Petition: Belgian priests and laity call for reforms (UPDATED)

Just how many reformist petitions have been put forth by concerned Catholics in recent decades? Within Roman Catholic polity, such petitions are virtually the only way for reform-minded Catholics to address their concerns to the hierarchy. And their effectiveness seems pretty close to zilch. But the concerns don’t go away, and the petitions continue.

Here’s another one.

8,235 signatories in Flanders (the Dutch-speaking half of Belgium), including politicians and intellectuals as well as about a tenth of all Flemish priests, deacons and lay Church workers, have called for reforms including ordination of women and married people. On Thursday the petition was presented to the head of the Belgian bishops’ conference. (Original-language report including the petition is here.)

There will be more petitions. I don’t see the reformist concerns going away any time soon. The hierarchy probably will not get widespread buy-in from Catholics on the hot-button issues, not with a power structure perceived to be top-down and without representation or accountability. For its part the hierarchy (the pope, and the bishops appointed by him and his predecessor) probably will not budge on positions it considers unchangeable, even of divine origin. Much less will it budge on its exclusive claim to settle the issues.

And so the struggles will continue. On one side, calls for obedience to authority. On the other side, calls for more credible exercise of authority. The two sides need each other, and they carry on quite well in their symbiotic opposition.

A word to those sympathetic to the first side: your calls for others to be obedient will not work. For those already skeptical of authority, the chances of more heavy-handed exercise of authority being persuasive are pretty close to zilch. For you, being a Catholic means knowing that you’ll never live in a Church where everyone shares your view of things.

A word to those sympathetic to the other side: your calls for church reform will not work, at least not in the foreseeable future. Your hope is that your concerns will ultimately be heard, though you see few signs of it now. For you, being a Catholic means finding peace and spiritual sustenance in the Church now despite the systemic, structural flaws.

And so it will go, until the next petition, and thereafter.

Brussels Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, head of the Belgian bishops’ conference, accepted the petition along with the Flemish bishops and thanked the group for its “quite critical but still churchly initiative.”

awr

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UPDATE: Here is a quick PT translation. I welcome corrections and improvements, my Dutch is rather rusty.

MANIFESTO: Believers Speak Up

Parishes without a priest, Eucharist at inappropriate hours, prayer services without Communion: must all this be? Why are the necessary church reforms not happening? We Flemish believers implore our bishops to break the impasse in which we find ourselves. We do this in solidarity with fellow believers in Austria, Ireland and many other countries, who also insist on reforms that are necessary for the life of the church.

We do not understand why the leadership of our local communities (e.g. parishes) is not entrusted to a man or a woman, married or unmarried, full time or volunteer, who has received the necessary training. We need dedicated shepherds.

We do not understand why these fellow believers should not preside at the Sunday liturgy. Every living community needs liturgical presiders.

We do not understand why – when no priest is available – a Word and Communion service should not be possible.

We do not understand why qualified laypeople and trained religion teachers should not be able to preach. We need the Word of God.

We do not understand why believers of good will who remarry after a divorce must be denied Communion. They equally belong to us.

Fortunately there are already places where such things are done.

We call for both married men and women be admitted to the priesthood as soon as possible. We faithful think this is desperately needed now.

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164 comments

  1. I’ve signed many petitions in hopes that one day our calling to the priesthood would be accept so we can fully fullfill our Baptismal promises the way Christ intended!

    1. The agenda will not be complete until the question of same-sex relationships among the laity and the clergy and between them, male and female is addressed with equal urgency.

      1. “The agenda”?

        You mean like the agenda to end slavery? The agenda to end child labor? The agenda for women’s suffrage? The agenda to end debtor’s prisons?

    2. The two sides need each other, and they carry on quite well in their symbiotic opposition

      My distrust of petitions is summarized by Putnam’s distrust of mailing list organizations in Bowling Alone. Membership essentially means contributing money to a national office to support a cause. Some sociologists call them tertiary organizations because they replace the personal connections among members of secondary topical associations and primary groups with an impersonal hierarchical relationship to an issue and a leader or small group of leaders

      Essentially mailing list organizations solicit money so that they can continue to solicit money for publishing their views. Every time something bad happens against the cause, it is a reason to solicit more money: every time something good happens they claim responsibility for it and ask to be rewarded with money. Many issues like gay marriage and abortion are great fund raisers for both sides of the argument.

      What gets lost in these petitions, websites, and mailing organizations are personal networks that empower people as individuals and small groups.

      The whatifwejustsaywait petition is a good example. Although it generated data for a potential network of 20,000 people, including more than 200 in my diocese, nothing was ever done to connect the people or empower them.

      Many people probably did not want to be connected or empowered. They only wanted to say that they had done their part to object and go on with their lives implementing the change, which is what the author seems to have done.

      If people actually came together many would find that they disagreed on a host of liturgical issues. Would they be unwilling to listen, empower one another, and work both collaboratively and in competition to promote better liturgy from the grassroots up?

      Mailing lists and petitions substitute one hierarchy for another and promote issues rather than developing people and networks.

  2. This post will probably cause angst but as I see it the only end to these petitions is the biological solution. The generation formed in the midst of the 1960’s counterculture is dying. The young have either embraced orthodoxy or have succumbed to secular relativism and have little concern any longer for Christianity. Those desirous of the reforms mentioned in the petition will no doubt blame the lack of reform as the reason why the young have left the Church among other reasons. The real problem in the Belgium, the Netherlands and all of the places where these petitions have their strongest advocates is demographic decline. The cultures that have embraced contraception and secularism and all of the things that Mary Burke has mentioned will decline in population considerably in just 25 years. The prospect of no growth, state banruptcies and the collapse of the European Currency will send shockwaves upon the City of Man that has been built. And one day in the not too distant future the minaret will feature high in the skylines – liberal Christianity will learn the hard truth of embracing false spirits. That the hope of the 1960’s has come to this – Gaudium et Spes indeed! You would think that the death of all of the religious communities that have embraced these false spirits would be enough evidence of the rot. And pray tell what would happen if suddenly all the dreams of these petitioners were answered by the highest authority? Would there be peace in the Church then? Take a cue from the Global South folks – The growth of the Church is not happening in places where people are concerned about these issues at all. Would that the Lord would wake us up – perhaps only persecution will answer that. I shudder to think of the letters to the Churches that the Angel of the Book of Revelation would deliver to the Church in Belgium, or the Netherlands, or Austria, or Ireland. God have mercy on us.

    1. How does anyone dare use the euphemism “biological solution”? Do other readers also hear echoes of that other great euphemism, “final solution”, when they read that? In both cases, the “solution” rests in the death of the people who cause trouble.

      Let me translate your first sentence in plain English. “As I see it, the problem of those petitions will only be resolved by the death of the petitioners.”

      1. I agree with that interpretation of his post. But I do not think he meant deliberate extermination, only the rather petulant and perhaps even childish observation that when the protesting generation has died out then the Church will be at peace again. Notwithstanding, I think he is completely wrong. The Church will never be at peace again until it grows up and starts to realize that its members are educated, thinking adults, not numbers on a board.

      2. (off-topic)

        Paul Inwood!!

        We recently sang “Make us turn to you”. It was striking, haunting; so moving, even during rehearsal, that I looked at the composer’s name to see where it came from: from you!

        I love your music.

    2. You have no idea how many young people I have known who have walked away in disgust as a result of attitudes lurking behind phrases like ‘biological solution’. Traditionalism is its own worst enemy, which is why bishops can afford to ignore it as a movement.
      As for the global south, don’t hold your breath, they are far from the condescending visions of simple natives who never question the party line of Rome make them out to be. In Latin America and Arfirca it is common for priests (that is, where there are priests, as the demand is far greater than the supply) to have common law wives and children. In Africa, dioceses distribute condoms in secret to fight the spread of HIV. In much of India syncrestist positions dominate over tradintional orthodox notions of there being ‘a one true faith’ that everyone must accept or burn in hell. Not to mention that in the global south traditionalism is almost nonexistent, and inculturated liturgies with dance abound.

      1. I can’t stand references to the “biological solution.” It’s creepy (and does indeed echo “final solution” even if it doesn’t intend to imply extermination).

        I also think traditionalists should avoid it because it was the same mentality employed by progressives for many years (though without using that phrase specifically) – the idea that the Latin Mass should only be allowed for the elderly who cannot adapt and who will eventually die (along with any desire for the old missal).

        While I understand why traditionalists might want to act the way “progressives” have acted towards them (after all, the sad fact is that many people are inclined to follow a perversion of the golden rule where they treat others as they have been treated), it is distasteful, vindictive and unhelpful.

      2. Keep in mind that not all progressives have acted maliciously against traditionalists. There is room for both, and the sooner people realize this the better off things will be.

    3. Bryan,
      You’re right that your post is causing angst!

      I want to reply to just one aspect of it, your claim that the “biological solution” will work because eventually the dissenters will die out.

      The facts don’t support your scenario for the next several decades. You’re setting yourself up for some pretty big disappointment.

      Take this post at CNN by a young Catholic woman: “Why I’m a Catholic for Contraception”. She says several things I disagree with, to be sure. But that’s not my point. My point is that, whether or not you or I like what this young Catholic thinks, she and people like her do exist. Their numbers are legion.

      Anyone who has taught undergraduate Catholic theology can burst your bubble – among the young Catholics who go to Mass, acceptance of, e.g., same sex relations is very, very high. So high that it’s not even an issue for most of them.

      Again, my point is not to agree with them, but simply to note that they exist. They’re not all going to change their opinions to support the magisterium, and people like you are not likely to succeed in getting rid of all of them.

      Anyone can label support for women’s ordination, e.g., as a typical “1970s” issue – as long as they’re honest about the fact that such support is higher among Catholics now than it was in the 1970s.

      We have decades and decades of diverse opinions with the Catholic Church ahead of us. Get used to it.

      Fr. Anthony

      1. Thank you for taking the trouble to respond to this, Anthony. I find the calm tenor of your measured response adds to the persuasive substantive points. My own experiences resonates with what you say here.

      2. Father
        8 or 10,000 Belgians is not a great number for a country of that size.
        You are right as to the improbability of petitions such as this one to change the approach of Bishops (or of petitions coming from a different approach.) It seems to me though that were 8,000 to petition for a Mass in Flemish in North London would merit attention. It would demonstrate a pastoral need to address that could be fulfilled by a priest commuting from Belgium.
        I suspect that views of young Catholics who go to Mass on “same sex relations” that you experience in the USA would not be replicated in Africa or Arab countries.
        You are surely right though about the future for diverse opinions within the Church. Let’s hope that they remain amicable. Sadly the discussion concerning Fr Allen below shows the challenges we face.

      3. Sorry, a couple of typos showing faulty grammar in my comment can be seen and I cannot correct them. I think the meaning is clear though.Chers
        Peter

    4. Father Bryan, the language in use here is worthy of some comment. Those who agree with you have “embraced” orthodoxy, while those who don’t have “succumbed.”

      You say that the real problem in the places mentioned is demographic decline. The petition specifically refers to Ireland. The population here increased at the last census such that we have the highest birthrate in the EU proportionate to the population.

      Mary Burke has mentioned one single issue only.

  3. We may have a path forward here. There is a struggle between Christianity and Islam to win the heart of Africa. One problem the Catholic Church has in attracting converts is the demand that priests be celibate. If we have a married clergy, we may attract more converts. If we have female clergy, we may attract more women than fundamentalist Islam. By presenting these as part of a New Evangelism rather than long needed reform, we have a chance to make everyone happy!

