help is on the way

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jan 28, 2008

Fr. Raymond A. Schroth, S.J., wants Catholics to revisit the issue of women's ordination.

Does the church need woman priests? The evidence rises that it does. The evidence begins in the New Testament: the prominence of women at the cross and resurrection, Christ's friendship with Mary and Martha and other women; women church leaders in the Acts of the Apostles. The Biblical Commission declared over 30 years ago that Scripture raised no obstacles to women's ordination.

Finally the silence on women's ordination has been broken by the American bishops -- specifically the South American bishops of Brazil, who last spring issued a document pointing out that 75 percent of their weekly celebrations were without a priest. "We must have the courage to change ...Conservative tendencies," they said, "must not stop the church from making prophetic gestures. The access of women to the ordained minister is a pending debt." ...


But the women have reminded the silent bystanders of the whole church's responsibility to speak for them. The big universities -- like Fordham, Notre Dame, Boston College, Catholic U., and Georgetown -- have the opportunity to sponsor public hearings, to bring together scholars to lay out the scriptural, sociological, and theological arguments on both sides. There are practical as well as theoretical problems. If the arguments of the opponents hold water, let them demonstrate that in open discussion. Get the bishops to listen and say what they really think, not just what Rome wants to hear.

Schroth's article is titled "Women Priests: Let the Whole Church Decide." In the canonically decisive sense, the Universal Church already has decided, and her judgment was repeated, and given definitive and binding force, by the Bishop of Rome in 1994 (Ordinatio sacerdotalis):

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.

The teaching seems clear enough as stated, and for those yet in doubt was in the following year declared to be part of the deposit of faith. To be a Catholic means to accept the deposit of faith, to take its teachings, including unpopular teachings, as true.

Is the call for open discussion of defined teaching the same as dissent from that teaching? Not necessarily: a university could sponsor a colloquium on, say, the doctrine of homoousion simply to arrive at a clearer understanding of that doctrine. But to open the question of whether defined teaching should be revised is ipso facto a denial that the teaching is binding. As we've pointed out before, no one says "let's begin a conversation about why things should stay as they are."

Few would dispute the claim that -- as regards such a counter-Enlightenment doctrine as that reserving priesthood to men -- a lot more convincing needs to be done: the faithful deserve better explanations than those commonly offered from the pulpit. Scholarly discussion that contributed toward that end would be welcome. A critically-trained scholar could do a service to the Universal Church by helping confused Catholics understand where and how their resistance stems from unexamined assumptions unconsciously swallowed as part of the ambient culture, and why the Church teaching partakes of a trans-historical reality larger than any culture and rooted in the authority of Christ himself.

Well, if you were the Pope, would you find Schroth's article a good-faith effort at performing this service? If you were Schroth, wouldn't you think the Pope a fool for doing do?

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 14 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Jan. 29, 2008 9:50 PM ET USA

    Patriot6908 is exactly right. See what happened to the Episcopal Church once women's ordination was approved. Open that door and a host of heresies and immoralities rush forth. Surely John Paul II understood this well.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 29, 2008 2:58 PM ET USA

    Talk about clericalism! Fr. Schroth seems to believe that if women were really, really good friends of Christ, then they too could be priests. Because we all know that all of Christ's super duper best friends are priests. As a chick myself, I'd have to say Fr. Schroth reasons like a little girl.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 29, 2008 9:12 AM ET USA

    Come to Ohio, Unum, and visit my parish if you need a breath of fresh air. Our priests are so politically incorrect and I love it! They take on the hard issues in their homilies and rationally defend the male-only priesthood, preach against abortion, and warn of dire consequences of voting for anti-life politicians. Is it any wonder this parish is packed at every Mass? People want the truth. They want the real Jesus.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 29, 2008 8:28 AM ET USA

    As our aging clergy is unable to articulate a coherent position on the role of women in the Church, the dissent from orders of women religious and liberals is growing. There is nothing wrong with members of the Church asking where they stand, but troubling when our PR oriented bishops in the U.S. and Rome can't provide an answer. In the absence of straight talk, my pastor has taken to marking up the Lectionary with politically correct language. That ought to keep those gals quiet!

