A Sociologist against Women’s Ordination

The old saying “Roma locuta est, causa finita est apparently doesn’t hold as much water as it did once upon a time. Although Rome has clearly said that women will never be admitted to the priesthood, discussion about the desirability of ordaining women continues. A case in point is a featured article in Commonweal on April 11, 2008.
Often the discussion is theological, pros and cons being tossed about as to whether, Jesus having been a male, all priests must therefore be male. I’m not a theologian, so I have some difficulty following those arguments.
More often still the discussion has to do with equity: Is it fair or reasonable to keep women out of the priesthood? Well, it all depends what you mean by “reasonable.” What counts as reasonable varies from age to age. We happen to be living in the modern (or postmodern) world, and what seems unreasonable to typical 21st-century people like ourselves used to seem reasonable to ancients and medieval, and will perhaps again seem reasonable to our remote descendents. And there appears to be no way we can say that our current concept of reasonableness is superior to ancient or medieval or futuristic concepts.
If X is counted as reasonable because it appeals to that species of common sense that happens to flourish in societies which — like those of the United States and Western Europe — are modernized and wealthy, then of course a male-only priesthood is unreasonable. But so, then, is Christianity in general. From the point of view of modernistic common sense, the Trinity is unreasonable (how can something be both three and one?), the Incarnation is unreasonable (how can a person be both God and man?), the Virgin Birth is unreasonable (virgins don’t have babies), the Resurrection is unreasonable (dead men don’t return to life), and so on. Christianity is a religion permeated with paradoxes. If we Catholics swallow the camel of “unreasonable” Christianity, why should we strain at the gnat of a male-only priesthood?
Speaking for myself, not a theologian but a sociologist, I have two sociological objections to the introduction of priestly ordination for women. The first has to do with tradition. Catholicism is a strongly traditionalistic religion. Its legitimacy in the eyes of its believers depends heavily upon loyalty to tradition. Break with tradition, and you cause many believers to doubt that the Church is what it claims to be: the true Church of Christ. Of course advocates of female ordination can make a distinction between essential and non-essential traditions, and argue that a male-only priesthood is a non-essential tradition — in contrast, say, to the primacy of the Roman bishop.
Leaving aside the question of what criterion will be used to distinguish between essential and non-essential traditions, we may remind those advocates that even the discontinuity of traditions that are clearly non-essential can produce earthquakes among Catholics. Think of the dropping of the Latin Mass, think of the priest turning around to face the congregation, think of other abandonments of non-essential tradition in the wake of Vatican II. Can anybody who lived through the earthquake produced by those minor changes (and we are still feeling the after-shocks of that great earthquake) doubt that the introduction of a bi-gendered priesthood would produce a further and even larger earthquake?
And then there is my second objection. Catholicism is a strongly “feminine” religion, by which I mean this: Certain virtues are more “feminine,” while others are more “masculine.” That is to say, certain virtues (chastity, for instance, or patient long-suffering) are more typically found among women than among men. Other virtues (patriotism, courage in battle, etc.) are more typically found among men. I don’t profess to know whether this distribution of virtue by sex/gender is the result of nature or the result of culture. All I know is this: that it’s a historical fact. The world has always held that it is more shameful for a man to be cowardly than unchaste, and more shameful for a woman to be unchaste than cowardly.
The world has always held this, but not Catholicism. Catholicism, on the contrary, has held that everybody — men as well as women — must exhibit the “feminine” virtues. Men too must be chaste; men too must be patient in long-suffering; men too must be compassionate and kind to those in need; men too must be loving and affectionate (and not just proud) parents. Of course Catholic men on average have not lived up to these standards of virtue as well as Catholic women. In general, it seems, it’s easier for women than for men to be virtuous Christians.
But to all this an advocate of women’s ordination might reply: “If Catholicism, as you contend, is a feminine religion, isn’t it all the more appropriate that the Catholic Church should have female priests? If women have more of an aptitude than men for Christian sanctity, doesn’t that mean that they are called more than men to the priesthood?” I don’t know whether they are more “called” or not, but their aptitude for Christian sanctity is precisely the reason, as I see it, that they should be kept out of the priesthood. For if women were to be ordained, they would soon — within 50 years, I’d guess — become overwhelmingly predominant in the priesthood. Female priests would outnumber male priests by ten or 20 to one, if not more. Catholicism would be perceived, and correctly so, not just as a “feminine” religion but as a female religion. Males would pretty much abandon it.
For many centuries now the Catholic religion has kept males within the fold by virtue of having a male-only priesthood. Males are always tempted to live according to the purely “masculine” side of their nature (sexual license, love of combat, love of power, etc.). Let Catholicism shift to a female-dominated priesthood, and this temptation will be more and more succumbed to. This is not to mention that Catholicism will be forced to abandon its claim to be a universal religion, for how can a single-sex religion be universal?

