved by baptism. Hebrews 12:14 says that we will not see the Lord unless we are holy, and that we must strive for this holiness. Matthew 6:14-15, it says we must forgive others or we will not be forgiven. Can you attain salvation if God hasn't forgiven you? No! So, our forgiving others is necessary for our salvation.

John 6:54 says that we will have eternal life by doing something... eating the flesh and drinking the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In Matthew 19, verses 16 and 17, Jesus is asked directly what one must do to have eternal life. Did He say, accept me into your heart once and that's it? No! Jesus said to keep the commandments and you will have life.

Yes, as Catholics we are born again. And, as Catholics we believe that we were saved, as Paul says in Romans 8:24; that we are being saved, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:18; and that we will be saved, as Paul says in Romans 5:9-10, provided we persevere and keep our eyes on the prize. Salvation is a process, just as Catholics believe, and just as the Bible clearly teaches.

For links to more apologetics sites that handle such questions about the Catholic faith, check out my earlier post:

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Do You Trust the Church?: A Conversation on Women's Ordination and the Role of the Magisterium (part 4)

NOTE: This is part 4 of a series on the question of whether the Catholic Church has the authority to ordain women priests. This continued conversation is between myself and Luis Guttierez, Phd., editor of a journal entitled Solidarity, Sustainability, and Non-Violence. Please scroll down to see the earlier posts.

To avoid the confusion of layers, I will paraphrase my points that Luis is responding to, rather than include his quotations of my last letter (which can be read in the previous post-post #3).

I wrote that Scripture gives no evidence of neither Jesus nor the apostles after him giving women a role of ecclesial governance and sacramental ministry. To assert that this was due to the prejudice of the times one would have to assert that the prejudice began with Jesus Christ....

To this Luis replied:

"This discussion requires thinking *before* and *after* the resurrection. Before the resurrection, the earthly mission of Jesus was to the people of Israel, not to all the nations. Accordingly, all the apostles were males, and all the apostles were Jews. Jessu also tolerated slavery and mostly kept a distance from gentiles. Prudence does not necessarily imply prejudice.
After the resurrection, the mission of the church is to all nations. Mary Magdalene is the first witmess of the resurrection, "apostola apostolorum." The church started baptizing gentiles, and soon there were gentile apostles."

To this, I respond:

Certainly, the earthly ministry of Jesus began with the people of Israel. The prophets foretold that the messiah would come to the Jews first. Israel was then to be the light that would attract all nations to worship God on mount Zion (Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 22:28; Psalm 67:3-4; etc. etc.). Of course Jesus anticipated opening up the new covenant with the Gentiles after first proclaiming it to the Jews (many of whom he knew would reject his message—especially the leaders).

As you well know the Gospels detail important interactions between Jesus and Gentiles: "the Greeks" who search him out (Jn 12:20); Jesus first insisted that he was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but healed the Syrophoenician woman for her faith as she acknowledged the dependence of even Gentiles who, like dogs, "under the table eat the children’s scraps" (Mk 7:28; cf. the Canaanite woman from the Tyre/Sidon regions Mt 15:21-28); in response to the Centurion (a Gentile) who appealed for the cure of his servant, Jesus said, "in no one in Israel have I found such faith" (Mt 8:10); when Jesus was rejected at Nazareth he referred to how Elijah came to a widow in Sidon (not Israel) to miraculously open the sky and end the famine…and that though there were many lepers in Israel, it was Naaman the Syrian who obeyed Elisha’s command and received healing (Lk 4:16-30).

I understand that in Mt 28:19 Jesus clearly commissioned the disciples to make disciples of all nations. However, I think you might be making too sharp of a distinction between Jesus before the resurrection and after. Clearly, during his entire ministry he was anticipating the fact that Gospel would be proclaimed to the Gentiles as well as the Jews (indeed, it already was being preached and accepted by Gentiles as these verses make clear).

Yes, at first "all the apostles were males, and all the apostles were Jews." What happened once the church began to have Gentile bishops (Timothy and Titus, for example)… do we then see clear evidence in the New Testament epistles of female priestesses? Do we such evidence in the writings of the early Church fathers. No. And why not, I wonder. Female priestesses were already known of in Pagan religions of the time. What would have been the big deal for Jesus or the early Christian community to reveal the fact that women were also called to exercise this function? Mary Magdalene was called "the apostle to the apostles" by certain Church fathers. This, however, would not seem to mean Apostle in the specific sense, but rather apostle in the small "a" sense of one who was sent on mission to proclaim the good news. Indeed, if Mary Magdalene was an Apostle in the sense of one who was commissioned by Christ to govern his Church and have a share in his ministerial priesthood why was SHE not chosen as the successor to Judas. Why would the apostles pass up such an illustrious original disciple… one of such high regard as Mary Magdalene… in order to choose the unknown Matthias (Acts 1:26). That would not make any sense. Oh right, I forgot, the apostles were blinded by their own misogyny.

