Monday, July 28, 2014

Fisking "Fishwrap": on the 40th anniversary of Episcopal women priests

I think I can write fairly about this, since although I appreciate Episcopal semi-congregationalism enabling "high" parishes to resist the spirit of Vatican II, giving me some good instruction growing up (one of the first places where I fell in love with the church was a Tridentine Anglo-Catholic parish, now closed, when I was 17), that's not what the Episcopalians are about and I have no business being mad at them for not being what I wanted them to be. Fr. Z links to NCR's ("Fishwrap") paean. ("You get NCR?" "I don't have a puppy.") He's predictable conservative Catholic vitriol, basically shouting "Fake!" because of Apostolicae Curae; I believe with him and the church that they're not the church but I'm not an ingrate either. This is good, though:
But let’s admit it: lots of Catholics are confused about priesthood and ministry. It seems to me that these women - catholic priest-wannabes too – want to be ordained to the CLERGY, rather than to the PRIESTHOOD. They don’t really want to be ordained to the priesthood, properly understood, because – say it with me – priests are principally for … SACRIFICE. A priest who rejects sacrifice is like a potter who condemns clay, a butcher who nixes knives, a fireman who flees fires. Priesthood detached from sacrifice is an absurdity.
Church liberals are the biggest clericalists. As Fr. Rutler says, we are sacerdotalists. Put another way, how many of the few wannabe women priests love Catholic teaching on the Mass? I didn't think so.

Anyway, Fishwrap sounds exactly like naive Catholic liberals 40 years ago, when the Episcopalians had clout: liberalize like them in order to "arrive" in American society. And you thought I lived in the past! Um, you realize their membership has cratered and they're no longer influential in society, right?

NCR doesn't become Episcopalians, though they have no theological reason not to, because they hate high church, which the Episcopalians still have in common with me. No, they want to turn the church into a mainline denomination. Getting back to the mainline cratering: simply in human terms, how would turning mainline help the church? How would it turn around our sagging numbers? Looking at egalitarianism, like in the secular workplace, how would making half the clergy women make better clergy? Better Catholic priests? Same answer, I guess, as the secular politically correct: "Well... because, OK?"
Christianity necessarily requires continuity and respect for its own history, Heyward told NCR, but it "needs to always be empowering us to do what is just and compassionate and promotes human dignity and the well-being of creation. So one of the places of discontinuity that I believe we have to take seriously and work on today is the domination - the violent domination - of creation by human beings. ... This is right now in our face all the time. Another area of discontinuity is the ongoingness of patriarchal assumptions about God and the world." The idea that men were born to "run the world," she said, "needs to be challenged nonviolently but very firmly."
"Domination of creation by human beings" is civilization, which men built, and of which women are beneficiaries. As Bob Wallace says, take away men and Heyward and her sisters wouldn't last a week. Reminds me of those people who oppose hunting but buy meat from the market because "no animals were harmed."
Heyward praises much of the tone and approach Pope Francis has set. But when it comes to women's issues, she said, "he does not seem to be all that - I don't know what word to use but I'm going to use the word - aware that there really are significant problems in Christian tradition and especially in Catholic tradition when it comes to the role and place of women."
Confirms what I've read from other Catholics: he is not interested in the attempted ordination of women. Nor are most Catholics. During John Paul II's and Benedict XVI's reigns, the magisterium confirmed that it's impossible: we can't change the matter of the sacraments.
As Jefferts Schori looks toward the possibility of Catholic female priests, she has concluded, "I don't think it's going to happen in my lifetime. The Orthodox may get there before the Romans do."
Here Bishop Schori has brought up the only ecumenism that really matters to us: our own estranged people, the "Catholics" of the East. Traditional ones at that. By God's grace, the Orthodox have never dogmatized anything un-Catholic. (Soloviev's point.) But, because they're separated, this is possible, though very unlikely.

There are pro-women's ordination Orthodox but they're very much outliers living in liberal Western countries.

How this would go down: like they sound Pelagian about original sin and Lutheran about the Eucharist, they would bend so far to be anti-Roman that they would fall for this. The St. Vlad's liberals (their academic intelligentsia, like Fr. Bob Taft on our turf and not like most of their own people) would spin it as the true version of the church fathers, unlike those old-fashioned Orthodox who were corrupted by Western legalism ("the Western captivity of the church").

Ha ha. "The Romans." Meaning "we're Catholic too" as well as "you're foreign." Civis Romanus sum, I guess.

"Join me in spreading the Gospel."


  1. Pantomime Catholicism - in other words, real "hocus pocus."

    1. Regrettably so. Liberal high church, the New Anglo-Catholics as I concede they are, aren't agnostics like Küng and Spong - they parallel Pope Benedict's revival in the church in that they're credally orthodox as well as liturgically high. They like our stuff, not "Kumbaya." But like the classic pre-Vatican II A-Cs, Fr. Bob Hart's Continuers, and ACNA, they're stuck in Protestantism where the conservative ones don't belong.

      Us: The church can't change the matter of the sacraments. Infallible church.

      Them: Anglican authority is church authority. Article XXI; fallible church. We hold these truths about women's rights to be self-evident.

      Fr. Hart would say scripture puts the brakes on women's ordination, so Cranmer's and Hooker's doctrine is true, but once you've gone Protestant, interpretation of scripture can say anything.

      Episcopalians think the trappings of the church are neat - liturgy including our traditional ones, claiming apostolic succession, quoting the church fathers, saints' biographies and feast days - but optional; they're Protestants.

      They're not coming into the church like the ordinariate people but I try to be honest describing them, not just repeating Catholic tropes about them.

  2. Anonymous6:56 am

    Which A-C parish was it that closed? There have been so many over the years that 'lost their way'.

    1. All Saints', Orange, NJ. Just after Fr. Wetherell retired so I saw it as he had left it. You remember: little old A-frame Episcopal church stuffed full of traditional Catholic items, from side altars to statuary to votive-candle stands to confessionals, plus with the Anglican long chancel with rood beam and seven red hanging lamps. Four years later the liberalized rector had cleared most of it out. Unlike St. Anthony's, it had sold out or been sold out. But if he was trying to keep it open, it didn't work.

  3. Anonymous6:57 am

    The problem that the ACs encountered was that it is impossible, ultimately, to hold to Catholic faith without the Pope. This was, in fact, the very insight that led St. Thomas More (a loyal Tudor man if ever there was one -- the King's good servant but God's first) to oppose Henry's creation of the CofE. Even the Orthodox have trouble maintaining the faith (for example, their practice of divorce & remarriage). The ACs eventually fell, as they were always doomed to fall, so long as they are outside of communion with Peter.

    1. In the West, Catholicism without the Pope has always been a will o' the wisp, from King Henry VIII's selfish schism to the Old Catholics (now a rump sect: Middle European Episcopalians) to the puppet Catholic church in China, a Western church in an Eastern country. True too of the Orthodox: as you say, they exist as a separate church because the sultan, the tsar, and petty Eastern European princes wanted it that way, and they've sold out on contraception, but have never declared heretical doctrine. Of course Anglo-Catholicism as we knew it failed - Anglicanism was just acting according to its nature.

      The Continuers believe in something they think is Anglicanism - Hooker's doctrine - but arguably is their own high-church creation. A fanciful reading of English history?

      30 years ago, Catholicism under the Pope didn't look like it was doing very well, so there's something to be said for semi-congregationalism, of places such as St. Anthony's, as a hedge against Modernism. How I got to see All Saints' in its glory, 20 years AFTER Vatican II! Something conservative Catholics should learn from. Still, Orthodoxy and Anglicanism are wrong in principle.


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