By

David R. Carlin Jr. is a politician and sociologist who served as a Democratic majority leader of the Rhode Island Senate. His books include "Can a Catholic Be a Democrat?: How the Party I Loved Became the Enemy of My Religion" and "The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America." Carlin is a current professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island at Newport.

  • Todd

    “Female priests would outnumber male priests by ten or 20 to one, if not more. Catholicism would be perceived, and correctly so, not just as a “feminine” religion but as a female religion. Males would pretty much abandon it.”

    An interesting argument. Human beings in general, and males in particular, are too immature to handle women priests.

    I think your ten-to-one ratio would be extreme, even in an immature society. We don’t have those kinds of ratios in other denominations or even in Catholic lay ministry.

  • Zoe Romanowsky

    While I appreciate your sociological arguments against women priests, I don’t think they hold much water.

    Traditions shouldn’t be maintained to simply keep boats from rocking, but because they affirm what is actually true. (Certainly, how we change a long-held tradition ought to be considered, but that’s a practical and pastoral matter.) And barring women from the priesthood because they would intimidate or scare men away, as true as that might be, is not much of an argument either.

    The only argument I believe can be legitimately made against women priests is a metaphysical & theological one. Sadly, I’ve read few – if any – convincing treatments of the issue from any approach.

  • Dale

    If it was all about small “t” tradition in the common use of the word today. Why not have women priests?

    Because it is all about Tradition with a capital “T”. That Tradition is Apostalic Authority. So on issues of Faith and Morals: “Roma locuta est, causa finita est”.

    Is there any point to dicussing or convincing further? Without valid form a Sacrament is Invalid.

    Accept the teaching of the Vicar of Christ and maybe someday God will let you know why he made it this way.

  • Tim Shipe

    I begin all such contemplations with a simple- well what does the Magisterium teach about this or that, and what reasons are given. Sometimes I feel able to confirm some of the teachings with my own reasoning and life experience, other times I just try to put on the mind of Christ by putting on the mind of the Church as represented by the Magisterium and lesser levels of Church Authority. I have had questions and challenges, but the larger picture for wit I chose the Catholic faith in the first place, always wins the day. Christ chose this Church, He chose an Apostolic command structure, and He did so while revealing the inherent weaknesses of His followers right up to the top of the food chain- the papacy starting with Peter the denier.

    So- I take the Magisterium extremely seriously, elsewise I would have remained a spiritual free agent or become a type of Protestant locating a local church or pastor that seemed able to inspire me. The fact is that I believe that the Catholic Magisterium is in place because of Jesus Christ’s intent, and who am I to try to replace it. And so the obedience of faith kicks in even though I find so few actual Catholics to be personally inspiring- an argument that could be quickly redirected back to me- do I inspire others? I should say that there have been sufficient Catholic pastors and lay persons to have been inspiring enough for me to look very deeply at the official teachings of the Church and compare them to my own studies of life and Scripture. This study and soul search led me to leap into new life as an adult convert to Catholicism.

