Dear Fr. Bloom:
I have read with interest your essay on "why there can never be women priests". Below is a response for your consideration.
No culture is 100% good or bad, just as ho human action is 100% pure or impure. In writing Ephesians 5:21-33, St. Paul was not afraid to be "politically correct" according to the mentality of his time. Neither should we be afraid to rethink the male-only priesthood in terms of an honest recognition that it is rooted in original sin. The role of a Catholic priest is to be a living sacrament of the Eternal Word made flesh. It is the human nature of Jesus that matters, not any human attribute including gender.Being male or female is one of the limitations of the human condition. Jesus is like us in *all* things but sin.If you desire, I would welcome the opportunity for a dialogue with you on this matter, either in BASIC-L(which I would prefer) or privately.
Respectfully yours in Christ,
WHY THERE WILL BE WOMEN PRIESTS
Consider John 10:10. The fecundity of the Christ-Church mystical marriage is manifested in terms of all kinds of abundant life, including all kinds of vocations. Thisfecundity is a good, a gift, and an end of the Christ-Churchmystical marriage. Priestly vocations are one of the fruits of the nuptial love between Christ and the Church. But isn't canon 1024 a form of selective, and very direct,sterilization of Catholic communities to prevent femalepriestly vocations? Isn't it an artificial contraceptive to prevent female priestly vocations? Isn't it, in fact, a selective abortion of female priestly vocations? And, does the legitimate intention of safeguarding the deposit of faith justify recourse to perpetuating a male-only practice which is only incidental to it? Is the church denying the Lord the right to call those he wants hereand now, specifically if they are females?
THE BRIDEGROOM-BRIDE ALLEGORY
An argument which is often adduced in support of the male-only priesthood is fidelity to St. Paul's allegoryof Christ as the Bridegroom and Church as the Bride.I think it is important to recognize that the Bridegroom-Bride allegory, beautiful and rich in meaning as it is, does not exhaust the mystery of Christ and the Church, as St. Pau lhimself points out (Ephesians 5:32).
It is also important to keep in mind that, at the most fundamental level, we are *body-persons*. Weare a single cell when we are conceived. This cell contains all the genetic information about our gender,race, and other attributes, but we are already body-persons before we are male or female. Indeed,gender differentiation cannot possibly happen in a vacuum. Gender is a deeper constitutive element of the human person than other more superficialattributes such as race, but still does not establish a total dichotomy between male and female human beings. We all share a human body, male or female.This has been so since the beginning, and Genesis 2 is particularly illuminating regarding both our original creation as one body later differentiated into maleand female, as well as the conception of each human being when man and wife become "one flesh".
When this consideration, which applies to every human being and also applies to Jesus at theincarnation, is taken into account, and given the fact that our Lord died on the cross for the redemption of the entire human race, then I am utterly unable to understand why a baptized woman cannot be ordained to the priesthood. I have serious questionsin my mind that the male-only priesthood is primarily a matter of discipline, not a matter of faith. Such discipline may be rooted in original sin, and perhapsuntil rather recently was justified by historical and pastoral considerations, but not anymore. I thinkthat this is a legitimate concern that pertains to the mystery of Christ and the Church, and the entirechurch should be invited to a prayerful process of dialogue in order to discern our Lord's will in today's world.
I believe in the wisdom of Humanae Vitae fo rmature and responsible Catholic couples (some sensitivity is required for couples who do not have some level of intellectual and emotional maturity).I also believe that the pro-life doctrine of the church is very relevant to the issue of women's priestly ordination. The canonical barrier to the ordinationof women may be an artificial contraceptive of female priestly vocations. How can we be so surethat our Lord does not want to call women to holy orders in today's world, if we do not allow himto do it?
Consider CCC 2398:
"Fecundity is a good, a gift and an end of marriage.By giving life, spouses participate in God's fatherhood".
Consider CCC 2399:
"The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justifyrecourse to morally unacceptable means (for example,direct sterilization or contraception).
That the male-only priesthood is of divine law does not follow from the Bridegroom-Bride allegory, as shown above.Therefore the male-only practice must be of ecclesiastical law, since it must be one or the other. This law of the church is stated in section 1024 of the Code of Canon Law. Since the male-only priesthood is not of divine law, I am concerned that canon 1024 is at least a contraceptive, perhaps even an abortifacient of female priestly vocations.There is a logical contradiction between the male-only practice and the pro-life doctrine of the church. To be physically pro-life and vocationally pro-choice is a logical contradiction, because human life, which is sacredfrom conception to natural death, is not limited to thephysical dimension but also includes the spiritual and,specifically, the vocational dimension.
Is the church denying the Lord the right to call those he wants here and now, specifically if they are females? I believe so. In brief:
Canon 1024: "Only a baptized male (vir) validly receives sacred ordination".
Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is a fundamentalist rationalizationof CIC 1024. This canon is *at least* an artificial contraceptive, if not also an abortifacient, of female priestly vocations. ************************************************************
Thank you for reading my article "Why Women Can Never be Priests" and sending such a thoughtful response.
I would like to pick up on your statement:
I believe in the wisdom of Humanae Vitae for mature and responsible Catholic couples (some sensitivity is required for couples who do not havesome level of intellectual and emotional maturity).
I would add that Fertility Awareness or Natural Family Planning is also the prescription for irresponsibily and immaturity, but that is another point. What you say in fact is the right place to begin.
Fertility awareness, as you indicated, is indeed a "hidden wisdom" so different from the "wisdom of this age." (cf. I Cor 2:6ff) The methods of sterilization (and of course abortion) give us men an easy out, whereas NFP demands male responsibility. The Pill offers an empty liberation to women whereas fertility awareness promotes true respect for woman. It requires communication and discipline both of which are optional in artificial methods. The law of unintended consequences can be seen in the past three decades of massive use of the pill and other methods of birth control. (A misnomer: as Chesterton observed "no birth" and "no control.") I argue all this in a separate article on " The Negative Consequences of the Pill." I'm not alone. Lionel Tiger, an evolutionary anthropologists made similar points in an essay in U.S. News and World Report (July 1, 1996).
When we talk about vocations there are strictly speaking only three. For the vast majority their vocation, the state where they realize themselves in this life is marriage. Marriage, the formation of a family, has to be the model for understanding the other two vocations. We popularly refer to careers or jobs as vocations, but that is an influence of living in a society that defines people by their function. Many wives (and children) suffer because an "absentee landlord," a businessman, a politician, a doctor has placed his job before his family. It surely cannot be a sign of liberation that we are now inviting women to do the same.
I spent seven years in the Peruvian Andes. The Church in that area is, by our standards, weak on organization, but it is strong on relationships. The priest to people ratio was horrendous, about ten times worse than ours. But the Church there had real fruits: young people who loved their faith and practiced it. The last few decades we have emphasized organization, definition of ministries and hard work (though I must admit I have heard more people complaining about it than actually doing it). The fruits have been sour. Our youth have drifted away or gone to evangelical churches. And it's not because they are disappointed that women cannot be ordained.
Anyway, Luis, I am glad to have this opportunity to exchange views with you. I know I have not responded to all the thoughtful points you raise. Hope to hear from you soon. Perhaps others would like to join the discussion. Sincerely in Christ,
Fr Phil Bloom (seapadre)
P.S. In your description of Genesis 2, do you consider that the first man was a kind of hermaphrodite before God took out his rib and fashioned it into a woman?
Your comments or questions are welcome.
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