Has Pope Francis a major blind spot regarding the role of women in the Church?

Father Greg Reynolds is the first priest to be excommunicated during the first six months of Pope Francis’s pontificate. At one stage as stated on the NCR website (Sept 27), one of the reasons put forward for his excommunication was that he had given communion to a dog. This allegation is totally untrue and accepted as such by the Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart. This reported incident only serves to divert attention from the primary reasons as outlined by the Archbishop  and presented in a letter of excommunicated from  the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith which was approved by Pope Francis.

The letter, in Latin, stated that the ‘decision by Pope Francis to dismiss Fr. Reynolds  from the clerical state  and to declare his automatic excommunication has been made for his public teaching on the ordination of women contrary to the teaching of the Church and his public celebration of the Eucharist when he did not have the faculties to act publicly as a priest. This is a final and unappealable decision’ .

In his Jesuit magazine interview, Pope Francis did reiterate the  traditional theological principle, argely ignored by the last two Popes, that there is a ‘hierarchy of truth’ in the catholic tradition. Obviously if a Christian denies a basic fundamental truth of Christianity, such as the divinity of Christ, such a denial puts one outside of the Church. But how can dissension  from a Papal pronouncement such as that the ‘door is shut on the ordination of women’ , as recently stated by Pope Francis,  be on a par with the  denial of a basic Christian truth and be equally subject as grave matter  for  excommunication  for such dissent?  Placing the ordination of women on the same doctrinal level  such as the divinity or humanity of Christ is a literal subversion of truth. Dogma and theological opinion are now interchangeable .

Pope Francis as with his predecessors have a major blind spot when it comes to the place of women in the Catholic Church.  What are they afraid of in a woman on the altar that they forbid Catholics even to discuss, under the threat of excommunication, the possibility of women priests ?  It is acceptable  to discuss the role of woman as virgin and mother but not as lover and priest. How many more priests /theologians must suffer needlessly because they say what the rest of the people of God are saying openly. Not only are clerics expected to keep their eyes  cast down but their mouths shut as well.  Fr. Reynolds is in a long line of priests who have been sacrificed to expediency in the Catholic Church  and  the rest of us must not allow his name to be eradicated from Church history ; rather we should be eternally grateful to him and to so many of our own Irish priests  for having the courage to  challenge orthodoxy gone mad .

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  1. Thank you Brendan for your entry which makes total sense. I would add that the very people who have decided women do not have a vocation, and I’m referring to the clerics at the Vatican, those same people are so very, very, sure, that they’ve received a divine calling…have they?….really?….I wonder what Christ would say?….The irony for me is that the ones who are pronouncing judgment about whether women have a vocation to teach, preach, and sanctify may not have the vocation themselves, yet, they are deciding whether someone else has the vocation.

  2. ‘What are they afraid of in a woman on the altar that they forbid Catholics even to discuss under threat of excommunication, the possibility of women priests?’. This quote from Spiritual Abuse is, I believe, the answer to this question:

    ‘Can it be said that the words of leading theologians and some saints for centuries in the past had nothing to do with modern attitudes to women? A few examples: Clement of Alexandria: a woman should cover her head with shame at the thought that she is a woman. St John Chrysostom (died 407): woman is a necessary evil. St Jerome (died 420): women are the gate of hell. St Augustine (died 430): women are not made in the image of God. Pope St Gregory the Great (died 604): woman’s use is two-fold: animal sex and motherhood. St John Damascene (died 750): woman is a sick she-ass…a hideous tape-worm…the advance-post of hell. St Thomas Aquinas (died 1274): woman is an incomplete being…a misbegotten male. Pope John XXll (died 1334): woman is more bitter than death. St Albert the Great (died 1280) was not only a bishop and a theologian, but also a scientist who wrote volumes on astronomy, Chemistry, geography and physiology, who was canonised in 1931 by Pius Xl and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church. He repeated Aristotle’s teaching that a woman is a misbegotten male with a faulty and defective nature compared to man’s. He said that ‘she is unsure of herself, and what she herself cannot get she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. To put it briefly, one must be on guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil’.

    It is naive to imagine that this kind of thinking and language had no influence on church teaching and practice” (pages 78 and 79).

  3. I recently attended a celebration in an Anglican church, where the parish was bidding farewell to their Rector who was retiring after 20 odd years in the parish. The man was universally loved and the occasion was mighty.
    In the course of his address, the Rector thanked and praised his wife for both her support of him and for her own activities in the parish over the years.
    One of the phrases he used to describe her was “a great lover”, and he meant it just like it sounds.
    You could hear the muted gasp from the congregation
    I thought it was inspirational. A great man.

  4. It is amazing that neither Pope Frances nor his predecessors seem to have ever written such a clear letter, stating the offence and its consequences, to the paedophile priests. Had Father Reynold’s offence been abuse he would probably be settling into a new Parish now and free to carry on with his ministry until it was time for another move.
    What does “once a priest always a priest ” and “an indelible mark on the soul” mean?
    Let us continue to pray and support those priests who put their head above the parapet in obedience to their conscience and the teachings of Vatican II: teachings many of which have been squirrelled away to the detriment of to the Church, that is The People of God.

