26 December 2008

Homilies: Third & Fourth Sundays of Advent, Christmas Day

[NB. I have to apologize for getting these three homilies posted so late. Though they are here long after their proper liturgical time, I hope and pray you will find them helpful. As promised, I will be taking several days away from blogging as I get some school work done. Please continue to comment. I will to continue to post comments but not respond myself. Have a blessed New Year and keep those prayers coming!]

Gaudete Sunday: Is 61.1-2a, 10-11; 1 Thes 5.16-24; John1.6-8, 19-28
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Convento SS Domenico e Sisto, Roma

If, while flipping through the cable channels and surfing the web, reading the news and watching it, if you are not yet convinced that the Church is being called go “whole hog” as the Body of Christ, the Prophet, then I don’t think you are paying very careful attention to “the signs of the times.” More and more, as we resist the temptations to submit ourselves as believers in the Truth to the lowest common denominators of secular culture, more and more our resistance to assimilation and our insistence on our identity are seen as combative, strident, radical, even extremist. As the center moves left, those who stand their ground quickly fall out of the mainstream, becoming freaks in monkish isolation, denizens of an edging-fringe that seems only to cut itself, suicidally bent on being right no matter the costs. We do not need to rehearse recent attacks on the Church in detail—the BVM as Playboy model; the soon-to-be-released “Gay Bible;” Catholic hospitals performing abortions, to quickly name just a few—no details are necessary b/c we feel the pressure; we see it: the little loses in court over free speech and free exercise issues; the small nudges toward secular accommodation in how we govern our parishes; compromises with health care corporations when our Catholic hospitals are sold; anti-Christian faculty in our Catholic schools and colleges; attempts to secularize the culture even more by de-Christianizing Christmas; and on and on. If you don’t see it, feel it, taste it, hear it…well, you ain’t paying attention! And if you aren’t paying attention, how will you ever be a voice crying in the secular wilderness? How will you ever be a prophet crying out, “Make way for the coming of the Lord!”?

The Jewish priests from Jerusalem, hearing that a prophet has appeared in Bethany, proclaiming the coming of the Messiah, seek out this prophet to test him. They find John the Baptist preaching the advent of the Lord and ask him if he is the prophet, Elijah. He says, “No.” They press him. Who are you? He says in answer, quoting the prophet Isaiah, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord…’” Now, we know that John is not among the more reputable characters in scripture. He’s, um, less than hygienic. Has some pretty strange dietary habits. Claims to baptize folks with water in the name of a coming Messiah. Is way too humble to be a real preacher or prophet. He’s an all-around dodgy fellow who comes out of the desert yelling about the Lord and flailing about with these out-dated morals, flinging accusations of malfeasance at public officials. Any of us might read about him on SpiritDaily, give an easy chuckle, and click over to the Drudge Report, forgetting all about him.

So, how are you going to be prophetic? How will pick up the prophetic slack and draw the noose of righteousness tighter around the neck of our deaf, dumb, and blind culture? Appearing out of the desert like John the Baptist will get you certified and hospitalized. We can no longer hear that voice crying out in the wilderness. Now, it seems, prophets need degrees, corporate sponsorship, a logo and tag line, maybe an entourage and a structured hairdo. Certainly they need stadium-sized pulpits, PR toadies, and one or two scandals to give them the appearance of being somewhat human. But these powdered, pampered, and perfumed frauds wouldn’t know a decent prophecy if it fell through their limo sunroof and scuffed their Ferragamo’s. They only sing the hymns our shopping mall religious culture demands to hear. Prophets never tell us what we want to hear. They never point to the horizon of your comfortable expectations and assure us that that break of the dawn is as easy as a credit card number and an internet connection.

John shows these priests and elders something that shakes them at the root. He points toward a horizon star-long and sky-wide. He tells them something they have long wanted to hear but feared to listen to. Rather, he shows them someone; tells them about someone; points toward someone, someone who will not only wash their need away but bring them to their human perfection in his own promised death, a death that begins right at the point where their worst sins meet his best mercies. John brings them Christ. And that’s the kind of prophet we must be. The kind that climbs and claws out of the desolate wasteland of Me-driven clamoring for more and more things to tip over into our bottomless black holes of need and show this world the joy of Christ!

