Monday, August 13, 2007

Roman Catholic Womenpriests Ordained in Minneapolis


Each one of you is a child of God because of your faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who have been baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. In Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or citizen, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus. Furthermore, if you belong to Christ, you are the offspring of Sarah and Abraham, which means you inherit all that was promised.

Galatians 3: 26-29

Yesterday I had the honor of attending and participating in the ordination of three women to the deaconate, and two women to the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church.

This historic event comprised the first Roman Catholic Womenpriests Midwest region ordination to the priesthood. To date, the Vatican has failed to recognize such ordinations.

In welcoming the 200+ people in attendance, Rev. Joan Houk observed that: “Today, in the ordination of deacons and priests, we continue in the renewal of our first Christian traditions and we celebrate the fact that Jesus invited women as well as men to become leaders . . . And just as Jesus promised, he is still with us and will continue to send the Spirit, Wisdom-Sophia, to dwell with us and lead us forward in being Church in a way that is faithful to the original intent of our brother, Jesus, the Christ.”

Above: At left in this photograph stand the three women who were ordained into the deaconate. From left: Kathy Redig, Elsie Hainz McGrath, and Rose Marie Dunn Hudson.

At right are the two women who were ordained into the priesthood. From left: Judith McKloskey and Alice Marie Iaquinta.

Above: Yesterday’s ordination liturgy in Minneapolis was presided over by Bishop Patricia Fresen (third from left).

In a March 2006
interview, Bishop Fresen remarked: “We believe that the sacrament we have received, the sacrament of orders, is valid because it has been passed onto us by some male bishops, who we cannot name for their protection. These men are willing to pass on what we call the ‘apostolic succession’.”

Concelebrating with Bishop Fresen at yesterday’s ordination were (from left) Rev. Dagmar Celeste Braun, Rev. Regina Nicolosi, and Rev. Joan Houk.

“We are blessed to live in a time when there is a great paradigm shift in human consciousness,” said Bishop Fresen in her homily. “We have come to understand that racism, classism, and sexism are some of the terrible forms of human discrimination that must be eradicated. And one of the aims of ordaining women is to claim justice for women who have been discriminated against in our beloved Church.”

“When we are in Christ Jesus,” Bishop Fresen reminded those present, “we find our human dignity and equality. And racism and sexism, and classism, and all those other dreadful ‘isms’ lose their meaning. It is baptism that is the great equalizer because it is when we are baptized that we become ‘in Christ Jesus.’ We are the Body of Christ. We are Church.”

Above: The ordinands vow obedience not to “the bishop,” but to God.

“The foundation of our ordination,” declared Bishop Fresen , “is baptism, not gender.”

“It is unjust that there are seven sacraments for men, and only six for women,” said Bishop Fresen. “Women and men are created equal by God and we equally represent Christ. Representing Christ, standing in the person of Christ surely does not depend on having a male body. Being Christ-like is bringing good news to the poor, healing broken hearts, proclaiming release to captives, comforting those who mourn.”

“As I go around the United States,” said the South African-born Bishop Fresen, “I meet hundreds, even thousands of people who are moving out of the center of the Church to the edges . . . So many people are ‘fallen-away Catholics,’ or ‘driven-away Catholics’ . . .[Yet] it is in the margins that we find ourselves and [where we] are changing the Church. Change will not come from the top. The change is coming from people like us . . . a prophetic community . . . present [here today] and supporting this movement of justice for women in the Church. The Spirit never ceases to call women and men to incarnate the dream of God for a world of justice and equality.”

Bishop Fresen also spoke of the support she’s sensed and experienced from some within the male-dominated Catholic hierarchy: “Let us be mindful,” she said, “that there are bishops and priests in the Catholic Church who support and long for many reforms in the Church, including women’s ordination.”

Above: My friend Judith being ordained as a Roman Catholic priest.

Later those previously selected by the ordinands came forward in silence to lay hands on them as representatives of the whole community. I was honored to be invited by Judith to be one of these “representatives” and thus participate in yesterday’s ordination in this very special way.

