Monday, August 07, 2006

Time for a Good Fisking

Rocco has posted a link to an Inquirer story about one of the "newly ordained" women from the ceremony in Pittsburg who happens to be a (former) Catholic of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The article, as Gerald notes, is "full of crap." But I wanted to make a little more explicit the reason that it's full of crap.

The article.

From the first line, there is an unfair slant in the article:
Eileen DiFranco sang the hymns, prayed and took Communion as she had done at countless other Catholic Masses.
Note that the service is refered to as one among "other Catholic Masses." This is not even a logical inference, and a very unfair job by the Inquirer. Why? Because it's not even some sort of technical, existential level at which this was not a Catholic Mass. This wasn't even ostensibly a Catholic Mass. Reading on, we find that she "led the service as an ordained priest" and that it took place at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown. No amount of sacramental theology is required to see that this is something different. Even if you think that the "Catholic Mass" is nothing more than a show of some sort, the fact is that every "other" Catholic Mass is "led" by a man and nearly always takes place in connection with some Catholic worship site. If I went to McDonalds and heard some fat woman singing the Marriage of Figaro, I could hardly say I'd attended the Opera and heard that great Baritone piece from the Barber of Seville.

The next bit of nonsense is not with the article itself, but with the woman heretic about whom it was written. Mrs. DiFranco told her congregation that "Nothing is impossible with our God... not even a woman priest." I'm surprised that the applause which greeted her did not coincide with the falling away of the floor of the building and the tearing apart of the very fabric of existence that bound the place together. Because her statement, in a sense, has sought to undermine that very fabric of existence. It's a law of philosophy called the law of identity and of non-contradiction. And it goes like this: a thing is what it is, and a thing cannot both be and not be in the same way at the same time.

By saying that "nothing is impossible for God" in reference to her "ordination" as a priest, she has said so in reference to a "nothingness" - in other words, ironically, Mrs. DiFranco has suggested that nothing is possible for God. I don't mean that she has suggested God can't do anything. But rather that He can do nothing. What am I talking about? Well, if we think about the words of Scripture, where we find that "nothing shall be impossible for God," we can infer a great metaphysical truth. God is pure existance. He cannot not exist. He must act in accord with the Divine Nature, and the Divine Nature is pure act and power. And there are extensions to this. Because even though God can create anything He likes, He can't create a "nothing." He can't make a square circle. He can't make a rock too large for Him to move. Why? Because His action identified with His nature, and His nature is pure action. A "square circle" would be a circle that is both a square and circle at the same time in the same way - it is nothing. Because God must be God (i.e., He cannot not be God) so any square which He creates must be a square and any circle a circle. We must understand this not on some semantic level of terms applied (call the two existents anything you like) but on the level of true being. If a circle were really, in its very being, full of "squareness" - well, then, it's a square.

And, see, Mrs. DiFranco is a woman. In order for God to make her able to be "ordained," then she would either not be a woman as we understand "womanness" or the ordination would not be an ordination to the Roman Catholic priesthood as it has been established by Christ. This is because Holy Orders - a sacrament - is rooted in the Person of Christ, with His two natures. The "requirement" of male priesthood is like the "requirement" that a square have four sides and four right angles. It is a question of identity. The thing has been made to be what it is. And even God cannot make something both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect - for He operates in accord with His nature. And since priesthood is connected - identified - with maleness, and Mrs. DiFranco is connected with femaleness, then she cannot be a priest. Aristotle tells us that. Revelation tells us that. It is not a limitation of God's power or a mere "edict" - it is a metaphysical truth rooted in the nature of God and the law that govern all existence. A female priesthood is impossible, so long as we understand "priesthood" to really be what it is. I am not trying to theologically say that God could not make another reality, of another name, to which Mrs. DiFranco might be conformable. I am saying that the sacramental priesthood, as it stands now - as it is now - does not allow for identification with her. For Ms. DiFranco to say that she has the same priesthood as, say, Pope Benedict, is for her to declare that God has made a circle a square, without diminishing its circleness. It's a vacuous statement. It means, really, nothing. And, I repeat her words: NOTHING is IMPOSSIBLE - that is, N-O-T P-O-S-S-I-B-L-E - for God.

