Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

A bourgeois solution to ordaining women

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 09, 2011

Fr. Roy Bourgeois, who faces expulsion from the Maryknoll Order for his support of the ordination of women, gave this reason for refusing to recant:

After much reflection, study, and prayer, I believe that our Church's teaching that excludes women from the priesthood defies both faith and reason and cannot stand up to scrutiny. This teaching has nothing to do with God, but with men, and is rooted in sexism. Sexism, like racism, is a sin. And no matter how hard we may try to justify discrimination against women, in the end, it is not the way of God, but of men who want to hold on to their power…. I will not recant. I firmly believe that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is a grave injustice against women, against our Church, and against our God.

One wonders what Fr. Bourgeois has reflected on, studied, and prayed about. Apparently this examination did not include the question of how one can know for certain whether a particular viewpoint comes from God or from men.

Fr. Bourgeois seems to be unaware that what he has been personally led to believe makes no difference to the resolution of such a question. Either God has revealed things or He has not. Either the Church has the authority to state definitively what God has and has not revealed, or she has not.

It ought to be obvious that we cannot know whether God has provided for the priestly ordination of women unless God tells us, any more than we can know whether there is such a state as Hell or whether the Eucharist is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. These things are matters of the deposit of Faith, which we believe wholly on the authority of God revealing, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived. This deposit of Faith is contained in Scripture and Tradition, and it is safeguarded (including its correct explication) only by the authority of Peter and his successors, for whom Christ prayed, that they might confirm their brothers in the Faith.

Now it just so happens that the Church has never ordained women, and this is because she has not been given the authority to do so. The presumption has always been that this is not a mere human tradition but part of that Tradition which in turn is part of the Deposit of Faith. Moreover, on May 22, 1994—well within Fr. Bourgeois’ lifetime and attracting immense media attention at the time—Pope John Paul II, perceiving growing confusion on this matter, issued an apostolic letter to repeat and clarify the Church’s perennial position:

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful. (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, #4)

But, as I said, the reflection, prayer and study of Fr. Bourgeois (so easily claimed but so poorly executed) did not include the one thing needful, that is, sitting at the feet of Christ and listening to His voice through the Magisterium of His Church. That is a very good way to learn if something offends God! To do otherwise, for a Catholic who is supposed to understand how Revelation came about and how alone it can be rightly interpreted, is very much like saying: “I reflected that I want women to be ordained; I studied all the arguments that attracted me from modern egalitarianism and feminism; and I prayed that my will would be done.” No doubt Fr. Bourgeois consulted widely as well, as the disobedient always claim to do, with the notable exception of consulting God.

Dare I state the obvious? This attitude does not come from transcending ourselves and listening to God. Instead, it is the attitude of “a person whose political, economic, and social opinions are determined mainly by conventional respectability.” Ironically, this is the definition of bourgeois.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - Aug. 10, 2011 2:57 PM ET USA

    Dr Jeffrey Mirus has expertly encapsulated the two sources of reference used when the question of the admission of women to the priesthood is discussed i.e modern feminism or Church Tradition/Revelation. Fr Bourgeois in this case defers to the former and thus sees the argument in purely anthropological, sociological terms without acknowledging the theological justifications. To understand the whole argument in terms of gender empowerment does a huge disservice to the Church's 2000 teaching.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 10, 2011 12:46 PM ET USA

    "One wonders what Fr. Bourgeois has reflected on, studied, and prayed about." You took the words right out of my mouth! Isn't it interesting that his reflection, study and prayer should lead to.... something he already wanted to believe in (as with the quote from Luther - thanks AgnesDay)! Normally, if I have to reflect, study and pray on a gospel teaching, it's usually because it's leading me to a hard (for me) place. But then, maybe that's just me.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Aug. 10, 2011 10:58 AM ET USA

    Hier standt ich. Ich kann nicht anders. Redux. Fr. B., ite in pace.

  • Posted by: timothy.op - Aug. 09, 2011 8:07 PM ET USA

    Not only do Fr. Bourgeois and people like him do grave harm to the Church by undermining her God-given authority and causing confusion among the faithful; they also do a grave disservice to the women who are beguiled by their fallacious semantics. By undermining the dignity of the vocation to be a wife and mother, the whole women's ordination agenda ends up harming the very people it was intended to help. This is what happens when one refuses to listen to Holy Mother Church.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Aug. 09, 2011 7:23 PM ET USA

    The language used by the Holy Father is a great example of the Holy Father declaring his intention to make a binding statement to us. He is invoking his authority to teach, and this is to be distinguished from papal statements of opinion. Sadly, his approval of altar girls was certainly not helpful at all in confirming the point. The poor priest is not unlike many among the clergy & laity today who come to important conclusions with little or no consideration of perennial Church teachings.

  • Posted by: howland5905 - Aug. 09, 2011 7:22 PM ET USA

    Brilliantly put!

  • Posted by: Bellarminite1 - Aug. 09, 2011 4:06 PM ET USA

    Besides, women have a far greater charism than the priesthood: Bringing forth new life!

  • Posted by: - Aug. 09, 2011 2:12 PM ET USA

    Indeed. Fr. Bourgois was unhinged from the Catholic Church long before this "issue" became his final, fatal stumbling block. His fork in the road occurred when he set the Church (understood in her full theandric reality) and God in opposition to each other.