The recent so called "ordinations" of women as "priests" in Kentucky has inspired this article. Now if you're expecting political correctness, you've visited the wrong blog. It is not just a matter of personal opinion, on my part, that women cannot be priests. (Though I do fully agree with the Church on this.) Rather, it is the infallible and unchangeable teaching of the Catholic Church, which all Catholics are obliged to submit to, regardless of their personal opinions. Sorry, like it or lump it, that's just the facts.
Now every so often we hear of this in the news, of some group of "dissident Catholics" ordaining a woman as a priest, in some parish or facility. Usually, the people involved are long gone before the matter is released to the press, but the news media is ready and eager to take the bait. It's publicised all over the news, sometimes internationally, as if this is some kind of big deal, invoking all sorts of discussion by news journalists and opinion columnists. This of course is followed by polls and surveys, the accuracy of which is rarely verified, usually stating that somewhere between 50% to 70% of U.S. Catholics believe women should be ordained as priestesses. (Yes, I shall call them "priestesses" because that is proper English. The word "womenpriests" makes no logical sense. Do we call male clergy "menpriests?" Please, let's dispense with the absurdities and call things what they really are. Female priests are by definition "priestesses." That's not my opinion. That's called English!) Of course, this leads to the next round of opinion columns, which decry the Vatican for "not listening to the voice of the people" by denying the ordination of priestesses when so many Catholics "obviously want them."
Let's just get down to the heart of the matter, shall we? It doesn't matter what the alleged majority of Catholics allegedly want. That's right, I said it, and I'll say it again. It doesn't matter what the alleged majority of Catholics allegedly want. Even if 99% of all Catholics around the globe, demanded the ordination of women as priestesses, the Vatican would still not grant it. Why? Because to do so would spell the end of the Catholic Church in more than one way, and that my readers, simply cannot happen.
First thing's first; the Vatican does not have the authority to permit the ordination of women. That's right, read it again. The Vatican does not have the authority to ordain women. I'll take it a step further. The pope does not have the authority to ordain women. Just so there is no mistake, here it is again. The pope does not have the authority to ordain women. (Go ahead and report me to my bishop for saying this if it upsets you, he'll tell you the same thing.) The reason why the Vatican, even the pope himself, does not have the authority to ordain women is because Jesus Christ did not give them that authority, and this was defined dogmatically and definitively as infallible in Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. You can read the whole thing on the Vatican website HERE, but here is the infallible excerpt...
"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. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgement is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful." -- Pope John Paul II, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 4, Given in Rome on May 22, 1994This settles the matter forever in the Catholic Church. When something is declared definitively by the pope as infallible according to the apostolic deposit of faith, it cannot be undone. It is considered a Catholic dogma, and is binding upon all Catholics henceforth forevermore. Any future "pope," who might attempt to change it, would immediately be declared an antipope, dethroned, and another would be elected to take his place. In other words, it's written in stone. Any attempt by a bishop or pope to change it would result in the loss of his ministry, chaos within the church, and the eventual re-ordering of things back to the way they were with no change. It would be on par with a pope saying that Mary is not really immaculate, or that Jesus didn't really die for our sins. Do you see what I mean? Once a doctrine is declared an infallible dogma, as part of the origional deposit of faith, it cannot be changed, period.
Now I know this concept is difficult for Westerners to wrap their minds around. We in the West are so used to change that is seems like nothing can be "permanent." We tend to believe of things being figuratively "set in stone" as an antiquated thought. "Nobody really believes that anymore!" Or so some might opine, but that doesn't change the facts. Some people really do still believe in absolute truth, and some of those people actually believe the pope can infallibly declare it. I am one such person, and there are hundreds of millions more like me, regardless of what your opinions polls may say.
Now on to the subject of opinion polls. The Catholic Church is not a democracy. It never was and it never will be. The Catholic Church is an absolute monarchy, the remnant of ancient Israel, and she is governed by her King, who is Jesus Christ, and the pope is his prime minister. It really doesn't matter what people's opinions are. That's not how things work, and any Catholic who is honest with his/her self, knows this to be true. The Catholic Church is not defined as the sum of her parts. It never has been that way. People can think what they like, but that doesn't change how the Church is run, and it certainly doesn't change her teachings on absolute truth. It would seem the modern priestess movement is suffering from a severe case of mistaken identity when it comes to its dealings with the Catholic Church. So it would seem, those involved in it think that if they just put up enough stink, and the right pope happens to be on the throne, then eventually the Church will cave in to their demands. That isn't going to happen, and if a "pope" ever did cave, then he's not the pope, because no pope can ever change Catholic dogma. He would be declared an antipope by the college of cardinals and that would be the end of him. A replacement would be elected, with or without his consent, and he would go down in history as a heretic. Every man who sits on the throne of Saint Peter knows this.
