In this past Sunday’s Cleveland Plain Dealer there was a huge brouhaha over whether women should become priests. There are some points in this debate that might be worth discussing but unfortunately none of these were brought up. Unhelpful arguments arose but it gives us a chance to look at common assumptions and misleading arguments might be addressed by the thinking Catholic.
Mr. Craig Miller wrote in his letter what he believes is “the hallmark of an enlightened society” and then beat up the Church for not agreeing with him. “Diversity of opinion” is the pinnacle of enlightenment for him. I would disagree somewhat. Diversity is great and should be celebrated when appropriate. If Fr. Pfeiffer thinks that the common room should be blue instead of the wonderful green color that I (and all truly enlightened people) think it should be; so be it. Let Diversity reign! But when it comes to 2 + 2 diversity of opinion becomes foolish. Diversity in and of itself is not necessarily a good. Besides, if he completely agreed with his own argument, he might have not written at all. He would have looked at the argument against women priests and said, "Well that's his opinion and must be true for him. I hold his opinion as valuable as mine."
Now, according to Mr. Miller’s enlightened society we should put everything in the Church up for grabs for personal interpretation. That is simply not who we are. We believe that there is truth and we are all asked to give assent to it. Blessed John Paul brought the discussion of women priests to an end because we were spending so much time and resources on talking about something that Catholics will not change while other things that need LOTS of time and attention were left orphaned.
Mr. Miller further states that there were no Catholic priests during Christ’s lifetime and therefore no definitive statement by Christ was made. Not exactly true but an interesting argument. Actually it was sometime after Christ that the term “Catholic” was coined. But He did hand over the keys, gave directions for celebrating the sacraments, breathed on them (very important) and then sealed them with the Holy Spirit. Tradition holds this as the beginning of the priesthood. If you want to say otherwise, you have to come with a theory as to why Christ did all these things to the Apostles. Unfortunately you have the weight of Sacred Tradition with which to contend.
He also makes the startling statement that Jesus Himself was not a Catholic and that He was in fact Jewish. Interesting. But it is about as interesting as saying that St. Francis was not a Franciscan because they did not give his order that name until after his death. Jesus was CLEARLY moving somewhere and doing something new.
Mr. Miller also makes the claim that since his adversary opined that “since Jesus did not ordain women then we cannot” similar logic means since Jesus did not sire children neither should Catholics. Actually I like this bit of reasoning. It is an interesting point. But it falls short. Jesus (and, in fact God from the beginning) supported and taught about marriage and being fruitful even raising it to the level of a sacrament. We changed nothing. Because Jesus could not bear children in His own womb does not mean that women cannot do it. But part of the Church’s teaching is that Jesus could have easily and freely chosen to ordain otherwise and was in fact quite countercultural in such things but chose not to and did not teach otherwise.
Finally, and most sadly of all, he states that we should have more of an open mind on Catholic doctrine because, after all, ideas such as the Immaculate Conception and Transubstantiation have no foundation in Scripture. Here we have another case of someone stating as fact something that is in fact not true (and I wonder how many people eat it up without doing one lick of research.) Now it may be true that there are different legitimate ways of understanding something like transubstantiation but not the point it is trying to get across – namely that the bread and wine has ceased to exist and it its place is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. That is not open to opinion in Catholic circles. And this is in fact what we find in John 6.
I take what I said in the last paragraph back. Here is the finally: He makes the unreasonable comment so common even among intellectuals that there is something horrible about something simply because it comes to us from another century. “13th century dogma” he reports, is stagnant and repressive. Really? Why? If there is “truth” it is true in the 1st century, the 10th century, and the 21st century. As Chesterton puts it, saying that something is not worthy of attention because it comes from, say, the Middle Ages is like saying that it is not worthy of belief because that is what we believed on Tuesday and after all now it is Wednesday. If it is true, it is as true in April as it is in May. Time alone is no indication whatsoever that anything is good or bad.