In her homily, Bishop Fresen provided some historical perspective to the ordination of women in the Catholic Church: “Jesus went against some of the laws and customs of his time with regards to women. No self-respecting Jew of Jesus’ time would ever have spoken in public to a woman who was not one of his relatives. But Jesus does this often. Jesus invited women to be disciples and apostles. We call Mary of Magdala, “Apostle to the Apostles.” And there is another one mentioned in Romans 16, Junius, whose name was later made into a male name because she was called an apostle by Paul.”

“In the early Church,” says Bishop Fresen, “we know that women and men presided at Eucharist. We know from some very scholarly research by people such as Dr. Dorothy Irvin, that there were women who were deacons, bishops, and priests for many, many centuries.

“It was only after the twelfth century, when the first canon law code was compiled, that women were officially excluded from ministry as priests . . . . Corruption and dysfunction in our beloved Church [has resulted from this exclusion]. Yet [the Church] is our family, the family that we love. And we want to work for a renewed ministry within a renewed Church.”

Above: Bishop Patricia Fresen (center) with newly ordained womenpriests, Rev. Judith McKloskey and Rev. Alice Marie Iaquinta – Minneapolis, August 12, 2007.

Above: Pictured with my friend Judith McKloskey at the dinner that followed her ordination.

Will you come and follow me
if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind
and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare
should your life attract or scare?
And will you let me answer prayer
in you and you in me?

Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside
and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found
to reshape the world around?
Thus I’ll move and live and grow
in you and you in me.

Excerpted from The Summons
by John L. Bell
(Iona Community, 1987)

8/27/07 Update: Andy Birkey has referred to The Wild Reed’s coverage of the August 12 ordination in Minneapolis. His story (along with one of my photographs of the event and a quote I gave him) has been published online at Minnesota Monitor and Twin Cities Daily Planet.

There’s also good coverage at Women’s E-News.

Recommended Off-site Links:
Roman Catholic Womenpriests
Women-Church Convergence
Women’s Ordination Conference
“Some Women Seeking Ordination Won’t Wait for Church’s OK” - National Catholic Reporter, January 27, 2006.
“The Defiant Deacon” - Minnesota Women's Press, December 2005.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Reflections on The Da Vinci Code Controversy
Thoughts on The Da Vinci Code
The Sexuality of Jesus

Images 1-7: Michael Bayly
Image 8: David McCaffrey


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this Michael.

I'm curious, where to these women serve (if they can serve at all), if the Vatican doesn't recognize them?

Are there churches where they can serve?

Michael J. Bayly said...

Hi Eileen,

Thanks for stopping by.

The following excerpt from a 2006 National Catholic Reporter article may address your questions:

“Where do we go to be women priests?” asked [Rev. Victoria] Rue [of Watsonville, Calif.], who teaches theater and comparative religions and women’s studies at San Jose State University in California. After all, she noted, no one is offering her a parish or a Newman Center to lead. “We go to our businesses, our theaters, our universities. We go to where the people are, and we identify ourselves as women priests. Not to further the divide between cleric and lay, but to bring people together.”

Rue, 58, plans to continue to minister to her house church, and reach out to the local gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community as well as to university students.

Who to serve was, indeed, part of Carmen Lane’s discernment process about her call to ordination. “What community is calling me to serve it?” said Lane, 30, who works with survivors of sexual violence at Michigan State University and has just entered the Roman Catholic Womenpriests formation program. As a black lesbian, Lane says she hasn’t always felt welcome in the church. But Lane, who converted to Catholicism at 17, said, “I also think that from the beginning of my call to participate in the church through my baptism, I was called to minister to folks who are exhibiting oppressive behaviors. To be Christian is not to be at the center of society, it is to challenge injustice in whatever form that injustice is manifest, whether it’s racism, sexism, institutional inequality. And I see women’s ordination as yet another inequality that keeps the church from fully realizing itself.”

Dagmar Braun Celeste, the first lady of Ohio from 1983-1991, was ordained -- and subsequently excommunicated -- in 2002 in Europe. She was ordained under the pseudonym Angela White because she wanted to protect her family’s privacy during the time leading up to her daughter’s wedding. She decided to tell Cleveland Bishop Anthony Pilla about her ordination before the newspapers found out. He asked what she planned to do.