You also speak of the prudence of Jesus. Certainly, he exhibited prudence. However, you should not take that argument too far either. Do not forget that Jesus constantly clashed with the Jews: foretelling the destruction of the temple, violating the Law, working on the Sabbath, consorting with unclean people, identifying himself with God (the successive I AM’s of John’s Gospel). Are you telling me that he was holding back on the female priestess thing because he did not want to ruffle any feathers? Surely he would have foreseen the rejection of the Christians from the institutional assembly of the Jews. Only Jewish men were circumcised,... and yet the Church baptized women as well as men (why not ordain both if that was God's plan). Why did St. Paul, or any of the authors of the New Testament reveal this teaching about women priestesses (because at this time the Church was independent of the synagogue and there would no longer be any concern about the reaction by the Jewish leaders)? Yes it was the council of Jerusalem that defined teaching about the circumcision and dietary requirements. But notice, it was a COUNCIL of Church leaders. No such council has ever met to discern or validate women priests. The authorities of the Church have done nothing but denounce the practice.

Luis wrote:

"Then it took the church 1700 years or so to come to a mind that slavery is morally wrong. Until very recently (as recently as 1988?), the official position of the church was that women were sub-human, and therefore could not possibly be ordained."

I respond:

The slavery issue is a complicated question of history, one which I will have to do more research on. I will write more on that in another email. In brief, however, you are comparing a very fundamental liturgical question: the question of sacramental matter (who can be ordained) with the specific application of general moral principles to an institution that has taken MANY forms throughout history. Comparing these two things is apples and oranges. Indeed, my research shows that the Magisterium did speak out against barbaric chattel slavery on many occasions. And I have not discovered a Church doctrine that extolled forms of slavery that offended human dignity. But more on that later, because it is an interesting question.

Where do you find 'the official position of the church was that women were sub-human'? If the Church considered women "sub-human" then why were women baptized (last I checked, sacraments were always restricted to humans)?… We don’t confirm insects and we don’t give Communion to dogs. Why would the Church venerate female martyrs from the very earliest centuries if they considered them sub-humans? Why celebrate their feast days? Why would the Church canonize women saints or declare two of them doctors of the Church? Why were orders of women religious founded (in many cases by men)? Why would bishops appoint abbesses who wielded great prominence and power in the Medieval period? Why would we see great partnerships in mission and obvious mutual respect in such pairs as St. Frances of Assisi and St. Clare, St. Francis De Sales and St. Jane De Chantall, etc, St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Avila? Why did St. Catherine of Sienna possess the moral authority to command the Pope to leave Avignon, France and return to his rightful place in Rome? I am not denying that there has not been individuals with male chauvinism in the Church. But the view of the Church as a whole has always acknowledged the dignity of women in theory and practice.

Luis wrote:

"The Lord instituted the sacraments and entrusted them to the church, not for the church to perpetuate ignorance and prejudice that he could not handle in his mission to the Jews, but to administer them according to the signs of the times, for the glory of God and the good of souls..."

I respond:

"Again, I do not understand. What was the "ignorance and prejudice that [Jesus] could not handle in his mission to the Jews"? I believe in the divinity of Christ and do not think that he was limited in his mission by the prejudices of the times. As I said, Jesus’ teachings already flipped the Jewish world of his times upside down. It does not seem to me that he would be worried about some Jewish male chauvinists. As I said before, Jesus already acknowledged the dignity of women in a way that was unprecedented (the woman at the well—Jn 4:9, 27; the woman caught in adultery—Jn 8:3-11; the pardon of the sinful woman—Lk 7:36-50 ). Why would he have truncated his Gospel by leaving out an important point about who can receive this sacrament that is SO essential to the make-up and functioning of the Church?

"Other than that, you just repeat the assertion that the Church "perpetuates ignorance and prejudice." This is an assertion for which you provide no proof. Really, it is just your opinion. You point to unenlightened views about women by some fathers and Thomas Aquinas. Such personal misconceptions about the female nature can coexist along side the valid theological principles whereby only men are ordained (because only men can sacramentally image Christ who was a man). If Thomas Aquinas makes an unenlightened comment about women, this does not mean that prejudice is at the root of the millennium of Sacred Tradition that preceded him and, more importantly, began with Jesus Christ and the apostles.