The next statment with which I take issue is the following:
The Rev. Bernie Callahan of the Church of the Beatitudes said DiFranco's ordination and first Mass were a sign that "paths are being opened to Catholic women."
I ask you: HOW? Explain to me, please, someone: HOW!?

Ignoring the false premise that the Catholic Church closes any "paths" to women that lead anywhere (as opposed to nowhere, or nothing, as we've shown above) - this is still a logically ridiculous statement. Along what "new path" has Mrs. DiFranco tread? It isn't new. People have been walking out of the Church since it's foundation. We've never closed off those roads. To do what Mrs. DiFranco has done is as ridiculous as me driving an RV into Canada, unfurling an American flag from the fender, and proclaiming that the boundaries of the USA have expanded with my flight. In reality, I would simply be an expatriate sitting in a foreign land deluding myself. I could then proclaim that I've opened up a "new path" for all Americans. That anyone who wants to be an American, but not live within the bounds of the land, can do what I've done. And suppose that thousands - even millions follow me.

Here's the trick: there has to be some certification. If America didn't "recognize" me, who cares if Canada did? If America wouldn't proclaim my new excursion to be a true American "path," then I would have changed nothing. And suppose so many would follow me that we could somehow "force" America to change. Well, let's consider, for a moment, the question of identity again. We might call the changed reality that we had originated "America." But what if America were somehow a metaphysical identity. What if America could only really be the reality of what the country had been before we had inflicted our change. Then, call it what we may, the new reality would not really be "America" at all. It would be something new. I'm not saying thta Ms. DiFranco and her like can't inflict all sorts of damage and scandalize the Church and lead many away from the fold. But the Church cannot not be true. And even if the majority of Catholic apostacized and followed her on her radical journey down her "new path," the old borderlines could never be erased. They are drawn too deeply. They might be ignored - but the reality of what the Church is has been rooted too deeply to subvert in Truth. There are no new paths. There is one "Way," and that way is Truth and Life. Mrs. DiFranco has gone the (far from new) path of untruth. And whatever flag she unfurls, she is merely an expatriate in a foriegn land as she stands now.

Toward the end of her homily, DiFranco told the congregation that "in Jesus, there was never a disconnect... . The words excommunication and intrinsically disordered would not have been part of Jesus' vocabulary."
Where do you find that? How do you support that?

What about burning chaff and wailing and grinding of teeth? What about goats being placed on the left hand? What about body parts being cut off from the whole? What about it being better for some that they had never been born? What about the rich man who spurned Lazarus? What about the lukewarm being vomited forth from His mouth?

This is the very worst of Cafeteria Catholicism. Jesus Christ has humbled Himself enough and has subjected Himself to us infinitely. How dare we try to change Who He is and what He said in order to suit us? It's ironic that Catholics are most often accused of this, and yet our Doctrine is the only system that upholds the fulness of Truth, balancing Mercy and Justice, Love and Righteous Anger.

And, the final irony is that my response to this whole thing is to pray more fervently for Mrs. DiFranco, because I realize that there really are consequences and that the danger in which she's placed herself is very real. I pray that she is mercifully excommunicated and brought to see how she has separated herself from the truth. I pray that the emotional and intellectual blocks that have somehow prevented her from seeing Church teaching in it's fullness are removed like scales from her eyes. And I pray that readers of this shoddy Inquirer article are not led further down these very old paths of folly and lies.


Blogger JMT said...

A few comments...

1) The whole bit about "nothing is impossible for God" is STRAIGHT out of Mr. Chapman's religion class. I remember it well. It was even a test question.

2) "And, see, Mrs. DiFranco is a woman. In order for God to make her able to be "ordained," then she would either not be a woman as we understand "womanness" or the ordination would not be an ordination to the Roman Catholic priesthood as it has been established by Christ."
Oh, she is definitely not a woman in the sense that I understand womanness. I, as a woman full of womanness, have no desire to be a father and am not pretending to be so.

3) "The next statment with which I take issue is the following:

The Rev. Bernie Callahan of the Church of the Beatitudes said DiFranco's ordination and first Mass were a sign that "paths are being opened to Catholic women."

I ask you: HOW? Explain to me, please, someone: HOW!?"

