The other week, the Holy See, via the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, published a strongly-worded and unequivocal warning aimed at contumacious souls tinkering with the idea of “ordaining” women to the priesthood. The document makes clear that any such charade “ordination” will result in automatic excommunication for the guilty parties involved, across the board. The news has particular poignancy for the soi-disant “Rome of the West,” the city of Saint Louis. In March, three women incurred the penalty of excommunication for participating in a flaccid “ordination.”That potent word, “excommunication” sounds so atavistic, intolerant and downright mean. In a society marinated endlessly in the argot of the self-esteem culture, where “me, myself and I” is the recipient of interminable pep-talks and oleaginous flattery, to hear mention of “excommunication” is a jolt akin to being tossed in an ice-cold shower. Those inured to around-the-clock flattery don’t take kindly to the suggestion that their person interpretation of doctrine may be somewhat off kilter. Excommunication is precisely the kind of word that causes the massaged egos of today to cringe and delicate ears to bleed.
I first read about this story on MSNBC and, as I was scrolling down to read further, I noticed in conspicuous red letters an option for the readers to voice their opinion on the matter by clicking to “Vote: Should Women be Priests?”. I suppose for statistical purposes, it may be illuminating to see what percentage of Catholics believes what, but the problem with the modish “Vote Now” trope, all too common in today’s narcissistic culture, is that it applies a deceptive veneer of infallibility to something that is inherently shifting, namely, public opinion. When this approach is carried over to questions of religion, the situation gets stickier still. The amorphous opinion of the masses…now that’s something I’m keen on entrusting my immortal soul to!
Are we to surrender the most solemn and sacred teachings and Traditions, handed down for over two-thousand years, to the feckless winds of a people’s collective opinion? Perhaps the better question is: Are we to believe that a God who truly loves us would transfer certitude of our knowledge of Him to our own fallible intellects and passions? If the answer was yes, who could resist the temptation to despair?
I find it easier to believe that a solicitous God, Whom we are instructed to call “Father,” wittingly bequeathed to His children a singular vessel, in the person of the pope, to serve as a bulwark to protect and articulate His benevolent designs for us, often in spite of our fickle nature. The Church preserves and defends that which Christ has already given to us. That’s what we call the Deposit of Faith. Do we mere mortals have the chutzpah to think we can rearrange these immutable things according to our own whims?
Advocates of female “ordination” to the priestly ministry gin up support for their hopeless cause by caterwauling about the need for an allegedly hidebound and patriarchal institution to “change” and “get with the times,” their strategy as transparent as their logic is weak: Christ chose exclusively male apostles, they tell us, because he was bound by certain shibboleths of the time. This claptrap is an embarrassing attempt to justify the ultimate aim of their movement and, incidentally, it severely underestimates the liberties with which an omnipotent God can indulge with regard to His own creation. Taken to its logical conclusion, it proves too much: not merely that Christ was restricted by the norms of his culture, but that he is not divine at all.
Readers of the Bible will notice how, on several occasions, Christ kibitzed with women about the perennial questions, sometimes raising the eyebrows of His own disciples, who were in fact bound by or at least accustomed to conventions of the day. Christ, as God, was not similarly limited and yet He still chose men for His apostles. The female priest cabal would be well served to disentangle itself from the lust for power and disengage from the war against masculinity and instead apply itself to some serious thought to the subject of who exactly Jesus is.