The term infallibility simply means "without error." It does not mean the man himself is "without error" or sinless, or in some way better than everyone else. It simply means that if he says something, he says it "without error." Many people ask me if I really believe the pope is infallible. I tell them it's worse than that, I believe I'm infallible too. What I mean by that is this. Sometimes I can say things that are "without error," which is by definition "infallible." Case in point; when I look up on a clear sunny day, I might point up and say: "the daylight sky is blue." Now based on the laws of physics, related to the bending of light rays in our nitrogen-rich atmosphere, and the way the human eye normally perceives colour under normal conditions, then my statement is absolutely accurate and "without error." It is by definition -- infallible. Now let's look at simple arithmetic shall we. I might point out to a four-year old child that: "one plus one equals two." (1+1=2) Again, such a statement is "without error." One plus one always equals two in simple arithmetic, and it never equals three or four. It always equals two. Therefore, such a statement by definition is infallible. It doesn't matter if I'm colour blind and can't actually see the daylight blue sky, or if I'm mentally deficient and can't actually do the arithmetic myself. These statements about the sky, and the sum of one plus one, are infallible regardless of who said them, because they are absolute. Thus, on simple things such as this, I can make infallible statements, and so can you. Anyone can do it. Now when it comes to matters of faith and morals however, there are not many people who can make such infallible statements with absolute authority. As Christians, we all believe (or at least we are supposed to believe) that Jesus Christ has the authority to make infallible statements on matters relating to faith and morals. We believe this based on the testimony of the Church and the Bible. Both the Church and the Bible also teach us that Jesus gave this authority to Saint Peter, and the apostles so long as they were in agreement with Peter. Peter and the apostles then passed this authority on to their successors. This is what is meant by "apostolic authority." In the case of Peter's successor, he has the special authority (originally given by Jesus Christ and energised by the Holy Spirit) to make definitive statements about matters related to faith and morals, and he can do this infallibly (without error) when the Holy Spirit invites him to. Such was the case with Pope John Paul II in 1994 on the issue of ordaining women. It's a rare event actually. He never used this authority any other time during his twenty-seven year pontificate. The last time a similar authority was used was in 1950, when Pope Pius XII directly declared with infallibly (ex cathedra) the Assumption of Mary into heaven. The last time that method of infallibility was invoked was in 1854, when Pope Pius IX infallibly declared the Immaculate Conception of Mary. (Both dogmas had been taught since antiquity, but the popes declared these dogmas infallible to settle disputes that had arisen within the Church during modern times.) So my point here is that the gift of papal infallibility is something that is exercised very rarely, and only at the Holy Spirit's invitation. It is not something that just pops up whenever the pope gets a feeling. Most popes never even exercise this gift. The few who do, usually do so only once, and only on very serious matters.
There are of course those who live in denial by trying to assert that Pope John Paul II never made such a claim infallibly. They say that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, was just part of his normal teaching authority, and that Pope John Paul II never intended to make such a matter infallible dogma. Such claims fly in the face of reality, and even defy the pope himself, who agreed that his statement on this matter was definitively part of the infallible teaching of the Church in her original Deposit of Faith from the apostles. Following Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter on this matter, many questions were raised as to the infallibility of the statement. So in 1995, the following response was given by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would later become Pope Benedict XVI (2005 - 2013)....
RESPONSUM AD PROPOSITUM DUBIUM
CONCERNING THE TEACHING
CONTAINED IN “ORDINATIO SACERDOTALIS”
Dubium: Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.
This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith.
The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, approved this Reply, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation, and ordered it to be published.
Rome, from the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the Feast of the Apostles SS. Simon and Jude, October 28, 1995.
Joseph Card. Ratzinger
The issue is settled. It's been settled now for nearly two decades. It cannot be changed. So with that being said, why do these dissident groups continue to "ordain" priestesses, without any bishop's approval or Vatican sanction? There can only be two possible explanations.
Explanation number one is that these women truly believe, in their heart of hearts, that they can pressure the Vatican into changing established dogma and eventually accept them as Roman Catholic priestesses. If this is the case, then these women (and anyone who supports them) has a fundamental misunderstanding of what Catholicism is and what it means to be Catholic. In effect, they are not Catholic, at least not in their understanding anyway. The word "Catholic" comes from the Greek word meaning "whole and complete." It means you accept the whole and complete teaching of the popes and bishops. It doesn't mean you "pick and choose" what to believe. The latter is sometimes called "Cafeteria Catholicism" which is an oxymoron, when you stop and consider what the word "Catholic" actually means. How, as a Catholic Christian, can you "pick and choose" what to believe, when the word "Catholic" itself means (by definition) you don't pick and choose but accept the whole thing. Perhaps these women (and their supporters) mistakenly believe that if you wear vestments, burn incense, and recite a liturgy, that somehow makes you "Catholic." That's not true, as anybody can do these things and not be "Catholic." There is a whole assortment of Anglican/Episcopalian churches that do this. They may call themselves "catholic" in a watered-down general sense, but they would all agree they are not "Catholic" in the Roman sense of the word. To believe one can "pick and choose" religious beliefs, based on ones personal preferences or reason, is not Catholic. The historical word used for this activity it "Protestant," which means "one who protests" various doctrines they don't like. If these women (and their supporters) truly believe they can pressure Rome into changing dogma to suit their opinions, and they can just themselves "pick and choose" what teachings of the Church they will follow, then they are not really Catholic in the Roman definition of the word, which is the only definition that is consistent with history. So they are essentially Protestants, whether they realise it or not, even if they never admit it. These women (and their supporters), if they do not repent, might find themselves more comfortable in one of the Anglican/Episcopalian Protestant churches, wherein they can practise all the trappings of Catholicism, without having to follow the rules and dogmas laid down by the Catholic Church.
Explanation number two is a bit diabolical in nature, and I sincerely hope this is not the case. In fact, I refuse to believe it is the case, unless evidence is given to the contrary. Explanation number two is that these women know women's "ordination" violates Church dogma, and they know the Church can never change on this issue. So they are doing this solely for the purpose of embarrassing the Church in the news media, so as to invite the scorn of a liberal public and drive more liberal-minded Catholics out of the Church.
I sincerely hope the latter explanation is not the case. As for the news media, they would be wise to do their homework on this matter! The Church cannot change on this issue. It never could, but since 1994 that is been made publicly known in an infallible way. The debate is over. It's been over for nearly twenty years! The women who engage in so-called "ordinations" are engaging in a fraud, and they do so as a publicity stunt, specifically for the purpose of inviting media attention. At best their intentions are explained with explanation number one above. At worst it is explanation number two. Members of the news media would do well to restructure their terminology and reporting style to reflect this, otherwise they are unwittingly participating in the hoax.
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