31May Real reform or window dressing?

John Shea has again written to Pope Francis and to the Council of Cardinals asking for honest dialogue on the issue of the ordination of women.

Pentecost Pope Francis.pdf

Pentecost, 2016

I am writing again to you and to the other members of the Council of Cardinals on this profoundly holy day to ask you to discuss at your next meeting a core issue of structural reform—ecclesia semper refor- manda—an issue that continues to disrespect every aspect of the identity and mission of the church: the decision to see women as not biologically worthy to be ordained to the priesthood.

Of all the things that Pope Francis has said and done, his opening of the Synod on the Family in 2014 was perhaps the most extraordinary: he asked the bishops to speak “freely,” “boldly,” and “without fear.” On the one hand, this exhortation is incredibly shocking, that he would have to ask his fellow bishops—grown men and the teachers of the church—to speak honestly to each other. On the other hand, given the atmosphere of the Vatican where honest exchange is often so difficult, his exhortation was not only necessary but also a modest sign of hope in our dialogically challenged church.

If you believe that the ordination of women to the priesthood is vital for the integrity, mutuality, and viability of our church, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you find nothing in Scripture or tradition prejudicial against women or precluding their ordination to the priesthood, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you know that the actual history of ordination—of women as well as men—needs to be acknowledged and carefully understood by you and all the bishops, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you believe the letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, squashed dialogue on the ordination of women just when it could have been open, intelli- gent, and fruitful, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you know that any given woman is as religiously mature and able to provide pastoral care as any given man, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you know that seeing women and men through a “complementa- rity” lens or in light of precious “theological symbolism” is not pertinent to ordination, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you see the letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, as an historical expla- nation of ordination rather than a theological explanation, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you think the one theological explanation put forth by the Vati- can in the 1970s and 1980s—that women cannot be ordained because they are “not fully in the likeness of Jesus”—would be silly if it were it not so heretical, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you know that the church’s opposition to the ordination of wom- en is understood—within the church and throughout the world—as af- firming women’s inferiority and justifying all kinds of horrible violence against them, I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you understand why so many of the adult faithful are leaving the church in droves over the injustice of women barred from priesthood—if you see that a “patriarchal Jesus” is a colossal contradiction—I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If the church’s current practice directly undermines our God’s rela- tional Three-in-Oneness—if a huge patriarchal plank is stuck in the church’s eye, worshipping the Father as male, the Son as male, and the Holy Spirit as male—I ask you to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you want our church to walk proudly on two feet instead of aping patriarchal culture and hobbling around on one, please—honoring the human and the divine—have the courage to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

If you have some inkling that all the reforms you are undertaking ultimately do not mean very much as long as women are not seen as fully in the likeness of Jesus in our church, I ask you on this holy day of Pentecost to speak freely, boldly, and without fear.

Cardinal Maradiaga, is injustice to women to cripple the Christian message forever? Like the reformation of inclusion in the infant church, can you and your fellow bishops see and hear and name what Pope Francis is not able to see and hear and name?

Sincerely,
John J. Shea, O.S.A.

28 Responses

  1. Mark

    Surely then men are biologically unworthy to give birth? Where are my rights to motherhood, as a man? Or a religious sister? I think I’d make a lovely sister.

    But seriously, men and women are different, and have different but complementary roles in the Church and the world. But where today is the authentic motherhood in the Church today? We need a revitalisation of women’s religious life in Ireland. Men’s too.

    We must not denigrate women in the Church by seeking to make them the same as men.

  2. Peter Shore

    I always wonder why would-be reformers emphasise “honest” dialogue. Is it to imply that disagreement with the proposed reform is “dishonest”. Was Pope Saint John Paul II being dishonest when he definitively set out the reasons that women cannot be ordained? Indeed, this letter goes much further, to suggest that he believed women to be inferior and “not biologically worthy”. By all means, let us be honest … and admit that he said the exact opposite.

  3. Sean

    As a Catholic I believe in something called the Magisterium of the Church, that is, the Church teaches me about doctrine. St John Paul II declared that it is the Church’s Magisterium that women cannot be ordained to the priesthood and that the question is closed to discussion. I simply accept this teaching as the teaching of the Church. I cannot understand, therefore, why priests such as Fr Shea keep questioning the teaching. In fact, I am scandalised by it. I know it is probably a waste of time asking Fr Shea this question as he will probably not answer but does he accept that the Church has the right to teach us in this way?