"By the way, who interprets the "sign of the times" in order to reverse the centuries old administration of the sacraments?... Do YOU interpret the sign of the times? Does Sr. Joan Chittester?... Does do this interpretation... Call to Action... FutureChurch? If you asked me, I would disagree with your interpretation of the sign of the times… and so would a lot of Catholic women I know. But what I think does not matter in this regard. Once again, I’ll let the Magisterium interpret the sign of the times on this one. In a similar vein, some people think that the sign of times requires that we change who can administer the sacrament of holy matrimony to one another… saying that its high time that 2 men be allowed to do this… or two women. … If such people want to leave the Church over this, I guess I understand, but why would they hold their breath waiting for the Church to start whirling chaotically in the winds of change?"

In response to my assertion that he would have to say that the Church immediately betrayed the intention of Jesus (to have female sacramental ministers)... and that I trust the Tradition of the Church and the guidance of the Holy Spirit that would not be wrong on a matter of such great importance...

Luis wrote:

"What about [the Church for] 1700 years approving the morality of slavery?"

(slavery discussion to follow later…)

In response to the fact that the same Council that refuted the Arian heresy and contributed the Creed that we recite at Mass also denounced female ordination (as did the Council of Laodicea in 360)...

Luis wrote:

"This reflects their understanding as of 361 AD, is not a definition of revealed truth, and does not preclude further development."

I respond:

"Further development" [of doctrine] is not the same thing as an outright about-face reversal, a 180 degree change. Doctrinal development is not when the Church says ‘the Church has no authority to ordain women' and then later, 'the Church has the authority to ordain women'. I am not sure that I understand what you mean by this distinction of revealed truth. My point is that the question of who can receive a sacrament is a question of vital importance… a question that would have to have been definitively settled at the very beginning. We do not debate whether unbaptized men can be ordained? We do not debate (yet) whether Holy Matrimony can be between 3 people. These questions go to the heart of the definition of the sacraments, themselves.

"Therefore, when a Church council REPEATEDLY answers a question concerning an issue, then I accept the teaching (especially when it is defined as definitive in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and again in Cardinal Ratzinger’s 1995 Ad Dubium). Please re-read those two passages and tell me that the Church is leaving this question open for "further development.":

'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
this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.'

I guess no matter what Pope John Paul II tries to do, he will never be able to remove ALL doubt about this matter. Some people will persist in doubt.

In response to my point that I do not feel the need to pick and choose between which canons of the Council of Nicea that I should accept... and that the Fathers of the Church also spoke against women's ordination...

Luis wrote:
"They also wrote that women are "the gates of hell" and what about Thomas Aquinas ... have you read what he thought about women?"

In response to my point that women have had countless roles of important leadership of service within the Church throughout history (even if not administrative roles in the hierarchy--a very small part of the entire Church's make-up)...

"This is not the point. The point is that the signs of the times seem to indicate that the ordination of women is needed, here and now, not to satify any "post-modern feminist agenda," but for the glory of God and
the good of souls. Incidentally, men are the ones who might benefit the most from the sacramental ministry of women priests (Carl Jung, etc.)"

I respond:

Once again… who gives you the authority to definitively interpret the "signs of the times" (that is such a vague concept… very open to manipulation in order to support ANY agenda)… or what makes for "the glory of God and the good of souls"? I am curious, why would men benefit the most from the sacramental ministry of women priests? I am not well read on Carl Jung’s psychology. However, I doubt that I would be convinced by such arguments. Is it a question of men being nurtured by women ministers?... or mothered by them? I do not go to the sacraments for primarily emotional motivations. I go to the sacraments to receive grace via an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ who acts through his ministers. I do not get terribly concerned with personal characteristics or talents of individual ministers.

Regarding the theology of the body and the differences between men and women (specifically, the ability to sacramentally image Jesus Christ--who was a man), ....

Luis wrote:

"Thank God, men and women are different but, except at the genital level, they are not mutually exclusive. Their complementarity is also not black and white. There is man in woman, and there is woman in man."

I respond:

"I do not know exactly what you mean by this. Men and women can share traits, but I do not have "woman" in me."

Regarding arguments from the theology of the Body...

Luis wrote:

"The theology of the body is, among other things, liturgical theology. How can we have good liturgy if the language of the body around the altar is exclusively male?"

I respond:

"Here is one explanation how. According to Genevieve Kineke, author of The Authentic Catholic Womanhood:
'The Theology of the Body shows us that there is a nuptial backdrop to the universe and that life is created spiritually and physically when the bride and bridegroom unite in a complete gift of self. Thus, the priest (bridegroom, an icon of The Bridegroom Christ) is espoused to Holy Mother Church (the Spotless Bride), offering the semina [seed] (word of God) in order that she nourish her children. If there is a woman priest, there will be a same-sex union, which will be sterile.' [this is from a private correspondence]

"Now, I am aware that you will disagree with her theology of the body. You would probably craft your own whereby God is bride/Mother and the Church is the bridegroom… but her theological perspective is based on Ephesians 5."

