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At LCWR Assembly, Elizabeth Johnson Speaks Her Mind

You may recall, from Grant's coverage on this blog or from the column I wrote in May, that Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, dressed down the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for its decision to present Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, with an award at this year's assembly. The award, Müller said, was an “open provocation against the Holy See,” because Johnson had been criticized by the U.S. bishops for alleged doctrinal errors in her book Quest for the Living God.

As I wrote at the time, Müller's presumption of bad faith on the part of the nuns -- and of correct judgment on the part of the bishops -- did not seem to leave much of an opening for a mutually respectful and collaborative process of reform. After all, as Müller might have known if he'd looked into it, the USCCB's doctrinal committee's indictment of Quest was a pretty shoddy piece of work, one that even contradicted its own claims in its rush to condemn Johnson for "undermin[ing] the Gospel."

Johnson accepted that award on Friday, at the end of the LCWR's annual assembly. For the most part, according to reporters who covered the event, the conflict with the CDF was absent from the group's public talks and deliberations. But in her acceptance speech, Johnson addressed it directly -- deciding, I gather, that since the honor had already been labeled a "provocation," she might as well say what she thought. And did she ever. David Gibson has the full transcript at RNS, and it's excellent: a forthright, clear-eyed, and (in my opinion) very astute analysis of what motivates the hierarchy's suspicion of American sisters and what would be necessary to overcome that tension.

After talking about her vocation as a theologian and expressing gratitude to the women who had encouraged her to pursue it, Johnson turned to the matter on everyone's minds, saying: "It would be disingenuous to ignore the criticism from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith directed at the LCWR for giving me this award. Note that I would not be speaking about this if Cardinal Gerhard Müller had not made his remarks public."

She reminded listeners that the USCCB's condemnation of Quest was vague despite its length: "Yes, Quest was criticized, but to this day no one – not myself, nor the theological community, nor the media, nor the general public – knows what doctrinal issue is at stake." Then she ventures this guess: "It appears to me that a negative reaction to works of theology that think in new terms about burning issues has become almost automatic in some quarters."

She draws a connection between that kind of "institutionalized negativity" and the similarly indistinct criticisms leveled at the LCWR by the CDF, and goes on to propose several frameworks for understanding the situation in which the LCWR finds itself. One is "sociological," referring to the power structure in the church:

The church did not start out this way, but as an institution it has evolved a patriarchal structure where authority is exercised in top-down fashion, and where obedience and loyalty to the system are the greatest virtues. Never before in the history of the church has there been such a cadre of educated women carrying forward the mission of the gospel as is now represented by the LCWR. In this framework the current CDF investigation appears to be an effort by certain ruling men to control committed, competent women whose corporate religious discernment makes them adult believers of conscience, silent and invisible no longer.

(Bishops, take note: this is not "radical feminism.") She then notes how women religious reformed their ministries and lives in response to the call of Vatican II, developing a more collegial form of leadership and moving "away from a cramped ecclesiastical center" -- the one that Pope Francis has so often called "unhealthy." "To my knowledge," she adds, "a similarly vigorous process of post-conciliar renewal has not taken place at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a particular curial office at the center." We're waiting, she suggests, for Francis to take that on; it's the curia, more than the sisters, who should be expecting a challenge from his reforming agenda.

In place of these entrenched patterns, Johnson calls for a framework of "reconciled diversity" -- one in which Rome would approach the sisters as adult collaborators with a legitimately different focus to their ministry.

Finally, Johnson notes, as many others have, that the Vatican's focus on the sisters suggests skewed priorities in a damaged church:

It would be a blessing for the church if [Müller] could find a creative way to bring this investigation to an end in a productive manner. When the needs of the suffering world are so vast; when the moral authority of the hierarchy is hemorrhaging due to financial scandals and to many bishops’ horrific dereliction of duty in covering up sexual abuse of children, a cover-up which continues in some quarters to this day; when thousands are drifting away from the church; when the liberating gospel of God’s abounding kindness needs to be heard and enacted everywhere: the waste of time and energy on this investigation is unconscionable.

Very strong words, and refreshing to hear. I wonder whether Johnson was emboldened by the awareness that this was the last LCWR assembly whose speakers -- and, perhaps, honorees -- would not be vetted by the CDF's representative (at present, Seattle Archbishop Sartain, who attended the assembly "as a brother" and was reportedly warmly welcomed -- though I don't know whether he was there for Johnson's speech). Müller had mentioned Johnson's award as an example of why it would be necessary for the CDF's "Delegate" to approve such decisions in the future -- as "a point of dialogue and discernment," not as a sanction. Or, perhaps she is simply tired of sitting by while others distort her words and misrepresent her positions as a threat to the faith. This speech will doubtless be criticized, by those who share the CDF's institutionalized suspicion of women religious, for demonstrating a lack of humility or obedience. But, bracing as it is, I don't see anything inappropriate about it. In fact, let's consider it a "point of dialogue." Honest and open conversation is a two-way street, and Johnson's attempts to initiate that conversation in private have been rebuffed in the past. So, if it's an "open provocation" the CDF is looking for, I hope they're listening -- this time, listening to what Johnson actually said, instead of just what other people say about it. She couldn't have been more clear.

About the Author

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an associate editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.

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Reading this article about this wise and good woman Elizabeth Johnson reminded me of the famous lyrics of Don McClean's song, Vincent:

Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a summer's day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul

Shadows on the hills 
Sketch the trees and the daffodils
Catch the breeze and the winter chills
In colors on the snowy linen land

Now I understand
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free

They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they'll listen now

Starry, starry night
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze
Swirling clouds in violet haze
Reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue

Colors changing hue
Morning fields of amber grain
Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand ...

Now I think I know
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free

They would not listen, they're not listening still
Perhaps they never will

As Kristoff quoted an author on Sunday:  “Let me get this straight. Some priests committed sex abuse. Bishops covered it up. And so they’re investigating nuns?”  The whole column showed how nuns are astronomically better than the bishops in witnessing to the gospel. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/17/opinion/sunday/nicholas-kristof-sister...

Beth Johnson has always been a great theologian and powerfule witness to the Gospel. As far as I can see this is the first time she took on Muller and/or the CDF directly. She just lets them have it this time. I believe she senses that Francis is in her corner. I say she is correct in that. She has been a great inspiration and source of comfort to so many of us.  She has suffered much under the terror of hierarchy. The only book that I know of which details this is "Good Catholic Girls" a most important book by Angela Bonavoglio. May God keep her strong and wise. 

This was an important speech coming at a crossroad in the church with the determined Francis. With Beth and Francis we have a lot to be joyful about. 

 

I think what Johnson said was great, but sadly, given Francis' attitude towards women, I don't think anything will change for the better.

That speech is not very specific. Thus she does not give any examples to illustrate the statement

While excellent theology continues to be done by ordained priests, all kinds of new questions, methods, and understandings are now blossoming, fed by the experience of the laity, women and men alike.

In fact she states that having women theologians is a big deal, but does not explain how, other than because of drawing from a larger pool of people to form theologians. But the occasion was surely not one to go into details.