Hmm, in her twin earth pretend catholic church it now allows for lesbian marriage? Matt W. always used that argument in h.s., we can't have women priests because the Church doesn't allow gay marriage and isn't a lesbian. The priest acts in persona Christi, as the Church's bridegroom, in a non-metaphorical way. The Church is the Bride of Christ, she is not a lesbian.

Yes... twin earth...

8/7/06, 11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe; thanks for the excellent review of an article twice-removed from the truth. It is a prayer-evoking situation, isn't it. When doctrine is ignored/denied we can be certain the Holy Spirit is not present in discernment. Peace.
-- Ged.

8/12/06, 7:22 PM  
Blogger Friguy said...

And since priesthood is connected - identified - with maleness, and Mrs. DiFranco is connected with femaleness, then she cannot be a priest. Aristotle tells us that. Revelation tells us that. It is not a limitation of God's power or a mere "edict" - it is a metaphysical truth rooted in the nature of God and the law that governs all existence.

How do we establish that priesthood is necessarily connected to "maleness"? I like your argument up to this point, where you seem to take the connection between priesthood and "maleness" as a given postulate without need of explanation.

Why must it be so? Where does the union of the two begin? How are we metaphysically certain that Christ's intention and law is to have only male priests?

8/12/06, 9:56 PM  
Blogger Joey G. said...

I'm hoping that you're just being a good logician and drawing the argument out of me, here, Dave.

Many people try to point to the actual Magisterial definitions for this, and I agree with you if where you're leading is to say that those rulings seem inconclusive - because, really, all the Church has officially said about the matter seems to be that we do not have the "authority" to ordain women priests. This seems to indicate that there is no certitude that if we tried it, it would not work.

But I think that the Church leaves this definition "loose" like this is not because they think that the current priesthood could be applied to females, but in a sense that, hypothetically, Christ could, if He chose, change priesthood to fit.

Why, though, must the definition of priesthood change? Where do we draw the "maleness" of priesthood from?

I would say the letters of Paul, where Christ is the bridegroom of the Church and the Church His bride. The priest - in persona Christi - is identified with this relationship. In the broader, baptismal sense, there are times when the priest personifies the Church itself, and along with the rest of the people of God, takes a "feminine" relationship. However, when the priest acts in his sacramental "order," the Church is his Bride.

Further, the very nature of the ministry of the priest is in a "male" attitude. The priest "begets" life in the spiritual order. He does not "conceive" it in the receptive role of the feminine. Iconographically, it is fitting that the male fill "begetting" role, particularly in the ministry of the Eucharist. The Church takes its life from the Eucharist, and we often use the image of the Blood and Water flowing from Christ's side. Here, Christ's heart is performing very "masculinely" - it is flowing outward, forth, begetting. Mary, at the foot of the Cross, the Mother of the Church, is in the ideal receptive role. Her heart, too, is being pierced. But this is an internal sorrow, as opposed to Christ's external, outward action. Mary is conceiving and fostering the development of the Body of Christ that way. And hers is the image that the Church itself models. Christ, the Head, takes the male role, the role of giving outward.

Those are a couple of my theological ideas on the matter. I don't know of any definitive statement by the Magisterium on this. And it's true that, from Paul's letters and His own testimony of His priesthood, there was a "mothering" type of love being given. I think we must look, particularly, to the Eucharist and the central ministry of the priesthood for the key. One last note would be the identification with Christ's patriarchal role at the Passover feast whereat He established both the Sacraments of Orders and the Eucharist. His office at that Supper was one designated for a male, also.

Just some thoughts. I'd welcome some debate, to help hash out more positive proofs. I guess my main argument is one of "fittingness" right now.

8/13/06, 5:38 PM  
Blogger Joey G. said...

A mishmash of some additional thoughts:

Saint Paul - who argued for the dispensation of many of the "old" dispensations and orders of things - taught his disciples that it was unfit to have a woman instruct men in the churches. This is not a prejudice, but it follows from the Old Testament establishment of Aaron and his priests.

Secondly, I cannot recollect the Lord prescibing in the Old Testament any female animals to be sacrificed. I know that at least in the chief prefigurements of the Eucharist (i.e., the Passover Lamb, the scapegoat) that both victim and priest were male.

