As you read this drivel, which makes the Church into a merely sociological phenomenon stripped of its supernatural graces where prevailing public opinion calls the Church to infidelity to Scripture, Tradition, Natural Law and her own magisterium, one can only wonder where following this editorial's advice would lead the Church.
Well, we know, if only the article would tell us. They could point to each and every classically liberal Protestant denomination, especially Anglicanism and its branches to see what happens when a denomination buys into the prevailing culture and forsakes the Gospel and natural law. They die!
While the Catholic Church certainly has her problems, she will remain forever, even as a remnant, fidelity, not numbers are important to us. Pope Benedict predicted what would happen, but true Catholics would remain and the Church would carry on once the prevailing culture and civilization is destroyed by its corruption and immorality and something more sane replaces it.
There is also an implicit slam against Pope Francis. It isn't cool yet to do it explicitly, but the days are coming and perhaps already here when the media beast, the anti-Christ will recognize that the only way to deal with Pope Francis is to go toe to toe with him. It is beginning slowly but surely.
Below is the article to which I refer above:
Why churches should brace for a mass exodus of the faithful
The more conservative churches, anyway
Still a boys' club. (REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)
Afew weeks ago, I wrote about how the sweeping acceptance of gay marriage in recent years is owed in large part to Christianity. Rejecting the rigidly hierarchical and stratified societies of the ancient world, Jesus Christ taught the equal dignity of all persons, proclaimed that the meek shall inherit the earth, and declared that the last shall be first and the first shall be last. The Western world has been working out the logic of these subversive teachings ever since, with the institutional transformation of marriage being the latest, though surely not the last, example of its social, moral, and political consequences.
But what if the next institutions to be leveled by the Christian ideal of equality are the churches themselves?
I'm not talking about all of the churches. I mean those that have resisted reforming themselves in light of women's equality — and specifically those that resist this reform from the top down, with ecclesiastical authorities enforcing male-centered dogma and doctrine. That's mainly the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons).
A contrast with Protestantism and Judaism is instructive. There are, of course, many gender traditionalists in both faiths — evangelical Protestants and Orthodox Jews. But there is no overarching authority in either religion stipulating that traditionalism is the only valid form of belief. That means there are other options besides apostasy for dissenters. Don't like the traditionalism of your congregation? If you're a Protestant, you can find a more liberal, mainline alternative. If you're a Jew, look for a Conservative, Reform, or Reconstructionist synagogue.
But in both Catholicism and Mormonism, there's often nowhere else to go. It's either love it or leave it.
I think it's likely that over the coming years these churches are going to confront a stark choice: Reform themselves in light of equality or watch their parishioners opt for the exits. In droves. (MY COMMENT: No statement on liberal Protestantism's especially the Anglican Communion's decline and fall and that people are leaving churches not for Christianity but for nothing at all--pure secularism!)
Think about it: Men and women in the pews now live in a world in which nearly all obstacles to women's equality have been torn down. Where once women were relegated to submissive and subservient roles in the family, now domestic gender egalitarianism is the norm. Where once women were excluded from participating in politics — including denial of the vote — such strictures are now unimaginable. Colleges and universities that were once all-male have become coed. Just about every career that once excluded women is now open to them — including that most traditionally masculine occupation, military service. And so forth.
None of this is new. But this is: The churches are now largely populated by people who have no living memory of it ever having been otherwise. Living, studying, working, and voting in a world marked by ever-increasing recognition of the equal dignity of men and women, they go to church on Sunday and confront our culture's last significant institutional vestige of inequality — when that very institution worships the God who is the ultimate source of our egalitarianism.
The contradictions are unsustainable.
And they've already started to have a destabilizing impact.
The Catholic situation is even more volatile. American Catholics have become accustomed to worshipping in a state of cognitive dissonance, with a majority rejecting the church's sexual teachings, and an overwhelming majority (something in the range of 98 percent) dismissing its strictures on artificial birth control. This is relatively easy to do, because these issues don't come up very often in Mass.
(Elio Ciol/Corbis)By contrast, the majority of Catholics who support women's ordination are confronted on the altar with the all-male priesthood every time they go to church. At the moment, frustration about the issue is muted because Pope Francis has inspired so much good will among the faithful — and raised such high hopes for reform. That has given the church some breathing room.
But it isn't going to last. As I've argued at length, there is no indication that anything of doctrinal substance is going to change under the new pope — and least of all on the ordination of women, a subject on which Francis has explicitly endorsed Pope John Paul II's position, which unequivocally dismissed the possibility. Sooner or later — and probably sooner — egalitarian-minded Catholics are going to lose their patience with the hierarchy's unpersuasive defenses of the status quo.
