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 ‘.
Yours sincerely
Brendan Butler,  0864054984

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  1. A wondeerful piece, Brendan. Thank you. I was about to refer you to Fr. Michael H Crosby’s equally wonderful and courageous article in the NCR but Soline beat me to it. Thank you also, Soline, for your excellent contributions to our ACP site over the months. Thank God we can share with each other in this way.

  2. Fr. Kieren says:

    Although I agree with the tone if not the full contents of the article, I am not aware of any Catholic priest who has been excommunicated for holding some of the views mentioned. It is true that some priests have been silenced recently, but that is very different from excommunication. However, I admit I may be wrong and I am willing to be corrected.
    I feel that the “silence” enforced regarding the topic of women priests is mistaken, theologically I don’t believe any subject should be abandoned. Personally, for many years I had no opinion right or wrong regarding the issue, although I was happy to accept the 1994 definitive teaching of JPII. It was only years later after reading the book by Sara Butler that I decided the Teaching was correct, but as the book resulted from discussion and great study, even though it supports the official teaching, it shows that the ‘silence’ surrounding this subject is a bit of a joke.

  3. Superb Brendan, thank you. Over the centuries, women were always treated as second class citizans. Within the last 100 years this has changed in many countries, and consequently they contribute in a major way for the betterment of all people. Our Church however, do not accept Women’s Ordination, simply because they are women. I am sure that some theoleogians can confuse us with rhetoric, as to why they should not be ordained. I wonder if Mary the mother of God became one of us again, which one of those good “Men” would tell her that because of her sex she could not be Ordained to the Priesthood. The rule is simply wrong and we as a Church are suffering for it.
    Paddy, in a previous note you wondered how long it would take the Holy Sperit, to come amongst us and give us direction. Maybe he is doing it already. Under the leadership of the ACP we, religous and laity, have been given the opportunity to meet, and through the web
    discuss, all aspects of Church, the good, the bad and the ugly.
    We would not have known of the existance of Soline, Ann, Des, the Magnificant seven from the U.K, and so many others from many parts of the world. Hopefully the Holy Sperit is telling us all that we are all equal in his sight, and that we all have an equal share in spreading the word of God. Let the work continue under the leadership of the ACP.

  4. Gene Carr says:

    The highest acolades that the institutional Church can accord to individuals do not relate to ‘functional’ roles or positions within so-called ‘power’ structures. Rather they relate to sanctity and healing–canonization as a Saint or being declared a Doctor of the Church. If the Church denied such recognition to women then and only then would the writer have a case. As it is about half of all saints are women and an increasing number are regarded as Doctors–most recently Hildegard of Bergen. Contemporary ‘liberal/progressives’ (alas for labels!) confate ‘equality of dignity’ with ‘equality of function’. They reduce equality to the ‘cult of sameness’ and assume that all gender roles are thus interchangable. Maybe this is indeed true (as I believe) about all jobs in business, academia and politics, etc, but not necessarily true when it comes to the more fundamental or ‘existential’ functions of spirit and life. A man cannot be a mother and vice-versa. Difference does not imply inferiority; it merely implies differeance. Nor as a man does I object to the Church being referred as Holy ‘Mother’ Church or a ‘Bride’ of Christ. I simply accept that in line with the ‘lived experience’ of Everyman/woman the Church is both patriachical and matriachical. Why does it have to be one or the other; why not ‘both/and’?

