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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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Jimmy Carter Attacks Church on Women’s Ordination

137210714256035The news is abuzz about Jimmy Carter’s TIME interview remarks with Elizabeth Dias promoting the conference, “Mobilizing Faith for Women: Engaging the Power of Religion and Belief to Advance Human Rights and Dignity” at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia.  It will be held from June 27 to June 29.  Carter and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights are bringing together representatives from around the world to speak about women’s rights.  At least this is what they project; in truth they also are inviting radical feminists like Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and liberal voices to give a distorted understanding of women’s rights and to attack the religious views of others.  Indeed, while Catholicism has often been a lone voice crying out on behalf of human rights, especially about issues like poverty, repressive regimes, and the unborn; it was associated here with the most repressive Islamic movements and terrorists.

Carter focused on the Catholic rejection of priestesses; but the motivation goes far deeper.  The Church opposes so-called Choice and the lie that abortion is a woman’s right even as it strips the unborn child of all rights, starting with life.   Just picking one participant at ransom, there is Susan Thistlethwaite, a Senior Fellow with the Center for American Progress and who writes for The Washington Post.  American Progress promotes gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered rights.  It has lobbied for same-sex marriages.  It wholeheartedly supports contraceptive and abortifacients provisions in Obama’s Healthcare plan over the religious liberty of the Catholic Church.  It is on the record as pro-abortion.  They even oppose chastity education over free condom giveaways and safe-sex education.  It is also on the side of what it calls “progressive” religion and women’s ordination.  The deck is fixed and more neutral and opposing voices are not invited.

Jimmy Carter regards the exclusion of women from the priesthood as a human rights abuse?  This makes absolutely no sense to me.  Ordination to the priesthood is not a natural right.  It is a spiritual calling and a divine gift.  It cannot be merited.  No one deserves it.  By definition it cannot be associated with any social justice agenda.  People might debate the subject and others might request it; but no one can demand it.  It is a sacrament of the Church.  The Church has every right to regulate her sacraments as she sees fit.  The Church has made great overtures in empowering women.  They minister as pastoral associates, chancellors, office managers, directors of religious education and catechists, music directors, readers, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, religious sisters, lay missionaries, principals and teachers, and the greatest vocation of all, as mothers.

Instead of dictating to the churches and other religions; Carter should have encouraged them to find new avenues for inclusion and service for women.  It is not his place to dictate “theology” which conflicts with the settled doctrine of other faith communities.  If we are going to respect religious liberties then we have to paint in broad strokes and allow them the freedom and ingenuity to find ways to heal gender inequality.  Not everyone looks at the world through the lenses of liberal Protestantism.  Catholicism has its Magisterium and Sacred Tradition.  Conservative Protestantism has its strict reliance upon a literal understanding of Scripture.  Islam is a religion of “the Book” and “the Law.”  Judaism is the religion of “the Promise.”  Unless we are going to respect each other than there can be no true dialogue.  It seems that his conference will host only those on the fringes of religious communities; not the genuine leaders who can make a difference.  Dissenters condemned by lawful authority will not bring change to their religions, only more division.  As for Catholics, maybe the issue is not that women are not allowed to be priests?  Perhaps the real issue is that many fail to appreciate the nature of the priesthood and the many ways that women already have to serve in the Church?

The priest acts at the altar as an “alter Christus” or “in persona Christi” (in the person of Christ), the head of the Church.  The priest at the altar speaks Christ’s words in the first person.  He is a living icon for Christ.  While men and women share their human nature; men and women are not the same.  Our Lord had many affiliations with women.  He made the Samaritan woman at the well into a prophetess for her people.  Mary Magdalene would be at the Cross and the empty tomb.  Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary took the posture of disciples.  Mary was his Mother and the Immaculate Conception.  She cooperated with the saving work of her Son like no other human being.  However, not one of these women was ordained into the priesthood of Christ’s Church.   Jesus broke all sorts of stereotypes, but not about this.  Might it be that there is something constitutive or singular and important about the male identification of his priests with him?  If so, then it would be foolhardy to attempt any change in this apostolic tradition that goes all the way back to Christ.  Baptists have no such view of their ministers and do not believe that their bread and grape juice is God come down from heaven.  Catholics believe that the sacred elements are transformed (transubstantiation) into the body and blood, soul and divinity, of Jesus Christ.  We participate in an unbloody or clean way at the oblation of Calvary.  Catholics are given the Risen Christ in Holy Communion.  As an educated man, I would have hoped that Carter would have known better; evidently, he is ignorant of Catholic doctrine and thus made a fool of himself in trying to dictate to the Church.

