"But when Christ came as high priest...He entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer's ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God."
-Hebrews 9:11-14


Have questions about Catholicism that you would like us to address in a post? Pop us an email at: grand.admiral.thrawn333@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Movie Review: Juno

Greetings!  Welcome to the first of (hopefully) many movie reviews by Al+El.

My name is Elizabeth, and the movie I am reviewing today is Juno.

I’ve been eager to watch the movie Juno for a long time, ever since it first came out.  Although I was not allowed to see it at the time (with very good reason, which will be seen later), I knew lots of people who did, and over the years I’ve heard many and conflicting opinions of this movie.   Initially, I was surprised that the pro-abortion/liberal media didn’t persecute Juno, because of what I thought was its pro-life message.  After watching the movie, however, I can see how wrong my original impression was, and why the pro-abortion party would not make such a hype over this movie as they might over, say, Bella.   

Juno is not your everyday girl who finds herself in a situation which is, sad to say, something of an everyday occurrence in our culture:  she’s 16 years old, still in high school, and facing an unplanned pregnancy.  Confused and unsure, she confides in her best friend, Leah, who suggests a visit to the abortion clinic to “get rid of it”.  On her way inside the clinic, Juno spots a girl from her high school protesting outside the clinic.  The girl immediately attempts to change Juno’s mind, but nothing seems to get through to her until the girl squeaks desperately, “Your baby has fingernails!”  Puzzled by this new idea of her baby’s humanity, and turned off by the brashness of the lady at the front desk of the abortion clinic, Juno recants and decides to keep her baby.  She is, however, determined not to raise the baby herself, and thus sets off to find the perfect adoptive parents for her unborn child.

My initial reaction to Juno was a wish that it wasn’t so crass, and possessed more charm.  In the uptake, Juno is rather a charming movie – it possesses unique and endearing characters, moments of dry humor, and a certain quirky-cutesy edge.  It is essentially the story from Juno’s perspective, that is, the perspective of a cynical, laid-back, witty, and confident teenager.   There is much to admire in her personality, much to love.  (Her pipe made me fall in love with her instantly, if only because I also am in possession of a pipe and chew it on occasion.)  She is an acute and unique individual, refreshingly original, and possessing a free and undaunted spirit.  In short, she is “an old soul”.  But what is sad and disappointing about her are those streaks of raunchy humor and disrespect – particularly for the older generation – that darkly color her otherwise sunny nature.  This is reflected in the film.  In context, a little taste of juvenile crudity is to be expected, but the amount of dirty humor presented to me was a bit shocking – all the more so because this was the way in which the filmmakers presented a story about the beautiful choice of life. 
The overall message of Juno is a negative one (and most likely the reason for its acceptance among the liberal side of the media): Juno fails to take her pregnancy as the price – or penalty – of her immoral behavior, and instead seems to flaunt her baby bulge with pride.  This is not so terrible in itself, but I think the crux of the problem lies in Juno’s angry, accusatory words to Paulie, her on-and-off boyfriend: “Do you regret that we did it?” (i.e., had sex).   What Juno is saying here is that she does not regret what they did, and she is mad at Paulie for not feeling the same way.  Perhaps we should consider the scene in which this encounter takes place.  Paulie has just told Juno that he has asked another girl out to the prom, and emotionally, Paulie and Juno seem to be drifting apart.  So is Juno merely feeling dumped by Paulie?  Are her built up frustrations and hormones from her pregnancy manifesting themselves?  Or do her words present a deeper insight into her character, and the character of the film?
It is surprising to me how many people (even good Catholics) seem to fail to look beyond the endearing charms of Juno and see how many things are disturbing about it.  (Don’t even try to pull that trite “Oh, it’s just a movie” excuse.)  The film is about serious occurrences, and the attitudes of its characters need to be considered.  Some of the most crucial points in the movie, as we saw in the last paragraph, revolve around Juno’s commentary.  At the end of the film, she tells the viewers that she and Paulie “got started early” – that is, growing up, having children together.  But the fact is that neither one of them grew up.   Juno didn’t learn anything from her unplanned pregnancy.  Instead, her final words suggest that she rather liked growing up early and entering into a “serious” relationship at 16.  (However, neither she nor Paulie mention the future possibility of marriage.)  Juno’s last bits of commentary suggest that she would do it all over again.  Let me just mention here that the only reason the whole thing happened is that Juno and Paulie got bored on a Friday night while they were hanging out.  How spontaneous – how immature.  And how sad.

