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Trust The Church Of God

November 7, 2019 Frontpage No Comments

By SHAUN KENNEY

So the “boomerang” really did turn out to be a Pachamama. Not the Pachamama, as apparently there is no one single Pachamama, but one of many pachamama or however the plural of such outrages might be described. Either way, to say I’m flummoxed is an understatement.
Nevertheless, Pope Francis concluded the Amazonian Synod with a few notable remarks. First and perhaps to the open relief of many, the “boomerangs” weren’t in the hall at all, replaced by a statue of our Lady and at the behest of bishops who refused to attend unless our Lady’s image was present and the pachamama were gone. Maike Hickson reported this development for LifeSiteNews.com on October 28.
Second, Pope Francis opened the door to married priests in the Western Rite within a new Amazonian rite. For those confused by the nomenclature, the Church has two capital-R Rites — one Eastern and one Western — with 23 Eastern rites and one Western rite, typically called the Latin rite. To make matters more complicated, the Eastern Rite has five distinct Rites of which the 23 lowercase-r “rites” participate in.
The question is important for this reason alone. While the lowercase-r “rites” enjoy some degree of independence from the other rites, they typically share a common liturgy. When the Western Rite changed from the Tridentine Mass to the Novus Ordo, the entire Rite of the Western Church changed. It is therefore hypothetical — but not impossible — for the liturgy of a capital-R Amazonian Rite to exist alongside the Latin Rite, which of course has its own attendant problems.
So that’s a mess, but one that people in pointy hats will decide.

The Impossibility Of Women’s Ordination

Third is the question of women’s ordination, and this is perhaps the most significant and troubling question that arises from the Amazonian Synod. Pope St. John Paul the Great welded this door shut in 1994 with Ordinatio Sacerdotalis by emphasizing the unchanging nature of the Catholic priesthood. Such a question is infallible, not merely because it is held by the ordinary Magisterium of the Church (i.e., the commonly accepted practice of tradition), but because John Paul himself stated that such a position was to be held by all of the Catholic faithful. In short, though not a pronouncement ex cathedra, there is no room for dissent on the question of women’s ordination.
Advocates for women’s ordination such as Dr. Phyllis Zagano whose recent appointment to a papal commission to study a women’s diaconate stunned many Catholics here in the United States, as her position on women’s ordination — though coy — is reasonably well known. Though Zagano has not argued for a “priestly” ordination, the push for a women’s diaconate that somehow blurs the line between holy orders and lay vocation seems odd.
Much of Zagano’s argument relies on a fifth-century custom of “deaconesses” recognized by the Early Church Fathers — a role that carried the name but held no holy orders of which to speak. Such roles were reserved for elderly, chaste, and either the widowed or the heads of religious orders, where these “deaconesses” eventually transitioned into an abbottess — again, with no priestly orders, whereupon the tradition died out.
Zagano will argue that such a tradition can and should be revived in a postmodern Catholicism, not as a surrender to the times but in an evolution and need to evangelize to precisely one half of humanity who keenly feels their exclusion from holy orders. Why not, so the argument goes, create an office where women who feel a call to serve the Catholic Church in a more formalized role can serve as “deaconesses” with all the stature and honor reserved for priests and bishops? Who knows, muse some of the more progressive-minded advocates? If deacons can be appointed cardinals, surely a deaconess can be appointed to the College of Cardinals as well, thus introducing suffrage to the Roman Curia and the election of a Pope.
This is where the advocates for women’s ordination begin their invective. Heavens no, they exclaim, that isn’t what we want at all. We simply want to be included in parish life. To which the faithful Catholic can point toward any series of soup kitchens, respect life committees, and homeless shelters to participate in — even extraordinary ministers to the sick and imprisoned.
What’s more, they will charge, is that this has nothing to do with any sort of political agenda whatsoever. If that were indeed the case, then one should be able to point to a bevy of Catholics from across the spectrum of the Church begging for this sort of inclusion with a falsetto not-quite-ordination of women. Yet the call seems to come from the elites, not the Church.
More to the point, Zagano cannot have the argument both ways. One cannot argue that these deaconesses are not seeking holy orders yet simultaneously are seeking some sort of social (not faithful) parity with priests and bishops in terms of stature. The charge that this entire effort is a stalking horse for women’s ordination rings true, and a simple “nuh-uh” isn’t sufficient. If it were, then Zagano’s entire argument collapses within itself — for if they are truly not seeking women’s ordination, then why seek its counterfeit forms? To what possible end?

The Infallibility Of The Church

Enough though of this effort. The question is now in the hands of Pope Francis and the institution that is the Catholic Church. Despite all of the scandal and trials, Mother Church is still the Deposit of Truth and Faith, and to that we owe our allegiance and fidelity — more so during storms than during calm seas.
One is reminded of the newly minted St. John Henry Newman and his admonishment to trust the Church implicitly in The Idea of a University, even if our own judgment would take us on a different course and question the Church’s prudence or rectitude.
Newman was a convert to Catholicism, and during his time he watched many others leave the Church while he was entering it over a question so scandalous and so preposterous that few of his fellow converts could possibly consent to the Church’s infallibility.
Of course, the question was the old “Scotus heresy” that we today have adopted without question, quite namely the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Newman criticized these fair-weather converts by stating that, while they assented to the Church’s teaching at a specific moment in time, they never quite grasped the idea of the Church’s infallibility in questions of faith and morals.
Such infallibility doesn’t mean simply that what the Church teaches is true, but rather for Newman, it also meant that whatever the Church should teach will be true. Those who walk away from the Catholic Faith during such times, Newman observes in The Grammar of Assent, never truly had the Catholic Faith in the first place. “He has lost his certitude of the divinity of the Catholic Faith,” Newman writes, “[because] he never had it.”
We live in trying times. Yet the “Prophecy of the Two Columns” of St. John Bosco comes to mind, where the Pope is shown navigating between two massive columns during a great naval battle. One column bears Our Lady, the other column bears Our Lord in the Eucharist. After summoning his captains (the bishops), the Pope sees that the enemy’s attack has become even more fervent, and he sends the bishops back to their ships.
Meanwhile on the flagship, a gaping hole is pierced through the hull, but a wind prevents the boat from sinking. The enemy surges forward in all its anger and rage, and the Pope is first wounded then killed. But just before the enemy can take courage from their murder, another captain is elected, and the battle is rejoined. This new captain anchors the flagship between the two columns of Our Lady and Our Lord. In doing so not only are the enemy ships put to confusion and then rout, but the other ships cautiously observing but not joining the battle do so. Bosco concludes as we should:
“Very grave trials await the Church. What we have suffered so far is almost nothing compared to what is going to happen. The enemies of the Church are symbolized by the ships which strive their utmost to sink the flagship. Only two things can save us in such a grave hour: devotion to Mary and frequent Communion. Let us do our very best to use these two means and have others use them everywhere.”

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First Teachers warmly encourages readers to submit their thoughts, views, opinions, and insights to the author directly either via e-mail or by mail. Please send any correspondence to Shaun Kenney c/o First Teachers, 5289 Venable Road, Kents Store, VA 23084 or by e-mail to kenneys@cua.edu.

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