    As for Women’s ordination, I accept the Magisterium’s assertions because of the close kinship to Our Lord in teaching the truth. I speculate that since spirituality in many ways calls forth an opening of one’s entire self to God, the male personality tends to resist- we are the penetrators, not the receivers, in our most intimate actions in lovemaking. Men need authority more than women it seems- maybe it is tied up with our biological/spiritual hardwiring. But it is authority that is based more in our weakness as men, not our strength. The Church is our Mother afterall, mothers seem to compell our respect because of their obvious unselfish love for us- men grab headlines for their worldly triumphs, women do the hard and holy work of bearing and nurturing the world’s children. Who will be rewarded more in heaven? That is the more salient question.

  • Zoe Romanowsky

    I should make it clear, for the record, that I don’t need to be personally convinced of the reasons for a male-only priesthood since I accept it as doctrine/capital “T” Tradition.

    This does not preclude me, however, from wishing there were clear articulations and in-depth reflection on this teaching, as there is with many other doctrinal matters. There are many people who would like to understand why the Church teaches what she does – many who are not even Catholic – and I have yet to see much good work on this. (Which doesn’t mean it’s not out there but just that I haven’t seen it.)

    We have reasons for our faith, and it is not enough to simply throw out Roma locuta est, causa finita est , particularly when trying to win hearts and minds for the Church.

  • John

    A good (and recent) short book on the subject is The Catholic Priesthood and Women: A Guide to the Teaching of the Church, by Sr. Sara Butler, MSBT. She teaches at St. Joseph’s Seminary in NY and her book was positively reviewed by First Things and by Francis Cardinal George of Chicago. I’m told that Sr. Sara is herself a “convert” to the Church’s position on women’s ordination. Her book offers a very balanced and readable treatment of this topic.

  • Ann

    I enjoy reading an interesting take on the WHY behind Church Teaching. After all, I study what the Church has written down and accept it, but as God is generally not arbitrary I expect that with contemplation one can find many other reasons for the teaching as well.

    A sociological reasoning for it is interesting. I don’t expect it to be authoritative, after all, we have wonderful documents to study if we need the authoritative reasoning. But having a sound authoritative reason for the male only priesthood, and the authoritative clarity of magisterial statements, does not negate the pleasure of finding the other ways we might explain this teaching.

    After all, we are expected to use our reason in the service of our faith.

  • tom hunt

    You write

    This does not preclude me, however, from wishing there were clear articulations and in-depth reflection on this teaching, as there is with many other doctrinal matters. There are many people who would like to understand why the Church teaches what she does – many who are not even Catholic – and I have yet to see much good work on this. (Which doesn’t mean it’s not out there but just that I haven’t seen it.)

    I write:

    I found an immersion in to JPII’s theology of the body gave me a foundational explanation of why maleness and fatherliness are ontological necessities for priestliness.

    I found CS Lewis’s “Women Priestesses” to be enlightening from a completely different point of view.

    Mostly it has been Mary herself who has given me the best explanation as to why priests are fathers are men, i.e priests are not mothers and not women. Mary’s role, the model of every vocation, is played by a woman, not a man. and that I would think for no arbitrary reason. The woman’s role in the story is not priestly.