    1. Another problem is the belief of certain Vatican officials that if only every one prayed as a Tridentinist all would be better. And thus they waste time trying to create that reality. All the while, not only Europeans and North Americans say it doesn’t play – but all of Central and South America, Africa, and Oceana. The Vatican would be much better off assisting to develop a global church with global worship than pretend we are all 17th cent. white Bavarians. Where the church grows, it also leaves in droves for pentecostal worship. They better wake up.

      1. Far more money, time, and effort has likely been wasted suppressing the Tridentine Mass than in allowing it. It may not be what will save ther global church, but the recent efforts to allow and encourage it haven’t harmed it.

        While most young Catholics may support “unorthodox” positions, like womens’ ordination or contraception, most aren’t anti-Tridentine either (even if they don’t want it for themselves).

  4. “A word to those sympathetic to the first side: your calls for others to be obedient will not work.”

    Yet being obedient is demanded of us by the Bible! (Heb. 13:17; 1 Jn 4:6; 2 Pet. 5:5; Rom. 13:1-7; Acts 20:28-30; etc.)

    I already know that not everyone in the Church will share my views. But we have a teaching authority in the Church–the magisterium–for a reason. Doesn’t the sad history of heresy and schism show us that reason? Charity, humility, patience, kindness, diligence: are these virtues (among others) to be found in political activism and calls for what is labelled “reform” but would in fact amount to revolution?

    If people want just anyone to be given the ability to lead a parish community, if they wish women to be ordained, if they think it “fortunate” that places exist where such things are already done, then why don’t they go to those places? Pray and fast for vocations, teach children the Catholic faith using the Catechism, encourage the young, boys especially, to pray and discern their vocation in life. Then abundant priestly vocations will come – not before.

    “We faithful think this is desperately needed now” – oh, the misguided clarion call of an instant-on, change-obsessed generation! There is no quick fix to the lack of vocations, or for that matter many other problems in the Church. That is perhaps what the people who sign petitions such as these, demanding something be done now, do not understand.

    We in the West have tried solving our problems through capitulation to the culture for a while now; perhaps it is time to try something different?

    1. Mr Hazeell, I shall deal with your contributions seriatim.

      Obedience, is a spiritual value not a military practice. Whether you are speaking of it in a Hebrew, Greek or Latin context, the primary impulse is that of listening, not that of an abdication of responsibility by conforming or giving in.

      Divine revelation is accessible to us not only by virtue of the existence of a magisterium, but also by the faculty of reason, of divine origin.

      Schism is a function of a human authority’s abrogating to itself absolute power. For example the split of 1054 is a repudiation of the absolutism of Rome. Something similar may be said of heresy, in relation to a doctrinaire dogmatism itself an attribute of a struggle for absolute power.

      People who wish women to be ordained don’t, as you suggest they should, go elsewhere. Jesus, who wished the reign of God to be inaugurated didn’t go elsewhere.

      You give four imperatives, including “encourage the young, boys especially.” They speak of the end product which you wish for. It is most unlikely that that wish is shared by a majority or even by many.

      The issues involved, and there’s no need to list them again, if they are resolved, the resolution will not have been instant, since they have been around for generations.

      You choose to call engagement with contemporary culture a capitulation. That is your view. You are entitled to it. Others take a different view, a view which believes that belief itself must change to take account of ever-changing reality. It is a view which relies on the presence of the Spirit and the Lord Jesus with his church, until the end of time.

      1. You give four imperatives, including “encourage the young, boys especially.” They speak of the end product which you wish for. It is most unlikely that that wish is shared by a majority or even by many.

        Well, if one is not going to pray and fast for vocations, teach children the Catholic faith, or encourage the young to discern their vocation, one have absolutely no right to then moan that there are no priests or claim that the Church needs to change. If there is no prayer or fasting, it is not the Church that is in need of reform!

        And the end product I speak of is more priestly vocations. Why, if we are Catholic, would my hope for more priests not be shared by all Catholics?

    2. Perhaps you already know the response, but someone has to say it so I will. I’ll make two points.

      First, on obedience: Obedience is required in the Bible – but it is above all to God. Unless you can predict the future, you don’t know what the Catholic Church will believe to be God’s will, and what the Catholic Church will teach 100 years from now about women’s ordination or same-sex unions or all the other issues. Neither do I. But we both know that Church teaching has changed on other issues. To name one example, Pope Pius IX taught that the right to hold, sell, and buy slaves is based on natural law. If you had been there in the 19th century, would you have claimed that obedience required everyone to accept the pope’s teaching, which we now know was faulty? Or would it have been true obedience to God to disagree with the Pope?

      Second, on capitulation to secular culture: Matthew, we’re all Christians in this conversation, and we’re all trying to discern what the Gospel means in our changed situation, and how the Catholic faith should continue to develop (as it’s been doing for 2,000 years). It’s not right for you to claim that others are simply capitulating to culture. They are discerning God’s will differently than you, and I wish you could respect that. To return to the example I used above – when the church changed its teaching and condemned slavery, was this a capitulation to secular culture? Or was it a deepening discernment of God’s will?

      The Catholic Church, particularly the papacy, has a wretched history on thinking that secular culture should be resisted – think of the papacy’s rejection of freedom of conscience, right to worship, right of free speech, freedom of the press, democratic governments, separation of church and state… All these have been rejected by popes are part of an evil secular culture. Some popes rejected electric street lights and railroads as too modern, for Pete’s sake.

      I think some caution is in order.

      awr

      1. Unless you can predict the future, you don’t know what the Catholic Church will believe to be God’s will, and what the Catholic Church will teach 100 years from now about women’s ordination or same-sex unions or all the other issues.

        Both the issues you mention have been settled. It is not predicting the future to state that orthodox, dogmatic, Catholic theology has not in the past, does not now, and will not in the future admit the ordination of women or same-sex unions.

        (This, by the way, is not an attempt to close down discussion and debate on these and other topics; rather, what the Catholic faith teaches in these and other things provides the parameters and limits for such debate.)

        It’s not right for you to claim that others are simply capitulating to culture. They are discerning God’s will differently than you, and I wish you could respect that.

        Well, with all respect, if two people discern the will of God in two different, mutually exclusive ways, one of them is right and one of them is wrong, or both are wrong. An authentic Christian witness is counter-cultural, and rooted in the asceticism of the Cross – I see neither of these traits in the periodic calls for revolution that emanate from various sections of the Church every now and then. (The term “various sections” is not exclusive to the ‘left’, by the way.)

        As far as your constant reference to slavery goes, well, I prefer to stand with people such as the late Avery Cardinal Dulles, who in this book review, for example, adequately deals with any misguided notion that, because the Church ‘changed’ its teaching on slavery, that means it can ‘change’ with regards to (e.g.) same-sex unions, etc.

    3. your calls for others to be obedient will not work.

      I understand that as a call to prudence. If you tell others that obedience is demanded of them, is the likely result that upon hearing you they will be inclined to obey, or will they be pushed further away and be even less inclined to obey? If the answer is the latter, then it is fruitless, frustrating, and not prudent, to tell them that obedience is demanded of them.

      But then, what to do? Well, rather than by fiat, Matthew 9:13 (and Jn 14:15) proposes another route to obedience: by love. In a way it is quite simple: be a saint, people will see Christ in you, they will love what they see and will be drawn to obedience.

      For example, I have no particular interest in obedience, but whenever I encounter a saint (or witness someone temporarily showing holiness), I have a strong wish to listen to them, to follow them and to do as they suggest. No demands are then necessary: love suffices.

    4. Regarding the sad history of schism and heresy – the saddest part to me is how often the Church adopts the beliefs of the schismatics or declares the heresy to be doctrine – after thousands of people have been put to the flame or sword. Do we have so little faith in God and ourselves that we must forcibly silence people?

      1. Matthew, we’ve gone around on this one many, many times. The cases where doctrine/ morals clearly changed include, for example, slavery, religious freedom, rights of conscience, freedom of the press, separation of church and state, legitimacy of democratically elected governments, usury, and on and on.

        Those who hold to the theory that doctrine can’t change do a mix of distorting the date, ignoring the data, or inventing the most implausible interpretation of the data, in a desperate attempt to show that the doctrine didn’t change, since according to their theory, it can’t change.

        When I read such sophistry, I think often of the ordinary people of the time. I think of those modernists who were condemned for positions later affirmed at Vatican II. I think of faculty who lost their job for holding things the church later taught at Vatican II. I think of married couples throughout church history who were told that enjoyment of the sexual act is sinful. I think of Italians forbidden to vote in democratic election. Did people in cases such as these (many more could be listed) know that it was actually a non-infallible, non-defined teaching which might change someday, and was that any help to them? No on both counts.

        I think of abused wives told to remain in the marriage to preserve the sacramental bond. Was it any help to them that this wasn’t, technically, a solemnly defined teaching and it might change one day? Obviously not. As we try to minimize any past position in our exercise to show that change didn’t happen, we should keep in mind the real-life people who were taught, and felt they had to hold, that position.

        One of the least appealing features of organized religion is the way it makes some people hold to absolutist positions in the face of contrary evidence. Religion at its best makes people more free, more honest, more open-minded, more rational, but at its worst it does the opposite. Sigh.

        I would think that Christians, of all people, would be able to admit “We were wrong.” Why is that so hard for us?

        awr

      2. The cases where doctrine/ morals clearly changed include, for example, slavery,

        A case so clear that Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. denied that it changed in the way you said it changed.

        Some of your other “clear” cases are muddled as well.

        When I read such sophistry, I think often of the ordinary people of the time.

        So it’s wrong to suggest that people who discern differently are capitulating to the spirit of the age, but it’s OK to call people who discern differently sophists?

      3. Mr Howard, you are nit-picking. Are you denying that the church’s position on slavery has changed 180 degrees? It’s irrelevant whether that position changed in the way Anthony says it has. The real issue is whether or not it has changed.

        Doctrine develops. Belief changes. It has to, in order to keep pace with the discoveries in the sciences and humanities. Belief is a human attempt to express, as well as possible, what human beings hold to be an appropriate expression of what they accept at any given time.

        You haven’t shown, much less, persuaded anyone how some other positions held by Anthony are “muddled.” All you have done is to make an unsubstantiated claim to that effect.

        Anthony was careful to avoid the term sophist. His views focus on the argument relating to sophistry. It is you who have tried to accuse him of making the argument an ad hominem one.

      4. Furthermore, a brief look at the ecclesial support enjoyed by Sepúlvada in his defence of the Spanish Empire’s right of conquest and colonization of the Americas will demonstrate how radically the church’s position on slavery has progressed.

      5. Mr Howard, you are nit-picking. Are you denying that the church’s position on slavery has changed 180 degrees? It’s irrelevant whether that position changed in the way Anthony says it has. The real issue is whether or not it has changed.

        I’m not denying that it has changed. I’m denying that it has “clearly changed.” when Cardinal Dulles writes that it has not changed, but rather the circumstances in which the teaching is applied have changed.

        I think you’re the one nitpicking my formulation on the sophistry point. Whether he called anyone a sophist or just accused them of engaging in sophistry, it’s remarkably similar to the manner of argumentation for which Matthew was rebuked.

      6. You haven’t shown, much less, persuaded anyone how some other positions held by Anthony are “muddled.” All you have done is to make an unsubstantiated claim to that effect.

