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  • 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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A Rebuttal to Sex and the Single Priest

priest_1THE NEW YORK TIMES, December 1, 2013

Sex and the Single Priest by BILL KELLER

Given that he long ago quit the Church, it is more than disingenuous for Bill Keller to cite the ancient corpse of his own Catholicism as grounds for critiquing priestly ministry or to belittle the celibate love realized by the majority of our clergy.  He admits that he surrendered “citizenship” in the Catholic kingdom and is no longer “subject to [the Church’s] laws.  Nevertheless, he would urge change to a law that speaks to priestly character and service like no other.  It would seem to me that he forfeited long ago any right to participate in this inner-church discussion about priestly celibacy and the prospect of married priests.

The catalyst for his article is his tenuous tie to a religious sister from his school days; and not surprisingly one that met and married a priest.  She gave up her veil and he took off his collar 41 years ago.  The writer of the editorial is very sympathetic to them and their story.  He is far less so to good priests and nuns who kept their vows.  While he contends that the couple remained within the embrace of Catholicism while he did not; I would argue that both defected, although his was the more honest breech.  John and Roberta Hydar simply went from being young dissenters to elderly ones.  He remarks that they participate in a spin-off community where priests are married, same-sex marriages are solemnized and women are ordained.  In other words, theirs is a faith community which claims a false Catholic pedigree and lives a lie— women playing priests, defrocked clergy feigning legitimacy without faculties, and blessing what God has deemed as perversion.  This is his ideal for the Church, even though he has personally stopped believing.  Note how quickly the spurning of the Church’s authority leads not only to violations of discipline but also to heretical teachings and practices.

Keller categorizes faithful Catholic priests as lonely men.  Certainly the celibate must be comfortable with “aloneness,” but this is not the same as loneliness.  Married men and women are not exempt from sometimes feeling lonely.  Such feelings are part of the human condition.  The Hydars recognize that change will not come in time for them.  However, I would argue that the types of change they anticipate will never occur.  The Church will never rewrite the moral code.  Such subjectivism flies into the face of divine sovereignty.  Further, their ecclesiology is not one of humility or dialogue but of arrogance and intimidation.  They and their associates mold themselves into their own magisterium, albeit without any protection from the Holy Spirit.  Roberta employs the jargon-expression that exposes their hypocrisy.  She says that “there is no stopping Her by the institutional church.”  One can make distinctions, but there is no real division between the Church as an institution and as a community of saving fellowship.  The Pope, cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious and the laity are all part of a single pie.  It cannot be sliced or diced.  There is no dissection.  Separated from Peter or the Pope and we have no Church.  The true “sensus fidelium” is not found in dissenters but rather in the men and women who give religious assent and filial obedience.

Despite words and symbolic gestures, the writer is not optimistic that Pope Francis will bring about substantial changes.  Given that he means a reversal to Church stances, I think he is correct.  Ultimately the progressive voices will be disappointed.  Artificial contraception, homosexual relations and priestesses will never find acceptance in the Church of Christ.  That is not to say that they will fail in finding a home somewhere else.  There are plenty of faith institutions founded by men and swayed by the fads of the day.

But next Keller hits the nail on the head when he states that celibacy is a separate case.  As a discipline this could be changed.  It may not be retroactive and these men would still have to profess an orthodox faith.  That would exclude many of the dissenters; but, they still have the freedom to jump ship for the passing raft of Anglicanism.

He speaks about the urgency to change the discipline without any appeal to the supernatural.  Rather, he references that mandatory celibacy is driving away good prospects, that the shortage is immediate and dire, that we need clergy with firsthand experience with family issues, and that we must counteract the clericalism that has enabled and sought to cover-up pedophilia.  After colluding with an ex-nun and an ex-priest, Keller next quotes Thomas Groome, another former priest, who observes that celibate priests are viewed by most people as “peculiar” and “not to be trusted.”  He says that of the hundreds of priests he has known; only three or four have lived a rich and “life-giving” celibacy.  Of course, the problem may have been that as an unhappy priest, himself, he hanged around with other discontents.  Most priests I know are happy and faithful to their promises.  This article is biased or tilted against orthodoxy from the very beginning.