  • Posted by: - Jan. 28, 2008 10:08 PM ET USA

    And the funny thing is, Lucius, that even if no one does anything to him, there will still be cries of oppression because his ideas weren't accepted.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 28, 2008 3:31 PM ET USA

    Patriot, Your point is well taken but not exactly germain to the discussion. The "slippery slope" argument is basically one of the beneficial vs the detrimental, which while true is somewhat beside the point in this case as the other side is proposing something that cannot be. It is like saying that flying pigs puts us on a slippery slope that might one day lead to flying horses or even flying giraffes.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 28, 2008 3:31 PM ET USA

    I suggest that Fr. Raymond A. Schroth, S.J. act like a spiritual father and lead more men to the priesthood instead of acting like a hysteric chick.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 28, 2008 2:23 PM ET USA

    One must be careful to frame the question correctly. To give an open disscussion to this drivel opens the door to the rest of the nonsense the liberal side of the church has been espousing for decades. It all be comes the same arguement. First, let us determine what we agree is Catholic in the discussion, then let us discuss the issue. You will find they can't agree what is even Catholic. The ground they stand on shifts as their argument shifts.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 28, 2008 2:20 PM ET USA

    Ah, the famous slippery slope of women's ordination. Let's first check in with our brothers and sisters among the Episcopalians and ask them just how steep and how slippery the slope has become? Shall we start first with His Grace, Bishop Robinson? Or the resultant problems among African Anglicans? Or the collapse of this once thriving denomination? Father Scroth, it seems, would benefit more by spending a bit of his time under the cross that trying to sabotage it.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 28, 2008 2:08 PM ET USA

    Here is a sample letter for the appropriate authority to use. Dr. Father Schroth, I was sorry to hear of your resignation from the active priesthood. I accept your resignation and your faculties, as of this date, are revoked. Turn in your collar (if you have one) at the exit. Have a wonderful life. With affection, Benny.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 28, 2008 2:03 PM ET USA

    If Jesus believed that His frienship with the women around Him in life and at Calvary justifies ordination to the priesthood for them, why did he not include them at the Last Supper when the Eucharist was established and where he empowered the "men" in attendance? Evidently, those who think women should now be so ordained do not think Jesus knew what He was doing when He chose only men. Schroth is second guessing the decision of a divine person. He needs some counseling from his superiors..

  • Posted by: - Jan. 28, 2008 1:43 PM ET USA

    Remember when Jesuits were BOTH orthodox AND logical? This poor man cites "the prominence of women at the cross and resurrection, Christ's friendship with Mary and Martha and other women; women church leaders in the Acts of the Apostles" as evidence for his claims. The same Scriptures recount Peter's denials and the doubts of Thomas, etc. Certainly the women come off as far more pious, faithful, & even courageous. Nontheless Our Lord chose 12 *MEN in favor of them. How's that for evidence?

  • Posted by: - Jan. 28, 2008 12:40 PM ET USA

    Here is the simple explanation: Women can never, ever be priests because the Mass is the sacrifice of the Bridegroom, Jesus, the New Adam, for His Bride, the Church, the New Eve, and not the other way around. The lack of understanding of the Mass and of the sacramentality of the sexes go hand in hand.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 28, 2008 12:38 PM ET USA

    Okay so we have a Jesuit who evidently does not think the question of women's ordination has been decided by the Church despite a clear declaration to the contrary by the Pope. Will anyone in authority deal with this? His superiors? The local Ordinary? The Holy See? These conflicts keep arising: people within the Church, institutions within the Chruch (schools, hospitals, seminaries) challenge Church teaching yet by and large the folks responsible remain in place. Libera nos Domine.