Does Church Suppress God’s Will? That’s Wicked, Right?

Like Mark Shea, I too thought the National Catholic Reporter had endorsed female ordination years ago. I actually had no intention of writing about it for my First Things column, today.

Yet somehow — and though I had intended to write more about Calah Alexander and the idea of a Ministry of Succor to young mothers, I ended up at female ordination, asking a few questions about NCR’s stand:

The overbearing men of Rome, most particularly Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, are depicted as keeping the good people down and—in this case—suppressing the will of the Holy Spirit.

The Reporter does not explicitly make that last charge. In fact, the editorial does not mention the Holy Spirit, or “God’s will” at all, but if we accept that God is All-Justice, then in arguing that church teaching on this issue is “unjust” the paper is making an implicit suggestion that the church has been working against the will of God.

To suppress the will of the Holy Spirit—to suppress the will of God—is a wicked thing. To charge the church with doing so is to make a serious accusation of wickedness—one bound to have repercussions lasting beyond the heat of a moment. It is to label the church as antichrist.

So the Reporter does not do it. Instead, the editorial board rests the crux of its argument on the wisdom of Roy Bourgeois, the recently laicized Maryknoll priest:

Bourgeois brings this issue to the real heart of the matter. He has said that no one can say who God can and cannot call to the priesthood, and to say that anatomy is somehow a barrier to God’s ability to call one of God’s own children forward places absurd limits on God’s power. The majority of the faithful believe this.

Stipulating that the majority of fourteen year-olds might believe this, and that much of society appears to have a case of arrested development that has seriously impacted their ability to reason a thing out beyond the twin tyrannies of sentimentalism and utilitarianism, one has to acknowledge the extraordinary speciousness of that argument which boils down to, “you’re not the boss of us, and who died and made you popes, anyway?”

I have more questions.

If “no one can say” who God can and cannot call to the priesthood, then why do we have interview, testing, and discernment processes? Why can’t we all just be priests, any time we want? If corporeal anatomy is completely unconnected to a human being’s essential nature (and this is an argument put forth by feminists and the gender-fixated, who will often pronounce it in one breath only to promote the “sacred feminine” in the next) then why did God design differences at all? By doing so, he created boundaries and barriers, which are clearly unwanted things. Why didn’t God fashion just one human type, without limits to what that type can do, in order to free humanity from the constraints of form and function which impact “God’s [own] ability to call one of God’s own children forward . . .” to do the things they really want to do, whether the church thinks they ought to, or not?

Golly, I think the Reporter is arguing that God should stop making rocks so heavy that He can’t lift them. Or something.

Anyway, read the rest, here.

May anger begin to abate with gratitude?

About Elizabeth Scalia
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  • annie

    Are those wyminpriests wearing plastic tablecloths and using an eggo waffle as a host? How tacky is that. At least try to get the details right when you play pretend mass.

  • Manny

    The notion of women priests would not only violate the Magisterium but a major connective link between the Old and New Testaments. Granted I am not a theologian so take this for what it’s worth. But Jesus Christ is supposed to be High Priest in the mold of Melchizedek. The ancient priesthood was reinstituted with Aaron and his sons and stipulated to be a male function. Do not confuse rabbis with the ancient priesthood. The destruction of the temple changed the nature of Jewish clerical function.

    Linking Christ’s gender to the male priesthood leads one to induce that there was a reason why there is a God the son and not God the daughter. We may not fully understand why but it seems clear God intended a male priesthood. And aren’t male priests a stand in for Christ?

    If the Catholic Church opened to female priests the Church would splinter and perhaps (in my opinion) rightly so. It would show that the Church was sensitive to political whims rather than upholding sacred teaching. It would be a disaster.

    The Church should educate the public and apparently Catholics as to why there is a male priesthood.

  • TerryC

    The Church has attempted to do so, however when all of your theological and philosophical underpinnings are based on feelings and self indulgence the explanations fall on deaf ears. It appears to me that the heart of the problem is that these women see the priesthood in terms of power, specifically secular power. The clergy in terms of who controls the money and political influence in the Church, not in terms of sacrifice and servitude. Through that lens the refusal of the Church to ordain women has nothing to do with God and everything to do with those who have power, the male hierarchy, not wanting to share it. I suspect the god that they believe in has little to do with the Supreme King and Creator of the Universe in any case. (S)hes more of a good pal who would never, ever be judgmental or expect you to do anything that made you feel bad, like live according to a stringent moral code where murdering inconvenient babies are bad and actually giving your own money and time to the poor is inconvenient.

