Talking about Women’s Ordination

The recent news that a priest in the Archdiocese of Melbourne has been proclaiming his belief in the validity of the ordination of women from the pulpit has created a bit of a stir here in the Antipodes. Not quite as big a stir as could be imagined, however, as both the priest concerned and the powers that be in the Archdiocese appear to be handling the situation without unnecessary hoohah in the media.

I recently had a conversation with a woman religious, who objected to John Paul II’s ruling (continued under the present pontificate) that the Church’s rejection of the validity of the ordination of women is not open to debate. “We should be able to discuss it”, she opined. Well, yes, by all means, let us “discuss” the Church’s teaching, but not in such a way that the matter would be “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” (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis).

Truth be told, we discussed the issue of the ordination of women at the Theology at the Pub Q&A session the other night. We discussed it in order to explain why the Venerable Pope John Paul II absolutely ruled out the possibility. Father Reynolds, on the other hand, not only “discussed” the issue, but publically proclaimed from the pulpit that he was

”convinced in my heart that it is God’s will that we should have women priests … I feel prompted by the Holy Spirit to share my position publicly, and yet very reluctantly.”

Somewhat embarrasingly, according to Barney’s report,

“He conceded that as ”an insignificant little parish priest” he lacked the profound theological training to contradict papal teaching, ”but some things you just know in your heart, in the core of your being”.

Actually, it isn’t rocket science. Sister Sara Butler put it well when she outlined the three major reasons in the magisterial teaching why women cannot be ordained:

The reasons include these three: Christ’s example of choosing only men as apostles (the argument from Scripture); the Church’s constant practice of choosing only men, in imitation of the Lord (the argument from tradition); and the consistent teaching that this pattern is “in accordance with God’s plan for His Church” (the witness of the Magisterium).

She distinguishes these “fundamental reasons” from the various theological “explanations” given by theologians. Anyone, even “an insignificant little parish priest” should be able to understand the “fundamental reasons” if not the more taxing “theological explanations”.

In any account, I mention all this because of a recent email from Dr William Tighe (a man who, rather than run a blog, runs an email discussion list encompassing an amazing number of significant persons across the ecumenical landscape today), drawing my attention to two blog posts:

http://matthewlbecker.blogspot.com/2010/12/womens-ordination-and-lcms-partner.html

http://gottesdienstonline.blogspot.com/2010/12/selk-reports-of-our-demise-have-been.html

These both concern the discussion of the ordination of women among theologically conservative Lutherans, in particular, the SELKD (a German Lutheran Synod separate from the ELKD), the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (currently headed by my one time colleague and friend, Rev. Dr. Matt Harrison), the Lutheran Church of Japan, and the Lutheran Church of Australia. All of these bodies are – or have been – in communion with one another. Yet they are in different particular situations. Both SELK and LCMS have “opposite numbers”, ie, the ELKD and ELCA respectively, which DO ordain women. What distinguishes them from their mirror images is that they do not ordain women. Thus, if anyone in LCMS or SELKD were to decide that they were “pro-WO”, the logical thing would be for them to switch to the “dark side”! However, this seems to be less the case in the SELKD than it is in the LCMS. In LCMS, support for the ordination of women is regarded in much the same sense as it is in my own communion, ie. as a grave heresy. But it appears that there is significant support for WO in SELKD.

On the other hand, the Lutheran Church of Australia also gets a mention. The LCA has no “twin”/”mirror”/”opposite number”, and yet the situation seems to be very much that of SELKD: the motion to ordain women as pastors comes up again, and again, and again at General Synod, but never reaches the required magic proportion of +66% in favour. This is an important issue for me, as the 2000 Synod debate on this matter acted as a catalyst for my conversion to the Roman Communion.

The posts to which Dr Tighe has directed us above indicate two very different approaches to the question of the ordination of women in the democratically structured Lutheran Churches. The first is the position of the LCMS: The ordination of women is forbidden by God’s Word and any suggestion to the contrary is heresy. This used to be the position of the Lutheran Church of Australia, as expressed in their “Thesis of Agreement” uniting the two Lutheran Synods in this country in the year that I was born, 1966:

Though women prophets were used by the Spirit of God in the Old as well as in the New Testament. 1 Cor. 14:34,35 and I Tim. 2:11-14 prohibit a woman from being called into the office of the public ministry for the proclamation of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments. This apostolic rule is binding on all Christendom; hereby her rights as a member of the spiritual priesthood are in no wise impaired.

Ironically, it is just this resolution that was tested by the 2000 Synod, and again at the 2006 Synod. A pattern has emerged of the issue being discussed at “every other” General Synod of the LCA. How long will the issue be discussed? Until the vote finally is in favour by a majority of %67? OR: will the LCA ever have the gumption to reaffirm their 1966 statement that the Scriptures “prohibit a woman from being alled into the office of the pubic ministry”, and to declare any statement to the contrary as “heresy”?

It gives me no pleasure to watch what is happening among my beloved Lutheran brothers and sisters on this matter. However, it is an indication to us in the Catholic Church of the wisdom of Pope John Paul II in prohibiting any discussion of the issue of the ordination of women to the priesthood as if such a thing was or ever could be possible.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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47 Responses to Talking about Women’s Ordination

  1. Stephen K says:

    David, your examples of the Lutheran Synods illustrate well why, perhaps, “discussion” about the ordination of women within the Catholic Church is misplaced, or even, in a sense, disingenuous: the character of the protest, if intended as a strategy to achieve a minimum consensus threshold, resembles less a “discussion” than a relentless, maybe even cynical, bombardment against a fortress wall. Given the opinions/rulings of both John Paul II and Benedict, the context is not, perhaps, exactly one in which it could meaningfully be said that truly open discussion can take place. The force of Sara Butler’s arguments appears, to my reading at any rate, to stem not so much from their own intrinsic merit as from the much more fundamental position that Christ’s intentions (read “divine mandates”) are revealed in long traditional practice and belief, and that after 2000 years, such a radical change could not possibly be valid.
    There are obviously counters to this core proposition (which I hasten to emphasize is not a ‘straw man’ but my genuine reading of an orthodox perspective) such as the proposition that by such reasoning one ends up being impossibly compelled to select a fixed point at which “tradition” can be said to exist (e.g. after 1 year? 5 years? 100 years?) – and/or ends up, in a sense, placing limits on the action of the Spirit in the development of understanding and in grace.
    However, arguments aside, my point here is that though vigorous debate can often lead to genuine persuasion, often it leads merely to capitulation through exhaustion or anxiety (Dom Cuthbert Butler’s account of the First Vatican Council makes interesting reading here, in relation to the definition of papal infallibility), or resentful wound-licking. And in such circumstances, the result is often difficult to discern as reliable or edifying.
    Though I’m irked when people say such things as “if you don’t like it, get out”- mainly because it is usually not said as an encouragement to the recipient to do something for his or her benefit – there may be a lot to be said for doing so if it would indeed make one more religiously happy than staying within and feeling you have no recourse but to plead. The question is, how important is a thing to one? Is ordination of women essential to either one’s religious faith or one’s sense of affiliation with one’s church? If so, then seeking or forming a community of like mind might be an answer (if only temporarily due to the high likelihood that another theological Rubicon may sooner or later emerge).

