Thursday, August 11, 2011

Making a public spectacle of dissent

Today's the deadline for Father Roy Bourgeois of Maryknoll to recant, publicly, his support for female ordination in the Roman Catholic Church. Father Bourgeois has taken part in fake "ordination" ceremonies pretending to ordain women; of course, these ceremonies don't make women "priests" in the Catholic Church any more than a fake gay "Catholic wedding" would make two men or two women really and sacramentally married in the Church. There are some things for which gender actually does matter; the ability to marry requires one man and one woman; the ability to give birth belongs solely to women, and the ability to take on the role of the sacrificial priesthood and stand in persona Christi in relationship to the Bride of Christ, the Church, requires a man.

Blessed John Paul II's Apostolic Letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, spells out the Church's reasons for promoting an all-male priesthood:
When the question of the ordination of women arose in the Anglican Communion, Pope Paul VI, out of fidelity to his office of safeguarding the Apostolic Tradition, and also with a view to removing a new obstacle placed in the way of Christian unity, reminded Anglicans of the position of the Catholic Church: "She holds that it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God's plan for his Church."(1)[...]

The presence and the role of women in the life and mission of the Church, although not linked to the ministerial priesthood, remain absolutely necessary and irreplaceable. As the Declaration Inter Insigniores points out, "the Church desires that Christian women should become fully aware of the greatness of their mission: today their role is of capital importance both for the renewal and humanization of society and for the rediscovery by believers of the true face of the Church."(10) [...]

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.

Read the whole letter here; it is quite brief and clear about the principles at hand.

It is also clear from this news article that Fr. Bourgois dissents from this long-standing Church teaching in a way that puts him wholly outside of the Catholic Church, and which makes it imperative for the Church to begin the process of removing him from the priesthood:
But Bourgeois said he cannot publicly recant, as his order requires. "What they're asking me to do is lie," he said in an interview from his home in Columbus, Ga. "To say I don't believe God calls women to the priesthood as well as men -- I cannot do that." [...]

Bourgeois released his reply, saying “I believe that our Church’s teaching that excludes women from the priesthood defies both faith and reason and cannot stand up to scrutiny.

“This teaching has nothing to do with God, but with men, and is rooted in sexism. Sexism, like racism, is a sin. And no matter how hard we may try to justify discrimination against women, in the end, it is not the way of God, but of men who want to hold on to their power.”

I can't help but think that Fr. Bourgeois sees himself as a courageous person standing up against some sort of unjust institutional power; this would not be surprising, as some elements in the Maryknoll order have for years been infected by radical Marxism, liberation theology, and similar leftist notions, such that it becomes tempting for some in that order to cast all struggles in these sorts of terms and ideas. It's much more boring to call Bourgeois a budding heretic--and yet, if we are quite honest about where his pro-female ordination ideas will take him, that is exactly what he ought to be called. If he believes that the Church does not speak for Christ with the voice of the Holy Spirit; if he believes that ordination is some sort of "right" which women are unjustly being denied; if he believes that the Church is an oppressor who must be defied--then he is no longer really Catholic in his thoughts and actions, is he?

And if he were a really honest person, Fr. Bourgeois would not only refuse to recant, but would eagerly help the Church process his laicization and formal separation from the Church, so he could in good conscience join some other church that has no problem with female ministers. But dissenters aren't really honest: because what they really want is to retain their positions and jobs and careers within the Church while denouncing her teachings, setting themselves in opposition against her, and making splashy, public, media-darling nuisances of themselves. In this they are no different from CINO politicians who remember that they were baptized Catholic before each important election--but never when it might inconvenience their moral actions--or like "once Catholic" celebrities who use their baptismal certificates as their credentials by which to bash the Church at every opportunity.

Larry D at Acts of the Apostasy
has been keeping an eye on this story and especially on obtaining the names of those priests who have signed statements in support of Fr. Bourgeois. Larry promises to let us know each of these priests' current parishes and dioceses as soon as he has that information available; I think this is the right sort of action to take, so that each priest's bishop can be contacted. Given that some of these priests have fairly common names, too, it's important that scandal not be given in places where some priest who fully supports all Church teaching has the misfortune to share a name with a dissenter.