Keller then tells us that celibacy is not a doctrine (true) but blasts it instead as “a cultural and historical aberration.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Historical studies reveal that many early priests lived in perfect continence with their wives.  The periodic celibacy of the Jewish priests became perpetual for Catholic priests.  Except for the national churches of the East, celibacy quickly became the ideal in the West.  We see decree after decree in its favor reaching a climax with the First Lateran Council (1123 AD).  Priestly celibacy was no oddity but the norm and a signature element in priestly character or identity.  It signified total dedication to God and to his Church.  His very flesh became an eschatological sign.  Celibacy was not a refusal to love but a more expansive way of loving, close to the heart and witness of Christ.  The aberration was the married priest, but without any negative judgment against the validity of his share in holy orders.  The crimes and scandals of our times are not due to celibacy but rather to a refusal to be faithful to this solemn promise or vow.  The charge that celibacy was instituted simply to safeguard Church properties against children and inheritance is a slur with only isolated substance.  The resources of the Church had to be protected, for sure, but the greater possession of the Church was the priest, himself.  Why demand celibacy only to those men who would be candidates for the episcopacy?  Roman Catholicism requires and both God and his people deserve such a single-hearted loving from all priests.

Keller says that the Church looks the other way in regard to priests who attempt marriage in parts of Africa and Latin America.  I cannot say for sure if there is a hesitance to censure these reprobates; but regardless, they are not free to marry and they place both themselves and their love-interests in mortal sin.  Why should we reward rebellion and sin?  The truth and objective morality is not open to the democratic process or human capriciousness.  This is not dissimilar from the “everyone’s doing it” argument that we so often hear in regard to fornication, cohabitation and artificial contraception.  It has also been employed in regard to self-destructive behaviors like drug use.  It is the poorest possible argument.  Indeed, it is no argument at all.

Archbishop Pietro Parolin could certainly state that priestly celibacy would be open for discussion; however, this should not imply that any change is in the offering.  Indeed, I would not be surprised if there is a tightening regarding future Catholic Anglican-use priests (particularly sons of the current married clergy) and a reiteration that the Catholic Eastern rites should not ordain married men for priestly service in this hemisphere.  Pope Francis is all about poverty; celibacy more than any other trait points to the rich man who was asked to put aside everything to follow Jesus.  Like the apostles, we leave everything and everyone else behind.  This mandated a special suffering for the married apostles.  In light of Christ’s example and the preference of St. Paul, the Church would spare its priests from struggling with divided loyalties and hearts.  It is sufficient that we have many married deacons.  There is no need to open the priesthood to married men. It is a fallacious assertion that it will turn around the shortage in vocations.  Many Protestant communities have married clergy and they also suffer from a lack of good vocations.  Married ministers have also not preserved them from scandals.

Keller returns to his dissenting couple and John (the ex-priest) says that most of those who left ministry would have stayed if celibacy had been made optional.  However, even in the Eastern model, men are married before ordination, not afterwards.  Had it been permitted, he and the thousands who left with him could still not get married and continue to serve as priests.  Note that the married Episcopalian priests who become Catholic clergy are ordained “absolutely” because Anglican orders are neither accepted by Catholicism as valid nor licit.  Priests who promised celibacy would be expected to keep their promises; just as married men would be required to keep their nuptial vows as they entered holy orders.  It would not be retroactive.  Another wrinkle in John Hydar’s contention is that a majority of those priests who left ministry for marriage have since divorced and many are remarried.  Why should we think that men who cavalierly break one promise will keep another?  In any case, John and many like him also espouse a false ecclesiology where legitimate authority is undermined.  They campaign for doctrinal heresies like priestesses.  Some of these men who left have seen their wives ordained so that they can feign the sacraments beside them.  There is no way for them to come back.  There is no viable path for them, except after a heartfelt repentance demonstrated by public renunciation of their falsehoods and their counterfeit ministry.  Such might allow them back into the pews but they would never again stand before the altar.  That ship has forever sailed.

Optional celibacy and married priests may become a future eventuality; but I hope not.  The writer laments that Roberta Hydar passed from cancer.  She will never see that day.  We can pray for her soul.  However, I would submit that most of the priests and the women for whom they left are elderly now.  It may be the wisdom of the Church that they pass away and their small pseudo-churches with them before the Church further explores this issue.  If we see optional celibacy, the candidates with be committed and obedient Catholics, homeschoolers, with large families, filled with traditional piety and practicing timeless objective morality.  They will be the right kind of men.  Their wives will accept the headship of their husbands and suffer much in knowing that their husbands belong more to the Church than to them.