  2. Tony says:

    Well, yes, by all means, let us “discuss” the Church’s teaching, but not in such a way that the matter would be “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”.

    I’m not sure George Orwell himself could come up with a better example of Orwellian double-speak, David. I assume ‘Discuss’ is in quotes because you don’t mean discuss in any conventional sense. In fact you mean ‘agree’. Imagine running a blog ‘discussion’ along those lines!

    And Sister Butler’s ‘reasons’ have all the depth of a wading pool. Jesus didn’t choose men? It’s scriptural? Jesus didn’t choose Australians either.

    Is there a scriptural reference from Jesus saying that ‘forever and for all time the church must never choose women as priests’? No? Therefore it’s not scriptural in any meaningful or binding sense.

    • An Liaig says:

      Oh dear! This form of argument has been used many times by the proponents of women’s ordination but it has a major problem: it equates the fundamental difference of gender with incidental differences such as nationality. Gender is a fundamental character of the human person. It is a property of WHAT you are. It is written into your very DNA. Only baptism has the same (or greater) determinitive force and no non-baptised person can be ordained either. To equate differenceds in gender with differences in nationality (or anything else) is simply silly. If gender is recognised as having a determinative effect on human nature in a way that is unique, then the scriptural argument holds. It is only if you ignore the function of biology that it does not.

      • Schütz says:

        Thanks, Doctor. The usual way of making this distinction is (I believe) that a person’s nationality is an “accident” while a person’s sex is “substance”. From another perspective, in one of the blog discussions linked above, Matthew Blecker asks why it is necessary that someone to have a penis to be a priest/pastor. Of course, putting the question this way he is attempting to reduce the “substance” of masculinity to the “accident” of “having a penis”.

        • Tony says:

          Again, David, if Jesus wanted to make a substantive point about the nature of ministry being inextricably linked to masculinity, surely he would have?

          By the standards of his time, Jesus challenged prevailing attitudes to women. Why would it not be more reasonable to continue that tradition?

          • Schütz says:

            It is a matter of following an example, Tony. Take the footwashing, for instance, and Jesus’ admonition that his disciples should do the same. Since this was a case in which jesus washed the feet of the disciples as a metaphor of service, it may be asked whether we “imitate Jesus” by:
            1) physically washing other people’s feet?
            2) physically washing other people in some way, whether it is their feet or their hands?
            3) metaphorically “washing people’s feet” by serving them?

            Or agian, when Jesus took bread and wine and blessed them and gave them as his body and blood and said “Do this in rememberance of me”, did he mean:
            1) that only wheat bread and fermented wine can be consecrated as his eucharistic body and blood
            2) we can use any kind of food for this purpose (eg. rice crackers and rice-wine)
            3) the important thing isn’t the bread or the wine but the remembering?

            The Church makes certain judgements in this area. Especially in the case of the Eucharist, it judges that the substance of Bread and Wine is significantly important that to use anything else other than wheat bread and fermented grape wine would be to fail to follow the example of Jesus. However, it doesn’t matter if the bread is leavened or unleavened – this is not seen to affect the substance.

            So in the case of the Jewish males whom he selected to be his disciples: Because maleness belongs to the substance of a man’s being, whereas race is accidental, maleness is judged to be significant in the example set by Christ. However, there are three fundamental reasons for ordaining males only, and Christ’s selection of only males is just one of them. The other two are the practice of the apostles (who continued to ordain only men, but not only Jews) and the continual unbroken tradition of the Church (who also continued to ordain men of all races).

            As for following Jesus’ example in challeng[ing] the prevailing attitudes to women, I think the Church does a fairly good job of this in today’s context of feminism and over sexualisation of women. It is precisely because we “challenge the prevailing attitutdes to women” that we know that we cannot ordain them as priestesses.

            • Tony says:

              So in the case of the Jewish males whom he selected to be his disciples: Because maleness belongs to the substance of a man’s being, whereas race is accidental, maleness is judged to be significant in the example set by Christ.

              Tempted as I am David, I’m not arguing about the substance of ‘maleness’. I’m challenging that the way Jesus chose his disciples indicates a strong linking of priesthood with maleness. It doesn’t.

              If, for Jesus, maleness was so fundamental to the nature of the priesthood, it is reasonable to ask ‘where’s the evidence?’. The only evidence for this apparently rock solid rule is speculation about the way he chose some of his followers.

              The other two are the practice of the apostles (who continued to ordain only men, but not only Jews) and the continual unbroken tradition of the Church (who also continued to ordain men of all races).

              There’s no doubt about the tradition, but there are all sorts of other factors that contribute to that. If the foundation of that tradition is scriptural however, it’s a weak foundation.

              If the foundation is tradition, it can be changed. Tradition is something we make.

              As for following Jesus’ example in challeng[ing] the prevailing attitudes to women, I think the Church does a fairly good job of this in today’s context of feminism and over sexualisation of women. It is precisely because we “challenge the prevailing attitutdes to women” that we know that we cannot ordain them as priestesses.

              Great twist David!

              I believe we can challenge the prevailing attitutdes to women in the church and ask, ‘Is this what Jesus really wanted?’.

            • Schütz says:

              “If, for Jesus, maleness was so fundamental to the nature of the priesthood, it is reasonable to ask ‘where’s the evidence?’”

              The evidence is that the apostles continued to ordain only men. Since they exercised the authority of Jesus and carried out his mission, we can take this as the authentic fulfillment of Jesus’ commandment.

            • Tony says:

              The evidence is that the apostles continued to ordain only men. Since they exercised the authority of Jesus and carried out his mission, we can take this as the authentic fulfillment of Jesus’ commandment.

              What commandment?

              It is every bit as reasonable to speculate that the ordination practices of the early church were more to do with culture than commandment.

              But, again, let’s assume for the sake of argument that you’re right. They interpreted Christ’s actions as a commandment and we follow in their footsteps to the extent that the church believes it doesn’t have the authority to change.