    Hope it helps

    tom hunt

  • John Sensenstein

    This perspective is very interesting. I do agree with the writer.
    My feeling against allowing women into the priesthood is based on my observations on where the United States has gone since the age of Feminism. Feminism–with both positives and negatives–has clearly allowed women’s voices to be heard to a much greater degree then men. Sadly, rather than bringing on a new era of added sensitivity and greater regard for our fellow man,
    Feminism has brought a cheapening of both men’s and women’s roles within our society.
    We see less couples marrying. We see dramatic
    increases in single parent households. Well over 1.24 million abortions per year, and a dramatic rise in pornography–with women contributing to the dramatic increase.
    I think it is perfectly obvious that women can and are by and large far more sexually promiscuous
    then men. The slutty way women dress and the vulgar mannerisms of the average woman clearly indicates an inherent penchant for these kinds of activities.
    Men’s voices have been nearly drowned out. There are 9 million more women in the United States, and 5.9 million more women voters.
    Our society is totally focused on women and girls. Having women priests would ultimately increase the dialogue with women and about them.
    The end result–as the author suggested is to minimize the role of men in society even more so than is currently displayed. Women in the priesthood would ultimately send even more men out of the church. The real problem for men is that they do not like to talk about issues, but rather, just walk away when they are not comfortable with the status quo.

  • NorthoftheBorder

    I think that David raises some interesting points and I would say they are more along the lines of consequences of priestesses rather than reasons for an all male Priesthood.

    To add I would just point out a few observations:

    1. Anglicans have tried it, and they are coming apart at the seems. The conservatives are breaking away and the liberals (to use both those terms loosely) don’t show up – aka. Catholic weekly Mass attendance recently outdoes Anglican in the UK for the first time in history. Why?

    2. Eastern Orthodoxy – like Catholicism on the male hormone Testosterone – gains male converts in far greater numbers, why (I am Eastern Rite Catholic so I am biased of course)?
    For some interesting insights:

    Moma Fred:
    tinyurl.com/3t2dc9
    tinyurl.com/4zt3lp

    Peter Kreeft:
    tinyurl.com/3tzbv8

    Catholic Education:
    tinyurl.com/67hmlr

    If people have other Catholic faithful resources please post for interest.

  • Zoe Romanowsky

    John, unfortunately, sandwiched between your otherwise fair points was this alarming comment:

    John Sensenstein wrote: I think it is perfectly obvious that women can and are by and large far more sexually promiscuous then men. The slutty way women dress and the vulgar mannerisms of the average woman clearly indicates an inherent penchant for these kinds of activities.

    There is no indication that this is a joke. First of all, in addition to being plainly obvious, every study on the topic of promiscuity shows that men are far more promiscuous than women. For a start, go here:

    http://tinyurl.com/6x252l

    Or here:

    http://tinyurl.com/yo58me

    As for your comment that

  • Marjorie Campbell

    Some time ago I decided not to worry much about this issue, go with the Tim Shipe preferred approach and “accept the Magisterium’s assertions because of the close kinship to Our Lord in teaching the truth.” Eve Tushnet had a great column a few years back about the gift of the Magisterium and I totally love finding the 2000+ year old compiled experiences in a compressed teaching wrapped and ready at the foot of my bed everyday. BUT, that said, I do have a few observations that make me finger the silky bow with gratitude.
    1. I’ve never heard a woman barking because she wants the Church to ordain another woman … it seems like it’s always a woman who is demanding to be ordained herself. I distrust this. Really, don’t you think you should have some audience out there clapping for you before you steal some guy’s show?
    2. My husband says he will never go to Church again if it’s all women priests and deacons. He says that he already has me preaching to him all of the time and he wants to hear from a guy.
    3. I wanted to be a priest when I was 16 and felt very anxious about a lot of things. I thought it would be a pretty good job for telling people how to be more like me. Enough said.
    4. Most of the women who want to be ordained and spread the message of love and peace are seem pissed off. If they want to spread a message of love and peace, I rather think there are lots of ways to do that without sounding so angry, oppositional and bitter and, then, maybe they might actually seem qualified to be priests.
    5. I completely agree with Tom Hunt that the Church’s teaching is a little echo of Theology of the Body ~ and that women wanting to be priests should first certify that they actually like men and recognize that God is male, too. Then, maybe, I won’t worry that they’ve completely missed the concept of unity of two, and are just gunning for the guy in God.