Prophets see the future not as it will be but as it should be; or rather, as the Father promises it can be if we will but listen and act according to His truth. Our joy is not a glassy-eyed, blank grin of stupidity, or a fawning niceness to sweeten evil; nor is our joy a perpetual state of excitement or the search for the highs of liminal experience. Our joy, the joy we receive from Christ, is the exhilaration we know and feel because we know and feel the approaching fulfillment of his promise to come to us again and again, to return over and over every time we call, every time we need him. Even when we are fully prepared and willing to tip ourselves into the well of despair, especially when we are ready to surrender to the dark, our hope is in the name of the Lord. He is our rock bottom and our highest reach. And as his prophets we are charged with shouting—along with Isaiah, John the Baptist, Mother Mary—shouting out our YES to his gift of life. And not only that but making absolutely sure that our thundering yes bounces off the ears of anyone willing to hear and listen. If those who live with us and near us don’t see our joy, feel it, taste it, hear it…well, we ain’t shouting loud enough or clear enough! We aren’t doing enough.

So, how will you become a prophet of joy, crying out in this wilderness, “Make way for the coming of the Lord!”?

4th Sunday of Advent: 2 Sm 7:1-5, 8-14, 16; Rom 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Convento SS Domenico e Sisto, Roma

Unless Samuel Beckett is right, and we wait for Nothing when we wait on Godot, then when we wait, we wait in need. There is something or someone we do not know, something or someone we do not have; yet feel, yet know we must have; so, we wait. When we wait, we desire. Waiting is what the body does with unfilled desire. We sit here or walk there, or stand, leaning against someone stronger or more patient, perched right on the edge of bounding up in mock surprise to shout, “Finally!” Exasperated, or relieved in anger. You are here. Finally! I have you. But it is too soon yet to claim victory, to claim our prize for patient waiting. Unlike Estragon and his philosophical friend, Vladmir, both waiting for Godot, our advent clock has many more ticks and tocks before the final gift is dropped, before our longest longing is eased, and our waiting in hope is rewarded with the birth of the Word into the world. What we have to wait with today is Mary’s surrender, the end of her anticipation as she answers the archangel’s call to be the ark of the Lord, His tent in flesh: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” If and when, in our waiting and in our desiring, if and when we surrender, what happens?

This week of our long wait begins a headlong fall into the celebration of the birth of the Word into the world. In just one week, we sit up and notice one more time that hope is born for us; faith is pushed out from eternity and into our lives; love is gifted with a body, a mind, a soul for our sakes. In just one week, the one John the desert prophet promised arrives and begins his thirty-three year presence to those who have waited for centuries. But today, this last Sunday of our waiting, we party with the angels as they and we hear a young Jewish woman, confronted with a choice by the archangel Gabriel, we all hear her choose life—his, hers, ours, and the world’s. We all hear her choose to be the mother of God, the God- Bearer. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Look! I serve the Lord. Let His will be for me as you say it is.

What would happen to your life if, every morning from now on, you awake up and say aloud, “I serve the Lord. Let His will be mine.” First, understand that this is a prayer of priestly sacrifice. All the elements of sacrifice are present in that one prayer: you are a priest offering yourself as victim to a loving God on the altar of your day. Second, once sacrificed with this prayer, this act of human will, you belong body and soul to He Who made you. He made you and his love holds you in being as His creation. Your prayer of sacrifice is an act of gratitude, of giving thanks. Third, if you will do His will you will expend your day in His service as His handmaid, his servant. Every thought you have, every act you do, every passion you feel has already been given over to the fulfillment of His will. Fourth, His will for all His servants is to love Him, love ourselves, and love our neighbors. We are able to love, that is, we are gifted with the capacity for love, to love in virtue of our creation by Love Himself. He loved us first so that we might love. Lastly, as His willing priests, our lives are made new again, reconstituted from the smallest cell out, gifted with the newest possible life available, the life of His Son. We are made Christ for others. We are the walking Word, the talking Word, the feeling, doing, working Word—priests forever now in an entirely sacrificial life of becoming perfectly His will in the flesh.