  4. Bernard Whelan

    Was Pope Saint John Paul II being dishonest, asks Peter Shore, when he definitively set out the reasons that women cannot be ordained? A challenging question. On balance, I think the answer must be yes. I do not suggest that Pope John Paul set out deliberately to deceive us, but that his vision was so blinkered that he could not help it.

    In the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, he gives (section 1) these reasons for the exclusion of women from the priesthood:
    1. the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his apostles only from among men;
    2. the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and
    3. her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for his Church.
    Reason No. 1 depends upon Scriptures; No. 2 upon tradition. No. 3 is simply not true: the “teaching authority” has only held this in recent decades, because it is only in recent decades that the question has arisen. But in any event, reason No. 3 depends upon Nos. 1 and 2 for its validity: if they fail, then No. 3 cannot stand on its own.
    If reason No. 1 fails, then reason No. 2 loses its basis.
    So we are left with No. 1: Christ choosing apostles only from among men. One has to be very cautious when arguing from a negative, I cannot regard this reason as establishing conclusively a norm: one might as well argue that, because Christ chose his apostles only from among Jews (and there were plenty of non-Jews around), we should conclude that he intended that only Jews should be called the priesthood.
    Pope John Paul II makes a number of attempts to justify what he calls Christ’s decision to limit the priesthood to men only, but in the end he can produce nothing stronger than this (section 2): “In calling only men as his Apostles, Christ acted in a completely free and sovereign manner”.
    What the Pope tells us here is that Christ could have chosen otherwise, he was free to do so; he was free to choose women as well as men to be priests, he was free to choose women only, but in the event he just happened to exercise his freedom to choose men. If there had been any good reasons for Christ to make this choice, other than capriciousness, the Pope, acting under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, would have doubtless have discerned them. But it seems that, according to this Pope, if we had had an opportunity to ask Christ why he chose men only, his answer would have been “Because I can”.
    I cannot think of any incident in the four Gospels which records Christ acting or speaking in this arbitrary manner. We might call Christ a king, but he never acted as one – “his state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave” (Philippians 2,6). What JP2 presents to us is not recognisable as Christ, the son of God. Rather, it is a sexist authoritarian, created in the image and likeness of Karol Wojtyła.

  5. Peter Shore

    @Bernard Whelan #4, the question of Christ choosing only Jews is an easy one to resolve: as Paul tells us in Romans 1:16, he came to the Jew *first* … and also to the Greek. This is compounded by multiple similar statements in the epistles, by the story of Peter’s vision in Acts 10, by Christ’s own allusions in Matthew 22:10 to the wedding invitation thrown open to everyone, and indeed by many Old Testament passages. Christ was not acting capriciously in choosing only Jews, he was fulfilling the OT promises, but he directed the Church to do the opposite in the the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19.

    There is no such easy explanation of Christ’s choice of only male apostles. Ordinatio Sacerdotalis points out that it was a very deliberate choice, made after a night spent in prayer, from among Jesus’s existing group of disciples which undoubtedly included women. You seem to miss the point of John Paul’s observation that Christ was entirely free to choose to do otherwise. The fact that he did not signals that it was his conscious and deliberate choice, and no accident. You say that Pope John Paul II seems bereft of ideas as to why this was Christ’s choice, but Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is a letter of barely a thousand words. John Paul refers us to the Declaration Inter Insigniores for more theological meat. There we find a deeper exploration of the significance of gender. Among other things we come face to face with God’s choice to be incarnated as a man. Was this also a capricious act on the part of God? The biblical imagery of the Church and Christ as bride and bridegroom tell us that it was not.

    You are right that one has to be careful in arguing from a negative. But in this case the Scriptures, Tradition, and teaching are unanimous. You say the latter only occurs because the question of women’s ordination is new and so hadn’t been previously considered. This is misleading. If it hadn’t been considered it is only because it was thought so obviously heretical that no official pronouncement was necessary. It’s not as if the subject didn’t come up — multiple Church Fathers from Irenaeus to John Chrysostom wrote about it.

