The Church in the Modern World

There’s been much talk lately of what the Church should do and/or change – according to American Catholics. It’s driving me nuts. First off, I wish Americans would get over their own self-importance. There are lots on non-American Catholics throughout the world. Secondly, the Church is not run by popular opinion. The Church seeks to conform the world to Christian principles when and where it can and to form sub- and counter-cultures if that fails. We are to be in the world but not of it. Divine Truth does not change with time. True, it sometimes must be reworded or re-examined in light of temporal realities, but that only means that implementations change, not their bases. Last, but not least, the pope does not have sole power to change a lot of the things people want changed. That which has been stated infallibly, either ordinarily (i.e. implicitly) or extraordinarily (i.e. explicitly), cannot ever be changed.

That said, I do think we have a fascinating topic for discussion here (not pontification – no pun intended). The following are commonly reported issues “the majority” of American Catholics (at least in name – they weren’t asked about their devotion) would like and my reactions to them. Rather than just say, “My way or the highway!”, I’d like hear your opinions. Please specify the source of your viewpoint – Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Jedi, Sith, atheist, etc. – and explain how your group would be affected by choices made by the Church after the election. I hope this isn’t too tall an order. 😉

[NOTA BENE: These are my opinions. I believe some of them are based on solid Church teachings, some of them dogmatic. Some are very strong opinions about issues that push my buttons. Please don’t let that discourage you from responding and offering opinions of your own. I do want a truly open and honest discussion/debate of these issues. I do not

think that is possible to any reasonable degree without total honest. Thus, I haven’t pulled any of my punches. I hope you won’t either (within the limits of civility). – Funky]

married clergy

The rule of clerical celibacy is a discipline, not a doctrine. Therefore, it can be changed. However, I do not think it would be a good idea. I think being a parent and priest is unfair to both congregations and families. How can a priest possibly devote sufficient time and energy to both? I’ve known enough preachers’ kids to know that childhood is particularly stressful for them.

If the next pope or a future council were to change the rule, I would hope that the example of the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholics would be followed. In those churches, men must be married before becoming a deacon or priest. Also, married priests cannot be elevated to bishop.

female clergy

It has been suggested that the Church is misogynistic and oppressive because women cannot be deacons or priests. This is a ridiculous proposition. It has long been the position that the consecration of women is theologically impossible. Holy orders is a sacrament. Each sacrament has form and matter which must be adhered to in order for them to be efficacious. The Church has long held that the matter required for holy orders is a man. There has been quite a bit of debate on this issue over the years because some theologians believe that personhood is sufficient, regardless of gender. This is a thorny problem that I do not believe will be solved any time soon. Perhaps some day women will be ordained, but I sincerely doubt it will happen during the next pontificate.

None of the preceding answers whether or not I support the ordination of women. I’m actually somewhat ambivalent on the issue. I have not been entirely convinced by the usual arguments for male-only clergy. “It’s always been this way.” So what? Is it Tradition or tradition? “Christ is male. He is the bride-groom and the Church is the bride. The priest acts in persona Christi.” Having established sexual bifurcation, God had to choose one sex or the other for His incarnation. The way I see it, He could have just as easily chosen to be a woman. There are various historical reasons that I don’t think a female messiah would have had global impact, but all are speculative. “Christ chose only male apostles.” That may have been a historical nessessity, but again I cannot prove that.

Perhaps now you are wondering where the ambivalence comes in given my preceding statements. It mainly stems from concern about the motives of those clamoring for change. I don’t buy into the ultra-feminism that seems to be guiding most of the “Ordain women now!” crowd. The Church always has and probably always will refer to the first person of the Trinity as “Father”. Those who, without Church approval and often in direct defiance, refer to God as “Mother” or change the formula of the Trinity to “Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier” should be unapologetically excluded from any serious debate about the possibility of ordaining women. Even supposing the Church has been wrong about this for 2000 years, obedience has always been and always will be a necessary component of being a Catholic in good standing. Heretics and dissidents have no right to contribute to the development of Church policies at any level. I have noticed that those adamant about this issue are often rebellious on other issues (such as those regarding homosexuality and abortion). When someone is irreconcilably indignant about the exclusion of women from the priesthood, I cannot help but wonder what other doctrines, more clearly established and irrevocable, they disapprove of .

One final note: I would rather see celibate female priests than married priests. The potential negative impact of the latter is serious enough that it outweigh my concerns about the former. That said, you won’t see me supporting Call to Action any time soon. 😉

Comments 9

  1. John wrote:

    While your theoretical discussion on contraception seems nice and pretty, it is well worth noting that it does not match the observed data. The countries in Africa which have pushed condom usage (more accurately, who have pushed hte ABC program) have been the ones who are successful in saving their population from the epidemic.