This young Jewish woman, given a choice by Gabriel, says YES to His will for her, and becomes the first Christian priest and prophet, the template from whom all of us as future priests and prophets will be pressed out. On the cross, dying for our sakes, the Lord himself follows his mother in saying yes. Abandoned by his friends, betrayed by one he loves, despairing, seemingly lost to pain and death, and believing himself to have been forsaken to his enemies, our Lord will cry out to His Father, “Yes! I will all that you will!” His life of perpetual sacrifice begins. This is what we long for. This is what we desire, what we need. Though we are constantly deflected and distracted in our priestly obligations to be love and to love others, we nonetheless know and feel the ineffable hollowness of a life that refuses to love, that wills not to be one for another.

Advent is one long Mass of Thanksgiving and Praise, a month-long prayer of rejoicing and sacrifice as we turn away from sin and toward our perfection in Christ. What must we do? Unclench your fist. Unlock your heart. Fling open wide your mind. Make straigth the path of the Lord to your very existence. Say YES! And join Christ at the altar as priest and victim. He is coming. He has come. He will come again. Wait. Need. Desire. And the flood of God as the Gift of Love Himself will overwhelm you and make you Christ.

Christmas Day: Is 52:7-10; Heb 1:1-6; Jn 1:1-18
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Convento SS Domenico e Sisto, Roma

God does Who He Is: Love. God is Love; therefore, He loves. The surest sign that we are given as a witness to this truth is the birth of His Word among us as a man.

Who is this Word given flesh in the body of our Mother?

Paul writes to the Hebrews that our Lord speaks to us through His Son, the Son whom He made His heir to all the things of heaven and earth, and through whom He brought the universe into being from nothing; the Son who is the shining radiance of His beauty and truth; the Son who is “the very imprint of His being;” the Son who sustains by his potent word all that he has been given.

Who is he?

John the apostle pulls back the veil and reveals to us that in the beginning, from the establishment of all that is from the void, the Word was, and that God’s Word was there with Him, and that this Word was God. John writes, “He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.”

Who is he for us now?

John the apostle pulls back the veil again and reveals to us again that in the beginning and even now, from the establishment of all that is from the void and even now, the Word Is, and that God’s Word is there with Him even now, and that this Word is God—then, now, always. John writes, “He [is] in the beginning with God. All things [come] to be through him, and without him nothing [comes] to be.”

God does Who He Is: Love. God is Love; therefore, He loves. The surest sign that we are given as a witness to this truth is the birth of His Word among us as a man. We have waited. Needed. Desired. We are turned toward the advent of his coming.

He is here.

John the apostle pulls back the veil and reveals to us that all that came to be and is, came to be and is through him and is life; and this life, his life, is the light of all peoples, all nations, all tribes, all races, all tongues; for all our needs, all our godly desires, all of weaknesses, all our triumphs, all our failures; for all of us who will hear and listen and act in love as priests and prophets of His Word; this light shines in the darkness of violence, hunger, poverty and oppression; this light shines in the decaying reek of injustice, death, disease, and suffering; this light shines in the blackest pits of our despair, self-loathing, anxiety, disobedience, and the murder of innocence; this light burns in the darkness and the darkness cannot extinguish it.

The glory of God, His eternal Word, becomes flesh and bone with the YES of a virgin; he is born and makes his home among us. If we will see, we will see his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, filled with His truth, beauty, and goodness; and not only will we see, but we will be illuminated, brightened, made to shine like the Son, sharing wholly and pure, made perfect in His divine life.

The Father sent His Spirit to Mary to give her the seed of His Word so that she could make for Him a son of flesh and bone—a man like one of us, to walk among us, to talk with us, to love us passionately and sacrificially to his death.

Today, he is born.

He makes those who will hear and listen, those who will look and see, he makes us his sisters and brothers, children of God, heirs to the Kingdom of heaven and the glory of God; of those who believe in his name, sacrifice as his priests, prophesy as his prophets, of us he makes “other Christs” so that we might live and teach and preach his Word, and live and die with Mary’s YES on our lips, rising again to His brilliance at the end of this age to live again in His light.

Today, from His boundless abundance “we have all received, grace in place of grace.” Today, he is born. Today, we are born again.