The bottom line for me is this: if I ever thought that the Church herself was so seriously in error about a grave matter dealing with faith or morals (and the question of the male priesthood, impacting as it does the bridal imagery in Holy Scripture, is certainly a serious matter of faith), I would have a clear course of action before me. First, I would pray, and seek the private counsel of those more learned in the matter; next, I would do as much reading and research as possible; and finally, if it were not possible for me to accept the Church's teaching even with the assent of faith, I would mention my struggles in sacramental Confession and ask whether I must absent myself from Communion (not from Mass, of course) until my conscience could somehow resolve the issue. Only if I became convinced that the Church is not who she says she is, the Bride of Christ, the Church instituted by Christ as the ordinary means of salvation for all, would I consider leaving--but even as I write that, I have to admit that I can't ever see that happening; I've had ample opportunity to consider the Church's claims, and have always found them both reasonable and worthy of faith.

What I would not do is make a public spectacle of my dissent in a way intended to embarrass the Church (but actually only embarrassing me, in the long run). Dissenters who do that sort of thing have already, to me, reached the point where they no longer wish to be united to the Church--even if that desire is hidden, or in conflict with the desire to retain the offices and powers which the Church has already granted them.

17 comments:

LarryD said...

Thanks for the link, Erin.

re: common names. I haven't quite decided how to handle that situation, as I've already been told that there are 3 Kevin Murphy's for instance, but I'll be careful not to cast wild aspersions or make false claims. In other words, I may make direct contact to ensure (insure? assure? I always get those mixed up!) I don't erroneously cite the wrong priest.

Patrick said...

Let me ask a question about this:

"These reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men..."

True. Christ also chose *only* ethnic Jews to be his disciples. Christ also chose mostly fishermen as His disciples, and indeed a fisherman was our first pope. He could have chosen whomever He wanted; *all humankind* being made through Him. But, He chose only ethnic Jews, and mostly fishermen at that.

Does this mean the priesthood ought to be limited to ethnic Jews? Does it mean the pope has to be a fisherman by trade? It follows the same logic and yet, nobody would argue that. Sure, Christ is said to be a Light for the Gentiles - so He came for everyone; but then that would include Gentile women, Jewish women and whomever, all of whom have salvation in Christ.

So my question is: if Christ's plan for the all-male priesthood is revealed in His only choosing men as disciples, why would nobody say priests have to be ethnically Jewish - which every single disciple was- and why would nobody say the pope and high clergymen have to be a fisherman by trade - as the original pope and disciple whom Jesus loved were?

Red Cardigan said...

This has been addressed before, Patrick, by people better far qualified than I am to answer it. But for now, briefly, it is because maleness and femaleness are not extrinsic characteristics and do actually impact one's ability to do certain things.

I used the example of women being mothers; a man can be many things, but he can't be a mother (one reason why I think same-sex "parenting" does a deep injustice to the children forever deprived by the selfishness of adults from having either a mother or a father as the case may be). As the Church understands the role of a priest, the priest "stands in" for Christ, for whom the Church is as a bride. It is not necessary for the "stand in" to be Jewish, a fisherman (or carpenter, which would be more accurate; we're talking about Christ, after all), a certain height or physique, or (of course) divine. But it *is* necessary for him to be male; otherwise the consummatory imagery of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass becomes hopelessly confused, to say nothing of the Mystical Union of Christ and His Church which is spoken of throughout Holy Scripture as like that of a Bride with her Bridegroom.

If I can find some of the articles I remember which address your objection, I'll link to them.

Kimberly Margosein said...

"She holds that it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordan


Patrick addressed reason 1 adequately. The other two reasons can be summed up as "we always did it this way"

LarryD said...

I think the common sense answer to Patrick's point is: because Jesus lived among Jewish people. He couldn't have chosen a guy from China and one from South America because...duh! That's not where He was.

Plus - the Church ordains men who - double duh! - are Catholic to begin with. The Church doesn't ordain Jewish men because they aren't Catholic. The Church doesn't ordain male Buddhists, Taoists, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Incans, Muslims, pantheists, druids, or Hindi either - until they become Catholic, and they have received the call to become a priest.

Furthermore, the Catholic Church is the fulfillment of the covenant God made with the Jewish people. Part of that covenant, per God's instructions, was that it was men from the tribe of Levi only, from which priests could come. In other words - it was God's command. Not a cultural thing, not a "men are superior to women" thing - but God's command.

The whole "Jesus only chose Jewish men" argument is kinda puerile. If Jesus had been born among the aborigines of Australia, he would have chosen aborigine men. As Red said - its the maleness that is what's important, not the ethnicity or race or skin color.

Patrick said...

@ Larry D:

"He couldn't have chosen a guy from China and one from South America because...duh! That's not where He was."

