punchy line

...and he (Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ... not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. - Jn 20: 6-7
-Jn 20: 6-7

Monday, February 25, 2013

I Met A “Woman Priest” The Other Day. On the Sidewalk. This is How it Went.

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You may or may not be familiar with the Woman Priest movement or the Woman’s Ordination Conference.   I still don’t understand the difference between the two.  In any case, the latter can be credited with such fine contributions to salvation history as this gem (and yes, they are completely serious in this video):



…no doctrinal problems there.

I’ve done my fair share of laughing at them from afar (which just goes to show what a great Catholic I am…not) as well as regarding them with the same degree of seriousness as I would a Mickey Mouse shaped nebula somewhere.

Then I met one.  At the sidewalk.  Here’s how that went.

First, to her credit, she was participating in 40 Days for Life.  How rare or cool is that?  I thought all “women priests” despised Paul the VI’s Humanae Vitae and were all for “choice” (at least, if they were anything like the Leadership Conference for Women Religious’s higher ups whom I’ve often opined to be on the same level.)

At first, unsure why she was wearing a Roman collar, I innocently asked, “Oh, are you a minister somewhere?” expecting a response of the yes, Episcopalian, variety.

“I am a Catholic priest.” She declared.  My response: shock, silence.

When she saw I wasn’t responding, she softened and added, “It’s a long story.”  I have no doubt it is...and I could probably tell most of it to her.

For, not long ago, as a confounded Catholic, growing up in the Bay Area, I was indoctrinated with a pseudo-catechism from those who insisted that contraception, abortion, homosexuality and especially women’s ordination was completely compatible with Church teaching.

Don’t think these priests/nuns/theologians didn’t have volumes of secondary sources to confuse me and every other lay person who innocently came wanting to know more about their Faith (and who only received a weird, up-in-smoke, 1970s version).  Missing in my mis-education, of course, were the primary sources, like say, um, the Catechism and scripture. I am guessing the woman priest I met had a similar education.

Then, I’m sure some spiritual director somewhere confirmed that she did have a vocation to the all-male priesthood (that’s usually all it takes).  Then, she networked with likeminded, identically spiritually counseled women championing the “reforms of Vatican II,” and the rest is history.

Here’s the cool thing though, and I can’t come back to this enough: she was praying for an end to abortion.  She was very kind, though clearly confounded, as I had been.  And she had an obvious zeal for justice and love for Our Lord. 

Speaking with her helped me be less condescending to those like her whose hearts are clearly in the right place but whose actions are the fruits of both being misled and, perhaps, influenced by their own personal disdain for Church teaching.

Our conversation together, mostly about the evil of abortion, helped me see that, beneath her Roman collar, was a good woman with a strong, passionate desire to change the world.

Now, you might be wondering, as I still am, why, if she truly wanted to change the world for the better, end abortion, and have a ministry distributing hospital supplies in Peru (which she apparently already has), why not just do the same while living in accordance with the Church?

Is there any reason she couldn’t pray and minister to others as a lay woman and not be equally, if not more effective in reaching more hearts and converting all to the Gospel of Christ?

The answer is: yes, of course she could.  But she’s chosen not to.  She’s chosen the path of dissent, and, as a result, ironically, will probably never completely fulfill her own baptismal priestly vocation, to which we are all called.

But isn’t that just like the devil?  He’s very convincing when it comes to persuading some good, intelligent, hardworking woman somewhere that she is called to the Church’s all male priesthood.  He’s created the perfect distraction as she seeks illicit ‘ordination’ all the while not realizing that she’s missed out on the immeasurable potential she had should she have walked the path of fidelity to the Church instead.

Women priests such as the one I met don’t deserve judgment or ridicule, especially from imperfect Catholic women such as myself who purport to be all adhering to our Faith.  They need our love, and especially our witness to the fullness of a woman’s true priestly vocation, which is not present for us in the same way it is for men in the way of ordination to public ministry.

Ours is a different, but just as important “priesthood.” Among other things, for some it means bringing new life into the world and nurturing it in the Faith.  Yeah. How about them, apples? 

But it is also to call other women to deeper fidelity to the Church.  I pray the prolife movement continue to be one such catalyst for uniting all those who still live in dissent to many of the Church’s teachings, and that they, like the "woman priest" I met, come home their Faith fully in a beautiful, wholly assenting and final way.