I am struck by the acrimony of some comments at the RNS web site and the blanket praise of others. How divided the church is!

I don't believe that Francis is agains empowerment of women. He makes sense when he states that the push for women's ordination is really clericalism. The reason it is is that it is a quest for equal power at a time when less power should be in ordination. The real function of a "presider" is to be of total service to all. When that is understood, and it is increasingly, the debate will be over. When vocations bloomed it was a time when the "power and the glory" of the clergy were first and foremost.  Kiss the priests hand, the bishops ring. Those days are ebbing. And as soon as we can get the words "Holy Father, the Good priest", out of our mouths, the faster the change will be. As the priesthood becomes less a cover for homosexuality, the more we will see how the attraction to service rather than power grows. So we do not need more priests. We need more Christians. 

As far as women theologians are concerned it is changing. Margaret Farley and Elizabeth Johnson are becoming as much quoted as leading theologians. In fact what males compare to them nowadays? This is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Whether some realize it or not we are in the midst of a prodigious change. The church is changing more than it has in 1600 years. As the point of "service is at the fore more than Empire." We are in a true paradigm change which has not been completed yet. We are in larger changes than in the Protestant Reformation. And women are a big part of it.

 http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/2012/05/25/may-25-2012-women-i...

He makes sense when he states that the push for women's ordination is really clericalism. The reason it is is that it is a quest for equal power at a time when less power should be in ordination.

Women's ordination is *not* about women gaining equal power.  It is about having an equal opportunity to respond to God's call to the priesthood.  If you think that the desire to answer that call on the part of women will dimish over time, think again.

Here's an excerpt from the PBS program (Religion and Ethics Newsweekly) linked by Bill Mazzella:

PROFESSOR JANET WALTON: I am a Roman Catholic woman. I have no place at this table. This table is for men.

LAWTON: Janet Walton is a Roman Catholic nun who has been professor of worship at Union since 1981. She’s one of several Catholic women on the faculty here.

PROF. WALTON: It’s very difficult for me to imagine that millions of Catholics never experience a woman leading the liturgy. Because I think it matters. It’s not essentially that I think it makes a difference whether a woman or a man does it, but that no women can do it is a very big problem in the Catholic Church.

LAWTON: Part of how it matters, she argues, is in portraying a fuller vision of faith.

PROF. WALTON: There are lots of ways in which . . . being a woman and having the experiences that go with being a woman do affect the way one understands God.

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/2012/05/25/may-25-2012-women-i...

Thanks for providing that link, Bill.

"It is about having an equal opportunity to respond to God's call to the priesthood. "

Claire,

I guess I am not explaining myself well. What I am saying is that we are changing the concept of priesthood. The priesthood of all the faithful is what is paramount. So the "priesthood" has to be deemphasized rather than singled out as it has been. The people make up the Eucharist. Not the priest. The role we associate with priest is really what Vatican II called the "presider", the one who presides over the Eucharist. That presider can change often in the true Christian community.

No question women will respond to the call to become bishops who are basically supervisors and pastors. But the Eucharist can be practiced whenever the Community is together. The important part is that the People are as important as any bishops and the bishops as their servants must always understand this. So it is a church of all the people,which includes all the baptized with bishops and/or pastors. 

Bill,

I'm sure the clericalists will think you are spouting Protestantism: " the ministry of all Believers."   Next thing you know you'll be proposing a congregational polity.  You are very welcome to join us at UCC.

<Mark L removes tongue from cheek>  But there is something very special about a congregation calling a pastor, who responds by choosing to become a member of that congregation.

Mark L

 

I would welcome a more Quaker-like situation in our chuch in which there were no priests at all.  But until and unless that ever happens, to say being a priest is about clericism and so only men can be priests makes no real sense, at least to me.

Crystal,

I agree with you entirely.  We *all* are created in God's likeness and image, we believe.   So why would His call to a vocation depend on the activation of a single SRY gene on a single  chromosome?  On doesn't wish to be to reductionist, but really...

Mark L.

I did not say, Crystal, that only men can be priests. I said it is going down the wrong road. I agree with you if there are to be priests, then women should be also. But the concept of priesthood is elitism, power oriented and contrary to the gospel. 

Mark, there were some good things about the Reformation. Especially that it attacked the sacralization of the priesthood. Andrew Greeley was big on attacking the sacralization of the priesthood.  Especially when so many of them are "thugs" as he put it, right up to the bishops to Rome. 

Mark, The Priesthood of All the Believers, comes right out of the NT. http://www.bible.ca/ef/expository-1-peter-2-5.htm

 

 

 

From Mollie's post:

This speech will doubtless be criticized ... But, bracing as it is, I don't see anything inappropriate about it.

I don't, either.

 

Bill M,

Yes of course: we are very big on Scripture, of coure. But rather more enphasis from Martin Luther to the Plymouth Brethren than concurrenty (or even today?) amongst Catholic sources. I would be veryhapy to see us converge in this matter.

Mark L

 

One becomes a priest at baptism; one becomes a presbyter at presbyteral ordination.  Every presbyter is a priest; most priests are not presbyters.  During the eucharistic liturgy, the presbyter maintains order in the assembly and receives the people's gifts for offering to God.  A priest, by definition, stands *between* the people and the divine whereas a presider stands *with* the people before the divine.  

In a blog comment, Joseph Komonchak noted that historically it was the Church that called one to ministerial ordination.  He referred to the "highly indivualized notion of a vocation that is so common in the West: the idea that it is a kind of tap on the shoulder, directly to the man, when the older and sounder notion said that it was a call from the Church and this was interpreted as God's will for the man, even, in extreme but not rare cases, against his will" (https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/irish-bishop-calls-optional-celi...).  

The Church of Rome is dysfunctional not only because of sexual abuse and financial wrongdoing but also because of a toxic theology that places the ordained above the laity within the ecclesial pecking order.  This orthotoxy stems from ancient Christian apologists who used typology as a communications tool to recruit Jews to the Christianized Jewish fold or to keep them within the fold (Hebrews is a good example of the latter).  What better way to relate to an audience than to tie one's newer doctrine to the older doctrine!

This orthotoxy reflects an early institutional shift:

+ FROM common priesthood of the faithful, i.e., all the baptized, TO cultic priesthood of the ordained,

+ FROM eucharistic table TO sacrificial altar,

+ FROM Jesus' self-sacrifice TO Jesus being sacrificed by the Father to effect our salvation ("God sent his only begotten Son to die for us on the cross" --- i.e., "divine child abuse"), and

+ FROM sacrifice understood as reaching out to help folks in need (being mindful of Jesus' earthly ministry) TO sacrifice of Jesus on the altar.

Rome effectively has *two* distinctly different churches under its umbrella, and the above key doctrinal differences reflect this reality.  As long as Rome continues to embrace typology with its toxic residue, I don't see any reason for hope in a healthy, functioning church.  As far as women's ordination is concerned, the Vatican continues to offer *excuses*, not reasons, for denying ministerial ordination to women.  To embrace women's ordination would risk alienating self-described "orthodox"/"traditionalist" Catholics who subscribe to a toxic theology based on typology, a theology supportive of de facto misogyny.

