Women: So far and no further

51 Responses

  1. P.R.Margeot says:

    The above is a very clear, unambiguous article and the reader understands that the writer would very much like to see the ordination of women. That question has been tossed around for a few decades now, specially since1970 in the wake of the council. Simply put, to ordain women would add water to the mill of the Revolution which has been and still sweeping our Holy Church since 1965.
    We all know that the Church will not ordain women. Let me say that I have met many nuns belonging to traditional societies; I have known many women parishioners of all cultures or nations, also belonging to Tradition; I have seen and observed young families with many children of all ages, let’s say in this case, the young girls in particular. In these three categories, all I have seen was peace, happiness, Faith, and a deep understanding of the role of Women in the Holy Church.The traditional nuns in particular are radiant with happiness, I have never met one single woman aspiring to be like the Priest at the altar of Calvary or to be in the confessional. Never. And do not believe for a moment that the women are weak or ignorant : they are (practically) all amazingly strong people who have a deep understanding of what’s going on, many are learned people, all have a deep Faith, all honour our Holy Mother in heaven, pray the Rosary daily, have a deep respect for the priests, who in turn have the greatest respect for them.
    But in Tradition, the women know instinctively how to act, behave, dress modestly at all times, keep a Catholic Home, help their priests become even better priests. In Tradition, there is a natural order which works. Tradition has 2000 years behind it : it cannot be wrong.
    The Revolution has no place in the Holy Catholic Church , which essentially is traditional. Our Holy Church is heading towards calmer waters, the Motu Proprio of 7/7/07 has contributed towards Unity among Catholics, great things are happening and greater things are about to happen. Noboby will lose, and nobody will lose face. The salvation of souls is the supreme Law.

  2. Derrick Kourie says:

    Nice column, Chris.

    Suppose that we acquiesced in John Paul II’s “almost infallible” pronouncement that women cannot be ordained as priests. Strictly speaking, that would exclude women from a very limit part of church activity.

    There are very many actions and responsibilities that have traditionally been ascribed to priests, bishops, and cardinals, that have nothing to do with priestly ordination per se. They have to do with custom, regulation, church law, training, habit, expectation, etc.

    For example, I do not see any doctrinal / theological reason why women (and indeed any suitably-trained layperson) cannot carry out functions such as the following:
    –Participate in the selection / nomination / election of bishops and popes
    –Hold office up to the highest level in the various Vatican, national and regional Church departments / commissions, etc.
    –Be full non-voting participants of national councils of bishops, ecumenical councils, and the like.
    –Lead liturgical celebrations, including the recitation of various prayers, the delivery of the homily, the reading the gospel, etc. Strictly speaking, an ordained priest is only needed to pronounce the words of consecration.
    –Have full managerial control and responsibility over parishes. This could include the responsibility for contracting in priests to perform their ordained functions as and when needed.

    To focus the debate around whether or not women may be ordained, obscures the depths of the church’s patriarchal nature. The “sin of patriarchy” runs far far deeper than the matter of women ordination. Many matters could easily be changed without any threat to the integrity of the faith. On the contrary, it seems to me that such changes would be consistent with the Church’s own doctrines of subsidiarity and justice.

    Within living memory, it seemed almost unthinkable to have a vernacular liturgy, a non-Italian pope, indigenous bishops, lay ministers of the eucharist, etc. These breaks with tradition have unquestionably enriched the church. I see no reason why the church of the 21st century should not be further enriched by allowing women their rightful place in its formal structures.

  3. P.R.Margeot says:

    A most interesting article and with so many rich ideas. The gem of this discourse in my opinion is the following : ” strictly speaking, an ordained priest is only needed to pronounce the words of consecration”. We can then imagine the priest vacating the presidential chair to a learned lady who hopefully will be modestly dressed in the Sanctuary. She would run things , preach, read the gospel, prepare the table, the gifts, and then she would nod to the priest a minute before the consecration.He would come along and together with the lady assisting, he would say the words of consecration. Then he would be able to go back to his chair and maybe wish the parishioners a holy Sunday in the Lord towards the end of the meal/ service.
    The life of such a priest would be the envy of many young men who then might think of entering a seminary.

  4. Martin Keenan says:

    As Mr. Kourie has explained, there is no women’s issue here. Where laymen can be found in the Church (at all levels up to and including presiding over bodies of Pontifical foundation associated with, if not formally part of, the Curia), there laywomen are found also. Incidentally, Mr. Kourie seems not to know that the laity were well represented at last year’s Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops as well as at the recently concluded Plenary of SECAM.

    Back with Mr. Moerdyk, Archbishop Migliore’s speech to the UN Economic and Social Council on progress towards achieving the millennium development goals is not a convenient hook on which to hang discussion of the role of women within the Church. If Mr. Moerdyk was looking there for some pronouncement on ecclesiology, he was very obviously looking in the wrong place.

    The question Mr. Moerdyk, despite himself, raised is whether the Catholic Church will admit lay people into governance, and the answer (with limited exceptions) is no. Another question we could waste our time disputing is whether the Catholic Church will resolve herself into autonomous congregations (whether at the parochial, diocesan or national level is immaterial), and the answer is again no.

    The real question is whether Mr. Moerdyk has any idea what he means by saying “[lay people] have very little influence on the running of the Church.” We are left to wonder for ourselves what he might mean by “running the Church” (it sounds so blithe). The “full managerial control” sense Mr. Kourie is so avid for? And where – given Mr. Kourie’s disordered idea of the life of the Church as encapsulated in his functionalist and minimalist account of the sacred priesthood – would even that lead, one may ask?

    As for Mr. Moerdyk’s petulant and not entirely reliable comments on the recently published revised norms “de gravioribus delictis”, one hardly knows where to start. If he cannot construe Archbishop Migliore’s speech in the secular environment of the UN Social and Economic Council, I suppose it is too much to expect him to grapple with the abundant materials put out by the CDF explaining exactly what their document was all about.

