Can You Risk Not Knowing the Truth?

A Response to Arguments for Women Priests #4

Dear Miss Wannabe,

Early on I mentioned that my response, and it has been a drawn out one, could in no way place itself on a truly scholarly level. Its lack of order and brevity is due to the fact that it was composed "on the run" during the stolen moments of the evening. However, I hope it does seek to remind us that we must always examine our motives and arguments critically before challenging the teaching authority of the Church founded by Christ and protected by the Holy Spirit.

It is my conviction that a dissent on this teaching is neither the actual will of Christ, nor of his Church.

Seriously, in my own piety, I find no problem with the doctrine of orders as it now stands. Within the Christian perspective, "woman" has the sublime vocation of being man's historical God- and Christ-bearer; in Mary, she conceives the High Priest of God. Women reflect Mary who is the Mother of all the living. Men reflect Christ who offers his very self on the cross for our sake. Rather than seen as an occasion of inequality; we should rejoice that God should make use of both sexes to bring us salvation. The position of Scripture and tradition regarding the woman as man's mutual helper, the mother, the one subordinate in loving obedience to the exercise of authority from the husband and father has been seriously criticized in this present age; but, the verdict as to its continued strength is still out. It is no wonder that priesthood as we know it is challenged in an age when secular humanism would seek to destroy the distinctions between the sexes which give our race strength and our personhood dignity.

I should further like to say that dissent against the Magisterium should not be made public. Even some bishops fail on these grounds and they inadvertantly threaten schism. It is not our task to tear the Church down or to give scandalous support to those who already hate her. Several years ago, the press and liberals throughout the country made a big deal about Archbishop Haunthausen. The harm he caused is still being felt in his diocese. Thank God he is now retired. You may recall that he shut down his diaconate formation program in protest of the prohibition of women from holy orders. He said the program would remain closed until the role of women in ministries was more adequately addressed to his liking. Several questions arose.

Although he seemed very sensitive to our continued need to appreciate the gifts of women, did not his action disregard the gifts of men called to the diaconate? Admittedly, he had the authority to take this measure, especially since many other bishops opted not to implement such programs altogether; however, should it have been used as a wedge to manipulate the Church into reconsidering women in ordained ministries? Furthermore, a week prior, he told his candidates that there would be a program and that they would be ordained in a few days. Is it just to so quickly break a promise? Would he not have been more consistent to also shut down his seminary program for priests? Might he have refused to be present at the consecrations of other bishops? After all, deacons are usually presumed as the least hierarchial and powerful of the orders. Of course, these actions would have brought him immediately back to the notice of Rome. However, since the American Episcopacy was and is powerless to change our tradition without schism from the universal Church, was it not Rome that he was trying to coerce? Sure.

Taking a look at some of the Scriptures you cited to me, I have to wonder if you have the tools really to sustain this inquiry:

John 3:16-17; 6:54-56 - Bread of Life & Cup of Salvation

The first reference to John merely states that God sent his SON into the world that it might be saved through HIM. As for the second, look at what Jesus says in the prior verse, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the SON OF MAN and drink HIS blood, you do not have life within you." Sorry, this reinforces the teaching of an exclusively male Christian priesthood. What bible are you reading?

Matthew 4:1-10; John 18:36 - Servant Messiah

I fail to see how Matthew's rendition of the temptation scene is applicable to your argument. Do you just pick verses at random and hope they apply? Notice the footnotes in the New American translation: "Jesus, proclaimed SON of God at his baptism, is subjected to a triple temptation. Obedience to the FATHER is a characteristic of true SONSHIP, . . . ." The second citation is Christ's admission that his kingdom is not of this world. Again, what does this have to do with women priests? After Pentecost, we know his kingdom will be breaking into the world through the vehicle of his Church.

John 4:27; 16:13; Galatians 3:27-28; Hebrews 7; Acts 15 - New Order

Jesus talks to the Samaritan woman. However, instead of being evidence that Jesus was sympathetic to the notion of women priests, it merely illustrated that his message of repentence, faith, and salvation should have universal significance. Indeed, this case illumines the fact that Jesus was not hesitant to shake the status-quo, as in this instance wherein he speaks to a foreigner, heretic, and a promiscuous "unclean" woman. Nevertheless, he still did not create a female priesthood. Sorry, you just scored a point for the other side! The second citation reflects the fact that the Lord simply did not want to overwhelm his disciples. Later would come the Paraclete who would confirm them in the truth. You take things out of context and give them unsubstantiated and false content. Jesus did not refrain from instituting women priests because he would have to impose them by force; rather, it was because such was counter to his will and the elected economy of salvation. The mention of Galatians has nothing at all to do with ordination but is a baptismal formula expressing ethnic, socio-economic, and sexual equality in Christ the Savior. This putting on Christ is inseparable from our acquisition of salvific grace. As for Hebrews, the entire letter reinforces the status-quo. Christ as the SON of God is forever the perfect priest: "For the law appoints MEN subject to weakness to be high priests, but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law, appoints a SON, who has been made perfect forever." Jesus is still SON. Earthly priests who participate in his high priesthood must literally be SON. Your citation of Acts 15 is too vague to know what you want to draw from it. Certainly at the Council of Jerusalem, baptism was given precedence over circumcision as the rite of initiation; but, what does this have to do with priesthood. Yes, there is a new order or dispensation, but the rupture with the past is not complete. There is also continuity and progression from the Jewish inheritance, most notably in the Jewish Messiah who is the SON of God. The letter to the Apostles seems to stress the male leadership of Christ's Church: "The apostles and presbyters (priests), your BROTHERS, to the BROTHERS in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of Gentile origin: greetings." Again, a clear and honest review of the texts contradicts your position.