And they are stunningly unpersuasive. Here is the argument in its entirety: Christ chose 12 men to be his apostles; they in turn chose men to help them spread the word of God; today's priests and bishops are the direct descendants of these original apostles; therefore, the church doesn't have the power to ordain women.
The church would be on much firmer ground if the Gospels recorded Christ explicitly stating that he chose men to be his apostles because it is God's will that only men can serve in that role. But of course he said no such thing. A weaker but at least potentially defensible argument would involve some sort of claim about the nature of women being incompatible with ordination.
As it is, Catholics are left with: This is the way we do it, because we've always done it that way, and we can't change, so drop it.
The ideal of equality has transformed the family, the workplace, the military, the political world, and countless other areas of life — and the church thinks it can hold back the tide with this?
I'll go out on a limb and predict that it isn't going to work.
When parishioners finally get fed up, the only remaining question will be whether the church will respond creatively and adapt to the demands of justice and equality — or if, instead, it will choose intransigence. And watch the People of God march right out the door.
Damon Linker is a senior correspondent at TheWeek.com. He is also a consulting editor at the University of Pennsylvania Press, a contributing editor at The New Republic, and the author of The Theocons and The Religious Test.
"As I've argued at length, there is no indication that anything of doctrinal substance is going to change under the new pope..."
Who has he been arguing about that? Who would ever take up such a futile opposing argument?
The Church is already very small. In my parish, I know many who deny Church teaching on all of the usual points: birth control, cohabitation, illicit use use of the sacraments (communion without confession for years on end), supporting same sex marriage, womens' ordination, and voting for anti-life politicians etc. Many of such people claim to be Catholics in good standing but by and large have placed themselves outside the communion of the saints.
The Church in most of the Western World has reduced itself to a compassionate charity, in Francis' words a pathetic NGO. Consider CCHD which throws Catholic teaching out the window at every opportunity or Catholic bishops tucking it up with anti-Catholic politicians.
And many in the Church have been wishing the NcR crowd would leave, already. So I'm not sure this article is off the mark, except in one thing. I doubt people will leave the Catholic Church and join the Episcopalians in large numbers. They'll just sleep in on Sunday
But even drivel can be instructive: notice that what he thinks is the "strongest" argument for an all-male priesthood assumes Sola Scriptura.
Problem is, Catholics don't read Scripture that way. As I also suspected, Mr. Linker proof-texted the Catechism. The part that he lifted assumes knowledge of the entire section on Holy Orders, to say nothing of the parts that come before that section-- like the stuff on the Sacraments.
Which leads me to what he thinks is a "weaker, and yet somewhat more defensible" argument about the essentially different nature of men and women that bars women from ordination.
Well, actually, the Church does teach that. Not only is it Christ's power that ordains, but there is no Sacrament with incorrect matter. Not even the Pope has the authority to change this. He has no power, and no authority on his own. He can only receive what he has been given. And God protects the Sacraments.
A Bishop can no more ordain a woman a priest any more than he can confect someone's birthday cake into the Eucharist or initiate anyone into the Body of Christ by baptizing them in Kool Aid. He can "say the right words," and nothing would happen; likewise, the woman claiming to have been ordained could say "this is My Body" all she wants, and nothing would happen-- that's not an ordination, that's not a priest, that's not the Eucharist, and that's not Jesus.
...to say that something did is actually lying to the faithful, and both the woman and the Bishop (if memory serves me correctly) incur an excommunication latae sententiae. The faithful have to be able to trust that they are receiving a valid Eucharist; they have a right to a valid Eucharist. And it is a scandalous to suggest that someone's "hurt feelings" matter more than people's souls and their salvation.
Moreover, true as it is that all of the Apostle were male, the more direct point is that Christ the High Priest and Bridegroom and husband of the Church-- in whose priesthood all validly ordained Catholic priests share-- is male. Priests are fathers and husbands in their own right. Only males can be husbands and fathers.
Another point: the Catholic priesthood is prefigured by the Old Testament priesthood. That priesthood is all-male.
Boy, does a lack of a sense of continuity cause problems. That's all over rubbish like this op-ed piece, and it's arguably a pervasive problem in the Church in the United States.
And watch the People of God march right out the door.
Wouldn't be the first time. That's been true since the time of Christ. That's been true with all of the Old Testament Prophets. Moreover, Mr. Linker simply begs the question of what-- and indeed Who-- forms any people into the People of God.
For that, we have the story of the people Israel, and they most certainly didn't become the People of God by themselves.
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