25 December 2008

Four Defining Moments

Pope Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): "By this Constitution which is to remain in force for ever, we, with apostolic authority, define the following. . ." (On the Beatific Vision)

Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus (1854): "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that [. . .] is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful." (On the Immaculate Conception)

Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus (1950): ". . .by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma. . ." (On the Assumption of the Blessed Mother)

Pope John Paul II, Ordinatio Sacerdolatis (1994): ". . .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." (On the Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone)

NB. Two of these declarations were made before (1336 and 1854) the First Vatican Council defined papal infallibility in 1870. It is plausible to argue that the 1870 definition was a true definition, that is, a limitation of papal power to teach infallibly on doctrine. Before 1870, the Holy Father's authority to settle theological questions in this way was unclear.

24 December 2008

Have yourself a merry little Christmas...

Buon Natale! Merry Christmas!

I will post three short homilies today (3rd, 4th Sundays of Advent, and Christmas) and then I'm going to take a blog break. I will still be checking comments but probably not replying, so be patient with any questions you might send my way.

I need to write a seminar paper, which will be posted on my recently much-neglected faith+science blog, suppl(e)mental.

Also, the license thesis needs to be sketched out.

Please be assured that I have received all the Mass intentions sent to me recently, and that I am dutifully fulfilling them.

Mail has been very slow this last week and will likely get much closer until well after the New Year. So, the likelihood of any books shot my way from the WISH LIST arriving anytime soon is close to nil. Regardless, as always, my gratitude is deep and abiding for every one sent!

If you have any topic requests for posts in the New Year, let me know. No promises! ;-)

Merry Christmas & Buon Natale!

Natural Theology at its best!

For those of you who are really into the academic study of natural theology, you cannot do better for excellent texts than to browse the lectures found on this site.

Check them out!

The Gifford Lectures

Answers to supporters of women's ordination (UPDATED)

I recently received an email from a young religious asking me to help him answer objections to the Church's infallible teaching that women cannot be ordained to the Catholic priesthood.

Here's my stab at it. . .

First, notice the origin and ground of the objections. All of them are based on one or more of the following mistakes:

a) Priesthood is about power
b) "Access" to the priesthood is about rights and justice
c) The "exclusion" of women from the priesthood denies humanity of women. . .
d) . . .and it denies their proper place as potential "Christs for others"
e) All exercises of Church authority are excluding
f) Tradition is always about male privilege
g) Women would make better priests because of their natural empathy and compassion
h) Jesus' exclusion of women from the priesthood was culturally based and therefore reformable
i) Scripture is silent on the nature of the priesthood b/c it is a third century invention of males
j). Women report feeling called to the ordained priesthood, therefore the Church ought to ordain them.

Let's answer (briefly) each in turn.

Priesthood is about power. No, it's not. Priesthood in the Catholic Church is about service. Do priests often mistake their office of service as a privilege in the use of power? Yup. But that's an abuse of the office and in no way changes the actual nature of the office. Men are ordered to Christ, Head of the Church, to serve his people as he did: sacrificially in leadership. When supporters of women's ordination (WO) claim that women must be allowed to share in the governance of the Church as priests, they mistake the office for a political one.

"Access" to the priesthood is about rights and justice. Wrong again. The only right a Catholic has as a Catholic in the Church is the right and duty to serve others. Justice is getting what one deserves. No one--not even men--"deserve" to be ordained, to serve as ordained priests. To claim that ordination is a right is bizarre given that men are called by God and confirmed by the Church to be priests. This use of democratic rhetoric is attractive but misplaced. You cannot be the subject of an injustice if you have no right to that which you have been denied. I am not being treated unjustly b/c I cannot vote for the next Italian presidential election.

The "exclusion" of women from the priesthood denies their humanity. In fact, the Church's teaching on ordination reaffirms the humanity of women by clearly laying out what it means to be human, male and female. To be fully human as a creature is to submit one's will to the will of our Creator and cooperate with His grace to achieve our perfection AS men and women; that is, I am perfected as a male creature. My mother is perfected as a female creature. Often this objection is rooted in a modernist notion that one's sex is socially constructed. We are MADE male and female by our Creator and not pieced together sexually by social forces.