    You clearly have a theological aversion to contraception, and that is a legitimate belief to hold. However, don’t fudge the facts to try to make your point of view the only reasonable one. The fundamental question is whether or not the theological desire to eschew contraception is worth millions of lives. If you believe that it is, then fine. But don’t try to change the conversation to make your hard decisions appear easier.

    Lastly: most women whom contract HIV in Africa contract it from their husbands. So don’t blame them. And in general, saying that it’s their own damn fault that they have AIDS is a fairly morally reprehensible stance to take.

    Posted 11 Apr 2005 at 3:28 pm
  2. Amy wrote:

    You raise a lot of good and interesting points on all of these topics. I’m interested in your thought that a female priest would be a better situation than a married priest. As a female, I find that I would be more comfortable if the Church were to allow male priests to be married (which it already does in certain cases). It might just be my own personal impression based on what I’ve seen since girls were allowed to become Altar Servers.

    Also, about ABC v. NFP… I think that another issue to take up with the Church is over-all lack of promotion of NFP. Before I was married, if I mentioned that we would be using NFP, the assumption was that I would be pregnant in the blink of an eye. I, of course, knew better. So many people still see NFP as the “rhythm method”. I once heard a priest dismiss talk of NFP as basically “oh, yeah, the Church allows the rhythm method”
    I agree with you that there are couples out there who tend to use NFP for very selfish reasons and that there needs to be more discussion about that, as well. I know, for myself, it can be hard to determine what is truly a grave reason… which is why we re-evaluate our reasons nearly every day. The other thing that I struggle to remember is that what might look like selfish reasons to me could be far more serious for another couple. There is a LOT of gray when it comes to serious and grave reasons for postponing. It’s hard in a faith tradition that is so often very black and white.

    Posted 08 Apr 2005 at 3:36 am
  3. howard wrote:

    Your ambivalence on matters of the priesthood aside, I thought I’d offer this J.D. Mullane column (from your former hometown paper), in which he is one of few journalists to declare that John Paul II was “not a stubborn old man but a thoroughly committed Christian disciple” — too many people are sounding relieved, as in “Now that he’s gone, we can finally stop following all those pesky rules.”

    I suppose part of the appeal of Catholicism, at least to me, is that it isn’t a sort of religious buffet (take as much, or as little, as you want).

    Posted 08 Apr 2005 at 6:50 am
  4. Jan Gommers wrote:

    I consider myself a faithfull Christian, who is not at all unhappy with the fact that Christianity was imbued in me in the RCC of my youth. Perhaps I was lucky, I have nothing but tender and beautiful memories on that. Especially for children the RCC CAN be a very nice thing. It was so for me. I feel at home in the sacred beauty of the RCC and I have the impression that I would now, as an adult, not have this receptivity for this unique way of feeling and expressing , were I raised as a Protestant. And I say this because my arguments against some changes in the church derive from this experience. For me Vatican II had good things, but also destroyed some of this sacred beauty so essential in my experience. Now for the issues: the Church should not give in to anything, except for reasons of prudence. It should vehemently remain opposing abortion except in some extreme cases. It should oppose womens priesthood but it should accept women helping out because there simply are no priests enough, in some places. It should oppose contraception, but here it should insist on prudence. Abstinence is to be prefered over extramarital sex, but it can be better, in some communities at some time, to tell the people : look, the dangers are great, if you have to, use a condom. Homosexuality is the most difficult issue. Theologically and socially no position currently available satisfies me. For the moment I feel prudence is the best thing. Urge for normal monogamous sex. If not possible, at least try loving , monogamous (homosexual) sex. By far the most important issue is the issue of abortion. Since Roe v. Wade one and a half billion children have been murdered worldwide! The most innocent and vulnerable! This generation speaks about ‘human right campaining’, but it is all a gigantic lie because of this. After I have seen films that actually portray WHAT HAPPENS in the womb in an abortion on a child of 11 weeks I am utterly convinced about this. It is the biggest shame since slavery and the holocaust. It a huge,colossal collective moral error,only possible because one does not SEE the child in the womb when it is butchered. I have seen. I now know. We have brought Auschwitz in the motherwomb. We have cruelly butchered one third of our children since Roe v Wade. We are the worst of all generations. This horrific outrageous horror is the worst thing that momentarily goes on. We will all be guilty for God and the butchered children,we will not be able to say what the Germans said: Wir haben es nicht gewusst (we didn’t know). Not a single day goes by that I am not horrified by the thought of this still going on and the unspeakable perverted way that especially the Left is talking about it. The many stories available now from women whose lives were destroyed by the aftermath of abortions speak also volumes. Free choice is fiction; young girls are heavily pressured and later on ,when they feel guilt they get the harsh:it was your choice,response.
    To me we are not at all different from prehistoric pagan people that cruelly sacrificed their babies to their pagan Gods. Our pagan God is called Convenience. Abortion is the huge black stain on the presentday generation worldwide and the most outrageous is that this generation is stubbornly denying it. If anything the RCC must keep on railing against this outrage. Abortion is also destroying our sense of right and wrong. Murder is evil, except when done to an unborn child. Why then is it at all evil on others?Everything is going down because of this. And we all are guilty as hell.