The history of celibacy in the Church is no aberration.  Rather, it is a calling intimately connected with the vocation of priesthood.  It is a discipline that has doctrinal implications in the bridal imagery of Christ the groom to his bride the Church.  Every priest at the altar enters into this mystery.  Celibacy best preserves its meaning and realizes it.  Celibacy is not a man-made construct.  As with the transmission of the deposit of faith and the efficacy of the sacraments, the legacy of priestly celibacy represents a significant movement of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church.  Christ does not fight his Church.  If a man is truly called, God will give him the gift of celibacy.

Priestly Celibacy: Prophets or False Prophets?

Everyone has an invested interest. Some legitimately feel that wider permission for married priests would resolve the vocations shortage. Shortages in Protestant ranks hint that this may be a false premise. Others have a wayward democratic view about such issues. Unfortunately, many in the pro-marriage camp also subscribe to women priests and that is a deal breaker. The issue of celibacy may be one of discipline; but, the prohibition against women priests is irreformable doctrine.

Most celibate priests probably want to maintain the status-quo. They know firsthand the value of priestly celibacy. Priests who left ministry to get married are wholeheartedly in favor of a liberalization of the rule. However, it is doubtful that such a dispensation for new priests would be applied to the old. The men who left for marriage violated their promises and while some were laicized, a number defected to other churches, rejected the see of Peter and embraced heresy in faith and morals. There would be no place for these aging men in the Catholic ministries. Much is made of the thousands who left in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but time is running out. They are entering the retirement years and many are dying off. Soon they will be all gone. Were they prophets to a married priesthood in the near future? If so they were like the Hebrews who corrupted themselves by worshipping a golden calf after their liberation from Egypt. Before God’s people reached the Promised Land that whole generation and Moses would pass away. This might not seem fair, but it is probably the way it will play out. The Church will not reward disobedience.

Celibacy flows naturally from the sacerdotal calling. Everything about the demands of priesthood, its intrinsic nature, and its place in salvation history (Scripture and Tradition) promotes the organic development of celibacy. Celibacy is not outdated. It has not worn out its welcome or exhausted its utility. It is my conviction that a married priesthood can be tolerated if necessity dictated; but the ideal or preference must remain a celibate priesthood. If we can get along fine without married priests (and vocations are up and growing) then we should maintain mandatory celibacy, even if a married man might rarely be ordained for purposes of ecclesial reunion.

Priestly Celibacy – Virginal Marriage?

The ritual used for the consecration of virgins praises marriage as a great natural blessing that points to the union of Christ with his bride, the Church. This acknowledgment in such a ceremony might seem strange but it illustrates the sensible attitude that celibacy is not a repudiation of the goodness of marriage. Marriage is a sacrament, a mystery foreshadowing and yet also participating in something unseen and greater than itself. By comparison, is it proper to treat consecrated virginity as something equivalent to a sacrament? Unlike marriage, celibacy is not ranked as a sacrament of the Church, at least not as something that hangs by itself. The woman virgin pledges herself to her groom, Christ. The priest signifies Christ bonded to his spouse, the Church. It is only when connected to holy orders or to consecrated religious life that virginity and/or celibacy seems to take to itself a quasi-sacramental quality. This is actually a core reason why some of us strenuously want to keep the association in priesthood as absolute as possible, with few exceptions.

Is a spiritual marriage in any way a real marriage? It should be noted, that while the formal consecration of virgins has been restored, the ritual was suppressed for some time. The ceremonial for a consecration of virginity resembles a wedding.  One of the difficulties with this institution of virgins (outside of a religious house) was accountability. How does the Church insure their past, present and future virginity.  These women live and work in the word. They take secular jobs and have to pay their own bills. There is no religious community to help sustain them. The Church worried that these women might have settled for virginity because of a lack of opportunity or because a tragedy left them as spinsters. Note that spiritual or moral virginity after violation would not satisfy the requirements for this consecration of virgins. If I recall correctly, the woman must be physically intact, never having had sexual intercourse. Given modern promiscuity, this consecration is very rare today, indeed.  This is where the similarity with priestly celibacy breaks down. Indeed, this material or physical virginity is not mandated for sisters and nuns, either; there is a history of widows entering religious life.  St. Mother Seton would be among these.  She was a wife and mother.  Many convents celebrate a ritual akin to a marital ceremony; the young woman approaches the altar in a bridal dress, makes her promises, is given the habit of the community and her hair is cut.  Some traditional communities will place the cut hair in a wooden box.  I knew parents who cherished one of these cases as a remembrance of their daughter pledging herself to Christ.  Women religious, as I said, need not be physical virgins, although many of them are, and they embrace a life of celibate love and obedience to their religious superior.  While we would hope that our candidates for the priesthood are virgins, such is not mandatory.  They might be widowers.  If they were “bad boys,” they might still be invited into the celibate priesthood, as long as they exhibit repentance and make recourse to the Sacrament of Penance.