Matthew 12:8; 16:19; 18:18 - Authority to Ordain Women

The first citation is in reference to Christ, not the Church. "For the SON of MAN is Lord of the sabbath." Right, and if it is the will of Christ that only men can be ordained, then ONLY CHRIST can change it. The Church is BOUND by what it has formally received. The citations about the keys are crucial, especially regarding sin and pardon, the precepts of the Church, and disciplinary aspects of the Church's structure and tradition. However, if the Church were to act against the will of Christ, as you would force it to do, Jesus could rightly say from verse 23: "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." Thus, the authority of the Church, placed in Peter, is not unlimited. The Church can get rid of women's Mass veils, the subdiaconate, the agape meal, etc. BUT there are revealed things at the core of the Church's deposit of faith that are unchangeable-- things like the resurrection, the eucharistic presence, the ten commandments, the male priesthood, etc. Just as God gave us the decalogue, divine positive laws, the Church is powerless to abrogate them. However, where she is the lawgiver, as in the precepts, she can alter them according to the powers invested in the keys. Please read von Balthasar's book, The Office of Peter.

John 10:10 - Abundant Life of Grace

Huh? Okay, Christ comes to give us abundant life, but I suspect by surplanting your will over that of Christ and his Church on the issue of women priests, you are more like the thief in this passage who comes to steal and slaughter and destroy. I see no connection with this topic. Any link between the Church and the thief is contrived and unscriptural.

Matthew 19:11-12 - Priestly Celibacy

Actually the citation for celibacy is in verse 10 and this one is misplaced in your handout. The citation here goes under your next heading. The Church contends that all men called to priesthood will also be given the charism of single-hearted love. Christ works with his Church and gives his priests the necessary graces to fulfill their vocations. I dare anyone to show me a man who has left priesthood for the love of a woman who did not on some level forget his life of prayer and his union with the Church, the bride of Christ.

Acts 1:21-23 - Against Compulsory Celibacy

There is nothing in this citation about any kind of celibacy. Rather, it is about the selection of another MAN to take the place of Judas, who turned traitor.

John 6:35-58; 17:21-23; Colossians 2:9-12 - Gifts Transcend Gender

The elements of the institution are FOOD, Jesus gives them an identification with HIMSELF. It is unnecessary to see gender in the accidents of the Eucharist. Later in chapter 6, Jesus says: "For this is the will of my FATHER, that everyone who sees the SON and believes in HIM may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day. . . . Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the SON of MAN and drink HIS blood, you do not have life within you." You must not take passages out of context. You twist their meaning. The second citation is a reference to work on the sabbath and Jesus contrasts circumcision (purifying the man by a removal of flesh) with his healing of a man (person) on the sabbath. If one is legitimate then so must the latter be. Nothing at all is said about women or ordination. It is not topical to these verses. The citation from Colossians as in Paul's baptismal formula is specifically regarding initiation into the Body of Christ, not Holy Orders. Baptism conforms the faithful to Christ as his body, making possible the laity's active discipleship in society while passively disposing them to the receptivity necessary in regards to the sacramental life. Ordination builds upon the first sacraments, more perfectly aligning and sealing the Christological identity of the "sacerdotal" priest with Christ the head, taking a secondary role in the political life which he admonishes upon but relegates to the laity; while he ascribes to himself as an "alter Christus," the active task of shepherding through preaching and administering the divine mysteries, particularly the Eucharist and Penance. There is a difference.

Not a single one of your Scripture quotations has anything to do with this topic and is just filler for the vacuum in your research. This is all getting rather embarrassing. Do you have any new approaches to the question of women's ordination or are you just going to continue with the same aborted lines of thought previously presented? It is my hope that I will so saturate you with the futility of your endeavor that you will see sense and give it up. Your last couple of responses really were poor and did nothing to take away from my observations. And I should say, I am putting only minimal effort into this project. Before you write further, I would urge you to acquire Manfred Hauke's book, Women in the Priesthood? from Ignatius Press. It is probably the best current treatment on the question. I must warn you that it is a concise work by a serious German scholar and is just shy of 500 pages. Newman Bookstore near Catholic University can get it for you. For the sake of a truly educated dialogue, hold your correspondence until you are well versed with his treatment of this subject. It will save you from more errors and unnecessary work. Hopefully it will systematically answer the many questions that necessity forces me to ramble upon as a simple parish priest.

Compatible with Faith

I am sorry that the reply you received was "a bit too technical," however, just as the science of the physical world is complicated, we should not pretend that theological science is less so. Your definition of our Lord as one person (divine) with two natures (divine and human) in perfect unity is in total accord with the definition of Chalcedon. I accept your word that you did not intend to espouse a separation; however, even poor Nestorius probably did not have this intention. Nevertheless, his opposition to Theotokos was interpreted as such by the Church. Bishop Nestorius was afraid that this title, translated in the West as Mother of God, would allow simple people to readily fall back into pagan goddess worship. St. Augustine faced a similar problem. The cults of Diana and Isis had been supplanted by a reverence to Mary that had to be carefully watched lest it become idolatry. Even many of the older statues were kept and simply given Mary's name. Returning to our discussion, it is important that the understanding of the priest acting at the altar "in persona Christi" is understood as the Church has defined it. The Church has the right to use its terminology as she sees fit. The divine person of Christ is at the altar rendering sacrifice; however, this facet of his identity is just as inseparable now from his full humanity as it was in the historical Christ. The redemption wrought by the sacrifice of Christ has universal significance. Yes. But, its cultic re-enactment or re-presentation for the sake of us all does require a man of faith called by Christ through the mediation of the Church. In contradiction to your opinion, the male-only priesthood is entirely compatible "with the concrete totality of the Scriptures, Tradition, and the Magisterium of the Church." Let me respond to your letter's three points that contend the contrary:

1. You negate the over-riding presumption of a male-only priesthood in the Gospels and tradition since the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas is the only one that explicitly declares a person must be male as a condition for priestly ordination. There is no logic in this negation at all. Even heretics agree on some points of orthodox doctrine. The burden of proof is still yours. Seeking through two Greek and one Latin version of this Gospel (centering on the childhood of Jesus), I failed to find the passage to which you made reference. Then I recalled that there was another Gospel of Thomas, usually marked (II,2). Bingo! The original Greek text of this gospel, maybe written even before 140 AD has been lost. A Coptic version was located at Nag' Hammadi in 1945. Coming from a Gnostic-Manichean background, it contains 114 sayings attributed to Jesus. Perhaps my eyes are growing bad, but I cannot find your reference in this work either. Could you give me the number of the saying? The closest I could determine was the last one: "Simon Peter said to them, 'Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.' Jesus said, 'I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.'" I suspect that you have misinterpreted this text just as you did the baptismal formula from Paul. Although you can find no genuine support for your thesis in the canonical and inspired writings, this Gospel of Thomas (actually by Didymos Judas Thomas), despite your protests, is in some agreement with your dissent. The translation blurs this somewhat; but if we put aside a fundamentalist mentality, we can begin to see more clearly. Remember, the original author of this work lived long ago in an entirely different culture than ours. Remember, too, that he was a Gnostic heretic, dismissing the value of the material for the spiritual. Even Jesus is really not human, but is as "a righteous angel" (13), and confusing the distinction with the Father, the "one not born of woman" (15). The word "male" here is not used in the manner common among us. Remember, the Gnostics possessed women priests. Rather, it signified the ideal. Mary as such is no different from them, according to this teaching, she too is in need of salvation. This salvation does not so much come with baptism but in acquisition of the secret "Gnostic" truths and detachment from all flesh. The woman, particularly because of the cycle of her fertility, is symbolic of a flesh that is in bondage to the earth, the material. Again, this faith was not Christian and denied the incarnation. They use heavily symbolic language.

Some of them believe in a spiritual pre-existence to which they want to return (Platonic?). You are reading words but not understanding them. The introduction to the text as found in the collection of such writings, edited by James M. Robinson, is particularly revealing: "The theme of recognizing oneself is further elaborated in sayings (cf. 50, 51) which speak of the knowledge of one's divine origin which even Adam did not share, although 'he came into being from a great power' (saying 85). Salvation is obtained in stripping off everything that is of the world (cf. sayings 21a, 37, 56). The disciples must 'pass by' the present corruptible existence (saying 42). The existence of the ideal gnostic disciple is characterized by the term 'solitary one,' which describes the one who has left behind everything that binds human beings to the world (cf. sayings 16, 23, 30, and 76). Even women can obtain this goal, if they achieve the 'maleness' of the solitary existence (saying 114)." Thus, although I would love to have an ancient source, even from heretics, that confirmed the teaching of a male-only priesthood, saying 114 is not it. Remember too, if Jesus' flesh is not important or real, as Gnostics would contend, then his crucifixion becomes a pretense. The Mass ritual is emptied of any sacrificial meaning. Due to this rejection of matter, the Gnostics saw no problem with either men or women functioning as priests, as long as both of them had embraced the saving gnosis and asceticism denoted by the theological term "male" in saying 114. As the offspring of Gnosticism, Manichaeism would propose that the crucifixion is not a historical event. Rather, it represents the bondage of the soul to matter. So much for point one, timber!

2. Again, just as you tried in the first point, you attempt to ascribe overwhelming doctrinal content to silence. The issue of women's ordination has only become a point of contention in modern times. Previously, it only emerged when discussing heretical groups. It would be redundant to call the Apostles male at every turn since all knew well that they were men. You make much out of nothing. The Apostles and their successors, the episcopoi and presbyters, are men. Rather than as a fact that is merely taken for granted, it is a truth confirmed throughout the centuries and around the world as divinely willed and instituted. Just as you would split Christ, despite your protestations and desire to do otherwise, you would also divide the mind and intention of Christ from that of the Church-- a tricky business!

3. Yes, our Lord is pro-life. And yes, it is a core doctrine of the Church. But, must we hear again that not ordaining women is a vocational contraception and abortion? Rubbish! There is no seed. Ordaining women would do for the ministries what lesbianism has done for morals. Not until the bishop calls a man by name does he know for sure that there is a calling. There is no vocation in utero that can be induced to miscarry.

Now, let me look at your new arguments in the debate. The first, as you say, is an argument against it, and the second is your rebuttal.

Using an anonymous source in support of Church teaching--

Ordination is not a good of the recipient required in justice, but is ordered to the good of the faithful. Thus, their exclusion, commanded by divine law, is neither an injustice nor a depravation of sanctity. The response then cites those who have refuted heretical groups ordaining women, i.e. St. Augustine, On Heresies, no. 27 and St. John Damascene, On Heresies, no. 49). Yes, this much is all accurate; there was indeed a misinterpretation of Galatians 3:28 and an avoidance of passages like Corinthians 12:29. The exclusion of women from the priesthood is by divine law.