    The alternative is that we must believe that Christ’s choice of apostles was entirely random and just happened to be male. (If his disciple’s were equal numbers of men and women, the odds of that would be 4,000 to one against). We must further believe that the pronouncements of the early Church including many Church Fathers, the Apostolic Constitutions, and at least one regional council (Laodicea) were just caving in to social norms (even though the Gnostic religions and pagan sects around them had priestesses, so obviously these social norms weren’t all that “normal”). Additionally, the Holy Spirit abandoned the Church to a bunch of misogynistic dinosaurs for 2,000 years, unlike with the topical question of baptising non-Jews which the Church was inspired to resolve almost instantly. Is this not all a bit farfetched?

  6. sean eile

    Seeing that Jesus`choice of men was quite deliberate, I presume it`s not unreasonable to assume his choice of the number – 12 – was also quite deliberate. Somebody along the line decided that could be changed …..

  7. Roy Donovan

    Those of us in charge of the Church are so conditioned,institutionalized and blind that I fear all arguments are pointless. Our exclusion of women at all levels is absolutely wrong and unjust. Full stop. I can visualise big protests being organised in Dublin August 2018 should the Pope come to Ireland!?

  8. Willie Herlihy

    Women, were being treated like chattels of men at the time of Christ,similar to the way women are being treated, in some autocratic Muslim states to day i.e Saudi Arabia.
    From my reading of scripture Christ certainly did not treat women in that manner.
    In the society of his time, it would probably be a step too far, to select a woman as one of his disciples.
    After all, women only got limited voting rights in the late 19th Century.

    In to days world, women are playing leading roles in all the professions,in politics etc.
    From what I have outlined above, there is no logical reason for excluding women from ministry.

  9. Darlene Starrs

    Yes, Willie, there is no logical reason….but, the “theological imagination” of another time and place persists, that being, a woman cannot image Christ for anatomical reasons. That is absolutely ludicrous and I know women have found bishops to ordain them and they function as priests in secretive churches. That is a solution for some women, but, for me, the first problem is not the ordination of women, but, it is this belief that women cannot image Christ and therefore Christ has not and will not call women to the ministries until now reserved for men. I believe the conversion on this must come from within the old Church itself….How?….only the Holy Spirit knows…I do companion work with seniors and sometimes I come into the person’s life in their 11th hour…For the sake of that person…I had better be imaging Christ….The issue is serious for the Church on so many levels…and one is this:….if indeed Christ has called a woman or women to image him and also serve as preacher and presider…then the RC Church is serious disobedience….nothing to poo-poo!

  10. Peter Shore

    @Willie Herlihy #8, Jesus *did* have many women among his disciples, but chose none as apostles. It seems incredible to say that while Jesus did not treat women according to social norms of the time, he still considered it a step too far to have one as an apostle. This is the god-man who went against the cultural grain to the extent of getting himself killed.

  11. Joe O'Leary

    “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis points out that it was a very deliberate choice, made after a night spent in prayer, from among Jesus’s existing group of disciples which undoubtedly included women. ”

    And isn’t this still a fundamentalistic type of argument? Did we ever hear of the Spirit who guides the Church into all truth?

  12. Anne

    Ordination should have nothing to do with whether one is male or female.It should be about who has a vocation for the priesthood. We all know women who would make wonderful priests and we all know men who should never have been ordained.

  13. Peter Shore

    @Joe O’Leary #11, “And isn’t this still a fundamentalistic type of argument [in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis]?”

    Fundamentalism is a much abused word. The original Christian Fundamentals (a series of early 20th century essays) held that Catholicism is the work of Satan, so it’s unlikely the Pope would be making a fundamentalist argument in that sense. Fundamentalism is sometimes also applied to a literalist interpretation of scripture. That has never been the Catholic approach, so again we can be reasonably sure a Pope with separate doctorates in philosophy and theology is not engaging in it. And if we follow all the references in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, short as it is, sure enough we find that the argument is based on reasoned exegesis, as well as the constant Tradition and teaching authority of the Church. So no, it is not at all fundamentalist except in that word’s particularly perjorative modern meaning of “in agreement with the Church”.

    “Did we ever hear of the Spirit who guides the Church into all truth?”

    Certainly. Every Pope for the last fifty years (including Francis) has taken the same line. So did the early Church Fathers, both Latin and Greek (and all available online). So has the Church constantly throughout its history. Presumably the Holy Spirit was guiding them too, and has not been asleep on the job until suddenly woken up by the cries of vocal would-be reformers.

