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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