 

 

My sympathies lie with the women religious. Let the theologians debate the value of Sr. Johnson's insights. So far as I can see, the hierarchy is-a group of aging bullies -- with notable exceptions -- largely ignorant of the Gospe,who have failed to protect the young and innocent from sexual predators.

What Jim Pauwels said.

"In this framework the current CDF investigation appears to be an effort by certain ruling men to control committed, competent women whose corporate religious discernment makes them adult believers of conscience, silent and invisible no longer."

A strange and somewhat insulting statement, considering that the overwhelming majority of theological works scrutinized by the CDF are written by men.

If one wants attribute unprovable intentions to other people, one might as well insinuate that Sr. Johnson is driven by a narcissistic desire to style herself as a courageous victim of an oppressive patriachal institution that mostly exists in her imagination.

One becomes a priest at baptism; one becomes a presbyter at presbyteral ordination.  Every presbyter is a priest; most priests are not presbyters.  During the eucharistic liturgy, the presbyter maintains order in the assembly and receives the people's gifts for offering to God.  A priest, by definition, stands *between* the people and the divine whereas a presider stands *with* the people before the divine.  

Joseph, you give pretty firm definitions here, ones meant to draw a division between presbyter and priest (whereas my understanding is that the latter is an etymological derivation from the former), and I'm wondering what your basis is for claiming such a distinction. Likewise, you schemata of "institutional shifts" strikes me as strange, since it largely represents a movement from what I can only terms as vague, Christianized concepts to ones already well established in cultic practice.

 

It seems kind of strange to me to take a text like Hebrews and sequester it as an example of early "orthotoxy," when Hebrews is obviously a formative voice in the birth of Christianity. That kind of maneuver seems to rely on the belief that there is some sort of "pure" Christianity that was almost immediately overwhelmed by toxic, outside forces. I think that mindset is as much fantasy-driven as normative Catholic models of a Church founded on Peter, and fails as badly in facing up to the messiness of Christian development.

Hebrews does not speak to the question of ministeril priesthood.  It employs the metaphor of Christ as a heavenly High Priest to underscore the efficacy of his death,  likened to an atoning sacrifice in the Levitcial cult.  It is the later misappropriation of Hebrews in supersessionist theology, and notably the misintepretation of the sermon at Trtent, that has led to its somehow being a ground for ministerial priesthood, something which Hebrews never intended to be.  Even Garry Wills got it wrong.

My information on *priest vs. presbyter" is taken largely from Kenan Osborne's PRIESTHOOD: A HISTORY OF THE ORDAINED MINISTRY IN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH and from Robert Egan's "Why Not?  Scripture, History & Women's Ordination", the latter of which can be accessed at https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/why-not-0.  The definitions, as you've noted, are "firm" because the history of liturgical presidership shows a transition from primitive Christian presidership to medieval priestly human-divine mediation.  This distinction today is witnessed in the Novus Ordo and Tridentine rites, respectively.  Vatican II at least acknowledged the presbyterate although the conciliar fathers related it to priesthood.  Thus we have a theological mishmash in Catholicism, and, thanks largely to B16/Ratzinger, we are seeing a revival of this orthotoxy in worship, as well.

Hebrews (ca. 64 AD) introduces the idea of Jesus being a priestly figure even though Jesus identifies himself as a "prophet", never as any kind of "priest", in sacred scripture.  Hebrews relies on typology in its outreach to Jews. Foreshadowing, however, as a communications tool, proves nothing in terms of basic Christian doctrine.  On this point, I refer you to CCC-125:  "The Gospels are the heart of all the Scriptures 'because they are our principal source for the life and teaching of the Incarnate Word, our Savior.'"  If Jesus is not a priest, it stands to reason that he cannot be a "high priest", the Hebrews text notwithstanding.  Indeed, an anonymous Christian writer turning Jesus into a "high priest" would appear to contradict what we know of Jesus from the gospels.

Although Hebrews, as you've asserted, "is obviously a formative voice in the birth of Christianity,"  I would contend that its typology introduced a toxic element into Christian doctrine and, eventually, worship and church governance.  Combined with the imperial mandate in 380 AD making Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, it should be easy to conclude that Christian ecclesial leadership was shifting from its self-understanding as *servant leadership* to one of *imperial leadership*.  Where is the latter to be found in the canonical gospels, "the heart of all the Scriptures"?  No wonder, after two thousand years, we have such dysfunction in the Church of Rome today.  Official leadership has become one of perks, power, pomp, and privilege.  The ordained are ontologically [read: institutionally] superior to the laity.  

I can't speak to your mention of "'pure' Christianity" although I've seen self-described "orthodox/traditionalist" Catholics use this phrase to belittle Vatican II's goal of ecclesial renewal, i.e., making the Church "new again" by, inter alia, restoring genuine lay participation and ordained presidership in the eucharistic liturgy.

I agree with you on "the messiness of Christian development."  I would merely suggest we rely on the canonical gospels (and not on the recruitment/retention tool of some anonymous writer) for a correct (and healthy) understanding of Jesus' self-identification as a "prophet" and the implications of this understanding in Catholic ecclesiology including worship and governance.

 

 

 

While I don’t doubt that Elizabeth Johnson could readily handle herself in a conversation like this, what we are talking about is not too relevant to the OP, so I’m dropping it after this.

I would point out a few things.

You are using a norm for reading scripture established by the Church (CCC-125) to support an approach to scripture that is otherwise untenable according to the foundation of your selected norm. The catechism may say that about the Gospels, but it doesn’t follow from that that Hebrews can be discarded as straw.  (Full disclosure, apart from what it has to say about modern Catholic approaches to reading the Bible, I don’t care about the catechism’s norms for studying scripture).

Note that Hebrews is no less canonical than the four NT gospels. Nor is it any more anonymous than those four. The gospels and Hebrews alike are canonical and anonymous. (I think that you date Hebrews too early—it’s admittedly an open question—but if it is as old as you say it is, then it Is older than the gospels). Hebrews is a rhetorical tour-de-force, but—while they are of a different genre—the gospels are also rhetorical documents; they are not just a window to a “correct (and healthy) understanding” of Jesus. 

I think the catechism is among the last places I would use as a scripture resource.   Some links on Hebres from the NT Bible Gareway run by Duke NT professor Mark Goodacre .....  http://www.ntgateway.com/hebrews-to-jude/hebrews/

"Never before in the history of the church has there been such a cadre of educated women carrying forward the mission of the gospel as is now represented by the LCWR."

 

The hubris in that statement is breathtaking.  This book tells a much different story

Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light

The Private Writings of the "Saint of Calcutta" 

As my grandmother would have said to the good sister:  "Honey, God bless your cotton socks!"

Ditto from me.

In response to the question of whether Sartain was present:

"Sartain attended each of the public events during the LCWR assembly except for Johnson's presentation, as he was traveling Friday night."

Source: http://ncronline.org/news/sisters-stories/johnson-lcwr-sisters-ahead-hie...