  5. Derrick Kourie says:


    I am pleased that you get my general drift.

    Between the charming feminised tableau that you sketch and the current male-dominated state of affairs, there appears to be much room for maneuver—all attainable within the discretionary scope of males such as Archbishop Celestino Migliore who claim to champion the cause of women’s rights.

  6. Derrick Kourie says:

    Mr Keenan is quite correct: there were females at the African assembly of bishops in Rome in October last year. Of the twelve South African participants, eight were bishops (or higher), two were priests and two were nuns. The latter four people were designated as “auditors” and tasked with giving input to the discussions. A further two South African seminarians attended as assistants.

  7. Martin Keenan says:

    Mr. Kourie is being less than frank by concentrating on the South African contingent. The issue is the presence of “full non-voting participants of national councils of bishops, ecumenical councils, and the like”.

    At the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, there were (on my reckoning) 48 auditors altogether, of whom 4 were priests. The rest were lay people: 22 laymen (including two religious), and 20 laywomen (including 11 religious).

    In addition, there were 29 special assistants who functioned as experts for the secretariate, of whom 15 were priests and 14 were lay people (3 laymen, 1 brother and 10 women, of whom 5 were religious).

  8. Martin Keenan says:

    para. 2 of prev. post, corr. “24 laymen (including two religious)”

  9. Fr Kevin Reynolds says:

    My dear friend, Professor Derrick Kourie, never ceases to inspire me by his love for the Mass and his conviction that we all jointly own the church because with Christ we are His Body. This is why Derrick seriously believes church membership demands shared responsibility for the Body of Christ.

  10. Martin Keenan says:

    It is precisely because Christ is the head of the Church that we, his body, do not “own” the Church in the generally accepted sense of the word. It is not our possession, nor are “we” (in the sense of Catholics here and now) the Church. Neither do we own the liturgy the sacraments or the faith, to make and remake them at our pleasure. We do not even “own” our bodies or our lives in the sense of having unfettered dominion over them. Everything is a gift from God. Everything is in God’s hands.

    I must assume that Fr. Reynolds, in the previous post, uses the word “own” in the attenuated South African sense of “taking responsibility for”, or “internalizing/ adopting the values implicit in”. Even so, the word is out of place in discourse about the Church because it has such diverse meanings most of which are irrelevant here, if not positively misleading or incorrect.

  11. Vincent Couling says:

    Martin locuta est. Causa finita est.

    Or should that be: sed causa non finita est?

    I must say that I have to strongly disagree with Martin that everything is a gift from God, and that everything is in God’s hands.

    When we respond out of love to God’s invitation, it is our gift back to Her. And our response is in our hands … by virtue of Her gift to us of our free will. When we choose to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world … well, it is very much in our hands, so to speak, and we can freely choose to say no! Such is the radical gift to us that we are in God’s image and likeness.

    Incidentally, what of St Paul’s injunction that there is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male and female? It would appear that before Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Empire, bringing all sorts of unfortunate cultural biases to bear on the institutional church, women served as deacons, and as some research indicates, perhaps even in some instances as priests. I have seen no cogent, rational argument to display that there is a theological impediment to the ordination of women. Women are allowed to baptise infants in emergencies, acting in persona Christi in spite of not having male genitals. Women act in persona Christi when they marry themselves to men (the couple themselves are the ministers of the sacrament of marriage, not the priest – at least, in the Roman Rite). So why women cannot be ordained, and preside as celebrant over the Mass, beats me!

    I’m sure that it’s a purely cultural restriction, and that it’s just a matter of time before we see change … patriarchy has suffered a mortal blow, thanks be to God, but the dust is still settling … and it always takes Holy Mother a little time to fully work things out. Not surprising since her Magisterium comprises a bunch of old men (said very tongue in cheek, I must emphasize).

    If we, the People of God, are to own* the Truth, then is must be presented in a cogent and rational way by our shepherds. Condemnations sans sound justification will no longer suffice, if it ever did. As Pope John XXIII said at the opening of the Second Vatican Council, The Church considers that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations. Perhaps Martin would like to demonstrate that it is part of the Deposit of Faith that women cannot be ordained.** Or is that task too onerous for him?

    * for those who find difficulty in recognizing the meaning of “own” in this context … it means precisely what it only can!
    ** and if they can’t, how can they be ministers of a valid Baptism (or Marriage) under any circumstance whatsoever?

  12. Malcolm says:

    Who is “Her” Vincent. Jesus called God, Father. That is good enough for me, perhaps there are others who feel they are more enlightened and consider Jesus as been insensitive to the generation He lived in and following generations..

  13. P.R.Margeot says:

    Reading that made me uneasy, it does not “feel” Catholic, it is foreign to us, maybe we should have ignored it altogether. We’ll know for next time. Our Father who art in Heaven…

  14. Martin Keenan says:

    Once again, Vincent announces that he believes what he chooses to believe, regardless of what the Church teaches, and personalises the issues by pretending that the views I express are my private opinion. In my posts I seek only to present the Church’s teaching. If I err, I shall be most grateful when people point it out to me. Vincent knows that Venerable John Paul II declared that the impossibility of ordaining women is part of the deposit of faith. See the CDF responsum ad dubium of 28 October 1995 (specifically approved by the Pope), regarding the Apostolic Letter “Ordinatio sacerdotalis” (1994).

  15. Martin Keenan says:

    On a more technical level:-

    [1] Our Lord was subject to no cultural restrictions.
    [2] Gal.3:26-29 asserts nothing about leadership roles in the Church.
    [3] There is no credible evidence that women were ever accepted as priests in the Church (although, as we ourselves sadly know, there is not lacking from the historical record evidence of women who wrongfully claim to be Catholic priests).
    [4] The reference to Phoebe in Ro.16:1 (dikonon t?s ekkl?sas) asserts nothing about any official role, for the normal meaning of dikonos is “servant” and here it is most naturally taken to mean what it says: “servant of the Church”.