Right; but He could have chosen Roman citizens, Samaritans or other foreign people. But He chose *only* ethnic Jews. And yet the Church doesn't infer a link between ethnic Jews and the priesthood, while she does partly infer a link between maleness and the priesthood based on the uniform maleness of the disciples. As to the Jewishness:

"The Church doesn't ordain Jewish men because they aren't Catholic."

I wrote *ethnic* Jews. As in Jewish-converts-to-Christianity. All the disciples were *ethnically* Jewish, and Christian converts by faith. (As you know, St. Peter considered himself to be Jewish even *after* the Ascension. (Acts)) Today, I guess they call them "Hebrew Catholics" in the same way you might say "Irish Catholic": the first is an ethnicity, the second is a religion. Surely you appreciate the difference between an *ethnically Jewish* Christian convert and an observant religious Jew?

So the argument would be: if the Church infers an all-male priesthood partly because of the all-maleness of the disciples, why don't she claim all priests have to be *ethnically Jewish* converts like the disciples?

I agree that the whole line of reasoning is puerile; but if you want to base the all-maleness of the priesthood on the all-maleness of the disciples, you'd still have to refute the puerile all-ethnic-Jew (not religious Jew)-priesthood based on an all-ethnic-Jew discipleship with something more than an appeal to "common sense" and adding "duhs" together.

I do find Red Cardigan's reasoning about Christ Himself compelling, though: I don't even see why the Church needs to talk about the disciples at all...

Turmarion said...

[I]t is because maleness and femaleness are not extrinsic characteristics and do actually impact one's ability to do certain things.

Actually, Orthodox theology, as old and venerable as Catholic, does consider maleness and femaleness to be "extrinsic characteristics"; nor did the early church use arguments of the priest iconically representing the male Christ. Christ's gender wasn't even seen as relevant by the Fathers. A brief and interesting discussion of this is here, and there are some interesting essays in Women and the Priesthood, edited by Fr. Thomas Hopko. I might also point out that the majority opinion in Orthodoxy is that deaconesses were actually ordained clergy, not just commissioned "lay ministers", as Western teaching assumes.

That said, the Orthodox Church also ordains only men and is not likely to change its practice. The point is that I'm a little hesitant to buy Western "explanations" that tend to diverge from that of the early Church, and I've become increasingly suspicious of Scholastic approaches as I've got older. The Orthodox just says it's the consistent tradition, and leaves it at that.

Just for full disclosure, I don't actually have a problem with an all-male priesthood; I doubt the Church will change, and I'm OK with that. If it did, I wouldn't have a problem there, either. I just point out that the arguments the Church in the West uses aren't universally shared and aren't necessarily good arguments, since in my view they point to some kind of excessive gender essentialism that is foreign to the Gospel.

Kimberly Margosein said...

So, let's see. You support women's ordination and you get expelled. You rape little boys and you get transferred. And you wonder why people are leaving, or at least ignoring, the RCC?

romishgraffiti said...

So, let's see. You support women's ordination and you get expelled. You rape little boys and you get transferred. And you wonder why people are leaving, or at least ignoring, the RCC?

Acually, few Catholics have been expelled for supporting women's ordination. That's the problem. And most will concede that bishops that covered up sexual abuse have not been dished the proper punishment. That's also a problem. As far as people leaving I'd make a couple of points--a funny thing is that we see a resurgence of vocations and mass attendance in those diocese that foster traditional Catholicism and lo and behold, often these are diocese with better records regarding sexual abuse. That may be in part because those guys actually follow canon law rather than listen to psychologists laboring under whatever pop-theory of humanity they happen to have at the moment. Yesterday, it was that child abusers could be cured and returned quietly to whatever career working with children they had. Today it is the arbitrary verbal-inflation that makes whole categories disappear from the abuse equation to satisfy politically correct narrratives. In other words, it aint't the Catholicism, it's the Catholics embracing secular-humanist hoo-haw that is the root of the problem.

In any case, as far as women's ordination, I'd point out that this whole Christ-chose-only-males approach is fine as far as it goes, but it seems to me relying on it soley is a sola scriptura approach. There is more.

Kimberly Margosein said...

"a funny thing is that we see a resurgence of vocations and mass attendance in those diocese that foster traditional Catholicism and lo and behold, often these are diocese with better records regarding sexual abuse. That may be in part because those guys actually follow canon law rather than listen to psychologists laboring under whatever pop-theory of humanity they happen to have at the moment. "

Excellent comment made. As for sola scriptura, what else can they go on? At least they are following ALL the rules in the parishes you mention

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Some years ago, a friend of mine who belongs to a nondenominational Protestant church told me "I couldn't relate to a woman as my pastor." My reflex response was, you shouldn't have to. Some people, for whatever reason, need a man as the head of their church. That includes some women. Thank God there are churches which can guarantee them a male priesthood or pastor, as the case may be.

