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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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No Organic Development of Doctrine for Women Priests

OBJECTION

There are many seeds that Jesus planted that must be allowed to grow and to come to fruition.  Slavery is tolerated and yet over time it becomes clear that any such institution of bondage is incompatible with our immeasurable worth as human beings. It stands in stark contradiction to our dignity as brothers and sisters for whom Christ died that we might be free.  The death penalty is tolerated for centuries and yet today popes reject it as a form of complicity with the culture of death and as an assault by revenge upon the mercy that we are commanded to share.  We may be experiencing a similar evolution or paradigm shift regarding sexuality and gender.  The Church’s fear of women imposes both priestly celibacy and outlaws women priests.  We need to allow the seeds planted to sprout!  

RESPONSE

The practice of slavery among the Jews was time-sensitive. After seven years a person in bondage was freed. There was no assertion that the person enslaved was less a person than others or that he or she did not have rights. Arguably slavery under the Roman Empire and later in Christian Europe offered many protections against the abuse of those in bondage that were later missing in the American colonies. The Portuguese slave trade financed by American landowners corrupted the sordid business further by making it a perpetual institution, destroying families and reducing human beings to commodities.  (We see something of this same evil devaluation today with abortion and human trafficking.) Given that we fought for our independence in 1776, the irony was that the English would abolish slavery in 1834. The Confederate States of America would fight a civil war over slavery and states’ rights that would last until 1865. The suppressed Jesuits and other wealthy Catholics were landowners in Maryland who utilized black slaves— a mark of shame upon our legacy of faith in this land. Dissent was tragic then and it remains so today. Saint Thomas Aquinas argued back in the thirteen century that slavery was sinful.  Slavery was often tolerated as a means to bring both the faith and the values of Western civilization to primitive peoples.  But the price could be terrible, particularly given the mortality from European diseases and mistreatment. Largely because of abuses, Pope Benedict IV in 1741 promulgated Immensa Pastorum Principis against the enslavement of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and other countries. Pope Gregory XVI in In supremo apostolatus (1839) condemned slavery as contrary to human dignity. The development of doctrine on this subject was organic and emerged from the heart of the Gospel. Nothing of the kind can be said about women’s ordination. 

The issue of the death penalty is much more recent and far more problematical.  But even here there are obvious signs to its abolition in the early pacifism professed by believers in the apostolic community. It is only after three centuries of martyrdom that Christians step forward to fight with Constantine to seize what is left the Roman Empire.  Our ideas about the death penalty are closely aligned to our sentiments about war and the right to self-defense.  A people have a right to protect themselves from enemies within and without. While Pope Francis would make absolute the prohibition against capital punishment, Pope John Paul II taught that a society in the throes of a culture of death forfeited its right to take human life through judicial execution. Similarly, the Church today is often the lone voice crying out for peace among nations.  While there is early evident of Christian pacifism and an aversion to taking human life; there is no apostolic record for the ordination of women as priests.

As for what is going on with sexuality and gender, much of that is in conflict with our basic views about men, women and the family. Recent developments signify no movement or development in the Church but the digression of our society away from Christianity into a militant secular humanism. Selfish humanity and not God is made the measure of all things. Association with such a momentum would constitute betrayal to the Catholic faith.  Indeed, women’s ordination would constitute a repudiation of the revelation given us in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.    

The selection of male priests in New Testament times constituted a repudiation of the surrounding religious paganism. Reserved to men, the priesthood was counter-cultural in the Gentile world. Nevertheless, there was a healthy tension between the sexes with the learning and teaching responsibilities of women in domestic life.

While is argued that seeds are planted for a female priesthood, such development cannot in itself violate truths that are more firmly entrenched. So, the answer is ultimately, no. There is no such organic development in favor of women priests. Such would signify a hermeneutic of rupture. Looking back upon history, I am mindful of Irenaeus and his condemnation toward ordaining women as priests. The Church is not silent on this issue. It is taken for granted that a female priesthood is wrong and impossible.  Irenaeus condemns it alongside sorcery. He is quite right.  The sorcery of witches often deals with abortifacient potions. Many of the advocates for women priests are also proponents for abortion, as can be seen by the women who minister in the Episcopal churches.  Many of their churches will no longer officially participate in pro-life efforts.  Error builds upon error.  The ordination of women represents the beginning of a new and false religion.