              On what basis then, does the church assume the authority to make a rule that priests must be celibate given the clear action of Jesus appointing Peter?

              This side of Orwellian double-speak, David, it doesn’t stack up.

      • Tony says:

        My argument didn’t equate gender with nationality, An Liaig. What it did do is use the same argument that the church uses about gender (Jesus didn’t choose women, therefore we shouldn’t … or should I say, can’t).

        It assumes that because Jesus apparently didn’t do some thing, he meant it as a kind of ‘command’ for us, from that day forward, to do the same. It’s a very tenuous form of argument and not a very solid foundation to build such an absolute rule.

        The nature of gender and nationality in this context is a red herring.

        • Schütz says:

          Your argument fails in the following example.

          Jesus took bread and wine, blessed them etc. and said “Do this in rememberance of me”.

          The church sees his example as a command and therefore uses only wheaten bread and fermented grape juice as suitable matter for the eucharist.

          However, by your argument, there is no reason why we should not use coke and pizza, since Christ did not specifically tell us not to use coke and pizza.

          By his actions, Christ gave sufficient indication of his intentions. Where there is any uncertainty, we look to the apostolic practice for confirmation. Where the Church has continued an apostolic and dominical practice unbroken for 2000 years, we have no authority to change that practice.

          • Tony says:

            Again, David, ‘by his actions’ Jesus chose married men as his closest followers. Why doesn’t that qualify as ‘significant indication’?

            I also suspect that if a world-wide plant epidemic wiped out all traces of wheat and grape (God forbid!) the church would approve other staple foods.

            • Schütz says:

              Marriage, like race, is incidental to the nature of the person, not of the substance of the nature. And we do not know that all the apostles were married, only that it is probable that some of them were.

            • Tony says:

              We know that Peter was married, David. So, if the ‘scriptural logic’ of male priesthood follows it must surely mean that we’re doing the opposite of what Christ intended for the priesthood (and the Papacy no less!) by insisting that they’re not married.

              I can not see how you can logically assert that what Christ did in one instance is a ‘forever commandment’ and what he did in another is something we have the authority to change.

            • Schütz says:

              I can not see how you can logically assert that what Christ did in one instance is a ‘forever commandment’ and what he did in another is something we have the authority to change.

              Let me spell it out:
              1) In the matter of ordaining men only to the ministerial priesthood, the Apostles followed the example of our Lord, and the Church ever since without exception has done likewise.
              2) By the fact that Christ appointed both married and unmarried, celibate and uncelibate men as apostles, and that the apostles and the Church thereafter have also ordained both celibate and married men, shows that celibacy was not and is not a universal and eternal prerequisite for the Church. But this the Church understands. Even in the Western Latin Rite, married men may be ordained. So I don’t see what your argument is.
              3) Finally, as An Liaig and I have both been saying, but you seem to fail to appreciate, marriage is incidental to the person, not of their substance. Maleness is of the substance of a person. The distinction is important. You are not comparing like unto like.

            • Susan Peterson says:

              I think that because Our Lord used wheat bread and wine for the sacrament by which he remains with us until He comes again, we can be utterly and absolutely sure that there can be no world wide plague which would wipe out wheat and grapes.
              I think there were both married and unmarried men among the disciples and that this is not so essential a distinction as is whether one is male or female.
              A man is not married, then he becomes married, then his wife dies and he is not married; yet he remains a man. Clearly the being married or not being married is not of his essence.
              Why is it not enough for you that the Church does not ordain women, has never ordained women, and has solemnly said that she cannot ordain women? If you are Catholic, that should be enough for you. You should put seeing it the way the Church sees it ahead of seeing it as a man of your time, ahead of seeing it as the popular press and university gender studies professors see it!
              Susan Peterson

        • An Liaig says:

          Tony,
          Your argument involves an equivalence. To say you are using the same argument but simply substituting nationality for gender is to hold that the substitution makes no difference to the substance of the argument. My point was that this is not the case. The argument based on gender, in the context of history and the tradition of the Church, is actually very strong. In the same context, an argument based on nationality would be trite. Your demand for a specific comand about ordination is also meaningless since the Church does not interpret or use scripture in this literalist way. The scriptures form part of the living understanding of the Church and the bishops, in union with Peter, are the appointed overseers of this living tradition. Jesus, in fact, said very little about how to organise and run the Church. What he did was give us his example and his Spirit.

          • Tony says:

            Your argument involves an equivalence.

            Yes it does. The equivalence is, however, how a rule was arrived at not gender and nationality.

            The argument based on gender, in the context of history and the tradition of the Church, is actually very strong.

            But the foundation — Sister Sara Butler’s first point about scripture — is weak. We are assuming that Jesus said something substantial about the nature of the priesthood and masculinity and, on that basis, make a rule that is set in stone.

            Your demand for a specific comand about ordination is also meaningless since the Church does not interpret or use scripture in this literalist way.

            Which makes the notion that an all-male priesthood being ‘scriptural’ even weaker.

            The scriptures form part of the living understanding of the Church and the bishops, in union with Peter, are the appointed overseers of this living tradition.

            They do and this is why the notion that we ‘can’t change’ seems a little self serving. ‘We’ — as in the leaders of the early church — made the rule and ‘we’ can surely unmake it?

            Jesus, in fact, said very little about how to organise and run the Church.

            Spot on! How we organise and run the Church is up to us. To say we ‘can’t change’ this aspect of how the church organises and runs itself because we don’t have the authority seems to contradict the fact — the scriptural fact, if you will — that Jesus did leave it up to us.

            If we used your logic in relation to priestly celibacy we’d see that Jesus chose married men for his closest followers — the first Pope no less! — and, on that basis, clerical celibacy has no ‘scriptural basis’ and to insist that priests be celibate goes against his ‘example and his Spirit’.

            • An Liaig says:

              Tony,

              You still fail to see the basic error in your argument. The equivalence in the form of the argument is only valid if there is substantive equivalence in the elements of the argument. This is why the fundamental nature of maleness is important as compared to the incidental nature of nationality or, indeed, celibacy. Maleness and femaleness are constitutive of our humanity. This is why, although the Western Church holds to a tradition of celibacy, it does not teach that it is impossible to ordain a married man. It does teach that it is impossible to ordain a woman. Jesus had many women among his supporters and ,in defiance of tradition, among his intimate friends. However, he did not choose any woman among his leadership group. This is a powerful discrimination which can not be waved away with false comparisons. In the Catholic Church scripture is always, always interpreted in the context of tradition. Tradition is not something that we make – it is something we are given to preserve and pass on. Tradition, in the church’s sense, is not something that is up to us – it is the work of the Spirit in the community.