    In the earliest decades terminology was fairly fluid even with regard to the use of “apostle” where, in places (e.g., 2Co.8:23; Phil.2:25), it evidently means a messenger or delegate (or, perhaps, missionary) and not someone ranking with the 12. The appointment of the “7” as recorded in Ac.6:1-7 does not use the word dikonos nor is Stephen called dikonos anywhere in Acts (6:8-7:59, 8:2, 11:19, 22:20).

    On the other hand St. Paul calls himself apostle, slave (doulos: Ro.1:1 and widely throughout all the Pauline and Catholic Epistles), and servant (dikonos). He calls himself dikonos at Col.1:23 (“servant of the gospel”) and again two verses later (“servant of the Church” the same phrase used of Phoebe). I don’t imagine anyone considers dikonos has an official or technical meaning here.

    We find dikonos in the phrase “servant of Jesus Christ” (1Tim.4:6) and “servant in the Lord” (Eph.6:21). In one passage (2Co.11:15) we find dikonos used with reference to Satan: Paul castigates false apostles and says it is not surprising if Satan’s servants (dikonoi) masquerade as servants of righteousness.

    Where the word dikonos refers to an official position within the Church, it appears without any qualifier: e.g., Phil.1:1 (episkpois ka diaknois); 1Tim.3:8, 12 (the locus classicus).

  16. Martin Keenan says:

    My apologies for a third successive post, but the case of ‘deaconesses” is to be distinguished from references in the post-Apostilic Church to “priestesses” and “bishopesses” (which refer to the wives of priests and bishops). Even in the Apostolic age, and out of respect for certain cultural sensitivities, older women (later known, by analogy, as “deaconesses”) had specific roles to play with regard to the catechesis of younger women, see Tit.2:3-5.

  17. Vincent Couling says:

    Masculine and feminine pronouns for God are metaphors, and nothing more. God is beyond all names: YHWH is apparently an onomatopoeia for the sound of breathing in and out … hardly surprising, since in the second creation story, God breathed life into Adam: our very life-force is the breath of the Divine dwelling in us. Jesus, as a devout Jew, would never have uttered the name of God, but would have referred to him/her/it metaphorically. (And by saying “it” I do not mean to make God impersonal, but to hint at the need, when using masculine or feminine metaphors for God, to avoid falling into the trap of an idolatrous literal anthropomorphization of the Divine.)

    The Spirit of God, hovering over the waters of creation, is described by a feminine noun, Ruach. The Aramaic word for the presence of God, the Shekinah, is feminine. God as Wisdom is described by the feminine noun Hokmah (Hebrew), or Sophia (Greek)

    And the Old Testament has plenty of feminine metaphors for God (though a lot of it has been sanitised by male translators so much for literal equivalence translation!). There is much research to display this, but since the posts by Malcolm and Mr/Mrs(?) P R Margeot are clearly obfuscatory in intention, I will not get further bogged down in the cleverly-laid quicksand.

    The essence of my post remains unanswered. Where are the cogent rational arguments to display that ordination of women is contrary to the Deposit of Faith? A declaration by one Bishop of the Church will not suffice! And Martin knows this full well. Pope John XXIII has been quite clear about this condemnations (and declarations) will no longer suffice … the Magisterium is BOUND to demonstrate the validity of its teaching.

    What does not feel Catholic to me is having a Pope forbid even theological debate about the merits or otherwise of womens ordination. Or, as Chris Moerdyk has so deftly pointed out, having the Vatican decree that even attempting to ordain a woman is one of the most serious crimes against the Church. This in a milieu of clerical sex-abuse scandals … talk about a lack of proper sense of proportion! Fortunately, the Catholic tradition is about BOTH faith AND reason. And the issue of womens ordination will ultimately have to become the topic of proper theological scrutiny. In authentic Catholic tradition, nothing less will suffice.

  18. Martin Keenan says:

    [1] Since the Sacraments are the life-blood of the Church, attempts to corrupt or subvert them are rightly judged to be serious delicts. Catholics will not feel that there is a lack of proportion in the Church’s vigorous defence of them.

    [2] Vincent is confusing grammatical gender with Divinely revealed truth, nor is it obvious why all his arguments derive from the Old Testament. It is Our Lord who spoke of His Father in Heaven. It is not for Vincent to “adapt” it to suit his fancy.

    [3] Vincent writes: “The essence of my post remains unanswered. Where are the cogent rational arguments to display that ordination of women is contrary to the Deposit of Faith?”

    The Church’s magisterium is the only source for identifying the content of the deposit of faith (namely, what has been revealed by God), and the magisterium has spoken. I am not sure what is lacking here, so far as cogency and rationality are concerned.

    [4] Vincent says: “A declaration by one Bishop of the Church will not suffice!” As we know from past experience as well as from this sentence of his, Vincent does not accept the papal magisterium – although he claims to accept the authority of Ecumenical Councils. The teaching of the First and Second Vatican Councils on the nature and extent of the papal magisterium is perfectly clear, however, and is irreconcilable with Vincent’s position. This makes it more than difficult to have a rational discussion with him on the Church’s magisterium.

  19. Martin Keenan says:

    [5] In his first post Vincent wrote that he has “seen no cogent, rational argument to display (sic) that there is a theological impediment to the ordination of women.” In his second post this became:- “Where are the cogent rational arguments to display that ordination of women is contrary to the Deposit of Faith?” These cumbersome challenges seem to require the Church to prove a negative.

    Or maybe Vincent is demanding that the content of faith must justify itself in terms of philosophical and scientific knowledge (it is necessarily the case that few doctrines would survive such a scrutiny). If he is, then he should realise that faith and reason are two distinct, albeit inter-connected, orders of knowledge (see, e.g. Gaudium et spes, n.59). Try reading CCC 153-162, Vincent.