35 comments:

  1. No, beneath her collar was a complete lunatic with a low IQ.

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    1. You must not have listened very closely to the readings at Mass today...

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  2. I probably could not have refrained from suggesting she could best serve the Church as a nun. Sisters serve and have served the Church very well. The belief she must serve as a priest instead might be a sign of pride or vanity.

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  3. It's funny that the video was filmed on the site of an old episcopal parish that was destroyed by fire. In effect they propose to the Catholic Church we follow the failed experiments of the Episcopal denomination on a set that depicts the ruinous state of the very denomination that has embraced their little vision. Their end is destruction and the ruins in the background provide the perfect set.

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    1. THAT is really interesting. I wonder if they had knew the history of that Episcopal church (and whether they would have grasped its irony they way we do). Thanks, Msgr!

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  4. Interesting post! Do you know the theology of a male-only priesthood? I don't, but I know that Jesus was "presented" by a woman, Anna, and I was wondering when the order changed to be men only.

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    1. I do know a bit about the topic (and the prophetess Anna as presenting the Lord is not one I've heard referenced for women's ordination). For the sake of time and thoroughness which comboxes don't often allow for, I'd do a Catholic Answers search if I was you. In short, the priesthood has only ever been male-only. That isn't to say women didn't play an important and crucial role at the start of the Church. Most arguments for women's ordination that I'm familiar with have to do with deaconesses mentioned in St. Paul and the documents of Vatican II. The appointment of women as deacons seems to have died out at its inception, and there is no evidence they were ever more present hierarchically. In fact the male-only hierarchy appears to be there from the beginning - which I think is a very profound sign that God's will has always been and will always be the male-only priesthood.

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    2. That is not true. Take some time to re-read the Gospel.

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    3. Here you go, Findingmyshoes:
      http://www.catholic.com/tracts/women-and-the-priesthood

      I was right. Women deaconesses were appointed but never ordained. Hope that helps!

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  5. "But isn’t that just like the devil?"

    It is difficult to tell these days whom you speak of.

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  6. You are very wise, Marissa. When we disdain our sisters in Christ for wanting to be priests, we too are succumbing to the devil's distractions and persuasions. When our sisters fall into the trap of disobedience to Church teaching, we must be careful to avoid falling into the trap of disdain that lies in our path. The truth... in LOVE!

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  7. She is NOT Catholic, she has been automatically excommunicated by her actions, and you would have done her a service by reminding her of that instead of playing along with her little fantasy. Women like her most certainly deserve our disdain, and our pity. It has nothing to do with our own sinfulness. One of the acts of mercy is to correct the ignorant. You did her a disservice by not calling her out on her errors, and you are doing the same disservice to all readers of this blog by acting as if these 'wymin priests' are in line with the Church. I am shocked that the usually orthodox site that I linked here from has linked to this post. Looks like another one bites the dust.

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    1. Next time I see her, "Anonymous," I'll send her your way so that you can hurl as much disdain as you infallibly and mercifully deem she "deserves" at her. I already acknowledged the tragedy of her dissenting from the Church in the post. Stop reading now if this orthodox blog comes across as too soft or soppy for you. You'll find more condemning blogs than mine online to suit your tastes for sure.

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    2. Wow. Though the esteemed author did a great job in responding already, I'll throw in here as well. First of all, the author did not once call the lady a Catholic. The lady self-described as a "Catholic priest," and from then on Mrs. Nichols never repeats the label. Second, "correct the ignorant" is NOT one of the works of mercy. I think you are confusing "admonish the sinner" and "INSTRUCT the ignorant," the latter of which was probably unnecessary (which womenpriest doesn't know full well what she does?) and the the former is an action only to be undertaken with great care and prudence, lest the opposite effect precipitates from hasty or judgmental efforts. Finally, and most importantly, NO ONE deserves disdain. To believe otherwise is contrary to the fundamental Church teaching that every human life has dignity. We can disagree with their choices, but these womenpriests do NOT deserve our contempt.