Thirdly, consider the other vocations. In marriage, the roles of male and female are obviously defined. The woman "conceives" and the man "fathers." What about the identity of single persons or consecrated men and women? Well, consider Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 7: "The unmarried man is busy with the Lord's affairs, concerned with pleasing the Lord. The virgin - indeed any unmarried woman - is concerned with things of the Lord, in pursuit of holiness in body and spirit." I don't think it's a stretch to note a slight distinction here between a work to be done by the unmarried man, a "business," in contrast to a "concern" or meditativeness on the part of the consecrated virgin. Consider all of the other parables and references to virgins in the New Testament - they make ready to receive their Bridegroom.

In other words, the feminine pursuit of holiness is related to a receptivity, a complete sacrifice of self by way of a total openness and a constant increase in willingness to take from the Lord as He gives. Again, consider the example of Mary. But the male, in any vocation, empties himself out in his sacrifice. His sacrifice, because of his maleness, cannot be the same sort of consummate "receptiveness" but must be a consummate pouring out - like Christ on the Cross, or like the priest in his priesthood. I think JP2's theology of the body really helps to establish this... And, I think that the development of teachings on the Blessed Mother as the New Eve and in a certain sense "co-redemptrix" reveal how crucial she is to understanding our life in Christ (note, here, that I, as one who does not support a doctrinal affirmation of this title, emphasize that it is in a certain sense).

What it all boils down into is that the priesthood, as we understand it now, is identified with an operation. I would argue that the "maleness" of the priesthood lies in that operation. I'll concede where the bits of confusion enter in are in the question of some sort of static consideration of natures. But that's not our situation. My last thing to note here is that Christ, begotten as the SON of the Father, is in the Father's image. Remaining a celibate man on earth, I see Christ's filfillment of His imaging of the Father in His complete giving of self on the Cross. It is appropriate, then, that the one who represents this reality to us is one whom we call "Father" - a priest, acting in the person of Christ, completely giving his victimhood in the ministry of the priesthood at the altar of sacrifice.

8/13/06, 6:14 PM  
Blogger Friguy said...

You propose that the Church has only explained her lack of authority to ordain women, not the utter un-fitness of women to be ordained. I don't think that is entirely true. Among the host of related documents over the last quarter-century, the oft-cited 1994 "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" of JPII is, as you have described, only a disclaimer of any authority to ordain women. The 1976 CDF document "Inter Insigniores", however, addresses rather specifically the un-fitness of females for Holy Orders.

Arguing that the nature of man is to give and the nature of woman is to receive is enticing. This giving and receiving is patterned well in the human sexual act, and certainly the role of the priest is one of giving, self-sacrificing service through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Male priests make sense, then.

But, is it exclusively the nature of woman to receive? Surely, a mother's love for her husband and children encourages her to endure heroic sacrifice and to give extraordinarily of herself. Is this extraordinary gift of self really different from the man's gift? It must be confessed that women have tried their hand at and know the meaning of giving.

And what of Mary the priest? Mary at Golgotha is not simply receiving the blood and water poured forth from her Son's side. That dimension is present, but so is that in which Mary is the giver. For, as Archbishop Sheen describes beautifully, the sword which pierced Christ along His way to crucifixion is two-eged; as the one edge slashes Christ, the other wounds his mother--the Mater Dolorosa. Hence, the Seven Sorrows.

What, then, is it about the identity of sacramental priesthood that you hold is strictly masculine?

8/13/06, 10:45 PM  
Blogger Joey G. said...

I don't know necessarily that you've refuted the explanations I've already made, Dave. The human man, Christ, in performing his action upon the Cross, performed it in a very male way. I did not dispute that women sacrifice and "give" of themselves. And I certainly did not deny that Mary was wounded on Calvary - in fact, I said as much quite plainly. And I certainly uphold that we all have a priestly character in our Christian identities and that a type of victimhood is involved for each of us, but in keeping with our nature and with our vocation.

Thus, I did say that Christ's particular victimhood was that of a man, and I stand by it: it was an outpouring sort. It was such in death, and in life as well. Priests' identities are conformed to Christ's human manhood, and their sacrimental priesthood needs to embody that on all level. The priesthood we all share is a sharing throug Christ's nature as human - but not his male identity. That is a specification more related to how sacraments work, it would seem, signifying what they contain and transmitting grace.