  • Michael Healy, Jr

    I must say, there is another angle to this: a woman’s greater receptivity can be a weakness and not just a strength, just as a man’s lesser receptivity can be a strength and not just a weakness. Remember, God wants us not only to receive His love, but also to test the spirits. Perhaps a male-only clergy is better equipped to test the spirits than clergy comprised of both sexes. Maybe that’s part of the reason why denominations that have accepted women’s ordination seem to be steadily losing the faith.

    Oh well, I’m really just speculating, here.

  • Michael Healy, Jr

    Zoe Romanowsky wrote: John, unfortunately, sandwiched between your otherwise fair points was this alarming comment:

    [quote=John Sensenstein]I think it is perfectly obvious that women can and are by and large far more sexually promiscuous then men. The slutty way women dress and the vulgar mannerisms of the average woman clearly indicates an inherent penchant for these kinds of activities.

    There is no indication that this is a joke. First of all, in addition to being plainly obvious, every study on the topic of promiscuity shows that men are far more promiscuous than women. For a start, go here:

    http://tinyurl.com/6x252l

    Or here:

    http://tinyurl.com/yo58me

    As for your comment that

  • K

    Marjorie said:

    4. Most of the women who want to be ordained and spread the message of love and peace are seem pissed off. If they want to spread a message of love and peace, I rather think there are lots of ways to do that without sounding so angry, oppositional and bitter and, then, maybe they might actually seem qualified to be priests.
    5. I completely agree with Tom Hunt that the Church’s teaching is a little echo of Theology of the Body ~ and that women wanting to be priests should first certify that they actually like men and recognize that God is male, too. Then, maybe, I won’t worry that they’ve completely missed the concept of unity of two, and are just gunning for the guy in God.

    This is so true of the real-life women I know who are financial and verbal supporters of the WomenPriests organization. They are angry and they hate (or at least dislike) men as a group. They are the people who substitute “God’s” for “His” in the responses at Mass. They are always talking about “inclusivity.” Yet, they also exclude men from their lives as much as feasible and celebrate sexual disorder as well. The sexual disorder issue invariably goes along with the women’s ordination issue. Theology of the Body — yeah, I think there’s a serious identity crisis among the WomenPriest gang.

    And I’d like to add that Mr. Carlin’s statement that

    For if women were to be ordained, they would soon — within 50 years, I’d guess — become overwhelmingly predominant in the priesthood. Female priests would outnumber male priests by ten or 20 to one, if not more.

    is also true. One can argue whether the numbers should be 20-to-1 or 10-to-1 or just 5-to-1, but the principle is true. For current evidence, look at the proportion of women-to-men in your parish’s crop of EMHCs, readers, and DREs.

  • Zoe

    Michael Healy, Jr, Your post is confusing because you have a quote by John Sensenstein attributed to me and my response to it attributed to him.

    Nevertheless, my first point above was simply factual. John S claims women are more promiscuous than men and the numbers show otherwise, not to mention what seems clearly obvious to most people. There is no dispute about this and I’m surprised anyone would try to argue otherwise. (I am not speaking of particular individuals obviously, but at men and women in general.)

    The rest of John S’s comment don’t dignify much of a response. To claim women have an “inherent penchant” to dress slutty and be vulgar is alarming and sexist to say the least. It is not a comment that belongs in any serious dialogue.

  • Ender

    This topic is one that can (and probably will) be debated endlessly with no real prospect of agreement. In that sense it is very much like any political issue: both sides can make rational sounding arguments to support their position using theological, psychological, biological, ontological, and all manner of logical and illogical theories.

    It may not be intellectually satisfying to be told “this is the way things are” but … isn’t that pretty much the way of it within the Catholic Church? Either you accept that “The knowledge which the Church offers to man has its origin not in any speculation of her own, however sublime, but in the word of God which she has received in faith.” (Fides et ratio) or you are something other than Catholic.

    On this issue it is helpful to take to heart Augustine’s recommendation:

    “Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.”