Regarding the question of whether the Church has spoke definitively about a male-only priesthood...

Luis wrote:

"There has been no *definition* that the male-only priesthood is revealed truth and therefore a matter of faith. Ordinatio sacerdotalis uses the "literalist" method to interpret certain biblical texts in isolation from the entire Bible. I am sure you know the difference between "literal" and "literalist."

I respond:

"I can only continue to point you (once again) to Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and the 1995 Ad Dubium from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Pope John Paul lI wrote OS because of a certain misconception that was popular at the time—namely that "the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force." If something is not a question of discipline (which can be changed), then it is a question of doctrine (which does not change, although it can develop… and once again, a complete about-face reversal is not doctrinal development). Disciplinary issues are not "to be held definitively" nor are they to be understood to belong to the deposit of the faith. Nor do they pertain to the Church's divine consititution itself (see below).

"Pope John Paul further called the question of who can be ordained 'a matter of great importance, A MATTER WHICH PERTAINS TO THE CHURCH’S DIVINE CONSTITUTION ITSELF.' He concludes by saying that 'this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.'

More matter-of-fact, Cardinal Ratzinger and the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith asked whether the Church’s teaching in this regard "is to be held definitively", and "IS TO BE UNDERSTOOD AS BELONGING TO THE DEPOSIT OF FAITH." The answer: yes (in the affirmative). The reason: it is founded on the written Word of God, from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, and set forth by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (LG 25, 2). "The Roman Pontiff…has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as BELONGING TO THE DEPOSIT OF THE FAITH.'

Earlier, Pope Paul VI indicated also that this was a question of the Church’s divine constitution: "The real reason [for admitting only men to Holy Orders] is that, in giving the Church her fundamental constitution, her theological anthropology—thereafter always followed by the Church's Tradition—Christ established things in this way" (Inter Insigniores).

Literal vs. literalist interpretation of Scripture in OS (yes, I have studied theology so I know the distinction)? That can be a matter of debate, I suppose, but in the end, who cares? It was the authoritative interpretation… it was the binding interpretation whether or not you agree with it. Certainly many modern exegetes might disagree,... but then again some of then are so drunk with an exclusive use of the historical critical method that they also deny the historical validity of the Resurrection and the miracles of Christ. Why trust them over the magisterium and Tradition? Incidentally, people who argue in favor of women's ordination twist Scripture--"there is not male and female" (Gal 3:28), for example, concerns justification and does not state that there are NO differences between men and women of any relevance to theological anthropology and the sacraments. Women received the common priesthood of the faithful... but the people of Israel also had a "common priesthood" of the people and a parrallel ministerial priesthood.

Regarding what I call the ambiguities inherent in the moral teachings of (what I would call) modernist churches (such as the Episcopal church in US)...

Luis wrote:

"There are ambiguities and there are ambiguities. When you conflate matters of faith (such as the Assumption of Mary) with matters which are not of the faith (such as the male-only priesthood), it is reasonable to
expect that many people are going to be utterly confused."

I reply:

"I am not saying that the dogma of the Assumption is on the same theological level as that of the male-only priesthood. They do share many things in common, however. For example, they both belong "to the deposit of faith." Of both we can always say that "this teaching requires definitive assent." Both are founded on the Word of God, Sacred Tradition, and the teaching of the Magisterium. I am just comparing the dogma of the Assumption with what I quote regarding the male-only priesthood above. Where is the confusion on my part? Rather, the confusion comes when people who disagree with Church teaching tell others that the teaching can change. On the contrary, modernist Christian denominations conflate the teachings of Scripture (especially on the moral issues regarding marriage and sexuality) with the perspective of contemporary culture."

Luis wrote:

"Roman Catholic bishops are forced to sign an 'oath of loyalty' that, in fact, conflates what we believe with 'certainty of faith' with other practices and doctrines which we do not believe with certainty of faith.
This confusing requirement, augmented by smoke screens of creeping infallibility and the ban to discuss the ordination of women, smell fishy to me."

I respond:

"Once again, I am not a professional theologian. All I can point to is the fact that the male-only priesthood is assigned to the deposit of faith and that we are to grant this teaching 'definitive assent.' Clearly you distrust Roman Catholic bishops, the Pope and the entire Magisterium. You seem suspicious of the Church for finally putting an end to this question. Why? This is what we have a magisterium for… to end debates over doctrinal matters and give clear direction. Why does this 'smell fishy' to you? Are you convinced that there is a misogynistic conspiracy to high jack the Holy Spirit and the Church?"

Luis wrote:

"In your current position as 'director of faith formation,' are you also required to sign the oath of loyalty?"

