Female priests defy Catholic church at altar

The MSM love a story like this, so such reports are on the increase. I suspect it won’t much bother or concern the Catholic Church or the Catholic Bishops, at least as long as it remains a fringe phenomenon. But I’m sure the Bishops will be watching whether the movement continues to grow, and especially, whether it begins to attract interest and support from laity.    awr

National Public Radio, “Female priests defy Catholic church at altar.”

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71 comments

  1. I don’t quite understand how this constitutes “defying” the church. If I dress in all black, put on a roman collar and go around saying “I’m a Catholic Priest” (I’m not, BTW) am I defying the church or just playing some kind of adult dress-up? That is, in order to be DEFYING the church, they have to actually be doing something that is contrary to church teaching. Now it’s true, they are claiming to be priests when they actually aren’t, and so in that sense they are at the very least making a false claim when they ought not. But I don’t think that’s how these women see it…. They seem to think that they are defying the church by actually BEING priests when they are told that they aren’t supposed to (when in reality, it isn’t that they simply aren’t supposed to, but that they actually can’t be…). I really don’t understand the mindset… Rather reminds me of the character in Life of Brian who insists he’s a woman when he’s clearly not but wants everybody to acknowledge his right to be a woman even if he never can really be one.

  2. … Perhaps they will eventually tire of being told “no” and take up a new cause like the “Women-Imams”. Why is it we don’t see that group in the news? Oh, that’s right…

  3. Don’t want to keep rattling on, but want to make my point clear after reading over my last two comments…

    I think both the “women-priests” and the Church agree that they (the women) are defying the Church. Where the issue gets cloudy and media reporting gets fuzzy is exactly HOW they are defying the Church. The Church sees them as defiant for CLAIMING to be priests when they aren’t, the women see themselves as defiant for actually BEING priests when they aren’t supposed to be. As long as the two sides see the issue in two different ways, the media is forced to take one view or the other.

  4. The reality is that in a faith tradition, a woman can be ordained a priest. If she and her tradition says she’s a priest, she is.

    Ditto for terming oneself “Catholic.” Nobody owns that term. Lots of people are in fact “Catholic” without being “Roman,” which is the identifier that counts, as far as the hierarchy is concerned.

    Now, it would be accurate to say that none of these women were validly ordained in Rome’s eyes. So they are not Roman sacramental priests. But they’re not asking to be. And if they happen to amass followers in great or small numbers, then the fruits of their ministry (which is not exclusively a Roman Catholic domain either) will be what they will be.

    That some conservative Catholics go out of their way to hurl insults is itself indicative that this movement is indeed causing consternation in the Church. In other words, it galls them more than they want to let on.

    1. If and when that faith tradition finds a way to organize on an international basis, look for a lot of Catholics to leave Rome.

      1. On a separate note – I realized just now that I view any young man asking to be ordained with the suspicion that I am looking at someone entering the priesthood for all the wrong reasons; essentially looking forward to the power to strand between people and God. In my youth, I automatically respected any priest. Now, I find that any priest I encounter is on trial. It shouldn’t be that way, and I know many priests who are hardworking servants of God and His people. It’s just that I have also encountered too many who entered the priesthood as a form of fire insurance, who think that obedience to the local bishop outweighs even common sense. Worse are the priests who view themselves as superior beings.
        What brought this to mind is that I find myself trusting the newly ordained females.

        Right or wrong, these are my instincts today.

      2. Breathe easier because of an article in National Review?? The rector’s words are perhaps comforting and reassuring to some. I would encourage us not to be too naïve. Let us hope that there aren’t too many seminarians nowadays just pretending, as the regime requires them to. Remember, we had a no-gays-in-seminary policy in the 1950s, and the result – as we know from the John Jay Report – is that many, all too many of the alums went on to abuse young males and children. Let’s hope dearly that it will be different now, even though the seminaries are going back to at least some of the policies and attitudes of the 1950s.
        awr

      3. “If and when that faith tradition finds a way to organize on an international basis,”

        As I have said before, it already exists. Anglican Communion, Episcopal Church USA.

    2. Todd, the name of this dissident group is “Roman Catholic Womenpriests”. So they are indeed claiming to be sacramental priests of the Roman Cathic Church.

      The least the editor of this blog could do would be to put the word “priests” in quote marks in the headline.

      1. Just as we should perhaps put the word “universal pastor” in quotes when the Vatican refers to the pope using this
        title? Another “honor”, by the way not only rejected
        amongst Protestants, but Eastern Orthodox as well.