Can a woman receive the Sacrament of Order?

Some might be interested in the essay that I've posted explaining why a woman cannot.

RCism is an incarnational Church.  Automatically that involves arbitrariness by God.

He became incarnate two thousand years ago.  Why not three thousand?  Why not not to-day?

He became incarnate a Jew in Palestine?  Why not an Indian in Mombai?

No valid baptism unless by water.  No other fluid will do.

No valid eucharist unless by consecrated wheat bread and grape wine.  No other foods will do.

No valid annointings of the sick unless by vegetable (olive) oil. No other unguent will do.

And, no vaiid ordination inless of a baptized human male

Read my take on all this?

 

http://www.tboyle.net/Catholicism/Women's_Ordination.html

I'm using a "norm" (CCC-125) that logically and necessarily places priority on what ancient Christian writers understood to be Jesus' teaching passed down in primitive and later ancient churches over the years.  Contrary to your view, furthermore, nobody is discarding Hebrews "as straw".  Hyperbole can sometimes be effective, but, in this case, it isn't.

If you haven't already, I suggest you read the commentary on Hebrews at the USCCB website.  You may also want to peruse Jaroslav Pelikan's analysis of this issue in his THE CHRISTIAN TRADITION: A HISTORY OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF DOCTRINE, Vol. 1: THE EMERGENCE OF THE CATHOLIC TRADITION (100-600), pp. 25ff.  Also helpful  is Edward Foley's FROM AGE TO AGE: HOW CHRISTIANS HAVE CELEBRATED THE EUCHARIST.  

You entered this exchange on your own; if you wish to drop it, so be it.

 

 

Mr. Boyle, thanks for sharing your viewpoint on women's ordination.  We disagree.  There is nothing in the gospels about Jesus ordaining anybody to ministry, Jewish or otherwise.  Francis A. Sullivan, SJ, in his FROM APOSTLES TO BISHOPS: THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE EPISCOPACY IN THE EARLY CHURCH,  has noted there is no evidence the Twelve served as heads/bishops of local churches, much less ordained anybody to serve in this capacity.  Furthermore, as Osborne has noted in his PRIESTHOOD text, ordained Catholic ministry has a "history".  In other words, our primitive ancestors in the Christian faith had no ministerial "priests".  Presiders at the eucharistic liturgy functioned in this capacity by virtue of their community leadership.  They were (to use a common term today) lay, not sacerdotal, figures.  Even the earliest extant ordination texts in the "Apostolic Tradition (of Hippolytus)" do not show a priestly role for the presbyter.  In our discussing women's ordination and related, I'm reminded of the observation of a future pontiff:  "[F]acts, as history teaches, carry more weight than pure doctrine" (Joseph Ratzinger, THEOLOGICAL HIGHLIGHTS OF VATICAN II, Paulist Press/Deus Books, 1966, p. 16).  When church doctrine and actual history collide, the latter must prevail.

I should add that in his history of PRIESTHOOD, Osborne devotes a section on Rome's stance on Anglican orders.  He demonstrates how Rome might want to reexamine Pope Leo XIII's condemnation of Anglican orders as "absolutely null and utterly void."  Suffice it to say, if the Vatican is going to condemn Anglican orders, it must be prepared to condemn its own orders, as well.  "People in glass houses should not throw stones."

The requirement for wheat bread and grape wine in Catholic worship is of no consequence if the liturgical presider has no "power to consecrate" conferred by ordination.  If such is the case, then we should be prepared to condemn primitive Christian worship as "invalid" since the earliest presiders had neither ministerial ordination nor so-called ritual/cultic "priests"!

Hello:

   The NT unquestionably describes the when and the how of Jesus's instituting the eucharist and granting the power to forgive and to retain sins.  qually so in regard to His commissioning teaching all nations.  Call the recipients if these three assignments priests, presbyters, elders, whatever, th first qustion is whether all the baptized or only some of the baptized (historically) count as the recipients.

   Clearly it has always been in the Church only some.

   On what basis selection / exclusion?

   Could there be an a priori exclusion of women?  Or is such an exclusion just been an historical add-on?

    All qustions calling for answers.

    But not subject to questioning whether plainly describes Jesus's personally instituting the eucharist, personally giving the power to forgive and to retain sins, personally commissioning the teaching of all nations, and to just some - not all - of the baptized.

"Never before in the history of the church has there been such a cadre of educated women carrying forward the mission of the gospel as is now represented by the LCWR."

 

The hubris in that statement is breathtaking.

Bruce the statement of Johnson is true. We have never had this preponderence of educated women in the church. So the "hubris" might backfire, if you get my drift......

Terence, 

 

I see the Council of Trent is alive and well. The enlightenment never happened. The earth is round and does not move.

St. Paul in his epistle to the Hebrews (Sorry, but Trent infallibly defined it as by Paul) speaks of one hieros, not one presbyteros.  That one heiros is Jesus Christ.  The one and only efficacious sacrifice is that of Jesus on Calvary.  The so-called "priesthood" (heiros-hood, not presbyter-hood) of all believers is so because by baptism all believers become members of the Body of Christ.  Because He is hieros, all of us members of His Body are hieros.

The eucharist is not a different sacrament, offered by a different hieros, but the very same sacrifice offered by the same heiros, Jesus.

The eucharist is not offered by the presbyter celebrant, but offered by Jesus "at the hands of the presbyter celebrant".

The we confront, is at WHOSE hands CAN the eucharist be confected? Anyone baptized? Only the "ordained"?  If the latter, who cannot be ordained?  Only males?  Only adults?

Again, I recommend reading the essay that I wrote and referred to in my earlier posting.

Elizabeth Johnson says nothing about the ordination of women. Her focus is on women theologians, and part of her argument is that they are the voices of lay people. Before, only seminarians, priests-in-training, could study theology. Now, lay people are allowed to do it too, and she says that it's a seismic development.

I and today’s cohort of women theologians are charting a new path. For centuries the study of theology was reserved for ordained priests as part of the hierarchy’s office to teach. One cannot overestimate the impact of Vatican II which opened the doors of theological study to lay persons. While excellent theology continues to be done by ordained priests, all kinds of new questions, methods, and understandings are now blossoming, fed by the experience of the laity, women and men alike.

This is not about women's ordination.

I understand the Catholic impulse to root or source any discussion of priests or "presbyters" in the NT, specifically Hebrews.  But, that exercise is the equivalent of getting lost in the weeds.

As Elizabeth Johnson seems to understand and recognize the issue is not about women's ordination to a dying clerical state so much as it is the emergence, the renewal and the reform of the whole way Catholics do priesthood for the 21st century.

Religious women, the LCRW specifically, having been about the business of Vatican2 - integrating its spirit into their communal and individual lives - for low these 50 years, and they have evolved.  The hierarchs come across really as envious interlopers in lives of religious women - never good optics. 

Religious women know that a new church has been forming in the eternal womb of the divine - and She is about to give birth.  And as any woman can tell you, giving birth causes her to cry out in the labor of love.