So far, I have only mentioned Juno and Paulie.  What about the adults?
Unfortunately, the adults presented in Juno are in want of extreme character reform.  Juno’s father, Mac, hardly seems to know what’s going on in his daughter’s life; her stepmother, Bren, while presented as being uptight and no-nonsense, barely challenges Juno’s screwy behavior (although she is very supportive of Juno during her pregnancy – beautiful unconditional love!); the hopeful adoptive parents-to-be of Juno’s baby are, on the one side, insecure, and on the other side, “messing around” (or unfaithful), and both are hoping for the perfect child to fit their eggshell perfect life; and various other high school teachers and parents are made out to be flirting with the students, or silly to the point of being idiotic, or just plain juvenile.  Out of all these, Bren seems to be the most solid character, for although she is the stepmother of Juno, she seems to take better, firmer disciplinary action than Juno’s actual father (if you can really call it disciplinary).
Perhaps it is no wonder, then, that Juno has such an urge to be grown up, and yet is unwilling to let go of her immature habits – such as disrespect for her elders.  She is seriously lacking role models in her life.  However, there are moments of connection between Juno and some of the adults.  She has something of a heart-to-heart talk with her father Mac.  She develops a cautious friendship with Vanessa, the anxious but gentle prospective mother of Juno’s baby.  Her stepmother Bren supports her during her pregnancy with words of wisdom and prenatal vitamins.  During some of the connections, though, the bizarre attitudes of some of the characters and the filmmakers become apparent.  Juno’s friendship with Vanessa’s husband Mark – founded on a mutual love for punk rock and horror movies – takes a sour turn when Mark begins dissolutely falling for Juno and ultimately decides to leave Vanessa.  (Juno rejects him with horror, but in this lies another negative element.  Bren had warned Juno not to visit Mark alone so often, and Juno blew her off.)  At an earlier point, Juno is having an ultrasound done, and the technician makes an insensitive remark about teen mothers raising children themselves.  Bren responds indignantly and shuts the technician down, but one can’t help feeling during the scene that the filmmakers are merely making a bow to the pro-abortion party.
It seems apparent throughout Juno that the filmmakers want to please both sides: pro-abortion and pro-life.  They were afraid of making an overtly pro-life movie, so they made it pro-sex and pro-immaturity instead.  Attempting to produce a happy medium, they failed to fully satisfy both sides.  But perhaps this was their goal.

In conclusion…
…there are two major things wrong with this movie.  1): the flippant presentation of some of the most serious things in life (such as sex and abortion).  2): Juno’s half-adult/half-na├»ve take on it all.  We see lots of suggestive content, and lots of sexual implications, and Juno and her friends talking casually about it all. 
Sadly, it is all taken casually now.  Have sex, get pregnant, have an abortion (get rid of it), recycle.  Meantime, let’s go on with our lives as if nothing has happened.  The movie truly does present “a day in the life”, of a teenager.  But perhaps one of the movie’s good points lies in this, that it can present a somewhat positive message on human life in the womb to a desensitized generation who understand the crassness that is in front of them.  It’s gloomy to have to admit that.
Juno’s attitude, then, is probably not that much different from your average teenager.  High school kids seem to think that they’re mature enough to have sex, but when faced with other adult situations -- pregnancy, coping with annoying people, having a relationship -- they seem to fall back on their adolescence.  (In fact, not many adults seem to do a better job; but maybe this is because they acted this way when they were kids.)  The truth is, they are kids.  They’re not adults.  They’ve got so much life to live, so much to learn…why rush it? 
This is what irks me about people who say that Juno is all about Juno learning to grow up.  It’s not.  She has tried to grow up already, and it hasn’t worked.  Her youthfulness is so lovable.  It makes her react the way she does.  But the film’s overall message includes this element: it’s okay to “take a detour into adulthood”, as the Juno DVD synopsis says.  It’s especially okay if you’re a “cool, confident teenager” like Juno.  After it’s all over, you can get back on the road and continue merrily on your way.  There are no consequences for your actions.
In the real world, this is not okay, nor is it an easy thing to get over and forget.  It’s sad.  It impacts you for life, whether you believe it or not.  It’s unfortunate.  It’s unfortunate that Juno forces herself into an adult situation, because frankly, she is not ready for it.  She’s still a kid.  And until she has experience enough to change, that’s how she will remain.


Pax Christi,


Friday, December 9, 2011

On Women Priests: Part Four

Finally, the last part is up!  Here's Part Four of my essay on women priests and O'Malley's PD article; here are Parts One, Two, and Three for your viewing pleasure if you missed them.

The article continues:

The Women's Ordination Committee, a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C., that advocates for women priests, said it has 10,000 supporters on its mailing list, half of whom are dues-paying members. The committee estimates there are about 125 women priests in the United States.
The committee's director, Erin Hanna, said her organization does not ordain women, but there at least four groups that do.

One hundred and twenty-five women “priests?”  I’m torn between being depressed that there are so many and being glad that there are so few - does that even make sense?  I’m not sure which one it is.  Anyway, I would like to know just how these “four groups” go about “ordaining” women – ordination requires a bishop, after all, and any bishop who simulates ordination of women is reprimanded and/or excommunicated, as far as I know.  And besides, I thought that bishops had no authority?  In that case, there isn’t even a simulation of ordination by a bishop.

