Dear Father Bloom:
Thank you for getting back in touch. A copy of your latest letter is attached. Let me try again.
I agree with most of what you say relative to gift of life and the importance of relationships. However, you do not answer my basic concern about canon 1024 being intrinsically sexist, rooted in original sin, and an obstacle to grace which is utterly incompatible with the pro-life doctrine of the church. Here I think we are touching the heart of this issue, and if we are going to have a conversation may I suggest we focus on this.
Relative to Genesis 2, I think that whether the first human being was male or female is academic. This was already understood when Genesis 1 and 5 were written (see 1:27, 5:2). The fact is that being male or female is one of the many limitations of the human condition: a male is not a female and vice versa. Furthermore, the male cannot be fully a male without *some* relationship to the female, and vice versa. Jesus is the Word made flesh. The ordained priest is a living sacrament of the humanity of Jesus, not merely his masculinity. The ordained priest acts in the person of Christ, not merely in his masculinity. In light of this, I honestly cannot understand the argument that women cannot be priests because Jesus and the apostles were male.
Relative to the bridegroom-bride allegory, it gets even more interesting. St. Paul makes it clear (Ephesians 5:32) that the mystery of Christ and the Church transcends the allegory. But the bridegroom-bride model still is a most beautiful way to communicate the Christ-Church mystery. It is in this context that the question arises: isn't canon 1024 an artificial contraceptive of female priestly vocations? Perhaps even an abortifacient of such vocations? How do we know that this canon is still God's will for the church today? By the fact that it has been taken for granted for 2000 years? As I study CCC 1577 and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, it seems to me that they are fundamentalist rationalizations of the male-only practice. Could it be that, relative to contraception and abortion, the church is looking at the speck in the brother's eye and failing to see the log in her own eye? These are honest and legitimate questions, in no way intended to be disrespectful of the church magisterium. When your time permits, I would be grateful to get your answers to these questions. Think of canon 1024 as a "machismo pill". Isn't it clear that the universal church is suffering the same (or analogous) negative consequences from using it as the domestic church is suffering from the use of the contraceptive/abortifacient pills: impoverishment of *men*, marginalization of women, soaring numbers of lost priestly vocations (both male and female) and faithful people becoming indifferent to the magisterium, a general worsening of relationships between men and women?
My preference would be to continue this conversation in BASIC-L, so that others can join in the discussion if they so desire. The group is small, but you will find that these people really love the church and are struggling to be both loyal and honest. You could subscribe by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org with "subscribe basic-l" (without the quotes) in the text of the message. You may wish to take a look at the BASIC web page:
You may wonder how we can be both obedient to the church and advocates of women's ordination. Indeed, there is ambivalence in this. But the church says that men and women are equal, yet women cannot be ordained. I think there is ambivalence here too. In fact, ambivalence is part of the human condition. When the ambivalence becomes harmful and a symptom of deeply troubling contradictions, it must be resolved. This is what we are praying and working for. May God's will be done.
The peace of Christ,
Thanks for the letter and for focusing the issue. At this point I believe we need to sharpen it even further by defining at least three terms:
1. "Sexist." I get the impression that for some folks (not yourself) the word has the emotional punch of "racist." Some of that emotion might influence how Gen 2:22 and Eph 5:32 are interpreted, so a definition would help.
2. "Fundamentalist." I assume you don't mean it in the classical sense (affirming the five fundamentals: Jesus' virgin birth, divinity, bodily resurrection, etc.). But once again negative overtones (Muslim "fundamentalists," right wing Christian "fundamentalists") can cloud the issue.
3. "Magisterium." Fortunately we are not up against popular misunderstandings, because it is a pretty technical word. But can we agree on a common definition of it? And especially what assent (internal and external) we owe when an issue is decided?
Luis, I know you and many others are struggling with what obedience to the church means when you disagree with one of her teachings. One approach is to hang in there, make your opinion known, perhaps even form a lobbying group and do what you can to prepare for a different future. That way of responding would certainly be re-enforced by our culture, particularly our democratic political system.
However, there is another approach. It was suggested to me by C.S. Lewis. To take those teachings I find most difficult (even repulsive), to suppose they are true and to grapple with them. Those are probably the parts of the Bible and Church teaching that have the most to say to me. Lewis himself did that with those verses of the Psalms that speak of divine wrath and punishment. That approach was extremely fruitful, not just for him, but for the whole Christian world.
I agree with you that there are many ways we need to allow God's grace, his generative power to flow. That's why NFP, pro-life is such a wonderful starting point. You can probably guess I would argue it means we males must embrace our responsibilities. For some of us that means the priesthood. And for women... Well, I don't know if I can say it without being "sexist." That's why we need to define some terms.
Fr Phil Bloom
P.S. In a separate letter to Diarmuid I argued that Christ the Groom is more that an allegory. The key word in Eph 5:32 would be "mysterion," which of course is basic for understanding marriage as a sacrament.
Your comments or questions are welcome.
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