  5. Peter McCann says:

    Darlene, the vocation comes from God and is confirmed by the Bishop. It is up to him to confirm/discern if one has a vocation to priesthood.

    I am happy with the Church teaching on this issue. Simply put, the Church has said She does not have the AUTHORITY to ordain women even if She wanted to, never-mind anything to do with theological issues – these are not given in the definitive statement, below, as the reason for no women priests. It is the lack of authority which means we will never have women priests in the Catholic Church. In Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope JPII said:
    ”Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. 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 Church’s faithful.”

  6. I know my vocation comes from God….My life experience with Christ completely, absolutely….negates any reasoning that says…Christ will not call women to teach, preach, and sanctify…
    No part of my life with God is purely intellectual…but, is first and foremost experiential…If I were talking through my hat…I would never utter a word..When the Pharisees and Sadducees confronted Jesus…they thought they were right and he was wrong too!

  7. Joe O'Leary says:

    “I fear the solution of “machismo in a petticoat” because in reality woman has a different make-up from man” (Temo la soluzione del “machismo in gonnella”, perché in realtà la donna ha una struttura differente dall’uomo.)

    Isn’t it just the sort of thing to be expected from a conservative old Jesuit? (Jesuits are said to be the only male religious order without any female counterpart.)

  8. Peter Clifton says:

    Following from Peter McCann’s comment at #5, the real problem for Brendan Butler and other commentators is that the infallible nature of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis has been affirmed by the CDF with express papal approval: cf the Responsum ad Dubium of 28 October 1995 and the accompanying explanatory letter of the then Prefect, Cardinal Ratzinger. Even if the penalty of excommunication is unduly harsh, there seems to be an unbridgeable gap between the teaching of the Church and the views of Fr Reynolds.

    I do not think that it is in any way disrespectful either of Fr Reynolds or of Anglicanism to ask whether he and others of his way of thinking would not be more appropriately settled in one of the churches of the Anglican Communion than in the Roman Catholic church. There has been a good deal of crossing of the Tiber, both from Canterbury to Rome and in the opposite direction, in the past decade: reflective of an unhappily increasing divergence of teaching on fundamental issues, but also of the inability in conscience of those concerned to remain in the church of their birth.

  9. Linda, Derry says:

    @ Nuala?…is it not a form of spiritual abuse for some women, too arrogant to accept their god-given place and womanhood to constantly bully and harass the male clergy into doing the impossible? Maybe as regards those sorts of women, the above-mentioned saints were, if your quotations are true and accurate, to some extent, apart from Gregory who would deserve, metaphorically-speaking, regardless of being a pope, a good kick, to put manners on him, right. God Bless 🙂

  10. Providentially, at least one woman, a former Chancellor of a USA Archdiocese, is not waiting for Francis to figure out his “theology of women”.
    She has bravely and boldly taken on her bishop over handling child pornography and sexual abuse cover-ups. Oddly, some of the cases may involve another ex-Chancellor, who is brother of President Obama’s chief of staff.
    In the USA at least, women are standing up to bishops and pushing back, especially to protect children. They appear to have given up on depending on childless celibates as the sole protectors. It is long overdue.

  11. Brendan Butler says:

    Peter. As far as I can ascertain from theologians like Orsy there is considerable doubt whether ‘infallibility ‘should be applied to Ordinatio Sacerdotalis of Pope John Paul II. Pope Francis has reiterated the teaching of Vatican II that primary infallibility lies with the people of God . Any pope must first ascertain the sensus fidelium of the entire people of God before he can proclaim any statement infallible . There was and still is considerable opposition within our communion regarding women’s ordination to this papal teaching thus casting great doubt about its status on a dogmatic level. With such confusion around Ordinatio sacerdotalis it is ludicrous to ban even a discussion of women’s ordination. Can we park the doubt about this papl document while we get on to have a tolerant sisterly and brotherly conversation about the possibility of women’s ordination in the catholic communion.

  12. Soline Humbert says:

    In a piece entitled “ALIVE WITH PROPHETIC PAIN” the well known spiritual writer Ronald Rolheiser OMI addressed the pain many women experience over their exclusion from ordination., especially during the celebration of the Eucharist.

    “Their pain is prophetic. It indicates that something is amiss,but amiss with the whole body,not with one individual…..And these[women] ,the ones who fill with pain,need to be specially embraced and listened to.Those who feel oppressed,excluded and who die (in whatever way) in the sanctuary are most often the prophetic voices even if they themselves are inarticulate. Their pain is not………… Like God’s Spirit it gives expression to what is too deep for words.Pain, accepted without final bitterness and persevered in,is prophecy.It is God’s voice in a calloused church and world. It comes from conscience and speaks to conscience.That is why it is so important that those who feel like these women ,those who fill with pain and tears at the Eucharist,remain in the church and remain at the Eucharist.Without prophetic tears,we grow ever more deaf. ….And prophets die somewhere between altar and sanctuary. But their groan is a word,a voice,that cannot be killed. “(in “Forgotten Among The Lilies”).
    As I have mentioned on another thread (27th Sept, The Irish Church refuses to face statistics on priesthood), many well respected spiritual directors believe some women do have a call to the ordained ministries and that these should not be ignored if the church is serious in discerning what the Spirit is doing today. None of that evidence was taken into account when Ordinatio Sacerdatolis was promulgated.