Ann Klonowski, 62, of Independence, was recently accepted into one of the groups, Roman Catholic Women Priests, to study for the priesthood. She expects to be ordained within two to three years.
"A lot of people say, 'This is ridiculous,' " said Klonowski who has a graduate degree in theology from John Carroll University. "Well, it might be, but there won't be any changes unless people stand up on their hind legs.
"I'm reconciled to be a voice in the desert. I don't have to worry about what the institutional church thinks of me. I have to worry about what God thinks of me."
Klonowski must prepare herself not only for the priesthood, but for the excommunication that the Catholic church says is automatic.

Two to three years?  Whatever happened to the requirement that priests need at the very least a four-year degree in Catholic philosophy, plus four more years studying theology?  Perhaps I’m jumping to conclusions here, but I think that this “two to three years” of education is going to be woefully inadequate – not to mention distorted, seeing as they have so many issues with Church authority and Her central teachings.  Yes, it is ridiculous – not only because of the heretical nature of this whole situation, but also because of the obviously woefully deficient education in Church theology and philosophy that they have received or will be receiving, which is never a good thing in any situation.

Moving on!  Ah yes, the whole “voice in the desert” nonsense.  It has a nice ring to it, what with the quoting from the Bible, and it evokes an image of them as the sole voice of Truth in a whirlwind of lies and injustice.  The problem here, however, is that she is simply letting herself be taken by that whirlwind of falsehood that she thinks she is standing up to.  As was already established earlier, she is going up against the Truth itself – the teaching of the Holy Spirit as passed on to us through the Magisterium – and she will never be able to change the Truth as given by God.  In this particular case, standing up to the “institutional church” and its infallible teachings is tantamount to standing up to Christ Himself – a situation no one should ever want to find themselves in.  The very fact that she is prepared to take the excommunication as an acceptable consequence of her actions only highlights the depth of her error.   For her, it seems that the excommunication means nothing, which makes her opinion of Church authority even clearer than it was before – if that was even possible.  But I'm beating a dead horse, really, so: moving on.

The Rev. Roy Bourgeois of Georgia, who has worked with Zeman, supports women priests and has participated in their ordinations. The church considers him excommunicated and he is facing dismissal by his religious order the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.
The Maryknolls have repeatedly ordered him to recant his position on women priests, but Bourgeois has refused.
"I will not recant," he said in a recent telephone interview. "I will not lie.
"Who are we as men to say that our call to the priesthood is authentic, but God's call to women is not?" he added. "This movement of gender equality is rooted in justice. You can't stop this movement. It's like trying to stop the women's suffrage movement."

Oh, Mr. O’Malley, you’re really making me giggle here.  In the words of a commenter on the PD site: “Not a single (non-heretical) Catholic quoted in the article.  Good job, P-D!”  O’Malley can only find people who support women’s ordination in the fringes of Catholic liberalism; orthodoxy, which is the mark of true and faithful Catholicism, is firmly against his and Zeman’s beliefs and agenda.

On the subject of Father Roy Bourgeois: as you may have read already in the article by Jimmy Akin on the NCR, Bourgeois has consistently and steadfastly refused to adhere to his priestly vows, recognize his error, and recant; another obstinate and misguided soul to add to that sadly growing list.  Bourgeois’ comparison of women’s ordination to women’s suffrage is a pathetic and fruitless attempt to make the priesthood a right in the same way that voting is (and incidentally, it’s also a perfect example of a bad analogy, for the philosophically-minded reading this post); however, I believe we covered this one earlier with that helpful paragraph from the Catechism (1578).  His arguments for women’s ordination have all already been shot down with gruesome finality by the good Mr. Akin (here’s the link again, in case you didn’t get to it the first time), and I consider him to be exactly the same as Ms. Zeman here: completely wrongheaded and in dire need of our prayers for his soul.  I am reminded of that verse from the Gospel of Luke: 

“He said to his disciples, ‘Things that cause sin will inevitably come, but woe to the person through whom they occur.  It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin’” (cf. Lk 17:1-2).

I shudder to think how many well-meaning Catholics Bourgeois and Co. have misled with their rhetoric about equality and independent interpretation.  They certainly haven't helped when it comes to American Catholics, at least judging by the surveys that Mr. O'Malley cited.  That's not to say that they are the sole cause of the average American Catholic's views, but all the same, I find it hard to deny that they had no part in it at all.

I pray that Fr. Bourgeois and Ms. Zeman will come to see the truth before it is too late; in light of their obstinate refusals to cease their heretical and misleading activities, I think it's clear that only the grace of God can reach them now.  Please pray for all those misguided souls who have gone astray, that they may no longer spread division, strife, and misinformation among Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

And that's the end of this essay; I hope you at least found it to be informative and interesting.  In a similar vein, I'm planning on commenting about so-called "Catholic" politicians and whether or not they are true adherents to Church teaching in a later post - not too sure when, but it'll be sometime in the coming month, I should think.  In the meantime, thanks for reading!  Comments and thoughts are thoroughly encouraged and welcomed.

