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Dissenting Priests

This article from the New York Times trumpets the news that Catholic priests worldwide are rebelling against Vatican teaching forbidding women from being ordained. Guess what? The ‘rebellion’ consists of about 150 priests in the US and about 300 in Austria and some in Australia. Errr, that would be what percentage of the 400-500,000 priests worldwide? I’m sure the Vatican is extremely worried.

The galling thing about this push for women priests is that it comes from the very men who have been engineering an artificial crisis in the priesthood for the last few decades. When I was in England I visited different parishes every weekend and hob nobbed with the priests. They told me how bishops and seminary rectors would regularly reject young men because they were ‘rigid’ (code for orthodox) My own bishop rejected all convert clergy from the Church of England–even the celibates. Others spoke of how ‘England had too many priests’ and compared the situation to Peru where one priest covers a territory the size of Scotland and the ‘core communities’ are governed by the people with a ‘catechist’ in charge. They thought this was a wonderful thing and wanted to move their own dioceses to that ‘model of ministry’.

Why was that?  So that by engineering a crisis in vocations they hoped to force Rome to sanction the ordination of married men and women. I wish I were exaggerating, but they told me this themselves. What they wanted was a ‘priest’s house’ for six or seven priests to live together and serve a whole deanery and the parishes would be led by ‘lay catechists’ who (of course) would be male or female. The lay catechists would determine the wishes of the people of God democratically and tell the priest what to do. In other words, “If Rome won’t let us have women priests we’d rather have no priests at all.”

I always found this hilarious and terrifying. The Bishops and high ranking clergy who thought this was so wonderful obviously had no experience of Protestant congregationalism with its in fighting, bickering and power struggles amongst the laity. Furthermore, they had no plan for how these lay leaders would be educated and trained, much less paid.

Finally, they had no clue how the whole thing could backfire against their own liberal ideals. What would they do when St. Hilda’s parish was taken over by ‘lay leadership’ who turned out to be members of some exclusive new ecclesial movement? What would happen when the ‘lay leadership’ turned out to be a group of Duane Mandible-like Latin Mass conspiracy nuts? What would happen when a the local charismatic ladies took over? You wanted lay women to be leaders. Did you really want that sort of lay woman? How would they get rid of them? Had they any recourse in canon law? Did any of these lay people take vows of obedience to their bishop?

It’s a nightmare scenario and the (now aging) seventies priests and bishops are sleep walking into it with blissful expressions on their faces singing Kumbayah.

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