  14. Vincent Bagul

    I as an Indian Catholic support the movement for ordaining women to the priesthood. There should not be discrimination on the basis of sex

  15. Mark

    But Anne, then surely God is discriminating against me by not allowing me to give birth? Would you accuse God of discrimination and blinkered thinking in not letting me be a mother? And if not, why not? So if there are fixed roles in nature, why not in the supernatural world of the Church?

  16. Soline Humbert

    from The Tablet,14th May 2016:
    “…On the subject of women’s ordination,cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz suggested that the block imposed by St John Paul II on even discussing the issue could be lifted. He said that there were examples in church history of how the church had believed that a certain decision was final for a long time but then,as if overnight,the door had been opened.”Indeed!

  17. Anne

    Mark@15
    The fact that women can give birth is not relevant as it has nothing to do with ones ability to be good priest. And it’s true you cannot give birth , that is because you are male ,but you can be a father and when a child is born both parents have equal responsibility to care for that child. So you are not discrimated against by God.

  18. Joe O'Leary

    “The original Christian Fundamentals (a series of early 20th century essays) held that Catholicism is the work of Satan, so it’s unlikely the Pope would be making a fundamentalist argument in that sense.”

    No doubt, but fundamentalism as it operates today rarely takes this form. A more servicable description of fundamentalism is biblical (or quranic) literalism, the erection of the uninterpreted Letter into something that quenches the Spirit,

    ” Fundamentalism is sometimes also applied to a literalist interpretation of scripture. That has never been the Catholic approach, so again we can be reasonably sure a Pope with separate doctorates in philosophy and theology is not engaging in it.”

    This was also a Pope who declared that Our Lady of Fatima had redirected his would-be assassin’s bullet and who gave an interpretation of the notorious Third Secret as referring to this event.

    ” And if we follow all the references in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, short as it is, sure enough we find that the argument is based on reasoned exegesis, as well as the constant Tradition and teaching authority of the Church.”

    Fundamentalist exegesis is often elaborately reasoned. But the basic argument is simple: since Jesus did not ordain women, he clearly did not want women to be ordained. But the very notion of ordination is not one that can be confidently read back into the gospel narratives,

    ” Every Pope for the last fifty years (including Francis) has taken the same line. So did the early Church Fathers, both Latin and Greek (and all available online). So has the Church constantly throughout its history.”

    This is not quite correct. The possibility of ordaining women just never came up for discussion in that long history. When a new question arises the first instinct of authority is to repress it. The second step is to discuss it, under the leading of the Spirit. You said in an earlier post that female ordination was “obviously heretical”, but I do not see the church using the word “heresy” about it today (I may be missing something).

    “Presumably the Holy Spirit was guiding them too, and has not been asleep on the job until suddenly woken up by the cries of vocal would-be reformers.”

    The same sort of argument could be used against the creative innovation of Vatican II on Judaism and on Religious Freedom — indeed against any innovation at all in religious history.

    Irenaeus is against gnostics, who had women priests, but is not discussing female ordination as such.

    As to Chrysostom, the Wijngaards site has this;

    Rome claims that at least St. Chrysostom was not biased. Here are their exact words: “St John Chrysostom, for his part, when commenting on chapter twenty-one of John, understood well that women’s exclusion from the pastoral office entrusted to Peter was not based on any natural incapacity, since, as he remarks, ‘even the majority of men have been excluded by Jesus from this immense task.’ De Sacerdotio 2, 2: PC 48, 663.

    This is truly an amazing interpretation! For Chrysostom says just the opposite. The task of the priesthood is so demanding, he says, that no woman can match up to it. “For those things which I have already mentioned might easily be performed by many even of those who are under authority, women as well as men; but when one is required to preside over the Church, and to be entrusted with the care of so many souls, the whole female sex must retire before the magnitude of the task, and the majority of men also.” The addition that the task is too big for the majority of men also, is no consolation. ‘The whole female sex’ falls short. Why, because they are inferior by nature! Read the whole passage in its context.