Some are amenable to, or seek, female spiritual leadership. Thank God, there are now churches which offer that. Many of us are a bit indifferent to the whole distinction, and we have churches available which leave the matter open. As Bishop Hood said, we thought our discipline should not prevent us from making use of whomever God is pleased to call.

In this light, I am a bit amused by the context of the citation from Paul VI. He viewed Anglican ordination of women as a bar to Christian unity. Well, that is a false notion of unity. There are only two ways to achieve unity: to suppress by force all those who disagree with whatever is considered orthodox, or, to tolerate as wide a diversity of viewpoints within the church as the minds of parishioners can conceive of.

In my seldom humble opinion, it is better that a variety of churches exist, which are each able to maintain a discipline that give some definition to what they stand for, without all having to agree on everything. The amorphousness of "anything goes" would be worse, and the return of burning heretics at the stake unacceptable.

Those who want Catholic rituals dispensed by women should, as Larry sometimes says, have the honesty to say, we cannot remain under this canon, we will go apart and do what we feel God is calling us to. In my opinion, it would be sad if the RC church expels Bourgeois for talking about the possibility that women should be ordained. It is not clear that the orders being threatened are in fact inspired only by the fact that he has PARTICIPATED in some ordinations not recognized by the church as valid.

Tying all this into liberation theology strikes me as demeaning from the integrity of the original argument. In theory, refusing to ordain women has nothing to do with liberation or economics, it is a liturgical and spiritual matter. There is no Roman Catholic I admire more than Dom Helder Camarra, unless it is Father James Guadalupe Carne, but neither inspires me to want to become a Catholic. I simply admire what they have tried to do for their fellow man by practicing their faith.

Anonymous said...

jesus chose jews because that's what he had available. maybe he chose men only because that society viewed women as property. We'll never know. It seems to me that the reasons stated sum up to "because we said so". It's alright for some.

Karen

Diamantina da Brescia said...

Erin,

If a confessor/spiritual director advised a person to abstain from Communion because of his or her struggles concerning a grave matter dealing with faith or morals, and the person's conscience could not satisfactorily resolve the issue (i.e., he or she could not see it the Church's way, yet the person still believed that the Church is the ordinary means of salvation for all humanity) for several years, how would that person be able to perform his or her Easter duty during that time? Go to Confession, see whether he or she is allowed to receive Communion, then attend Mass as usual? And would such a person still be allowed to serve in church ministries (other than EMHC, of course), be active in the Legion of Mary and/or Knights of Columbus, be a lay member of a religious order, etc. during that time, if such a person were previously active in those ministries and groups? And how could a person not allow his or her faith wither and/or falsify one's conscience in Confession when one is not permitted to receive Communion for a protracted, indefinite period of time?

This is a hypothetical, but I wonder whether some practicing Catholics fall under this category. I suspect that most people who struggle with the Church's stance in faith and morals either stop practicing Catholicism altogether or evade the matter when they go to Confession. Some confessors might tell struggling penitents to continue receiving the Eucharist, but I can imagine that other confessors would not.

I hope that I am making sense to you, Erin. Sometimes I wonder if I do :-)

Anonymous said...

"we see a resurgence of vocations and mass attendance in those diocese that foster traditional Catholicism and lo and behold, often these are diocese with better records regarding sexual abuse. That may be in part because those guys actually follow canon law rather than listen to psychologists laboring under whatever pop-theory of humanity they happen to have at the moment."


Is there any actual evidence of this, beyond anecdotes?

Red Cardigan said...

Diamantina, I saw your comment yesterday and meant to get back to it--but the weekend business has intervened. :)

It's actually a really good question: how should a confessor/spiritual adviser handle someone who can't even give the weakest possible assent of faith to Church teaching--who has become convinced that the Church is wrong about something? What happens to things like the Easter Duty during that time?

Because it's such a good question, I'd like to answer it in its own blog post sometime next week, if that's okay. You gave me quite a bit to think about!

romishgraffiti said...

Is there any actual evidence of this, beyond anecdotes?

Yes there is and no, I don't have it at my fingertips and your question inspires me to remember to start collecting the evidence and keep it hand. Thanks.

Diamantina da Brescia said...

Erin,

Go right ahead and blog away :-) I'm glad that my little hypothetical gave you something to think about! It is a perplexing question, and probably happens more often than we know. (Since I am not a priest, I do not know for sure.)