Today’s the day for the ordination-on-the-river, and props to the Diocese of Pittsburgh for not ignoring it, for offering a thorough, grounded Q & A on the matter
Isn’t denial of the sacraments and excommunication extreme? The church doesn’t excommunicate those clergy who abused minors. And politicians who vote in favor of legal abortion are not denied Communion.
Those who present themselves for Communion are expected to be in communion with the church. People can be “not in communion” in several ways. Those who have committed mortal sin and are not in the state of grace are out of communion and should not present themselves until they are reconciled through the sacrament of reconciliation. Those who deny a core tenet of the faith either by publicly espousing something contrary to the faith, such as the denial of the divinity of Christ, or by a public action that repudiates the laws, teachings or morals of the church are also not in communion.
There are certain actions that by their public nature, by their immediate threat to the unity of the church, by their explicit undermining of the sacraments and by their conscious break with the apostolic authority of the church derived from Christ result in removing oneself from the community of the faithful. In regard to this ceremony, engaging in a public — and highly publicized — abuse of the sacrament of holy orders that threatens church unity, and to take such action knowingly and willingly in defiance of the apostolic authority of the church, does place oneself outside the church.
However, even in these cases, the goal of the church is reconciliation. Announcing that there are those who have removed themselves from the community of the faithful is not a punishment but a call to conversion.
The approach that Pittsburgh has taken on this is really commendable – not just the fact that they are addressing it head-on, but the way in which they’ve done it. There is no tiptoe-ing around the facts or the consequences, but you can also tell that behind the effort (maybe Bob Lockwood? Fr. Lengwin?) have decided to make this a teachable moment – attempting to communicate the nature of the Church, what is it means to be a Catholic, to participate in Eucharist and so on. Excellent job.
The hard questions that I wish these participants would be asked are these, in really what amounts to a simple exercise in logic.
If you wish to be ordained and to practice Christian ministry as an ordained person, there is no lack of denominations in which to do that, with all of the titles, regalia and pomp – perhaps even more, if you’re going to be High Church Anglican – that you’ll find in the Roman Catholic Church.
So…why stay? Why the determination to be Roman Catholic priests?
I’m sure there are a variety of answers we’d hear, some less disingenous than others.
Because, first of all, it’s rather unlikely any of these women are Feenyites. You think? I’m going to take a wild guess and speculate that most of them believe that there’s nothing really essentially distinctive about any one particular religion, and that the differences only lie in the externals – the style, the historic form these religions have take, what part of the human psyche they appeal to, and so on.
Perhaps they’ll say that there is something marginally more "true" about Christianity, or even Catholic Christianity – that it has more direct historical ties to the apostles or something.
The problem is that if that’s the point on which their choice lies, they run into a problem when we try to establish conclusions.
If The Catholic Church is the Christian church "closest" to Christ…wouldn’t one conclude that this closeness is embodied in it? That its closeness is not just a matter of apostolic succession (a concept I’m doubting they care that much about either), but in what the successors of the apostles, you know…do and say?
So how could this Church which is the one you must be ordained in because it’s so close to Jesus and apostolic Christianity be…wrong about something so fundamental to its existence over the past 2000 years?
Don’t answer. Well, go ahead if you must. I am no stranger to this way of thinking, and I only pose the questions to help you see how fundamentally illogical it is, when you really break it down.
And breaking it down would demand that a knowledgeable reporter confront one of these women with these questions, in this order:
1) What do you believe about Jesus and his role in salvation?
2) What do you believe about the Catholic Church and its relationship to Jesus Christ?
3) What do you believe about priesthood and the episcopacy in the context of Roman Catholicism? What are their origins and purpose?
I will guarantee you that the answers you get will be boilerplate, "Different, equally valid and true paths, Catholic Church of the present does not accurately image the vision of Jesus, Jesus didn’t establish a Church or a clerical caste."
So, our intrepid reporter would ask…the why are you insisting on associating yourself with a body that inadequately images the vision of Jesus in a system (ordination, titles, statues) that you also believe violates the vision of that co-discipleship of equals.
Why are the titles…even the "ordination" within a "Catholic" paradigm necessary?