If only on a subconscious level, the hierarchs know this.  They know that the evolution of a Peoples' Church has left them behind, they're dying-off, eventually - and sooner than we think, I suspect - they will be functionally extinct, and they are struggling to cling to their positions of privilege in an all-male feudal oligarchy.  

Why else would Muellar, the CDF and the American hierarchy be reacting so hysterically negative toward Johnson and her rather benign theological speculations?  It's not what she is saying as much as it is a woman saying it.  

Why else have the hierarchs so desperately counter-attack?  Are we surprised that our narcissistic hierarchs are having a hard time giving up their lives of rank and privilege?

Jim Jenkins, thank you for that most excellent summary.  On the money.

To those arguing this thread is not about women's ordination, I would simply remind them that ordination plays a critical role in who controls the institutional Roman Catholic Church (I would write "Roman Catholic Communion", but genuine communion suggests anything *but* what we see today and in our history books).  Those who've controlled ordination have controlled the institution and, thus, its impact on members' lives.  I see no future church without formal ministry of some kind.  Call it "ordination" or whatever, the future church *will* have some kind of recognized ministry as well as requirements for entering such ministry. This is a reality of organizational life.  Women's ordination is critical in giving half the membership of the church the opportunity to share fully in ecclesial decision-making. 

I agree with Joseph.  I'm all for having a church in which there's no distinction between lay people and religious people, but we do not now have that kind of church.  The only reason we are even discussing Muller and Johnson is because Muller is an ordained hierarch who has the power to censor Johnson's work because she is a religious, not a lay, person.  Until the pope - someone so important in the world that he's the leader not just of a religious denomination but of his own recognized country - can be any one of the baptized, it will matter who can be ordained.

Mr. Boyle, Hebrews --- I repeat --- is an example of typology/foreshadowing/prefiguration used as a recruitment and retention tool by Christian writers appealing to Jews to join the new community or to remain within if they were contemplating leaving it.  Typology proves nothing about basic Christian belief in Jesus as Son of God within the mystery of the Trinity.  

Jesus self-identifies as a "prophet", not as any kind of "priest"; this is fact.  If you don't agree, I invite you to peruse the canonical gospels and cite information to the contrary.  Jesus was born into the Jewish faith, lived a Jewish life, and died a Jew.  He did not need to establish any kind of priesthood because he already had priests --- in the Jerusalem Temple!  A number of years would pass before Christian converts would be declared *personae non gratae* as troublemakers by Jewish authorities.  

Jesus' sacrifice on Calvary was *self-sacrifice*; he was not sacrificed by the Father.  The notion that Jesus was a "priest" was the application of typology.  In his article on women's ordination, theologian Robert Egan offers the following:

"A 'priest' is a type of religious specialist, a person associated primarily with cultic functions, having the authority or power to perform and administer religious rites, especially rites of sacrifice to a deity or deities. As such, priests are viewed as intermediaries between human beings and their god or gods. Their office may be called 'the priesthood,' a term which may also apply to such persons collectively. Such priests existed in ancient Israel and in ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman religions. There are analogous roles and functions in many other religious traditions. In Greek the word for “priest” is hiereus; in Latin, sacerdos.

 

"In early Christianity, many types of religious specialization and leadership were recognized by the communities, including prophets, teachers, deacons, and apostles, as well as elders and overseers. In Greek the word for “elder” is presbuteros, from which Latin gets presbyter. In Greek the word for 'overseer' was episkopos, from which Latin gets episcopus and English gets 'bishop.' Eventually the episcopus, the presbyter, and the deacon emerged as the principal offices of leadership in the Christian church.

"None of these words or roles has any particular connection with cult or sacrifice, but in the second century, as the episcopus became the ordinary presider at the community’s Eucharistic liturgy, he began to be likened to a sacerdos. Later, in the third century, as the presbyter became the delegate of the episcopus to preside at some Eucharistic liturgies, he too began to be likened to a sacerdos. Eventually the terms presbyter and sacerdos came to be used interchangeably to refer to an ordained Christian minister of a rank above deacon but below bishop. Ironically, the word 'priest,' which is the only word we have to translate sacerdos or hiereus, is derived historically from presbyter"  ("Why Not? Scripture, History & Women's Ordination", COMMONWEAL, April 3, 2008; available online).

PS - before it's asserted again that women's ordination is then all about power, it isn't about that, though that does seem to be how 'ordained or not ordained' is acted out.  Its undepinning is the awful idea the church pushes that God himself sees men and women differently.

Here's my understanding of what those terms mean.

ordained = bishop, priest (either diocesan or member of religious order), or deacon.

not ordained = lay = religious sister, (unordained) religious brother,  married couples, or other.

Correct? Then Elizabeth Johnson is a religious sister, therefore a member of the laity.

 

I guess I'm in the minority here, but this needs to stop.  Sometimes you just need to be the bigger person and stop confronting your opponents.  Take a breath.  Walk away.  Or in this instance, thank the LCWR for the award, say a few gracious things and be seated.  Never mind standing up to the CDR.  Cardinal Mueller strikes me as a bit of a bully, and contrary to the old saw, nothing hurts a bully  like not having a victim.  This was an overall, "in your face" decison at the outset.  This reaction will just make any attempt to come to a reasonable solution even more complicated. 

The "reasonable solution" is for the self-selecting, self-appointing, self-limiting male leadership of this church to admit that this confederation of religious women in positions of leadership in their own communities are adult enough to decide when, where and why they will meet, who they will have address them, the subjects to be covered and to whom to give what award(s) and why.

They do not need the approbation nor blessing of men to do that.

The church leadership can feel free to engage in DIALOGUE with these women, but to declare boundaries for them when it comes to discussion and comraderie is out of bounds.

That is what is a reasonable solution.  All else is to treat grown women as little girls needing daddy's approval.

 

"Until the pope - someone so important in the world that he's the leader not just of a religious denomination but of his own recognized country - can be any one of the baptized, it will matter who can be ordained."

Agree.

this confederation of religious women in positions of leadership in their own communities are adult enough to decide when, where and why they will meet, who they will have address them, the subjects to be covered and to whom to give what award(s) and why.

I agree that they are adults, and if the group's leadership is of the same caliber as Sr. Johnson (who, it's worth noting, is not in LCWR leadership), then perhaps nobody need be concerned about its future.

Let me suggest this, though: I've commented in the past, regarding the LCWR investigation (I was going to say "crisis" but I hope it isn't a crisis) that in the eyes of the church authorities, the problem is essentially a problem of communion.  This is evident in Rome's discussion of the LCWR's juridical status.  LCWR wasn't strictly a self-organized group; it was, in a sense, "chartered" by the Holy See to be its official leadership group for American women religious.  This formal, legal attachment is a manifestation of something deeper: the communion that exists between the American religious orders and its members, and the church as a whole. 

I suppose, if things continue to deteriorate between Rome and the LCWR, that Rome could "decertify" the LCWR.  Perhaps many/most of the women religious wouldn't care (just as, I'd wager, a number of readers and commenters of dotCom wouldn't care).  But that move would have some pretty grave implications, in my view; it would be tantamount to the church saying that the LCWR (meaning the group itself, as opposed to its member orders) is no longer fully in communion.