  5. Tony Butler says:

    Thank you Brendan, interesting that the motto of the Butler family is ” As I find it.” – Comme je trouve.
    So as I found it over the last few days:
    The day before yesterday was it(?) we commemorated St. Bridget of Sweden, the collect spoke of Bridget imbuing the spirit of ” the New Man”. what sort of crazy language is this….insulting I believe to the memory of this strong woman of faith. I wonder if that is the prayer in the Swedish Collect for that day.
    But then that same day I was reading of the Lactation of St.Bernard.. included was the painting of that happy event. Were are we heading as Church? Oh, Let us not forget that delightful saint of Portugal, whose name escapes me, who prayed that she be made ugly in the sight of men, the good Lord answered her prayers and she grew a beard. Give me an memorial like today to remember all Grandparents,Joachim and Anne, any day!
    A delightful couple preparing for marriage, both catholic, have suggested that I might be willing to include in their ceremony old Celtic Rites of Togetherness, e.g., calling the spirits of the winds to be present as witnesses. I was ready to go to bedl last night and I started to laugh to myself…. I imagined myself wearing a sheepskin and carrying a spear as solemniser to complete this picture of that ” old Celtic Rite” I must suggest that to them next time we meet.
    Thanks be to God for the two guys – in relationship for the past 14 years – who asked me to bless their committment to each other after their civil ceremony.
    Brendan, continue calling us to be Church!
    Thank you.
    p.s. for readers Brendan and I are not related apart from our baptism that is.d

  6. Soline Humbert says:

    @Gene Carr,
    Isn’t Holy Orders a sacrament and not a function/position of power?

  7. Des Gilroy says:

    We live in an amazing church of double think!
    Mary was chosen by God, conceived without sin, to be the Mother of His Son, the personification of the purest love we can experience. However, she is seen by the Vatican as being unfit for ordination. Could someone please explain why not to this poor simpleton?

  8. Soline Humbert says:

    @ Des Gilroy
    In the Eucharistic apparition at Knock, Mary’s posture was described by the witnesses as “praying with her hands extended and raised to the level of the shoulders- as a priest prays during the Eucharistic prayer at the Mass.”

  9. Gene Carr says:

    Des & Soline
    The Vatican’s argument has always been that Jesus choose only men to be his apostles. So was Jesus too an ‘amazing person of double think!” Maybe, just maybe, he thought that the unique capacity to be a Mother was more fundamentally important than the unique capacity to be a priest.

  10. Soline Humbert says:

    @Gene Carr,
    From my reading/praying of the Gospels, I believe the only unique capacity Jesus attached importance to was the capacity to love.That unique capacity is at the heart of his life and message, and belongs in equal measure to his female and male followers/disciples/apostles/friends.
    He ordained nobody,(see Sandra Shneiders http://www.womenpriests.org/classic/schneide.aspand ).And He certainly didn’t go along with extolling women as mothers/child bearers,even his own mother:Hearing the word of God and putting it into practice is what matters. He didn’t go along with “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that suckled you”. He valued Mary, his mother, for her great faith and love, the prime qualities of discipleship/apostleship. As he valued other women and their friendship,like Mary of Magdala, Mary of Bethany, and Martha ( whose feast day is today): No mention of her having/or not children, but her profession of faith in Jesus as the Christ makes an interesting parallel to that of Peter.

  11. Jim McCrea says:

    “The Vatican’s argument has always been that Jesus chose only men to be his apostles.”
    The Vatican has argued many things over time and has had to back down when reason and reflection overcame reaction:
    • It was OK to own slaves. In 1866 Pope Pius IX declared, “It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given.”
    • Earning interest on loaning money was wrong. The church condemned usury at the Second Lateran Council in 1139, the Third Lateran Council in 1179, and the Council of Vienne in 1311.
    • Anyone who wasn’t a Catholic was doomed to hell. (4th Lateran Council – 1215) (Pope Boniface VIII, Bull Unam sanctam – 1302):
    • The 1864 encyclical “Quanta Cura” by Pius IX explicitly condemned freedom of religion.
    • If you ate meat on Friday and died before confessing, you would go to hell because to do so was a mortal sin.

  12. seán eile says:

    WOndering! Didn’t Jesus choose his inner disciples to reform/renew the chosen people? Hence the number 12 – the number of tribes and ‘men’ because the ancestors were all men. For Jesus both elements – ’12’ and ‘men’ were equally important. The choice of Mattias also shows the number 12 was crucial for the primitive group. What is interesting is that following generations felt free to tamper with the number i.e. choose more than 12 but didnt interfere with the ‘men’ part! Is that being faithful to Jesus’ vision?