Pax Christi.

Friday, December 2, 2011

On Women Priests: Part Three

Hello again!  I'm back to post the third part of my article on women priests and Michael O'Malley's article in the Plain Dealer.  If you missed the first two pieces, here they are: Parts One and Two.  Again, as previously stated, all boldings are mine for the sake of emphasis.

O'Malley's article continues:

"We don't pledge allegiance to any bishop," said Zeman. "We pledge allegiance directly to God and to the people of God."
Zeman grew up in Gesu Parish in University Heights and graduated from Regina High School.
She has a degree in theology from the Jesuit-run Loyola University in Chicago.

The first thought that popped into my head here was: Oh, how profoundly Protestant.  Seriously!  This is the language of a Protestant, dressed up in a Catholic context.  Once again, our dear friend Barbara is ignoring one of the foundational aspects of Catholicism – the hierarchy of bishops as passed down by and through the apostles.  They serve as successors of the apostles, who were commissioned by Christ to go and preach in His name (the establishment of what is called the episcopate), and as dictated by that position of service are teachers, guides, and shepherds of the faithful.  The CCC reads:

Christ is himself the source of ministry in the Church.  He instituted the Church.  He gave her authority and mission, orientation and goal…” (874)

This is further expounded upon via Scripture: “How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without a preacher?  And how can men preach unless they are sent?” (Rom 10:14-15).  Here we see why the Commissioning of the apostles is so important an event in the establishment of the Church.  The CCC further states:

No one - no individual and no community - can proclaim the Gospel to himself: "Faith comes from what is heard [Rom 10:17]."  No one can give himself the mandate and the mission to proclaim the Gospel. The one sent by the Lord does not speak and act on his own authority, but by virtue of Christ's authority; not as a member of the community, but speaking to it in the name of Christ. No one can bestow grace on himself; it must be given and offered. This fact presupposes ministers of grace, authorized and empowered by Christ. From him, bishops and priests receive the mission and faculty ("the sacred power") to act in persona Christi Capitis; deacons receive the strength to serve the people of God in the diaconia of liturgy, word and charity, in communion with the bishop and his presbyterate. The ministry in which Christ's emissaries do and give by God's grace what they cannot do and give by their own powers, is called a "sacrament" by the Church's tradition. Indeed, the ministry of the Church is conferred by a special sacrament. (875)

It certainly sounds to me like Zeman et al. are giving themselves “the mandate and the mission to proclaim the Gospel.”  They certainly seem to deny that there are “ministers of grace, authorized and empowered by Christ” (i.e. bishops), else they would not be denying the authority of the Church and Her bishops.

With regard to Zeman’s degree in theology from Loyola University, that doesn’t tell me much, except that her teachers must have done a woefully inadequate job of educating her on the precepts and teachings of the Church.  Either that, or she never took much of it to heart, a fact which is plainly manifest in her present behavior.  O’Malley here seems to be covertly arguing that because she has a degree in theology, she must know what she’s talking about.  Problematically for him, this leads one to an absurd conclusion: that all of the theologians and other people who also have degrees in theology and have come down on the Church’s side must be wrong, which in turn implies that a degree in theology doesn’t necessarily say much.  I think you know where I’m going with this.

"I am a Catholic," she said. "And no one's going to tell me I'm not."

I thought I would give this particular quote its own little treatment, because of the peculiar, absurd and silly nature of it.  “…no one’s going to tell me I’m not.”  Really?  Well then, any attempts to the contrary are pointless, of course.  Here’s one from me: “I’m the Duke of York, and no one’s going to tell me I’m not.”  Disagree with me?  Too bad, I say so and it’s final!  So there.

All jesting aside, there is some truth to what she says, if only in the immediate and superficial sense of the word.  She is certainly a Catholic, because “once a Catholic, always a Catholic,” as the saying goes: by virtue of our Catholic baptism, we are given an indelible mark that stays with us all throughout life.  But this is only a nominal title; there is no real truth to it in the deep, meaningful sense of the word, as established earlier in this piece.  One cannot say that one is a true, faithful Catholic and at the same time deny the central tenets of the Church.  It’s logically incoherent, given the true meaning and import of the words “faithful Catholic”; the combination of those words implies certain things which cannot be denied without contradicting the very words themselves.

In Chicago, Zeman works as a nondenominational chaplain in a hospital and performs sacramental services, including Mass, for a gay/lesbian group called Dignity Chicago.

This is another short commentary, but also important.  I find the denotation nondenominational intriguing; if she is so proud of standing up to ‘injustice,’ as she calls it, why not simply claim to be a Catholic ‘priest’ in her capacity as chaplain?  Odd.  Also, the fact that she performs “sacramental services” to a “gay/lesbian group” is very enlightening; given the fact that Marriage is a sacrament of the Church, I think it is not unreasonable to assume that she celebrates homosexual ‘marriage’ – yet another scandalous and perverse denial of direct Church teaching.  But I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by this anymore – it’s quite a trend with Zeman, after all.