This is why dialogue is so important.  I would think that everyone would want to avoid going down that road.  

 

Jim Pauwels:

I am not sure I understand the gist of you comment @5:38 pm, and I wonder if you would clarify your meaning on sevreal points.

 

1. You use the conditional "if their leadership..." as a basis for the sisters are adults and then seem to undercut it by appealing to the fact the Elizabeth Johnson is not part of the LCWR leadership.  Is the point to say that the current leadership is defective in some way and that, while you would support Sr. Elizabeth, you would not extend your support to the current leadedship because she is not a member of it?

2.Why are you dancining around the word "crisis" as though you think the situation is really a crisis. In your opinion, is it or isn't it?

3. How do you understand the LCWR statement that they wish to continue dialogue with the Vatican but will not sacrifice the integrity of their organization for that end?  

4. On the question of "communion" and "juridical status" do you understand that as LCWR does or as the hierarchy does, and do you admit that there is a difference between both points of view?  How do you see this relating to your assessment of the juridical status of LCWR:  "This formal, legal attachment is a manifestation of something deeper: the communion that exists between the American religious orders and its members, and the church as a whole."  I might ask further if your "legal" understanding fo the LCWR charter matches LCWR's understanding of its relation to the Vatican?

5. Do you trust LCWR to be women of the Church, and if you do is this paragraph not somewhat gratuitous?  

I suppose, if things continue to deteriorate between Rome and the LCWR, that Rome could "decertify" the LCWR.  Perhaps many/most of the women religious wouldn't care (just as, I'd wager, a number of readers and commenters of dotCom wouldn't care).  But that move would have some pretty grave implications, in my view; it would be tantamount to the church saying that the LCWR (meaning the group itself, as opposed to its member orders) is no longer fully in communion.

 

5. In your last, line does "dialogue" match the understanding of dialogue held by LCWR or that understanding held by the Vatican and do you recognize that each has a different view of "dialogue"?

I wish we could edit our posts on dotCommonweal.

In my last post  "You use the conditional 'if their leadership...' as a basis for the sisters are adults" should read as the basis for the sisters being adults.

 

Of couse the last item should be numbered 6 and not 5.

Hi, Alan, I wish I could do in-line replies to your questions.  In order, they are:

1.  No, there is no surreptitious meaning intended regarding my opinion of the qualities of LCWR leadership.  As I know nothing about their current leaders personally, I offer no opinion of them.

2.  I don't know if it's a crisis.  It's a problem.  When does a problem cross the line that turns it into a crisis?  Beats me, but I hope that line hasn't been crossed.

3.  I understand the LCWR's position, as you've summarized it, as a negotiating position, one that seems reasonable, and I assume that position genuinely reflects their principles.  But the aspect of the problem I wrote about is communion.  Is the LCWR as an organization fully in communion with the church?   Can it maintain its self-understanding of integrity and remain fully in communion with the church?   In my view, that is the central question that needs to be worked through.  

4.  You ask several questions here, but my overall point of view is that, organizationally speaking, this is not a negotation between equals.   This is not Russia negotiating with China, nor two department heads working out a workplace dispute, nor a brother planning the vacation visit with his sister.   This is the boss working out something with the employee. Or the parent working something out with the child.  Or the coach working something out with the player.  Pick a metaphor denoting two parties of unequal authority.  The boss sets the company rules, the coach sets the team rules, those who possess teaching authority determine whether or not a church organization is fully in communion with the church.  If everyone on the team is expected to run laps, then it's reasonable to expect this player to do so.  He may hate it but it's still a reasonable expectation.  He doesn't get to determine the team's conditioning regimen.  If he thinks there is a compelling reason that he shouldn't run laps today, or ever, then he can make his case to the coach - but it is for the coach to decide.  If the player rebels and refuses, then he's reasonably subject to disciplinary consequences.  If rebellion and is pushed hard enough and long enough, the team bonds deteriorate and the consequences become severe and long-lasting.  Sometimes there is even permanent separation.  That dynamic happens in families, in workplaces, on sports teams and in churches.  Let's hope it doesn't happen here.

5.  As I've commented previously, I don't think Rome's critique of the LCWR is incredible.  I don't find it beyond the bounds of belief that some religious women are not fully in communion with the church.  If there is a problem with communion, then in my view church authorities are obligated to call them back.  The women are adults and they have the freedom of adults to do as they wish.  If there are consequences to their actions and words - then, as adults, that should not surprise them.

 

Eamon Casey, bishop of Galway from 1976 to 1992, was known to be rather dominating in face-to-face conversation. On one occasion he met with Donal Lamont,, O.Carm, bishop of Umtali, Rhodesia. Bishop Lamont was in exile in his native Ireland after being expelled from Rhodesia for his outspoken opposition to the racist government of Ian Smith. Soon after his meeting with Bishop Casey, Lamont ran into another courageous opponent of white supremacy in Africa, Archbishop Denis Hurley, O.M.I., of Durban, South Africa (bishop, from 1947 to 1991). Archbishop Hurley, born in Capetown in 1915 of parents who had emigrated from Ireland, was in Ireland visiting relatives.

During their chat Bishop Lamont said, "Denis, I was in to see Eamon Casey the other day. My God that man can talk! I was hoarse from listening."

Archbishop Hurley died in February 2005, a priest for sixty-six years, a bishop for fifty-eight years.

I took a look at the opening presentation, by Sister Nancy Schreck, https://lcwr.org/sites/default/files/calendar/attachments/however_long_the_night_-_nancy_schreck_osf_final.pdf, and, without picking on particular sentences, I would say that the general tone seems slightly off and, for someone who is used to the words of the prayers of the Mass, is slightly off-putting (even the vocabulary: "Jesus" instead of "Jesus Christ", "Spirit" instead of "Holy Spirit", an abstract "God" but no "Father, Son and Holy Spirit"... it may be a detail, but it is unsettling). What a contrast with the hope and energy that radiate from pope Francis's words! In his case, even when he suggests surprising, new things, you get the feeling that he is firmly rooted in the tradition of the church. Instead, that LCWR opening presentation suggests a search that is unanchored and may be drifting.

But even if that subjective unease is warranted, what can the church hierarchy do? Listen, offer cautious advice, be there if help is asked for, pray for them... what more can one do with adults? It's not as though they were doing something, like sex abuse, that would demand an urgent intervention whether they wanted it or not ...

If you cannot use words like Jesus and God without making someone accuse you of sounding "slightly off," then you are well and truly fucked. Why bother trying?

Abe, it's the overall tone that I mind. Maybe it's a deliberate effort towards interreligious dialogue  and a conscious decision to eliminate gendered expressions, but the result, for me, lacks the familiar echoes of prayers of the past, and I find it disconcerting and slightly alien.

I may be way off, but the keynote address says that their identity is "charismatic and prophetic" - I always thought that religious orders were smack in the center of Catholicism, that their lives of prayer of service gave them grounding for a surer knowledge of our faith, that they were rocks of faith, that I could rely on them for solid direction on all matters spiritual. But they seem to view their role as something completely different, much more exploratory, and I don't know what to make of it.