    If, on the other hand, his problem is a perceived internal contradiction between the impossibility of ordaining women and the possibility for a female to baptise in an emergency, this would be more interesting if it were not the case that even non-Christians are capable of validly baptising (see CCL, can. 861 2).

    In any event, in confecting the Eucharist the priest acts “in persona Christi” in a unique way (“This is my body . . this is my blood”) which can not be assimilated to the manner of conferring the Sacraments of Baptism or Penance where the verbal formula is “I baptise/ absolve you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.

  20. Vincent Couling says:

    I didn’t know that it was a matter of faith that a woman cannot be ordained. That is my very point. It appears to me to be a matter of mutable church discipline. Rather than belonging to the deposit of faith. Right up there with the divinity of Christ.

  21. Malcolm says:

    The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, has definitely pronounced impossible the ordination of women. What structures Christ has instituted the Church has not the authority or power to change, what is mutable about that, really!!! Rome has spoken.

  22. Vincent Couling says:

    And as a peritus on “Papal Magisterium”, perhaps Martin will tell us which Magisterium was invoked when Pope John Paul II declared the impossibility of ordaining women in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. Was it the Extraordinary Magisterium? Was it the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium? Or was it the Ordinary (and noninfallible) Magisterium? We’ve been down this road before, Martin … remember? The silence was deafening.

    And let us not forget that pesky Eucharistic Prayer of Addai and Mari, which does not contain the words of institution, but which the CDF (under the then Cardinal Ratzinger) declared to be valid. Something that got some traditionalists into a bit of a frothy, declaring heresy and an overthrowing of sacramental theology, etc.

    In confecting ANY sacrament, surely the priest OR minister (be it a female atheist performing a baptism) acts in Persona Christi in performing the form of the sacrament (i.e. in saying the verbal formula required for the confection of the sacrament). The intention of the priest or minister is also crucial – they must intend to do what the Church does. The minister’s personal beliefs are immaterial (be it a priest who might secretly have lost his faith and “turned” atheist presiding over a Eucharistic Celebration, or an atheist presiding over a baptism). Trying to limit acting “in Persona Christi” to a priest at the Eucharist seems to me to be a trifle … er, … unorthodox. Isn’t it, after all, Christ who is really the true minister at any sacrament? Now we still have the “problem” of the woman who baptises in an emergency acting in Persona Christi! So why not as an ordained priest presiding over the eucharist? The question remains unanswered, Martin … at least, by you.

  23. Malcolm says:

    Vincent, calm down, you need to remain focused, you are blaming others who are quite innocent as usual.

  24. P.R.Margeot says:

    Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

    May the Peace of our Blessed Mother be upon you all tomorrow, the Assumption. Holy Mary, Patroness of our beloved South Africa, pray for us.

  25. Malcolm says:

    Amen, and God Bless you all.

    Praise Our Lord

  26. Martin Keenan says:

    It is said that I left two points unaddressed. The latter was most certainly answered. I explained in the last paragraph of my previous post that in confecting the Eucharist the priest acts “in persona Christi” in a unique way. I do not dispute that he acts “in persona Christi” when conferring the Sacraments of baptism and penance, but the distinction is manifest from the verbal formulae I quoted. On the Liturgy of Addai and Mari, see the next post.

    As for matrimony, I have never seen it authoritatively asserted that each of the spousal couple acts “in persona Christi” when exchanging vows and saying “I do”.

    Vincent also says he did not know that it was a matter of faith that a woman cannot be ordained. He has a duty to inform himself as to the Church’s teaching before dissenting from it. Contrary to his private view, the teaching is not disciplinary and the Church’s practice was never, and is not, culturally based or conditioned: see, e.g., the CDF Declaration “Inter insigniores” (1967, approved by Paul VI).

    Then he wants to know which form of the magisterium is involved. I am not aware I failed on any previous occasion to pass on to Vincent this information (of which I am possessed not by virtue of any expertise, but merely through having read the relevant documents). The responsum ad dubium referred to in my first post today answers that question:- “it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.”

    “Ordinatio sacerdotalis” is, in form, a declaration by the Supreme Pontiff as to the content of the ordinary and universal magisterium on this issue. It is a common error to think that the ordinary and universal magisterium is a kind of snapshot of what all the bishops of the world think at a given time. It was not necessary for a snapshot to be taken as at 1994, for just as Tradition is diachronic so is the ordinary and universal magisterium.

  27. Martin Keenan says:

    On the liturgy of Addai and Mari, Vincent either demonstrates a partial and second-hand acquaintance with another magisterial text, or has deliberately suppressed the part or parts of it which defeat his argument.

    Firstly, the “Guidelines” of 20 July 2001 on admission to the Eucharist between the Chaldaean Church and the Assyrian Church of the East includes this:- “the Catholic Church considers the words of the Eucharistic Institution a constitutive and therefore indispensable part of the Anaphora or Eucharistic Prayer . .”

    More seriously, Vincent omitted to record this, from the same document:-

    “The words of the Eucharistic Institution are indeed present in the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, not in a coherent* way and ad litteram, but rather in a dispersed euchological way, that is, integrated in prayers of thanksgiving, praise and intercession.” (section 3).

    The commentary issued at the same time as the “Guidelines” repeats that sentence and adds to it this elaboration:- “All these elements constitute a ‘quasi-narrative’ of the Eucharistic Institution.” (section 2).

    * The phrase “not in a coherent way” is misleading since it implies something rambling and inconsequential. What is meant is that the institution narrative is not present in so many words as a continuous text. The Italian version makes this clear:- “. . non in modo narrativo coerente e ad litteram, ma in modo eucologico e disseminato.”