Though Protestant denominations have been ordaining women for decades, Zeman said she would never consider joining one of them. "I'm not going to leave my church," she said. "It's who I am."
Traditionally, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has not recognized women priests. The institution argues that Jesus chose only men to be his apostles, therefore, women cannot be ordained.
But proponents of women priests say Jesus had women followers and women played vital roles, including leading faith communities, in the early church.
"This is murky history," said the Rev. Tom Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. "It's hard to prove anything one way or another."
But the apostle argument, he said, can be problematic. "They were all Jews, too," he said. "So do all priests have to be Jewish males? If that's the case, we have a real problem."

It sounds like Zeman’s only tangible tie to the Church is her emotional and lifelong connection with it, neither of which are necessarily pertinent.  If, as she says, the Church is “who she is,” why does she consistently and persistently deny essentially every claim to authority that it has?  I am led to wonder whether she even believes that the Church is the sole teacher of the whole Truth; I keep getting the impression that her decision to “stay” in the Church is based wholly on arbitrary and preferential grounds – something which I associate with Protestants, not Catholics.  Obviously, if the Church is wrong on women’s ordination (not to mention the authority of bishops), then She is not possessed of the whole Truth (because She’s obviously lying or mistaken about several important issues), so why remain in it?  Does Zeman even believe in Truth?  If so, of what import is it to her?  Just some thoughts.

Next!  Ah, here we go with the “hierarchy” thing again.  People who criticize the Church – like Mr. O’Malley here – like to emphasize the supposed disconnect between those bad, mean, misogynistic bishops and the poor, innocent laity who suffer under the arbitrary pronouncements of the hierarchy.  O’Malley here employs what might be called a straw man fallacy, wherein he presents the readers with a very watered-down explanation of the Church’s opposition to female ordination and then gives some (contextually, anyway) valid refutations of it.  The whole of his argument, however, is based on the weak proposition that “the institution argues that Jesus chose only men to be his apostles, therefore, women cannot be ordained.”

Well, way to oversimplify!  The Church’s reasons for teaching that women’s ordination is not possible are far more comprehensive and well-grounded than that admittedly spurious-sounding postulation.  See this wonderful article by Mr. Jimmy Akin of the National Catholic Register here, where he picks apart various arguments for women’s ordination as put forth by the obstinately heretical Fr. Roy Bourgeois (who is, funnily enough, mentioned later in O’Malley’s article).  For more information, I also recommend this excellent tract provided by Catholic Answers.  Needless to say, however, this is not the whole picture.  Christ specifically chose men as apostles, who in turn only chose men as successors, etc.  The argument is put forward that Jesus and his disciples only did this because of the patriarchal society of the time.  My response is: Christ was one of the most anti-societal-custom figures of that time, breaking all sorts of axiomatic rules and prejudices.  I refer you to the case of the Samaritan Woman at the well (cf. Jn 4:4-41), where Jesus does something absolutely unthinkable by the mores of that time: he a) approaches and speaks with a Samaritan woman, b) asks for a drink, and c) does so alone with her.  In the Jewish culture of the time, Samaritan women were considered to be "ritually impure"; Jews were "forbidden to drink from any vessel they had handled."  There are other relevant Scriptural examples to be had, but I'd rather not dredge up any more in the interest of space constraints; a reasonably quick perusal of the Gospels will yield results for the more curious here.

The Church teaches that just as men and women are different biologically, being suited to different roles, so too with spirituality.  A man cannot become pregnant; he is not meant to.  Likewise, a woman cannot become a priest; she is not meant to.  Each sex has different but complementary callings.  The priest is by virtue of his ordination wedded to the Church, Christ’s Bride; the nun is wedded to Christ in a similar fashion.  The priest acts in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) when he celebrates the Mass; a woman is fundamentally incapable of doing so, by virtue of her being a woman.  Male-only ordination is not an exclusion or discrimination of women, in the same way that motherhood is not an exclusion or discrimination of men; they are simply two different callings that suit the respective genders.  In this sense, equality is not equivalent in meaning to sameness, which is what Zeman and others like her seem to think.  Again, I refer you to Mr. Akin’s marvelous article that was mentioned previously; he puts it a bit more eloquently and comprehensively than I have.

With regard to the existence or nonexistence of females who operated in “vital roles” in the early Church: the language is needlessly vague, unless of course the vagueness is there due to lack of concrete information – in which case why are we using it as justification for a stance on an issue as important as this?  Regarding the Rev. Tom Reese, apparently he is an ardent member of the group Voice of the Faithful, which happens to be a spotty “Catholic” action group that covertly advocates for women priests (how ironic)and the end of priestly celibacy and provides links to explicitly dissident groups such as We Are Church and Call to Action.  In addition to this, many of its members are dissidents within the Church, leading to it being accused of being a “front organization for dissidents” – something that I happen to agree with – and it also calls for radical restructuring of the Church to make it more akin to a democracy.  Furthermore, he was editor of the “Catholic” magazine America for several years – a magazine which was and is known for its criticism of and opposition to Church authority and teaching.  Even ignoring these, his comments on the question of the apostles remains vague and inconclusive, opting instead to use a silly and irrelevant argument based on their ethnicity.