            • Tony says:

              You still fail to see the basic error in your argument. The equivalence in the form of the argument is only valid if there is substantive equivalence in the elements of the argument.

              And the equivalence in my argument was about the nature of how we derive rules from scripture. That is, if you derive a rule that Jesus didn’t ordain women so we can’t, if follows that if Jesus didn’t ordain Africans, we can’t.

              The second proposition is silly but I think the same about the first.

              This is why the fundamental nature of maleness is important as compared to the incidental nature of nationality or, indeed, celibacy. Maleness and femaleness are constitutive of our humanity.

              Yes they are BUT we have no direct evidence (or, I’d suggest, any more than speculation) the Jesus chose men because he was telling us something substantive about maleness and priesthood.

              As you say yourself, Jesus really left things like that up to us and, knowing that, we do have the authority to change it.

              However, he did not choose any woman among his leadership group. This is a powerful discrimination which can not be waved away with false comparisons.

              Nor can we assume things about it which are simply not there. To say that it is ‘powerful discrimination’ is speculative at best.

              Tradition is not something that we make – it is something we are given to preserve and pass on. Tradition, in the church’s sense, is not something that is up to us – it is the work of the Spirit in the community.

              Working through us!

            • Schütz says:

              A couple of things:

              1) The “fundamental reasons” are not Sister Sara’s, but those cited repeatedly in the magisterial teaching of the Church

              2) The Catholic Church does not defend the practice of restricting the priesthood to men only on the basis of “Scripture alone”, but upon the dominical command, the apostolic example and the continual tradition of the Church. I did once belong to an ecclesial community that reduced the “fundamental reasons” to “scripture says”, and they are still arguing about whether or not scripture alone restricts the ministry to men.

            • Tony says:

              1) The “fundamental reasons” are not Sister Sara’s, but those cited repeatedly in the magisterial teaching of the Church

              Not sure what point your making David. Is Sister arguing something different from the arguments of the Magisterium? If so, please explain.

              2) The Catholic Church does not defend the practice of restricting the priesthood to men only on the basis of “Scripture alone”, but upon the dominical command, the apostolic example and the continual tradition of the Church.

              Dominical command? Not sure what that is.

              Your assertions don’t explain why the Pope contends that the church doesn’t have the authority to change in this case but assumes the authority to change in the case of mandatory celibacy.

              I did once belong to an ecclesial community that reduced the “fundamental reasons” to “scripture says”, and they are still arguing about whether or not scripture alone restricts the ministry to men.

              You mean they’re having a ‘discussion’ in the accepted meaning of the term? Good on ’em!

            • Schütz says:

              A dominical command is a command from the Lord. An apostolic command (which has exactly the same authority) is a command from the apostles.

              You keep comparing the rule of celibacy to the rule of a male only priesthood.

              Dogmatics 101 would teach you that the former is a discipline (which may be altered according to the wisdom of the Church) and the latter is a dogma (which the Church has no authority to alter). You have demonstrated quite clearly that the Church does not have an unbroken Tradition of mandatory celibacy. We all know that. For that reason (among others, such as marriage not being of the substance of the human person) it is possible for a married man to be ordained. But not a woman, as there has been an unbroken Tradition from Christ and the Apostles of ordaining men only.

              Your argumentation demonstrates exactly why so many democratically governed churches have finally capitulated to the demand for the ordination of women. Those who support it, no matter how flimsy or easily disproved their case, will just keep on saying “But wwwwwhyyyyyyy, Mummy?” like a bleating child in a supermarket until they get what they want.

              Sorry. That probably wasn’t “nice”. But it’s how I feel at the moment in this “discussion”. It probably shows the wisdom of the Church is saying that this topic is “not to be discussed”. Possibly I should close this combox now…

            • Tony says:

              A dominical command is a command from the Lord. An apostolic command (which has exactly the same authority) is a command from the apostles.

              So the rule of male-only priesthood is a ‘Dominical command’? Surely this is where scripture does come in? And if this is so, surely the act of appointing Peter is as much ‘Dominical’ as the male-only ‘command’?

              You keep comparing the rule of celibacy to the rule of a male only priesthood.

              Let me be clear: I’m not comparing the nature of the rule. The fact that one is a ‘rule’ and another is a ‘discipline’ (0r whatever) is not the subject of comparison. It’s the way both were derived.

              You have demonstrated quite clearly that the Church does not have an unbroken Tradition of mandatory celibacy. We all know that. For that reason (among others, such as marriage not being of the substance of the human person) it is possible for a married man to be ordained. But not a woman, as there has been an unbroken Tradition from Christ and the Apostles of ordaining men only.

              OK, I’ve let this through to the keeper for argument’s sake. What we recognise as priesthood today didn’t occur (according to my reading) for a couple of centuries after the death of Christ. In that time there were accounts of women having leadership positions that make the ‘unbroken male-only’ tradition at least questionable.

              Your argumentation demonstrates exactly why so many democratically governed churches have finally capitulated to the demand for the ordination of women. Those who support it, no matter how flimsy or easily disproved their case, will just keep on saying “But wwwwwhyyyyyyy, Mummy?” like a bleating child in a supermarket until they get what they want.

              But, so far, you haven’t demonstrated anything like the ‘flimsyness’ of my case. You’ve just said, ‘Daddy says so and what Daddy says goes’.

              Sorry. That probably wasn’t “nice”. But it’s how I feel at the moment in this “discussion”. It probably shows the wisdom of the Church is saying that this topic is “not to be discussed”. Possibly I should close this combox now…

              Ahem.

            • Schütz says:

              So the rule of male-only priesthood is a ‘Dominical command’? Surely this is where scripture does come in?

              Only if you limit the Word of God to Scripture and do not also include Tradition as a source for revelation of the Word of God. Again, we do not seek a “written” command in the Tradition on this matter. That is the very meaning of the distinction between Scripture and Tradition. Tradition is unwritten, but nevertheless still the Word of God. Essentially it means this: because we have always ordained men only and never ordained women, and because the Apostles themselves did this, and because Jesus himself did this, this is Tradition and it is a revealed command of the Word of God. If you have trouble with that, you might be a Protestant.

            • Schütz says:

              What we recognise as priesthood today didn’t occur (according to my reading) for a couple of centuries after the death of Christ. In that time there were accounts of women having leadership positions that make the ‘unbroken male-only’ tradition at least questionable.