        It’s not the positions held by Fr. Ruff that are muddled, but the clarity with which we can see that the Church’s position has changed. I’ve shown (as others have) that the slavery example (specifically that the Church once held slavery to not be opposed to the natural law and now holds that it is opposed to the natural law) is far from clear, since a well respected theologian (Cardinal Dulles) holds the opposite view. You of course, haven’t been persuaded. You can’t know whether I’ve persuaded anyone else. My point is that there should be nuance on both sides, not allegations of sophistry.

    5. encourage the young, boys especially, to pray and discern their vocation in life.

      Why boys especially? Why should one not encourage girls as much as boys to pray and discern their vocation in life? Is it because girls cannot become priests? Do you mean that vocations other than priestly vocations have lesser value? Do you mean that girls are therefore not worthy of the same attention?

      Compare your offhand remark with Pope Benedict’s homily, which I offer for your reflection: “From the very first pages of the Bible, we see how man and woman, created in the image of God, are meant to complement one another as stewards of God’s gifts and partners in communicating his gift of life, both physical and spiritual, to our world. Sadly, this God-given dignity and role of women has not always been sufficiently understood and esteemed. The Church, and society as a whole, has come to realize how urgently we need what the late Pope John Paul II called the ‘prophetic charism’ of women as bearers of love, teachers of mercy and artisans of peace, bringing warmth and humanity to a world that all too often judges the value of a person by the cold criteria of usefulness and profit. By its public witness of respect for women, and its defense of the innate dignity of every human person, the Church in the Holy Land can make an important contribution to the advancement of a culture of true humanity and the building of the civilization of love.

  5. What is the situation in Wallonia? Yes, I am cognizant of the cultural and parliamentary divide between the Dutch-speaking and French-speaking cultures in Belgium. Still, I am surprised that there aren’t Francophone voices in the petition. Perhaps Walloon clergy and laity have voiced support for the Flemish initiative in the press and in private.

    re: Matthew Hazell on February 11, 2012 – 4:07 pm

    If people want just anyone to be given the ability to lead a parish community, if they wish women to be ordained, if they think it “fortunate” that places exist where such things are already done, then why don’t they go to those places?

    Have you worshiped in places where women are priests or pastors and lead Christian churches? Perhaps you should some day. Just four days ago I had the honor of celebrating the anniversary of the Anglican ordination of a priest of my Faculty. Her homiletic ability is superlative and enlightening. Secretly, I wish that she could step in at Mass and preach in the stead of many Roman Catholic priests I have known through the years. Of course, what I have said has completely destroyed my traditionalist cred. I’ll happily take up my hammer and smash some bricks myself.

    I suspect that the Austrian and Flemish petitioners recognize what I have also learned: once a person is enlightened by a priest or pastor with commendable pastoral or homiletic abilities, the bar of masculine gender assignment and Catholic ontological language pale against ability. The inability or refusal to grapple with the gender or ontology of Catholic orders is in fact a refusal to countenance the possibility that we are not the master of the Holy Spirit. This is a most sobering thought that has seared my mind.

    1. All my Walloon Belgian friends think the same way as the Fleming Belgians. This is not about linguistic culture, but about people who are capable of thinking for themselves and who are no longer content simply to do something because someone else says so.

    2. I am a convert from Protestantism, so yes, I have worshipped in such settings before.

      And I fully accept that I have heard Protestant preachers of both sexes who are better preachers than my parish priest. But the special vocation of the Catholic priest has never been reducible to mere ability.

      1. Matthew Hazell on February 12, 2012 – 7:00 am

        Yes, there are two minimal qualifications for the Catholic priesthood as of this moment: celibacy and the male sex. The first is disciplinary.

        The second, the necessity of the male sex, is held by the Church as a teaching of the magisterium. I am fully aware of the complicated strands that surround the ontology of Orders. I am also well aware that ontological language girds the sacraments as well.

        Even so, it is very difficult to simply disable emotional considerations in the face of theology and compulsory teaching. The challenge for the orthodox Catholic is the maintenance of an unwavering, de fide conviction in the necessity of the male sex for ordination despite doubts that the male sex is an integral, even mystical, part of Orders. Perhaps an affirmation of the pastoral abilities of women might inevitably lead the mind towards an evil or sinful rejection of the ontological underpinnings of orders. Few forces, other than death, can stop the human mind from doubting, however.

        If indeed the male sex is an infallible component of Orders, then I must submit as a Catholic regardless of any subjectivity. This submission is difficult when presented with equally complicated experiential information.

  6. Claire Mathieu :

    Add my name to the Paul Inwood fanclub please. Especially for “Centre of my Life” which I want sung at my funeral,

    (off-topic)
    Paul Inwood!!
    We recently sang “Make us turn to you”. It was striking, haunting; so moving, even during rehearsal, that I looked at the composer’s name to see where it came from: from you!
    I love your music.

    Only comments with a full name will be approved.

  7. Blind obedience to the magisterium is disqualified by one simple reminder: for 700 years the magisterium thought it was a very good thing to torture and murder those suspected or heresy or witchcraft, to put Jews in ghettoes, to burn sodomites. JP2 called for a purification of memory but the atavistic tribalism of many Catholics has clogged progress. The bishops’ campaigns against women and gays in the USA and the Philippines is part of this atavism.

  8. I suspect any young Catholic today in college or in a professional career who actually made public their belief that sides with Humanae Vitae and abstinence and the role of government is not to interfere with the role of religion, would be crucified in an academic setting by their professors or peers. (I know this to be the case with many of my college age parishioners who have told me what they have to endure in the south when it becomes known in an academic setting that they are believing, practicing Catholics). In the past this harassment was becasue of unecumenical religious prejudice amongst Christians. Today however it is the profound prejudice of secularism toward religion in general and Catholicism in particular.
    The logic of the young Catholic in the CNN report is terribly flawed but quite understandable. What mother who knows her son is a gang member wouldn’t be more than happy for him to wear a bullet proof vest when he fights gang members? What father knowing that his son who drag races illegally shouldn’t put on a helmet for protection when he breaks the law? But isn’t that enabling crime and bad behavior? (Parents and clergy are some of the most notorious enablers of bad behavior of their teenage or adult children/parishioners and psychologically deny that by thinking it is love or a kind pastoral solution.) Shouldn’t parents (and the Church) not enable bad behavior but get to the root of it and show solutions that avoid crime and or sin and death rather than shield it? And shouldn’t young Catholics in a Catholic academic setting be equipped to deal with the hostility of secularism that will cook them in its toxic stew rather than throw these young Catholics into that toxic stew as seasoning?

    1. Also, the young woman is mixes apples and oranges. Using the pill to medicate an actual medical problem which she describes is perfectly moral in Catholic teaching.

      In terms of the rebellion of Belgium priest, laity and others elsewhere–there is nothing new under the sun. This has been going on in one form another since Jesus Christ (and before within Judaism). Those who foment this kind of division within Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular have the right to organize and the right to “free will.” However, the Church’s leadership, meaning the Pope and the bishops have the right to define the boundaries of Catholic faith and praxis and to determine when individuals or groups have gone beyond those boundaries. Sometimes formal interdicts are necessary and even excommunication which are loving pastoral tools that call those who are leaning toward schism or apostasy back to the fold of the Church. There may be those who like enabling the bad behavior of these anarchists in some of the priests and laity of Belgian, but we have to ask is enabling a neo-Protestant reformation good in an already terribly fragmented
      Christianity? Shouldn’t someone say no to enabling the
      sin of Pride exhibited by these sorts of schismatic leaning
      groups who probably have misguided “good” intentions, mother who tells her gang member son to use a bullet proof vest
      to prevent him from getting killed when he gang bangs?

      good intentions but are terribly misled?

      1. For a more complete grasp of Father’s “loving pastoral tools” take a look at his blog Southern Orders. Here is an example quoted by Mary Burke in another thread of MacDonald’s careful compartmentalising of what he says here on Pray Tell and the extremism he preaches there. In relation to Vatican II he opines

        “Lack of backbone in the appropriate use of Church discipline, public excommunication, censure, and the like

        “Vatican II help create apostates such as Nancy Pelosi and Katherine Sebelious, Joseph Biden, Ted Kennedy and other public but infamous Catholics who trash the Church and her true identity and all have done so without impunity or the threat of excommunication the possibility of hell fire and damnation”

      2. formal interdicts are necessary and even excommunication which are loving pastoral tools

        Loving

        You keep using that word, but I do not think you know what it means.

      3. In today readings which speak of quarantine sinners,
        because of the possibility of contagion and yes
        in Old Testament and New Testament times,
        sin and illness were seen as a unit, those the fear
        of contagion very real, Jesus ultimately lifts that
        quarantine when the leper acknowledges his need to
        Jesus to be cured. But he does not challenge
        the need for being quarantined when one is contagious.

        So I ask you, was Archbishop Rummel of the Arch-
        diocese of New Orleans wrong in 1960 when
        he was trying to integrate the Catholic schools there
        and Leander Perez a well known Catholic politician
        fought him tooth and nail to the point that he
        even got on top of the roof of the Archbishop’s
        residence and stomped on it late at night (which
        was a tibit of information I received this morning
        from an African American parishioner who lived
        in New Orleans at the time) and was ultimately
        excommunicated for this offense by the good
        Archbishop who would not allow the contagion
        of Perez’s actions infect his archdiocese at that critical
        juncture the the south’s move at desegregation. Rummel
        was a pioneer in fact. His act of loving, pastoral
        care not only of his flock who could have been and many
        were, being infected by Perez’s actions and of Perez
        himself allowed the tool of excommunciation to send
        a very clear message to that politician and it
        eventually led to his repentance and complete
        restoration to the Church as the public excommunication
        was lifted. My african American parishioner said
        it sent chills down her spine to hear me speak of that
        this morning and how grateful that I tied that into
        Leviticus and Mark’s readings for the Mass today.
        I think Archbishop Rummel had backbone in
        the deep south to to that against the tide of many
        Catholics and others who would have outright
        rejected his authority in integrating the Catholic
        schools as far back as 1960. I stand by my blog
        post on those you named in your comments and the
        need for…

      4. excommunication and my African American
        parishioner could make a connection to the need
        for that today given the outright rebellion of high
        profile Catholics in the political world and thanked
        me for it.

  9. Fr. Allan – like your personal blog, Southern Orders, your understanding of the church’s mission, ecclesiology, and theology is truncated and narrow.

    The church’s understanding, tradition, and history is simply based upon a “tripod” – scripture/tradition, magisterium and sensus fidelium. Over-emphasizing any one leg of the tripod does damage to the nature of the church’s faith.

    If it were my choice, folks that write things such as your Southern Orders blog would be limited and silenced as “schismatic leaning groups who probably have misguided “good” intentions but, in reality, act and speak as if they have the “right” answer in their fixation on the past, rejection of the principles of Vatican II resulting in continued church polarization, culture wars, and diverting resources, spiritual energy, etc. from the church’s mission.

    Let’s see – your latest post: http://southernorderspage.blogspot.com/2012/02/time-to-admit-it-catholic-church-has.html

    May be your opinion but it rejects 98% of all catholics in the US and ignores the actual history of the HV announcement; the committee that made the original decision/recommendation; and the proven Paul VI action that had nothing to do with the merits of the papal commission’s conclusions but had everything to do with a small, curial group that exerted pressure based upon their belief that any decision that changed what the church had always said would weaken the papacy, infallibility, and set a precendent that would appear to be “Protestant” – or in your words, giving in to secularism.

    Rewiring history based upon a lack of knowledge and historical discipline is more like what the secular media does – now that is truly caving into the secular world.

