Father Dwight Longenecker
Where Now for the Church of England?
The Catholic Church was also able to look at current issues from a much wider perspective. She was not concerned merely with the believers in one country and in one culture. Instead, Catholics weighed up the concerns of all Catholics everywhere. The demands for women's ordination, for example, were mostly from the developed countries. Rome looked at the big picture and considered what Catholics in the poorer countries thought. They listened to those in the developing world who otherwise had no voice.
Finally, Rome was not swayed by considerations of political correctness. She was not concerned about what sold or what was popular or what might be considered polite or impolite. She did not have to please the British parliament or the Queen of England. The Catholic Church's concern was with the truth of the Christian faith as revealed by God. If that sold well amongst the people, all well and good. If it did not, well then, bring on the lions, the coliseum, and the crowds.
After much consideration and consultation, in May 1994—two years after the Anglican decision to ordain women as priests—Pope John Paul II came out with a short document. Titled Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, the letter goes through earlier papal documents from Pope Paul VI and expounds the reasons why only men are chosen as priests. It refers to Scripture and tradition and concludes in very clear terms:
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. Lk. 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.
It was St. Augustine who first said, "Rome has spoken. That settles it." For my journey of faith it was this problem making a decision which helped me make my own decision. If the Catholics were able to make an objective and considered decision on a major issue facing the church today, then I saw that she also had the authority and expertise and wisdom and wider perspective to make judgments on a whole range of other issues.
If the Catholic Church could decide on these major issues I reckoned her wisdom as applied to the rest of my Christian life was also trustworthy and reliable.
That's why I took the decision to leave the Anglican priesthood and enter the Catholic Church, and I've never regretted it once.
Fr. Dwight Longenecker is the Parish Priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina. His latest book is Catholicism Pure and Simple. Visit his blog and sign up for Faith Works! his free, weekly newsletter on the practical practice of the Catholic faith here.