The fourth - and last - part of this series will be up in a few days.  It touches on Zeman's silly but disturbing "Here I stand, I can do no other" stance, some thoughts on the educational qualifications of these "priestesses," and the stubbornly heretical Fr. Roy Bourgeois.  I hope you enjoyed this part (and the others) and I of course encourage you to keep reading and give me your thoughts on it all.

Monday, November 28, 2011

On Women Priests: Part Two

Hello again!  Here's the second part of my commentary on Mr. O'Malley's article and the issue of women's ordination; Part One is here.  As with the first post, all boldings are mine for the sake of emphasis.

Getting back to her flawed argument: Zeman, like so many before her, has touched on a debate the conclusion of which is fairly straightforward from the orthodox Catholic perspective.  The Roman Catholic Church is founded on the fundamental teaching that She is the One True Church established by Christ and handed down to us through the apostles, built up by Scripture and Tradition.  Christ further established St. Peter as the head of His Church (cf. Matt. 16:18, Jn. 21:15-17) and promised that He would be with the Church always (Matt. 28:20).  The authority of the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit, and on matters of faith and doctrine is infallible.  As such, doctrines infallibly defined are the Truth as revealed by the Holy Spirit, and are to be adhered to as such.  Catholicism is defined in no uncertain terms by these characteristics; the CCC states that “Mindful of Christ's words to his apostles: ‘He who hears you, hears me’, the faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms” (87).

Relevant to this, then, is the infallible proclamation that Blessed John Paul II made in his encyclical Ordinatio Sacerdotalis in 1994:

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.

Strong stuff, and also straightforward.  Logically speaking, the argument that follows from this proclamation is very simple: Catholics are required to adhere to the teachings of the Holy Father and the Magisterium in virtue of their teaching authority.  To refuse to adhere to these fundamental teachings is to implicitly deny that the Church has that authority at all, and if you’re at that point, why call yourself a Catholic at all?  Obviously, Zeman does not adhere to this doctrine; in fact, she calls it unjust.  So it seems that she denies one or several of the central premises concerning authority. If she denies these fundamental truths of Catholic faith and teaching, then how can she truthfully claim to be a faithful, devout member of the Catholic Church? 

To be perfectly blunt, Zeman is a heretic.  There seems to be a modern stigma attached to this word these days; Catholics today seem afraid to apply it to people who fit the definition, perhaps because it is oddly associated with the Inquisition and ‘those cruel, awful, medieval, and thankfully bygone times.’  But this is a foolish mindset, and we ought not to be afraid of using words in their proper application.  Heresy is defined by St. Augustine in his monumental work City of God (Book XVIII, Chapter 51):

Just so there are those in the Church of Christ who have a taste for some unhealthy and perverse notion, and who if reproved – in the hope that they may acquire a taste for what is wholesome and right – obstinately resist and refuse to correct their pestilent and deadly dogmas, and persist in defending them.  These become heretics and, when they part company with the Church, they are classed among the enemies who provide discipline for her.

Here are some more relevant sentences from the CCC:

2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it.  Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same

Hmm.  From the sound of it, Zeman and her friends all fit these definitions pretty well – one might say they fit them like the proverbial glove.

We do not change truth; Truth changes us.  This is a poignant little adage that I think is eminently pertinent to this topic.  Zeman and her fellow “priestesses” refuse to allow Truth to change them, (I presume) because they have been indoctrinated with the popular and secular social mores of our times.  They believe that because men in the Church are permitted to become priests, logically they must be allowed as well, and they see the doctrine of male-only ordination as discrimination by the all-male hierarchy (I’ll disregard the illogic of that for the sake of brevity – if brevity even exists in this post anymore).

Zeman also seems to have conveniently forgotten another important point concerning the priesthood, which was covered in the blessedly ever-useful CCC:

1578 No one has a right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Indeed no one claims this office for himself; he is called to it by God. Anyone who thinks he recognizes the signs of God’s call to the ordained ministry must humbly submit his desire to the authority of the Church, who has the responsibility and right to call someone to receive orders. Like every grace this sacrament can be received only as an unmerited gift.

Zeman and her fellow “priestesses” have fallen into the trap of thinking that the priesthood is a right.  It is not a right.  As outlined above, it is a gift from God, a completely unmerited gift that God freely gives to those He calls to serve him in that capacity.  No man, and certainly no woman, can claim a “right” to be a priest: there is no such right.  It is an unqualified privilege, in much the same way that God’s grace is.  If we need a Scriptural reference, the CCC helpfully provides it (Heb 5:4): “No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God.”

