Except to offer a quick prayer for the ladies who apparently like playing church the way my daughters liked to play house (you know, it looks sort of real, and participants take it very seriously, but, c’mon, it’s still pretend), my main reaction to the most recent “ordination” of a woman was to yawn. I see no point in trying to explain why, say, these women should take canon law seriously, or what the effects of excommunication really are (or are not, for that matter), for they’ve already declared such concerns irrelevant. Fine.
I pause, though, to comment for observers of such antics that, every time these women boast that they have priestly orders by dint of the orders first ‘conferred’ on a woman by a renegade (male) bishop, they miss a crucial point of John Paul II’s ap. lit. Ordinatio sacerdotalis (1994), the document precluding, forever, the possibility of female priests.
The central assertion in Ordinatio is not, repeat not, sacramental (about the nature of orders) nor even ontological (about the nature of women). It’s ecclesiological (about the nature of the Church). Grasp that, and one has the essence of the thing.
No one disputes that the bishop who first simulated conferral of orders on a woman could himself confer orders, and no one (who’s actually read it) claims that Ordinatio formally addresses the capacity of women to receive orders. Rather, Ordinatio asserts something about the Church, namely, that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women”. Ordinatio is not about orders, nor even about women, it’s about the Church and about what Jesus authorized his Church to do, or not do, with priestly orders in regard to women. Mind, there might well be sacramental and ontological obstacles to female ordination, but all we know for sure from Ordinatio is that there are ecclesiological obstacles to women priests. Permanent, insurmountable obstacles.
Think of it this way: If Gabriel himself appeared in fiery splendor above St. Peter’s Basilica and proclaimed “Just so you know, women are ontologically capable of receiving priestly Orders!”, not one jot of Ordinatio would have to be changed, why? because Ordinatio is not about women or orders, it’s about the Church. The pope, shielding his eyes, could say to Gabriel, “I’m confused, does this mean that we can ordain women priests after all?” Gabriel would respond [with a face-palm], “No! for Pete’s sake, because Jesus did not give that authority to his Church! Read Ordinatio, people. It’s correctly stated in there.”
Given, by the way, the ecclesiological import of Ordinatio, it’s not hard to see why those acting in disregard of it are threatened precisely with excommunication, in that….oops, sorry, I’m starting to talk canon law again, and as we’ve already been informed, ‘women priests’ just ignore canon law.
Granting that popes are not held to the same canonical standards as are diocesan bishops in regard to their manner of establishing obligatory days of penance (1983 CIC 331, 1244), I do not think that Pope Francis “proclamation” of September 7 as a day of fast and prayer for peace in Syria is canonically binding on the faithful. The manner of the proclamation used (an Angelus talk) and not used (e.g., publication in the AAS), and of the vocabulary used (e.g., invitation) and not used (e.g., decree, direct) suggests the urgent-but-still-exhortative character of the pope’s plea, not its binding character. Besides, in cases of “doubt of law”, potential obligations are not binding (1983 CIC 14, 18).
In short, a Catholic who does not observe a fast on Sept 7 does not violate canon law. What such disregard for the pope’s unusual request might indicate about one’s desire to act with the Successor of Peter is another question. + + +
Same day update: Fr. Z reaches the same result that I do, here, and has some good suggestions.
This afternoon at 5:15 Eastern, Drew Mariani (Relevant Radio) and I will be talking about my suggestion that the fast required for holy Communion be re-extended to three hours (up from the current one-hour rule). If you’d like to read an overview of the idea, go here.
Update: Fr. Z is running a poll on this topic.
Joseph “Jody” Bottum is doing the second-best thing he can do in the wake of the pathetic (in the old sense of that word, and in contrast to “reasoned”) essay he published in Commonweal a few days ago about why he’s giving up the effort to defend true marriage: namely, he’s having second thoughts about that “accursed essay”. That’s good—it’s not enough, but it’s still good.
In particular, Bottum is retracting the two parts of his essay that I (and many others) found the most ridiculous, namely his contemptuous dismissal of the legal-political arguments against “gay marriage” and his huh?-what? reading of St. Thomas through a hermeneutic of “enchantment”. Good grief.
Unfortunately, though, Bottum still frames his retraction in terms of him wishing to correct how we “misread” his essay. That’s balderdash: we didn’t misread Bottum’s essay—which we knew came from a man who regularly said, and gracefully, exactly what he meant—no, we read Bottom’s essay. And we were stunned.
Upon reading Bottum’s essay, I accounted his surrender as unaccountable, paused to wish him well in some other service, reassured those carrying on the defense of marriage that they were not making specious legal arguments to cast-aways on an enchanted island, and resolved to shoulder on with my own small efforts to explain to Americans why traditional marriage is vital to our State and, in particular, to Catholics why civil marriage is vital to Matrimony.
So, yes, I’m glad Bottum is having second thoughts about his essay; may he now have some thirds.
Update: Thom’s friends have set up a website to track his progress.
I tell my kids what my mom told me: to pray for the sick and the poor every day if only because any of us can find ourselves being either or both at any time.
As many of my blog readers already know, my oldest son Thomas (the American Papist) was seriously hurt in a swimming accident two days ago and remains in critical condition with spinal cord injuries at the University of Maryland Medical Center. He, his wife of three months Natalie, and our families are overwhelmed with the outpouring of prayers and support that we have received so far, and now I would like to ask a special favor.
Please consider invoking the intercession of Fr. Felix Cappello SJ (1879-1962), one-time Confessor of Rome and the greatest sacramental lawyer of the 20th century, for Thomas’ speedy and complete recovery. I draw on Cappello’s canonical works in almost everything I write—no joke, I am finishing a scholarly article right now that he provided the crucial insight for—but I never thought I’d suggest drawing on his intercession for one of my very own. Well, I am doing so now.
Naturally, if you have your own favorite go-to saints in urgent cases, by all means, go! But if you are looking for a suggestion, I’d offer Fr. Cappello.
And thank you.