You grant his point that it is not an injustice toward women or a deprivation from personal sanctity. However, you then assert that it is an INJUSTICE towards the faithful who will not benefit from the ministry of ordained priests. Okay, he didn't start with a metaphysical argument, but he finished with one. Would it not be a greater, or should I say, a genuine evil to go through the motions of ordaining women whom God would neither give the sacramental character nor charisms of priesthood? Sure. As many of us would contend, they would only be counterfeit priests and the Mass would be reduced to empty ritual. No, there is the real injustice. How can you be so imprudent? If wrong, would you be willing to bear the full weight of your error-- cutting hundreds of millions off from the sacramental life? How could you be so foolhardy. If you can be wrong about little things, where does your infallibility upon this issue come from? Let us get serious!

As for the matter of divine law, I have already argued that it is so presumed and that only the giver of the law has the charge to change it. Having looked at how you interpret texts, scriptural and otherwise, who is calling the kettle black in saying that such a view is fundamentalist. You are. You think that if something is not explicitly forbidden that it is necessarily allowed. I can think of several sins not mentioned in the Gospel, are they permitted? You are climbing up a tree in danger of falling. You add damage to insult by suggesting that Jesus' selection of only men as apostles was his decision to compromise to a lesser evil. What?! How can Christ commit any kind of evil? He is the source of all goodness! Goodness, gracious! You have made our Lord into a utilitarian ethicist. Christ did no such thing and neither must we. Evil is evil. Strike up another heresy. You'd be best off just to leave this matter to magisterial theologians. Say your prayers, go to Mass, assent in humble obedience and trust-- for the sake of your immortal soul. The whole pattern of Christ's selection of the apostles and in turn their choosing of successors is a substantiated fact and clear revelation of the Lord's providence.

Taking a historical approach he then moves from 1700 years ago to 800 years ago when Pope Innocent III forbade Spanish women from hearing confessions. Yes, this too is understood as a sacerdotal power; however, did these women see their actions as the sacrament of penance? I am unfamiliar with the happening and thus cannot say. I do recall that in the early Church there was a group called the living martyrs. These men had been tortured to the verge of death, but did not die. They refuse to recant their Christian faith. It was a common practice for "traditors" (traitors), those who had denied their association with Christ and his Church, because of fear and persecution, to confess their apostasy to these living martyrs. Because it was thought that the meritorious sufferings canceled out the cowardly weakness of the other, it was not uncommon that apostates were then returned to the ranks of the Church. Others went to those imprisoned and who were condemned to die, requesting that they would pray for them once they had entered heaven-- since a martyr's death was considered a sure thing. Often with a rescript in hand, signed by the condemned person, the fallen away Christian would present this to Church authorities after the execution as proof of heavenly intercession, and would also be readmitted to the Church. (By the way, the origin for indulgences is in these practices.) But again, especially since confession had to evolve from second penance, these practices can not be identified with the sacrament of reconciliation.

He goes on to relate the analogy of priesthood to marriage, which I have also done for you. The priest must be the natural sign of the one signified. Yes, again, right. And yes, just as water represents cleansing in the natural order, it does so as well in the supernatural. Similarly, the priest's male body is a natural sign to represent the historical, sacrificial body of Christ. Yes, this is correct, too. You're going to refute this?

Again, you confuse the salvific role of Christ's humanity in redeeming us, with the anamnesis of this event and the person of Christ made manifest in the Eucharistic celebration. Baptism is the doorway to the sacraments, filling us with saving grace. The Eucharist re-presents the act of our redemption and grants actual graces to the faithful who are already redeemed and not in mortal sin. There is a difference. Anyone can baptize. The initiated person becomes a child of God and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. Such a person experiences an infusion of God's grace and becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit. Such a person is conformed to the Lord on the level of salvation, becoming a new Christ, a member of his body. Here is the essential part of this scenario. The reception of the Eucharist and participation as a member of the Mystical Body-- this is the role of the laity. The role of Christ the head is reserved to the priest whose identity, including his maleness, resonates perfectly with the Lord's. By virtue of ordination, he can celebrate the Mass "in persona Christi" and "in persona Ecclesia." Have I not talked about this before? Are you listening? You are willing to grant that gender is a constitutive element of the human being, deeper than race or any other bodily or mental characteristic, but you still insist the the corporeal-spiritual composite is central without deference to gender. You are still a separatist! What you give, a few words later, you take away. Every body is differentiated by gender. We cannot speak of a body as otherwise. Even the language of a spiritual/corporeal composite should be carefully used lest it infer that human persons are one or the other. A ghost is not a person. A body without a soul (corpse) is not a person. Natural law dictates that a human body with an infused immortal substantial form (soul) without gender is a theoretical construct with no basis in reality. The God-Man Jesus saves us all, men and women alike. However, in the re-presentation of this mystery, only men by virtue of their natural resemblance can fulfill the function of sacerdotal priest. Do I hear an echo?

What he next says is true, although a bit graphic for my usual tastes: "Christ in his Sacrificial Body initiated the act of giving redemption just as the husband has to initiate the marital act. At that initial stage, the wife has to receive the husband's expression of love as the Church had to receive Christ's expression of love, that is, redemption. Then, the fruit of the husband's union with his wife, the child, has to develop in the wife just as the fruit of Christ's union with His Church, God's redeemed people, has to develop in the Church through the sacraments. Finally, just as the husband must receive the child from his wife at birth, so also Christ has to receive from the Church the children of God who are spiritually reborn and grow in Her." Hum, yes, quite right. So that's how it works. The biological side of it seems a bit complicated. Thank God for celibacy! The marriage analogy of Christ to his Church does indeed rule out female priests since the gender roles are complementary but not reversible. Yep! Smart fella!