I read one authority who suggested that marriage between a man and woman and the spiritual marriage of a consecrated virgin or a female religious or possibly a celibate priest or deacon were varying forms of the sacrament of marriage. I find this argument problematical. The sacrament of marriage overlaps or is transposed over the natural bond. A man and woman witness marriage with their vows and with their bodies. Just as we argue that only a man can marry a woman, rejecting same-sex unions, there is just no getting around the issue of physicality and complementarity. Marriages are consummated, not before a judge or before a priest and altar. They are consummated and made real or permanent in the marriage bed. The chief purpose of marriage has frequently been listed as propagation. This was not to malign the good of fidelity but there has always be a high level of awe connected to human participation in the act of creation. While there is an element of physicality in virginity or celibacy, it is only as negation or in the suppression of this faculty. Spiritual marriage, either to Christ or to the Church, may have all sorts of intangible benefits; but it remains a mystery analogous to matrimony, not materially equivalent. Further, while this analogy is often applied to nuns as brides of Christ and to priests wedded to the Church, the language becomes more strained for religious brothers outside the priesthood. It is true that if the priest is one with the groom Christ, then the congregation (men and women) collectively play the role of bride. This is tolerated of the Church but not of the minister. As a matter of fact, it plays into the argument against women priests or priestesses. As a female she cannot signify Christ the groom, and thus the realization of priestesses would usher forth a kind of sacramental lesbianism.

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.

Transformation from Modern to Traditional Altar

FSSP transform a modernistic free-standing altar into a very beautiful High Altar. The church that this took place in is in France and is now operated by the Fraternity of St. Peter. The complete time for this “Altar-ation” was just about 15 minutes!

A number of years ago, I posted this simple video of an ugly modern communion table being transformed into a visible altar of sacrifice. The posting was a whim, a small aside. The discussion that followed floored me. This was much more important to believers than I had thought. This is all for the good.

Here is the Discussion

MARY O: Deo Gratias!

GERRY L: Amazing! That’s how it should be.

ANNA MARIA: To Mary O— A big “Amen” to your comment. I couldn’t say it better. To Father Joe— Thanks for posting this! Where there is a will there is a way. I hope we see more of this Stateside!

JOHN S: Next stop improve the music!

KAY: Amen!!!!

KRISTIE: Beautiful! And I agree; that is how it should be! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it spread State side? Thanks Father Joe! You are awesome!

VICTORIA: Reverent…one aspect of many of the beauty of Catholicism. (I didn’t witness this reverence in the Baptist, Unitarian, Nondenominational, or Methodist churches.) I’m sooo happy I’m Home.

BOB: John S— Sanctus fumus! More Palestrina, that’s what wants here!

LADY GODLESS: Well, that was nice! It looked too much like a lethal injection gurney before.

REGINA: Fr. Joe, this is why women are not priests…I spent an hour reading your blog and it reminds me of something I already know— men have a thick skin. They are tougher than us women. I heard a caller to a secular radio station say that the gates of hell referred to in the bible would not prevail against the Church, which, as the caller pointed out, was a battering ram. I loved this insight— you are a battering ram! Keep battering those gates Father! I pray for you.

ANITA MOORE OPL: One of these days, the change will be permanent. We can look at the cost as a penance for having wrecked the old furnishings in the first place. Is it possible there are some bishops who will not get out of Purgatory until the wreckovations they ordered are undone? If so, that makes the restoration of the Churches even more urgent.

HIDDEN ONE: I know a few altars that could use that kind of treatment… at least one of which a renovation group could sneak into, remodel, and leave, likely without being noticed. *sigh*

MR. FLAPTRAP: This is the installation of the new altar at my parish, St. Raphael’s in Rockville, Md. The old altar was similar in style to the original one in this video (four round concrete legs and a slab.) The base on the new one features the three archangels named in the Bible.

FATHER JOE: Yes, I remember the before and after. There are also shots of the late Father Bill Finch who died after Mass on Holy Thursday 2009. Rest in Peace. Thank you for sharing the video.