  28. Malcolm says:

    There is a need to reflect on this Vincent before making rash judgments

    Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is a
    good example of a definitive papal
    pronouncement that confirms or reaffirms
    a teaching of the ordinary and
    universal Magisterium. The Pope
    states that the teaching regarding
    priestly ordination is the constant and
    universal Tradition of the Church.
    He thus definitively identifies the
    teaching as magisterial. The Holy
    Father then definitively states that his
    pronouncement is a confirmation (in
    virtue of my ministry of confirming
    the brethren). Finally, affirming that
    he is acting to remove all doubt on
    the matter, the Pope adds that his
    judgment is to be definitively held by
    all the Churchs faithful.

  29. Vincent Couling says:

    Martin knows full well that the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium is invoked when the bishops (dispersed throughout the world i.e. not gathered in and Ecumenical Council) definitively propose something in unison, and in union with the Pope.

    Now it is amply clear that the in unison bit needs to be tested. Martin tries to hoodwink us into believing that the existence of unison on this issue has been tested previously, and so didnt need to be tested by Pope John Paul II in 1994 of course, Martin provides no concrete evidence for this. I assume his position can only be anecdotal: but of course, everyone knows what those dead-and-buried bishops thought on this issue . Hmmmph!

    Let us briefly remind ourselves of the only two infallible dogmas pronounced, declared and defined in recent history: the Marian Dogmas. (Quite appropriate, today being 15 August!) Pope Pius IX promulgated Ineffabilis Deus in 1854, defining ex cathedra the dogma of the Immaculate Conception after consulting ALL bishops of the world between 1851 and 1853 (I [dont really] wonder why he felt that he needed a snapshot of the bishops opinion the simple facts are that it is difficult to consult the opinion of a dead man), and only after receiving the support of the overwhelming majority of them. When Pope Pius XII, in Munificentissimus Deus in 1950, defined ex cathedra the dogma of the Assumption of Our Lady, he too had canvassed the (living) bishops of the world, obtaining their overwhelming assent.

    Pope John Paul II did no such thing before publishing Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. There was no such consultation, and so the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium cannot have been invoked. Pulling the diachronic card out of the sleeve is a desperate but badly fumbled attempt at sleight of hand, and doesnt wash. Lets remind ourselves of what is contained in Lumen Gentium (#25): Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christs doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held. Even the most desperate, back-to-the-wall protagonist must admit that this is speaking of a spatial dispersion, and not a temporal one since we in the Catholic tradition have a deep-seated suspicion of the black art of necromancy, and short of communicating with the dead bishops, we cannot definitively test their individual opinions on this matter.

    As for tradition being diachronic, thats a little bit too much of a stretch. Our tradition is evolving dynamically in many ways. Even St Augustine recognized this: The writings of bishops may be refuted both by the perhaps wiser words of anyone more experienced in the matter and by the weightier authority and more scholarly prudence of other bishops, and also by councils, if something in them perhaps has deviated from the truth; even councils held in particular regions or provinces must without quibbling give way to the authority of plenary councils of the whole Christian world; and even the earlier plenary councils are often corrected by later ones, if as a result of practical experience something that was closed is opened, something that was hidden becomes known.

    Too many contemporary bishops have openly questioned the matter of forbidding womens ordination, especially in light of contemporary theological investigation, using the relatively recent historical-critical methods, for example and so we can definitively say that the matter is far from concluded. I reiterate (for the last time, since I grow weary): the issue of womens ordination will ultimately have to become the topic of proper theological scrutiny; in authentic Catholic tradition, nothing less will suffice.

    As for the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, yes, Martin, as you probably full-well know, I am aware of the “guidelines” of 20 July 2001. The facts remain, the words “this is my body … this is my blood” are not literally spoken. Your footnote to your post correcting the guideline brought a broad smile to my dial.

  30. Martin Keenan says:

    I was not correcting the Guidelines but explaining the usage of “coherent”. I might add that the historical status of the liturgy of Addai and Mari remains contested from a scholarly viewpoint which neither the “Guidelines” nor the commentary attempted to resolve (“this historical question cannot be resolved with absolute certainty, due to the scarcity or absence of contemporary sources. The validity of the Eucharist celebrated with the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, therefore, should not be based on historical but on doctrinal arguments.”).

    It is easy to see why discussing such matters as these with Vincent sooner or later becomes disagreeable. He knew of the passages I quoted from the Guidelines, but suppressed them and then claims that I am the one guilty of hoodwinking. He also knows what the responsum ad dubium says and yet he persists in pretending that what I said about the magisterial status of the doctrine (quoting from the responsum) is my “position” and that I have provided no “concrete evidence for [it]”.

    The jibes about testing the opinion of dead men are worthless and childish. Vincent believes that the constant and universal practice of the Church east and west is to be explained by patriarchy and cultural bias and he considers that doctrine is a matter of vote-counting. Nothing anyone can say will prise him loose from these disordered ideas. He doesn’t understand or accept Tradition and he rejects the papal magisterium, so of course he refuses to accept anything declared as true by the Supreme Pontiff.

    The fact remains that in 1994 the doctrine – grounded on Sacred Scripture and Tradition – was declared by Venerable John Paul II to be infallibly taught by the ordinary and universal magisterium, and since then it has been fully received by the Church, with the only dissent coming from squabbling and rebellious voices on the fringes.

    The very idea that “equal rights discourse”, of itself, can justify the Church abandoning essential parts of her 2,000 year old tradition (I am thinking here not only of ordination, but also of teachings on moral questions) is nothing but wishful thinking by those who want to destroy the papacy.