              The structures in which the ministerial priesthood were exercised may have looked very different from our structures today, but it is an article of our faith that the ministerial priesthood was established by Christ and that it has only been conferred on adult male human beings. A “leadership position” in the Church does not equate with the ministerial priesthood, although of course those who exercise the priesthood would also probably have some leadership role.

              Your position rests on:
              1) the idea that the Church, not Jesus (or even the apostles), established the ministerial preisthood
              2) equating “leadership positions” with the “ministerial priesthood”
              3) asserting that because women had leadership positions in the early Christian community, they therefore must have been ordained ministerial priests.

              Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

              Sorry.

  3. Stephen K says:

    An Liaig, I’ve been following your exchange with Tony with interest. I have to say, I found his arguments simpler and clearer: I got a little lost over your point about equivalence and the substantivity of maleness. However, your last sentences

    “Tradition is not something that we make – it is something we are given to preserve and pass on. Tradition, in the church’s sense, is not something that is up to us – it is the work of the Spirit in the community”

    are not statements I could agree with the way you have stated them. Tradition is indeed something passed on and continued, but it is not a something that exists independently of the incidences or occurrences of the custom or practice actually passed on actual people. Here, Tony is right, in my view, when he says that “people” make tradition. Or rather, more precisely, tradition is not made by those who initiate a practice but by those who follow it and continue it. Thus to say tradition is a work of the Spirit is a characterization after the phenomenon. But in any case whether a particular tradition is a work of the Spirit – in the sense that it is protected from discontinuance – is a matter for debate. Tradition has been invoked to justify both good and bad customs or attitudes, and I would have thought that, since traditions are only ever continued or discontinued by people, not a deity, traditional customs and attitudes within the church are not exempt. It seems to me that there is more than a little trace of ancestor-worship in the Papal declaration of incapacity to ordain women: in effect, the Pope’s argument goes “it was never done, never thought possible, our forebears must be right.” Your argument seems to me to be only slightly different, namely, “it was never done, never thought possible (because women and men are purposely gender-differentiated) so the Spirit must be behind this.”

    Of course there is another angle of debate in all this, namely, even if it is possible to ordain women, would it be good, would it serve a good, to do so? This in fact may very well be a way to unblock the impasse between the disputing parties over the capacity to ordain women, or at any rate, if it is answered in the affirmative, it may well help to persuade those opposed to it to see that perhaps after all, continuing the tradition of an exclusively male priesthood is not a work of the Spirit.

    • An Liaig says:

      Stephan,

      When I say Tradition, I mean it with a capital T. This has a specific meaning for Catholics and Orthodox. It is not traditions nor even a collection of traditions. It is the living understanding of the Church which includes both the past and the present and is expressed in the teaching of the bishops (most especially the Bishop of Rome) both living and dead. This is not ancestor worship but our ancestors in faith do have an equal say. I actually like your summary of the argument from Tradition, although I think that my argument not really at all different from that of the Pope. If I could paraphrase you: “it was never done, never thought possible, our forebears must be right and(because women and men are purposely gender-differentiated) the Spirit must be behind this.” Yes!

      As to your last point, I do not think that any argument could be made that it would be good to exclude women from any ministry that they could participate in. The teaching is that women’s ordination is simply not possible. When I first wrote the last sentance I wrote “The argument is…” but of course this is wrong. This is a teaching with the full authority of Peter. It is a statment of fact not an argument or opinion. It is not going to change.

      • Tony says:

        An,

        When I talk about tradition I mean all of it; capital ‘T’ and small ‘t’ if you will. Tradition is dynamic, it lives. We’re all part of it. It doesn’t just say, ‘this is the way they did so this is the way we must do it forever’. Nor does it say the opposite, ‘this is the way they did so we must change it’.

        This is a teaching with the full authority of Peter. It is a statment of fact not an argument or opinion. It is not going to change.

        This, in my experience is what some of these contentious issues come down to: authority. We do not know that Jesus chose men to issue an implied command and we certainly do not know the Jesus chose men because he had some idea that femaleness and priesthood were incompatible. It is a very thin scriptural thread to hang such a fundamental rule on.

        BUT if we are to hang such a rule on such speculation about Jesus intentions, how much stronger is the case for married priests? We know that Jesus appointed Peter as ‘the Rock’ and we know that Peter was married.

        The church somehow believes it has the authority to do the opposite of what Christ did as shown in the scriptures in terms of priestly celibacy, but doesn’t have the authority to do the opposite of what Christ did in terms of the gender of priests.

        On this basis alone, we see that arguing from scripture is not some immutable principle. Once you take that away, the other reasons become ‘well, this is the way we’ve always done it’. That’s fine. There may be good cultural and historical reasons for that tradition, but culture and history change.

        We have seen women break down all sorts of barriers of what traditionally we thought were roles inextricably linked to masculinty. We have seen women become fine ministers in other denominations and, lo and behold, the sky didn’t fall in. On that basis, I think that we can be confident that it is going to change even in the Catholic church no matter how much the Church says ‘don’t go there’.

        It may not change in our lifetimes or even the lifetimes of our children, but it also may change very quickly as many of the momentous changes of the last few decades have done.

        • Schütz says:

          We do not know that Jesus chose men to issue an implied command and we certainly do not know the Jesus chose men because he had some idea that femaleness and priesthood were incompatible.

          Yes, we do. Why? Because the Apostles followed his example without exception and because of the unbroken Tradition of the Church. Tradition is not just “what we have always done”, it is as truly “Word of God” as the written Scriptures are.

          • Tony says:

            Yes, we do. Why? Because the Apostles followed his example without exception and because of the unbroken Tradition of the Church. Tradition is not just “what we have always done”, it is as truly “Word of God” as the written Scriptures are.

            So please explain why the church assumed the authority to change the clear ‘commandment’ of Jesus (to use your logic) to appoint a married man as (effectively) the Pope.

            • Schütz says:

              Do we have to keep repeating ourselves, Tony? Maleness of is of the substance. Marriage is incidental. The rule regarding celibacy is neither universal nor eternal. The rule regarding a male priesthood is.

            • Tony says:

              I feel I’m repeating myself too, David, but again, let me be clear:

              I’m not comparing the substance of maleness with the incidents of marriage. That’s your and An’s doing. I didn’t bring it up and it’s not a part of my point.

              My point was how we determine the word of God and come up with rules.

              The scriptural origan of the rule about male priests apparently came from Jesus apparently ordaining only men. This act, then and now, is seen as a clear indication that God makes an unbreakable association between maleness and priestly duties. God hasn’t mentioned it via the agency of his Son in any explicit way, but that’s how we’ve come to see it. He (Jesus) appointed men but didn’t give us any indication that this was a binding act.