  13. Malcolm R says:

    It seems to me that the pre-requisite for the reception of the Sacraments is Baptism, which makes us all equal in the sight of God, if I understand Scripture correctly.
    I believe that Mary was the first person to ‘incarnate’ the Body and Blood of Christ. Of course she was not baptised in our christian Baptism, but she had fulfilled the ‘old laws’
    Based on the axiom: “Ab esse ad posse valet illatio’,
    can we not then say, to confect the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ is possible for women who are baptised

  14. Willie Herlihy says:

    Jesus Christ accepted discrimination against women, as a reality of the society in which he lived. In selecting only men for leadership functions in his Church, Christ simply followed the social limitations forced on him by contemporary society.

    In the first century world, the way Jesus treated women was considered revolutionary, e.g. In the early days of Jesus’ ministry, one of the most unusual examples is the devoted following of Mary Magdalene. Among the group of women who traveled with Jesus and his 12 disciples was Mary of Magdala (Luke 8:2). Mary is almost always mentioned first in a list of the female disciples of Jesus Christ. She may have been one of the leaders of that group of women who followed Jesus from the outset of his ministry in Galilee to his death and afterward. The risen Jesus appeared to her first. It’s ironic that in a time when women could not be legal witnesses, Jesus Christ chose women, as the first witnesses of his resurrection.

    The Popes down through the centuries cling to the excuse that because Jesus did not choose women among his disciples, therefore they cannot be ordained to the priesthood.
    Contrast that position to their stand on slavery:
    Cardinal Avery Dulles makes the following observations about the Catholic Church and the institution of slavery
    1. For many centuries the Church was part of a slave-holding society.
    2. The popes themselves held slaves, including at times hundreds of Muslim captives to man their galleys.
    3. Throughout Christian antiquity and the Middle Ages, theologians generally followed St. Augustine in holding that although slavery was not written into the natural moral law it was not absolutely forbidden by that law.

    In the early thirteenth century, official support for slavery and the slave trade was incorporated into Canon Law (Corpus Iuris Canonici), by Pope Gregory IX,.
    The Church Abolished slavery in the late 19th Century, thereby admitting they were wrong.
    THEREFORE, IF THEY WERE WRONG ABOUT SLAVERY, surely they should have humility,stop being a bunch of male chauvinists, discuss the ordination of women and be real followers of the Christ outlined above.

  15. Joe O'Leary says:

    Malcolm R., many theologians agree that there is no ontological objection to women priests. But of course priests have to be validly ordained and in the eyes of the church the eucharist celebrated by a non-ordained person would be not just illicit but ontologically invalid. Some argue that sometimes in the early church the lay congregation performed the eucharist without an ordained minister, but this argument seems rather tenuous.

  16. Kevin Walters says:

    Nuala O”Driscoll (2)

    You have named many Saints who have spoken (written) offensive and disparaging remakes against women, and that Pope Pius X1 quotes Aristotle’s scathing remarks against womankind, why did they do this? These rational men, who proclaiming the love of God behave in such an irrational manner, the reason was fear and we have to go back to Genesis to find the answer.
    “They were both naked (Equal) before God the man and his wife, and were not ashamed”.
    “And God said to the woman “and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over you “
    Power (Rule over) without Love/Truth corrupts and womankind has suffered under the jackboot of man since the Fall. In the natural order of things, it is natural to rebel against injustice and if the conflict is not resolved, in time, can lead (Push) one into anger, wrath, malice, manipulation etc. hence we have the Sibyls of this world and mankind fears her power.
    With the Fall, equality (love, true sharing, and companionship) was lost.
    Jesus teaches (desires) a healing equality in all things, from those who love Him and this equality is manifest in unity of purpose (to act as one).
    “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”
    The crowd thirsts for life, the living Word of God, Jesus will not permit favouritism, (PREFERENTIALITY) before our Father in heaven and demonstrates this to us, in a most convincing manner, those who worship in Spirit and Truth (hear Gods Will and do it) are all are equal and cannot be divided by any human (Worldly) standards based either on GENDER or family ties.
    “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”
    Our spiritual Fraternity cries out to equality, for acceptance (To act) in unity of purpose. (Not to be ruled over)
    Those who dwell on the Tree of Life (true vine) are sustained by the sap of love/truth (Holy Spirit) and bear fruit, in unity of purpose, the Will of God is singular and gender conveys no privilege.
    The branches, flowers (those who worship in Spirit and Truth) send forth their scent (Holy Spirit) from their essence (the SACRIFICIAL image of Christ) and bear fruit. I see one (branch) in my mind’s eye, bearing much fruit called Kapiolani, I look at her, I blush, a warrior, no man in her land could match valour, Hercules would have been subdued by her. She walked into the darkness with an inner light. She slew the demons, broke the Idols, exposed the lies of the sages, broke their taboo’s, she held her senses with a heart of love. She freed her friends her people, she would not be a slave, she through the sacred berries into the lava lake. She beckons with outstretched hand, we are kin.

