"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


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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.

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