  13. Gene Carr says:

    Jim McCrea
    Taking your points in reverse order:
    Friday fast: merely a Church discipline, which like obligatory clerical celibacy can be rescinded; not about core issues of doctine or morality.
    Freedom: When commenting on the attitude of 19th Century Popes (like Pius IX)on freedom, certain careful distinctions are important. For example the ‘liberal heresy’ concept of freedom of conscience was based on the presumtion that there is no objective truth, or if it exists is not humanly attainable, that all opinions therefore are equally valid and that contradictory notions are mutually inclusive–what we would today call relativism. The Catholic belief in the primacy of conscience (as opposed to ‘freedom’ of conscience is an entirely different matter. It presumes the existence of truth obliges a search for such truth and that truth is binding. Pius IX was not alone in sensing that the 19th Century ‘liberal heresy’ would end in catastrophe and totalitarian tyranny. Eminent thinkers as diverse as De’Tocqueville in France, Donoso Cortes in Spain, Kierkegaard in Denmark and of course Dostoyevski were haunted by similar forebodings; they were right.
    No salvation outside the Church: As far as I can ascertain this teaching has always been qualified by the qualification “though their own fault”. That is to say there has to be a deliberate and fully conscious refusal of truth. That is not to say that individual theologians did not hold the narrower view, as do some contemporary dissident traditionalists. Luther and Calvin certainly believed that all unbelievers were damned. But St Thomas entertained the possibility of meeting Aristotle and plato in heaven.
    Usury: Oh dear,not this hoary old one! No the Church did not change its view. The content, meaning and purposes of lending for interest changed, and it would take too long to go into the details.
    The Church and slavery: This is a large subject and I have been unable to find your reference to Pius IX’s alleged approval. Very briefly, all ancient empires rested on chattel slavery and the the first time that this institution slowly pealed away was in early Medieval Catholic Christendom until it was formally abolished by a bull issued by Pope Alexander III in the 12th Century. When slavery began to appear again in the new European colonies in the 16th Century it was repeatedly condemned by Popes, for example by Paul III in three major pronouncement in 1537. The Roman Inquisition issued a ruling explicitly against Negro slavery on March 2oth 1636. At the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Pius VII demanded the universal abolition of the slave trade. But probably the most incisive Papal condemnation of slavery came from the immediate predecessor of Pius XI, Pope Gregory XVIin an apostolic letter to the US bishops in 1839 (see Stark 2003). In it he noted that the Appostles had indeed counselled slaves to obey their masters. But he goes on to note that since Christ had admonished charity to the very least of our brethren ‘it natually follows’ that Christians should treat slaves as their brothers. He points out that in the process of time as the fog of pagan superstition dissipated and the manners softened that slavery gradually disappeared in the greater number of Christian nations. However, in some nations there were still those blinded by greed who went to distant part and enslaved Negros, indians and other helpless people. He ends with “waking in the footsteps of Our Predecessors”, he demands an end to slavery. Ironically, liberals Europe and America regarded Gregory as a dark reactionary.
    So Jim, if your purpose was to show that ‘unchanging’ core doctrinal positions actually do change in fundamental ways, well all I can say is you are going to have to try harder.

  14. Jim McCrea says:

    To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often. Sr. John Henry Newman, “Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine”.
    “Yesterday’s peacock is today’s feather duster”.
    Too many peacocks in the church’s history have turned out to be discarded feather dusters.
    Whether you like what I cited above or not does not detract from the fact that the church HAS and WILL change what is doctrine/discipline when forced to by the forces of reality.