I am a bit ill-at-ease here. I am not a married man, obviously, but having known men and women who are, I would tend not to want to overuse marriage as an idyllic analogy of the relationship of Christ to his Church, particularly regarding the marital act. It might sound surprising in this sex-crazed society of ours, but I have no appreciation of this form of love other than that which comes from books and confessions. While analogies give us hints of the truth, all analogies fall somewhat short. This I will grant. However, I would offer a few emendations. Marriage is not a 50/50 proposition. Both spouses are called to give a 100% of themselves. When two people do this, they fill each other with love and are never empty. When only one or neither does this, the marriage begins to starve. The wife is submissive to her husband and he in return is willing to even surrender his life for her. Here is the complementarity you mentioned. The husband is the head of the home, but the wife is its heart. Which do we usually consider more important? In any case, if we were to make this analogy realistic, do we know any people minus either a head or a heart? No. Christ has told us to love one another. The Church is his body in which the sacred heart beats with love for each and every member. It beats with the blood of Christ, shed so that we might have eternal life. The priest signifies Christ, the head. The laity, men and women alike, fulfill the female or bridal role which is passive in regard to the reception of the sacraments but active in terms of making the family of faith function on a day-to-day basis. The priests, signifying Christ the head, actualize the male role or that of the groom, and actively offer the sacraments and teach with authority, while taking a secondary, if not passive role, in the Church's pursuit of social justice and the heralding of the kingdom.

You say that the wife is not born of her husband as the Church is born of Christ. There is some truth in this, but you are the one taking the analogy further. In any case, women have often taken their husband's last names. Did not Christ often give his followers new names as well? We all bear the name of CHRISTIAN. Marriage brings with it a new life and as a couple, a new identity. The husband is a special symbol for Christ, but he is not really Christ. Oh, if only husbands and men were, relationships and society would be so much better off. The analogy breaks down somewhat because of human selfishness and sin. But, remember, it is figurative. We should not allow the 20th century experience of broken homes and single mothers to destroy its symbolic value. Locked into the analogy, you would take it full circle and fall into error. This will happen with any analogy pushed to the breaking point. You must stop being so fundamentalist. You criticize others for this but then fall into it yourself. It is a pattern of rebuttal you might emerge from if you would study more GOOD books on the subject. Yes, there are bad books, too. While the husband as male is always husband and the wife as female is always wife, there are aspects of their roles that are interchangeable; but, their specific relationship as such is determined by their gender. They are not the same. You must give greater importance to this fact. I have no idea from where your next sentence of rebuttal is deduced: "The priestly ordination of women is in perfect continuity with apostolic tradition and, rather than detract from it, will significantly enrich the sacramental representation of Christ's sacrificial body." Huh? All because you erroneously thought you had debunked the marriage analogy as faulty "liturgical language"? You're spouting slogans again without any supporting argumentation. Well, you'll get no Amen, Alleluia from this choirboy!

He is also on the mark that the Church has not the authority to alter the natural signs. The historical Christ is a man, the Word incarnate, eternally Son, not daughter, of the heavenly Father. And boy, I just love phrases like, ". . . the Logos is the Son, not the Daughter, begotten by the Father as progenitor, not as progenitrix." Yep! I also find merit in the contention that women would be wiser to affirm their dignity by developing their gift as a sacramental sign of Christ's Mystical Body instead of seeking to usurp the role of the God-Man, Christ the head.

Finally, he makes mention of women ministers in other denominations. His observations are legitimate. Do they consider ordination a sacrament? Do the consecrating bishops possess apostolic succession? And, he infers that the ordination of women would create an impassible wall between ourselves and the Orthodox Churches, just as the Episcopalians have done. In conclusion, he contends, "It is an issue regarding irreversible sacramental signs." It makes sense to me.

Do you actually believe that the priestly ordination of women has nothing to do with radical feminism or seeking ecclesiological power? You're fooling yourself! I've known many of these women and have had debates with them. For all of them feminism is at its root and all feminism seeks power. I only wish it did mean a concern for giving God the glory and ministering to souls. For the most part, it does not. Even your views, sometimes almost word for word, I can trace back to feminist theologians. Rosemary Ruether wrote a book and several essays using the same jargon and short-sighted opinions that motivate your letter writing. I would recommend her to you to improve the quality of this debate; but, hers are the BAD books that I mentioned and I fear you would be readily swayed even deeper into their camp of dissent and half-truths.

You think that the discernment of divine providence relative to women's ordination is already underway in the Anglican communion." Underway? It has happened! Of course, in England, more Catholics go to church than all Anglicans combined. Five bishops, including the former bishop of London who was conditionally ordained a Catholic priest recently, and some 8000 Anglican priests, have formally requested reception into the Roman Catholic Church-- because this issue confirms that theirs is not "the middle way" but a church that has long since forfeited apostolic succession in ministry and in teaching. Now, even their pretense to the contrary is dismissed. It is only a shell, an empty husk of the church that used to exist-- and you would have us imitate them? No way Jose'! The Lord is with his true Church and has spoken through Pope John Paul II. God's will is being done. Glory be to God!

The greatest icons of all are the men who stand at Christ's altar. The presence of a woman in this role would shatter the icon and breach its inherent link to the Lord who sacrifices and gives himself to us as spiritual food. This is just the way it is. Modern attempts to strip the living icon of gender distort the image. To substitute female gender is to image a new savior entirely. The followers of the feminine God-Woman, "Christi," well recognize this. With breasts hanging out, her crucifix is advertised for sale along with that of the male Christ in some religious goods stores. For the feminists, the passion and crucifixion is translated into the rape and murder of the divine female by the satanic male. Theirs is the truly sexist religion and you would legitimize their ritual. Ultimately, the acceptance of women priests is the adoption of goddess worship and the feminine principle. The psychology guru, Jung, who has so displaced Christ in spirituality, and who hated the Catholic Church with a vengeance, would be proud of this transfer of paradigms. It means the end of the old Church and the beginning of a new worship entirely. Will there be any place for you in this new religion? Think things through. Read Manfred Hauke's book!

