Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Pérez Prieto: "Ladaria's veto on female priesthood and intercommunion is shutting doors against the wind"

By Victorino Pérez Prieto (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
June 6, 2018

The cardinal prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith, Luis Ladaria, has recently made two statements with which I disagree and that have stirred up immediate controversy.

In the first -- in an article in L'Osservatore Romano -- he tried again to close the door on the priesthood for women: "The Church has always recognized herself bound by Christ's decision to confer this sacrament on men," he wrote. In the second -- in a letter as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- he states that intercommunion, or communion between Catholics and Protestants, "is not mature enough" to become the norm of the universal Church, particularly in the case of communion of non-Catholic spouses in mixed marriages. In both cases, his words are like shutting doors against the wind since you can't go against history. But moreover, there are powerful arguments against them.

1. Beginning with the second of the statements made -- the one on intercommunion -- another colleague in the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Marx, archbishop of Munich and president of the German Bishops, declared himself "surprised" after the publication of the letter, recalling that in a conversation held in Rome last May, "the participating bishops were told that they should find, as far as possible, a unanimous result, in the spirit of ecclesial communion," and that this was surprising before they had found that consensus... And, what is more serious, the German cardinal pointed out that the question has effects on ecumenical relations with the other churches and ecclesial communities "that are not to be underestimated."

The controversy is coming now because of the pastoral document of the last Plenary Session of the German Bishops' Conference, "Walking with Christ -- In the Footsteps of Unity: Mixed Marriages and Common Participation in the Eucharist." (February 2018). Over three quarters of the members of the Bishops' Conference were in agreement, but the half a dozen bishops who weren't complained to Rome.

In fact, intercommunion refers to much more than communion between Catholics and Protestants in mixed marriages; it is the participation of Catholics in a Eucharist celebrated in a Christian community of a confession different from their own, or in a Catholic Eucharist with the participation of non-Catholics. The question is old and for years, both on the Protestant and on the Catholic side, the voices that cry out for "Eucharistic hospitality" have increased. It is about all those of us who are confessing Christians praying, speaking, serving and being able to celebrate together, despite our differences.

But in this, much more progress has been made in the field of praxis and theology, than in the field of ecclesiastical norms.

Intercommunion has been going on for decades, but in the theoretical doctrinal field there is still a long way to go. When you have participated in Eucharistic celebrations with brothers and sisters of a different confession, you see that there is no problem. I remember the Masses in Taizé more than 30 years ago, in which I participated with other Catholic priests and Protestant pastors. And more recently participation in the Eucharist in Skära Cathedral and in a small rural church with brothers and sisters of the Swedish Lutheran Church. Their celebrations of the Eucharist are very similar to ours, including consecration and communion (http://www.alandar.org/hemeroteca/cantar-en-tierra-extrana/una-semana-ecumenica-en-suecia/). We understood that the sacramentalized Jesus was as "present" in these masses as in what a Catholic priest would do. This can no longer be prevented; it is already a beautiful ecumenical reality.

The priesthood of women, again at the center of the debate

2. With regard to the theme of the priesthood for women -- better than "female priesthood," as an aside -- Ladaria stated that he considers the "no" to women's priesthood "definitive" -- "Christ wanted to confer this sacrament on the twelve apostles, all men, who, in turn, transmitted it to other men. The Church has always recognized herself bound by this decision of the Lord, which excludes that the ministerial priesthood can be validly conferred on women." And to the cardinal "it is a matter of serious concern to see the emergence in some countries of voices that question the finality of this doctrine,"  that "it is a truth belonging to the heritage of the faith."

But what is a matter of "serious concern" to many other theologians and non-theologians, priests, men and women religious and lay Catholic men and women is this stubbornness of the Church in stopping women from being able to access this responsibility in the communities like men and being able to function as ordained priests in them. It is not true what the cardinal prefect says that "the difference of roles between men and women does not imply any subordination," because the possibility of accessing positions of more responsibility in the service of the Church such as it is organized today -- an organization that is more than debatable and that does not come from Jesus of Nazareth -- necessarily passes through the sacrament of Holy Orders. If women can not access it, they will not be able to be pastors or bishops or -- why not? -- popes. Many small base communities have already solved the problem their own way, although sometimes at the expense of the value of the sacrament of Holy Orders in presiding at the Eucharist, especially in the consecration, which is questionable.

Theologian Jesús Martínez Gordo recently recalled in Religión Digital that the most recent position of the Magisterium with respect to the (im)possibility of women accessing ordained ministry is found in three documents "of unequal value": the Inter Insigniores Declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1976), the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis of John Paul II (1994) and the Responsum on the authority of said Apostolic Letter signed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith the following year (1995).

The first is a document in which infallibility or unreformability is not involved, therefore, it does not belong to the deposit of faith. The Responsum on the authority of the Apostolic Letter is a text of the Congregation, its authorship is the responsibility of the Congregation and the Pope is limited to authorizing its publication. In short, the Apostolic Letter of John Paul II aims to "dispel doubts" about it and express a position against the female priesthood, but it does not have dogmatic authority either. This theologian states something obvious: "The degree of authority is lower in John Paul II's text than in those of Pius XII or of Pius IX on the Assumption of Mary and the Immaculate Conception," concluding with all the reason in the world that "seldom in the history of the Church has there been a dogmatic and canonical mess like the one laid out."

Jesus and women

The truth is that in the New Testament we have no clear statement against the priesthood of women. In fact, Jesus did not ordain men or women as priests. Rather, we find evidence - corroborated by other extra-biblical writings of the early Christian churches and frescoes in the catacombs - that women also presided at the Eucharist.

And the truth is that women have been and have returned to being priests in the Church. Not only in non-Catholic Christian confessions, where even bishops abound -- despite the rejection of some sectors that came to "move over" to the Catholic Church because of it, as was the case of some Anglican priests -- but also in the Catholic Church itself. This is the case of the ARCWP and RCWP (Association of Catholic Roman Priests and Roman Catholic Women Priests), which already have about 300 priests and about a dozen bishops who joyfully tend to numerous communities, especially in North America but also in South America and in European countries. It is not that they want "power" like men, but to do what they have felt called to do.

Christian communities are demanding this female service as soon as they hear about it. And the vocations of many women, responding to a well-discerned interior calling -- at least equal to that of men, and in some cases quite a bit better -- show that the priesthood of women is a reality in the Catholic Church, and that it is no more than a matter of time before it is accepted by the hierarchy.

It is true that news like this, which comes from a man named by Pope Francis, bewilders many women and men and they question the renewal of the Church that he has been proclaiming. Above all, they still have to mourn in silence this discrimination in their Church. Others are already beginning not to be silent and to shout aloud in a prophetic voice what they consider legitimate and evangelical. "If they keep silent, the stones will cry out," the Master said.