    1. Bill, I’m glad you read my blog and now have advertised it to a wider audience 🙂 ! As of yet, my bishop hasn’t placed an
      interdict against me or suspended me or even said boo to
      me about it, but when he approached me in a pastoral
      way and asks me to tone it down, you know what, I will
      and in a heart beat!

      1. Sad – you make your personal moral decisions based upon whether “daddy bishop” says yeah or nay? How mature and adult you are. Echoes of our good Chicago priest writer and his famous phrase – priests are forever 14!”

        Note – you did not respond to any of my points above – you skipped over them and appealed to a straw man – “bishop didn’t say anything”. So what?

    2. If it were my choice, folks that write things such as your Southern Orders blog would be limited and silenced…

      So, basically, you would operate on the “agree with me, or shut up” principle? I suppose it’s a popular principle in many circles, be they left or right, liberal or traditional, ecclesial or secular.

      Doesn’t make it any less hypocritical, though.

      1. Yeah, that’s a pretty disgraceful thing for any modern person to say. Maybe “Bill Dehaas” should print out a copy of his blog and burn it in the public square. That’ll show ’em.

      2. I’m sure that what Bill is calling our attention to is the difference between what MacDonald posts on his blog and the tone he adopts here. There he fulminates against the church’s “lack of backbone.(in relation to the issue of) public excommunication” etc. Here, he is rather more plausible and couches his views in more measure tones.

      3. Not really. Fr. Allan posts two very different things on PrayTell and then Southern Orders. Yes, that is his right but, as an ordained member of the RC clergy and a pastor, his position is just a touch different from you or me. And yes, I do say “limited” because, in my opinion, a public person or a TV station such as EWTN appears to common folk as a legitimate spokesperson for the church (when, in fact, both portray a decided, biased viewpoint which should not be considered as the legitimate voice of the church)

        Also, as suggested below, it does seem rather two faced when you find comments written by him on his blog that are radically different from what he states on PrayTell.

        There appear to be issues aroung honesty, consistency, fraud?, etc. Also, welcome pastors with blogs who post weekly homilies, link to specific church, theologians, papers, articles that show the church in all of its diversity. But, Southern Orders is an “ideological” blog – sorry, this is not the role of a pastor. Yes, it may be legal – shoot, even Archbishop Chaput writes and publishes outlandish editorials but always ends with the very legal disclaimer that this is his private opinion only and not something he says in his role as archbishop. Please!

      4. I notice you try to rationalise “limited”, Bill, but have not dealt with your concerning use of the word “silenced”.

        Are we to assume anything from your silence in this regard? Free speech for you and your comrades, limitations and silence for everyone else?

      5. There are many comments on this blog that are just as outlandish as any you might find on my personal blog, yet there is no effort, unless it attacks people rather than ideas, to
        censor these, although I do censor some comments on
        mind when they go over board but some slip by.

        What I think most of us recoil from are not any remarks that
        are outlandish but relying upon “intellectual snobbery” to make
        one’s point. While the point made is valid, the snobbery is very
        telling. This type of snobbery seems to come more from
        progressives in the academic world and less so from traditionalists who are also academics; but I will stand corrected
        if one has done a study on this.

    3. “The church’s understanding, tradition, and history is simply based upon a “tripod” – scripture/tradition, magisterium and sensus fidelium. Over-emphasizing any one leg of the tripod does damage to the nature of the church’s faith.”

      Ah…Bill,

      Dei Verbum (10) says that the “tripod” is Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church. “It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others…” The sensus fidelium, therefore, cannot be a part of the three legged stool. It doesn’t teach in an official and binding capacity God’s revealed truth, indeed it cannot, but rather demonstrates the indefectability of the Church that has adhered unwaveringly to the Sacred deposit revealed and upheld by the three legged stool.

      “The sensus fidelium” must be guided by the Magisterium and the sensus fidelium includes all “from the bishops (the Pope as well) to the last of the faithful.”

      1. Who educated you? (oh yeah, I have repeatedly asked for that information). Look at VII (not a papal document such as Dei Verbum).

        You obviously don’t understand that the sensus fidelium is found in both tradition and magisterium. Only certain segments and more recent centuries of papal announcements have taken the “traditional” understanding of “magisterium” and rewritten it to exclusively mean episcopal, curial, and papal pronouncements only. Magisterium includes both the heirarchy and the people of God. Your reference to Dei Verbum is misplaced…..where do theologians belong in your description? They influence scripture, tradition, and the magisterium (they are part of the much wider understanding of magisterium).

      2. Bill, a point of clarification: Dei Verbum is the Dogmatic Constitution of Vatican II. Perhaps you have another document in mind.

      3. Fr. Flynn – I did have another papal document in mind and meant to say that Dei Verbum explained and outlined those three elements differently than the brief paragraph referenced.

      4. Bill, I was going to ask you the same question you asked
        Fr. Steve, “Where were you educated?” given your response
        to him and your confusion about Vatican II documents, but
        I’ve decided to take the high road and not do that, tempted
        though I was.
        However, in terms of responding to your democratic,
        people’s will form of Catholicism, I ask you did you feel
        that Archbishop Rummel of New Orleans should have bent
        to the will of the people of his Archdiocese, the majority
        of them at the time who more than likely preferred the
        “separate but equal” status quo in term of integration.
        Should he not have excommunicated Leander Perez and
        just simply confirmed him and a great number of CAtholics
        who agreed with Perez?
        I think you need to reread the Vatican II documents and
        all subsequent documents and the documents of Councils
        that preceded Vatican II. If you were taught needs, then, I would
        have to ask, “Where did you get your education” and without
        sarcasm.

      5. My last question Bill if I could have edited it should have
        been, “If you were not taught these (Vatican II, post-Vatican
        II documents and documents of previous Councils) then
        “Where did you get your education?”

      6. Yes, Fr. Allan, MH, etc. – in my haste, I misread Dei Verbum in Fr. Steve’s post and continued on thinking of a minor papal pronouncement. Yes, my mistake and, in the words of Fr. Allan, my “snobbery”. Tsk, Tsk.

        Actually, I stand by my comments that even Dei Verbum but especially VII documents set out a different way to understand magisterium, tradition, and scripture. And yes, Dei Verbum describes the sensus fidelim – in fact, starts with the people of God rather than the hierarchy; includes theologians, etc.

        Also, support and agree with others that Southern Orders is about as far right as Matthew Fox is to the left. And some of the posts are insulting at best. (no comment about your posting as an active RC pastor?)

        So, affirm Fr. Allan that he can be the best of snobs right along with the rest of us.

        Education – three masters – all from DePaul University and DeAndreis Institute of Theology – MDiv, MA in Sacramental Theology, MA in American History. Also, have certifications in pastoral counseling, formation direction, substance abuse, addictions, spanish from MACC and Universidad de Ibero-Americano; liturgy from CTU and Boston College. Closed four minor seminaries, one college seminary, and transitioned a theologate to another campus. Worked in Guatamela in the missions. Was part of the original Vincentian Studies Institute and studied at the Paris motherhouse of the CMs and DCs. Was on the Personnel Board. Certified Employee Assistance Professional; father of two; married; and working in management at a Fortune 500 Corporation.

        But, you are right; guess I am just a snob.

        Archbishop Rummel – actually did my deacon internship in St. Bernard Parish – that is the parish that Judge Perez ruled. Rummel was correct in what he did and compared to bishops in the midwest and NE, he was way ahead of his time. He did get substantial support in NO proper – you would have to understand local politics and the role of the Perez’s. & Fr. Steve?

      7. Actually, I stand by my comments that even Dei Verbum but especially VII documents set out a different way to understand magisterium, tradition, and scripture.

        In my view, your mistake is to assume that “different” means, among other things, “discontinuous”. But at PrayTell, that debate seems to go round and round with no discernible end. (!)

        Dei Verbum describes the sensus fidelim

        Nowhere in DV does the phrase occur. In fact, according to DV, “the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.” (DV 10). And again: “For all of what has been said about the way of interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgment of the Church, which carries out the divine commission and ministry of guarding and interpreting the word of God.” (DV 12).

        What Dei Verbum says about the role of scholars and theologians seems to be summed up in ch. 6, e.g., “The sacred synod encourages the sons of the Church and Biblical scholars to continue energetically, following the mind of the Church, with the work they have so well begun, with a constant renewal of vigor.” (DV 23, my emphasis). You yourself may be able to read DV as starting with the people of God, but DV itself says that their understanding of the written word of God is regulated by the “living teaching office”, the “mind of the Church”, i.e. the magisterium.

        I’m struggling to see where this is “different” enough for you to even suggest that the sensus fidelium is part of this “tripod” of the faith.

      8. Matthew, your reading of DV seems to ignore

        1) a good bit of the text itself, which makes it clear that ‘the living teaching office of the Church’ is not simply bishops and priests but includes deacons and catechists and religious and other exegetes

        2) Lumen Gentium, the other dogmatic constitution besides DV to emerge from Vatican II. A strong theology of the laity runs throughout LG, e.g. in §31, “These faithful are by baptism made one body with Christ and are constituted among the People of God; they are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ; and they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.”

        3) The historical context of DV, in particular the schema De Fontibus Revelationis written very much in the language and style of the counter-reformation and ultimately rejected in favour of DV.

        Easy to equate Church with clergy, or to fall into the trap of thinking that sensus fidelium refers only to the laity, rather than to the entire body of Christ.

        It seems appropriate to be having this exchange on a post about Belgian priests and laity together, pressing for reform.

      9. Thanks to those who have responded. MH – you are reading a VII document in isolation; you also have not read the history of the thinkers and writers that led to DV.

        Here is an unpublished paper by one of the editors of the Alberigo History of VII, Rev. J. Komonchak:

        http://jakomonchak.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/preparatory-theological-commission.pdf

        To your comment about “discontinuity” which is a “recent” invention these words in the preparatory committe by deLubac:

        “One could say that, from a certain point of view, there are two kinds of theologians. The ones say, “Let’s reread Scripture, St. Paul, etc.; let’s examine the Tradition; let’s listen to the great classical theologians; let’s not forget to pay attention to the Greeks; let’s not neglect history; let’s place ourselves in this vast context and within it let us understand the ecclesiastical texts. And let’s not forget to inform ourselves about the problems, needs and difficulties of today. Etc.” The others say: “Let’s reread the ecclesiastical texts of these last hundred years: encyclicals, letters, occasional discourses,//decisions taken against so-and-so, monita [warnings] of the Holy Office, etc..
        Out of all this, without letting anything be lost and without correcting the slightest word, let’s make a patch-work; let’s push the thought a little further; let us give each assertion a
        greater value. Above all, let us not be looking at anything outside; let us not lose ourselves in new research on Scripture or the Tradition, nor a fortiori on recent thought, which would only make us risk relativizing the absolute we have.” Only the theologian of the second sort is considered “safe” in a certain milieu.”

        Your comment about the “sensus fidelium” fits into the latter camp.

      10. Jonathan: “the text itself […] makes it clear that ‘the living teaching office of the Church’ is not simply bishops and priests but includes deacons and catechists and religious and other exegetes

        On what basis do you link those two ideas from DV 10 and DV 25?

        DV 10: “Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast […] so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort. But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church.”

        DV 25: “Therefore, all the clergy must hold fast to the Sacred Scriptures through diligent sacred reading and careful study, especially the priests of Christ and others, such as deacons and catechists who are legitimately active in the ministry of the word.”