    3. I am bemused by that sermon about “renaissance priests”. I talks as if priests only recently discovered that they are “spiritual fathers” and it is calculated to inflate the egos of its hearers. Calling oneself a “renaissance priest” is ridiculous. Why do I also feel that the whole sermon is gay-themed?

  5. It’s not that these women just want to be “womenpriests,” as there are many churches out their that would lovingly accept their zeal for ministry and ordain them in a heartbeat. They want to fundamentally change the Roman Catholic Church. So, I find their overall motivation suspicious.

    1. “I find their overall motivations suspicious”

      I think they do want to fundamentally change the institution which they see at odds with the Church itself. It all depends on whether you define “Church” as short hand for the Pope and Vatican, or whether you define “Church ” as the Body of Christ.

      1. Why must they be at odds with each other as you suggest? I see the Church as the Pope, Vatican, AND as the Body of Christ. I don’t buy that the Church is either one or the other.

  6. The retired archibishop of Washington, Cardinal McCarrick, on several occasions came under fire from “orthodox” Catholics for attending religious events at the National Cathedral with the lady bishop of Washington, Jane Dixon, presiding. I believe the Cardinal responded that as far as he and the Catholic Church were concerned bishop Dixon was a “minister of the Word”.
    His presence at these events neither affirmed, nor denied any other claims made by her, or claims made on her behalf by Anglicans or the Episcopal Church. Bishop Dixon’s status as bishop of Washington couldn’t change as far as Rome was concerned, and it wasn’t going to change as far as the Episcopal Church was concerned.

    1. Well, this is really not on target is it? The discussion is not about various ecclesiastical communities and their approach to female clergy. It is about a group calling itself “Roman Catholic Womenpriests” and their delusion of their “ordinations”

  7. But the point still remains, it isn’t delusional as far as the women are concerned.

    1. It most certainly is. It’s practically the definition of self-delusion. They are the ones who think they are “ordained”, not the rest of us.

      1. In the sense that they were ordered for ministry within their faith community, which is womenpriests, then it looks quite a lot like a “real” ordination to me.

    2. No, Joel, they claim their faith community is the Roman Catholic Church. Read their website:

      “Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCWP) is an international movement within the Roman Catholic Church. The mission of Roman Catholic Womenpriests is to primarily spiritually prepare, ordain, and support women from all states of life, who are theologically qualified, who are committed to an inclusive model of Church, and who are called by the Holy Spirit and their communities to minister within the Roman Catholic Church.”

      Thus, not male, not ordained. And again, clearly delusional.

      1. You know, John, I’m not defending or advocating for the WomenPriest movement. Rather, I’m making a statement about the quality of conversation here and of your contribution to it. That you call their viewpoint “delusional” tells me that you really don’t understand their viewpoint, nor do you even try to do so. Now that’s a problem if we’re going to have a constructive conversation! Please try harder.
        awr

      2. Catholics are taught one thing clearly from childhood — you do not play with the sacraments. One may love someone and want to marry them sacramentally, but one does not suborn a priest into performing a fake marriage, etc. So I do not think it is too harsh to speak of “delusional” in this context.

      3. Speaking of sacramental analogies, maybe their relationship to Rome is like in a divorced couple, where one spouse says: “We were married in the Church, it is for ever, you are still my spouse” while the other one incredulously replies: “What are you talking about? I stopped loving you a long time ago, I moved out, we are divorced, I have married someone else, I have children with that person who is the love of my life. You are delusional.”

      4. No, Claire, because the marriage, absent a ruling of nullify, is sacramental. The woman’s “ordination” never was.

      5. But John, isn’t that the point? Dialogue can’t happen because one side sees a sacrament, and the other side does not. You answer that it’s different because the marriage really is a sacrament whereas the women’s ordination is not: can’t you see the analogy?

        One side says “I am a priest” and the other side answers “you are delusional”.

        One side says “we are married” and the other side answers “you are delusional”.

  8. Maybe the women priests’ defiance is symbolic in the same way that some peace activists who break into military bases are symbolically defying that system – the peace activists know that they will not be able to actually stop nuclear proliferation with their discrete acts but they hope to raise consciousness on the issue.

  9. Like it or not, the hard truth is that these women were all ordained by a bishop with apostolic succession by the modern definition (going back to the 16th century–pretty much where the paper trail ends for anyone). They operate as priests, celebrating sacraments. They can call themselves “Roman,” (and probably, that’s not accurate) and follow MR1. (You don’t think any of them will use MR3, do you?) In most cases they have faith communities they serve. (One friend of mine has something less than a dozen. She calls her community an “Inclusive Catholic church.”)