“I said, ‘Well, I suppose you’re not going to assign me to a parish,’ ” she said. Celeste’s primary ministry is promoting peacemaking, healing and creativity through Tyrian, a Cleveland nonprofit organization she cofounded in 2000, though she does sacramental work on request. Celeste received word through Pilla’s office of her excommunication by the Vatican, though under her pseudonym. A member of St. Patrick Parish in Cleveland, Celeste attends Mass there and elsewhere but does not regularly receive Communion unless, as is often the case, a lay person chooses to share the host with her.

Nicolosi considers the nursing home where she is a chaplain and conducts Communion services her “small parish.” She is in formation for the priesthood through Roman Catholic Womenpriests, with plans to be ordained next summer at Lake Constance, Switzerland.

“After my priestly ordination, I will consecrate, too,” she said. “I did talk with all my Catholic residents before the ordination. They know me. There were some surprises, but most accept what I am doing.”

Nicolosi is clear that she sees herself as a Roman Catholic but wants the church to carry out “what Vatican II has started: an opening to the world, greater inclusivity, more emphasis on the local parish and national churches; priesthood that would include men and women, married or not, also gays and lesbians.”



Christopher said...


I wish folks wouldn't call them "WomenPriests" just as I chaff at the term "Women's Ordination" or "WO" rather than the ordination of women. They are priests, not some sideshow, which is how WomenPriest's and "Women's Ordination" can too easily be read.

Anonymous said...

As always, thanks Michael.

Mary Smith said...

This is beautifully written. Deepest thanks. Regarding Eileen's good question: these womenpriests will have as much work as they can take on, not in conventional Vatican-owned buildings, but in borrowed spaces of other denominations or in house churches. There is a hunger for the shape of church that they are offering. And there is the question: what or who is church?

Anonymous said...


What a history-making occasion! A great day for the advancement of women everywhere - especially Catholic women!

Congratulations to your friend Judith, and to you for your participation in such a memorable event!

Did you have a chance to talk to Bishop Fresen? After reading her comments, I am curious about what she's doing about the eradication of "all those other dreadful 'isms'".

I understand that her primary concern on that particular occasion called for a celebration of women and their role within the Catholic Church, but I couldn't help but notice that in her examples of 'isms', she did not mention heterosexism and the discrimination and injustices we GLBT people have to endure as a result of this particular "ism."

It seems that a prime opportunity to lend a hand to some other group's cause was inadvertently missed.

Take care of yourself,


Anonymous said...

This is not the way to do it. Church order is of great importance, and ignoring it may delay still further the day when the ordination of women will be accepted.

Anonymous said...

I am a friend of Patricia Fresen's and just happened upon The Wild Reed.

There are married, single celibate and lesbian Roman Catholic womenpriests and now also some gay men, married men and handicapped men in this program who in the past studied for seminary but were not accepted because of their handicap.

Celibacy is not a requirement for ordination. Their vision is in the context of a large paradigm shift of transformation which is inclusive in combating all "isms" but they feel they are doing their little part to raise consciousness and know there are other paths and ways.

It was interesting that at the Women-Church Convergence last weekend there seemed to be a new consensus and unity between those "feminist theologians" who are not for ordination now and these women RCWPs, as all are working for the same transformative causes in a church that they love.

I enjoyed reading the comments.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Michael for this wonderful article. As Alice's cousin, I was deeply moved by the ordination, and by the love of God expressed by the Bishop and the priests in attendance. It was a a beautiful experience that was shared by not only her children, brothers & parents, but also her extended family of uncles, aunts & cousins as well as several friends. I am so happy to see how many women and men are willing to stand up for what is right -- acceptance of all who are willing to serve God.

Alice will be celebrating her first mass in September at a church run by 2 married priests. What is a church? As Alice keeps reminding me, the Church is the People, not the building. Wherever there is an altar & people gathered to celebrate, there is the Church.