        While all the baptized share in the threefold office of Christ (priest, prophet/teacher, king), we do so to different degrees. Not every member of the baptized exercises “the living teaching office” of the Church simply by virtue of his or her baptism. (If that were the case, the phrasing of DV 10 seems redundant.)

      11. Jonathan: ‘the living teaching office of the Church’ is not simply bishops and priests but includes deacons and catechists and religious and other exegetes

        As Jeffrey has already mentioned, you over-reach yourself here. The wording and structure of DV 10 doesn’t support your assertion that, because I happen to be a catechist, that means I am part of the “living teaching office of the Church”.

        A strong theology of the laity runs throughout LG

        Yes, it does. But, I confess, I don’t really see what you’re trying to get at here. I don’t see any contradiction between what I read DV as plainly saying about the magisterium and LG’s ecclesiology.

        LG 10 reaffirms the distinction between the ministerial and common priesthoods: “The ministerial priest, by the sacred power he enjoys, teaches and rules the priestly people… [the faithful] exercise [their] priesthood in receiving the sacraments, in prayer and thanksgiving, in the witness of a holy life, and by self-denial and active charity.” It also re-affirms that the two priesthoods are interrelated; but that’s not the same as saying that the laity are also somehow part of the Church’s teaching office.

        And what does LG itself say about this sensus fidelium? “It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the word of God. Through it, the people of God adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints, penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life.” (LG 12, my emphases) And again: “The laity should, as all Christians, promptly accept in Christian obedience decisions of their spiritual shepherds, since they are representatives of Christ as well as teachers and rulers in the Church.” (LG 37)

        LG 30-38 (on the laity) makes no sense without 18-29 (on the…

      12. …hierarchy).

        (Entirely unrelated: I was apparently within the character limit for posts! Why did the comments system cut me off just at the end of my sentence?! Ah well – who really knows how computer software works anyway?) 🙂

    4. Bill, I’m a regular reader of Fr. McDonald’s blog and have read a great many of his comments here at PT. I have never noticed any contradiction between his views expressed at difference times and places. Nor have I ever noticed any remark of his that departed either from standard Catholic faith or from the bounds of good Christian charity. Would that the same could be said of more of the regular participants here–where, as a matter of fact, I think Fr. McDonald has been subjected to more uncharitably personal attacks than any other single individual at the various blogs I regularly visit. But perhaps there is some good even in this–as it affords him the opportunity to others here an obviously much-needed example of unfailing charity and good will in his responses to even the most unfair and insincere accusations.

      1. “It affords him (MacDonald) the opportunity to others here an obviously much-needed example of unfailing charity and good will” – Henry Edwards

        Unfailing charity and goodwill? Like the following from MacDonald’s blog (already quoted above)?

        “(Vatican II’s) lack of backbone in the appropriate use of Church discipline, public excommunication, censure, and the like

        “Vatican II help(ed) create apostates such as Nancy Pelosi and Katherine Sebelious, Joseph Biden, Ted Kennedy and other public but infamous Catholics who trash the Church and her true identity and all have done so without impunity or the threat of excommunication the possibility of hell fire and damnation”

        Mr Edwards, vacuous inanities which bear no resemblance to the truth need to be recognised for what they are.

      2. I presume he (MacDonald) means “with impunity” although the contradictions between his blog and his contributions here are so rife that it’s difficult to say.

      3. Mr. Flynn, would you seriously argue that the excessively tolerant atmosphere engendered by Vatican II has no relation to the subsequent lack of public excommunication–even of notoriously and publicly apostate sinners–for the salvation of souls by the prevention of scandal and consequent spread of serious sin? (Not to mention the primary purpose of excommunication, whether or not public, is the pastoral correction of sinners.)

        In any event, whether or not one agrees with the quoted positions, their statement by someone who believes them to be true surely is no breach of charity or good will. Indeed, a greater concern for the spiritual welfare of those endangered by public apostasy may be a dictate of Christian charity.

      4. I’d like to thank Henry for his charitable remarks. I would suggest
        also that if someone wants to make a comment on my blog
        about what I post there that they do that. I’m flatter I am so
        many secret admirers.
        But getting back to this post and the comment I made very
        early on about a young practicing and believing Catholic in
        an academic setting (mostly secular, but I’ve heard horror stories
        about Catholic academic settings) that if that person made
        known their orthodox (right teaching/praxis) points of view
        that that young person would be ridiculed, attacked, harassed in a persona way and marginalized with their intellectual abilities
        called into question. This would not happen to a young Catholic who dissents from orthodoxy.
        Many comments toward me prove my point and eloquently so.
        However, I choose to be a part of the conversation and have a very thick skin and understand Catholic liberalism having been
        schooled in it and now rejecting most of it and intentionally so because it has been a utter failure. But can you imagine a young man or woman in college or in the work place having to put up with similar attacks, not just on their faith, but on them?

      5. And if you or others wish to insist “with impunity” on the existence of contradictions between positions taken by Fr. McDonald at different places, perhaps you can inform the rest of us by pointing out one explicitly. Rather than merely pointing out a difference between your opinion and his. (That being a difference between him and you, not between him and himself.)

      6. Mr Edwards, the vacuous inanities I was referring to were yours, not his, those contained in your review of what he says here and elsewhere, the same vacuous inanities with which you haunt this and similar blogs.

      7. Fr. Allan – don’t want to post on Southern Orders for fear that I could “catch” a “contagion”.

      8. Then how about this incidental support of Fr. McDonald from perhaps our foremost U.S. canon law professor:

        “Before proceeding, let’s be very clear about something: verification of the conditions described in Canon 915 does not merely authorize ministers to withhold holy Communion from those ‘obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin’; it requires ministers to withhold holy Communion in such cases, this, upon pain of dereliction of their sacred office (1983 CIC 128, 1389).

        Now, I suggest that there is no US Catholic politician whose conduct at the national level is more stridently and widely pro-abortion (to name just one area in which Pelosi’s machinations are gravely objectionable) and whose scandalous rhetoric is more overtly Catholic (many of her bizarre assertions the bishops have had to stop and refute) than is Nancy Pelosi’s. If her prolonged public conduct does not qualify as obstinate perseverance in manifest grave sin, then, in all sincerity, I must admit to not knowing what would constitute obstinate perseverance in manifest grave sin.”

        http://canonlawblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/one-canon-915-case-at-time-nancy-pelosi.html

  10. And the end product I speak of is more priestly vocations. Why, if we are Catholic, would my hope for more priests not be shared by all Catholics?

    What if God is sending us plenty of priests, but we are turning them away because they are gay, and/or female, and/or married? Or even gluten intolerant!

    1. Then I’m sure the Anglican ecclesial community would have them!

      In all seriousness, your antinomianism would destroy the sacrament of Holy Orders. Not just anyone can or should be ordained. And not all individuals discern rightly in this regard; whether one feels like one’s vocation is the priesthood doesn’t mean objectively that it is.

      1. You still haven’t answered the question. At the very least, all acknowledge that the rule of celibacy is a man-made rule and could potentially be changed.

        Also, consider how you frame the debate; apparently single males receive a call, all others only feel a call!

      2. Celibacy is a discipline and could, in theory, be changed. I don’t see it changing any time soon, though. Perhaps we all ought to re-read Sacerdotalis caelibatus, for I don’t think an awful lot fundamentally has changed in the debate since 1967.

        Also, consider how you frame the debate; apparently single males receive a call, all others only feel a call!

        Not all single males receive a call; some men who feel like they have have a call in this regard ultimately do not. My point is that it is not enough to feel like one has a call. Feelings have to be tested and discerned objectively, by those other than the individual concerned. (This holds for any vocation, not just that of Holy Orders.) Part of that discernment, whether we like it or not, involves the dogma of the Church: only baptised men can receive Holy Orders, only a man and woman who freely choose to can contract Holy Matrimony, etc.

        This is the sort of thing I am talking about when I say that some in the Church have capitulated, for the most part unconsciously, to the culture. In the West, at least, now it is how one feels about something that is the ultimate criteria for whether or not something is true. It is not so in the Christian faith; indeed, it cannot be so. Such relativism is, in the end, incompatible with the idea that revealed Truth exists and can be known.

  11. Fr Ruff:

    “what the Catholic Church will teach 100 years from now about women’s ordination or same-sex unions or all the other issues.”

    What the True Church has taught for 2000 years about these issues, She will continue to teach for for another, nay, 2 million years and more. These issues are non-negotiable. Have you and others here ever thought that maybe you are in the wrong religious organisation?

    As for slavery and Pius IX, here is what the 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia says about his views on slavery:
    “one of the most illustrious adversaries of slavery, Pius IX branded the “supreme villainy” (summum nefas) of the slave traders.”

    Would you care to reference your claim about Pius IX?

    1. The Holy Office issued a statement, signed by Pius IX, in 1866, which read: “”Slavery itself…is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law…The purchaser [of the slave] should carefully examine whether the slave who is put up for sale has been justly or unjustly deprived of his liberty, and that the vendor should do nothing which might endanger the life, virtue, or Catholic faith of the slave.”

  12. Pio IX (the only Pope to have a double negative after his name) also insisted on his right, as sovereign of the Papal States to execute criminals in that jurisdiction.

    Mr Wowczuk, one wonders at your designation of women priests and same-sex relationships as “non-negotiable.” So, you would place them in the same category as, for example, the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity or the hypostatic union.

    I’m afraid your judgement says as much about you as it does about these two topics. What are you afraid of? Misogyny and homophobia have nothing to recommend them to a twenty-first century Christian.

    1. Mr Wowczuk, one wonders at your designation of women priests and same-sex relationships as “non-negotiable.” So, you would place them in the same category as, for example, the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity or the hypostatic union.

      In no way does that follow. That I exist is just as certain, just as “non-negotiable,” as the doctrine of the Trinity, but that doesn’t mean that the fact of my existence is a dogma of the Church. The funny thing about categories is that you can be in more than one category!

      I’m afraid your judgement says as much about you as it does about these two topics. What are you afraid of? Misogyny and homophobia have nothing to recommend them to a twenty-first century Christian.

      I’m always impressed with the way people dance right up to the edge of saying something that could get themselves in trouble, but back off of it. It makes little sense to attack Mr. Wowczuk as a homophobe and misogynist not for holding the opinion that women should not be ordained and that same-sex relationships are wrong when you don’t actually contradict those opinions, but merely the fact he holds that these are non-negotiable positions.

      1. Once again, Mr Howard, your contribution has debased the argument by departing from discussing the substantive issues involved. Instead, your contribution has sunken to argumenta ad hominem. It’s is the positions of homophobia and misogyny which I have repudiated. Like Father Anthony above, I was careful to argue in terms of the issues involved. It is you who have introduced the words homophobe and misogynist, thus focussing on the person making the argument, instead of the argument itself.

    2. I was careful to argue in terms of the issues involved. It is you who have introduced the words homophobe and misogynist, thus focussing on the person making the argument, instead of the argument itself.

      This is silly. You wrote:

      I’m afraid your judgement says as much about you as it does about these two topics. What are you afraid of? Misogyny and homophobia have nothing to recommend them to a twenty-first century Christian.

      You’re clearly saying that his argument says something about him. Or are you claiming that your invocation of “[m]isogyny and homophobia” following a claim that “[his] judgement says as much about [him] as it does about these two topics” was just an incidental comment not related to the rest of the paragraph? What is a misogynist and a homophobe but one who holds misogynist and homophobic opinions?