    They don’t care that Mr Drake sees them as “delusional,” no more than he would care if they called him a “misogynist, sexist pig.”

    These women don’t care about excommunication any more than Episcopalians or Lutherans. Or Rome cares about being excommunicated. It didn’t “hurt” in 1054, did it?

    That conservative Catholics feel the need to flex their pens and tongues of orthodoxy reveals that these ordinations do indeed sting. And if people are squirming, even slightly, from this movement, well, I’d say the women have one up on the situation. They’re not squirming about a darn thing–they’re in no danger from the Inquisition or from any secular authority. The institution is powerless against them.

    Personally, I think these ordinations are the wrong way to go, absolutely. I have no doubt that many of these women have genuine vocations. Despite knowing three ordained Catholic women, one as a close friend, I have no desire to celebrate the sacraments with them. They know it. We continue from there.

    But it’s plain silly to indulge in name-calling to soothe ecclesiastical egos. They are priests. They were ordained. They are Catholic. Clearly not Roman, but then, they don’t act like Romans.

    1. Some Anglicans/Episcopalians call themselves Anglican Catholic (not Roman, of course). But I think that excommunication does hurt—it hurts Christian unity, as confessed in Ut Unum Sint:

      Christians cannot underestimate the burden of long-standing misgivings inherited from the past, and of mutual misunderstandings and prejudices. Complacency, indifference and insufficient knowledge of one another often make this situation worse. Consequently, the commitment to ecumenism must be based upon the conversion of hearts and upon prayer, which will also lead to the necessary purification of past memories. With the grace of the Holy Spirit, the Lord’s disciples, inspired by love, by the power of the truth and by a sincere desire for mutual forgiveness and reconciliation, are called to re-examine together their painful past and the hurt which that past regrettably continues to provoke even today. All together, they are invited by the ever fresh power of the Gospel to acknowledge with sincere and total objectivity the mistakes made and the contingent factors at work at the origins of their deplorable divisions.

      But those who will not learn from the past. . . .

    2. Todd;

      I think I agree with you on 99.9% of what you’re saying, but the fact is that they DO think that they are actual Roman Catholic Priests, on par with the priests at your local parish and in posession of the same sacramental faculties by virtue of their “ordination”. They do not see themselves as a seperate group such as the American Catholic Church or other such groups. If they did so I would then doubt that there would be any further attention paid to them. The American Catholic Church and other such groups have been operating for many years and have gotten zero in the way of ink in Catholic publications whether on the right or the left. But the Roman Catholic Womenpriests continue to poke fingers in eyes, particularly of local Bishops (our local Womynpriest…her spelling not mine…continues to picket regularly in front of our cathedral claiming that the Church has given her permission to be ordained but our Bishop will not allow it). She also continues to try to get her “Church” listed in the local paper’s directory of places of worship as a Roman Catholic Church.

      1. I recognize that some of these women self-identify as Roman, either individually or in a group. I’m not sure that is accurate.

        As for the women I know, none explicitly embrace Rome. They see Catholicism as something they remain rooted in spiritually, but they also use the terms “Inclusive Catholic” or “American Catholic” or “New Catholic.”

        I think a woman priest has the integrity to remind those she serves she is not in Communion with Rome, and is able to articulate that to a questioner’s satisfaction. My presumption is that ordained ministers are people of integrity, unless proven otherwise.

        Count me a skeptic on the situation of a woman priest picketing a church. If you want to be a priest, be one. Lead people in prayer, counsel them, conduct worship, visit the sick, lead by example. It’s the task or duty of a lay person to protest. Don’t usurp someone else’s proper role.

  10. These people really baffle me. And delusional is the correct clinical term. They are very clear in calling themselves “Roman Catholic Womenpriests.” To be Roman Catholic, as opposed to Old Catholic, for example, you need to be in communion with the Church of Rome and its bishop. Otherwise the devotees of some sedevacantist anti-pope are “Roman Catholic”, too.

    And the Bishop of Rome’s communion clearly and repeatedly has said that you cannot make a woman a priest. Any more than you can make Eucharist with rice cakes and beer or baptize someone with gin.

    It’s one thing to disagree with that, but quite another to go ahead and publicly act against it –incurring automatic excommunication–and then make believe that you are still “Roman Catholic”. It is the theology of Humpty Dumpty.

    When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master— that’s all.”

    1. And the Bishop of Rome’s communion clearly and repeatedly has said that you cannot make a woman a priest.

      You may not be able to, and they may not feel able to, but God certainly can.