    #Kapiolani was a great chieftainess who lived in the Sandwich Islands at the beginning of the twenthy century. She won the cause for Christianity by openly defying the priests, of the terrible Goddess Peele. In spite of threats of vengeance she ascended the volcano Mauuna-Loa than clambered down over a bank of cinders over 400 hundred feet high to the great lake of fire (nine miles round) Kilauea the home and haunt of the goddess, and flung into the boiling lava the consecrated berries which it was sacrilege for a woman to handle #
    See poem by Tennyson. .Kapiolani.
    Her name, Kapiʻolani; meaning Rainbow or Arch of Heaven.
    The Priests of the Goddess Peele are male, as are 99% of all world religions and womankind has suffered great injustice under many of them. For us Christian’s the continuity of gender (Male Authority) is nullified, as the sacrificial image of Christ is genderless, as it is reflected in both male and female, this truth gives Christianity the authority over all other religions to heal the divide between the sexes.
    We’ll meet under the apple tree again
    Wash away our shame
    Bath in the freshness of love anew
    The serpent will be there to
    But he has no heart, like you and me
    His design is to divide and malign
    In envy, he would devour
    But he will have to flee
    He cannot hold water (Love/Truth) like you and me
    Once more, we would be free
    There’d be tenderness between you and me
    The apple blossom will bloom again
    As we walk without shame
    Looking with wonder, with eyes anew
    As your heart reflects mine and mine you
    Man is for woman as woman is for man
    This is the Fathers plan
    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  17. I agree with you Malcolm R @13. Putting your point another way. If Mary the mother of God returned to this earth, which Pope or Cardinal would tell her that because she was a women, WE will not allow you to become a priest. Sounds a bit silly to me.

  18. It is disappointing, but not surprising, that ACP has deleted the link to my remarks on my website, Christian Catholicism, about the brave woman who challenged her bishop in the St. Paul Archdiocese (USA). Her challenge was directed at several priest child abuser suspects.

    This just confirms for me that ACP is mainly another chapter in clerical self-protection that has substantially ruined the Catholic Church my parents left behind in Donegal in 1930.

    Following my parents wise decision, I will leave ACP behind, along with the wishful thinkers and fellow travelers trying to preserve clericalism here.

    May God protect Irish children, including from ACP, for clearly that is not a high priority of ACP’s old boys network.

  19. Linda, Derry says:

    Jerry, if your parents left the church, and therefore left Jesus Christ and his real presence in the Eucharist,, because of clergy, whilst the temptation is sometimes understandable, more fool them and more fool you if you imitate them. The church isn’t really about clergy or laity, it’s about Jesus Christ providing HIS sacraments and Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity for the sanctification of souls, every one of us in our own unique relationship with HIM. God Bless 🙂

  20. Jerry, I think you have got it wrong here –infact I am certain you have. As one Donegal layman to another, I really hope you stay with us.
    Paddy Ferry.

  21. Thank you Father Joe O’Leary for the link above…..It is very curious indeed what the Pope says….and I’m referring to his remark….that he would like to see an OVERHAUL of the Church. What exactly is he thinking of?…..I would love to pull that string to see what unravels and reveals..

  22. Eddie Finnegan says:

    I see Jerry Slevin is at it again. Dropping in here occasionally to use the ACP to promote links to his own website. Martin Gordon used do much the same in his vain attempts to flog his ‘No Love Here’ old man’s bodice-ripper. Now Jerry decides to flounce off in, what Myles used call, that lofty vehicle, high dudgeon. And, I suppose, because ACP admin wisely chooses to use its powers of moderation [would that it would do so a helluva lot more often!] Jerry from his vantage point of second-generation diasporic Harvard-trained . . . . etc etc, has damned the whole ACP outfit as a major cog in the clericalist, child-endangering murder machine. As a mere wishful thinking, fellow travelling camp follower of their old-boy network, I await in fear and trembling the next edition of “Christian Catholicism”, with Jerry’s minor acknowledgements to Kavanagh:
    His post was up, and did he devastate
    The Roman Clericalist lickspittle on every page!
    And in Jerry’s house they met to celebrate
    With giggles high the dying monster’s rage.
    In far off parishes from Raphoe to Kerry
    Old priests walked homeless in the winter air
    As Jerry poured another pale dry sherry.”
    (On second thoughts, if a few more of those homeless old priests from Raphoe to Kerry had ever bothered their butts to contribute to this “Voice for Priests Forum”, there would have been less room for free loading carpet baggers such as me and Jerry (Harvard Old Boy) Slevin. The homeless beggars have only themselves to blame.)