  • NorthoftheBorder

    Ender – I don’t know if this is an endless debate at all. The Magesterium has spoken: Authoritatively no Authority to Ordain Women. The debate is already over. But like say the mystery of the Eucharist, or the Trinity, which we don’t wholly (or in many ways really) understand – we should be able to trace out logical purposes to affirm why the Priesthood is exclusive to certain males.

    As a side point – we, through our Baptism, all become Priests in the Kingdom of God (CCC 1546), sharing in Christs royal Priesthood. In fact, in my Church, we have a Crowning ceremony at the wedding which makes the wife and husband priests of their home, King and Queen of their “mini-Kingdom” of God.

    Furthermore, we have “women saints who were missionary evangelists, church-planters, teachers, healers, preachers, apologists, spiritual mothers, counselors, miracle-workers, martyrs, iconographers, hymnographers, and theologians”. The preachers include even Sundays – to speak at the “homily” requires faculties, and does not depend on ordination, if you got the skills you can by all means pay the bills. The Priests wife is called “Prysbetera” (“Mother”) and there is even a report of a female Deacon in the 10th century!

    We honour the Theotokos (Blessed Virgin) in leaps and bounds more often than the Latins. But, never an ordained woman Priest – and we like to stick to the Early Church Fathers and Mothers.

  • Deacon Michael Wesley

    If the Church wants to have a male only priesthood so be it, but I cannot agree with most of the arguments that this writer gives to support it. The only good argument I can see is that a male dominated priesthood is what Rome wants. Aside from this I can’t find any good argument, including those offered by this author, to support it. He implies that we should accept a male dominated priesthood just as we accept the Trinity or the resurrection of Jesus. This is like comparing apples with oranges. A Church practice cannot be compared with a theological mystery. And then to argue that we should not accept cultural change would be to prohibit women from entering into the sanctuary at all.

    When push comes to shove the only really good reason for prohibiting women priests is because that’s the way that Rome wants it; and if we’re members of the Roman Church we need to accept it as well. It does not mean that we can’t offer differing opinions, but it does mean that we can not act in defiance of the Church hierarchy. This is schism.

    In light of this,then, a very good Scriptural text for the prohibition of women to the priesthood is 1 Samuel 15:22: “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” Although it may not be a very good argument it’s the best one that’s out there.

  • david pence

    I thought Mr Carlin’s book on the decline of the American Catholic church was a penetrating and illuminating sociological history. He is one of the first Catholic commentators to dissect the social origins of the secularist Authoritarian Personality argument which is an assault on religious man by therapeutic man. Thus this offering on womens ordination is particularily disappointing. Yes the male preisthood is tradition and authoritative. So is the teaching that marriage is between a man and a woamn. But certainly the sacramental tradition is grounded in human nature as surely as the marriage covenant. It is no coincident that every church that first allowed female clergy eventually allowed homosexual unions. The priesthood is a communion of persons—of male persons. Like the Jewish Minyan, the patriarchs, the twelve brothers,the beloved son and circumcision there is a deep precedent for a marking and calling of the males in a group as a central form of Israel and the Church. There is also a deep anthropological and historical form of male agreement–look at a map. It is called the nation and the city and the state—all collective territorial creatures of masculine agreement( The feminists, John Lennon and I all agree these are male patriarchal boundaries.) On our website docsociety.org we have grounded a good deal of our critical analysis of a scandal prone archdiocese to the breakdown of masculine priestly fraternity. The essays section and a powerpoint on the Symphony of Sexual Icons in Catholicism(fatherhood, apostolic fraternity, spousal love and Marian feminity) are serious arguments whic we hope help explain beyound “the pope told me so”. I think “the Pope told me so and Jesus told him” is a fine argument and binds my thinking. Such auithoritative teaching also prods my intellect to search for how deep a truth this really is. I hope Mr Carlin enjoys our arguments as much as we benefited from his and I applaud Zoe for demanding a much deeper throated defense of a fundamental sacramental form in a Church founded on the Logos.