  31. Malcolm says:

    Thus, there are three types of
    teachings that require our assent, two
    of which are proposed infallibly. How
    does the Magisterium propose teaching
    infallibly? There are two ways:
    through the extraordinary
    Magisterium and through the ordinary
    and universal Magisterium.
    The extraordinary Magisterium
    is so named because it issues
    solemn or formal pronouncements on
    relatively rare occasions. The extraordinary
    Magisterium pronounces
    infallibly through two types of solemn
    definitions. The first type of definition
    is by a Pope alone when he
    speaks ex cathedrafrom the
    chair of Peterthat is, when acting
    in the office of shepherd and
    teacher of all Christians, he defines,
    by virtue of his supreme apostolic
    authority, a doctrine concerning faith
    and morals to be held by the universal
    Church.2 Examples include the
    dogmatic definitions regarding Marys
    Immaculate Conception (Pope Pius
    IX, 1854) and Assumption into heaven
    (Pope Pius XII, 1950).
    The second type of definition
    occurs when the Pope and the bishops
    in union with him solemnly define
    a teaching at an ecumenical
    or general councila council
    whose teachings are binding on the
    whole Church (cf. canon 750 2).
    Examples include the various solemn
    definitions made at the Council of
    Trent, including on the Mass, the sacraments,
    justification, and indulgences.
    Some Catholics mistakenly try to
    limit infallibility to only those teachings
    that are solemnly defined. They
    cite a section of canon law, no doctrine
    is understood to be infallibly defined
    unless this is manifestly demonstrated
    (canon 749 2). This section,
    however, does not limit infallibility
    to solemn definitions. Instead,
    it prohibits placing a doctrine on the
    level of a solemn definition unless it
    can be shown to be so. A doctrine
    itself, however, may be infallible on
    another level. As Vatican II, the
    Catechism, and the Code of Canon
    Law all affirm, any definitively proposed
    teaching enjoys the charism
    of infallibility, not simply those which
    are solemnly defined.
    The ordinary and universal
    Magisterium is the normal or usual
    means by which the Pope and the
    bishops in union with him infallibly
    propose teachings to the whole
    Church. It is exercised when the
    Pope and bishops agree that a particular
    doctrine is to be held definitively,
    and is typically carried out
    when the bishops are dispersed
    throughout the world in their respective
    dioceses. The ordinary and universal
    Magisterium also teaches infallibly
    when, without issuing a solemn
    definition, it definitively confirms
    or reaffirms the Churchs teachings
    at an ecumenical council, e.g.,
    through a dogmatic constitution.
    If a teaching is taught by the
    ordinary and universal Magisterium,
    it is necessarily definitive and therefore
    infallible. However, controversies
    sometimes arise as to whether
    a particular doctrine is in fact a
    teaching of the ordinary and universal
    Magisterium. On such occasions,
    the Pope can definitively confirm or
    reaffirm that a particular doctrine is
    indeed infallibly taught by that
    Magisterium. In such cases, the
    Pope does not make an ex cathedra
    pronouncement. Rather, he infallibly
    and definitively pronounces
    that a doctrine has been constantly
    maintained and held by Tradition and
    transmitted by the ordinary, universal
    The definitive character of such
    papal pronouncements is rooted in the
    very Tradition they confirm. Thus, the
    infallibility of these reaffirmations follows
    in part from the infallibility of
    previous teachings they affirm. As
    Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, the secretary
    of the Congregation for the
    Doctrine of the Faith, has explained,
    a papal pronouncement of confirmation
    enjoys the same infallibility as the
    teaching of the ordinary, universal
    Magisterium. . . .4 These definitive
    pronouncements provide a more concrete
    way of knowing that a doctrine
    has been proposed infallibly.
    Pope John Paul IIs definitive
    pronouncement that only men can be
    ordained to the ministerial priesthood
    is a recent example of an infallible
    papal confirmation. He made his
    pronouncement in his 1994 apostolic
    letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (On
    Reserving Priestly Ordination to
    Men Alone):
    [T]hat priestly ordination is to be
    reserved to men alone has been
    preserved by the constant and
    universal Tradition of the Church
    and firmly taught by the
    Magisterium in its more recent
    documents. . . . Wherefore, in order
    that all doubt may be removed
    regarding a matter of great importance,
    a matter which pertains to
    the Churchs divine constitution
    itself, in virtue of my ministry of
    confirming the brethren (cf. Lk.
    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
    Churchs faithful (no. 4).

    Its plain for everyone to see.

  32. Vincent Couling says:

    Malcolm, it is scandalous to plagiarise the work of others, and to claim ownership of it for one’s self! Next time, be so good as to give a reference. I’m not quite convinced that the screed you have lifted from CUF would stand as a scholarly contribution.

    I also note with delighted interest the Wikipedia description of CUF, most probably penned by their own poisoned quill:

    “Catholics United for the Faith (CUF) is an international lay apostolate founded by H. Lyman Stebbins in 1968 to support, defend, and advance the efforts of the teaching Church. It has participated in many doctrinal efforts to root out dissenting liberal theologians within the US Church, notably during the Raymond Hunthausen affair, where it alerted Cardinal Ratzinger’s CDF about the controversial bishop.”

    There are other critiques of the CUF on the WWW pointing out their misuse of Sacred Scripture and the CCC. Perhaps be a little more discerning of whom you plagiarise from next, Malcolm.

    ’nuff said.

  33. Vincent Couling says:

    Thank you for your deft and elegant summation Martin. I will let it stand as the last word between us on this thread.

  34. Malcolm says:

    Its clear that the format is not mine and no attempt was made to change the format or claim ownership.

    Deal with the issue Vincent instead of discrediting those who differ from your view, it is a nasty habit.

  35. Vincent Couling says:

    Posting under one’s name is an overt claim of ownership, unless there is specific mention that the text has been borrowed. This is a serious ethical lapse, Malcolm.

  36. Malcolm says:

    The format is clear, if you seek reference ask , if merged into mine, have identified.
    I do not take exception to your nastiness it is to be expected in this forum, your definition of ethical does you a disservice.

  37. Vincent Couling says:

    I must say that you have a knack of pricking my conscience, Malcolm. I feel more than a little remorseful for causing you hurt, and this on the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady … a timely reminder of our own future destiny: yours no less than mine, and hopefully mine no less than yours.