As to the sacrifice and victimness of women - it is a sort that is womanly. It is not a limitation. Is a mother's vocation limited because she cannot also be father? The outpouring of a woman in sacrifice of self is going to be like the woman's outpouring into a marriage vocation. As much as she might want, independant of the man, to have it be "productive," she can't really do it without his participation. She empties herself and gives, yes. But her receptivity is the gift she gives. Don't think of it as a negation or as something completely passive. It's a positive action. But it's womanly. And Mary's seven sorrows are often linked to the words about her that she "kept all of these things in her heart." They are a sort of internal wounding, in keeping with her feminine "taking in" and nurturing to fruit. And Calvary is the deepest - and most productive - of all.

Another argument: consider Saint Therese of Lisieux. She thought of herself as a "victim of Love." She often identified herself as an immolation in the furnace of Christ's heart. She offered, gave all, sacrificed. But she did so by way of complete and consuming openness to receive. What she gave was her willingness, her acceptance, her openness to Christ's divine love.

The priest - in the sacramental role - stands in the person of Christ. Saint Therese would be left waiting at the altar if Christ's image was not the bridegroom coming forth to claim and sweep away His bride. So would the whole Church would be left waiting at the altar if it were a woman standing in front of it (whichever side you take front to be).

So in summary, my three main arguments:

1) Christ's sacrificial outpouring is identifyable with the male sex, as prefigured in the Old Testament types of priest/victim in a way distinct from examples of great self-giving on the part of women, in Scripture (such as Ruth and Mary) and Tradition (such as Catherine of Sienna, Avila and Lisieux).

2) Christ's relationship, as identified by Paul, to the Church is as Bridegroom to Bride. It is "unfitting" for women to instruct and lead men in the churches Paul established, and this may be identifyable with Old Testament traditions and the patriarchal society of Judaism from which Christianity sprung.

And, here's my final argument (and I'll bring out a big gun, the Church Fathers):

3) The image of Christ and Church is as Head to Body. And the priest is conformed to the image of Christ in the sacramental orders. Consider the following from the Apostolic Constitutions (c. 400 AD): "[T]he 'man is the head of the woman' [1 Cor. 11:3], and he is originally ordained for the priesthood; it is not just to abrogate the order of the creation and leave the first to come to the last part of the body. For the woman is the body of the man, taken from his side and subject to him, from whom she was separated for the procreation of children. For he says, 'He shall rule over you' [Gen. 3:16]. For the first part of the woman is the man, as being her head. But if in the foregoing constitutions we have not permitted them [women] to teach, how will any one allow them, contrary to nature, to perform the office of the priest? For this is one of the ignorant practices of Gentile atheism, to ordain women priests to the female deities, not one of the constitutions of Christ."

Hate to pull it out, but: Roma locuta est, causa finita est.

8/13/06, 11:34 PM  
Blogger Friguy said...

Nice summary. To unscandalize your other readers, I agree with you completely.

So as not to be accused of misquoting Archbishop Sheen, I shall clarify that he did, indeed, underscore the heroic sacrifices of the Mater Dolorosa. Yet, he clearly distinguishes them from priestly sacrifice, as he writes this of the Virgin in a book dedication:

Dedicated to The Woman I Love

The Woman whom even God dreamed of
before the world was made;

The Woman of whom I was born
at cost of pain and labor at a Cross;

The Woman who,
could yet on Calvary's Hill breathe,
"This is my Body; this is my Blood"--
for none save her gave Him human life.

The Woman who guides my pen,
which falters so with words
in telling of the Word.

The Woman who, in a world of Reds,
shows forth the blue of hope.

Accept this dried grapes of thoughts
from this poor author, who has no wine;
and with Cana's magic and thy Son's Power
work a miracle and save a soul--
forgetting not my own.

8/16/06, 1:01 PM  
Blogger Joey G. said...

Thank you, David, for the beautiful Sheenism and for your concession. If I were an infantile, shameless philistine I'd claim victory right now.

(I win.)

But in all sincerity, thank you for playing advocatus diaboli, because I really needed to get my own thoughts in better order as well. It also made me dig deeper and find that (awesome) quote from the Church Fathers.


8/16/06, 1:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are the kind of "priest" who will never darken the lives of my children.

7/5/07, 6:41 PM  

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