  23. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    Jerry, I hope you come back to read this message. Fold in your bottom lip and relax. You’ve been really lucky that the good ol’ ACP has redirected as many readers as they have in the past from their website to yours. Most true blogs don’t allow for “cross reference” and I for one, am happy that the ACP has disallowed links to your website. This is not clerical self protection, this is about you respecting this site as a place where you allow your voice to be heard just like everyone else and not for constant self promotion, which I’m sure all of us could ask at some stage in the game. This website isn’t about you, it’s about the ACP but for some reason, whenever I read your comments, it’s seems to be about you. Just like your last comment, less to do with what is actually going on and more to do with you. That’s why most people love a moderated blog – no spam. And this is coming from you where you don’t even allow for comments on your own blog, or simply don’t have comments. Interesting, Jerry.

  24. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Exactly as L.A. MacPherson has just said, Mr Slevin. You have had unlimited access to this site – so where’s the Comment/Response Box for your dogmatically named “Christian Catholicism”?

  25. Soline Humbert says:

    I am always fascinated by (male) priests presiding at the Eucharist wearing vestments (chasubles and stoles) with beautiful, large, colourful representations of women on them : Mary, Mary and St Bernadette (in Lourdes), Hildegard (in Bingen) etc…It makes the exclusion of women even more anomalous….
    About distorted views of women , St Ambrose of Milan (who influenced St Augustine) also had a strange theology/anthropology:”She who does not believe is a woman and should be designated by the name of her sex, whereas she who believes progresses to perfect manhood, to the measure of adulthood in Christ”. No doubt this is what led many women religious to be given male saints names eg: Sr Peter, Sr Kevin, Sr Eugene, Sr Patrick, Sr.Bernard (and not the reverse: Br.Brigid, Fr.Magdeleine, Br.Martha, Fr.Bernadette!..).
    The accumulation of such views of women by influent churchmen (and the practices they underpinned) over the centuries has permeated our “tradition” and made it toxic. They are at the roots of the continued sexism and mysogyny in the church, including the exclusion of women from ordination.
    MichaelH Crosby OFM addresses it in his recent book REPAIR MY HOUSE, Becoming A ‘Kindom’ Catholic.(Orbis Books 2012)

  26. Bob Hayes says:

    Willie (no. 14), you are having a laugh!
    Jesus Christ accepted discrimination against women, as a reality of the society in which he lived. In selecting only men for leadership functions in his Church, Christ simply followed the social limitations forced on him by contemporary society.’

    You really expect us to believe the Son of God ‘simply followed the social limitations forced on him by contemporary society’? Your subsequent commentary, rightly in my understanding, points out Christ’s inclusion of women at pivotal moments during his time on earth. You cannot have it both ways Willie.

    Our Saviour had nothing ‘forced on him’: 2000 years ago he acted according to his Father’s will – no more and no less.

  27. Bob Hayes @27.
    You sound very triumphalist in your certainty that Jesus of Nazareth believed that he was the Son of God. Jesus was fully human, born a Jew and died a Jew. Jesus himself never claimed to be God. The doctrine that Jesus was God in human form was not finalized until the fourth century. Titles such as ‘Son of Man’, ‘Son of God’, ‘Christ or Messiah’, ‘Word’, ‘Lord’ are all used in different forms and contexts in the Old Testament. With your kind of certainty there is no need for mystery or the ineffable, certainly there is nothing left to seek.

  28. Soline Humbert says:

    about “ontologically invalid Eucharist” there is the testimony of Sr Irene Mc Cormack in Peru who presided at Eucharistic celebrations. This before she was murdered by the Shining Path terrorists.
    “It seems to me, therefore, that the preoccupation of our Church leaders with power and control over who can celebrate the Eucharist, who can and who can’t receive the Eucharist, is right up the creek. It’s a contradiction to be talking about a ‘sacred meal’, and have to sit and watch, not participate. Quite apart from the lack of the atmosphere of a fellowship meal, or lack of basic symbolism when only one person drinks from the cup and we use a tasteless wafer in place of bread. Of course too our preoccupation with the only reality being the scientific, the empirical makes it hard for us to accept the validity of symbolism. Not only is it a contradiction to the proclamation of Jesus that there is no distinction between male and female, but a lack of appreciation of the plight of villagers like ours all over the world, that our Church continue denying in its official ministry that it is by natural ‘communion’. As we in our little Christian communities, high up in the Andes, gather in memory of Jesus, there is no power or authority on earth that can convince me that Jesus is not personally present. I feel grateful that these months on end without the ‘official mass’ and in a culture where I’m experiencing new symbols, has gifted me with a new appreciation of the Eucharist.”

  29. I had never heard of Sr. Irene before you submitted this entry, Soline. That final statement of her quote packs a punch….

  30. Brendan Butler says:

    Where are we going with such language introducing Ontology into our conversation about Jesus and the priesthood of women.While not being smart by dismissing philosophical reasoning that is for another day . The pre easter Jesus’ voabulary was grounded in his native Aramaic and ‘ontological invalidity’ would be as strange to him as it is to me .