Not having heard from you for a few weeks, I take it you are doing the further research I suggested. Fr. Hauke's book, Women in the Priesthood? is the best single source available today on this topic. The first half of the book can be quite difficult, and yet it renders the groundwork for the discussion. He speaks about the phenomenon of emancipation, the question in non-Catholic circles, traits of feminist theology, anthropological assumptions, the feminine dimension of the divine, and the biblical view about the relation of men and women in primal history. The second half immediately touches upon the arguments you have put forward. To assist in your study, you might consider these extracts:

Quotes from Fr. Hauke's Masterful Work, Women in the Priesthood?
(Available from Ignatius Press)

Christ is Still a Man: Sexuality is Forever. "After the resurrection of the body, to be sure, the physical functions become spiritualized, so that the sensual reproductive urge ceases, but the particular sexual identity that was bestowed by the Creator does not, as such, change" (pp. 250-251).

Marriage Analogy & the Church: Genders Not Interchangeable. "The Roman declaration on women in the priesthood thus goes to the heart of the symbolism of the sexes when it interprets the mystery of Christ and his Church in terms of the images of bridegroom and bride. In this, intellectual content is closely linked to expressive form, for the symbols are not interchangeable" (p. 256).

Men Inclined Toward Authority Roles. "Now, bearers of authority are more often men than women. On this point, the sociological findings, based on biology, speak in exceedingly clear terms. Advocates of the ordination of women like to contest this fact but often enough tend to confirm it in an indirect way. Time and again, we hear from them the slogan that office does not imply ruling but serving, but in this it is presupposed that women have a greater facility for subordination, for serving" (p. 261).

Male Images the Logos. "Thus we find in the Holy Spirit certain characteristics that can link up with feminine symbolism, such as immanence, relationality, and above all his identity as receptive. . . . Not the Spirit but the Logos is the image of the Father. The ultimate reason for this lies in the fact that the Pneuma arises not from the cognitive side of the Father, in which -- as indicated by the image of propagation -- an imaging tendency is inherent, but from the reciprocal love between Father and Son, that is, from a process of mental-spiritual conation" (p. 296).

Maleness of Christ Essential. "If the masculinity of Christ is essential to his redemptive work, then so, too, is the femininity of Mary to the representation of the Church which opens herself to that work" (p. 298).

Male Office Insures Feminine Receptivity of Church. "The only reason that the Church is endowed with male office is 'so that she . . . does not forget her primary womanliness'. That office must 'represent the self-giving Lord of the Church', 'but within her feminine receptivity'. 'The Church is first of all -- and this primacy is an enduring one -- feminine, before she receives her supplementary masculine side in the form of ecclesiastical office.' To be sure, in 'office', the male (more precisely, some males) is 'head' of the female (and not only of the female), but, at the same time, he is dependent on the Marian as the 'sheltering hearth and exemplary realization' of being a Christian. For the Christian existence of office-bearer, the 'Marian principle' is 'the more comprehensive and all-embracing'; 'everything in it that is majestic, authoritative, hierarchical [must] be lived out and permeated by the spirit and by the attitude of the Marian Fiat'" (p. 324).

Feminist's Misconception of Real Womanhood. "A 'desire for ecclesiastical office in a woman [can] arise only from a misconception of her proper position of worth within the Church (as Church) . . . , a misconception that levels down the mystery of the sexes instead of living it out in its open and consummate tension and fruitfulness'. Leo Scheffczyk therefore remarks that the figure of Mary is given, 'in consequence of a correct instinct, no [attention] at all' by the advocates of a female priesthood" (pp. 324-5).

Advocates of Women Priests Exaggerate the Masculine Element of the Church. "From this perspective, attempts by women to enter the official priesthood would be explicable by assuming that the critical Marian dimension of the Church had not been sufficiently internalized. At the same time, a certain overvaluation of the masculine element in the Church may be suspected, and perhaps even a hidden clericalism. For the clergy does not constitute the essence of the Church (as Church), but is only its necessary accident. In any case, as the relevant sociological data show quite clearly, women will never be able to play a role equivalent to that of men even if admitted to the clergy. The specific worth of woman becomes all the more clearly apparent when the priesthood is prohibited to her" (p. 325).

Women Priests: Destruction of the Church. [Quoting Gertrud von le Fort] "'The Church was not able to entrust the priesthood to women, since she would thereby have destroyed the proper significance of women in the Church -- she would have destroyed a part of her own essence, that part whose symbolic representation was entrusted to women'" (p. 325).

Jesus Not Stymied by Cultural Prejudices. "In short: Jesus' attitude toward women was, in his times, 'revolutionizing'; through him, woman is placed 'side by side with man, having equal rights as a child of God'" (p. 329).

Gender is Significant in Revelation. Do you hear yourself when Fr. Hauke echoes the qualm, "The emphasis on Jesus' masculinity is foreign to the New Testament. It is his humanity that remains decisive" (p. 335)? I think you do. He replied, "The Bible offers no comprehensive 'recipe book' for questions raised by later times. In revelation, much is contained only in budlike form and cannot come to blossom until later on, through the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Precisely progressive theologians ought not to reject such new ideas from the very start. Also, I do not mean to emphasize sexual differentiation more than humanity here, but simply to take seriously the fact that 'humanity' occurs only as 'being a man' or 'being a woman'. That being, specifically, a man or a woman plays a role in revelation . . ." (p. 335).