The "exclusion of women from the priesthood denies their proper place as potential "Christs for others." This would be true if the only means of being Christs for others was to be a priest. Fortunately, our Lord had to foresight to make sure that there were other means of becoming the sons and daughters of the Father in His service for others. Ordination is one way that some men are called by God and confirmed by the Church to "work out" their salvation. No one is denied their perfection in Christ b/c they are not priests. All the baptized serve the Father by being priests, offering themselves in sacrifice for others.

All exercises of Church authority are excluding. Wrong. If an exercise of Church authority excludes, it does so in order to liberate through a declaration of the truth of the faith., thus including everyone in the knowledge of truth. To be excluded is not in and of itself an injustice or a violation of human dignity. There are many perfectly beautiful options open to all Christians to which I am excluded in virtue of my ordination, e.g. marriage and biological fatherhood. In the case of WO, the Church has used her authority to recognize a limit of her own power. In effect, the Church has recognized that she is excluded from considering the ordination of women.

Tradition is always about male privilege. Tradition has certainly been misused to prop up abusive practices that privilege males. That we have seen these abuses in no way changes the fact that Tradition is the handing on of a living faith, the "living faith of the dead." The faith of the Church never changes. It cannot change. Our understanding of the faith can and does change. However, WO is not a change in understanding but a radical revision of some of the most basic threads of the Christian narrative. To alter these threads does more than "open the priesthood," it unravels the faith whole clothe.

Women would make better priests. I concede this readily. But we have to be clear about what we mean by "better priests." The objection assumes that the vocation of the priest is simply about empathy and compassion. It's not. Sometimes what the priest must do is show firmness, rectitude, and unwavering direction. . .even if empathy and compassion seem to be set aside in doing so. If the only vocation of the priest were to be empathetic or compassionate, then women should be ordained. However, as we have seen in the Episcopal Church and the Church of England, women priests and bishops (at least for now) seem to be more inclined to the destruction of the living faith than its preservation. Each time a stone in the catholic faith has been removed by female clergy and their male supporters in these ecclesial communities, it has been removed on the grounds of justice, rights, empathy, and compassion--all understood in strictly secular terms. The results have been disastrous.

Jesus' "exclusion" of women from the priest was culturally based and therefore reformable. This objection assumes as true a number of false premises. First, it assumes that Jesus was not who he clearly said he was and is: God. God is not constrained by cultural prejudices. Second, it assumes that Jesus was disinclined to break social taboos. In fact, he broke any number of cultural taboos in teaching and preaching the Good News, causing a great deal of scandal. Why not break the taboo against women as priests/rabbis? Third, this objection also assumes that cultural change should guide Church teaching. Cultural change should and often does guide our understanding and application of the faith in the world, but the world is irrelevant when it comes to determining the content of our faith. A danger for WO supporters here is that the way they understand many of the Church's cherished social justice positions are undermined by this objection to the Church's teaching. If we can alter the faith to follow cultural change and ordain women, why can't we examine many of Jesus' legitimate justice teachings in the same light and alter them as well? Maybe our modern culture and social norms should be used to override the historical Christian concern for the poor. Surely, the recent collapse of the economy can be blamed in part on a misplaced concern for the poor and homeless.

Scripture is silent on the nature of the priesthood. This is a particularly odd objection for faithful Catholics to be making. It is largely a Reformation objection and ignores volumes of Patristic teaching on the origins and development of Christian priesthood. It is simply false to say that the Catholic priesthood is an third or fourth century invention. There are elements of the priesthood as it is enacted in the world that came about in later centuries, but the core nature of the priesthood was infallibly established at the Last Supper when Christ commissioned his apostles and friends as those who would lead the community in prayer and the breaking of the bread, to "do this in memory of me." He had every opportunity to include women in this moment, but he didn't. The key here is to understand that the Last Supper was a Passover meal, a family meal, one that reinforced the bonds of paternal authority in the ancient Jewish tradition. of liberation from slavery. Even with women present at a Jewish Passover, the men are commissioned to perform the rite. Does this mean that women are excluded from the liberation Moses brought and the Passover celebrates? Hardly.

