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.

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