Okay, moving on to the next part of the article, where it says that Zeman will “say the Mass” at West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church.  This is a more minor point, but one I think is important to make.  Canon 933 of the Code of Canon Law states:

For a just cause and with the express permission of the local ordinary, a priest is permitted to celebrate the Eucharist in the place of worship of some Church or ecclesial community which does not have full communion with the Catholic Church so long as there is no scandal.

Well, obviously the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church is not in full communion with the Catholic Church – it’s a nondenominational group that doesn’t seem to have any doctrines or teachings at all.  But ignoring that, the operative words in this Canon are “priest” and “so long as there is no scandal.”  With regard to the former, she is not a priest, so the whole thing is invalid anyway; with regard to the latter, there most certainly is scandal involved, in that a woman is attempting to celebrate the Mass.  Canon 1379 deals with this one quite handily; “a person who simulates the administration of a sacrament is to be punished with a just penalty” – in this case, a latae sententiae penalty of interdict, whereby the person may not receive the sacraments in good conscience.  In the case of Zeman, whose egregious obstinacy makes her sin even more grave, she is automatically excommunicated.

Next up:

"We have a lot of people who believe in ordination of women," said Joan Daly, 74, of Rocky River, a member of the Malachi group. "It's a current issue in the Catholic Church and we feel the people of Cleveland should be informed about this rising trend throughout the world."
Polls over the last 20 years consistently show that a majority of Catholics in the United States would accept women priests. A New York Times/CBS poll conducted last year by telephone with 1,079 adults, showed six in 10 Catholics said they favor women's ordination.
But it's hard to assess whether the number of women priests is growing because many of them are quietly ordained and keep a low profile in small worship communities.

Hooray, statistics!  There are statistics here, which means we should take them very seriously – or not.  Statistics these days have a rather bad rep, and with good reason, given the subjective manner in which they are presented.  In this case, having “a lot of people who believe in ordination of women” is completely and utterly devoid of significance, other than to illustrate the jaw dropping ignorance – or stubbornness, take your pick – of American Catholics.  Likewise, simply having a “majority of Catholics” who “would accept women priests” says nothing at all, save what I just said before about ignorance.

Why, you say?  It’s very simple.  Mr. O’Malley here is utilizing a very common logical fallacy known as the argumentum ad populum, wherein a proposition is said to be true simply because a substantial number of people believe it – in this case, the ordination of women being acceptable.  However, majority opinion has no bearing on the truth of the proposition, so citing statistics on this is pointless.

Sadly, people these days seem to accept rather than reject examples of this fallacy as true; I pin it down to the widespread moral relativism of our present society (oooh, there’s a rich topic for another ultra-lengthy blog post sometime in the future – must investigate further).  I see this happen all the time with regard to the issues of homosexuality, contraception, and abortion, although the abortion question with regard to public opinion is slowly but surely tipping back to favor the side of the Truth.  For an exceptionally sad example of the Appeal to Popularity concerning abortion, see the website of Catholics for a Free Choice (specifically here) – and do your best not to weep with despair that such a group even exists.

The next part will deal with Zeman and her attitude toward Church hierarchy, among other juicy things.  I think this series will come in four parts; the document in Microsoft Word is now ten and a half pages long - finished - and as such I'll have to cut it up a bit more judiciously.  If you're interested, by all means please keep reading, and as always, comments and criticisms are welcomed.  God bless!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

On Women Priests: Part One

Hello, world. My name is Aloysius, and this is the first blog post I have ever made in my life. I hope to become better at this sort of thing as time passes, so bear with me if my first few attempts seem ungainly. This will be a rather long inaugural post, but I think the issue calls for some detailed examination. Thus, this will come in small increments (I went rather crazy with this one, so there will be two or three parts to it), and I hope you have the patience to slog through my commentary. Input of any kind, whether it be praise or constructive criticism, would be highly appreciated; I’m brand new to this whole blogging game, and any advice on how to improve would be immensely helpful from the gurus who have been doing it for a while.

I thought that for my first post, I would comment about something that never fails to get me worked up: the ever-present ‘question’ of women priests in the Catholic Church. I was reminded (again) of this tiresome issue when I came across an article about this subject in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, written by the inestimably objective and unopinionated Michael O’Malley. And just to make things clear here, that was sarcasm just now; I have a habit for sarcasm which is a little on the heavy side, so I’m doing my best to quell that instinct. Whether I succeed or not is another question. As a side note, all boldings are mine, and are meant to emphasize a point that I am addressing in the piece.

The article is dated Saturday, November 12th, although I first heard about it on Monday the 14th while at breakfast with my father and some friends (Elizabeth’s parents, actually) after morning Mass; Dad always gets the paper when we go out. It’s titled “Woman priest, a Beachwood native, sees her ordination as valid; Roman Catholic Church does not.”