Women feel called to the priesthood. In the paragraph directly below this one I note that all of the objections to the Church's teaching on WO are rooted in modernist, feminist ideology. This objection is a perfect example. What this objection assumes is that the call to priesthood is a subjective experience immediately deserving a positive response from the Church. What can be more modernist than the triumph of personal experience over objective truth. The truth of the matter is that the call to priesthood comes from God through the Church, who is the Body of Christ. To say that a particular person (male or female) receives a call outside the Church assumes that Christ speaks to a member of his Body from outside his Body. However, all calls to serve the Body come through the Church and are therefore verifiable by the Church. Most of us believe we are called to all sorts of vocations for which we do not have the requisite gifts or authentic vocation. I feel called to be a regularly published poet, yet my poetry is regularly rejected. The poetry community (i.e., the Church of Verse) regularly rejects my claims to being a poet. Years of personal experience, strong conviction, earnest effort, and multiple academic degrees cannot make up for the lack of consent by the poetry community to my alleged call. I can call myself a poet. I can rail against the perceived injustice of not being regularly published. I can even accuse my tormenters of bias, hatred, and lack of taste. I'm still not a poet. Think for a moment of the implications if the Church bowed to the "I feel called to priesthood" objection and answered these claims positively. On what grounds could we reject anyone from the ordained ministry? My application to be made a postulant for ordination in the Episcopal Church was rejected. Had the vestry of my parish not done their job of proper discernment and oversight, I would be an Episcopalian priest right now. Thank God they listened to the Holy Spirit!

It is important for faithful Catholics to understand how many of these objections are based on modernist, feminist theories of justice, gender, the social construction of reality, and postmodern identity politics. None of which have a place in the faith of good Catholics. All are deeply rooted in 19th and 20th century liberal democratic ideas about freedom, liberty, and rights. None of them pull from the tradition of the Church or her ancient philosophy and theology. None of them are scriptural or magisterial. I have yet to read a single objection to the Church's infallible teaching against WO that does not rely exclusively on ideas and argument entirely alien to our faith. The canonical objections I've read are little more than legalistic sophistry and grounded in a "hermeneutic of suspicion" that starts with an antagonistic attitude toward truth and quickly devolves into relativism and subjectivism--little more than minute loopholes.

Probably the best book on this subject was written by Sr. Sara Butler, MSBT, The Catholic Priesthood and Women: A Guide to the Teaching of the Church, Sr. Sara started her life as a religious as a supporter of WO and has since looked carefully at the scriptural, tradition, magisterial, and archeological evidence for that position and changed her mind. This book does a much better job of defending the Church's teaching than I ever could, and I highly recommend it.

It is vitally important that women understand that the Church's lack of authority to ordain them to the priesthood is not based on the notion that they are inferior or damaged or in any way "less than men." Yes, some medieval theologians, including Thomas Aquinas, put forward certain metaphysical explanations for an all-male priesthood that few of us will applaud now. But these are merely explanations of any already existing teaching and their dubious nature in no way detracts from the truth of the faith. In other words, Aquinas, et al did not invent the all-male priesthood based on medieval notions of biology and metaphysics. They took up the question in light of the sacaramental theology then current and the already existing reality of the all-malle priesthood and attempted to explain the truth of the priesthood in the light they had. Demolishing Aquinas' argument for the all-male priesthood does not demolish the Church's infallible teaching against WO.

A note on the question of the infalliablity of Pope John Paul II's document, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. This 1994 document was issued by the Holy Father in order to settle forever the question of whether or not the Church has the authority to ordain women. Drawing on scripture, tradition, and centuries of papal magisterial teaching, he concluded that the Church does not have the power to ordain women. It is very important to understand that the Pope did not say that the Church will not ordain women or that the Church does not feel like ordaining women. He wrote: "I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women. . ." The Church CANNOT ordain women. The Church also cannot declare that Jesus is not the Savior. The Church cannot declare that Mary was not the mother of Jesus, etc. In other words, the failure of the Church to ordain women is not based on a lack of will or inclination or patriarchal prejudice. If every bishop in the Church, including the Pope, laid hands on a woman, performing the entire sacrament of ordination on her in St Peter's Bascilica in front of the College of Cardinal with their wild applauses, she would still be a laywoman. And she would be a laywoman if every Catholic in the world believed that she was a priest.

Is this teaching infallible? Yes, it is. The Pope wrote in full: "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."

