Brendan Butler on the topic that ‘shall not be mentioned’!
It is incredible to realise that a Catholic who believes that the priesthood is open to women as well as to men is automatically not ‘in full communion’ with the Catholic Church and is thus placed in the invidious position of being a possible ‘heretic ‘ or ‘schismatic’. In 1998 Pope John Paul 2 issued an Apostolic letter ‘ Ad tuendan Fidem’ backed by Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Bertone , both in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at that time and now the two most powerful people in the Church . The letter, accompanied by a commentary of dubious theological standing , declared that previously openly argued theological issues like the issue of women’s ordination were now conveniently closeted into a newly- created category of truth termed ‘irreformable’ which were just one notch down from an infallible dogma and almost on the same level of truth as the articles of faith contained in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed . Canon Law was also modified to create suitable punishments for those found guilty of not accepting these newly redefined ‘irreformable doctrines with the necessary ‘obseqium’ . At the time a noted Asian theologian Johannes Wijngaards resigned from the catholic priesthood in protest.
As a lay person who believes that women have the right in justice and from their baptism to equality in all ministries of the church including ordination little church sanction can befall me at this stage of my life.. However if that catholic happens to be a religious or cleric and publicly asserts the principle of the equality of women in the church then they may be excommunicated for this ‘denial of a church doctrine’. Further all clerics upon ordination or taking up a teaching post in a seminary are obliged to swear allegiance to fully obey all these new ‘irreformable ‘doctrines . Thus we have an apartheid type clerical church based on absolute obedience to doctrines that were traditionally open to debate and ‘de Fide’ but now are reclassified as almost ‘absolute truth ‘. Only men who are willing to give away all intellectual right of theological inquiry are now holding positions of professors in Seminaries and holding hierarchical office in our Church.
Thus sadly we have experienced a concerted campaign by the Vatican to silence all dissent in the church on issues which have nothing to do with the bedrock of Christian belief and worldwide at least a few hundred theologians including Bishops have been either silenced or excommunicated. So we have a deeply divided apartheid catholic church enforced by threats of excommunication against anyone who dares question priestly celibacy, the invalidity of Anglican Orders , the ordination of women , the ban on ‘artificial ‘ contraception , the exclusion of Lesbian and gay people and the exclusion from the reception of the Eucharist by divorced or separated Catholics. This situation cannot be sustained . Free honest theological inquiry has always been an integral part of the church and creative thinkers are the lifeblood of vitality in any organisation.
The old adage must be revived ,modified and become the badge of all Catholics – Unity in all necessary issues, freedom in uncertainty , but above all , justice and charity in everything ‘.
Brendan Butler, 0864054984