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About ‘women’s ordination’, what if Gabriel appeared and said…

September 11, 2013

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.

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