The Church in the Modern World

There’s been much talk lately of what the Church should do and/or change – according to American Catholics. It’s driving me nuts. First off, I wish Americans would get over their own self-importance. There are lots on non-American Catholics throughout the world. Secondly, the Church is not run by popular opinion. The Church seeks to conform the world to Christian principles when and where it can and to form sub- and counter-cultures if that fails. We are to be in the world but not of it. Divine Truth does not change with time. True, it sometimes must be reworded or re-examined in light of temporal realities, but that only means that implementations change, not their bases. Last, but not least, the pope does not have sole power to change a lot of the things people want changed. That which has been stated infallibly, either ordinarily (i.e. implicitly) or extraordinarily (i.e. explicitly), cannot ever be changed.

That said, I do think we have a fascinating topic for discussion here (not pontification – no pun intended). The following are commonly reported issues “the majority” of American Catholics (at least in name – they weren’t asked about their devotion) would like and my reactions to them. Rather than just say, “My way or the highway!”, I’d like hear your opinions. Please specify the source of your viewpoint – Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Jedi, Sith, atheist, etc. – and explain how your group would be affected by choices made by the Church after the election. I hope this isn’t too tall an order. 😉

[NOTA BENE: These are my opinions. I believe some of them are based on solid Church teachings, some of them dogmatic. Some are very strong opinions about issues that push my buttons. Please don’t let that discourage you from responding and offering opinions of your own. I do want a truly open and honest discussion/debate of these issues. I do not

think that is possible to any reasonable degree without total honest. Thus, I haven’t pulled any of my punches. I hope you won’t either (within the limits of civility). – Funky]

married clergy

The rule of clerical celibacy is a discipline, not a doctrine. Therefore, it can be changed. However, I do not think it would be a good idea. I think being a parent and priest is unfair to both congregations and families. How can a priest possibly devote sufficient time and energy to both? I’ve known enough preachers’ kids to know that childhood is particularly stressful for them.

If the next pope or a future council were to change the rule, I would hope that the example of the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholics would be followed. In those churches, men must be married before becoming a deacon or priest. Also, married priests cannot be elevated to bishop.

female clergy

It has been suggested that the Church is misogynistic and oppressive because women cannot be deacons or priests. This is a ridiculous proposition. It has long been the position that the consecration of women is theologically impossible. Holy orders is a sacrament. Each sacrament has form and matter which must be adhered to in order for them to be efficacious. The Church has long held that the matter required for holy orders is a man. There has been quite a bit of debate on this issue over the years because some theologians believe that personhood is sufficient, regardless of gender. This is a thorny problem that I do not believe will be solved any time soon. Perhaps some day women will be ordained, but I sincerely doubt it will happen during the next pontificate.

None of the preceding answers whether or not I support the ordination of women. I’m actually somewhat ambivalent on the issue. I have not been entirely convinced by the usual arguments for male-only clergy. “It’s always been this way.” So what? Is it Tradition or tradition? “Christ is male. He is the bride-groom and the Church is the bride. The priest acts in persona Christi.” Having established sexual bifurcation, God had to choose one sex or the other for His incarnation. The way I see it, He could have just as easily chosen to be a woman. There are various historical reasons that I don’t think a female messiah would have had global impact, but all are speculative. “Christ chose only male apostles.” That may have been a historical nessessity, but again I cannot prove that.

Perhaps now you are wondering where the ambivalence comes in given my preceding statements. It mainly stems from concern about the motives of those clamoring for change. I don’t buy into the ultra-feminism that seems to be guiding most of the “Ordain women now!” crowd. The Church always has and probably always will refer to the first person of the Trinity as “Father”. Those who, without Church approval and often in direct defiance, refer to God as “Mother” or change the formula of the Trinity to “Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier” should be unapologetically excluded from any serious debate about the possibility of ordaining women. Even supposing the Church has been wrong about this for 2000 years, obedience has always been and always will be a necessary component of being a Catholic in good standing. Heretics and dissidents have no right to contribute to the development of Church policies at any level. I have noticed that those adamant about this issue are often rebellious on other issues (such as those regarding homosexuality and abortion). When someone is irreconcilably indignant about the exclusion of women from the priesthood, I cannot help but wonder what other doctrines, more clearly established and irrevocable, they disapprove of .

One final note: I would rather see celibate female priests than married priests. The potential negative impact of the latter is serious enough that it outweigh my concerns about the former. That said, you won’t see me supporting Call to Action any time soon. 😉