  31. Linda, Derry says:

    Nuala, with respect, your assertion that Jesus wasn’t God proves the saying that ‘ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ’: John 1:1-14:”the Word was God…and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”, John 12:45:”and he that sees Me sees Him that sent Me”, John 10:30″ I and my Father are One”, and John 20:28: when StThomas exclaimed “My Lord and My God”, when the risen Jesus showed him his wounds, Jesus didn’t contradict or correct him, because he was right. Hope that clarifies the matter for you. God Bless:-)

  32. Joe O'Leary says:

    It would be easy to sketch an alternative theology of eucharist — wherever two or three are gathered to break bread, Christ is fully, eucharistically present among them. So then, no need of the whole superstructure of priesthood, sacramentally ordained ministers. No need of any special group of ministers at all. There are probably many Christian churches (well to the left of mainstream Lutheranism or Calvinism) who have this vision of ministry and eucharist. The only problem is that it is very remote from the Catholic Church’s theology of ministry and eucharist over the last 1900 years (giving 113 AD as a plausible date for its installation). How radical a change are you willing to countenance? Have you studied the advantages and disadvantages of de-sacerdotalized churches? Is what distinguishes the Catholic understanding from others just a matter of practical arrangements that can easily be changed or is there some theological bedrock that has to be respected? (As to the vocabulary of the pre-Easter Jesus, this is a strange criterion. The Gospel of John would have to be dismissed straight away for using a post-Easter vocabulary as would the letters of St Paul. In short, Christianity would be a mistaken interpretation of a Jewish prophet. On the other hand there are a lot of things in the pre-Easter Jesus that might provide a startling basis for high doctrine, not least the eucharistic words and the notion of giving his life as a ransom for many — both arguably pre-Easter utterances).

  33. @33.
    Joe, the most pertinent and dynamic part of your comment is the questions. ‘how radical a change are you willing to countenance?’, ‘is what distinguishes the Catholic understanding from others just a matter of practical arrangements that can easily be changed or is there some theological bedrock that has to be respected?’. Your questions could just as easily be applied to the situation when Jewish Christianty collided with Hellenistic Christianity. How radical was the abolition of Circumcision? of dietary Laws? of de-sacerdotalized Temples? Of ending hundreds of years of Judaic Tradition? When reform is needed there is no right time. But we have the voices of reformers pointing the way since Vatican II, Congar, Rahner, De Lubec, Kung and many more, all of whom were made to suffer. We are lucky to still have voices calling for reform, Flannery, Fagan, Curran all who have also been punished. There is a lot of radical pruning going on in our garden at the moment, making way for new growth in the Spring. There is a lot of dead under-growth that needs weeding out in the Roman Catholic Church.

  34. Joe O'Leary says:

    Nuala, it is impossible to quote Congar, Rahner, de Lubac on a radical transformation of the Church that would abolish bishops, presbyters and deacons. All three fully accepted the teaching that this threefold ministry is of divine law and that it is of the essence of Catholicism.
    Nor does Kung go that far either, as far as I know. His books on The Church and Structures of the Church had a high view of the office of bishops.

  35. Joe O'Leary says:

    Also, Nuala, the doctrine of the divinity of Christ was finalized in the fourth century only in the sense that the ontological status of the divine Word was copper-fastened (the Word is true God, one in being with the Father). The teaching that “the Word was made flesh” in John 1:14 — to which the fourth century dogmas are only a footnote — expresses the early Church’s vision of who the risen Christ was. The divine Word entered human history in a new and rich way in the Christ-event. Again, there are many Christian theologians who may agree with you that Jesus was not in any sense divine (or only in the sense of “far be it from me to deny the divinity of any human being”), but that is Unitarianism not Catholic Christianity.

  36. Linda @32 and Joe @36.
    You both assume and presume a lot more than I stated in my comments. Nowhere did i state that Jesus was not God or that Jesus was not divine. I do not know if Jesus was God or if Jesus was divine. I may believe this to be true, but all I know for sure is what other people, men, said about Jesus of Nazareth. As I quoted on another thread, these men did not have a high regard for women, and in light of my experience of life to date I am not inclined to accept their interpretation of the Jesus-event anymore. The process of development that led to Jesus being Divine occurred within a patriarchal monarchical society and was heavily dependent on Pagan Greek concepts. A re-interpretation of the life of Jesus of Nazareth is needed in light of our new awareness of the equality of women. Without official guidance or acceptance of this many women are re-interpreting the gospel for themselves.
    Two thousand years of Church teaching and countless tomes of doctrinal thesis’ on the divinity of Jesus and a Male Triune God does not make it true, if it is not true. Thomas Aquinas said all he had written was straw. We cannot will God into existence. You are both so certain in your beliefs, Linda and Joe, that you misinterpreted my note of doubt as disbelief.

  37. Bob Hayes says:

    Nuala (no. 37), would I be correct in thinking that you seek to know the ‘facts’ about the historic Jesus, ‘facts’ that you hope will reveal a man who preached an ideology that you find agreeable? Correct me if I am wrong!

    From your posts in this thread it seems that faith is not something you hold or desire, rather you seek ‘evidence’ that can be measured against contemporary ideologies with which you are sympathetic.