Now, some theologians claim that this teaching is not infallible. They want to make a fine distinction between the content of the teaching and this declaration of the teaching. They want to say that OS itself is not infallible; in other words, they want us to believe that the Pope's declaration that the teaching is infallible is not itself infallible. This is typical modernist sophistry and a confusion of terms. All the Pope did in this document is repeat an ancient truth: women cannot be ordained. This is not new. Imagine the Pope issuing a document tomorrow declaring that Jesus is the Messiah. Such a document would be pointless because the Church has always believed this. There is no need for an infallible teaching on the question. How odd would it be then for some theologians to assert that the document is not infallible when it asserts that the teaching that Jesus is the Messiah is infallible. Simply bizarre.

Reread the highlighted phrases above. Those are the words required for an infallible teaching. Period. OS as a document, OS per se does not have to be infallible, just as a document declaring Jesus as the Messiah would not have to be infallible. The content of the teaching is without error regardless of the magisterial/canonical status of the document. What the supporters of WO want us to believe is that the Pope is not interpreting the ancient teaching correctly. That he is merely repeating what has always been the case in the Church seems to be irrelevant to them. It seems odd to me that the Pope would issue this document "so that all doubt might be removed" and then have some claim that he did so in order to set the stage for future women's ordinations! We had a professor in my seminary who taught exactly that. Fortunately, none of us fell for the deception.

Fr. Joseph Fitzmeyer, quoting a supporter of WO, Rev. Herman Pottmeyer, "According to Pottmeyer, 'O.S. is an instance of ordinary (i.e., non-infallible) magisterium, declaring that the church’s unbroken tradition with regard to ordination is irreformable.' In saying this, he may be right, even though the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith subsequently explained that the doctrine about women’s ordination belongs to the deposit of faith and has been constantly held in the church’s tradition and infallibly set forth by the ordinary and universal magisterium." Fr. Fitzmeyer concludes his critique of Rev. Pottmeyer, "Pope John Paul II stated in O.S. that 'the church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women' (No. 4). He did not mean that 'he could not himself change tradition in this matter.' He spoke rather of Ecclesiam facultatem nullatenus habere. If it is so, that the church has no ability to change it, then the Pope cannot invite everyone to prayer and dialogue as he would summon 'a council to make a final decision.' If 'the church' cannot do it, then a council cannot do it, no matter what 'signs of the times' may be or what 'faithfulness to Jesus' might seem to call for in Pottmeyer’s estimation."

Best book on the history and theology of the Church's teaching authority: Magisterium: Teacher and Guardian of the Faith, Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ.

This link from the USCCB helps to clarify a number of issues.

NB. This post will be revised and updated.

23 December 2008

CHANGE! we can all envy. . .

HOPE & CHANGE goes on Christmas vacation for a mere $3,500 a day. . .

I'm surprised that the lapdog press reported the story at all but not at all surprised that the rental listing was deleted from the web once the story broke. The link above takes you to a cached screenshot of the Obama family Christmas extravaganza.

Yawn. . .as I have said from the beginning: The One is just another politician.

Speaking of false messiahs. . .

22 December 2008

Fat Friar Wear

Thomas Peters of American Papist fame has his own line of A.P. gear. . .check it out!

. . .hmmmmm. . .what would Hanc Aquam gear look like, I wonder. . .?

Would have to start small and go LARGE!

We could start here.

No, Bishop, kids really do want the faith. . .

This post from the Curt Jester about the English bishop who thinks he knows what Catholic youth REALLY want reminded me of my post from last year. . .

Kids These Days: what they don't want from the Church!

Someone send his excellency the link. . .


Turn the volume WAY up!

H/T: Rocco

Natale a Roma!

It's final. . .I will be in Rome for Christmas. . .ah well. . .

I was trying to finagle my vacation budget and take a quick trip home to surprise my parents on the 24th.

But. . .flights to the U.S. are running at about $1,300 and that's with two and three stops along the way. I've traveled enough to know that you increase exponentially the chances of problems with every stop you add.

So, instead I'm going to go home over the Easter break (Apr 4-19). That way I can visit with the family; take a trip to Irving to rummage around in the storage building for books I need for the dissertation; see my doc for the needed RX's, etc.

This will be a much more relaxed visit b/c I will have longer to hang around. . .

Any suggestions for Midnight Mass? (other than St Peter's!)