I recently joined a parish where altar, tabernacle, and crucifix are in a traditional vertical line of worship as in the video. Sadly, I am aware of only a few churches in the archdiocese of Cincinnati that are configured with the tabernacle placed at the altar. I must drive farther to my new parish, but the trip is well worth it because I now experience a much deeper sense of worship, adoration, and reverence for the Eucharist.

I pray our new archbishop will institute a uniform policy to place the tabernacle at the altar in all parish churches in the archdiocese. This would be a huge achievement for the catechesis of young and old on Christ’s Eucharistic presence.

Pope Pius XII, in his 1956 Address on the Liturgy, addressed with prophetic insight what would happen only a decade later shortly after Vatican II by warning: “To separate tabernacle from altar is to separate two things which by their origin and their nature should remain united.” Indeed, Church tradition for seven centuries — from mid-thirteenth century until after Vatican II — had placed the tabernacle at the altar. Surely the Holy Spirit inspired the holy union of tabernacle and altar over so many centuries.

This is a really informative website. Keep up the good work, Fr. Joe! God bless.

JOHN: The problem today is that the priests have been formed to think that they are pastors first and the Mass means very little.

FATHER JOE: That was not my experience. Most priests I know would argue with you. The Eucharist is the center of our lives.


If you look at the new Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1983 by Pope John Paul II, take a look at Canon 276. This canon directly addresses the question of how Catholic priests are to pursue holiness. It lists:

First, the obligation to ‘faithfully and untiringly….fulfill the duties of pastoral ministry’; Second, the obligation to Sacred Scripture and the celebration of the Eucharist; Third, reading the breviary.

FATHER JOE: Are you being purposely deceptive? The code begins by saying, “In leading their lives, clerics are bound in a special way to pursue holiness since, having been consecrated to God by a new title in the reception of orders, they are dispensers of the mysteries of God in the service of His people.” The initial statement of the canon stresses “the mysteries of God” and the chief among these are the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance. Priests have been empowered by Christ to offer the sacrifice of the Mass and to forgive sins. I suspect that you have a watered down appreciation of the pastoral ministry. A man is not ordained chiefly for his own salvation but for that of others. Jesus washed the feet of his apostles and told his followers to do so for one another. The priest is the servant of God who lays down his life for others. A pastor serves God by sacrificing his life for his flock. Only priests can offer the Mass and forgive sins. This has not changed since Vatican II.

JOHN: Canon 276 sets forth a weird priority of obligations. For years Catholics (including priests) have been taught that because the Eucharist is the centre of the Church the obligation to celebrate Mass was far and away the most important in priestly life. In fact, this principle was often demonstrated by the famous example that a priest will still celebrate Mass even though there is no one in attendance.

FATHER JOE: I suspect you are not appreciating the language of the Code. It is still recommending that priests celebrate daily Mass. Most if not all priests I know do precisely that. Indeed, many of us offer the Mass several times a day.

JOHN: The obligation of all priests to pastoral duties also undermines the life of any priest living the contemplative life.

FATHER JOE: There are different codes for pastors and monks. It is a different life. Many religious priests in monasteries regularly concelebrate. Most diocesan priests are the only priest present at their liturgies. Some groups like the Trappists only ordain enough priests to care for the community. The other monks remain religious brothers. The old code also placed a pastor-priest’s salvation on the line in how he fulfilled his pastoral duties: not neglecting the needs of his people for the Eucharist and Confession and Extreme Unction. The transmission of the true faith, especially to the children is crucial in both codes. Failure to give adequate care to this would constitute mortal sin.

JOHN: Although the canon refers to all priests (not merely diocesan), one wonders how it can be applied to the many priests living in a monastery.

FATHER JOE: Particular rules of life in orders approved by the Holy See and the codes on religious take precedence since it is seen as a higher vocation.

JOHN: In fact, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to see how monks can be said to have any priestly obligation to pastoral ministry. It would also not be exaggeration to say that the Vatican II theology of the priesthood, which makes pastoral obligations intrinsic to the Sacrament of Holy Orders, undermines the life of the monk-priest.

FATHER JOE: Such ministry is in regard to the religious community. Similarly priests were sometimes given charge of a convent. Their flock would be the nuns. Pastoral ministry always exists in some form, even if it is just Mass for the dead. The word “pastoral” is a reference to the role of a priest as a shepherd. He cares for the sheep and does so according to the powers and authority given him. You are making a false case. Accidentals have changed in some cases, but the priesthood is as it has always been. The old code was even more concerned about accidentals to ministry, like tonsure and clerical property and certain rights.