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  8. Monsignor,

    It's beyond silly to suggest that the ruins of charred episcopal church have any relevance to the conversation whatsoever. What a willful reading of one's views into the situation! Silly fantasy. I'd expect more from a Monsignor. At the click of a button, one could peruse a great many depressing pictures of Catholic parishes that have been abandonded, fallen into disrepair and will soon be entirely forgotten all over Europe and North America. These are very depressing sights. A very old parish in my diocese was recently consigned to the wrecking ball. A number of anti-Catholics could easily take up any number of these sights and form a persuasive (seeming) message that the Faith itself is dying.

    I actually agree that "relevance" doesn't work, probably even in the short term at this point. But Catholics who feel vindicated and fill themselves with vainglory over the ruins of the liberal denominations will soon be eating their words. It isn't becoming of Christians.

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    1. I'm going to have to respectfully disagree, Jordan. I don't think Msgr. was pointing out the irony of the set in a vainglorious, 'dance on their crumbling ruins' way (it seems they're doing enough dancing and singing on them themselves, anyway). I think he was merely pointing out what history proves about the Church: empires and heresies rise and fall and then crumble, but she perseveres. In which case, I agree the set is appropriate. Anyone can be cynical, but few can actually recognize a profound metaphor, which is closer to what Msgr. was doing in his response. Respectfully,

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  9. As St. Augustine so accurately put it: "Love the sinner and hate the sin."

    There are many people out there in this woman's position, many of them not even in the Church. They are searching for what will make them happy, but by their own choice, refuse to accept the answer they're looking for all the while. It's a classic tragedy with millions if not billions of examples.

    As the first post on here demonstrates, many people will not understand this finer distinction, and will take this as some endorsement of female pseudo-ordination, which of course a careful reading will show it is clearly not.

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  10. One young woman wrote about her Catholic upbringing:

    "In the Catholic Church, only men are allowed to be the pope. And bishops. And priests. And deacons. And still in many churches, only boys are allowed to be altar servers. As a young girl, I got the impression from both the secular world and my Church tradition that all people were created equal, but men were just a bit more equal."

    In other words, this young woman claims that the male-only priesthood shows that the Church sees women as inferior to men. How would you respond to her?

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    1. By asking her if a difference in ability automatically cashes out to inferiority.

      If it does, then men and women are automatically inferior to each other in some respects, because they are - demonstrably - different, and some do things the other cannot. (Pregnancy, impregnating, being some of the obvious ones - but there's more.)

      If it's not, then merely pointing out a difference in roles and capabilities does nothing to establish her claim.

      But that's a response that deals with the intellectual end of the argument. Impressions and feelings don't necessarily respond to those, even if successful.

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    2. Have you considered having her read some of mulieris dignitatem?
      http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_15081988_mulieris-dignitatem_en.html
      A beautiful document.
      No, there is no favoritism going on. As Crude mentioned above, roles between the genders are distinct. Informedly so. That isn't to say that one is better than the other. That isn't to say there aren't some overlap abilities possessed by both genders (a woman may be fine public speaker, and a man a very capable nurturer), but they still are different. I would say the priesthood is more suited to men exactly because a priest's maleness becomes completed and completes that role. He stands in persona Christi. A woman's femaleness is completed and simultaneously completes the role she is called to, whether lay or religious. Both are very necessary and equally dignified roles. Where would Jesus be without Mary, or Mary without Jesus? Did God love Jesus more than Mary? Of course not, as it says in scripture (from Christ's own mouth)"You loved them even as you loved me." All are loved equally, in their distinctive roles. The more authentic we are in living our true identities (not just the ones we imagine ourselves to have like some of our misled "women priest" sisters) the more we will set the world on fire.

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  11. Dissent from Church authority is something that canonized saints have been doing for centuries, right down to Saint Paul who challenged St. Peter directly on questions of gentiles observing Jewish law. Church statements on the ordination of women have not been made infallible doctrine yet, and so they do not have the full weight of a teaching that we cannot in good conscience reject. Time will tell if these women are right or wrong. As the gospel story says, they will fade away if they are not of God. If they are of God, then nothing we do or say can stop them.
    To be clear, I am not here saying we should ordain women to the priesthood. I'm just saying, time will tell what God's will really is.