    3. “Capital punishment in Vatican City was legal between 1929 and 1969, reserved for attempted assassination of the Pope, although the Vatican City has never carried out an execution. The Holy See, however, carried out a number of executions during the existence of the Papal States.” Wikipedia

  13. It is interesting when rational arguments are wanting how some people start using labels. Stalin was quite good at that. The Gulag labor camps were full of labels.
    Whether one is a Christian in the first or the 21st century makes no difference. What was mortal sin then is still mortal sin today.
    If some would have taken the time to check the Latin of Pius IX, then they would have noticed that Pius spoke in the context of “servus” as servant. He also spoke of just and unjust servitude. The former was the punishment due to a crime. Pius IX was one of the most outspoken critics of “slavery” as we understand it today.
    By the way, the next time anyone who feels himself righteous about Pius IX buys a product from China, he should understand that he is a slave driver. Those workers are slaves to a very unjust political and economic system, working next to nothing for wages, and it is the one that buys their product that reaps the benefit of this modern slavery.

    1. Actually, if you look at the instruction approved by Pius IX, it says that it is explicitly talking about divine and natural law permitting the selling, buying, exchangin and giving of human beings, sounds like slavery to me. True there was the distinction between just and unjust servitute, but there were four reasons for just servitude: 1. Crime. 2. Capture in war, this extended beyond soldiers to civilians and children. 3. Persons voluntarily selling themselves or their chilrdren into slavery. 4. Being the child of a woman who is a slave. – These are the conditions outlined in Canon law by Pope Gregory IX.
      Hence even ‘just forms of slavery’ would be considered repugnant today, and no amount of ‘historical contextualising’ by people like Cardinal Dulles will convince me that current church teaching concerning slavery would allow for a hypothetical situation where it would be morally permissable to treat human beings as property.

      Here is the instruction approved by Blessed Pius IX:
      “Slavery itself, considered as such in its essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law, and there can be several just titles
      of slavery and these are referred to by approved theologians and commentators of the sacred canons. It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for
      a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given.”

      1. I’d also like to add to my comment, that Cardinal Levada, the current prefect for the congregation for the doctrine of the faith had this to say about the slavery issue in an interview:

        “There is a long tradition in the church of accepting the institution of slavery—John Noonan points this out effectively—but in the light of the repeated teachings of modern popes and the Second Vatican Council on the dignity of the human person, church teaching has evolved from acceptance of slavery as part of the human condition to its eventual condemnation. Slave labor is now rightly regarded as evil and a moral outrage.”
        http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=5427
        It is of course just an interview, and he’s not speaking in any official capacity as Prefect of CDF here, but I think at the very least, it shows that since he can say something like that without negative repurcussions (having to make a retraction, losing his position, etc.), i think it’s a sign that this is, in some minimal sense, an acceptable position.

    2. “Whether one is a Christian in the first or the 21st century makes no difference. What was mortal sin then is still mortal sin today.”

      You have to tie that in with the fact that there could be sins that the church views as being mortal, which may not be. In other words, the church hierarchy may claim a sin to be mortal when, in fact, it never ever was.

      I’m not speaking of any particular sin, by the way. It’s about the church having a hard time admitting that they were wrong. They’ll say that they’ve misinterpreted, or that they misunderstood, or that they didn’t have all the facts. But they don’t like to say they were wrong, because that opens the door to people thinking that they might be wrong about other things.

  14. Cardinal Dulles was by no means a first-rate theologian. The mark of true quality is that you can instantly name the author’s masterpiece. What was that of Dulles? “Models of the Church”? A wimpy product. Son of John Foster Dulles, he was made much of in the USA, but his stilted, ultra-conservative argumentation is sophistical. For a theologian to be made a Cardinal in the current Church is no badge of honor (I make a slight exception for Kasper and Schoenborn).

    1. That may be so in your opinion, Fr O’Leary.

      Slightly tweaked and trimmed, and your post could be about Frs Küng, Rahner, or Curran, etc. At least, in my opinion. 🙂

  15. Catholic atavism and tribalism ensures that nothing in church history will be allowed to die. Dulles’ claim that the Church has never changed her position on slavery is an example of that hermeneutic of continuity which constitutes the triumph of the undead. The cult of St Philomena, to take a harmless example, is thriving in cyberspace. I found one rightwing Catholic professor calling for the canonization of the inquisitor Torquemada. Antisemitism never gives up, of course.

  16. Fr McDonald wrote (February 12, 2012 – 1:05 pm)

    In today readings which speak of quarantine sinners, because of the possibility of contagion and yes in Old Testament and New Testament times, sin and illness were seen as a unit, those the fear of contagion very real, Jesus ultimately lifts that quarantine when the leper acknowledges his need to Jesus to be cured. But he does not challenge the need for being quarantined when one is contagious.

    First observation: Fr M is learning from the new translation. That first sentence would win a prize – perhaps it could be called the Pell Award – from Vox Clara.

    Second: I have re-read those passages (Leviticus 13, Psalm 31, 1 Corinthians 10.31-11.1, Mark 1.40-45) and can find nothing that speaks of quarantining sinners.

    The equation of leprosy with sin, or the view of leprosy as a metaphor for sin is hardly new to Fr McDonald. Katharine Park, a medical historian, wrote that mediaeval European laws “aimed to set lepers apart as foci of moral and ritual defilement rather than as threats to public health”. Some of the Church fathers viewed leprosy as an effect of sin – St Jerome claimed it was a punishment for Adam and Eve’s original sin, and St Caesarius of Arles said that leprosy would strike the children of men who had intercourse during Lent or during their wives’ menstrual periods. (See Peter Allen, The wages of sin: sex and disease, past and present, University of Chicago Press, 2000).

    Nonetheless I don’t see how Fr McDonald can claim that ‘today readings … speak of quarantine sinners’ [sic]. The Bible also reads leprosy as a type for exclusion, the kind of exclusion that Jesus suffered. Isaiah 53.4 prophesied that the suffering servant who was to come would be ‘stricken, struck down by God and afflicted’ (quasi leprosum et percussum a Deo et humilitatum).

    Jesus as culture warrior? Excluder of lepers because of their sins? I don’t think so.

    1. Jonathan, our Lord and only our Lord can lift the quarantine
      that humanity experienced with the original disobedience of
      Adam and Even and every other disobedience of the Chosen
      People and their breaches of the Covenants God made with
      them. The same holds true of any actual sin that is committed
      as the Church understands the various aspects of actual sin.

      The symbolism of Jesus lifting the quarantine on this Leper
      is a sign of what He will do for everyone in the New Covenant
      in His Blood, shed on the Cross and confirmed in the Resurrection and giving of the Holy Spirit.
      Jesus is the Suffering Servant only in so far as He completely
      chooses this role in obedience to the will of His Father and at
      the cross takes on every quarantine possible, past, present and
      to come and brings that to the grave in His cosmic Sacrifice.
      I stand by the Church’s link of spiritual, mental and physical
      illnesses as a sign of fallen humanity’s “catching” this contagion
      from others and spreading it and the “punishment” or quarantine
      that God placed against the original sinners that only God can
      lift and He has done so in His beloved Son Jesus, of which the
      Gospel reading on Sunday was but a foretaste of what would
      come–Jesus is a willing Victim, not a victim of circumstances.

      1. Fr. Allan – “….the quarantine that humanity experienced with the original disobedience of Adam and Eve”

        Well, that is one theological approach but you lean too far. More contemporary views describe this biblical story as describing the condition of human life rather than some type of actual sin. When your theology is based upon that interpretation, then the paschal mystery becomes focused on Jesus paying a price for us; you highlight “sacrifice” too much in terms of God having to “obtain” our salvation. Does this mean that Adam/Eve were free to choose and what happens if they don’t? Actually, your timeline appears to make Jesus a victim of circumstances?

        This gets us into an “imagined” perfect world that Adam/Eve lived in as if they were actual historical characters – who sinned and then God had to act? Does this mean that without Adam/Eve there would be no paschal mystery; no Jesus as both god/man.

        This theological fight has gone on for centuries but your use of contagion (or should it be “condition”); punishment?; quarantine as “catching” and the punishment as “catching” seems to literal and misses too much of the fullness of this early Jewish literature. Sorry, your literal take almost seems like fundamentalism.

      2. Quite so, Bill. And that’s before giving any consideration to the talking serpent who hopped around in those days before it had to crawl as a punishment.

      3. No, Jesus touched the untouchable so show that the community of the Kingdom is an inclusive one. We must be imitators of Christ by reaching out to touch the untouchables and build up the Kingdom.

      4. Anyone who cobbles together remarks for public consumption, formatted in the way in which Rev MacDonald has done doesn’t deserve to have them read by others. It’s quite disrespectful towards those who log on here. As an example of how not to write English, the final sentence beats all. The fulsomely pious language is no excuse.

      5. Agreed, Katherine. When one writes a comment elsewhere and then pastes it into a combox here, before hitting the Submit button he needs to check for bad line breaks caused by superfluous carriage returns

    2. Jonathan, thank you for this very thoughtful and illuminating comment, and for the references contained in it. I did not know of the allusion to leprosy in Isaiah (at least as it exists in the Latin text you’ve quoted). Does the Hebrew do the same, I wonder?

      1. Thanks, Jeffrey, very interesting.

        Rita, I don’t have any Hebrew so I can’t add to what Jeffrey cited.

        The LXX uses πόνος (toil, stress, trouble, suffering) and πληγή (a blow, a stroke, but the term is used metaphorically to mean a heaven-sent plague). In Doric this became πλαγά, cognate with English ‘plague’.

      2. re: Jonathan Day on February 13, 2012 – 6:29 pm

        Thank you Jonathan! Brilliant!

        I also turned immediately to the Septuagint upon reading your post, but couldn’t make sense of the quasi leprosum in the Vulgate versus the LXX. Jerome’s rendering of πληγῇ is quite incisive. Similarly, his interpolation a Deo appears to be redundant at first glance. Perhaps a Deo is also linked to Jerome’s translation of πληγῇ. In both cases, Jerome has made explicit for his readers what is tacitly understood in the Greek.

        I don’t mean to ride on your coattails, Jonathan. However, this means that I now have to consider Doric as well as Attic meanings when reading the Septuagint. I’ll remember to stock up on extra headache medicine as I prepare to write my thesis 🙁

      3. Jordan, Liddell and Scott say that πληγή turns up as ‘a plague sent by Zeus’ or ‘the stroke of Zeus’ in Aeschylus (Διὸς πλαγὰν) and that Josephus speaks of ‘the ten plagues’ (δέκα πληγάς) of Egypt, clearly sent by God. Perhaps St Jerome was familiar with these classical references, even without the aid of the Perseus Project – all praise to the Perseus Project! – and therefore supplied a Deo in his translation.

        It is a good thing that Vox Clara weren’t around back then to catch him ‘adding words’ to the text!

    3. Jonathan, if indeed both sin and leprosy are contagious, might it not follow that quarantine or excommunication could be effective–or even, in some cases, necessary–ways to stop the spread of infection?

      1. Henry, as I understand it, leprosy can be cured through antibiotics, using multi-drug therapies to overcome evolved resistance. Even today, however, there are communities of sufferers who have been treated and are no longer contagious but who are nonetheless isolated because of the social stigma that the disease creates. According to the World Health Organization, treatment of leprosy is impeded in part because of the social stigma – or ‘quarantine’, if you like – that keeps people away from treatment.

