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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Priestesses & Dissent Against the Deposit

It is evident from the Epistles and the Acts of Apostles that the roots of our ordination teaching are pre-Nicene. While insufficient to remedy the break in apostolic succession that afflicted the Anglican ordinal early in England’s reformation, it is true that their priests and bishops who have shored up their orders with Old Catholic and Orthodox Bishops concelebrating their ordinations and consecrations may indeed be sharers in holy orders. When the Anglican Archbishop of London was received into the Roman Catholic Church, he was not re-ordained as is the usual practice but was conditionally ordained a priest. This exception was shown because he was able to show with some certitude his pedigree of orthodox precursors. Otherwise, the 1896 papal bull, Apostolicae Curiae, still holds: Anglican orders are null and void. This all aside, the point I want to make is that the exclusion of women is a long held tradition that cannot be dismissed arbitrarily. Indeed, it is a fitting example of the canon discerned by St. Vincent of Lerins about the certitude of a doctrine as a practice or belief common to the Church “everywhere, to everyone, at all times.” The Church would allow for the organic development of doctrine analogous to the growth of a human body from infancy to maturity; but, and this comes straight from John Henry Newman, this development while real must not result in the least alteration to the original significance of the doctrine involved. This cannot be said of the revisionist position in favor of Christian priestesses. The faithful Catholic must “guard the deposit” (1 Timothy 6:20), the revelation enshrined in the Scriptures and interpreted in the Church’s tradition by the Magisterium.

Proponents of women’s ordination dissent from the promulgated Catechism of the Catholic Church. This work has been given the Imprimi Potest by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger himself, head of the Congregation of the Faith, who is now Pope Benedict XVI. It is introduced by the Apostolic Constitution, Fidei Depositum, by Pope John Paul II. He writes: “It can be said that this Catechism is the result of the collaboration of the whole Episcopate of the Catholic Church, who generously accepted my invitation to share responsibility for an enterprise which directly concerns the life of the Church.” He makes no qualification in declaring “it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion.” A couple of paragraphs later, he says it again: “This catechism is given to them that it may be a sure and authentic reference text for teaching catholic doctrine . . . .”

Nevertheless, by dissenting against the teaching of the male-only priesthood, critics seek to undermine the truthfulness of the entire document and the God-given authority of the Church to teach it. They even castigate the Magisterium as murderers of vocations. They make relative what should be objective truth. They reinterpret Scripture according to their own “personal” and false enlightenment and dismiss the exegetical role of the teaching Church. They ignore tradition as irrelevant or pretend that it is somehow in their favor. They do all this, and yet plead to be a good Catholics. We must be careful of dissent.

Let us look at what the catechism says about women priests:

[1577] “Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination” (CIC, can. 1024). The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ’s return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible (Cf. John Paul II, MD 26-27; CDF, declaration, Inter insigniores: AAS 69 [1977] 98-116).

Inter insigniores leaves no room for discussion. It says:

“. . . the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith judges it necessary to recall that the Church, in fidelity to the example of the Lord, does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination.” A sentence or so later it reiterates the point: “The Catholic Church has never felt that priestly or episcopal ordination can be validly conferred on women.”