Monday 22nd October 2018

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October 12, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. I thought the matter of no women priests was settled by Pope John Paul II back in the nineties. But I keep hearing about this possibility. Do you foresee this ban ever changing? — J.M., via e-mail.
A. No, we don’t because St. John Paul, in his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, made the following infallible pronouncement:
“Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Luke 22:32), I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful” (n. 4).
Yet, there are those who continue to cast doubt on the definitive nature of this doctrine, saying, for example, that because it was not defined ex cathedra (“from the chair” of Peter) it could be reversed by a future Pope or council. Not so, said Luis Cardinal Ladaria, SJ, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In a letter published last May 29 in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Ladaria said:
“It is important to reaffirm that infallibility does not only pertain to solemn pronouncements of a council or of the Supreme Pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra, but also to the universal and ordinary teaching of bishops dispersed throughout the world when they propose in communion among themselves and with the Pope the Catholic doctrine to be held definitively. John Paul II referred to this infallibility in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. In this manner he did not declare a new dogma, but with the authority conferred upon him as the Successor of Peter, he formally confirmed and made explicit, so as to remove all doubt, that which the ordinary and universal Magisterium has long considered throughout history as belonging to the Deposit of Faith.”
The cardinal noted that the impossibility of ordaining women priests was reaffirmed by Pope Benedict XVI on April 5, 2012, when he said that John Paul had set this doctrine forth “in an irrevocable manner.” The Holy Father at that time also asked, “Is disobedience really a way to do this? Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ that is the precondition for all true renewal or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?”
During a press conference while returning from a trip to Sweden on November 1, 2016, Pope Francis was asked about the possibility of ordaining women. He replied that “the last word was clearly given by St. John Paul II, and this remains.”
There you have the theological justification for the prohibition on women priests, but there are other considerations as well. First, it has been the constant tradition of the Church since the time of Christ that only baptized males can be ordained to the priesthood. Jesus did not ordain any women, even though He was surrounded by some very holy and competent women, including His own Mother.
And Christ, by the way, was not influenced by the male-dominated culture of the first century. In fact, He went against that culture by giving prominence to many women, even to the point of having a woman, Mary Magdalene, be the first public witness of His Resurrection.
Restricting the priesthood to men is no reflection on the capability of women to serve the Church. Women have served Christ and the Church in an extraordinary fashion for 2,000 years, and some of them are recognized as great saints and doctors of the Church. But while women are called to many important roles in the Church, the priesthood is not one of them.
Second, our sacramental system is based on natural signs that people can recognize with ease. Thus, the Church, following St. Thomas Aquinas, has said that “the same natural resemblance is required for persons as for things: When Christ’s role in the Eucharist is to be expressed sacramentally, there would not be this ‘natural resemblance’ which must exist between Christ and his minister if the role of Christ were not taken by a man; in such case, it would be difficult to see in the minister the image of Christ. For Christ himself was and remains a man” (Declaration on the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood, n. 5).
Third, Christ is often referred to in Scripture as the bridegroom and the Church as His bride. How could a woman priest be a bridegroom and truly represent Christ in His mystical marriage to His bride, the Church? Maybe two brides are acceptable in the same-sex community, but not in the Church founded by Jesus.
Fourth, the Church cannot ordain anybody and everybody. Every sacrament must have the right “matter.” You can’t baptize with Pepsi, you can’t change beer into the Blood of Christ. Beer isn’t inferior to wine, any more than women are inferior to men. Men and women, like beer and wine, are of equal worth, but because Christ chose only men to be priests, only baptized males are the proper matter for Holy Orders, just as only bread and wine are the proper matter for the Holy Eucharist.

Q. I recently reread n. 2357 of the Catechism, which deals with homosexuality. The following sentence caught my attention: “Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained.” Who cares about “psychological genesis”? Psychology, after all, is a secular discipline, and a corrupted one at that. A psychological approach, whatever that is, seems to give perversion a special, even protected, status. Why not speak of a psychological genesis of envy, greed, adultery, theft, rudeness, etc.? Why create a favored class of sinners who are singled out for special consideration? — B.F., California.
A. Not all psychology is “corrupt.” In fact, there are many solid Catholics who have documented the “psychological genesis” of homosexuality. See, for example, the writings of Fr. John Harvey, OSFS, who counseled those with a homosexual inclination for more than 40 years and founded Courage, a group designed to get homosexuals to lead a chaste life. His books, which quote extensively from experts in the field who have not been corrupted by political correctness, include The Homosexual Person, The Truth About Homosexuality, Homosexuality and the Catholic Church, and, with Gerard V. Bradley, Same-Sex Attraction: A Parents’ Guide. See also A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality by Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D., and Linda Ames Nicolosi.
Out of many quotations that could be taken from these books, here are three worth heeding:
“To sum up our reflections on homosexual rights, one may hold that, while homosexual activity is always immoral, one should respect the homosexual person, allowing him all the rights of any other citizen, but denying him unrestricted sexual freedom and rejecting his claim to teach the young that such a lifestyle is morally acceptable” (The Homosexual Person, p. 117).
“Four hundred twenty-five members of the National Association for Research and Treatment of Homosexuality agree with Fr. Jeffrey Keefe in his explanation of the homosexual condition as a psychological disorder. It is true that the majority of the members of the American Psychiatric Association claim that no change in orientation is possible or that it is possible very rarely. The minority view, however, with which I agree, is that one can grow into heterosexuality and that there is a wealth of empirical evidence for this position. The process involves much prayer, group support, and sound therapy” (The Truth About Homosexuality, pp. 303-304).
“Heterosexual persons should be very careful not to make harsh judgments about persons with same-sex attraction. From many years of working with such persons, I have come to see that many environmental factors contribute to their lapse into a homosexual way of living. Through the help of God, many persons who began their adult lives in homosexual activity have now come to learn how to live chastely” (Homosexuality and the Catholic Church, pp. 25-26).

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Today . . .

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Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

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Catholic Replies

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