  • Sarah Pierzchala

    Since God wills whether or not an individual is to be male or female at conception, it seems to me he also wills who and who is not eligible to be a priest. Or a mother or a nun…

    It’s not as if He is surprised or disappointed by our genders.

  • Fuquay Steve

    I’d be more surprised if the NCR recommended anything the Roman Catholic Church teaches. How can they keep on calling themselves ‘Catholic’? They are hussites at worst and episcopalians at best. I believe in one holy catholic church….it appears they do not.

  • Adam

    Speaking as a lawyer: I’ve seen too many civil court cases which, at their core, are based on hurt feelings. The plaintiff didn’t get what he or she wanted (i.e., a promotion), or was disciplined, and there seems to be no ability on their part to accept that the deciding official had the right to make that decision. There’s no humility, no acquiescence to authority; it’s simply: “This didn’t turn out right. It MUST be because I’m a woman.” Or a certain race. Or someone acted unfairly (as we put it in law, “arbitrarily and capriciously”).

    I have no idea how to combat this, as it’s a social issue. Oh, I think most courts and judges get it: the decisionmaker had a rational basis for acting as they did; there’s no manifest evidence of racism/sexism/etc. The plaintiff undoubtedly goes home grumpy, convinced that the system has failed.

    I have no doubt that this is what’s going on with women who want to be clergy, and their supporters. Maybe they feel that they need power; maybe someone in the church harmed them somewhere (see Sinead O’Connor’s sad story); maybe they’ve just thrown a lot of temper tantrums in their lives and are used to people caving in.

    A few weeks ago, I explained to my 6-year old daughter that only men can be priests. She didn’t care to hear that too much, and pouted a little at that. Understandable, but I can see an uphill battle ahead as the world’s voices will someday whisper into her ear: “Why not? It’s unfair.”

  • Ann

    What if Jesus did in fact only want men to serve as priests during his lifetime and for the future…that it wasn’t just a reflection of the social structures of the first century. If so, WHY??!!

    I am obviously no theologian, but I think that he may have actually had this very moment in history in mind…this moment when people would challenge the idea of an all male priesthood. Perhaps he knew that when society questions gender identity, the role of fatherhood would be most vulnerable, therefore he wanted to be sure that there were spiritual fathers for all his children.

    Also, he knew from personal experience that the woman would always be with him, but the men…not so much. And yes, this is sexist, but I wonder if we ordained women, would we eventually become an all female church?

  • lethargic

    Ya know, I really hate hate hate the criticism of the wymyn’s-ordination crew that focuses on the ladies’ age, weight, hairstyles, etc … and that horrible phrase “the biological solution” which sounds so Nazi … but when I saw this picture, my first thought was something like that … these gals look like they’re wearing those plastic rain ponchos that Walmart sells in the camping dept. and the celebrant is apparently very experienced with waving filled wine glasses around during intense dinner conversations, ’cause that’s what it looks like fer sher … and why do they always read from ratty-looking sheaves of paper rather than a nicely bound prayer book … and why is the photographer crammed up in their backsides rather than set up with a nice tripod off at an angle … if they’re going to go ahead and do what they want to do by God and blood and thunder, why don’t they do it with beauty and dignity? I’m missing something here … ?? Can anyone educate me on this?

  • Brian English

    The Church desperately needs more nuns, especially in the schools. These women could provide a great service to the Church, but this is not about serving the Church–it is about power. That thirst for power is such a rejection of Christ’s message of humility and service to others that you wonder how they can still see themselves as following Him.

  • Victor

    Dear Anchoress,

    I’ve only just read a few links that you’ve provided here and I don’t want to go too far off topic but let me simply start by saying that I was very sick last night and couldn’t even finish my second beer. (lol) Anyway “IT” was not as bad as when I returned home after a weekend last stay at a mental hospital in 1991 and long story short, I know that all The Seniors doctors only wanted what was best for me NOW.

    The crazy thing about “IT” is that everything was working perfectly, even my computer had agreed that me, myself and i should no longer pay any more protection with this new computer and go figure, I’ve only received a total of two true blue screens in my old age and long story short, my factory disc cleaned “IT” all UP.

    OK! What I really want to say is that we Christians must be on the same brain wave cause this is what I’ve wrote just before reading a bit of your post.

    I hear ya folks! why do ya do “IT” Victor?

    Victor! Victor! Victor! Why can’t ya listen to U>S your only gods?

    sinner vic, me, myself and i return the question by ask ya, Why can’t ya


  • LisaB

    The women in the picture, playing priests, are not only ignorant of Salvation history, but uncomfortable in their own sexuality.