Claire,

It isn't that women religious view their lives as exploratory, but as dynamic rather than static.  This is what Varican II asked of religious as the keynote points out. Women religious responded to the mandate  of the Council, in some ways faster and more fully than some congregations of men.  Who they are now is a result of their implementing faithfully what Vatican II asked of them. That is why they are puzzled by the hierarchy's suspicion of them.  It is as if they are being blamed for doing what they were asked to do.

I will copy Jim McCrea's posting (Aug 20; 4:48pm) because it is needed to keep everyone in this discussion focused:

 

The "reasonable solution" is for the self-selecting, self-appointing, self-limiting male leadership of this church to admit that this confederation of religious women in positions of leadership in their own communities are adult enough to decide when, where and why they will meet, who they will have address them, the subjects to be covered and to whom to give what award(s) and why.

They do not need the approbation nor blessing of men to do that.

The church leadership can feel free to engage in DIALOGUE with these women, but to declare boundaries for them when it comes to discussion and comraderie is out of bounds.

That is what is a reasonable solution.  All else is to treat grown women as little girls needing daddy's approval.

Thanks Jim.

I agree with what Alan said about religious orders and Vatican II.  The Jesuits, for instance, made big changes because of the council with resoucement and a renwed interest in justice via the way the Spiritual Exercises were taught and liberation theology was lived out.  They made the Vatican so uncomfortable that the pope eventually made Pedro Arrupe retire and  chose their next superior for them.

John Page - what a wonderful story - thank you.  Hurley was great bishop as you know well with his work with you on liturgy.  His biography by Kearns is one of my favorite books.

Claire, many thanks for the link to the speech by Sr. Nancy Schreck.  I have not had a chance to read through the entire speech yet, but having read the first half or so, I don't see anything that would raise hackles of the LCWR's critics.  To me, it reads as an honest and challenging reflection.

I am not disagreeing with your intuitions on this.  I think your intuitions do point to something that unsettles me, too.  Her recounting of the journeys of the religious orders after Vatican II, away from the center, toward the margins, has (in my opinion) taken a dreadful toll on the viability of the orders, and to her credit, she doesn't shrink from naming some of those bad outcomes: diminishing numbers, aging membership, the need to sell off property, and so on.  Orders flourished more when they were more centered within the church - when sisters were more part of the everyday fabric of parish life.  They have gone so far out onto the margins that they are not visible anymore (again, just my opinion).  

In other words, when they are serving Native Americans on reservations, or detained immigrants near the border, or persons in Africa in need of medical care, or the indigenous of Central America, we all agree they are doing God's work; but that work is not visible to the traditional and practical sources of their viability: parishioners in the developed world.  

My dad's cousin, an IHM sister, joined the order that taught her in elementary and high school.  That simple, potent connection between religious women and young women in a parish setting, made during a time in my cousin's life when she was open to God's call, was made many thousands of times in the US during my parents' generation's youth.  She's an amazing woman - joyful, energetic, a high achiever, brimming over with love.  Responding to the call in this simple, practical way was the right thing for her, for her order and for the many thousands of people, especially children, whose lives she has touched.  After joining the order, she has done work all over, in-country and out of country, serving the poor.  But there are very few of her order working in that parish or parish school anymore - perhaps none.  The order's convent on the parish grounds has been demolished and a parish center erected on the site.  

And here is what unsettles me: there are poor, vulnerable and marginalized persons in that parish who could be served by a religious order.  There are in my parish, too.  Virtually all parishes in the US have children, elderly, ill and poor persons to one extent or another.  But the religious orders, by and large, have discerned themselves away from parish-centered service in the US to serve the children, elderly sick and poor who are "at the margins", where their service can be more "prophetic" (to use a word she uses a number of times in her talk).   Their service is great work - it is admirable, heroic, holy.  But somehow it's become detached from the center of church life.  

I wish orders could strike a balance between center and margins.  Just my impressions and opinions.

 

 

Jim, thanks for your thoughtful comments 12:55 pm.  I would simply take them one step further by asking, How might women be attracted to serve "poor, vulnerable and marginalized persons in [parishes] who could be served by a religious order"?  I know the LCWR communities took up the challenges proposed by Vatican II.  However, I'm not convinced they may not have done so, as well, in response to the changing "signs of the times".  Even the so-called "traditional" communities have a somewhat checkered record in terms of vocations, retention, and impact on the institutional church.  In other words, we might have seen today's outcome even *without* Vatican II.  How many parishes, for instance, would be willing to support parish-based sisters engaged in social service and healthcare ministries?  Times change, money is a critical factor, and, for these two reasons, I'm not convinced the old paradigm is still practicable.  If such is the case, then what?

Thinking back about the  earlier discussion on this thread about women's ordination to the priesthood, I realize that I am against it, not because I see anything wrong with women being ordained, but because I believe that currently it would cause a schism within the church. Women's ordination ought to wait until the time comes when it will be obvious for most of the faithful in most countries of the world that it is right. On the hierarchy of priorities, I think that it's more important to preserve unity than to give this generation of women access to the priesthood. 

Instead, I would support all measures that would help change people's minds, in particular those that would give a role to women which might help people realize that they could be priests. Ending forced celibacy might help; women deacons might help and give a little patience to women in regions that seem to be ready for women priests; women theologians definitely do help already; Pope Benedict's series of Wednesday lectures on women might have helped a little bit; straightening Mariology might help; etc. It's a slow process if the whole church, in all countries and all cultures, must go along with it. 

 

Joseph J, those are very good questions and points.  Certainly, diocesan priests have continued to serve parishes, and their numbers have shrunk, too.  So it may be that keeping a parish presence isn't a magic elixir.  The world isn't the same as it was a couple of generations ago.  What has changed such that life in a religious order no longer attracts?  

Jim Pauwels

"Orders flourished more when they were more centered within the church"

I am not so sure. Of course sociological and economic factors come into the picture. But, everything else being equal, religious order flourish when they are centered on the call to virginity as a way to know Christ more deeply. The kind of apostolic work in which the vocation to virginity finds its expression is secondary (in the etimological sense: important but not primary)

One of the most important services that LCWR provides for the Church is the way it is re-thinking religious life.  The old paradigm is not working, even for more traditionalist orders who have a problem of retaining the sisters they admit to formation.  It does little good to tout their "vibrant" form of religious life over the "stagnant" form of LCWR communities, because in the long run they both end up in the same place.  As Joseph has said, times have really changed.  Young people today do not believe in the Church or feel a part of it the way we did at their age.  Consequently, even the paradigm shift that formal Catholic religious life underwent after Vatican II isn't really viable today.  It has moved beyond Perfectae Caritatis. 