    St. Chrysostom’s real ideas about women are expressed as follows:
    •Paul orders women to keep silent in church because they are subject to men
    •Women are subjected because they are weaker beings and lightminded
    •Women speaking in public also offends against common reason and received custom
    •Women have to keep silent because they are subject to men
    •Women show their submission by their silence
    •Men are preeminent to women in every way
    •Woman was subjected by God, because she wrought our ruin in paradise
    •In Eve all women sinned and all women were punished with subjection
    •A woman’s hope for salvation lies in childbearing
    •The whole female race transgressed in Eve, but is redeemed by bringing up children

    Notice, St. Chysostom’s teaching here fails on many counts. It contradicts the inspired meaning of both the Genesis story and the Pauline passages 1 Corinthians 14,34-35 and 1 Timothy 2,11-15. It presumes the inferiority ascribed to women in Greek philosophy and in Roman law. To him, women were inferior by nature, by law and by God’s punishment.

  19. Anne

    Joe@18
    Very interesting article. It proves what we all know that women have always been treated like second class citizens by the church.
    Many women would make excellent priests and it must be very difficult for women who do have a vocation to be excluded.

  20. Peter Shore

    @Joe O’Leary, #18: “Fundamentalist exegesis is often elaborately reasoned.”

    Again, I see no justification put forward for the term “fundamentalist” other than that some here don’t agree with it.

    “But the very notion of ordination is not one that can be confidently read back into the gospel narratives”

    That is an extraordinary statement. See John 10:16, Luke 22:24, John 20:21-23 and, referentially, 1Tim 4:14. See the very confident declaration of the Council of Trent (22.1) that the apostles were “constituted priests of the New Testament” by Christ at the Last Supper. See the entire article starting at para 1536 in the Catechism. I mean to say, if the suggestion is that Christ did not institute the ministerial priesthood, what are we even talking about here? What is it that women might be ordained *to*?

    Regarding Chrysostom, if we read him in even wider context it gets harder to cherry pick disparaging quotes about his “real ideas about women”. For instance, in his correspondence with the deaconess Olympias: “…the wrestlings of virtue do not depend upon age, or bodily strength, but only on the spirit and the disposition. Thus women have been crowned victors, while men have been upset;” (Letters to Olympias). And referring to the martyress Pelagia: “…since the contest is wholly concerning the soul, the lists are open to each sex… in Christ Jesus neither male nor female, neither sex, nor weakness of body, nor age, nor any such thing could be a hindrance to those who run in the course of religion;” (Homilies on S. Ignatius and S. Babylas, 1).

    These sound like very egalitarian views. But on the matter of the priesthood, Chrysostom says that women (and, note, angels and archangels, as well as most men) are not excluded on grounds of inferiority, but because they have not received the commission. Therefore * “the divine law indeed has excluded women from the ministry” * (On The Priesthood, III, 9).

    @Anne, #19: “It proves what we all know that women have always been treated like second class citizens by the church.”

    Of course, we must beware of confirmation bias, since we rarely *need* proof for what we already know. But in this case, I think the idea that Chrysostom considered women to be second class citizens is not defensible.

  21. Joe O'Leary

    Interesting news item: http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2016/06/02/why-is-the-vatican-now-letting-advocates-of-womens-ordination-hold-a-demonstration-in-their-back-garden/

  22. Mary Vallely

    Thank you Joe @21. Francis is a Jesuit and very clever and, as the article states, he is comfortable with ambiguity. “His pastoral sense tells him that, for right now, church leaders needs to avoid divisive statements and just keep everyone on board.” I dread to think who or what will come after him but for now, a little hope, a little reminder of what reaching out in love and compassion can do is certainly warming the hearts of many both within and outside the Church. God grant him many more years of service to help encourage an atmosphere which can lead to dialogue. It’s painfully, painfully slow but that clericalist mindset that affects so many ( and many of us are unaware of how we too are infected) isn’t going to change overnight.
    BTW there are some interesting comments on the ACI webpage and they also have an excellent Facebook page for those of you on FB.?? ( link to the right of this page)

  23. Joe O'Leary

    To be sure the texts from Chrys. that seem to put down women seem mostly to echo equally objectionable texts in the Pastoral Letters. On other occasions he builds on more enlightenung Pauline utterances.