Disregarding the title, which had alarm bells ringing in my head already, I’ll get to the dissection of the article. Here’s the link, by the way: http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2011/11/woman_priest_sees_her_ordinati.html

It starts:

Women priests are taboo in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church, and those who participate in ordinations of women automatically excommunicate themselves from the church, according to laws of the Holy See.
But the Rev. Barbara Zeman, a Beachwood native, considers herself both a priest and a devout member of the Catholic faith.
Zeman, who now lives in Chicago, will be in Northeast Ohio this week to say a Mass. She was ordained in 2008 within a movement that believes God calls women as well as men to the sacrament of Holy Orders. She is one of an estimated 125 women in the United States who wear priest vestments and administer the sacraments.

Okay, not too bad. There’s the obligatory bit that emphasizes the views of the hierarchy of the Church as opposed to the views of the laity, a common enough tactic with regard to this topic. There's also the irksome reduction of the Church's position on women priests to a "taboo," implying that it really comes down to social custom or emotional aversion rather than theology, ontology and Biblical precedent. But then it really starts getting sad:

"As we see it, our ordinations are valid," said Zeman, who was raised Catholic. "We are Roman Catholics and we are following our consciences. We are disobeying an unjust law that says only men can be ordained."
Zeman, 63, will be here Thursday to lead a discussion on women's ordination and say the Mass. The event, sponsored by the Community of St. Malachi, a local nonprofit Catholic group focused on social justice issues, will be at 7 p.m. at the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church in Rocky River.

Oh, where to begin? First of all, there is the telling “As we see it” bit – a statement of personal belief and opinion. It gets worse when she says that “we are Roman Catholics and we are following our consciences.” If it weren’t for the appellation of Roman Catholic included in that sentence, I would have thought we were talking about a Protestant here – they do, after all, lay so much emphasis on personal interpretation. But I digress. There seems to be an inherent misconception about the role of conscience in the Catholic faith. Zeman here seems to believe that conscience is paramount; it trumps all other considerations, especially those onerous laws and rules imposed upon Catholics by the Church hierarchy. I’ll get around to addressing the hierarchy bit in a moment and focus for now on the role of conscience.
To be sure, following one’s conscience is immensely important in living a life of faith. Conscience has been called the inner voice of God within us, informing us on right and wrong. But I think some clarification is in order, just to be sure. St. Thomas Aquinas, the Doctor Angelicus of the Church and my personal hero, writes in his Disputed Question on Truth, Question Seventeen, “On Conscience”:

Conscience is nothing else than the application of science to some special act…

Deciphering the more archaically worded bits of the passages may be puzzling at first, but the message is clear. Thomas here uses the term science to refer to “the knowledge of things from their causes,” and not the more popular conception of the term that refers to the branch of knowledge known as naturalism. In a more modern context, the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines conscience as “a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed” (1778).

Okay, so we’ve established what conscience is. Aquinas writes further that the conscience is absolutely binding: “…it is clear that conscience is said to bind in virtue of the divine precept,” i.e. the precept that necessitates that we avoid evil and do good. Furthermore, the CCC states that “[Man must not] be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters” (1782). So it would seem that Zeman actually has a case here. But Aquinas further goes on to address the questions Can conscience err? and Can an erroneous conscience bind? With regard to the first question, Aquinas puts forth unambiguously that it may indeed err:

Conscience is nothing else than the application of science to some special act, in which application error can arise in two ways: in one way, because that which is applied contains an error in itself, in another way in this that it is not correctly applied. Just as in syllogizing fault comes about in two ways, either because one uses falsehoods, or because one does not reason correctly.

So in other words, a conscience may err either in (a) the premises one uses to come to a particular moral decision or (b) a simple failure to reason properly.

Zeman and her compatriots certainly qualify for the first example, and the key – and flawed – premise here is her claim that the doctrine of male-only ordination is an “unjust law.” She perceives it to be an injustice, and so her conscience compels her to reject it. I’ll address this shortly, but first, a little more from the CCC regarding conscience and error:

1790 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.
1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man "takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin." In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.
1792 Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one's passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church's authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

The issue of whether an erroneous conscience binds is fundamental to this issue. Thomas, in his exhaustive treatment of the matter, writes:

…we are said to be bound by precepts because we incur sin when we do not observe them. Therefore conscience is not said to oblige us to do something because to follow it is good but because not to follow it entails sin.

To go against your conscience is to necessarily go against what you see to be the will or precept of God. Thus, an erroneous conscience binds because to go against it, even though it is erroneous, would be per se going intentionally against what is seen to be the law of God, which characterizes a mortal sin of the highest order. In this sense, then, Zeman is right, in that to follow her conscience is required absolutely of her. The problem that must be addressed is the error in her conscience. I’ll address that issue in the next part of this series.

I hope you like how this is coming along. Any comments, advice, or thoughts that you folks have are greatly appreciated.