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The bourgeois solution and the Protestant perspective

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Aug 10, 2011

Yesterday my colleague Jeff Mirus offered a quick and compelling explanation of why Father Roy Bourgeois is wrong to say that the Church’s refusal to ordain women is “not the way of God, but of men who want to hold on to their power.” In the course of his explanation—which you really should read in its entirety, if you haven’t done so already—Jeff makes a simple and unanswerable point:

Either the Church has the authority to state definitively what God has and has not revealed, or she has not.

With Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, the Church has spoken decisively, saying that it is impossible to ordain women. For those of us who believe that “the Church has the authority to state definitively what God has revealed,” that closes the debate.

There are, however, many people who do not believe that the Catholic Church can teach with that sort of authority. Evidently Roy Bourgeois is one of them; otherwise his stand would be utterly nonsensical.

But here’s the problem: If you don’t believe that the Catholic Church teaches with authority, why would you want to be a Catholic? The Church certainly claims the authority to teach what God has revealed. If that claim is fraudulent, then the entire institution is based on a hoax.

There are many Christians who reject the Church’s claim to teach authoritatively. They have broken with the Church and formed their own denominations, interpreting God’s revelation according to their own lights. They’re called Protestants. Father Bourgeois evidently does not recognize himself in that category, yet his public statements—and his actions, which have put him outside the Catholic Church—speak for themselves.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: geraldodoire7287 - Aug. 13, 2011 3:43 PM ET USA

    Phil makes a very telling and pertinent point. Fr Bourgeois by making the assertion that the Catholic Church have definitely got it wrong on the admission of women to the priesthood question, is putting himself firmly into the category of "protestant". He may disagree with this categorization but this is irrefutable when one considers that the original protestants contested the right of the Church to act as the main interpreter of the Word of God.

  • Posted by: Steve214 - Aug. 10, 2011 8:00 PM ET USA

    Exactly right: dissent is Protestant. Still to be determined is why Protestants are allowed to hold positions of teaching authority representing the Church for long years of "clarification" efforts--when there was utter clarity from the beginning.