  • Michael Healy, Jr.

    Zoe wrote: Nevertheless, my first point above was simply factual. John S claims women are more promiscuous than men and the numbers show otherwise, not to mention what seems clearly obvious to most people. There is no dispute about this and I’m surprised anyone would try to argue otherwise. (I am not speaking of particular individuals obviously, but at men and women in general.)

    But how can either sex be “more promiscuous” than the other if, in the vulgar old phrase “it takes two to tango.” I will never understand the logic behind these statistics. That’s all I meant say, really.

    The rest of John S’s comment don’t dignify much of a response. To claim women have an “inherent penchant” to dress slutty and be vulgar is alarming and sexist to say the least. It is not a comment that belongs in any serious dialogue.

    Too true. My only point was that there was a related point which would be valid, even if he made a ridiculous set of assertions.

    I’ll grant that I could have made my points more clearly.

  • R.C.

    I’ve always thought it unfair to parishes that “parochial” has become, in most modern usage, a disparaging term. The parochial school is often excellent; the parish itself often a community of love in which persons of varied backgrounds participate.

    But I think it is obvious that many of the church controversies of our area come from parochial thinking, in the modern sense of the word. I’ve something to say about it, so I’ll be using the word in that unfair-to-parishes way, below.

    Wiktionary gives us the following definition:

    Wiktionary wrote:Parochial, adj: Characterized by an unsophisticated focus on local concerns to the exclusion of wider contexts; elementary in scope or outlook.”

    Now those who want to ordain women and practicing homosexuals, and to witness and acknowledge as such the “marriage” of homosexuals, are deeply parochial, in the sense that they are agitated by notions unique to a certain kind of cosmopolitan thought in Western Civilization, and which scarcely exists outside it.

    So much are they bound to the narrow view of their own social circle and its concerns that they are unaware of this wider view…and they want the Church, which must be Catholic in the sense of being Universal, to focus all its energies on their own little neighborhood of neuroses.

    But there is a more profound parochialism they exhibit: A parochialism of time.

    Since Einstein’s day we’ve known that space and time are part of one fabric of space-time; Christian theology presaged this by saying God is omnipresent both in space and time. (To God, all times are Now, and to God, all places are Here.) So too must the Church be Universal: Teaching the same faith in all places and times.

    Now if there’s one thing the Women’s Ordainers are not, it’s omnipresent in time. Their sole occurrence is now, here. Nearly every other heresy imaginable boasts a wider following, a longer tradition of recurrence.

    C.S.Lewis correctly observed that, at the height of the Middle Ages when Marian Devotions looked nigh-on-idolatrous, nowhere was there a popular movement for female priests, or to identify Mary as the sacrifice for salvation, or to pray to God the Mother.

    Before the Assumption was defined as dogma, it was everywhere in the church for…what? A few years? Ha! Try: Centuries. The pope, nor the church, teaches no new doctrine, but preserves the deposit of faith. To suggest that women are called by God to the priesthood is to suggest that, for 2,000 years prior, in all kinds of societies, many cosmopolitan, a few rather matriarchal, when women priests could have been a useful asset but were instead overlooked, that the church’s teaching was wrong; that God neglected to mention it, that the Spirit gave no sign.

    To which the appropriate response is: Bollocks.

    No, no, no. The debate is silly. It is parochial thinking, by those who know nothing outside their own narrow coven like-minded persons exchanging inbred ideas, unique to the errors of a particular time in a particular culture.