We really have to be open to the possibility that the time for that form of participation in the Church has passed. Trying to preserve it at all odds does not serve the Cburch well.  The same holds for clerical life despite the fact that the hierarchy lives in a constant state of denial.  It is not as if no one knew this was coming.  Way back in the late 60's religious orders were receiving the data that their form of life was passing away.  I believe dioceses had access to the same data.   Religious orders tried to engage that reality by creating other means to continue their charism. For example, the Society of Jesus, knowing that it would not have enough Jesuits to staff it's schools, parishes, and other ministries shared its charism with lay people as partners in an apostolic venture. The Annotation 19 form of the Spiritual Exercises was the tool of that renewal.  As a result the Society's apostolic works will continued to be imprinted wit the Ignatin charism because of the efforts of dedicated lay men and women, who have adopted Ignatian spiritualtiy.  This story is repeated over and over for other orders of religious men and women.  I cannot say whether this has happened for dioceses.  Unfortunately, under John Paul II the notion of "lay ministry" was verboten  because he saw it as sa threat to creating vocation among men, who needed to be put on a pedestal. What the hierarchy needs to do is to engage this situation creatively and finally acknowledge that trying to preserve the old model is no longer viable. Will the hierarchy have the courage to face this question fully and honestly?

Re: Carlo's statement "...religious orders flourish when they are centered on the call to virginity as a way to know Christ more deeply."  I would agree with that if what is meant by virginity is a singlehearted devotion of one's life to Christ expressed as consecrated chastity. The word "virginity" itself has taken on some loaded and woman-shaming meanings in our time. Not to mention that there are some canonized saints who, when they entered religious life, were definitely not virgins.

Claire, I agree with your post (8/22 @ 6:52) about the ordination of women.  To force the issue right now would result in open schism. A lot of work remains to be done on acceptance of women in leadership roles in the Church. Of course to some people women in any kind of leadership role in the Church is the camel and the nose and the tent.

I was struck by Bill deHaas’s reference to a biography of Archbishop Hurley.  I went looking for it, and here’s what I found, in case any of you would be interested.  It’s called Guardian of the Light, by Paddy Kearney. Here are some comments and, at the end, the Amazon link.

"Denis Hurley was not born in a lighthouse as some people imagine. His father was the keeper of the lighthouse at Cape Point, the guardian of the light that warns the sailors of dangers and guides them away from destruction. Now the son did not follow in his father's footsteps. But he became a lighthouse keeper too; the guardian of the light that warns of dangers and saves us from destruction. The lighthouse has become a symbol of light and hope and our Archbishop has been doing this work of warning and guiding for the greater part of his [life]. And he has done it with great faithfulness for which today we give thanks." Tribute on the occasion of Archbishop Hurley's 70th birthday, by Alan Paton, author of "Cry the Beloved Country".

"…a meticulously researched and important biography of a peace-loving, humble and prophetic church leader."  The Tablet, October 2009

"Magisterial work... written with loving care by Paddy Kearney." Robert Blair Kaiser, National Catholic Reporter.

http://www.amazon.com/Guardian-Light-Renewing-Opposing-Apartheid/dp/0826418759/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1408934454&sr=1-1&keywords=%22guardian+of+the+light%22+%22kearney%22#reader_0826418759

 

 

Claire:

You wrote,

I am against [women’s ordination], not because I see anything wrong with women being ordained, but because I believe that currently it would cause a schism within the church. Women's ordination ought to wait until the time comes when it will be obvious for most of the faithful in most countries of the world that it is right. On the hierarchy of priorities, I think that it's more important to preserve unity than to give this generation of women access to the priesthood. 

A comparison comes to mind.  It has to do with school desegregation.  Would you have opposed Brown vs. Board of Education with the same logic you use here?  It was clear at the time that forced integration of schools was going to trigger a hostile reaction, clear that it would cause a “schism” of sorts in U.S. society.  Was that reason enough to continue subjecting all of those black children to crummy schools and all that went with it?  Reason enough to continue denying them what they had every right to?  Was it more important to – using your language -- “preserve unity than to give that generation of children access to a better education?”

You say, “Instead, I would support all measures that would help change people's minds.”  I think I recall reading, somewhere in one of Robert Coles’s books, that what changed minds faster than anything else, was having all those white children share a classroom, and all that went with it, with all those black children.  After that experience, they would never be the same; they’d no longer be so vulnerable to the lies that many of them were hearing at home.  One recalls the song from South Pacific:

You've got to be taught to hate and fear,
You've got to be taught from year to year,
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught.

It wasn’t so easy for that “teaching” to stick, when the white children hearing it at home were also seeing, day after day in their classrooms, that it simply wasn’t true.

One wonders: mightn’t something similar be the case with women’s ordination?

Gene: thank you for your response. You're suggesting that if women could be ordained, after the inital backlash people would quickly get used to it and, once they experienced it, find it normal. But the effect wouldn't be immediate, like for school desegregation: from a situation where all the priests are men everywhere, we'd go to a situation where there would be one woman priest somewhere, then a second one somewhere else, then a third one. Women would be a small minority of the clergy for a long while and reluctant people could always worship in a place with no women priests, so their presence wouldn't be able to have the kind of broad, wide-ranging, instantaneous impact that you have in mind and that you hope would lead to a quick acceptance.

It may also  have other consequences against unity, such as going against the gradual coming together of the Catholic and the Orthodox. I don't know what other consequences it would have in other countries, but I think that it is clear that it would not go smoothly.

Then one has to wonder: is it worth it? Is the priesthood such a big deal in essence? I have been reading Commonweal and dotC for a few years, but I have yet to see the answer. There are many texts and comments developping the priesthood of all the believers and many complaining about the dictatorship of clergy in the church in practice, but I have not seen anything about the sacramental priesthood. 

If the issue is to get women to leadership positions, then I'd go for slower but less confrontational ways of getting there. Johnson's text gives an example ("For centuries the study of theology was reserved for ordained priests as part of the hierarchy’s office to teach. One cannot overestimate the impact of Vatican II which opened the doors of theological study to lay persons. While excellent theology continues to be done by ordained priests, all kinds of new questions, methods, and understandings are now blossoming, fed by the experience of the laity, women and men alike.") If, on the other hand, the issue is to open the sacrament of ordination to women, then I'd need a better understanding of what it is about.

Claire, we already have de facto schism in the Church of Rome.  Whatever "unity" we might have is faux unity, i.e., unity in name only.  And never mind SSPX, etc., I'm referring to false unity, i.e.., unity-in-name-only, within the Church of Rome, that is, those Catholics who still worship in Roman Catholic parishes and embrace a basic unity with the Vatican.  I agree with Bill.  Furthermore, if Rome were to approve of women's ordination and likely formal schism resulted, it would not be any different than lancing a boil to begin the healing process.  Official unity is false unity today.

Joe, I hope you're wrong. Instead of sticking to a single parish, I worship in many different parishes in many regions in several countries and in a variety of styles. I am struck by the basic unity of the Mass. My sense is that we really are one people. I hope that all the differences that nourish blogs are ultimately secondary. It is the Eucharist that unites us, gives us one faith, and I get that sense of unity very much when I go to all those random churches for Mass. (Ephesians 4:4-6, I guess.) The "de facto schism" is not my basic experience. Unity is.

 

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