This approach seems little else that an attempted synthesis between the Catholic diocesan priesthood and the Lutheran ministry. Further, it is a change so radical that it can be safely said that the Catholic priesthood has been turned upside-down.

On October 24, 1995, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in a speech given on the thirtieth anniversary of Presbyterorum Ordinis, said that Vatican II attempted to broaden the classical image of the priesthood and to satisfy the demands proposed by the Reformation, by critical exegesis, and by modern life but from the reading of Canon 276 it seems more likely that the Council, in its ecumenical effort, embraced the Protestant ideas of ministry but unfortunately loosened its grasp of the core of the Catholic priesthood. The consequence was that Vatican II produced a document which at its core is little else than a warmed-over version of the Protestant ministry.

FATHER JOE: You mean well, but your hatred of the Church after Vatican II colors your reasoning. Catholic priests are not defined as one would Lutheran ministers. Many Lutherans believe that ordination can expire. The priesthood is forever. Catholic priests offer daily Mass. Many Lutherans do not and are only part-time ministers. Catholic priests offer a propitiatory sacrifice of the Mass (a true re-presentation of Calvary) and offer us the risen Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Protestants have occasional communion services and give out bread and juice. Catholic priests claim to have the power to forgive sins. No Lutheran minister would say that. Look at the catechism, which is far more revelatory about the priesthood than the Code on the rights and responsibilities of the clerical state.

JOHN: These liturgical changes, which were introduced over forty years ago, can now be seen as part of the larger picture. It is no secret that vernacular liturgy, the concept of Eucharist as-meal (implicit in the Mass of Paul VI), and the use of a table in the sanctuary (rather than an altar) were applauded by most Protestant sects. In fact these liturgical changes were the companion of very serious changes to the Catholic priesthood— all under the influence of Protestant theology.

FATHER JOE: Abuses happened, but the liturgical reform and a movement to a vernacular liturgy were being explored even in the 1930′s. We saw the development of the dialogue Mass prior to Vatican II. There is no denial of sacrifice by regarding the altar as also a table. There need be no either/or. As for Protestant sects, we came to appreciate a common love for Jesus, but most of them still reject the Mass and the priesthood. The sacraments are still wholly Catholic and neither the priesthood nor the Mass has lost that spiritual efficacy given them by Christ.

JOHN: And I continue to find it so amusing how everyone thinks of Pope JPII as being so conservative where it was he who introduced a new Code of Canon Law, new Catholic Catechism, new translations of the Bible (USCCB and NAB but approved on the Vatican website and explained as such), proudly proclaimed ecumenism as the cornerstone of his pontificate and participated in false worship that in infallible councils and in encyclical after encyclical proclaimed any Catholic let alone a Pope who would do such was excommunicated.

FATHER JOE: The Old Catholics broke away from the true Church prior to Vatican II. Many Anglicans practice ancient rituals. However, like so many Latin Traditionalists, their fight over ecclesiology and the authority of the Pope makes them the REAL PROTESTANTS. You can offer the Tridentine Mass and still be a heretic, schismatic, excommunicant, and a PROTESTANT. Unlike certain churches of the East locked into a stagnant tradition; the Catholic Church has a Magisterium that is protected by the Holy Spirit. We have a teaching authority centered upon the Pope which along with the world’s bishops (in and out of council) guides the Church. A few renegade bishops and priests have no such divine protection.

JOHN: This mess will take generations to clean up and millions of souls will be lost because of those who were entrusted to save souls.

FATHER JOE: And some of the lost souls will follow the guidance of illicit bishops who deny the Jewish holocaust and who rebuke the authority of Christ’s Vicar on Earth.

ANNE W. PALMER: I cried and cried when I saw the video. Thanks be to God! I grew up with the traditional years ago. There is such a difference in realization of the sacredness of our precious Lord in the Eucharist. Vatican II was so misinterpreted, adding things that were never there in the first place. I will never understand how that happened. The video makes it so plain. Thank you for posting it. I will share it with as many as possible. By the way, the music was awesome too. I would like to know from where it came? Music also denotes the sacred and that was sacred.