"No. The cover letter of my resume did, however, state that I strive to be orthodox, that is obedient to the teachings Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium. I presume that the pastor who hired me took my word for it. However, would I sign an oath of fidelity (I do not know what you mean by "oath of loyalty" though perhaps they amount to the same thing) if asked? Certainly. Why not? In fact, I would frame my copy and hang it in my office. The way you posed this question sounds like you think be faithful to the Magisterium is something to be embarrassed about. I am not. I do not think obstinate disobedience and persistence in theological error is a mark of maturity (in contrast to Curran’s recent autobiography).

"I trust the Church because I trust the inspired word of God and 2,000 years of acquired wisdom over my own faulty opinions. My job as director of religious education (my official title is modern day church jargon) is a humble one. I organize and oversee the religious education programs at 4 parishes in our cluster. I also do not make my catechists sign an oath of fidelity. I told them explicitly, however, that they are to only teach what the Catholic church teaches. Unless I hear otherwise, I assume that they do this. That is just common sense—parents who drop their kids off for religious education should be taught the Catholic faith, and not speculation or what some people wished the Church taught. That is truth in advertising.

We are starting to repeat ourselves, so I do not know if any more can be said... (but I have a hard time giving up the last word) :)

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Do You Trust the Church?: A Conversation on Women's Ordination and the Role of the Magisterium (part 3)

This is part 3 of 3 posts (see the first and the second in the series below)

Luis' reply:

"(You wrote:)
'Bottom line: if you want to be Catholic, then truly be Catholic. It makes absolutely no sense to be 'Catholic' and to reject the teaching authority. That is what is outrageous. I regret to say this, but if one desires post-modern trends such as women's ordination, homosexual unions, contraception, and the rejection of 2,000 years of Tradition one should possibly consider the Episcopal Church?'

Hello Christopher, thanks for taking time to write again .... I am truly Catholic, with 40 years of voluntary service to the church. The power of the keys was given to open the doors of the kingdom, not to close them. The ordination of women *is not* a "post-modern" trend.
Reserving priestly ordination to men alone *is* the perpetuation of a practice induced by human prejudice; and, to do something wrong for 2000 years is no justification to keep doing it. "A custom without truth is ancient error." St. Cyprian (3rd Century CE)

On issues of human sexuality, would that bishops in our church had the courage of Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church, who is not afrad to admit that the church is still seeking answers to some very good questions, rather than presuming that we already have all the answers. "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come." (John 16:12-13)
God bless,

He added:

"Ooops ... Christopher, one more point: Wish we could sit together and discuss the "theology of the body." The ordination of women claerly follows from the theology of the body. In
fact, the arguments used in Ordinatio sacerdotalis are *irrational* in light of the theology of the body. Of course, using a *literalist* (as opposed to *literal*) reading of certain scripture texts is also irrational. And faith, my friend, "transcends reason but cannot be
irrational." Hope to hear from you again. Even though we might agree to disagree, we
remain one at a much deeper level.
In Christ,

I then replied:

You are right, we will have to agree to disagree because I have a different view of Sacred Tradition then you do. Scripture gives no indication that either the persons chosen by Jesus to be his closest disciples (the apostles) nor their successors the bishops (in St. Paul's pastoral letters) were women (despite the countless holy and faithful women detailed in the New Testament). None of those that seemed to have a sacramental or shepherding function were women. If this was because of human prejudice, you would have to say that it began with the Lord Jesus. It would be odd for Jesus to succumb to human prejudice since he was, for one thing, God, and since he so often overturned cultural taboos with respect to women (John 4, etc.).

The Church was given the power to bind and loose (Matthew 18:18), but it does not have the power to allow something that was not allowed by the Lord who instituted the sacraments.
OR, (and this is the more common argument for some) you would have to say that the Church immediately betrayed the intention of Jesus (to have female sacramental ministers). Once again, my position is one of trust in the Tradition of the Church.

What kind of a Church did Jesus found if it was not guided by the Holy Spirit on this important matter of who can receive one of the sacraments? Jesus said that gates of hell would not prevail against the Church (Matthew 16:18). To be wrong about that for 2,000 years casts a lot of doubt on the true identity of the Church. Some, of course, do doubt that the Catholic Church was the one founded by Christ... I do not. Once again, the same council that refuted the heresy of Arianism also included a canon that declared female deaconnesses to belong to the class of the laity (whose function was assisting in baptism, but not with a role of administering any sacraments):

"Similarly, in regard to the deaconesses, as with all who are enrolled in the register, the same procedure is to be observed. We have made mention of the deaconesses, who have been enrolled in this position, although, not having been in any way ordained, they are certainly to be numbered among the laity" (Council of Nicea, Canon 19 [A.D. 325]).
Slightly later the Council of Laodicea (360) also states:
"[T]he so-called ‘presbyteresses’ or ‘presidentesses’ are not to be ordained in the Church" (Canon 11 [A.D. 360]).