Anonymous said...

It seems silly to call them Roman Catholic. Roman catholicism does have obedience to a magisterium written into its canon and that canon law currently autoexcomunicated any bishop who created a bishop without Vatican approval, and all ordinations by that bishop are false, in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church and her doctrine.

Rome does have something of a Trademark on 'Roman Catholic Church' and has even defended that mark in the USA.

Now we could get into semantics. We could say that 'catholic' means universal, and that these women are 'Roman' with regard to the Roman rite, save the gender rules and perhaps the celibacy rules. But then they also do not recognize a magisterium, even the bishop who ordained them. So that rule is out too. So what your left with is protestantism.

I like protestants a lot. Some of my best friends and family are protestants.

But those women have crossed the Tiber, they are not Roman Catholics. They may be fantastic spirit-filled messengers of christ, doing god's work, but they are not Roman Catholic.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Hi Winnipeg Catholic,

Thanks for stopping by.

Roman Catholic Womenpriests are very clear they that are called by the Holy Spirit and their communities to minister within the Roman Catholic Church.

They see themselves as Roman Catholic and, perhaps more importantly, are accepted by their families and communities as Roman Catholic.

They’re not being excommunicated by their local communities.

I think that it’s also crucial to remember that, as Catholic theologian Mary Bednarowski notes, “to think of 'the Magisterium' as highly authoritarian and centered in Rome and in the authority of the Pope is a fairly recent interpretation of a kind of teaching function that, historically, was perceived as somewhat more speculative, by which I mean creatively reflective in responding to the realities of human life and experience in and of the world. It is also an interpretation that has not gone unopposed. In reality, the Church has always had what I consider realistic and sophisticated means by which to 'question authority': the emphasis on the primacy of conscience, for example.”

Also, like author Garry Wills, I don’t believe that “the whole test of Catholicism, the essence of the faith, is submission to the Pope.”

In his book, Papal Sin: Structures f Deceit, Wills observes that “during long periods of the church’s history, [such unquestioning submission] was not the rule – St. Augustine, for one, would have flunked such a test. And today it is a test that would decimate the ranks of current churchgoers. It is not a position that has a solid body of theology behind it, no matter how common it is as a popular notion.”

I also appreciate the historical perspective provided by Gary Macy – a perspective that accurately identifies the “strange form of authoritarianism” currently popular among so-called traditionalists (including those within the Vatican) as stemming from the “ultra-montanism of the late nineteenth-century papacy.”

Such “authoritarianism,” Macy reminds us, “narrowly understands Roman Catholicism as fundamentally an attempt to provide the definitive answers to all questions, usually in one ‘big book of doctrine,’ whether it be Thomas’s Summa, Denzinger’s Enchiridion, or lately the Roman Catechism of the Universal Church.”

Again, it’s important to remember that this “strange form of authoritarianism” and its “Big Book of Doctrine” school of theology are, as Mary Bednarowski notes above, a “fairly recent development” in Catholic history.

After all, traditionally, the pope is a symbol of unity, not authority.

Yet, sadly, at the First Vatican Council of 1870, an autocratic notion of Church was propagated and then read back into the rest of Catholic history.

It seems to me that Roman Catholic Womenpriests reject both this “autocratic notion of Church” and this distortion of our history, as indeed do an increasing number of Catholics.

They recognize such a narrow notion of Church as something that’s not intrinsic or essential to the Catholic faith, and that an authentic Catholic spirit is bigger than Roman orthodoxy. And let’s be honest here, when you really stop and think about it, “Roman Catholic” is an oxymoron if ever there was one!

In light of all of this, I think it’s inaccurate to say that these women (along with countless other Catholics) have become Protestants because of their disregard and/or disobedience to the dictates of the Vatican. Yet if you insist on labeling them as something other than Roman Catholic, then perhaps the most accurate label would be Old Catholic - which from everything I’ve read, is basically Catholicism beyond Rome’s “strange form of authoritarianism.” Indeed, I think many so-called “Roman” Catholics are actually “Old” Catholics without knowing it.