Maleness of Priest Resonates with Christ's. "The relationship between Christ and his official representatives is not merely an external legalistic but rather 'a sacramental significative one, with the signifier being, however, the whole living person'. This imaging relationship has its foundation in the sacrament of ordination to the priesthood, through which, in a way that goes beyond baptism by virtue of its character indelebilis, an ontological approximation to Christ is realized. Just as Christ, as mediator of salvation, 'can exist in his totality only if his masculine identity is included', so things stand too regarding his priestly representative" (pp. 338-9).

Male-Only Priesthood Counter-cultural in St. Paul's Gentile World. Regarding the writings of St. Paul, Fr. Hauke notes that the exclusion of women from teaching (at least in an official and cultic setting) and their subordination, while perhaps influenced by the synagogue tradition, was considered anachronistic in much of the Gentile world, and, nevertheless, possessed clear differences from Judaism. Learning is no longer prohibited but encouraged, indeed, made a duty. Older women are "teachers in what is good" in the framework of day-to-day living.

Iranaeus Condemns Women Priests. "Iranaeus (second century) tells of women who, on the advice of a Valentinian sorcerer named Marcus, felt themselves driven to celebrating the Eucharist by the Holy Spirit. This incident took place in Asia Minor. The anger of the Church Fathers was directed primarily at the sorcery of Marcus, but condemnation of celebration of the Eucharist by women is obviously presupposed" (p. 408).

Heretics Gradually Accepted Women Priests. "But even the Montanists [who granted women more extensive participation in the liturgy than did the Church] seem to have generally respected the ban on ordination of women. Not until Epiphanius (fourth century) were there reports of female clergy in an offshoot of the sect. There, women were active as bishops and presbyters, and their ordination was justified on the basis of Galatians 3:28. The difference between the sexes was held to play no role, for, in Christ Jesus, there is neither male nor female" (p. 408). Ironically, "the deciding argument for the refusal of female priesthood is the appeal to the directives of Saint Paul, which is supplemented elsewhere by additional important considerations" (p. 409).

Epiphanius Argues That Even Mary Not Ordained. [Quoting Epiphanius' Adversus haereses from the fourth century] "'If women were to be charged by God with entering the priesthood [ierateuein] or with assuming ecclesiastical office [kanonikon ti ergaz estai en Ekklnhsia], then in the New Covenant it would have devolved upon no one more than Mary to fulfill a priestly function. She was invested with so great an honor as to be allowed to provide a dwelling in her womb for the heavenly God and King of all things, the Son of God. . . . But did not find this [the conferring of priesthood] good. Not even baptizing was entrusted to her; otherwise, Christ could better have been baptized by her than by John'" (pp. 416-17).

Call to Holiness Not the Same As a Call to Orders. "For Epiphanius, women can appear as an outstanding example of wickedness but also as a model of all-surpassing holiness. Priesthood for women does not, therefore, depend on their holiness or unholiness but on the will of Christ" (p. 417).

Epiphanius: No Woman Ever Called to Orders. [Quoting Epiphanius] "'From this bishop [the brother of the Lord, James in Jerusalem] and the just-named apostles, the successions of bishops and presbyters in the house of God have been established. Never was a woman called to these. . . . According to the evidence of Scripture, there were, to be sure, the four daughters of the evangelist Philip, who engaged in prophecy, but they were not priestesses'" (pp. 417-18).

Fourth Century Verdict: Women Priests Are Heretical. "The ecclesiastical office of deaconess (diakonisdwn tagma!) is 'not conferred for priestly service or functions of that sort, but rather, for the preservation of the dignity of the female sex when baptism is administered or when care for sickness and infirmity is required.' . . . Thus we see that Epiphanius anchors the exclusion of women from the sacramental priesthood in the will of Jesus, which corresponds to the divine plan for salvation. Female priesthood is therefore not described as a mere infringement of disciplinary order, but is represented as a heresy. Accordingly, the ecclesiastical practice of not ordaining women as priests appears as an obligatory component of sacred Tradition and must therefore remain closed to all contrary influences from the sociohistorical environment (Montanists and the Collyridian women)" (p. 418).

Augustine & John Damascene Agree That Orders for Women Violates the Faith. "It should be noted that Augustine, as the high point of the Latin Fathers, had an important influence on the later Church history, and that John Damascene, so to speak, set the final seal on the Greek Fathers. Both authors expressly categorized female priesthood under the rubric 'heresy', that is, it contradicts the binding Faith of the Church" (p. 418).

John Chrysostom: Jesus Called No Women Apostles. "The deciding factor in the argumentation [of John Chrysostom] is thus obviously provided by the example of Christ, who had called no woman to the office of apostle" (p. 419).

Early Papal Ban on Women Priests. "In 494, Pope Gelasius issued the following ban: 'As we have noted with vexation, contempt for divine truths has reached such a level that even women, it is reported, serve at holy altars; and everything that is entrusted exclusively to the service of men is performed by the sex that has no right to do so'" (p. 423).

Thomas Aquinas: Exclusion Based in Male Incarnation of Christ. "For Thomas, the nonordination of women is thus ultimately grounded in the Incarnation, even if this relation is not expressly brought out: Christ became man as a male because he represents 'being the head' of the Church in a sensibly perceptible way as well; only a male can receive the sacrament of orders because he is 'head' of the female. Both of these ideas can be tied to one another through the priestly representation of Christ, which is grounded in its sacramental character and completes itself most fully in the Mass: 'A priest bears the image of Christ, in whose person and power he pronounces the words of consecration" (p. 451).