ancient-egyptian-symbols-8No woman will ever be an authentic priest.  As offensive as it might sound, their history is more related to that of priestesses in ancient pagan religions than in Christianity.  The excommunicated Catholic women who attempted ordination are not real priests.  Most of the men and all of the women in the Episcopal Church are not priests and certainly not bishops.  However, none of this means that women are demeaned or looked down upon.  Cardinal O’Boyle’s homilies at ordinations often sounded like Mother’s Day sermons.  He thanked the women for giving the Church their sons; he promised the Church would always look after their boys; and he explained that they would always be the most special women in their lives.  Priests are men but they are also sons.  They love their mothers, as well as their sisters.  They are thankful for the wonderful ladies in the parishes who breathe life into our communities and do so much of the work.  The priest is the servant of all but especially to them.  They see something of their mothers in all the women around them.  They are faithful sons.  The priesthood is no guarantee of personal holiness.  No one has to be a priest to be saved.  Indeed, the priesthood might bring a harsher judgment upon a man because the more one has been given the more one will be held accountable.  Most men will never be priests.  Women will never be priests.  But all benefit from the priesthood and it is a sacrament that touches the whole Church.  It makes possible the forgiveness of sins in the sacrament of Penance.  It grants us all a share of the bread of life and the chalice of salvation.

Carter’s increasing modernist views forced him to separate from the Southern Baptist Convention.  He states in a 2000 press release that he could only associate with other Baptists “who continue to share such beliefs as separation of church and state, servanthood and not domination of pastors, local church autonomy, a free religious press and equality of women.”  While there are areas of legitimate rights, anti-Catholic remarks were placed in the mix, and Catholic teaching demonized by their association with genuine wrongs.  The issue of women’s ordination is a far cry from subjects like female castration, violence against women, human trafficking in terms of slavery and prostitution, and denying the rights of women to education and to full participation in the governing structures of society.

Am I exaggerating about the extent of this assault upon Catholic discipline and doctrine?  Look at what the former president said in the interview:

“Well, religion can be, and I think there’s a slow, very slow, move around the world to give women equal rights in the eyes of God. What has been the case for many centuries is that the great religions, the major religions, have discriminated against women in a very abusive fashion and set an example for the rest of society to treat women as secondary citizens. In a marriage or in the workplace or wherever, they are discriminated against. And I think the great religions have set the example for that, by ordaining, in effect, that women are not equal to men in the eyes of God.”

Notice that he is lumping together Christianity with other world religions as if there is no distinction.  This seems surprising given that he is a deacon in the Baptist church!  Of course, he has issues with his own denomination and left the more conservative branch of his denomination for an “anything goes” version, where his wife has also been made a deacon.  How could he sanely compare the treatment of women in the Church with the repression we see in Islam?  There are Islamic societies where women must clothe their entire bodies, even their faces, from the outside world.  Their bodies are mutilated and they are regarded as property.  Radical Islam and it has yet to be proven that this is the minority view, grants them only the most elementary education and no leadership roles.  Catholicism, on the other hand, argues for the full dignity of women, which includes “motherhood,” a bad word to some of the liberal dissenters!  Catholicism would grant them education, civil leadership, and participation in the workforce.  Catholic women serve as the chancellors of dioceses, office managers of churches, principals and teachers of parochial schools, physicians and nurses in our hospitals, and are counted among the great saints and doctors of the Church!  Indeed, the greatest of God’s creatures is “the Woman” or New Eve, the Blessed Virgin Mary!

While the priesthood is reserved to men, such is because we are restricted to the model given us by Christ and it is not subject to social reinterpretation.  The equality for which Catholicism argues is one of complementarity, not egalitarianism.  Men and women are coheirs in grace and equal in dignity.  But men and women are not the same.  Those who argue otherwise logically have no problem with homosexual and lesbian unions.  Such is the plight of those who make gender utterly insignificant.  It is a deception against nature and the God of nature.  Just as only women can be mothers; only men can be priests.  Women conceive and give birth to new life from their wombs.  Priests consecrate the real presence of Christ upon our altars and make possible new life from the womb of the Church.