Once folks are conscious of this, one question that will inevitably surface is: Do we join and/or form Old Catholic communities or do we stay and work to reform the Roman Catholic Church so that it’s free from the stranglehold of the Vatican’s “strange form of authoritarianism”?

The Roman Catholic Womenpriest movement has clearly chosen the latter route. They state, after all, that they're working for a renewed priesthood within a renewed Church.



Anonymous said...

The four marks of the Church are one, holy, catholic and apostolic. This is the Church who's leader is readily identified and Pope Benedict XVI. Those that follow the teaching of the Catholic Church are in communion with Her - those that do not follow that teaching remove themselves from that communion. The extend and ramifications of that removal are only known to God.

Those that promote teachings and views contrary to the Catholic Church need to be honest and not associate themselves with the Catholic Church. There is a huge distinction in trying to make changes within the structure of the Church and openly defying Holy Mother Church. Those that openenly defy Holy Mother Church, please do not identify yourselves as in union with the Catholic Church.

Michael J. Bayly said...


When you say "Catholic Church" you mean the "Roman" Catholic Church.

It's this Roman expression of the Catholic Church that is led by Pope Benedict XVI, not the wider Catholic Church. Yet even within the Roman church, unquestioning obedience to the Pope and Magisterium has not, historically speaking, been always the rule. (See my previous comment above.)

Also, many Christian faith traditions identify with and seek to embody the "four marks of the church" you mention - it's not only Roman Catholics.

Ultimately, the head of this wider understanding of "the Catholic Church" is the living spirit of Christ.



Anonymous said...


Thank you for your comments.

As members of the Catholic faith, I do believe we must have absolute obedience to the teachings of the Pope, the Bishops and councils acting in Communion with the Pope when we are dealing with matters of doctrine and dogma. Now, please understand, as sinners we all fail. So far example - we can all agree (hopefully) that adultery is a sin. That is clearly a teaching of the Church. For those that commit adultery - they have sinned. The difernce, I think, is that those that are in communion with the Church, acknowledge their sin - they do not take the position, for example, God made me a sexual human being, God gave me a tremendous libido, my spouse is ill and I am sure God understands that I must have my sexual needs released and therefore, since God loves me, and gave humans the gift of sexual pleasure, it must be OK to go out and commit adultery.

In similar argument, woman are wonderful! They absolutely can be wonderful preachers (I am not speaking of giving a Gospel homily - which is reserved for the clergy). The Church, which as Catholics we do place ourselves under when there are matters of faith and doctrine, has clearly spoken on this issue.

I submit to you that the strength of the Catholic Church, the one founded by Jesus Christ, and is guided by the Holy Spirit is an infailable institution (as distinguished from the sinfulness and faults of its individual clergy, including the Pope). When the Church teached something under the authority of faith and morals, we Catholics can take comfort in knowing we are receiving the truth.

Our protestant brothers and sisters have no such guarantee - which I respectfully submit is why there are of 33 thousand other Christian denominations and only ONE Catholic Church.

One refers to one church, which includes one governing body for its members. The AB of Canterbury views "one" as simply believing in one common belief in Christ. That is how the Anglicans view it to square - when they recite the Nicene Creed.

Baptist do not believe in the Eucharist, they do not have a priest hood, they certainly have a certain truth(s) but not all. Anglicans, Methodists, UCC, Mormans etc. etc., etc. all claim to believ is the same Christ. They have all difernent dogmas and doctrine - who do we follow? Where is Christ's Church.

The Church must be visible, it is one, the Catholic Church is the ONLY church which claims it is founded by God - Christ. Not even any other of the 33K denominations make that claim!

For those that would argue that "they" are the true church - and broke away because the original Catholic Church lost its way - then how can the Church founded by Christ ever lose its way? As a perfect institution - it can not lose its way in matters of faith and dogma.

Therefore - when one takes a public stance against a clear teaching of the Church - i.e. woman priests (as distinguished from a private struggle with the issue) - that person is removing themselves from Church.

With a visible head of the church having the final authority on matters of faith and dogma, there is no "democratic" vote. Christ simply did not establish the Church he founded as a democracy. One think about all democracies, they all eventually fail!