Bonaventure: Females Incapable of Receiving Ordination. "[Bonaventure] observes that never in the Church was a woman admitted to sacred orders. 'And according to the sounder and wiser opinion of the doctors', this fact is significant not only legally (de jure), but in principle (de facto): women are incapable of receiving the sacrament of orders. . . . The reason for this thesis 'arises not from institution by the Church, but from the fact that the sacrament of orders is not appropriate for women. In this sacrament, namely, the person who is consecrated signifies Christ as Mediator; and since the Mediator belonged only to the male sex and can be signified only by the male sex, the capacity for receiving ordination is therefore appropriate only for men, who alone can represent [Christ] by nature and can bear the sign of the [ordained] character conformably with its reception'" (p. 452).

Duns Scotus: Women's Ordination Counter to the Will of Christ. "[Duns Scotus] grounds exclusion of women from ordination not only on the basis of symbolic representation, the Pauline statements and the will of Christ but postulates an explicit command of the Lord. Because the nonordination of women is determined by Christ, more is at issue than merely a question of propriety or a mere command of the Church. Rather, at the basis is a fundamental state of affairs that ultimately derives from a directive of Jesus. Otherwise, exclusion of women would be immoral: 'I do not believe, namely, that any office useful for salvation has been withheld from any person through institution by the Church or prescription of the apostles, and much less still from an entire existing sex. If, then, the apostles or the Church cannot justly withhold from a person any office useful for salvation unless Christ, as their head, has so determined, and much less still from the entire female sex, therefore Christ alone first prescribed this, he who instituted the sacrament'" (pp. 454-55).

Radical Feminists Put True Womanhood in Contempt. "It does not, therefore, seem presumptuous to put forward a twofold thesis: the demand for female priesthood, which was provoked historically by certain forms of the emancipation movement, ultimately stems -- whether consciously or unconsciously -- from a Gnostic-like contempt for women: only 'a woman who makes herself a man will enter the Kingdom of heaven'. . . . Nonordination of women is grounded, however, in a high estimation of the specifically female nature" (p. 471).

Burden of Proof on Those Wanting a Change. "In any case, this consideration suffices to give faithfulness to the will of Jesus absolute priority over any changing of Church practice. Accordingly, the burden of proof rests not on the side of Tradition but on the side of those who want to change the behavior of the Church. If it is not known with absolute certainty whether the behavior of Jesus is binding or not, then there is but one possibility, namely, to remain with Tradition. Any change of practice would have to result from authentic religious insight and be based on an ability to refute decisively all opposing arguments. A mere adaptation to existing social structures or a catchword appeal to Galatians 3:28 ('in Christ there is neither male nor female'), especially from the perspective of modern equality slogans, would not do justice to the standards of faith" (p. 473).

Male-Only Priesthood a Matter of Divine Law. "If my interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14 is correct, then it is not difficult to formulate the result: by force of divine law, only a baptized male can validly receive consecration to priesthood. . . . First Corinthians 14:37-38 has the same structure as a conciliar or papal anathema: 'If any one says that . . . , he is under a ban'" (p. 476).

Speaking about the Church Fathers, Fr. Hauke must immediately make mention of the Gnostic influences. In connection with Paul's prohibition, Tertullian writes in De virginibus velandis: "It is forbidden for a woman to speak in church; she is also not allowed to teach, to baptize, to sacrifice or to presume to the rank of male office, not to mention priestly service" (p. 407). It should be qualified that even today, while many women serve as readers and extraordinary ministers, it is still by way of exception; under current ecclesial law, only MEN can be officially installed into the ministries of Lector and Acolyte. Following this rule, most dioceses restrict the installations to seminarians and use unoffical readers and servers in the parishes. However, even in this case, and it has become more the rule than the exception, the person must be a Catholic in good standing. However, even this sensible requirement is often violated in nuptial Masses. As with altar servers, the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska only uses males for these parish liturgical roles. However, even though the qualifications for readers and servers should be reserved to the Church's ruling, the ordination of women is a matter restricted to God's providence, and he has judged it in the negative.

It might also be fruitful to reflect on these titles for Christ which also speak to his maleness. It looks almost like a litany, the beginning of that devotion to Christ's masculinity with which you once reproached me?

Jesus Christ is imaged as...






Please, allow yours to be a faith humbly seeking understanding.

Yours in the God-Man Jesus,
Fr. Joseph A. Jenkins

In my first correspondence to you I made a distinction between the use of the words "male and female" and "masculine and feminine." While the first two immediately denoted the genders themselves, I discerned that the latter two more accurately expressed characteristics attributed to the sexes. While I still think that such a distinction helps to keep matters clear, it must be noted that both Fr. Hauke and the Pope use the latter two words much as you do, to distinguish the sexes themselves. I do not know whether this usage is in the original texts or is the result of subsequent translations. In any case, their context makes their meanings quite clear. Further, one of the letters in the barrage I sent you, commented that the phrase, "symphony of faith," had been misused much as the "seamless garment" had, to legitimize dissent in a larger body of assent. Correctly, few except Thomas Aquinas had even attempted a comprehensive overview of the faith, linking all the truths together in a single compendium. Well, it looks like the Holy Father is rescuing the phrase by using it correctly in Fidem Depositum, the Apostolic Constitution to the new catechism with which you dissent: "This response elicits in me a deep feeling of joy, because the harmony of so many voices truly expresses what could be called the 'symphony' of the faith."


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Revised on April 30, 1998.