I find no reason to pick and choose which canons of the Council of Nicea I should accept. I trust the Church for ALL that it taught at Nicea and the subsequent ecumenical councils. You quote St. Cyprian, but I wonder what "customs without truth" he is referring to. I doubt it would be a male-only priesthood. He had real heresies to fry. At any rate, his fellow theologians Irenaeus, Tertullian, John Chyrostom, Hippolytus, Augustine, etc. are on the record against the idea of women's ordination.

When I called women priests a "post-modern" phenomenon I meant that I believe the push for women priests comes from a post-modern feminist agenda. If the Church was a business or profession (such as the legal or medical profession, etc.) then I would say, yes, women can be priests because they possess the requisite skills, etc (ability to preach, to be compassionate, to administer). However, leadership in the Church is not supposed to be about "voice", power grabs, or glass ceilings... it is supposed to be about service. Women have shown tremendous service and leadership in countless ministries throughout the history of the Church (in religious orders, founding of schools and hospitals, missionary work, lay roles in politics, business, to say nothing of the important though often despised role of being a mother). Women have led and inspired through their holiness (oh, to the modern ear that sounds like a cop out or condescension, but I truly believe that holiness is the greatest power we can possess). Some of my greatest heroes in the faith are women saints.

Are women and men the same? The theology of the body would say no... they are different as designed by God... different so as to complement each other and thus perfectly image God (Gen 2). If men and women have essential differences, then perhaps they would have different roles. If the Church says that a priest is a sacramental icon of Christ (who was a man), and acts in the person of Christ in administering the sacraments, I can accept that. I am not sure what the arguments from the theology of the body would be in favor of women's ordination. Nor do I see the specific faulty reasoning of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

In the end, however, it does not matter. As I have shown earlier, the Church has made up its mind on the matter and defined the answer. I do not see that changing. Any woman who wants to be a priest inevitably would have to do so (invalidly) as part of a schismatic parrallel church (they would not be able to serve as a priest in the Catholic Church). In the end you either trust and adhere to the magisterium of the Church or you don't. I trust the Church.

I am not well read on what Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori teaches... but I am not one who believes that ambiguity about moral teachings is necessarily a virtue. What seems like tolerance of mystery and openness to the new unfolding of God's plan to some seems like sheer moral confusion and chaos to others. That is why many people have left or are leaving the Episcopal Church. They recognize the need for Tradition and core beliefs about, for example, the truth of human sexuality, and they recognize when such a Tradition is being lost and betrayed.
Your brother in Christ,
What DOES the theology of the body have to say about this?

As of this posting, I have not received another reply (we both have said what can be said I guess). However, I did receive a brief synopsis of how one would view the priesthood from the perspective of Pope John Paul II's theology of the Body:

"This is actually quite simple and was covered in detail by my book, The Authentic Catholic Woman. The Theology of the Body shows us that there is a nuptial backdrop to the universe and that life is created spiritually and physically when the bride and bridegroom unite in a complete gift of self. Thus, the priest (bridegroom, an icon of The Bridegroom Christ) is espoused to Holy Mother Church (the Spotless Bride), offering the semina [seed] (word of God) in order that she nourish her children. If there is a woman priest, there will be a same-sex union, which will be sterile."

That concise snippet come from a message board post by Genevieve Kineke, the author of The Authentic Catholic Woman:

I do appreciate Luis for being civil and taking the time to converse with me about this issue in a spirit of charity. The reason why I get so riled up about this issue is because I think that so many people miss the point when they demand woman priests. They miss the beauty of the Church's teaching on the "feminine genius."

What did the Church Fathers teach about Women's Ordination?:
Learn more about the theology of the body:

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Do You Trust the Church?: A Conversation on Women's Ordination and the role of the Magisterium (part 2)

( This is part 2 of 3 posts. Please see the first post below)
Here was the first reply which I received from Luis Gutierrez, editor of the Solidarity, Sustainability, and Non-Violence journal:

"The male-only priesthood is not a matter of faith, therefore it should be open for discussion. To forbid discussion is itself a clear sign that something is wrong. The exclusion of baptized women from one of the sacraments of the church is a rule made by human hands, and has nothing whatsoever to do with God's will. Making Christ the scapegoat by saying that the Lord does not allow the church to call women is outrageous.