  38. @38.
    Bob, you are partially right in your assumptions. Because I am a rational human being i seek to know the facts. However ideologies are never really practical, and I am very practical. My faith is practical and it seeks understanding (Anselm). The world is constantly changing and many of the two thousand year old interpretations of the Gospel are not adequate to deal with today’s modern living. Vatican II recognized this in Gaudium et Spes ,’the Church exists not alongside the world but within the world’. So until the Church catches up with the 21st century, my faith will continue to seek an understanding that is relevant to my life. I want my faith to be informed by science, technology, cosmology, philosophy, theology, all the wonderful gifts the human race has been given in abundance. Pope John Paul II in an address to scientists said, ‘If the cosmologies of the ancient Near Eastern world could be purified and assimilated into the first chapters of Genesis, might contemporary cosmology have something to offer to our reflections on creation’? An authentic faith is an informed faith.

  39. Joe, I have been meaning to say for sometime that I too was a bit perturbed, as Brendan, Nuala and Soline were, by your introducing “ontology” into the debate above. However, since you have mentioned the question of ” ontological validity”, then I am sure that must be part of the official position of our Church regarding the nature of priesthood. Is it any wonder then that our institutional church has become so afflicted by what most well- informed commentators, eg, Fr. Donald Cozzens, Fr. Timothy Radcliffe and others, refer to as ” the sinful culture of clericalism”.
    Your mention of ontology caused me to remember the formation of another association/society of priests that was formed about the same time as our ACP. This other group was/is the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy of the British Province of Pope St. Gregory the Great. Part of their mission statement/constitution was the declaration that priests 1. ” are in the image of Christ”, 2.” act in the person of Christ” and 3. “possess active sacramental power” ……. ” in a way that the layman is not, cannot, and does not” Well, that certainly put the rest of us in our place. But, at least the layman got a mention unlike laywomen who obviously did not deserve even that. I am digressing now. However, you can be sure that those fellas in the Confraternity would be into ontology in a really big way. At the time, I felt quite chuffed, proud even, that our priests in Ireland had formed as association with the noble aim of attempting a renewal of our Church based on the vision of Vatican II. What a contrast to the haughty elitism of the Confraternity of the British Province. Mind you, I did wonder, at the time, if they considered Ireland as part of that Province. I wonder has the Confraternity grown like our ACP. I daresay there may be a few lads at home who would subscribe to the mission statement of the Confraternity rather than the vision of the ACP. Please excuse my lack of knowledge of this topic and this might be a really silly question but has the common priesthood of all the baptised no place in this debate.

    Joe, I enjoy all your contributions to this site and have done from the very beginning. We have all learned so much from you and I would like to thank you for that. Are you going to be in the Regency on Nov. 15th.?


  40. Ronan Coghlan says:

    It seems to me that what frightens or deters church authorities from involving women too closely is that women tend to think differently from men and be more practical in their approach. Feminists may say otherwise, but the two sexes are different. Many priests, particularly those who have not mixed with women, find their mentality bamboozling and consequently a danger. What we don’t understand, we fear. The pragmatic approach of women is, I feel, related to an evolutionary tendency towards nest-building. I suspect many clergy of advancing years are unnerved by the peculiarities of femininity. If you say to a woman you know to be upset “What’s wron?” and she replies in a certain tone “Nothing” what she really means is you’ve offended me in a way you should but haven’t realised, so I’m not going to tell you. This is not how men respond, so responses like this will fill celibate priests with mistrust. They are also to some extent afraid of women biologically, as is shown by the fact that in many societies a woman who is menstruating is regarded as unclean. Even in Catholicism, how many bishops would feel comfortable buying a packet of tampons for a female? Many a priest and bishop has undergone temptation where women are concerned and possibly try to avoid it by avoiding them. Finally, many priests may regard the celibate clergy as a kind of select male club, like the London social clubs that did not admit females.

    I feel consideration of these factors may have influenced theologians in their decisions. Moreover, in some places (including rural Ireland) many men have an undue affection for their mothers and think other girls sluts by comparison because of the mere fact of their sexual attractions. Hence they may feel them (perhaps unconsciously) to be ungodly.

  41. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Ronan@41, I take it that, like myself, you are not a celibate male priest? You may think it naive of me, but on a website primarily designed for “the voice” of Irish priests shouldn’t you at least say, “By your leave and permission, Fathers!” before you set about dissecting the minds of these endangered specimens who are obviously so subjectively and objectively disordered at the core of their being? How do you expect these poor untermenschen to respond? “Sorry sor, sure am only a poor floozy-fearing celibate. An’ you know what? Didn’t I have a dotin’ Irish Ma, an’ dat didn’t do me a bit o’ good ayther.”
    Meanwhile, should the Bishops’ Conference introduce In-service courses which require all bishops to visit, say, 10 pharmacies and supermarkets a week to practise their sadly neglected Tampax-purchasing skills? Maybe Pope Francis will stick this on the agenda of his next C8 get-together, as a hopeful first step towards a new theology of women. I shall certainly commend you to His Holiness as a ‘peritus’ on this and allied topics.

  42. Joe O'Leary says:

    Whether we like it or not, the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and ordination have been regarded as more than a matter of practical church order for two thousand years. They are considered to leave a sacramental character that is indelible. Is the Church wrong about this? It does not entail any suggestion that the baptized, confirmed, or ordained are a higher order of beings than everyone else, but it does entail specific responsibilities.