So I respectfully ask those people that take a position in open defiance of Catholic positions on faith and doctrine, such as, woman priests, homosexual behavior (not persons), gay marriage, abortion, the Eucharist, the immaculate conception of Mary and her assumption into heaven - then those peple that profess those contray beliefs not call themselves members of The Catholic Church.


Anonymous said...

When you say "Catholic Church" you mean the "Roman" Catholic Church.

- I do mean The Catholic Church. For example the Catechism of the Catholic Church is not the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church.

It's this Roman expression of the Catholic Church that is led by Pope Benedict XVI, not the wider Catholic Church.

- there is no "Roman Expression" this is presumably a term which is coined by those which are in opposition the the authority of the Pope, Bishop of Rome.

Ultimately, the head of this wider understanding of "the Catholic Church" is the living spirit of Christ.

- truth = truth. truth does not equal man's concept of a wider understanding.

I humbly say - you are either with the dogma and teaching and authority of the Catholic Church - or you are not. If you are not, then simply acknowledge that you are not - you are therfore "protestant". There are wonderful and good protestants - many of whome I am sure are going to heaven - just as I am sure that many Catholics will not make it. Hopefully you and I will make it!


Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

Thanks for conributing an orthodox/ultra-montane perspective to the thread. I think this point can be difficult to defend:

'As a perfect institution - it can not lose its way in matters of faith and dogma.'

Obviously, the church had some misguided years during the inquisition, did not recognize slavery as wrong until the 17th century, did not come out against the Nazi's as blatantly as she could have.

Now you can aruge that those shortcomings were not items of Dogma like the immaculate conception or Sacred Assent thereunto. But don't they show a lack of adherence organizationally and institutionally to Dogma?

If the church, as she claims, is not authorized to ordain women, does that not argue that the church is claiming another authority with regard to whom she can and cannot ordain?

And if that is the case, why then after 1100 years did the church cease to ordain men?

Does the church have the right to withhold ordination from Married men? For surely if married men are suitable for the Deaconate save celibacy, then surely they are also suitable for the Priesthood, save for an unauthorized withholding of a church sacrament from the married.

So what we seem to have here is a authority structure willy nilly withholding sacraments from the flock of its own volition.

There are clear references to women and married men in the priesthood in scripture. With much sophistry the church is claiming that this scripture applies only to femal deacons for the purpose of naked baptism. What a load of BS.

What I see is a gay boy's club that doesn't want to let any married straight men or women (of any stripe) into the priesthood, and that is horrifically vocal about banning civil unions in Italy whilst children are starving in Haiti, because the notion of Gay men having alternative to the Priesthood for a family life is just too scary for words.

That being said I think that the stealth ordination of a female bishop and priests is still a protestant and schismatic act.

Anonymous said...

Hello Winnipeg.

My point that the Church - as an institution, founded by Jesus, must be perfect - as the entity that created it was perfect. In other words - how could Christ, who is perfect, create a Church which was not perfect?

The clergy that Christ has permitted to run his Church are certainly imperfect - no doubt about that! There have certainly been very bad clergy, including Popes, in the history of the Catholic Church.

The infallibility of the Church is a NEGATIVE protection - in other words - there is no guarantee that the Church will do/say the right thing - it is a protection that the Church will not state something that is contray to dogma or doctrine. So, for example, to say the Church should have said something, and since it did not (i.e. address slavery) to infer that this is infallible - wouyld be a misunderstanding of the doctrine.

Regarding celibacy for the priesthood - this is not dogma or doctrine - but a matter of discipline - which certainly can be changed. Now there are certainly many good and valid reasons for celibacy in the priesthood - and we could argue the pro's and con's. But this is something that could be changed by the Church - because it is a matter of discipline - not dogma or doctrine. For example - we DO have married priests in the Latin Rite - they are typically Anglican or Lutheran converts who were permitted to remain married and were also permitted Holy Orders in the Catholic Church.