JOHN: Why is my comment still awaiting moderation? [I had to find time to respond in the original discussion.] Is it that difficult or do you not want to acknowledge the new form of the priesthood, which after Vatican II saw thousands leave and starting with the late 1950′s, the “wandering eye” priest (not to be accepted as good) give way to the pedophile, gay, liberal priest who has led millions of souls to hell?

FATHER JOE: There is no new form of priesthood. That is the lie promulgated by those who misrepresent the teachings of the present-day Catholic Church under Peter’s successor. Those who give greater weight to accidentals over substance or essentials fall into grievous error, particularly in regard to ecclesiology and juridical authority. You might not like the current reformed rituals, but the sacraments are intact and the Church endures. As for pedophile priests, many of the lawsuits regard clergy who were formed by the old Latin regime. What is the old saying about people living in glass houses throwing stones?

JOHN: Our Sermon today at the SSPV chapel in Oyster Bay was just that, how the priesthood right before and after Vatican II with its changes in its form as well as intent as I have stated above, is more concerned about being “liked” and knowing the bible than about saving souls and leading those astray to find Christ.

FATHER JOE: You belong to a splinter group of a splinter group, a schism of a schism? You are being deceived. I will pray that you will return to the one holy “Catholic” and apostolic CHURCH.


I’m surprised more people have not responded to this topic and I would really like to know what you think. I’m 62 years old. Although I’m happy to have recently joined a parish with the tabernacle at the main altar, it makes me downright angry that so many parishes in my archdiocese displace the tabernacle. Let me give you a few examples. The parish where I grew up removed the tabernacle from the altar sometime after Vatican II and placed it in a side wing near the choir. They put the baptismal font at the altar where the tabernacle once stood.

Another parish I attended for several years was an older church with a beautiful altar having a built-in tabernacle. When it was remodeled, they put the tabernacle at a side altar outside the sanctuary, and “boarded up” the hole at the main altar with an ornamental cross display.

The last parish I attended for several years before joining my present one actually had the tabernacle as a small wall-closet outside the sanctuary. I finally had my fill of this nonsense and was delighted to find a traditional parish with the tabernacle at the main altar.

Call me “old fashioned” if you like, but to my way of thinking, Christ’s Eucharistic presence is either real or make-believe. If make-believe, then it really doesn’t matter where we put the tabernacle or whether anyone genuflects before it. But if Christ’s Eucharistic presence is real, then where on earth would you even think about placing the tabernacle — other than at the main altar.

As I pointed out in my earlier comment, Catholic tradition placed the tabernacle at the altar for 7 centuries — from mid-13th century until shortly after Vatican II. And contrary to what some Catholics mistakenly believe, Vatican II did NOT mandate or encourage the removal of the tabernacle from the altar. This nonsense resulted from liturgists who used the reform momentum of Vatican II as an excuse to radically redesign churches with the consent of some bishops who frankly were “asleep at the wheel.”

And where has this nonsense led. My observation is that most people do not genuflect when the tabernacle is absent from the altar, and if they do it’s often not even in the direction of the tabernacle. There is also a lot more talking in the pews before and after Mass. In short, reverence for the Eucharist is lacking to some extent and Mass seems more a “communal meal” and less an act of divine worship. At least, that’s my personal experience.

And, what about catechesis on Christ’s Eucharistic presence? What does it say to young and old alike when the baptismal font replaces the tabernacle at the altar, or when the tabernacle is placed at a side altar like a saint’s statue, or when the tabernacle is a wall closet outside the sanctuary?

Eucharistic adoration doesn’t make a lot of sense to me in churches where the tabernacle is displaced. After all, what is the sense of placing the Eucharist in a monstrance on the main altar when the tabernacle is not afforded the same position of honor? Isn’t the same Eucharist inside the tabernacle or am I missing something?

To reiterate the words of Pope Pius XII in my earlier post above: “To separate tabernacle from altar is to separate two things which by their origin and their nature should remain united.” Also, I think it’s hard to argue with 7 centuries of Church tradition that placed the tabernacle at the altar. Certainly, the Holy Spirit inspired the holy union of tabernacle and altar over so many centuries.
Okay, Father Joe, what do you think about all this? It troubles me spiritually to see such disconnect between my belief about the Eucharist and the placement of the tabernacle in so many churches?

FATHER JOE: In regard to our parish churches, tabernacles are best placed in the center, along with the altar. We pretty much agree. My last parish had a side tabernacle (built in 1971). I moved it to the center where it belonged.