  15. Gene Carr says:

    You are missreading John Henry Newman by conflating his concept of development with the contemporary idea of ‘progessive change’. According to Newman the development of doctine does not ‘change’ doctrine, but draws out and further elaborates meanings that are already present and implicit. The occasion for this often is some challenge and controversy. The apostolic letter of Pope Gregory to the US bishops on slavery is a small example; building on St Thomas among others and ‘walking in the footsteps of Our Predecessors’, from the theological premise that slaves are among the ‘least of our brethren’ he draws the deduction that slavery is a grave sin. Undoubtably, there have been many ‘peacocks’ in Church history who have gone off on tangents. But we are not talking about individuals here; we are talking about the consistency of the public Magisterium. Also it does not matter whether or not I ‘liked’ or ‘disliked’ what you cited; I was concerned with its factual and historic accuracy. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions; they are not entitled to their own facts.

  16. “I have been unable to find your reference to Piuxs IX’s alleged approval” — but it completely undercuts your case! Better google it fast! The Holy Office statement, signed by Pius IX, reads:
    “Slavery itself, considered as such in its essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law, and there can be several just titles of slavery and these are referred to by approved theologians and commentators of the sacred canons…. It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given.”

  17. “Usury: Oh dear,not this hoary old one! No the Church did not change its view. The content, meaning and purposes of lending for interest changed, and it would take too long to go into the details.”
    Did the Church stick to its old condemnation for a long time ignoring the changed nature of usury, just as it ignores the changed nature of contraception and the changed understanding of homosexuality today? Development works like that.

  18. Gene Carr says:

    Joe: As far as I am aware usury still stands condemned insofar as it is based on ther false idea of the fecundity of money. Lending where the loan is deployed productively to create economic value added is a different reality. The nature of contraception has not changed except in terms of technique.
    While the quote from Pius IX is indeed ubiquitous across the Internet, I have been unable, as before, to unearth the complete Instruction issued by the Holy Office in 1866. The library of Papal documents on the Vatican website only go back to Leo XIII (who incidentedly) was very clear in his condemnation of slavery. I suspect from Pius’s statement–particularly the words “several just titles of slavery” that there is an issue of definition. For instance, a medieval serf had to pay ‘homage’ to his master. But the word homage is derived from the Latin for ‘man’ so he was not a chattel–a ‘thing’. He could own and work his own land but had to deliver two days of free labour to his Lord. Was that slavery? If so then a modern citizen of the French Republic who has to give 50% of his income to his overlord the State is a slave is he not? Someone sentenced to prision with hard labour or penal servitude–was that slavery?
    What I was able to uncover was the original and complete verdict on slavery delivered by the Holy Office on March 20 1686, where the nature of the issue is made quite explicit. The verdict was delivered in the form of questions and answers`as follows:
    It is asked: Whether it is permitted to capture by force and deceit Blacks and other natives who have harmed no one?
    Answer: No.
    It is asked: Whether it is permitted to buy, sell or make contracts in their respects Blacks or other natives who have harmed no one and have been made captives by force and deceit?
    Answer: No
    It is asked: Whether the possessors of blacks and other natives who have harmed no one and been captured by force or deceit, are not held to set them free?
    Answer: Yes.
    It is asked: Whether the captors, buyers and possessors of blacks and other natives who have harmed no one and who have been captured by force or deceit are not held to make compensation to them.
    Answer: Yes
    No ambiguities there. (Source: Rodney Stark “For the Glory of God” 2003 p. 332).

  19. Joe O'Leary says:

    The church condemned slavery in some circumstances on some occasions. But popes bought slaves, and as late as 1866 taught that slavery was compatible with natural and divine law.
    Same true of torture and the execution of heretics.
    Today the papacy calls for purification of memory and apologizes for these mistakes (though playing down how intimately they were embedded in official church teaching).

  20. Joe O'Leary says:

    “usury still stands condemned insofar as it is based on the false idea of the fecundity of money. Lending where the loan is deployed productively to create economic value added is a different reality.”
    Of course the Church condemns usury in the moral sense. But a string of papal documents in the early modern period condemned lending money at interest (the common practice of banks worldwide) as usury and therefore immoral. A valid development was resisted in these documents, just as, arguably, valid developments in sexual ethics are being resisted by a string of Vatican documents in our own time.

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