Going back to authority - if the Pope said to go out and murder someone - we are certainly not obliged to commit murder - and it would be wrong of us to follow. The Pope is not speaking on matters of faith and dogma of the Church - he is asking someone to commit murder. He is not speaking infallibly - in fact he would be speaking as a sinner. The infallible protection is that the Pope can not state to the universal church - that the 5th commandment is now null and void. In fact NEVER has the Pope, or the bishops in union with the Pope, or a council ever stated something that was against the dogma and doctrine of the Catholic Church.

Going back to woman priest issue - why did Christ not select a woman as one of the apostles? He certainly could have - he was God after all! Some might argue it was the times back then. Christ in his times was certainly a radical - he called himself God! He certainly could have selected a woman to be an apostle - which is when Christ established the priesthood for his Church. He did not.

Peace and take care.

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

We can ask why Christ never threw a frisbee, or why he didn't whittle a clever design in a piece of wood rather than writing stuff in the dirt. And then we could ask, did he do something and it wasn't written down?

Why didn't he use the bathroom? Surely he did use the bathroom.

OK, that is an absurdist reduction. But still, can we really read that much into what Christ didn't do? In some instances yes, like when he refused to battle for control of Israel as a warrior priest like the flawed and theocratic Moses. In other instances, no.

Does the pope have an inner circle of 12 men? If so, then so be it. But in Christ's wider circle of 70+ people, there were certainly both men and women including a couple of women named Mary.

All the Best, B

Michael J. Bayly said...

Hi Paul and Winnipeg Catholic,

It’s a great discussion that’s going on here. Thanks to you both for the calm, thoughtful, and articulate way you’re sharing your differing perspectives.

With regard Jesus and the apostles: most scholars agree that the twelve apostles are meant to correlate with the Jewish scriptures’ twelve tribes of Israel. It was a way for the writers of the Christian scriptures to support their claim that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Jewish scriptures. Some would even argue that “the twelve” is a literary devise.

Also, for those who insist that Catholic priests must be male because Jesus supposedly chose twelve male apostles, then these same priests should also be Jewish, speak Aramaic and be able to marry. After all, if we insist on taking scripture literally, we need to be consistent.

One last point on this topic: the early Church clearly recognized and celebrated Mary of Magdala as an apostle - indeed, "the apostle to the apostles." Yet somehow modern Roman Catholicism downplays this. Why?

Paul, I have to say that the understanding of the Roman Catholic Church you describe and clearly support, is at odds with this same church’s historical development. At the risk of sounding like a one-note samba, I have to reiterate that the autocratic, monarchical model of Church that you’re saying was ordained by Jesus, is a relatively recent development – as is the notion of papal infallibility.

As I’ve noted in a previous post, historian and theologian Hans Küng addresses this controversial doctrine very well in his book, The Catholic Church: A Short History.

One reviewer of this book, Steve Harris, has written: “After reading Küng’s argument, I come away thinking there is simply no intellectual or spiritual leg on which to support [the] doctrine [of papal infallibility]. To support it is to deny having a brain, and arguably, a soul. A good exercise after reading [Küng’s book] would be to run to The Brothers Karamazov, and read ‘The Grand Inquisitor’ chapter. Dostoevksy could see through the murk of argument, to the spiritual heart of the matter. With the insistence on infallibility, there can be no Christ, in fact, it insures ultimately, a rejection of Christ.”

Harsh words indeed. But not that far removed from those of Pope John XXII who, in 1324 (when the idea of papal infallibility and the irreformability of papal decisions was first propagated by an eccentric Franciscan, Petrus Olivi), condemned it as the work of the devil, “the father of all lies.” It wasn’t until the late nineteenth century, Küng reminds us, that the idea was “warmed up again . . . by conservative publicists and popes.”

The desire for absolute certainty is an understandably human one, but in our pursuit of it we tend to create rigid, monolithic and very absolutist institutions that accordingly are very dehumanizing. They become the very antithesis of what Jesus was all about.