    Christ is the source of the Sacraments only in a much more subtle sense than the Council of Trent envisaged. Its hermeneutics are what today would seem fundamentalistic (e.g. its presupposition of the real existence of Adam and Eve, etc.). The threefold ministry of bishop, presbyter, deacon emerges clearly only in the 2nd century and is regarded as definitive not on the basis of biblical prooftexts but as a matter of “divine positive law”.

    Historically, Jesus appointed 12 Apostles, whose role did not particularly predominate in the early church, which set up its own structures of authority and ministry, which exhibit considerable pluralism that was lost in the later developments.

    The 12 were men because they represent the 12 sons of Jacob, the 12 tribes of Israel. This has pretty much nothing to do with current debate on female ordination, against which there is no knockdown theological argument.

  24. Darlene Starrs

    In response to the article above, that says that the women’s ordination group is allowed to protest at the Vatican, I would say..well…then…any priest or bishop that was censored or worse for supporting women’s ordination ought to be welcomed back to ministry, otherwise, this is a confusing and unfair stand on the part of the Vatican….Peace at all cost?…No…Pope Francis..while having done some admirable things…is himself, a cleric, a cleric, who believes…women cannot image Christ….especially as preacher and presider. in regards to the demonstration of women for ordination….that the Pope allowing the demonstration is patronization…as it says…I will allow it…but, I don’t believe you….

  25. Darlene Starrs

    Further, we will see, whether there is real reform or window dressing, after the results of the women’s demonstration. Surely, though, since the Vatican is permitting the demonstration, anyone who has been censored or excommunicated for merely speaking about the issue ought to be reinstated, otherwise, the Vatican puts themselves in a very hypocritical situation…after all, by allowing the demonstration, they are allowing “speech” about women’s ordination….Keep in mind, most of these women have been excommunicated for their speech and following through on it….What a mess..I’d say for the Universal Church….Maybe 100 years from now…when theological students are studying the History of the Church…they will say….”they were excommunicated for that?”…the other thing, that crossed my mine…was…Don’t democracies allow for demonstrations and protests?…a Pandora’s box indeed!

  26. Peter Shore

    We may speculate about when the exact form of the priestly ministry solidified from its earliest beginnings, but we cannot sidestep Christ’s specific institution of the ministerial priesthood. Any such attempt jettisons the entire essence of Catholicism. If there is no priest, there is no sacrifice. If there is no sacrifice there is no atonement. If there is no atonement there is no redemption. Without the Eucharist as its “source and summit” (LG 11, CCC 1324) there is no Christian life. That is a high price to pay for separating Christ from the priesthood, just so we can reduce the question of female priests to one of equality.

  27. Joe O'Leary

    “anyone who has been censored or excommunicated for merely speaking about the issue” — only those who participate in illegal or invalid ordinations incur the penalty of excommunication.

    “most of these women have been excommunicated for their speech and following through on it” — no, only for “following through on it” by declaring themselves to be Catholic priests, which in the eyes of the Vatican is a deadly attack on the integrity of church sacraments, just as if a lay person were to step into a confessional and start hearing confessions

    Calling for female ordination can be a positive contribution to church life. Tampering with the sacraments is another story, and among its other evil effects it has case great discredit on the cause of female ordination.

  28. Joe O'Leary

    http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2016/06/06/latvia-lutheran-church-abolishes-womens-ordination

    “We may speculate about when the exact form of the priestly ministry solidified from its earliest beginnings” — indeed, and in such speculation the all-male character of the ministry soon appears as lacking firm theological foundation (there is no knockdown argument against women priests, no proof that the Spirit may not lead the church to ordain women)

    “, but we cannot sidestep Christ’s specific institution of the ministerial priesthood. Any such attempt jettisons the entire essence of Catholicism. If there is no priest, there is no sacrifice. If there is no sacrifice there is no atonement. If there is no atonement there is no redemption.”

    Yet in the NT only Christ is ever called a priest (hiereus) and bishops and presbyters are never spoken of in sacredotal language. The only other Chrisitan group called priests are the entire people of God — Rev 1:6 adn 5:10 and I Peter 2:9.

    Insofar as the Mass is a re-presentation of Christ’s one atoning sacrifice, it is not offered by a lone sacrificer (a sacral priestly personage) but by the entire community, with the presbyter as the presider. quality.

    Theologians have been thinking along these lines for quite a while, quite independently of the question of ordaining women to the presbyterate.


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