  43. Joe @43.
    The baptized and the confirmed are not a higher order of beings than everyone else, just the ordained.

  44. Stephen Edward says:

    When exactly did Jesus proclaim this Soline?

    “Not only is it a contradiction to the proclamation of Jesus that there is no distinction between male and female…”

  45. Soline Humbert says:

    I thought I had made it clear this was not my statement but that I was quoting from the words of sr Irene Mc Cormack in a letter shortly before her death….

  46. Like Darlene @30, I never heard of Sr Irene either and like Darlene I was moved by Soline’s quotation. That is why I commented on Joe’s response @38. Like Stephen Edwards @45 Joe’s response was dismissive, nonchalant, dogmatic. Jesus of Nazareth challenged attitudes like these. Because he did we had one of the most significant events in history, the birth of Christianity. Everything we know about Jesus is retrospective male thought and all of Christian doctrine is based on that. The above quote is inspiring, it is retrospective female thought into the life of Jesus. If scripture is the word of God, it is human beings who have interpreted it. I wonder what treasures have been lost to Christianity because of the silencing and suppressing of female thought, especially in the first decades after the death of Jesus?

  47. Thank you Nuala for your final statement above where you say, “I wonder what treasures have been lost to Christianity because of the silencing and suppressing of female thought, especially in the first decades after the death of Jesus?” It is always interesting to note that the first witnesses of the resurrection of Christ were the women. I am stepping out on a limb to suggest that the women were the “cornerstones with Christ” that were rejected by the builders. Naturally, not all of the feminine contribution to the theology and spirituality of the Church was silenced or dismissed, however, much of it was and unfortunately continues today. Although, I think, I would be hard-pressed to identify in all cases whether a particular theology is feminine because if any thought is really inspired by the Holy Spirit, then, it’s probably got a feminine flavour anyway. Now, I’m going to offer my feminine thought about “ordination and the ontological seal”. I have no doubt that there is in God, a spiritual process of election and anointing. We see this from the Old Testament through to the New Testament. What I observe and believe, perhaps, only as a woman, I do not know, is that God is asking us, as a Church, to see anew how we practise “election” and “anointing”, so that, the experience of “the Eucharistic meal” for instance, is complete and absolutely inclusive.

  48. Joe O'Leary says:

    Nuala is not the first person to suggest that the church understanding of Jesus is patriarchal, influenced by Greek metaphysics, and therefore highly questionable. But to raise such a suspicion is a far cry from wishing that such a suspicion is true and that the NT claims that Jesus is the saviour of the world, in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwells corporeally, and whose coming among us is the Word made flesh, are just so much outdated mythology.

  49. Joe, to be part of the clergy in an all male hierarchical Church is like a fish swimming in the ocean, it must be a very comfortable place to be. There is another reality, one that was never realized. That reality is one of mutuality. The reality that was espoused by the early Church Fathers was dualism. The Church had and still has the wherewithal to remedy this. Again your assumptions @49 are incorrect and they are a deflection, maybe because you just cannot envisage that other reality. The Jesus of the Gospels is not patriarchal. It was the subsequent interpretation of Jesus’ life, by male philosophers and theologians, that was adopted and cast in stone, that has created the dualism, and a celibate, male, hierarchical dominated Church.

  50. Yes, there was a book published not all that long ago entitled: The Pagan Christ…which was a developed theory about the myth of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ….I believe the author suggested that life, death, and resurrection were a given for human beings….Anyway, I guess some people related well to that…I didn’t….It is difficult some time to grasp a real and abiding understanding of Christ as Son of God without a personal experience…but, the Holy Spirit surely teaches us about the truth of Christ from the scriptures and beyond. I believe it is important to leave ourselves room to question because we very often embrace Christ at deeper levels when we do.

  51. Joe O'Leary says:

    Well, I could agree that the Jesus of the church is patriarchal and the Jesus of the New Testament is not — though we should not forget that feminine images of Jesus have been quite common — Jesus as mother — even the whole cult of the Sacred Heart suggests many feminine attitudes in Jesus (and it was not invented by men). A more fundamental issue is the gender of God. I believe that Sallie McFague insists on always calling God “she” (one of her students says that he had to do so in all his essays for her). The biblical world is very patriarchal.

  52. Joe O'Leary says:

    Biblical scholars reconstruct the historical Jesus on the basis of the earlier layer of Q and better knowledge of his Jewish background. The tendency of this can be very reductive, and not a few theologians make light of the loftier Christology of later texts up to the Fourth Gospel. I think Darlene Starrs is right — we must think that the writers of the New Testament and the communities they represent were enlightened by the Holy Spirit and correctly interpreted Jesus as a Word straight from God directly savingly to all humankind.

  53. Joe O'Leary says:

    Nuala, I doubt that the priesthood is “a very comfortable place to be” for anyone nowadays.

  54. Joe O'Leary says:

    Just now reading an essay in the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus, which suggests that the Our Father might have been composed by John the Baptist (Luke 11.1).

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