I appreciate was Chuck Lofy has to say about this. In an interview I conducted with him in 2005, he noted that: “The temptation for any form, image, or organized structure is to become monolithic; to become crystallized and to become an end unto itself. In some ways that is what’s going on with the church right now. The function of any monolith can become primarily to continue itself in its current crystallized, opaque form. Yet Jesus said the form profits nothing. It’s the spirit that gives life.”

Also, once we acknowledge the significant role that human experience plays in the process of continually discovering God’s truth about human life and relationships, the role of the laity – all members of the laity – comes into much clearer focus.

Australian theologian Paul Collins, for instance, reminds us that: “Consulting the laity in the formulation of doctrine is part of Catholicism’s theological tradition. Also, the whole Church’s acceptance of papal and episcopal teaching is an integral part of testing the veracity of that teaching. The hierarchy does not have a monopoly on truth.”

Collins finds support for such claims in the writings of the great English theologian, Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-90), “who said unequivocally that the laity has to be consulted in matters of doctrine, especially when teachings concern their lives so intimately.”

Wrote Newman: “The body of the faithful is one of the witnesses to the fact of the tradition of revealed doctrine, and . . . their consensus through Christendom is the voice of the Infallible Church.”



Anonymous said...

Thank you both for the spirited and yet civil discussion!

The quote from John Newman is certainly for argument -

Secondly – Cardinal Newman is not speaking infallibly!

I respectfully submit that you both have issues with the authority of the Church. In other words – I can almost hear – “who are these men in clerical robes telling us what is right and what is wrong”.

As Catholics we are obligated to submit to the authority of the Church – not as lemmings walking a cliff – but to the Authority of the Church in Her ordinary teaching as to what is contained in the magisterium as well as when the Church speaks authoritatively in matters of faith and dogma.

As Christ has promised us – the Church will survive to the end and the fires of hell will not prevail.

It is precisely the Authority of the Church – which Christ has given in the binding and loosing verse in Mathews Gospel.

I would also raise this issue – there are no and have never been any new doctrines of faith. For example, in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception – it was always there – it was not recently made up. The Church at times, through its councils has had to define and address a doctrine – generally in response to a heresy.

If you go against the doctrine of the Church – then you are a protestant. Refusing to submit to matters of doctrine and discipline is something that each of us has a free will to decide. Look at Martin Luther. He was rightfully upset about the “selling of indulgences” which the church never approved of – but was an issue with local clergy in an effort to inappropriately raise funds. Then he broke with the church – removing books from the canon (under what authority – his one!). Look at Henry VIII – he set himself as the head of a state church.

The church does not judge the individual – but it does judge what is sinful and what is not sinful. It teaches – that is its authority. It us up to us to decide if we agree or disagree. If we disagree – we have moved ourselves away from the church. The doctrine is clearly not up for a democratic change – as can be found, as example, in the Anglican communion, and certainly in the Episcopal Church.

With our authority you have chaos and division. Look at the over 33,000 protestant denominations.

As a Catholic you submit to the authority of the church – in matters of doctrine and dogma. Christ has given that authority to his church – which is the Catholic Church. The protection afforded to us Catholics is that the Church will never, as in 100% never, err in matters of teaching doctrine and dogma. That guarantee – which is not in any Christian faith community – can only be found in the Catholic Church.

While the Church has authority – it has no power to go against doctrine. Christ has not permitted His church to teach anything that his contra to doctrine.

When one points to all of the problems that the Church has faced – the scandals, etc., just look at history – there was serious sin committed among the clergy, including Popes. No institution could survive for 2,000 years without the Holy Spirit making sure that the human clergy has not veered the Church off course in terms of faith and dogma.

I have read your Rainbow Spirit News Letter - you have heard all of these arguments before. I am not telling you anything new.

The Church has clearly taught, and it is certainly clear in scripture, that homosexual behavior (not the person - but the act) is gravely sinful. 1) if you disagree - then you clearly are at odds with the teaching of the Church and 2) if you promote the notion that homosexual behavior is not sinful then you create scandal.

I can respectfully assure you that any position that is taken contrary to the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church on matters of faith, doctrine and dogma will simply fail! Not because of any human clergy - but because you are advocating a position against God.