  • dpence

    RC
    GK Chesterton said one of the freedoms of being catholic is that it saves us from the tyranny of current fads. You give a wonderful sense of the democracy of the dead through space and time which all of us who live in the traditional church enjoy and learn from. But the great error of feminism is deeply embedded in the thinking of Americans, a reigning thought structure amidst church employees and a residual thought structure even in “orthodox” catholics. I call it the “feminist implant”. To dislodge that implant we have to think with the church through time and space and we will find our Asian and African catholics befuddled by the Northern feminist fantasy and our brothers back in time will not eevn recognize the category. But for all that we can dismiss the feminist critique as “silly”. There are too many dead babies for that luxury. Feminism like all the secular ideologies of the last dew centuries is bloody business and those of us who are freed by tradition owe those enslaved by a fad an argument that liberates–an explantion grounded in biblical narrative and human anthropology. You have a good pen . Make an argument that will help the good people in this discussion who accept the Church teaching but have said they would like better reasons.

  • R.C.

    Thank you, sir. And you’re right that the consequences of sexual heresies are grave.

    The text-length limitation here makes it impossible to offer a full-dress apologia; and anyway, I have nothing to say about the notion of ordaining women that Peter Kreeft did not already relate in his lecture on the subject, found here: http://tinyurl.com/3tzbv8 and here http://tinyurl.com/4bw5yf

    In that lecture he gives a run-down of nearly every logical argument against having women priestesses; when it comes to pure logic, I have nothing more to offer.

    But my post was to deal with an illogical objection to the Church’s teaching, and to deal with it using Chestertonian irony by reversing the expected attitude toward the topic.

    For of course dissenters often do not think the Church is wrong; they could not marshal articulate arguments for their view. They often feel the Church is “parochial”: That it is holding a narrow, blinkered view, sans awareness of the wider possibilities.

    They disregard the Church’s arguments (such as those offered by Kreeft) not because they have located errors in those arguments, but because they come to the conversation presuming that they are going to teach and the Church, on hearing them, is going to suddenly open her eyes wide with wonder and say, “Wow, I had no idea there was such a broad landscape outside my cell of Tradition.” The minds of dissenters, impregnated with this attitude, are impregnable to reason.

    So I decided to channel Gilbert a bit, and put the shoe on the other foot: It is actually the dissenters who are “parochial,” who are blinkered, who are ignorant of the wider world.

    For at all historical moments save our own, and at some times when women were the greatest saints living and love of Mary was at its most heartfelt and chivalrous…women, even saintly women, did not call to be ordained, and if anyone else asked it on their behalf, no one knows of it and the notion was unpopular.

    And in all cultures save our own which has become so sexually confused, rebellious, and unhappy, the notion has seemed absurd.

    And were the Church to take this step in the West, all other Particular Churches at all other times would reject this diseased member as a cancerous growth. The church would be thrown into schism. In Asia, Africa, and elsewhere, they think we’re entirely insane to be even taking the question seriously…and they have a point.

    So the reality is: Why should the church take seriously, except to seriously condemn it, the radical notions of a tiny minority of her children swept up in a fad of muddy thinking, a fad confined to their own clique in (generously) a half-century window of time, in the most ivory-towered, cloistered stratum of academia, in a country as confused about the morality of sex as an 18th-century South Carolinian slave-owner was about the morality of property ownership?

    That’s the right perspective. For the dissenters, the knowledge of how rare, isolated, widely-dismissed, ill-informed, and ignorant of history and the wider world they truly are is bitter medicine, but if a verbal slap is what it takes for them to get correct perspective, then it is called for. They walk in with the air of a lecturer when they have yet to begin to learn.

  • Jay S

    An excellent article. My only compliant it that it was too short. A longer article with a lot of references to religions that have ordained priests and the negative consequences would be nice. For example, since the Episipalt Church began accepting women priest, membership has fallen almost 50%. Another thirty years from now the Episicpla Church will go the way of the Shakers.

    Yes, the Magesterium is the final word. But to quote the Magesterium, especially in the secular world is like quoting fairy tales. Most people dismiss it out of hand. By having hard evidence to talk to people on their level, you can change minds.

  • david pence

    Response to RC
    well said

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