      1. I caution against being too confident that you speak for God and know what God will or won’t do.
        awr

      2. Personally, I’m not so sure about God’s mind.

        I have to admit that those pictures of women wearing priestly vestments look rather strange. Not a man in sight! It feels like there’s something wrong with it. I am used to the opposite. Whether it’s the strangeness of what is disordered, or of what is inhabitual, I cannot tell.

        But not to worry: if that’s the will of God, we’ll see it by other signs and the holiness of those women will shine in the way in which they live their lives.

      3. “I have to admit that those pictures of women wearing priestly vestments look rather strange. Not a man in sight! It feels like there’s something wrong with it.”

        I agree. But I also think that images of all-male sanctuaries, be they on TLM sites or in diocesan organs look pretty strange.

  11. Another strangeness is RCWP’s clear embrace of the “discipleship of equals” model of the Church. http://www.romancatholicwomenpriests.org So why do they then want to have themselves endowed with powers that the rest of the baptized do not have? Or why do they not have the local community “ordain” them, rather than relying on some superstitious attachment to a magical, and historically (and scripturally) questionable, lineage of male hierarchs? Or why do they not ordain all the members of their communities and achieve equal discipleship that way? As the scripture says, A priestly people. It would make the priesthood of all believers real.
    But instead, these so-called egalitarians seek (and then claim unlawful) entrance into one of the world’s oldest aristocracies.

    1. Stephen…

      Thank you for nailing it dead on! Why, if the hierarchy that allows only an all-male preisthood is corrupt and illegitimate, is it then necessary to go to such great lengths to demonstrate that you have been “ordained” within this hierarchy? And yes, they seem to want to claim that there is no real distinction between sacramental and baptismal priesthood, but they obviously feel it necessary to create that distinction for themselves.

  12. Mr. Walkley says: In the sense that they were ordered for ministry within their faith community, which is womenpriests, then it looks quite a lot like a “real” ordination to me.

    Being a Protestant, it would. But these women are claiming sacramental priesthood in the apostolic succession, as understood by the Catholic (and Orthodox) churches.

    1. Yes, yes…

      But “sacramental priesthood in the apostolic succession, as understood by the Catholic (and Orthodox) churches” is quite a bit more complicated, historically problematic, ambiguous, and open to further doctrinal development than you seem to have any inkling of.
      awr

      1. Well, Father, IMHO, I do have more inkling than I seem to, gained in the completion of three graduate theology degrees, including a doctorate. And as you know, studying theology reveals that practically everything in Christianity can be interpreted as “complicated, historically problematic, ambiguous and open to further doctrinal development.” That is a condition which, while significant, is not by itself decisive.

  13. #27.
    As an Episcopal(ian) priest – ” ” – I give communion to someone in my congregation with a wafer made of no wheat, no nuts, not anything but potato flower, I think. This child of God is so alergic to so many foods that they dare not recieve from the chalice either, in case another who recieved had eaten peanut butter!

    Are you telling me that God is bound by canon law and my parishioner does not receive the sacrament?

    Oh I foget! she would receive no sacrament at all if she received the consecrated Bread at our altars.

    It is too bad! God has so little freedom of movement in dealing with us. I’m not against all kinds of rules and parameters, for the good of the church. (I’m actually pretty conservative about these things.) But God knows how to do good well enough that God does not need these kind of rules to keep him from doing harm.

    Sorry, that is sarcastic; but if you don’t get what is humorously awful about this point of view, you probably don’t get why it’s called ( quote- unquote) the Good News.

    Mark MIller

    1. Well, I’m pretty sure #27 and #30 would be proceeding from different assumptions and values. “Humorously awful” vs “sentimental and fuzzy-headed”? “Good News” vs “Nice News”?

      Leaving aside the validity of your orders or of my “getting” it, a simpler “Catholic” (and “Orthodox”) solution to your “child of God’s” problem would be communion in one kind, wine, from a separate chalice.

  14. Family pressures would have had no effect on Norma Coon if her position was tenable. This is just a red herring.

  15. “On a recent June day in Maryland, four more women were ordained as priests. The gallery at St. John’s United Church of Christ was filled with Catholic priests and nuns, there to support the women and the ordination movement — though visitors were asked not to photograph them. Witnessing the ceremony was enough to risk excommunication.”

    For the record, you can take it from Janet that my boyfriend was not there!