    We are brothers in Christ, Malcolm … members of the Mystical Body. In spite of our differences vis-a-vis ecclesiastical authority, I would hope that we can at least wish each other the Peace of Christ. I would genuinely like to meet you and have a heart-to-heart over a pint or whatever. I’m certain that it wouldn’t be all gloom and glower.

    Peace be with you, Malcolm, brother in Christ.

  38. Malcolm says:

    And peace be with you Vincent, yes we are brothers in Christ.

    God Bless

  39. Gail Ramplen says:

    VIncent: “May the Lord correct you.”

  40. Vincent Couling says:

    Gail: “And also you.”

    Or should that be: “And also your spirit”?

  41. P.R.Margeot says:

    With humility, we have to accept what our Lord and Saviour did during Holy Week, accept his choice of the twelve Apostles. May the Holy Spirit guide our Holy Catholic Church while she is heading for calmer waters.

  42. Vincent Couling says:

    By this do you mean that because only Jews were chosen to be Apostles, that only Jews can be consecrated as bishops? That all gentiles who have been consecrated as bishops have in fact not been validly consecrated – their orders being null and void? And was Mary Magdalene not referred to as Apostle to the Apostles in early Christian writings? Was she not at the foot of the cross when the male Apostles, save the beloved John, had fled? Certainly, she was the first to see the Risen Christ! Alleluia, alleluia!

  43. P.R.Margeot says:

    Thank you also to the Pope who has done so much for the unity of Catholics.

  44. Martin Keenan says:

    Reluctant to seem to be claiming the last word, but anxious not to let it appear that I have conceded an argument through having responded with a “deafening silence” and conscious that the thread has now made it to the homepage of the website (bringing it to wider attention), I have this to say about Our Lord’s action in choosing only Jews to be Apostles and the first priests.

    The Kingdom was initially proclaimed only to the children of Israel. We see this rather clearly in the encounter with the Syro-Phoenician woman (Mk.7:26). In these circumstances we are not surprised to find that the Gospels give no indication that among the followers of Jesus there were any non-Jews. Indeed, the only instance of a non-Jew believer who comes to mind is the centurion (Lk.7:1-9).

    On the other hand, among the permanent followers of Jesus (that is to say, among those who followed Him from place to place) were women: Mary Magdalen, Joanna (the wife of one of Herod’s senior officials), Susanna “and many others” (Lk.8:1-3). It seems obvious that the choice of male Apostles was neither inadvertent nor culture-constrained on Our Lord’s part and had He wished to include women among the 12, He would have done so. The fact that His mother, the Blessed Virgin, was not present at the Last Supper is particularly eloquent in this regard (cf. Ac.1:14).

    Why He chose as He did is a separate question, as to which various theological explanations have been, and continue to be, offered. Their adequacy or cogency (and they remain open to refinement and expansion) have no bearing on the fact that He chose as He did, which the Church has always considered to be binding and irrevocable.

    In the Apostolic period (after Pentecost) there were, similarly, many women to be found who carried out a variety of important functions and activities in the Church. It suffices here to draw attention to chapter 16 of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans (and cf. Ac.12:12). The method of selecting a replacement for Judas, having regard to the presence of women within the closest circle (Ac.1:14) was deliberate. The same goes for the selection of “deacons” (Ac.6:3-6 where they are not, however, identified as such).

    The CDF Declaration “Inter insigniores” (1976) deserves to be read with greater attention by those who presume to attack the Church’s teaching on this subject.

  45. Elaine says:

    I am trying to be a worthy disciple of Christ and am very loyal towards His Church – the Catholic Church. The Church has done (and is still doing) so much good in this world today. Unfortunately, because its members are mere human beings, it has been shamed too. I felt so good when the late Pope John Paul The Second, apologized ,on behalf of the Catholic Church, to the Jewish Nation for sins that has been committed by us towards them, throughout the ages. Christ was born as a Jew, and our ancestors – like Moses and Father Abraham – all came from this great nation. They are our brothers and we should embrace them. Not all of our leaders in the Church always make the right decisions. They advocate human rights for women but when it comes to religion they are influenced by chauvinism and paternalism. I do not judge them for that and believe it is because they are products of the era in which they grew up. I pray and believe that the Powers that Be will gain wisdom in this regard and that women will eventually be allowed to reach their full potential in the House of God.
    Elaine (Your Sister in Christ)
    Ps: Thank you for a most informative article, Chris Moerdyk!

  46. P.R.Margeot says:

    Indeed , the Jews are a great nation, the Chosen People,and God has His plan for them. At this stage, we mere mortals do not understand how He will bring about their conversion. Holy Church is on her way to calmer waters with the good Pope at the helm. Slowly, it appears that more and more people are coming back to the Church(of course, many more have left and are leaving the Church), the Pope through his motu proprio of 7/7/07 has enabled the Church to find peace and the old mass, the mass of all time. With Holy Church going back slowly to Tradition, we are all hopeful. She will regain her self-respect, Authority in the world, good priests are now already being ordained to teach true Catholic doctrine, the faithful will again flock to the confessional, and who knows, perhaps the terrible episode of the past 40 years will soon give way to a time of peace, harmony, unity among catholics first, then the return of Protestants to the fold of the Church. Men and women have their role to play in the Church. The priesthood will remain for men. On that, we all know, there cannot be a change. Long live the Pope. A.M.D.G..

  47. Vincent Couling says:

    An interesting insight into traditionalists and P. R. Margeot’s so-called “Mass of all time” can be found over at the Pray Tell Blog ( http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2010/12/11/the-perfumed-traditionalists/ ). It concerns the recent book of David Berger: “Der heilige Schein. Als schwuler Theologe in der Katholischen Kirche (The Holy Illusion. Being a Gay Theologian in the Catholic Church).