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    1. Sorry, Marv, but it's been definitively closed to change (from the above-linked Catholic Answers article):

      Further, in 1994 Pope John Paul II formally declared that the Church does not have the power to ordain women. He stated, "Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force. Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Luke 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful" (OrdinatioSacerdotalis 4).

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    2. "In May of 1994 John Paul II promulgated which declared definitely that the Catholic priesthood is reserved for males. That document nonetheless contained some language that was difficult to interpret. As a result, Cardinal Ratzinger made an official clarification () in November of 1995, making it quite clear that the Church has taught infallibly on this matter."

      From EWTN.

      View the wikipedia entry on this subject:

      "Whatever argument is used in favor of the priestly ordination of women, there is the problem of reconciling this position with Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. Based on the statements from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the official point of view is that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, without itself being ex cathedra,[46] authoritatively and bindingly teaches that: (1) the Church cannot ordain women as priests due to divine law; and that (2) this doctrine has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium. A dissenting view is that, according to section 25 of the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, the "ordinary and universal magisterium" is exercised by "the Pope in union with the bishops". In other words, according to the Congregation, it is an instance of the Pope "publicising" what he and the other bishops, as the ordinary and universal magisterium' have already consistently taught through the ages."

      Yes, there are people who claim that this is still 'up in the air'. But you can find people who will claim that the resurrection of Christ is an optional belief for Christians. It's not really something to take seriously.

      It looks like time has already told us the answer we're waiting for. At this point it's more people waiting around, hoping the answer changes.

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  12. Christ's Mother, Mary, was not a priest. And look what she contributed to her Son's mission.

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  13. 2 Peter 2:21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.

    Jude 1:3
    Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.

    Can't add anymore than what the Scriptures say...


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  14. Hi Marissa,

    I am a man and make fun of the "Women Priest" thing very often. That video was something hilarious to me, because of the mere fact that it would be impossible to ordain a women. The Church simply does not have that authority. Anyway, I agree with you that we should treat these misguided women with respect as we should with anyone else. I would also like to say that I think the bigger problem is education. There are a lot of Catholics, even some devout that think Women priesthood is possible and they support it. This is something that scares me more, because we already know lukewarm Catholics believe what they want, but practicing Catholics? They hopefully just don't know better.

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    1. Agree, agree, agree about the education. You hit the nail on the head. The waters of academia have been muddy for so long. I am hopeful that in the next couple of decades we will see a change as more informed, young academics take over religious formation in dioceses and universities everywhere.

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  15. Dissent from Church authority, improperly wielded, is something canonized saints have been doing. Dissent from Church teaching is something the canonized saints have left to heresiarchs.

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  16. Marv stated:'To be clear, I am not here saying we should ordain women to the priesthood. I'm just saying, time will tell what God's will really is'.

    2000 years has already told us the answer!

    He who marries the signs of the times soon finds oneself divorced.

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  17. I think a lot of the urge to come down on these gals comes from a general frustration that Catholics have toward the current state of our culture and a desire to have our church act in a more unified fashion to address the world's ills.

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  18. You actually did not meet a "woman priest" as there is no such thing or person, at least in the Catholic Church, Roman or Eastern. What you met was a heretical woman who claims to be a priest and who is not only not a priest but by virtue of the automatic excommunication that took place at the moment of her participation in the heretical and schismatic act, she is now no longer Catholic, either.

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  19. Right now there are areas of the country where no priest is available to administer the sacraments. In many parishes there are third world "green card" priests imported from India and Africa who can barely speak English. Some rural priests are forced to travel to do 4 masses in a 100 mile radius. Many are 75 and over unable to retire because they know ther is no one to replace them. Slowly as these women who are serving God in out of the way places delivering the sacrament to those who would go without, show that they are perfectly capable, they will in time become accepted.

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  20. I was with you right up until.....

    Ours is a different, but just as important “priesthood.” Among other things, for some it means bringing new life into the world and nurturing it in the Faith. Yeah. How about them, apples?

    So where does that leave those of us women who are single, NOT called to the religious life, AND infertile? Looks like we're absolutely useless to the Church from that point of view.

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  21. Nettie, the key words there is "for some" which of course, means, not for all (such as the examples you mentioned). Single-hood is a very holy state, and a vocation also, as I'm sure you know. I was just using one example of a different state in life, one which, of course, I am personally most familiar.

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