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defectors in place

By Diogenes (articles ) | Mar 14, 2005

In an article titled "Jesuits USA in the Year 2050: Planning for Our Future", former Catholic University president Fr. William Byron, S.J., lists several "assumptions" about the changes ahead, including this one:

Women will rise in positions of responsibility and influence in the institutional Church and could perhaps find ordination open to them by the year 2050. If women are ordained, there will be no priest shortage in the USA.

In ordinary circumstances, to predict a change in policy is not to endorse it. But the Catholic doctrine on the reservation of priestly ordination to men has been affirmed by the CDF to belong to the deposit of faith -- and thus immutably definitive of what it means to be Catholic. As a simple matter of entailment, to allow the possibility that a given teaching will change is to deny that it belongs to the deposit of faith, or to deny that a deposit of faith exists at all.

It doesn't surprise me that Byron believes women may be ordained. Most priests of his generation essentially view themselves as flight attendants ("What can we do to make your trip more comfortable ... ?") and regard women as intuitively endowed with the skills they have acquired by rote. It only makes sense, in their view, that Rome will sooner or later admit the obvious and commission women to do what they do already. More telling is the fact that Byron doesn't even mention the Church teaching, doesn't see the doctrinal status as a problem worth addressing.

Hence that eerie, uneasy, all too familiar feeling that the clerical power players of Byron's generation have taken leave of the Catholic Church, albeit quietly. It's rarely displayed by overt defiance -- no theses nailed to cathedral doors -- but rather indicated by a failure to address the obvious embarrassments of apostasy. It's as if your dad phones you at your college dorm to plan for your graduation commencement and informs you, offhandedly, that the woman accompanying him will not be your mother.

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Show 8 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Mar. 17, 2005 9:35 PM ET USA

    We have ALWAYS had a priest shortage.The first hundred or more years of our country's history, one priest often covered areas which now cover entire states. The church did not compromise to bring in unqualified priestly candidates to fill the void. True, they often sent those with disipline problems to the frontiers, but I am sure they soon saw the error of their ways; confronted with the harsh realities of the wilderness and people in desperate need of the depth and riches of the Faith.

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Mar. 15, 2005 12:13 PM ET USA

    Indefectorability. No need to thank me.

  • Posted by: Vincit omnia amor - Mar. 14, 2005 9:19 PM ET USA

    You're right Bede...it's very presumptuous to ASSUME that "this, that or the other thing" will put an end to the Priest shortage---it just doesn't square with reality when we look at the various Protestant denominations who are facing acute shortages of their own (having "this, that AND the other thing"). BUT, reality also shows some orders and Dioceses which hold firmly to the Faith Handed Down to us from the Apostles are doing quite well. But, the truth never gets in the way of some folks.

  • Posted by: Psalms - Mar. 14, 2005 6:38 PM ET USA

    The ELCA Church in town and several towns around me were without pastors for 2-4 years: they ordain women. The UMC church was without a pastor for 1-1/12 years: a neighboring town for 3 years: they not only ordain women but their Bishop is a women. Several other Churches who ordain women do not have pastors at this time in neighboring towns. Women seen to be considered as a stop-gap solution - the finger in the dike. No one seems to be looking at the reason for the leak in the dike.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 14, 2005 3:09 PM ET USA

    The "institutional Church" that ordains women in 2050 will not have to worry about a priest shortage because it won't have any congregants to pastor.

  • Posted by: Sophia - Mar. 14, 2005 3:00 PM ET USA

    If women were to be ordained, there would indeed be no shortage of priests -- because disillusioned believers would have fled the pews.

  • Posted by: patriot6908 - Mar. 14, 2005 12:11 PM ET USA

    The Father Byrons of the world just never, ever learn. They keep forcing the round pegs into square holes. Nor do they look at the fate of mainstream Protestant churches which pioneered all this "innovative" nonsense only to empty out their congregations and begin the process of folding. It's unfortunate that there are people who take the Father Byrons seriously, but we will always have the gullible among us.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 14, 2005 8:23 AM ET USA

    Byron's assumption that ordaining women(even if it were possible) would end the priest shortage is probably false. Protestant churches that ordain women still have many empty pulpits and declining congergations. One big problem is demographic: small churches in declining rural areas are not attractive to anyone. The massive decline in prestige of the Episcopal clergy is also related to the ordination of women, although there is a disagreement as to whether it is a cause or effect. Lee Podles

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