    Posted 09 Apr 2005 at 11:19 pm
  5. Funky Dung wrote:

    Just so folks who happen upon this post know, Pontificator eventually swam the Tiber. 🙂

    Posted 28 Apr 2006 at 3:55 pm
  6. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    And so did I.

    Posted 01 May 2006 at 12:48 pm
  7. Funky Dung wrote:

    Looking back at this post a year and a half later, I think I’ve figred out why I’m not unequivocally against female clergy.

    1. Axiom: Only validly ordained priests can confect the Eucharist.
    2. Premise: Maleness is necessary for valid Holy Orders.
    3. Deduction: Women cannot be validly ordained.
    4. Deduction: Female clergy cannot confect the Eucharist.
    5. Premise: Reception of the Eucharist is required for salvation.
    6. Conclusion: Female clergy cannot supply a requisite for salvation.

    My problems (aside from those mentioned in the post) are with #5. I do not believe that one need be Catholic or Orthodox to be saved. My interpretation of EENS (which I think is in agreement with the CCC) is rather broad, extending beyond those who explicitly worship Christ. That is, those who are not against Christ are for Him, so there are many in His flock that we are unaware of. Consequently, reception of the Eucharist is not necessary for salvation (guaranteed source of grace though it is). Therefore, female clergy would not be irredeemably deficient in performing their duties.

    All that said, you won’t be seeing me at any mock ordinations on a riverboat. 😉

    Posted 20 Sep 2006 at 3:04 pm
  8. gbm3 wrote:

    How about this:

    1g. Axiom: Jesus makes the rules.
    2g. Axiom: The Church follows Jesus’ rules (at least tries).
    3g. Premise: Jesus conferred Apostleship only to men as a rule.
    4g. Premise: The Apostles confer ordination to future bishops and priests.
    5g. Deduction: The Church only has men as bishops and priests.
    6g. Premise: In the modern world, the Church still follows (tries) Jesus’ rules.
    7g. Conclusion: The Church in the modern world only has male bishops and priests.

    May be obvious, but I think this is the logic used the Magisterium regarding the topic of female ordination.

    3g. does not exclude women, but it is said that Jesus would certainly confer Apostleship to at least one woman if he wanted it to be an example.

    I didn’t get into Theology because I believe there really is no other logic behind this rule (revelation of Jesus).

    Posted 20 Sep 2006 at 4:37 pm
  9. Sharon Woo wrote:

    Hi Funky Dunk, I happened to bump into this blog more than 3 years later after you gave your post.

    I agree with you that female celibate priests are better off than married priests because I would imagine that married priests are distracted by their families.

    I think that people are generally in favour of married rather than female priests because more jobs always made available to men, so restrictions on them should be decreased. And the paradox is, the ones who are actually being against female priests are the females themselves. The males generally favour them. This is not at all a surprising situation. In Buddhism, a lot of the extra rules conferred on ordained females as compared to their male counterparts are because of cat-fights between females. To go against one another, the females from the cat-fights, who feel that they have been victimised, request for the additional rules.

    Posted 23 Aug 2008 at 12:15 pm

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 1

  1. From Ales Rarus - A Rare Bird, A Strange Duck, One Funky Blog » TCitMW: Responses to Critics on 14 Feb 2006 at 11:37 am

    […] TCitMW: Responses to Critics By Funky Dung I wish to thank all those who have contributed their opinions to the discussion what ways the Church can/should change in the next pontificate and ways it cannot/should not change. Some of the reponses have come in the form of full blog entries, rather than comments. I’d like now to offer rebuttals and clarifications. the_methotaku, “an unapologetically progressive Methodist”, called my post “reactionary garbage” and offered his progressive opinions at his blog, Finding God in Cartoons from Japan. […]

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