              BUT if we assume it was a binding act we can see other things he did and use the same process.

              We see that he appointed Peter as Pope. Peter was married. Why not assume this to be as binding as the male thing? Why not assume that marriage and Papal office are essential to each other? Why not say, ‘Jesus did it so we don’t have the authority to not do it?’.

              Again, the issue of substance and incidence is imposed by us after the fact. Jesus didn’t make it clear in any way that this was the reason he only appointed men. We just don’t know.

              On this basis we exclude over the half the population from being called to the priesthood and insist that men be celibate if they want to be priests (let alone be a Pope!).

              The issue of substantial link between maleness and priesthood is a whole other can of beans and not what my comparison dealt with or needed to deal with.

              On that though, are we allowed to know why maleness and priesthood are inextricably linked? Or is that another ‘because Daddy said so’ and if you don’t like it you’re probably a Protestant?

    • Schütz says:

      Here, Tony is right, in my view, when he says that “people” make tradition

      Just to add a couple of thoughts to the good Doctor’s reply:

      1) “Tradition” is what we have now, not something hypothetical which we could make up or change. If it could be endlessly changed like a wax nose it wouldn’t be “Tradition”. I once new a family where the grandmother would say on her birthday “We’ll go to the traditional place for dinner”, which they always did. Presumably there was once a time when they went somewhere else, but everyone in the family now knew where the “traditional place” was, and if they went anywhere else, it would not be “tradition”.

      2) The Church is convinced (in fact it teaches) that its “Tradition” is an authorative expression of the Word of God, which has its source in the historical teaching of Jesus Christ, passed on by the apostles, and preserved in the Church by the gift of the Holy Spirit. So it isn’t quite right to say that “people make tradition”. The source is Christ. It has become “Tradition” because we have continued to be obedient to Christ.

      • Tony says:

        1) “Tradition” is what we have now, not something hypothetical which we could make up or change. If it could be endlessly changed like a wax nose it wouldn’t be “Tradition”. I once new a family where the grandmother would say on her birthday “We’ll go to the traditional place for dinner”, which they always did. Presumably there was once a time when they went somewhere else, but everyone in the family now knew where the “traditional place” was, and if they went anywhere else, it would not be “tradition”.

        But Grandma died, David. The family then got together and talked about maintaining the tradition. And they did. Then the next generation came along and many fell away from the tradition. So the family talked about how to renew the tradition. They realised that the reasons grandmother chose that place to eat in the first place because it was local and it was cheap and she knew the owner.

        Now, it is not local for most of the family, it is expensive and has had many owners. The family valued the tradition of the get-together and came up with a way to do it that made sense to them now.

        So they now get together at someone’s house and, to keep the tradition alive, they always incorporate a German theme in the food they all bring (the original restaurant was German).

        Another family had a similar tradition and stuck to it rigidly. In two generations it had died and no one remembered why it started in the first place.

        Nobody’s talking ‘wax nose’, David.

        2) The Church is convinced (in fact it teaches) that its “Tradition” is an authorative expression of the Word of God, which has its source in the historical teaching of Jesus Christ, passed on by the apostles, and preserved in the Church by the gift of the Holy Spirit. So it isn’t quite right to say that “people make tradition”. The source is Christ. It has become “Tradition” because we have continued to be obedient to Christ.

        Again, you keep hammering this point about it being the word of Christ when, in fact, the evidence for that is very speculative and thin. If the ‘word of Christ’ is derived, at first, from scripture then there would be a ‘Mrs Benedict’ in Rome.

        • Schütz says:

          1) Thank you, Tony. Your exampe of Grandma’s birthday party is an excellent example of a “wax nose” tradition. The “Tradition” in question was meeting at the given park where the bbq was held for Grandma’s birthday. Meeting in someone’s home and eating German theme food (she was English, btw) is not “renewing the tradition”. It is starting a new tradition. Ordaining women would not be “renewing Tradition”. It would be creating an entirely new tradition.

          2) I am sorry you do not understand what is meant by “Word of God”. Perhaps you should read the Pope’s recent exhortation “Verbum Domini”. I did not say that “Tradition” was “the word of Christ” or even “the word of Jesus”, but “the Word of God”. Go and read and learn.

          • Tony says:

            I’ll leave you dismissive (not nice?) comments in #2 aside.

            Both our examples of the ‘tradition’ metaphor are reasonable. Some traditions are letter of the law stuff, others change with time keeping in mind and preserving the basics, eg, in my lifetime we’ve changed from Latin to English.

            You contend that the male-only priesthood is letter of the law stuff that can’t change. To give weight to this argument you evoke the substance of ‘maleness’. Not only is there no scriptural evidence that Jesus meant that an all male priesthood was something he (and God) wanted us to stick to, but there’s even less evidence that he did so because he (and God) were telling us something about the substance of ‘maleness’ and the priesthood.

            As An (finally) admits, this is a matter of authority. I believe the church had the authority to come up with this model and it has the authority to come up with another model that includes women, married men, temporary appointments, etc.

            Even using the kind of internal logic you use, the male-only priesthood is no more the ‘will of God’ than the celibate priesthood which the Catholic Encyclopedia describes as ‘a more perfect observance of chastity’. More perfect? More Orwellian double speak.

            I fear that it is impossible for you to consider this David, even though church history is littered with leadership every bit as human and corruptable as any other institution, but it may be that an all male priesthood says that an all male priesthood is the only way because it can’t break out of its own limitations.

            The very fact that it tries to stifle discussion is, paradoxically, a sign that it sees it as inevitable. If it were easy to defend with logic there’d be no need to shut it down.

            People, even otherwise fairly cautious people, just don’t buy the logical contortions you have to get into to justify it and, especially those who live in democracies, definitely don’t buy ‘don’t go there any more, case closed’.

            The case is demonstrably not closed. Discussion, real discussion, will continue.

            • Schütz says:

              1. You contend that the male-only priesthood is letter of the law stuff that can’t change.

              Not me. The Church. It is “Word of God” in so far as the Tradition is a source of the revelation of the Word of God. Which the Church says it is.

              2. there no scriptural evidence that Jesus meant that an all male priesthood was something he (and God) wanted us to stick to,

              There are a good many Protestants who think that there is (and more who, like you, think that there isn’t). But we aren’t Protestants and we don’t argue from a “scripture alone” point of view.

              3. As An (finally) admits, this is a matter of authority. I believe the church had the authority to come up with this model and it has the authority to come up with another model that includes women, married men, temporary appointments, etc.

              The Authority in question is the authority of God’s Word, not the authority of the Church. Pope John Paul II specifically declared 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”. In matters pertaining to God’s Word, the Church does not have the authority “to come up with another model”. The Church didn’t invent the priesthood. It is a gift from our Lord Jesus Christ himself.

              4. the male-only priesthood is no more the ‘will of God’ than the celibate priesthood

              The male-only priesthood is maintained on the authority of the Word of God revealed in Sacred Tradition. The celibate priesthood may be God’s will for the Latin Church at this point in time (the Church continues to judge it fitting), but it is of a different order of authority entirely. In this matter, as you say, “the church has the authority to come up with another model”. But not on the matter of ordination of males only.

              5. it may be that an all male priesthood says that an all male priesthood is the only way because it can’t break out of its own limitations.

              Yes, I can see how someone would think this. It is true that in the past society has had a view of women which is not in accord with the full dignity of women, and have used this view as an explanation for why women cannot be ordained. It is also true that at this present time our society continues to have a (very different, but often no less deformed) view of women that is also not in accord with the full dignity of women. Nevertheless the full and equal dignity of woman and man does not enter into this debate. Deformed views of women have, in the past, functioned as explanations for the male-only priesthood. They are not, however, and never were, the “fundamental reasons” why the Church ordains only women.

              6. The very fact that it tries to stifle discussion is, paradoxically, a sign that it sees it as inevitable

              No, it is a sign that debating continuing to debate a matter which is not open to change or alteration can be spiritually damaging to the Church, and can in fact sap energies that should be put into more profitable endeavours. A fact of my own experience, I might say.

              7. People…just don’t buy the logical contortions you have to get into to justify it

              At that may be a reason for “discussing” the issue in order to make the reasons and explanations as clear as possible. But the fact that SOME “people don’t buy it” does not tell against the fact that it is impossible for us to do what you propose.

            • Tony says:

              David,

              I have a sense that the Pewmeister’s axe may be hanging over this conversation but I will continue:

              There are a good many Protestants who think that there is (and more who, like you, think that there isn’t). But we aren’t Protestants and we don’t argue from a “scripture alone” point of view.

              Like the ‘substance and incidence’ point earlier, I’ve never argued ‘scripture alone’. There is, however, a scriputural component to the church’s position. The tradition didn’t come out of thin air. It came because the Church has justified it’s tradition in this context by making assumptions about why Christ did something.

              The Church didn’t invent the priesthood. It is a gift from our Lord Jesus Christ himself.

              On that basis, the church didn’t invent the Papacy either, but we assume the authority, despite much more unambiguous scriptural evidence to the contrary, that we have the authority to insist that the Pope and Latin Rite priests be celibate.

              The celibate priesthood may be God’s will for the Latin Church at this point in time (the Church continues to judge it fitting), but it is of a different order of authority entirely.

              It maybe, but, unlike the male-only priesthood, it looks at what Christ did and says the complete opposite. Somehow the scriptural aspect of this rule (and yes, scripture is not the be all and end all!) is turned on its head. In this case we don’t interpret Christ’s unequivocal actions as telling us ‘Popes should be married’ or even ‘Popes can be married’.

              The fact that it is ‘of a different order of authority’ comes after the fact of Jesus actions.

              Some centuries after Jesus earthly ministry the church, for reasons that were appropriate to the time, the Church ignored the unambigous evidence of what Christ actually did and made a mandatory celibacy rule for its religious.

              Appointing a married man as Pope is a much clearer signal of Christ’s intentions, than appointing men as his apostles. There is clearly no evidence that Jesus condemned celibacy but, by his actions, he clearly tells us that marriage is not a barrier to the highest office in the church.

              It has been acknowleged that Jesus wasn’t really that prescriptive about the detail of how the church should operate after his death, but he appointed a married man to head the church.

              Yet in one case ‘we don’t have the authority’ and in the other ‘sure we do!’ The church waited something like a thousand years to formerly exercise it’s authority regarding mandatory celibacy (please note: I’m talking about mandatory celibacy), it may wait far longer to see that it does have the authority to invite women to be priests. I see the statements of recent Popes as pretty typical ‘last stands’ against inevitable change. The fact that they’ve ‘upped the ante’ in terms of ‘authoritate’ rhetoric and have, quite unsuccessfully, attempted to shut down discussion, only confirms that inevitability.

              (IMO as always!)

        • An Liaig says:

          Tony,

          You are right. This is fundamentally about authority. Family traditions are traditions with a small t. So are national traditions and even those traditions that cross national borders. They are human traditions which we made up and which we can change if we want to. They are about a particular way of expressing human emotions or ideas. Church tradition is Tradition with a capital T. It comes to us from God and is an authentic revelation of God’s will. This understanding of tradition was stronly reemphasised at Vat II. Tradition does not depend on scripture nor is it to be seperated from it. They are both the one expression of God’s word.

          • Stephen K says:

            An Liaig, I think it’s time we went back to taws. What are we all signifying by tradition? Dei Verbum talks about the “handing on from the apostles” to mean the process of revelation. Since it links it with scripture, it also speaks of it as a source of revelation. Does Tradition have a content? It seems obvious that there would be, but we’re clearly disputing about what content might be included in revelation. You and David are saying, along with the pope, that the non-ordination of women is an integral part of that revelatory content. The way I see it, this view is grounded essentially on the fact that no-one has thought or wished it possible for a long time, since the beginning. In other words, because women were never ordained, women’s ordination was not part of the “handing on”, hence it is not part of the revelation. The “Faith” is limited by what is revealed, hence women’s ordination cannot be part of the “Faith”.
            On the other hand, Tony is saying women’s ordination cannot be definitively excluded, in part because (a) there are other examples of practices or doctrines not handed on which later were “discerned”, or (b) there are other examples of practices or doctrines initially handed on which later were discarded. But he also appears to be arguing, at least implicitly, that whereas you can reasonably assert that something that was handed on is part of revelation, it is less certain that you can assert that something that was not handed on is not part of revelation. And this seems to me to be a valid objection, in part because it is too easy to read what you want in an absence or silence, and in part because in the same way that Popes and Councils continue to assert their authority to declare revealed truths (e.g. Assumption, Immaculate Conception, infallibility) even to this day, so the fact that something was not obviously handed down in the first decades does not signify that it is not or never will be found within the treasure-trove of revelation. Tony is saying there is no positive, only this dubious negative, basis for the non-ordination of women.

            It is begging-the-question to simply assert, as you have done, An Liaig, that Tradition is God’s word, not dependent on Scripture nor separate from it, the question being “how do we know that Jesus intended everything that was and nothing that was not, adopted by the earliest Christian leaders?” If you resort to Matthew 16:19, you are vulnerable to a charge, given the prominence you would give to Tradition (over Scripture), of wanting to have your cake and eat it too.

            Finally, I think it’s incorrect to make the kind of distinction you are making between Tradition as an authoritative source and traditions of a family nature. The way I see it, sacred tradition does not exist apart from the traditions that manifest it, and as such the latter appear to be of the same category as secular traditions. One could readily concede that the Church’s faith and praxis occurred in a context of and subject to a process of Capital T Tradition, but this would not necessarily be compromised by an expectation or demand that individual customs change to improve them.

            • Schütz says:

              Stephen,

              Your question “Does Tradition have a content?” is a valid one, and one that my good friend Pastor Fraser Pearce has asked at the level of the Catholic-Lutheran dialogue. Quite signficantly, the Church has never attempted to exhaustively analyse the content of Sacred Tradition. It declined to do this at Trent, and still does today. There are many things that we can definitively say are a part of Sacred Tradition (infant baptism, for eg., which is not mandated in Scripture), but, as you say, it is more difficult to say what is excluded from Tradition.

              More difficult, but not impossible. As you point out with the doctrines of the Assumption and Immaculate Conception, the Church has the authority to determine what is and what is not a part of the Sacred Tradition. But this does not give the Church the right to make it up as it goes along. It is sufficiently clear that the ordination of women is NOT a part of the Sacred Tradition, since whenever it was proposed in the past (rarely!) it was dismissed out of hand. It is not purely an argument from silence. It is not as if no-one has ever asked before “Why can’t women be ordained?”. The answers to that question (the “explanations”) may have been valid or invalid, but the unanimous answer has always been that they cannot. There is in fact, therefore, positive and unanimous indication in the Tradition that this is impossible.

              As for Tradition being a source of the revelation of God’s Word, this is not the good Doctor’s suggestion. It is the teaching of both Trent and Vatican II. Paragraphs 9 and 10 of Dei Verbum from Vatican II outline this in full, not leaving Tony much wriggle room:

              9. Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence.

              10. Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers (see Acts 2, 42, Greek text), so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort.

              But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.

              It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.

  4. Stephen K says:

    Thanks David, I’ll leave the subject on your note. If the to-and fro-ing has helped each of us to focus on what it is others are actually saying, what it is we think about the various ideas, and refine and clarify each other’s thinking, then that’s something to the good. I think we all have a responsibility to consider questions, and form intelligent responses to them, otherwise I fear we’re not doing something vital to us and our very nature. Agreement’s probably a bonus! My best wishes to you, An and Tony.

    • An Liaig says:

      I also feel that the Council is a good place to bow out. I feel that we have started to run in circles. I thinl communicating ideas is always good but endless discussion can certainly weary the soul, as anyone who has been to a university staff meeting can testify. Best wishes to all in the discussion – it was fun.

      • Tony says:

        Yes, An and Stephen, I don’t know how to avoid the ‘circles’, they’re very frustrating.

        The bottom line for me is that as a young man at the end of my schooling I felt that God was asking me to consider the priesthood. When I spoke to the Brother who in charge of such things he confirmed that it was God calling me and that I should respond. I responded and for a whole lot of reasons it didn’t work out. After one year in the Seminary I decided that this was not what God was calling me to.

        Others I’ve known personally or have heard about have talked about their calling to the priesthood too, but because they were married men or women, the Church assures them that it wasn’t God’s voice it was something else because God doesn’t call married men and women to be His priests. In short, they were mistaken.

        Setting aside any consideration of numbers, that, to me, is a loss that must be justified.

        The justifications don’t come from scripture. There is no scriptural evidence that points to God not wanting … never wanting … women as priests and, if anything, scripture shows us that marriage and priesthood, up to the highest level, are just fine.

        And the circle starts when you ask why. The church has deemed that one rule is the very wish of God (aka creeping infallibility) and one is just a discipline. Why? Well, because it has and it’s Tradition (with a capital T!).

        Why is it about women that makes them unsuitable for the priesthood? Don’t even go there, God doesn’t want it and that’s that. It really has nothing to do with another tradition in the church: treating women as second class citizens. No really, it’s not that!

        It is so unconvincing and makes a mockery of genuine authority. And when ‘authority’ seeks to stifle discussion, I mean real discussion, it looks like what it is: backing itself into a corner because it knows its position is indefensible.

        History, both within and outside the church, is littered with this kind of behaviour. Eventually someone comes along and says, ‘the Emperor is naked!’.

        • Susan Peterson says:

          What is it about women which makes them unsuitable to the priesthood?
          That they have not been sons and cannot be fathers?
          So that they cannot be the icon of the son offering Himself to the Father?

          Think about the probably naked or close to naked body of Our Lord on the cross, and what that image conveys, and what feelings it evokes. Then think about a woman naked or nearly so, on a cross. Would that image ever convey the same thing? Could we put it on the walls of our churches?

          I assert that Christianity would be a very different religion if God had a daughter rather than a son. I assert that God choose the Jews and separated them from the other peoples around them with their temple prostitutes and their priestesses and their infant devouring Gods, and taught them that God was transcendent. He chose a people and raised up among them patriarchs. He made a covenant with them ratified by a sacrifice of a bit of exclusively male anatomy. Their specialness to Him and his protection of them was celebrated by the killing of a young male sheep or goat, whose blood marked their doors. And then He chose to be incarnate as one of those people, and taught them to call God “Father.” Not accidentally, He is called Lamb of God, the true Passover lamb (which had to be male.)

          Can it really not matter whether His priests are men or women?

          Priestesses are part of all those religions of the endless cycle of the world, of endless becoming, of fertility and birth and rebirth , of sex and generation. A woman’s body always conveys a meaning related to these things, which is why there could not be a religion of a crucified woman, and why a woman cannot stand in the place of the Son offering sacrifice to the Father.

          Christianity is all of the world of myth, symbol, and metaphor, made absolutely concrete and real. It is far far from shallow egalitarianism.

  5. Christine says:

    This is why, although the Western Church holds to a tradition of celibacy, it does not teach that it is impossible to ordain a married man.

    We also have the long witness of the Christian East, where bishops are always celibate males, and an unmarried man may not marry after being ordained a priest. Since in the West the Pope is the Bishop of Rome the Catholic Church is also following a unified tradition here.

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