    I quote a little of the Pray Tell article, which says that the book “presents a first-person account of his experiences within inner circles of highly placed European Catholic traditionalists, from which he was ejected when it became known that he was openly gay. The world and experience which he describes combines homosexuality with homophobia in a particularly manipulative, punitive and toxic way. All of these matters, finally, are linked to liturgy in his account.”

    What are Berger’s credentials? “Until recently David Berger was the theologian on the pedestal in traditionalist circles: publisher and chief editor of Theologisches, the most important conservative theological journal in Germany; professor at the Papal Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas; reader for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and member of the order of knights of Jasna Gora. The theologian, born in 1968, had access to the ultraconservative networks of the St. Pius society, the Legionaries of Christ, and Opus Dei. He owed his rapid career rise in the Roman male-only church establishment to his intelligence. And his athletic youthfulness.”

    Another snippet from Pray Tell: “Today Berger sees the Latin liturgy, which presents the sacred in an overemphasis on the aesthetic, as essentially a product of homosexual sublimation. ”

    An interesting perspective, no?

  48. P.R.Margeot says:

    Would it be more correct to say “the mass of all times” ? Well, that mass is indeed extra-ordinary. And it will regain its rightful place in the Church: the market will decide. When the Jewish people convert one day, they will surely find the that mass waiting for them. What a sublime moment that will be for them and us as well. Salus animarum, suprema lex.

  49. Joseph says:

    I have to say with all due respect that this issue of ordaining women has been closed ever since Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself by example chose not to invite the Most Blessed and woman in all Christianity since the foundation of the world – Blessed Mother Mary. Her exclusion from the institution of the Holy Eucharist and Institution of the Ministerial Priesthood on Holy Thursday should teach the Church what the Head Himself willed for His Body the Church. St Mary Magdalene ministered to Christ Jesus but was not invited to the upper room and let me say this was not an oversight on the part of God but rather His Will for our salvation and His Bride – Holy Mother Church.

    Women have a role in the Church that cannot be filled by any man other than themselves – differentiation of function. There are verses in the Bible such as 1Co 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:9-15 that teach specifically what is expected of women. Let us get one thing clear, the Church is the Bride of Christ, an ordained priest takes on the ministry of Christ and becomes the “Father” of the “children” of “Holy Mother Church”, and all throughout Sacred Scripture it is the idea of God as Father and Husband to the House of Israel that is developed “… I am your husband and you are my spouse …”.

    The Church cannot do without it’s women, think of Almighty God blessing among all a woman to be the greatest prophetess and mother of God, a young Jewish woman. A great prophetess for she brought the Word to speak for Himself whereas all other prophets brought the Word but not as elaborate and in the flesh as the Blessed Virgin Mary did. The whole Church was entrusted to her at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday and she is our advocate and Co-Redemptorix but still Jesus Christ is God and in teaching and handing over the Will of the Eternal Father, it is the twelve apostles under the leadership of St Peter who were entrusted to minister to the Church as priests.

    We should not confuse the worldly moral law and the Will of Almighty God (Romans 1:18-32). It is true that we now have Altar girls and that if you have also noticed effectively reduced and in some cases wiped out Altar boys and with that came the dwindling of vocations to the ministerial priesthood. Why? Altar boys were called young clerics because of their proximity to the priest during the celebration of the sacred mysteries and in so doing were drawn to imitate the priest as a role model hence the heightened desire to become priests. Consequently most priests came from the “Altar boys” group. Young boys do not want to be called girly and so can not share in pursuits that are shared by girls because such pursuits often get codenamed girly pursuits and boys who frequent them thus become girly boys. Unfortunately society looks kindly on tom boys rather than girly boys and hence Altars are becoming a dying breed.

    In conclusion, I’d say holy women have always been irreplaceable in the Church over the course of our history. To understand this, one just needs to look at the number of women saints and doctors of the Church. However, none of these became saints by fighting to take over the functions of the priests. To say we are more wiser than our saints is just vain pride that gets us nowhere, rather they are for us a shining example that was raised by God from among us to teach us the way we should live as members of the Body of Christ. We need women to play the role assigned to them in Bible so man can play their roles as assigned by the Will of God in Sacred Scripture. Battle of the sexes is evil and anti-God, because to each was assigned a role, and as a unit we complement each other as we help each other to our natural end, who is Almighty God Himself. The ministerial priesthood is a masculine role as holy nuns is a feminine role, let’s learn to be led in obedience and humility by St Paul the teacher and apostle to the gentiles, from Romans to Hebrews all teach about our roles, functions and conduct in Church.

  50. P.R.Margeot says:

    Joseph, you have put in a nutshell the true nature of the Priestshood, the magnificent role of women in the Holy Church, the wisdom accumulated by the Church over 2000 years, the orthodoxy that will bring peace, unity, and hope to the Church and Catholics. The latter must be united as never before as the forces of darkness have launched an all-out attack to destroy or (to use a more moderate term) to neutralize the Church in order to create a pantheon of religions( in which the poor Church will be nothing as the false religions will take over), a one-world government, and the worst dictatorship the world would have known…. For example, the Assisi meeting in october 2011 does not augur well for the Holy Church. But let’s wait and see , maybe the good Pope will surprise us all there….In the meantime, we pray the rosary for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to be done by the Pope and the Bishops together,as requested by our Lady at Fatima. Catholics, exciting times are coming, we keep our Catholic Faith. The salvation of souls is the supreme Law of the Holy Church.

  51. P.R.Margeot says:

    A quick follow-up .Those intent of “neutralizing” the Church knew where to start : the Holy Mass. They knew very well that once the mass was gone, the Sacrifice of Calvary, the mass of all time, that extra-ordinary mass, then the Church would crumble.They nearly succeeded…. But now that the good Pope has issued the Motu Proprio of 2007, and after a courageous fight during 40 years by those attached to Tradition and the Tridentine Mass, the Church is being steered to calmer and safer waters.
    Oremus pro invicem.