        To connect this to debates going on within the Church today: there are voices, especially in America, calling for much more vigorous use of excommunication, exclusion from communion and the like. There are priests and bishops who use the pulpit to admonish divorced and remarried people, and gays, and warn them not to come to communion. I have no doubt that there are people baying for the excommunication of the signers of the Belgian petition. As our own Fr McDonald says, Sometimes formal interdicts are necessary and even excommunication which are loving pastoral tools that call those who are leaning toward schism or apostasy back to the fold of the Church.

        Yes, well.

        Is this approach even effective, let alone necesary? Perhaps in some situations. But our Lord showed us far better ways (see, among many other examples, Mark 2.16-17).

      2. No, Jesus was — notoriously, scandalously — a friend of sinners. He did not quaranting them or refuse identification with them. He became sin for our sakes. How does the Good News work. FIRST, Jesus befriends the sinners; THEN their hearts are turned to him in conversion. We do not earn his friendship by first being converted — that way lies pelagianism.

      3. Uh, I’m no professional theologian, but I’m fairly sure Jesus did not “become sin.” Just saying.

      4. Excellent points, Jonathan. In fact, when I initially replied to Fr. Allan’s “contagion”, was reminded that the “typical” homily on these readings talks about “leprosy” in the society of Palestine in the first century and “leprosy” was seen both in society and temple as “unclean” – – rather than as a sign of sin (although that is also a typical redaction when preaching).

        The “unclean” can be a symbol of loss for human dignity – and have heard homilists talk about where we find loss of human dignity today in society or church behaviors e.g. gay orientation; bullying; poorly educated; illegal immigrant; racism; religious bigotry, etc.

        Then, the gospel story of Jesus actually touching the “unclean” person is a powerful witness for each of us who are caugth in situations where we experience or see loss of human dignity.

      5. Unforgiven sin and its contagion is the ultimate
        loss of freedom and the “myth” of the “Fall of
        Adam and Eve” and their excommunication from
        the Garden of Eden (whether you take this “myth”
        meaning the teaching of a religious truth in a story-
        like fashion or as an actual “historical account”) is
        meant to be a symbol of the “People of Israel” whose
        breaking of the covenant, worshiping of false gods,
        and making humans their kings rather than God are
        all examples and signs of the loss of human dignity
        when obedience to God comes into play. Jesus restores
        us to God and to our original human dignity as
        individuals and collectively as members of the human
        community of God, chosen or adopted. The healing
        of the leprosy is but one sign of this restoration that
        will be completed at the cross and confirmed in the
        Resurrection. Yes, Jesus became sin for our salvation as
        well as sickness (and in a sense we can say that Jesus
        embraced sickness too by touching the leper) not
        to spread the contagion of sin and sickness, but to
        take it away. At the cross he takes every form of
        our loss of human dignity upon himself no matter
        what is it and restores us to completely in new
        and eternal covenant in His blood.

      6. The correction of two typos above since “editing”
        is no longer working:
        “reading the Book of Genesis as “fiction” not fashion
        or as an historical account…

        also “obedience” to God should have read “disobedience” to
        God that leads to a loss of human dignity.

        Finally in this passage there is implicit Jesus the
        “establishment” of what will become two sacraments
        of “healing”in the post Pentecost period of the Church,
        that of “penance and anointing of the sick” both of
        which are inter-related and make visible the continuing
        healing ministry of the Risen Lord in our present day
        to restore people who have either sinned or be affected
        by illness back to moral and spiritual health and
        “full-communion” with the Church and God and as
        abiding “signs” of God’s special love and care for
        those who are afflicted with moral and physical
        sickness or diseases, which in fact Jesus shows in a
        powerful way to the leper.

    4. Jonathan, I should also qualify what I wrote in terms of
      English syntax, that English is actually my second language and I’ve listened to my Italian mother speak English all my life and thus
      I tend to phrase and speak my English in a bit of an Italian
      order but clearly with a hint of a southern accent! 🙂

      1. That may be the case, among people who self-identify as those whose first language is not English. I would have thought that an interest in the text of the church’s public worship was a commendable one which deserved to endure.

        However, if I were a parishioner of yours who had a concern for the current, transitional translation, I don’t think I’d be approaching you with them in the light of the excerpts from your blog which have been quoted here.

  17. Somehow Fr Mcdonald comes around to a form of the Gospel.

    Jesus touched him, then he healed him. The “quarantine” should have had the power to make Jesus quarantined, but instead the quarantine is destroyed by Jesus.

    Somehow Roman Catholicism has always tried to keep the power of the law, the system of legalism in place while at the same time trying to rejoice in the grace of Christ.

    Paul the Apostle was hardly a Lutheran, but I am certain he was NOT a Roman Catholic. Tribal RCs would do well to remember to be catholic and listen to the Eastern Fathers and the continuity (!) of those Fathers in the – yes separated – Eastern Church all these centuries. A different world.

    Father Zosima, da; Pope of Rome Pius IX- Nyet!

  18. An apostolic constitution on Holy Orders has been conspicuously absent from the post-conciliar Church. Vatican II avoided a formal declaration on the sacrament. Many cite Bl. John Paul II’s letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1994) as infallible magisterial proof for the necessity of the male sex for Orders. Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, regardless of its magisterial force, paints its defense with very broad theological strokes. If the Church must now explicitly explain the once implicitly accepted male-only nature of Orders, then it should do so at length and with painstaking precision. An uncritical lay Catholic acceptance of male-only Orders is no longer a “given” when not a few North American and European Catholics, to name two places, have interacted positively with women clergy of other Christian communities.

    The sacrament of Holy Orders is a means of grace for priests, the lay faithful to whom priests minister, and the Church Universal. The petitions in Austria and Flanders recognize a “drying up” of this grace through a decline in seminarians and priests. The hunger of the faithful for the sacraments, and above all the Eucharist, in one way highlights the consequences of the Vatican’s neglect and avoidance of a detailed apology for Holy Orders.

    Is it inappropriate for this layperson to hope that the Vatican at least reaffirm its teaching on Holy Orders with vigor? Certainly, to identify as a member of the Roman Church requires obedience despite official explanation. Yet, as we have seen at both Trent and Vatican II, a fuller exposition of magisterial teachings are often quite slow to appear, if ever.

    1. If the Church must now explicitly explain the once implicitly accepted male-only nature of Orders, then it should do so at length and with painstaking precision.

      I fully agree with this.

      But one could perhaps argue that a similar text to this hypothetical one already exist: Inter insigniores.

      And would an apostolic constitution really be enough to settle the matter, given that Bl. Pope John Paul II and the then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger declared the question in essence closed in the 1990s, and yet some still consider the matter open?

  19. My point is that it is not enough to feel like one has a call. Feelings have to be tested and discerned objectively, by those other than the individual concerned. (This holds for any vocation, not just that of Holy Orders.) Part of that discernment, whether we like it or not, involves the dogma of the Church: only baptised men can receive Holy Orders, only a man and woman who freely choose to can contract Holy Matrimony, etc.
    This is the sort of thing I am talking about when I say that some in the Church have capitulated, for the most part unconsciously, to the culture. In the West, at least, now it is how one feels about something that is the ultimate criteria for whether or not something is true. It is not so in the Christian faith; indeed, it cannot be so. Such relativism is, in the end, incompatible with the idea that revealed Truth exists and can be known.

    I submit that the requirement that priests be celibate males represents a capitulation to the misogyny found in late Roman culture and carried through European culture until quite recently. To suggest that all Truth has been revealed and understood seems rather grandiose.

  20. Would someon please check out the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North American; inteveiw with Bishop- now Metropolitan – Kallistos Ware. See what he says about the explanations – so far – of why there is only ordination for men.

    If it’s gone now, it was up for many years.

  21. I have not had a chance to look at the blog until just this evening. Angst indeed. Sorry about the term “biological solution,” the evil “final solution” of Hitler was nowhere in my mind as I posted. Sorry if I offended any holocaust survivors or those of Jewish descent. I am not quite sure how to say what I meant in a more concise way: perhaps the “greying of the west” would work? Behind my post rather was demographics and population change. Folks the magic number is 2.1% Total Fertility Rate, or Replacement Fertility Rate according to the population research institute, no country in Europe, not even Ireland has it. The U.S. barely has it at 2.1%, but this is due to higher birth rates among first generation immigrants. Say what you will about Church politics on contraception and sexual liberty, but demographics point to the freely chosen dying of Western Secular Culture do the embrace of the culture of death. Though it could change, and I certainly hope that it does, but wouldn’t it be ironic if some countries actually outlawed contraception and abortion in order to to prevent demographic catastrophe and the death of their cultures? Economic growth cannot happen without population growth. Part of my point was that when economic growth is no longer possible – do Greece, Spain, and Italy have a chance to start growing again, I don’t know? – and the social welfare states begin to collapse will there be anyone arguing or petitioning for the things these Belgiums did, or will we be worried about surviving and actually procreating and educating the next generation? For my part I always thank the large families for embracing the culture of life and the sexual morality of the Church in all its’ riches – I tell them, “if ever someone looks at you like you are crazy for having so many children, or if they say harsh words just tell them – my kids will pay for your social security, so you should thank me.”

    1. Your material provides the perfect argument for having a married clergy in order to swell the population.

      A person born in Belgium is called a Belgian.

      The possessive case of “it” is “its” without apostrophe.

      Instead of “the greying of the west,” how about “the corpulencisation of the west?” 😉

    2. Perhaps it might better be expressed positively and hopefully, without any emotion-loaded phrases with unfortunate connotations in some eyes. Simply expressing gratitude that the long-delayed liturgical vision of Vatican II will be realized when those generations of priests and bishops who (however well-intentioned) sidetracked it are replaced in chanceries and rectories with faithful young priests ordained in the present millennium, and the wonderful young seminarians now filling again many once nearly empty seminarians.

  22. You sound delusional. While there are a few more seminarians these days, their numbers are in no way adequate to provide the call to mission and ministry to a US church whose numbers are still growing. My small diocese already has to import 20 international priests to simply cover all the bases. To refuse to even consider the ordination of mature married men is scandalous and inexcusable. The failure to exercise the power of the keys in this regard screams out for justice. This is not a right vs left issue, but right vs. dead wrong.

    1. Unfortunately, it might indeed be delusional to expect the restoration of faith to occur at the same pace everywhere. It surely will take longer in dioceses that have not maintained a faith sufficiently lively to generate adequate vocations. I am fortunate to be in a diocese where the growing number of seminarians appears (to me) to be adequate for replacement of retiring priests.

      1. There’s plenty of faith about. Faith is not the problem. Belief is. The ordination of women and married men, gay and straight is a matter of belief, not of faith.

  23. re: Bryan Pedersen on February 13, 2012 – 10:12 pm

    Father, what would you say to a couple who has tried to follow NFP, had three children in quick succession, and cannot economically and emotionally afford to have another child at this time? Would you lambaste the couple for not having more children? Instead, would you embrace them and help them in their struggle to understand and apply what the Church teaches? Would you still struggle with the couple if they used contraception again?

    If a young person came to you and said that they think they might be gay or lesbian, would you curse him or her as a sexual libertine, or remind them that they are dignified persons in the image of God?

    Faith and belief aren’t like He-Man or G.I. Joe. There’s no “good guys” and “bad guys”, or bright moral lines through every situation. It appears that als of late seminary rectors desire entrants who are willing and able to objectify and summarily judge the struggling and striving Christian. It is possible to love the traditional liturgy and love the human heart. I see no contradiction.

  24. Those things aren’t in contradiction, but regardless, there is still the objective truth of the matter. We all struggle with sin, but that fact doesn’t negate the fact that we need to actually live up to what the Church teaches through grace which is always sufficient.