Carter becomes as bad a fiend as the current administration in dictating to the Church what should be doctrine and morals.  Has there been collaboration in this?  It is in this light that the bizarre recent Supreme Court case becomes clearer.  Why would the administration want authority over the staffing of churches and seminaries?  It would insure that only the people who thought as they do would have positions of influence and teaching.  Note also President Obama’s recent words in Ireland:

“There are still wounds [in Northern Ireland] that haven’t healed and communities where tensions and mistrust hangs in the air… If towns remain divided – if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs – if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation.”

No matter how you try to spin it, the fact is this comes across as an effort to shut down or maybe even to nationalize Catholic schools— and taking God out of public schools much as we have in the United States.  Brian Burch, president of the group Catholic Vote, offered this pointed correction: “Catholic schools educate children without regard for race, class, sex, origin, or even religious faith. The work of Catholic education is a response to the Gospel call to serve, not divide.”

One could argue that through Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities, through our parochial school system and universities, etc., Catholics have been at the forefront of the battle for human rights.  Back when Jimmy Carter’s church was urging segregation and espousing racism, the Catholic Church was already desegregating its schools and had priests marching with Martin Luther King.  There was no greater defender of labor unions and worker’s rights as the late Msgr. Higgins.  Today, we are at the forefront of the fight against abortion and the defense of the sanctity of life, something which Carter and other humanists have betrayed.  He and his compatriots no longer have sufficient moral standing to critique the Catholic faith.

Carter has his doctorate in physics, but what does he really know of Catholic doctrine and moral teaching?  Has he read Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter, Mulieris Dignitatem on the Dignity and Vocation of Women?  Pope John Paul II, who argued infallibly that only men can be ordained as priests, wrote this:

“Therefore  the Church gives thanks for each and every woman: for mothers, for sisters, for wives; for women consecrated to God in virginity; for women dedicated to the many human beings who await the gratuitous love of another person; for women who watch over the human persons in the family, which is the fundamental sign of the human community; for women who work professionally, and who at times are burdened by a great social responsibility; for ‘perfect’ women and for ‘weak’ women – for all women as they have come forth from the heart of God in all the beauty and richness of their femininity; as they have been embraced by his eternal love; as, together with men, they are pilgrims on this earth, which is the temporal ‘homeland’ of all people and is transformed sometimes into a ‘valley of tears’; as they assume, together with men, a common responsibility for the destiny of humanity according to daily necessities and according to that definitive destiny which the human family has in God himself, in the bosom of the ineffable Trinity. / The Church gives thanks for all the manifestations of the feminine ‘genius’ which have appeared in the course of history, in the midst of all peoples and nations; she gives thanks for all the charisms which the Holy Spirit distributes to women in the history of the People of God, for all the victories which she owes to their faith, hope and charity: she gives thanks for all the fruits of feminine holiness. / The Church asks at the same time that these invaluable ‘manifestations of the Spirit’ (cf. 1 Cor 12:4ff.), which with great generosity are poured forth upon the ‘daughters’ of the eternal Jerusalem, may be attentively recognized and appreciated so that they may return for the common good of the Church and of humanity, especially in our times. Meditating on the biblical mystery of the ‘woman’, the Church prays that in this mystery all women may discover themselves and their ‘supreme vocation’.”

Women would do better to subscribe to the Holy Father’s view of women over the distorted and impoverished version promoted by our society and by the former president.

Clinton understands neither Christian anthropology and womanhood nor the sacramental nature or reality of the priesthood.  Of course, how could he understand?  As a Baptist, he rejects the identification of the ordained man with the high priesthood of Jesus Christ.  Priests are not the same as ministers.  Indeed, his version of ministry would even strip Catholic ministers of their pastoral authority and make them pawns of trustees like himself.

Carter enumerates upon his view of Catholic discrimination:

“This has been done and still is done by the Catholic Church ever since the third century, when the Catholic Church ordained that a woman cannot be a priest for instance but a man can. A woman can be a nurse or a teacher but she can’t be a priest. This is wrong, I think. As you may or may not know, the Southern Baptist Convention back now about 13 years ago in Orlando, voted that women were inferior and had to be subservient to their husbands, and ordained that a woman could not be a deacon or a pastor or a chaplain or even a teacher in a classroom in some seminaries where men are in the classroom, boys are in the classroom. So my wife and I withdrew from the Southern Baptist Convention primarily because of that.”