    “Only those who believe obey” ~Bonhoeffer

  • Peter Brown

    “The majority of the faithful believe this.” Really? All the poll data I’ve seen refers only to Western Catholics. Have I missed some important data, or is Bourgeois leaving out most of the Church when he makes this claim?

    Not that the Church is a democracy, of course (which is a *good* thing, given original sin). Still, though, I want to see Bourgeois’s data.


  • J. H. M. Ortiz

    Surely I’m far from being the only one to opine that the vast majority of Catholic women, like the vast majority of Catholic men, WOULDN’T WANT to be ministerial priests. It takes “a special breed o’ cat”, IMO, to be willing to spend about a half hour (at least) in speaking the ritual words and doing the ritual gestures of the celebrant of the Eucharistic liturgy, for instance.
    This is in contrast to the matter of women’s suffrage, in which the great majority of women rightly want the right to vote in political elections — a right affirmed by the Church’s Magisterium, it seems to me, in the first paragraph of section 75 of Vatican II’s constitution Gaudium et Spes.

  • wild bill

    I happen to be a sometime comunicant of an Episcopal Parrish that has Women as leaders.
    It is run Day to Day by a Perpetual Deacon who does an excellent job of keeping the church together. The Priest is also a Woman who is mainly the celebrant and retired university professor. This is on the east end of Portland Or and is where I grew up and recall in the early sixties there where overflow crowds for certain services. Then over the years it dwindled off and a priest with his own agenda took control and it was dying literally when the diocese took over and put in charge the Deacon who now runs it and is doing great about rebuilding things literally!
    I THINK one of the biggest reasons there is lots of resistance in the Roman Catholic CHurch to Woman as priests or deacons is Tradition and fear of change. This is a problem with society in general not just the church.

  • tioedong

    many years ago, I asked my mother why women couldn’t become priests.
    She answered that women were given the most important job on earth: having children. The boys were given the priesthood as a consolation prize.

    Actually, the discussions of wiminpriests, gay couples being equivalent to marriage, and radical feminism that sees birth control as a sacrament are all part and parcel of one heresy: The idea that the Lord God made a mistake when he made men and women different but complimentary. The radical feminists see marriage as the enemy and want to be pseudo men while aborting or contracepting their children.
    Edith Stein’s ideas, that women can do men’s jobs but bring their femininity to the workplace, might be a better idea.
    Ironically, here in the Phlippines, women bring their young children to the business club luncheons, and the children play quietly (watched by nanny or the waiters) while mom discusses finances and business projects. Maybe the US could learn a thing or two from us.

  • Myssi

    Protestant here, but literate enough to know that when Paul described the leadership of men in the Church (and I believe that I’m going to meet quite a few Catholics in the Kingdom of Heaven), that he used those masculine words and I believe that he used them under guidance from the Holy Spirit. Men have a psychological need to be led by other men. And women, if they are honest, really need to be led by men. Adam was created at least in part to manage God’s creation: Earth. Eve was created to help Adam. ( I am talking about personal relationships here. I have had some perfectly competent female bosses and so has my husband. Professionally, if a woman is competent, then I think a man can allow her to lead in order to gain success and better provide for his family.)

    My mother used to host a Bible Study at our house. 6 or 7 couples from the church we attended would come and I learned a lot about the Word from sitting in the floor listening and asking my 5-8 year old questions. When the pastor asked her to teach an adult couples Sunday School class in the church she told him no because the Bible says that women shouldn’t have that kind of position in the church. The men who came to our house came for discussion, even though my mother led it, and felt free to argue with her. They were just a group of neighbors trying to work out God’s teaching together. She wasn’t a church appointed teacher; she was just a wise woman who knew the Bible from reading it and living it out. My mom, by the way, did agree to teach a kids Sunday School class. She was a teacher at heart and a mentor. She just believed that when God said men should be pastors/bishops he meant it because by their nature men need to be led by other men. Adam was created to lead; Eve was created to help.

    That gender difference doesn’t always play out in life, but it usually does. My marriage has lasted for 20 years because I allow my husband to lead. My church – and the Catholic church – works because our male pastor is allowed to lead the congregation with help and advice from a lot of good men and women. I have never known a church with a female pastor to grow. (There’s one down my street and there are fewer and fewer cars in the lot every Sunday.) Maybe it’s old-fashioned and I’m just a backward hick from East Tennessee, but GOD instituted the male priesthood because GOD knows the nature of the humans he created. And if a Protestant can figure that out, then “Catholic” women agitating for female priests need to get a clue about their own relationship with Christ because when you concentrate on that, you realize that you don’t know as much as you thought you knew.