  16. There’s a basic problem at work that is largely undiscussed.

    When you are purporting to administer the sacraments, you are telling the faithful that X has happened (X being the confected sacrament in question). You are, to that extent, proposing to bind the faithful’s assent to that proposition.

    So, for someone to deny that a pope or bishop cannot bind the faithful’s assent on the one hand, but yet that someone in effect proposes to do so him or her self, then you have the classic problem of someone mirroring the very thing they complain of. (One might observe how human it is to do this, but it’s important to recognize the dynamic nevertheless.)

    It’s one thing to say one is not persuaded by the explanation for a teaching. It’s another to propose to bind the faithful to one’s own teaching. Catholics, unfortunately, have a strong propensity to toggle our own pontifical switches, because we can’t endure unresolved tension for long. Simulating sacraments is but a more extreme example, however well intentioned. It’s trying to do Vatican III in a Vatican I way, as it were.

    And we need to strive harder to resist that and get more comfortable with enduring unresolved tension for long periods of time.

    1. Karl Liam Saur: “And we need to [. . .] get more comfortable with enduring unresolved tension for long periods of time.”

      Does the Holy Spirit take moratorium-on-discussion breaks?

      The pope has claimed that the Church has no “authority” to ordain women, and you seem to conclude that an ordained woman’s administration of the sacraments would be invalid. If “authority” is required, where and when did the Church obtain authority to reserve ordination to males, or for that matter, to ordain anyone at all? Christ ordained no one; bishops do not exercise scriptural authority in conferring Holy Orders. That leaves the authority of tradition. But wait a minute: women priests have a tradition too, and some church historians find precedents for women as sacramental ministers as far back as the ancient church–until councils changed “tradition.” So what was the source of authority? Tradition! which changes from time to time.

      As I’ve said before, tradition cannot be a justification for continuing any practice. To cite tradition is simply to say “we’ve always done it this way.” This is the same as refusing to hear any reason for changing the way we’ve always done it. It was once tradition for the pope to bestow gifts of slaves on favored bishops and for bishops to order the burning of heretics, etc. If the pope finds infallible authority in tradition, someone should clue him in that it cannot bear this weight.

  17. Going down through all the arguments, this poem by Edward Markham comes to mind:

    He drew a circle that shut me out,
    Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
    But Love and I had the wit to win,
    We drew a circle that took him in.

  18. John Drake :

    It most certainly is. It’s practically the definition of self-delusion. They are the ones who think they are “ordained”, not the rest of us.

    Which “rest of us” are you authorized to opine for?

    There seem to be quite a few among the larger us of the RCC who believe that there is no doctrinal reason, certainly no Scriptural reason that females cannot be ordained as deacons, presbyters, and bishops.

    The fact that a pope has expressed the contrary opinion means that the opinion will be enforced in church discipline. The fact that the pope has tried to shut down all discussion makes it unlikely that this teaching will be received by the Christifidelii.

  19. Stephen Manning :

    And the Bishop of Rome’s communion clearly and repeatedly has said that you cannot make a woman a priest. Any more than you can make Eucharist with rice cakes and beer or baptize someone with gin.

    I believe that most gin has enough water in it to be used for baptism in case of emergency. 🙂

  20. Stephen Manning :

    When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master— that’s all.”

    You have named the game exactly. It’s a question of who is the master.

    Carefully forbidding any other conversation in his hearing, the pope has put his foot down on the necks of women and insists that he is the master rather than the servant of the servants of God.

    I think, in the matter of ordaining females, many would say that all the pope’s horses and all the pope’s men in the Curia are agreeing that the emperor is wearing magnificent clothes, even thought the pope’s own experts said there was no Scriptural clothing for the denial of ordination to women.

    1. even thought the pope’s own experts said there was no Scriptural clothing for the denial of ordination to women.

      Whether or not something is found in the scriptures is not the acid test of Catholic doctrine.

  21. I just noticed that the headline reads ” Female priests defy Catholic Church”.

    If, in fact, the people accept female priests as valid, wouldn’t it be better to say “female priests defy the Pope”?

    We were the Catholic Church long before we had a Pope, and the role of the papacy has changed over the centuries. Why should we believe that even though the Church is not a democracy today, it may not one day return to being the democracy it once was?

      1. Divesting themselves of personal property and sharing all things in common; refusing to make distinctions among persons according to status of slave or free, Jew or Gentile, male or female; and deciding disputed issues of administration through consultation and debate may not describe a democratic structure, but whatever it was, it was a far cry from the hierarchy of today.

  22. Thanks for all your comments. I think we’ve heard the main points now, so comments are closed.

    awr

Comments are closed.