Liberation Ordination and Women Priests in Roman Catholicism

There are some in (well, maybe) the Roman Catholic Church who are taking matters into their own hands:

A few weeks ago, a group called Roman Catholic Womenpriests staged what it called an ordination, vesting three Boston-area women in white chasubles and red stoles. It told the local papers that the ordinations were valid, despite the Catholic Church’s teaching to the contrary; it even asserted episcopal approval from a rogue bishop whose name it won’t reveal. But, as a statement from the Archdiocese of Boston put it: “Catholics who attempt to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the women who attempt to receive a sacred order, are by their own actions separating themselves from the Church.” In other words: The ordinations were not Catholic.

Quite a few points in this article have eerie parallels with some of the things are being bandied back and forth on Jonathan Stone’s blog relative to this subject in the Church of God. But there are two very important differences to consider in the basic theories governing these two churches.

Or there’s supposed to be…

First, I’ve done this repeatedly before but let me note the following from We May Not Be a Church After All:

But Roman Catholicism has another concept of church: an organization, whose leadership is the direct successor of the Apostles (and the head of this organization being the direct successor of Peter,) and which was established and empowered by Christ to dispense grace through the sacraments and truth through its authoritative teaching. Such a church is in reality a mediator between man and God. To back this up Roman Catholicism teaches that the establishment of such an authoritative institution was high on Christ’s agenda while He was here. Roman Catholicism is not alone in this; the Orthodox churches have the same high view of themselves, the Anglican ones to a lesser extent.

The whole purpose of the priesthood is to actualise that view of church. But Protestant churches are supposed to be different, a view based on Scripture:

This of course leaves an obvious question to be answered: did in fact Jesus Christ intend to establish a church such as the Roman Catholic one as a central part of His mission on earth? Looking at our Lord’s own relationship with the religious authorities of this day isn’t encouraging to the Catholic position. Judaism in Jesus’ day was developing into what we now know as “rabbinic Judaism,” where the rabbis were able to develop their interpretation of the law into authoritative teaching enforceable within Judaism. The Pharisees were the “leaders of the pack” in this regard, and Jesus’ opposition to the Pharisees at virtually all levels is well known.

And that leads to the business of equality. Returning to the WSJ article, defenders of an all-male priesthood come back with the following:

Mother Assumpta Long, a statuesque, media-savvy Dominican sister in Ann Arbor, Mich., says that the Catholic Church already recognizes the equality of women — and that the dissenters confuse equality with identical opportunity. “All people are created by God equal in that we each possess an immortal and individual soul. [But] we are each unique in our talents. . . . Women are called upon to be mothers (spiritually and, for many in marriage, physically as well); whereas men are called upon to be fathers (spiritually and, for many in marriage, physically as well).” These sound like roles in a healthy family — not the artifact of a stifling, misogynistic patriarchy.

But inequality is built into the system. The whole RC concept of church elevates their priesthood beyond the rest of us. The running implication of the system–and that, in fairness, includes religious other than priests and bishops–is that the religious are Christians on a higher plane, one that the ordinary cannot attain. Mother Assumpta’s assertion of equality implies that, as long as women can pass into some kind of religious life and thus the higher plane of Christian life, they’re on the same level as the men, even though they cannot become priests.

Protestant churches are supposed to be beyond this. But there’s an undertow even here that the people who are really “sold out to God” are the ones that go into the ministry. That in turn undermines the whole evangelical paradigm of the church as the gathering of all those who are called out–the ecclesia, if you please.

It is my opinion that, the closer we get to a New Testament concept of church, the closer we will be to solving all of these “equality” issues and get on with what we’re supposed to be doing with all of the people we’re supposed to be doing it with.

Leave a Reply