    Part of the priest’s job in the confessional truly is that of judge. Charity and truth, mercy and justice go hand in hand. Really, the traditional moral theology of the manuals was very in tune with the person because pastoral care is no care at all without truth.

    If we fudge on the truth in the effort to “love the human heart” (which I don’t think that is really what you are getting at) we will end up making liturgy into playing dress up.

    1. re: Andrew Czarnick on February 14, 2012 – 1:38 pm

      The hypothetical situations I’m referring to could happen outside of the confessional. The confessional is not the only place for pastoral care and guidance.

      When I say “love the human heart”, I mean that all people who self-identify as Christian should want to get to know other’s struggles and questions on the other person’s level. This includes the clergy as well as the laity. There are priests I know who refuse to counsel the laity outside the confessional. It’s almost as if the ‘box’ is a refuge from having to confront real-world issues and show compassion and empathy in real-life space. If I were a priest I would forbid the use of confessional boxes for this reason.

      Are all priests like this? Certainly not! I’m convinced that most of the priest regulars on PTB are ‘full of heart’. I’ve had enough, however, of priests who use the confessional and pulpit as shelters for misogynist or homophobic statements. This is a rejection, indeed a crushing, of another’s Christian’s ‘heart’. I doubt that many priests who say hurtful statements about women and gay people have the guts to say these statements to a woman or gay person’s face. I’ve often wanted to confront bigoted priests, but I suspect that some of their angst stems from inner inadequacies.

      It’s time for clergy and laity to meet together, on level ground. Does this diminish confession? No, rather the sacrament is amplified when both parties encounter sin together, as all Christians must do.

      1. Misogynist or homophobic? I guess I’ve never saw such things, but then again, it would all depend on what you mean by these terms.

        Yes, compassion is always in order, but the error of the day goes towards laxity and not rigor. I do not think rigorous priests (as if there really are any today) are not the problem at all. People have stopped learning how to think and act like Catholics all around and thus the balance of St. Alphonsus Liguori is treated as if it were Jansenist rigorism.

      2. Andrew, let me give you an example of what I would deem offensive or abusive language during the course of a liturgy.

        One Sunday my best friend and I went to hear Mass at a very famous Manhattan church. For the record: my best friend is an principled atheist and is no party to the Church. He liked the choir though, and would sometimes come to Church with me for that reason.

        I can’t remember the context exactly, but the priest used the word “sodomite” during his sermon. That is reprehensible. Words such as that one have only one purpose: to dehumanize and demean queer people. That’s all. If a priest can’t use “gay” or “queer” for ideological reasons, then at least toe the party line and use “persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies”. I’m convinced that this phase also objectifies others, but it’s not intentionally vicious like the S-word.

        At the time I wasn’t open about my sexuality yet so I didn’t say anything. It still hurt though. My best friend, however, told me after the Mass that he though the sermon was satire because he (and I frankly) thought the priest acted a bit campy.

        Priests who have sexual identity issues need support and a way to talk out their feelings in public or private. I don’t know if the priest who used the S-word is gay or not. Still, if he is indeed gay and also abusing other gay people with that language, he is committing not only hypocrisy but also grave emotional damage to others.

        Religious leaders who spew homophobia and then act-out homosexually is a media trope. We can break the cycle of neurosis and violence by just letting the clergy know that it’s not a sin to be homosexual. The clergy should also know that many of the laity are non-judgmental about homosexuality.

  25. Andrew Czarnik said:
    “Those things aren’t in contradiction, but regardless, there is still the objective truth of the matter. We all struggle with sin, but that fact doesn’t negate the fact that we need to actually live up to what the Church teaches through grace which is always sufficient.”

    We don’t “need to actually live up to what the Church teaches….”. The grace of ongoing conversion, if sought, provides us with opportunities to surrender our shortcomings and temptations to God so that he can overcome them in and through us. While God clearly calls us–as those set apart–to holiness, along that path lies all kinds of messiness and sin. I listen to people’s stories for a living. While there are many details of the stories that differ from person to person, the narratives are incredibly alike. My own story always resonates with theirs and compels me to respond with compassion and grace rather than with judgment and admonitions. The many of us who have known the experience of backing away from hell know that admonitions are neither needed nor helpful. What we need is acceptance, love, and encouragement. ded nor helpful.

  26. Yes, that is a point I should have made but didn’t. There is such a thing as ongoing conversion and we all go through it if we get on that path. However, we are not fundamentally ordered to Christ such that any one action is ultimately irrelevant. On that ongoing conversion path, we can wholly fall away by one action and this is why the situation is so grave and serious.

    Acceptance, love and encouragement are great as long and the foundation is solid and the end goal is clear and what is at stake gets the gravity it deserves.

    1. “we can wholly fall away by one action and this is why the situation is so grave and serious.” Andrew Czarnick

      Would you like to give an example!

      1. Well, by any mortal sin. By saying “wholly” that doesn’t mean irrevocably while one is still alive, as there is confession but the life of grace is thereby extinguished by mortal sin.

        Thus, even though conversion is ongoing, one cannot presume upon the mercy of God and wallow in mortal sin with the excuse that they are a work in progress.

  27. Just a thought about the whole quarantine/contagion issue in Mark’s gospel for last Sunday. By touching hte leper, Jesus makes himself ritually unclean. And while the text is translated, “Moved with pity” some ancient texts say “Moved with anger” – actually Jesus was sort of snorting in anger (perhaps because of the illness, or its representation of evil. Apparently the same word is used in John’s Gospel when Jesus comes to the tomb of Lazarus. It’s as if Jesus smells the evil – illness, death – and is physically responding to it.) That’s an aside. The point is that Jesus touches the leper, thus making himself unclean. We of course don’t think this is a big issue. But the cured leper goes around telling everyone that Jesus touched him and he was cured. Okay, no big deal. Until we come to the very next line where Mark says, “…so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.” While I suspect most of us think it’s because of the crowds that Jesus could no longer go into the towns and villages, isn’t is also possible that Jesus, who was willing to totally identify with the outcasts of Jewish society, became an outcast himself – at least ritually impure. As such he could not go into the towns or villages, but had to stay outside of them, like the lepers did. There’s tons to mine there in terms of Jesus identifying with those who are excommunicated, or put under indict or whatever some of the esteemed, ordained members and a few others, of this blog suggest – to separate the holy and chosen, from those “sinners who are polluting the holy church.” Funny thing to find Jesus, mad as hell as this evil, and becoming one with those who are ostricized and excluded. Sort of tells us where Jesus is hanging out these days.

  28. Jordan, on 2/15/12, you wrote, with regard to the use of the word “sodomite”:
    At the time I wasn’t open about my sexuality yet so I didn’t say anything. It still hurt though. My best friend, however, told me after the Mass that he though the sermon was satire because he (and I frankly) thought the priest acted a bit campy.

    Just wanted to say thanks for your openness. I don’t post very often, as I do feel a bit out of my league here – but I really appreciate your openness and honesty. While I’m not sure you and I would see eye to eye on some things, as another gay man, I appreciate your being yourself here and not putting on a false persona. I appreciate as well the fact that you openly acknowledge growth and change in your thinking. What a blessing you are to have in our midst. Thanks ever so much – Tom K

    1. If I may be so bold as to add, we need input on Liturgy from all sensibilities and viewpoints. It’s a tricky territory since sometimes it seems we can measure the homophobia by the amount of lace and satin! We all have a lot to learn and a long ways to go, but we will be richer for listening with open hearts.

    2. Tom Kostrzewa on February 16, 2012 – 1:37 am

      Thanks for your words. I didn’t have my “Damascus moment” until I made friends with seminarians and ministry students from other Christian traditions. I realized that Protestants don’t have cooties 😉 I’ve enjoyed worshiping and studying the Bible with them. My Protestant brothers and sisters were completely nonjudgmental and welcoming. Of course, this is representative of only one group. It was liberating to talk honestly about my life and experiences and learn from other gay and lesbian Christians. Now I dread having to re-enter the RC orbit. I’m not going to go back on my progress, though.

      Brigid Rauch on February 16, 2012 – 10:46 am

      Sexual orientation and liturgical preference are independent variables. Any liturgy can be an escape from confronting one’s sexuality. Homophobic messages tend to be more prevalent in conservative OF or EF settings, but that’s just my experience. Sadly, more traditional OF or EF liturgies often attract young gay men struggling to make sense of their emotions and desires. Explicit and implicit homophobia often reinforce negative self-esteem. This is an emotionally draining feedback loop.

      I still love the EF, but now I approach that culture with a more emotionally savvy perspective. There is only one absolute: I never accuse a priest of homophobia. Rather, I merely tell him that I have unconditional respect for him and will not judge him. I say this even if he does not disclose his sexuality. Christ never asked for disclosure. Neither should I.

      Thanks for this thread. I enjoyed talking about this topic.

  29. Gerard,

    Crack open any moral theology manual, the various catechisms etc and anything listed as a “mortal sin” is something that kills the life of grace and makes one (if unrepentant) reprobate.

    One example? Missing Mass on Sunday without a sufficient reason. Do that once with the three criteria (grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent) present and you will end up in hell if it isn’t repented of before death. Thus, such an act would make one wholly fall away from the life of sanctifying grace.

  30. I’m afraid your grounding in fundamental moral theology is seriously deficient. You have omitted the most pertinent element in every moral situation, namely, conscience. Effectively you are invoking the concept of intrinsic evil without having argued for it.

    Could I suggest, to use your own term, that you “crack open” the scriptures, or any reputable introduction to moral theology written in the last forty years. Anything by Richard Gula would be a good start.

  31. That is along the lines of what I thought you would say. My moral theology is not “deficient”, it is what all the Doctors and Saints (i.e. St. Alphonsus Liguori) would have taught.

    Gula (and others like him) are modernists who reject our perennial moral theology for utter nonsense like the “fundamental option”.

    I suggest you open the Scriptures (with a good, pre-Conciliar commentary) and a moral theology book written more than 40 years ago and find new books that are in line with these and not be carried away with the novelties of the times.

  32. We can indeed predict what the Church will teach about women’s ordination or same-sex marriage in 100 years: exactly what she has always taught and teaches now and will teach until our Lord returns.

    Thank God our Lord manifestly DID NOT create the Church as a democracy. The Church does not change her teachings with every tide of secular culture and every “wind of false teaching.”

    1. If only it were so simple, Juana!

      Democratic accountability is one of the signs of the times in the 21st century. There have been strong democratic impulses among the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth from the beginning. In Galatians 2, Paul tells us that he opposed Peter to his face. The monarchical from of government which we currently have, at global, diocesan and parochial levels was imported from the civil imperial system towards the end of the second century C.E. It’s not of divine origin, or at least, no more or no less so than current democratic aspirations in the church.

      While faith, in the sense of God’s offering Godself to us in relationship doesn’t change, belief must and does. The development of doctrine doesn’t just refer to issues in systematic theology, but also to morality. Christian belief is an articulation at any one time of what Christians recognise as a true expression of how they understand a particular issue. Understanding can deepen as the human sciences grow. Belief reflects that fact.

      Of course it doesn’t mean that belief has to change with every passing fad. And that’s the challenge: to be able to differentiate in human culture between what is mere fashion and what is of enduring significance.

      When looking at the questions of the ordination of women and the value of relationships between two women or two men, belief will be informed as much by insight from contemporary human sciences as by the teaching of Jesus, whose views on either issue are not recorded in the New Testament.

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