Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

What part of ‘never’ does America magazine fail to understand?

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Nov 04, 2016

Isn’t it nice that after the Pope says that “the final word is clear,” we have America magazine available for “Putting Pope Francis’ comments on women’s ordination in historical context“—that is, to make sure that things aren’t clear.

You see, America informs us, what St. John Paul II said about the ordination of women might have been clear, but people didn’t understand it.

The traditional teaching of the church is that it is unable to do so—but St. John Paul II further said that this teaching was to be “definitively held,” intending to close the matter for further discussion or debate. But what has happened, instead, is years of discussion and debate about what “definitively held” means, and whether or not the church is refusing to discuss this further, or unable to.

St. John Paul II said authoritatively that the Church can never and will never ordain women as priests, so we might as well stop talking about it. So the response was to question whether he really meant “never,” and whether he really was speaking with authority, and whether he had good reasons, and... and... and...

But notice how artfully America says that these debates about the papal teaching are what “has happened” since Pope John Paul II issued his definitive statement. As if America‘s editors were dispassionate observers, chronicling events that occurred outside their control.

In my neighborhood it rained yesterday afternoon. In the evening, the Lawlers went to choir rehearsal. Both of those discrete events “happened.” Yet you do see a distinction, don’t you, where my own role is concerned? You can’t hold me responsible for the rain. But our attendance at the rehearsal didn’t just “happen;“ we voluntarily went there.

And so it is with America: the magazine produced by Jesuits who take a vow of allegiance to the Holy Father. They’ve been “going there” more or less non-stop, ever since the Pope said that we shouldn’t.

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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