The Papal Catch-22 and Women’s Ordination

I hardly ever post someone else’s blogpost in its entirety, but this is too good not to. From Ignatius Insight. For those who don’t quite understand why the pope can’t just “change” things, read it all and get a load of that last graph.

The Associated Press is running a story on Pope Benedict XVI’s homily at St. John Lateran, where he was “installed as Bishop of Rome.”

The story reports that Benedict XVI “will stick to Pope John Paul II’s unwavering stands against abortion and euthanasia”–quite a revelation, that.

Here’s an interesting quote that’s bound to send some people into confusion: “The pope isn’t an absolute sovereign, whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary, the ministry of the pope is the guarantor of the obedience toward Christ and his word.”

In other words, the Pope can’t just change whatever he pleases. He is not the Antichrist, but the Vicar of Christ. As such, he is bound to present the teaching of Jesus, not his own personal ideas or opinions or what he thinks would be popular with people.

In other words, Pope Benedict outlined “his vision for the papacy” only in the sense that he continues to make his own the “vision of the papacy” the Church presents: the papacy as a ministry of fidelity to that which has been received from Christ, rather than as a lordship that purports to be or acts as if it were sovereign, even in relation to Christ.

Here is an irony: those who advocate such things as women’s ordination often charge that the pope ought to change Catholic doctrine on the male priesthood to reflect the putative opinion of the people. By saying no to women priests, the pope supposedly acts as a sovereign who can ignore the vox populi. But in fact to insist that the pope permit the ordination of women is to insist that the pope has a sovereignty over Catholic tradition that he does not have. He is not free to act in this way. He is a custodian of tradition, not its author or sovereign. If, per impossible, he were to permit the ordination of women, it would not be an act of humility but of arrogance.
Posted by Mark

Beautiful. That is both true and illustrative. And it reminds me of one of my favorite parts of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, wherein Yossarian is introduced to the concept: If Orr continues to fly missions he is insane, but if he asks not to fly missions, he is sane and must continue to fly more missions. Yossariann gave a low whistle. “That’s some catch, that Catch-22…”

H/T on this from Roman Catholic Blog who also bring us this somewhat related story:

The Women’s Ordination Conference, moved to terrible sadness by the election of Benedict XVI are meeting and regrouping and writing very Wiccan-flavored prayers. All the Wiccans in my county have those “Blessed be” bumperstickers, baby!

But ladies, this pope, just like the last one, really can’t do anything to help you unless he behaved like a Sovereign. And you wouldn’t like that, right? My suggestion: Maybe take a cue from your Greek Orthodox sisters and look at the diaconate before demanding the rest. But remember, gals, it all starts not with a “give me”, but with a “please take”.

UPDATE: RCB has the first half of Benedict’s remarkable homily as he took over St. John Lateran Basilica as Bishop of Rome.

UPDATE II: This Anglican priest has some terrific observations on this whole issue of Rome and dissent.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • MyssiAnn

    I would have said that the Pope is the custodian of Truth or doctrine, rather than tradition, but that’s just me.
    We have women in the diaconate in my Protestant church, and our “Music Minister” is a woman, but she has never been to seminary and she is not ordained. She just leads our music ministry and does it well. I believe that women have a place serving God, but not for the glory of saying “I am a minister.” God should be served because He is worthy, not so that people will speak well of us. I have often found that when I am serving God in the place He has for me, everyone doesn’t speak well of me. Humble service of the Truth has a way of offending those whose belief system is “Me First”.

  • peggy

    Again I have to thank you.

    I must be the worst internet searcher that there is. I rarely find just what I am looking for and I have to settle for whatever I get. This is the case with orthodox Anglican sites. For some reason I was only able to find a few the last time I looked and they were poor or in one case, a little nuts.

    I didn’t know the Pontificator was Anglican. His site has loads of good Anglican links. I am a happy girl right now. Once again you do a great service for all Christians :-) Even us lowly Episcopalians ;)

  • Darrell

    Make sure you click on the link the Anchoress has provided you regarding the WOC http://romancatholicblog.typepad.com/roman_catholic_blog/2005/05/womens_ordinati.html

    Lovely prayer! Brings tears to my eyes! Or is this just all that pink smoke? Blessed Be, indeed! No wonder the MSM deems them worthy of coverage. Have you seen my goat? She seems to be missing.

  • me2ewe

    I suppose though that someone would counter your argument by saying that if the Church is the Body of Christ, then its opinions need to be taken into account. Of course Christ is Head … and the Heart too? So whether a decision is made with the Head or the Heart, Christ is still supreme. Hmm – I’d appreciate your thoughts on this line of reasoning (sketchy as it is), Anchoress!

  • http://none JMC

    Hmm. These women who think they are called to the priesthood need a serious dose of discernment here. To give them the benefit of the doubt, some of them may truly feel some kind of calling. Perhaps they should consider the convent instead of the rectory. However, the ones you hear so much about, the ones who voice their opinions in tones so fraught with anger—”By their fruits you shall know them,” we are told in the Bible, and I think that applies to concepts and percieved callings as well as to telling the false prophet from the genuine article. If that “calling” makes you feel such intense anger and, sometimes, outright hatred at being kept from answering it, perhaps you need to consider that it may not be God who’s calling you at all. Remember that Satan is the Great Deceiver.


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