The truth be said, the pattern was established by Christ that only men could be ordained.  The Council of Nicea would forbid the placing of hands upon the head of a woman for ordination but this was not because there was a debate in Catholic circles.  There were false Christians or Gnostics who regarded matter as evil and contended that Jesus was a spiritual being who only pretended to be human and to die on the Cross.  They had priestesses because of this basic rejection of the incarnation.  Gender is not an accidental but touches the core identity of the person.  The Church, then and now, felt compelled to follow the pattern of Christ and the apostles.  As Pope John Paul II explained, the Church does not have the authority to change this pattern.  If we were to do so anyway, and such was in contravention of the divine will, we would forfeit forever both the priesthood and the Eucharist.  In other words, the Church, herself, would come to an end.  Remember, while Protestants have ecclesial communities, theologically speaking a “church” requires an authentic priesthood and the Eucharist (Christ’s real presence and the unbloody re-presentation of Calvary).  Baptists have neither of these already.  Carter wants the Catholic Church to become a variation of liberal Protestantism!

Carter continues:

“But I now go to a more moderate church in Plains, a small church, it’s part of the Cooperative Baptist fellowship, and we have a male and a female pastor, and we have women and have men who are deacons. My wife happens to be one of the deacons.  So some of the Baptists are making progress, along with Methodists. For instance the other large church in Plains is a Methodist church, and they have a man for the last eight years and the next pastor they get will be a woman. They’ve had a woman pastor before, before the Baptists did. And of course the Episcopalians and other denominations that are Protestant do permit women or encourage women to be bishops, as you know, and pastors.”

Okay, so he bases his entirely opinion to change 2,000 years of Catholic practice and holy orders upon a handful of Protestant churches in his hometown!  As for the Episcopalians, they also allow divorced and gay clergy.  Would he argue for these concessions as well?

He concludes by speaking about the status of women under Islam, as if there is any real comparison.  Even here he contends that strict laws against women are due to “misquoting the major points of the Qur’an.”  Evidently, he now counts himself not only an expert on Catholic sacraments and administration as well as Islamic teaching and laws.  Please, this is ridiculous.  He is fearful of offending the Moslem world by saying that the Qur’an is wrong for teaching such things.

Clinton ignores Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition entirely by condemning Catholic practices.  Catholicism would allow women to serve in virtually any occupation they want except the priesthood.  Nothing is said about the powerful and saintly women who served selflessly and courageously in our religious orders.  Nevertheless, he associates such a prohibition with Islam forcing “ten year old girls” to “marry against their wishes,” “that women can be treated as slaves in a marriage,” “that a woman can’t drive an automobile,” and that “some countries don’t let women vote, like Saudi Arabia.”  He neglects to tell us that Christianity is virtually outlawed in Saudi Arabia.  The rights of women have emerged and have been protected in Christian and Catholic nations.  There is no comparison, although he forces one upon us.

It saddens me that this proposed conference is so slanted to the left.  Where are the more sober voices? He states, “But anyway, I say that the emphasis of condoning of violence on the general population, and the denigration of women as inferior, those are the two things we are going to address in this conference.”  The topic is good but I am fearful that his targeting is way off.

The topic of women’s ordination in the Catholic Church is permanently off the table.  Dissenters and busy-bodies from other denominations will just have to get used to it.  As Pope John Paul II declared:

“Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Luke 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

As if ignorant Catholics giving a distorted witness were not bad enough, now we have a Baptist deacon and former president trying to tell the Church its business and what it should do. It is unbelievable. How many Catholic priests or deacons would argue for the reform of the Baptist denomination so that it would conform to the structure of historic Catholicism? We might invite them to become Catholics but we would not proselytize or seek control over the internal structures of their churches. Today, the executive administration of our country and dissenters are seeking just that in regard to Catholicism, the overthrow of the Church and the severing of ties to the Pope and traditional Christianity. It sickens me and is ample evidence that all the talk about tolerance and mutual understanding is a smokescreen for just the opposite. Religious liberty does not mean that we can change the Church into whatever we want. Rather, it means that churches, temples and synagogues have a right to exist on their own terms and not to have doctrine changed or imposed by either government or radical fringe groups. If liberal Catholics want birth-control, abortion, euthanasia, same-sex unions, sexual cohabitation, no-fault divorce with legalized adultery, and women priests— then they should make up their own “church” with their counterfeit Jesus, leaving the rest of us to the truth. Or they could just join the “anything goes” Episcopalians with their charade liturgies and “real absence” communion sacrament.