The doctrine of Humanae vitae is not wrong; what is wrong is the authoritarian style of writing. The Christian ideal about the proper and responsible use of the gift of love and the gift of life remains true and beautiful. But telling people that they will go to hell if they don't follow certain rules and regulations is inviting a catatrophe, especially when bishops have been covering up for pedophile priests. Indeed, Humanae vitae was catastrophic.
In Christ,

My lengthy response was:

I appreciate your thoughts. Some things to consider:

You wrote: "The male-only priesthood is not a matter of faith, therefore it should be open for discussion. To forbid discussion is itself a clear sign that something is wrong."
The following is from an article on women's ordination that I wrote on my blog for catechists (
) :

"The Church (in the Latin rite) could change its discipline about reserving priestly ordination to celibate men and open up ordination to married men as a norm. This is a matter of discipline—which the Church can change. The reservation of ordination to men, however, has been interpreted by the Magisterium as a matter of doctrine—which cannot change. Sensing some lingering doubt, Pope John Paul II wrote the following in his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis:

'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.'

When there was still lingering questions after Pope John Paul II’s document was released, then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) wrote the following clarification in 1995:

'Dubium [Latin = doubt]: Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.
Responsum [Response]: In the affirmative.

This teaching requires definitive assent, since, 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 (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith.'

Basically, Pope John Paul II seems to have been exercising papal infalibility in this pronouncement. " This teaching requires "difinitive assent" ... as having been "set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium." I would say that this does make the male-only priesthood a matter of faith (doctrine) and not discipline. Where in either of the above quotations do you see any signs that the Church will change its teaching? If there is no indication that the Church has the power to change this teaching, why should that matter continue to be open to discussion? Why continue to beat a dead horse? That is not a sign that something is wrong, it is a sign that the matter has been decided--that is what bishops, popes, and councils do. Is it wrong to forbid discussion on the Real Presence of the Eucharist (Transfiguration)?... or on the canon of the Sacred Scriptures? YES, because the matter had been decided. The bad sign is when Catholics continue to press for discussion on a matter that has been settled because they do not like the answer.

You also wrote: "The exclusion of baptized women from one of the sacraments of the church is a rule made by human hands, and has nothing whatsoever to do with God's will. Making Christ the scapegoat by saying that the Lord does not allow the church to call women is outrageous."
Once again, citing Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition as interpreted by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, this rule of ordaining only men is not "a rule made by human hands, [that] has nothing whatsoever to do with God's will."

How do we know the will of God and the teaching of Christ in important doctrinal and sacramental questions unless we listen to the voice of the Church he left us? Jesus said to the apostles--he who hears you, hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me" (Lk 10:16). Christ instituted a Church to be his body (led by the Holy Spirit) and to continue to shepherd the flock after he ascended into heaven. If we cannot trust in the Church's faithful preservation of the teachings of Christ in apostolic Tradition and sacred Scripture, then we have nothing to stand upon as Christians. If you trust the Magisterium to define the canon of the Scriptures, to refine the definition of the divine/human natures of Christ, to define the number of sacraments as 7, to denounce the heresies of docetism, gnosticism, pelagianism, Arianism, monothelitism, monophysitism, Protestantism, modernism, etc. etc.... if you trust the Magisterium to pass down and safeguard all the teachings that you now take for granted... why will you then distrust them and call them a merely human institution when it comes to the teaching about women's ordination?

Without the guidance of the Magisterium people can try to make Jesus Christ say all sorts of things: that homosexual marriages are valid unions, that abortion and euthanasia are ok, that the Jews are evil, etc. The question is, how do we KNOW what the true teaching of Christ is? I will throw my lot in with the magisterium of the Church and 2,000 years of tradition rather than some website called womenpriests ( where the article derives most of its arguments). Does the Holy Spirit guide the individual Christian and the collective body of Christ?--Sure (the sensus fidei)... but the Holy Sprit does not pit the Magisterium against the laity. If you think that ALL of the lay faithful are against the Church on these teachings, that is a presumption. Most (practicing and educated) younger Catholics I know support the Church in its teachings.

You then wrote: "But telling people that they will go to hell if they don't follow certain rules and regulations is inviting a catatrophe, especially when bishops have been covering up for pedophile priests. Indeed, Humanae vitae was catastrophic."

I am actually in the process of reading Humane Vitae now... and I have yet to come across the "authoritarian style" that seems so repugnant to some. In addition, I have not yet seen a reference to people going to hell (that is, in the document itself, I don't care what some Jesuit said in a private conversation as reported in that lame article). At any rate, of course the document was authoritarian in some sense... it was written with authority (the authority of the magisterium). The question is, does it assert the truth in a pastoral way. I will reflect on that as I continue to read Humanae Vitae. The only catastrophe was that HV was not taught well to people in the pews (the fault of both priests and bishops AND a lay faithful that did not seem overwhelmingly open to the teaching of HV--so blinded by the culture).