MARY O: “I moved it to the center where it belonged.” God bless you for that, Father Joe.

Faithful to Christ’s Pattern of Ministry

Dissenters, arguing for priestesses (women priests), will contend that their exclusion is a violation of justice and that qualified women deserve and must demand ordination. Besides such inclusion being deemed impossible by the late Pope John Paul II, neither men nor women “deserve” to be ordained. It is not an item on a social justice or equality agenda that anyone can merit. It is a divine gift. The Church discerns as genuine or false the vocations to which people feel called. The priesthood is given to a few but in terms of service, the whole Church benefits. Jesus chose men to be his apostles and in turn they ordained bishops, priests and deacons to follow them. The Church follows the pattern of Christ and never felt directed or free to ordain women. However, while no women are called to priestly service, very few men are given this gift from God. The priest is sacramentally “another Christ” and he is an icon of Christ the bridegroom to his bride the Church at Mass. Our most precious sacraments and gifts of salvation come from the mediation of priests. A number of our Anglican or Episcopalian brothers and sisters are coming to Catholicism because they are sick of seeing vocations demeaned to purely human terms. A radical feminism led to women Episcopal priests and bishops. Now a radical homosexual movement forces gay and lesbian clergy into their ranks. Error builds upon error. The reality of the sacraments is forfeited. Human whim and fancy replaces Scripture and a living tradition. I am reminded of the reprimand that our Lord gave poor Peter, and immediately after his great profession of Christ’s identity no less. Unable to understand Jesus’ reference to his coming passion, our Lord says to him, “Get out of my sight, you Satan, you are not judging by God’s standards but by man’s” (Matthew 16:23).

Contraception, Gender Roles & Priestesses

Do you know that there is no single cell in the human body (with the exception of gametes for reproduction) which is not sexually imprinted as either male or female? I will not go into an elementary lecture on the structural differences between the sexes or the differing roles in the marital act. Although a few contest it, there are differences in the characteristics of mind and spirit, too. While we must be careful of stereotypes, women seem to have a heightened receptivity and religious sense. Their powers of intuition and emotion also seem more pronounced over the male’s analytical approach to life and ideas. We cannot dismiss the wonderful gifts of women. These kinds of distinctions must be considered in any debate regarding women ministers, and even more so, about the possibility of women priests or priestesses. The differences between the sexes and any talk about the subordination of women do not imply inferiority and is ultimately the will of the Creator. Any degradation of womanhood would be a false interpretation of Scripture and impugn the work of God with creation and human nature.

The question of women in the priesthood arose after the so-called sexual revolution. The legalization and endorsement of artificial contraception tended to escalate the separation of womanhood from motherhood and the home. The role of women went through a drastic reappraisal. Sexual expression was also increasingly severed from marriage and the desire for a family. After the Anglican decision to tolerate contraception, at least for married couples, in 1930, the Catholic Church felt compelled to respond with a clear repudiation of such a stance. I am among the school of thought holding that Pope Pius XI’s encyclical on the ends of marriage, Casti Connubii, fulfills the requirements for infallibility within the universal ordinary Magisterium. All the world bishops were consulted and it was received everywhere, by the shepherds and laity alike. Dr. William May and Dr. Germain Grisez are also of one mind about this. The encyclical condemned artificial contraception. But, what is more, it corrected the modern view about the “equality of rights” of the spouses. The Holy Father wrote, “. . . there must be a certain inequality . . . which is demanded by the good of the family and the right ordering and unity and stability of home life” (paragraph 77). This “hierarchical” ordering of marriage implied not denigration of women, “for if the man is the head, the woman is the heart” of the family (paragraph 27f). Similarly, Pius XII emphasized that the particular qualities of the sexes had to be given recognition, especially the social leadership of men and the maternal traits of women. The voice of the true Vatican II, not the nebulous and often contradictory “spirit of Vatican II,” signifies that the differences between the sexes be acknowledged and nurtured. In the Declaration on Christian Education, we read, “. . . pay due regard in every educational activity to sexual differences and to the special role which divine Providence allots to each sex in family life and in society” (#8).

I digress into all this to stress that the sexes are not the same. Further, the Church and her tradition puts much weight on the marriage analogy in understanding the priesthood and ecclesial identity as expressed in the Mass. Seen in this light, many observers would argue that it appears the ordination of women is counter to female human nature as it arises from the creative providence of God.

POPE JOHN PAUL II: “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” (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis).