|Women Simulating Priestly Ordination|
There are today still those Catholics, including some clergy, who persist in trying to deceive fellow Catholics into believing that the matter of the ordination of women has not yet been finalised. Not only would they like us to believe that the matter has not been finalised, they would like Catholics to believe that any progress in this regard has been stifled by an oppressive Church hierarchy, which has seen fit to censor their opponents by prohibiting any further debate on the subject.
An article, in the latest issue of The Southern Cross, provides a clear example of such deception being readily served up to Catholics in the pews. The writer states that: “Currently the official debate has been suppressed. The official line is: it’s theologically impossible ... and not to be discussed...” Sadly, even the title of his article, “The ‘other half’ of the Church”, portrays a rather sinister and discriminatory message that is, to say the least, inaccurate and misleading.
The reality is that nearly 2000 years of Tradition supports the current practice of the Church, which has always reserved priestly ordination for baptised men only. This is not, as some in the Church would disingenuously like to suggest, a teaching that the male only Church hierarchy is defending in order to suppress women and protect their own positions in the Church.
For me personally, the fact that Church Tradition supports the teaching of the Church, regardless of which particular subject of Church teaching it may be, always gives me such a great deal of comfort and peace. The Catholic Church provides me with such tremendous confidence precisely because it has been constant in its teaching for such a considerable length of time. This is particularly significant in the framework of a world where change seems to be the only other constant. I can think of no other means that would satisfactorily convince me that a teaching of the Church must be from God, than when it survives approximately 2000 years of constant change.
It is therefore sad when newspapers like The Southern Cross serve up, what can only be described as malicious gossip. The Church is not suppressing anyone. Neither is she forcing anyone to accept her teaching. All that Holy Mother Church is saying is that she has carefully examined this teaching on priestly ordination. She has concluded that this teaching cannot be changed because it has existed in this format for as long as the Church itself has existed. Therefore it is deemed part of the deposit of faith received from Christ and any on going debate serves no useful purpose whatsoever; the Church simply cannot change what Christ has instituted!
Debate of the subject has, if anything, proven to be counter-productive, precisely because those who so keenly seek to debate the matter clearly have a subversive and insincere agenda. An agenda that is not in the least concerned with the well being of the Church, neither with a response to a priestly vocation. It is instead just a desperate need to selfishly claim for oneself a title or a role in society. The reality of their motives is made abundantly evident when these people resort to calling on Catholics to be ‘disobedient’ to the Church, and when they proceed to simulate priestly ordination and also, sadly, simulate the Mass.
It would certainly have been far more useful and productive if the writer, and this Catholic newspaper, had chosen to remind the Catholic in the pew of the teaching of the Church in this regard and encouraged fidelity to that teaching.
As an example, the declaration, Inter Insigniores, authorised by Pope Paul VI in 1976, explains the Church’s position on the ordination of women in an extremely caring and loving manner. Many Catholics will not yet have read it, and this newspaper could therefore have published it, or an abridged version thereof, for the benefit of these Catholics.
The declaration would certainly serve to quell any negative perceptions that may exist regarding the Church’s teaching on priestly ordination. However, as I have already said, I suspect that this positive outcome is not on the agenda.
We can only pray, stand firmly in support of the teaching of the Church, and resist any attempts by those dissidents who wish to change what God has instituted.
In closing I include below the last chapter of the declaration On The Question Of Admission Of Women To The Ministerial Priesthood. (The link is the whole declaration.)
|Pope Paul VI|
“It is opportune to recall that problems of sacramental theology, especially when they concern the ministerial priesthood, as is the case here, cannot be solved except in the light of Revelation. The human sciences, however valuable their contribution in their own domain, cannot suffice here, for they cannot grasp the realities of faith: the properly supernatural content of these realities is beyond their competence.
Thus one must note the extent to which the Church is a society different from other societies, original in her nature and in her structures. The pastoral charge in the Church is normally linked to the sacrament of Order; it is not a simple government, comparable to the modes of authority found in the States. It is not granted by people's spontaneous choice: even when it involves designation through election, it is the laying on of hands and the prayer of the successors of the Apostles which guarantee God's choice; and it is the Holy Spirit, given by ordination, who grants participation in the ruling power of the Supreme Pastor, Christ. (Acts 20: 28) It is a charge of service and love: 'If you love me, feed my sheep'. (Jn. 21: 15 - 17)
For this reason one cannot see how it is possible to propose the admission of women to the priesthood in virtue of the equality of rights of the human person, an equality which holds good also for Christians. To this end, use is sometimes made of the text quoted above, from the Letter to the Galatians 3: 28, which says that in Christ there is no longer any distinction between men and women. But this passage does not concern ministries: it only affirms the universal calling to divine filiation, which is the same for all. Moreover, and above all, to consider the ministerial priesthood as a human right would be to misjudge its nature completely: baptism does not confer any personal title to public ministry within the Church. The priesthood is not conferred for the honour or advantage of the recipient, but for the service of God and the Church; it is the object of a specific and totally gratuitous vocation: 'You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you...' (Jn. 15: 16; Heb. 5: 4)
It is sometimes said and written in books and periodicals that some women feel that they have a vocation to the priesthood. Such an attraction however noble and understandable, still does not suffice for a genuine vocation. In fact a vocation cannot be reduced to a mere personal attraction, which can remain purely subjective. Since the priesthood is a particular ministry of which the Church has received the charge and the control, authentication by the Church is indispensable here and is a constitutive part of the vocation: Christ chose 'those he wanted'. (Mk. 3: 13) On the other hand, there is a universal vocation of all the baptized to the exercise of the royal priesthood by offering their lives to God and by giving witness for his praise.
Women who express a desire for the ministerial priesthood are doubtless motivated by the desire to serve Christ and the Church. And it is not surprising that, at a time when they are becoming more aware of the discriminations to which they have been subjected, they should desire the ministerial priesthood itself. But it must not be forgotten that the priesthood does not form part of the rights of the individual, but stems from the economy of the mystery of Christ and the Church. The priestly office cannot become the goal of social advancement: no merely human progress of society or of the individual can of itself give access to it: it is of another order.
It therefore remains for us to meditate more deeply on the nature of the real equality of the baptized which is one of the great affirmations of Christianity; equality is in no way identity, for the Church is a differentiated body, in which each individual has his or her role. The roles are distinct, and must not be confused; they do not favour the superiority of some vis-a-vis the others, nor do they provide an excuse for jealousy; the only better gift, which can and must be desired, is love. (1 Cor. 12 - 13) The greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven are not the ministers but the saints.
The Church desires that Christian women should become more 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 of believers of the true face of the Church.”