Where did the pedophile priest issue come in? Just because some priests were disobedient to the Church, and some bishops falied terribly in their duties as shepherds that does not mean that the truth taught INFALLIBLY by the magisterium (ordinary and universal) is not true. Truth is truth regardless of moral failings of some bishops. If a bishop affirms the doctrine of the Incarnation, conforming to Scripture and Sacred Tradition, then I accept the Incarnation as true. I don't base my assent to that teaching on how good of an administrator the bishop is. The pedophile priest scandal (really homosexual priest scandal) has become a strange prop wielded by those who want an excuse to dissent from the guidance of the Church (re: the issues of women's ordination and married priests--both of which have no relation to the scandal).

Bottom line: if you want to be Catholic, then truly be Catholic. It makes absolutely no sense to be "Catholic" and to reject the Church's teaching authority. That is what is outrageous. I regret to say this, but if one desires post-modern trends such as women's ordination, homosexual unions, contraception, and the rejection of 2,000 years of Tradition one should possibly consider the Episcopal Church?
Respectfully in Christ,

The next exchange follows in the next post (above) (#3)

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Do You Trust the Church?: A Conversation on Women's Ordination and the role of the Magisterium (part 1)

Monday morning I opened up my Archdioce of Dubuque email account and found a message with the subject "Solidarity, Sustainability, and Non-Violence." This was a free e-newsletter that was sent to me (how they got me address, I am not sure). I am trying to learn more about the Church's social doctrines and so I curiously followed the link. The journal addressed issues such as the U.N. Millenium goals, a review of UNICEF's State of the World's Children 2007, etc. However, I also stumbled upon an article reflecting on the 40th anniverary of the encyclical Humanae Vitae (on regulation of birth) and an article asking "Will Women Ever Govern the Roman Catholic Church." Uh oh... this will either be really good or really bad. I checked out the journal of this organization named "Solidarity, Sustainability, and Non-Violence" and read the journal a little further.
(the recent journal issue:
(their organization's website: )

Here is the article by John Wijngaards on women's ordination:

I have not read Mr. Wijngaards' long article, but, by a quick browse it seems to have the same arguments I have seen before elsewhere. At the conclusion of his article he predicts that there may soon by women deaconness, priestess, bishops, and even a female pope. This change will come about through the action of the Holy Spirit (whom the author insists on referring to as "she")... who was apparently inactive for 2,000 years while the Catholic bishops and Popes have been busy suppressing women. Oh brother.

The article on Humane Vitae's anniverary (which appears in a side column on the journal web page) is by no means a celebration of that infamous Papal document. The article details the critiques of a lay married couple (Pat and Patty Crowley) who participated in the Papal Birth Control Commission that was convened in 1964 to give guidance to the Holy See as they prepared to issue a statement regarding the use of birth control. After detailing the Crowley's disappointment at Pope Paul VI rejecting the commission's advice (how dare he!), the article states:

"It is not a matter of dismissing the encyclical's teaching about the intrinsic value of life. It is not the essential content of the document that was massively rejected by Roman Catholics. The real issue is anyone's power to play god with people's lives. Rather than a discourse on the beautiful truths contained in the gospels about the gift of human sexuality, the encyclical was an authoritarian (and futile) exercise in telling married couples when to use (and when not to use) the "pill" and other methods of artificial birth control. It thereby invaded the sacred space of personal conscience for single and married people alike. "

So, I guess what people rejected was the authority of the Church and the Church's audacity to actually exercise that authority and TEACH the faithful! Does the Church seek to "play god with people's lives." Uh, ... no... but the Church has not only the right but also the obligation to teach the truth about something so important as the meaning of human sexuality and its role in Holy Matrimony! That is part of the Gospel! Did the Church "invade the sacred space of personal conscience for single and married people alike." People's consciences are supposed to be informed by the teaching of the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church includes among its list of those things which can lead to errors of judgment in moral conduct: "assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience" and "rejection of the Church's authority and her teaching" (CCC 1792). The mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience means that I can decide for myself what is wrong or right. That is NOT the authentic understanding of human conscience. My conscience must be informed by the truth and the Church gives me the truth.

Anyways, I shot off a quick email to Luis T. Gutierrez, the editor of the journal who sent me the email. Perhaps it was a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, but I just wanted to state that I was in disagreement with these two positions advocated in his journal (not to mention that their "Person of the Month" was Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (pro-abort). Mr. Gutierrez kindly took the time to reply. The posts (above) that follow detail the charitable conversation that followed.

UPDATE 12/4/07: Months later I stumbled upon an old series of 6 discources from a priest who defends the Church's teaching on ordination reserved to men. I browsed through some of it, and most of the exact same issues that Luis and I cover in our conversation are also covered in his articles (only his are laid out in a far more organized manner) [note, is this the same Luis I corresponded with?... Is Luis female? (the address says "Miss")]:

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