In olden days a glimpse of stocking was pretty common. Once those old silk stockings got a snag in them, they would get a ladder-like run in them. It was inevitable. Once they got a run, there was no stopping it.
So it is with the women ordination movement.
Quite a few readers have urged me to examine closely a piece in the National Catholic Fishwrap written by that venerable old feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Reuther.
It is a labor arduus to drill into these articles of open dissent. For every word they write, the Faith requires us to write ten.
Lest it be said that RRR’s piece has gone unanswered I will give you a some hooks you can snag some ideas on as you read it on your own and then talk about it with others… if you must.
First, put it into the context of what the National Catholic Reporter is trying to do.
Recently there have been many articles in NCR, all positively promoting the ordination of women. These articles are, in my opinion, not merely for the purpose of lively discussion of a burning issue in the Church. They are contumacious gestures of dissent from the Church’s defined, infallible teaching. The timing of this gush of articles in NCR is payback for the inclusion of the attempt to ordain a women among the graviora delicta listed in Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela.
Now to Rosemary’s article. If we put this in the context of NCR, put it also in the context of RRR’s life. Check quickly her wikipedia entry.
As a Patristicist I was attentive to her long argument that there is no solid evidence of a conscious Apostolic Succession in the early Church. Instead, she argues, there were various ways by which people (men and women) were called to various ministries in the Church. She quotes various Patristic sources. Rosemary has been out of the loop for a while. She is unaware it seems that no good scholar thinks that Hippolytus was the author the Apostolic Tradition. Manlio Simonetti has taken care of the question.
But, leave that all aside. This is not the real point we have to focus on when reading RRR’s article. Her long Patristic thing is really a head fake.
Let us stipulate that, yes, ministry in the early Church was messy. It took centuries for the Church in both the East and West to figure things out clearly. Fine. The relationship of the norms of doctrine and authority with the Patristic tradition is thorny. No news there. Let her have that ground for the time being, though someone could really have fun picking her references apart.
So. The early Church was messy. There were schisms and dissenters and fights and arguments all the time. This is the history of the Church. No surprise there.
In fact, as the situation was in 2nd-5th centuries, so to it is today. Today all sorts of different people in a myriad of different communities call themselves ordained. Not all the "ordained" are recognized even by others within their own faith communities.
But this is still not the real snag in her article.
Most of the time when you read a womanpriest dissenter, the writer is actually begging, desperately pleading for Rome’s approval of what they are doing. They are never going to get it, which makes their dissent so pathetic. Rosemary doesn’t care about Rome’s approval for the ordination women are attempting. When she argues against a secure basis for claims of an unbroken Apostolic Succession, she is not arguing that women could have been part of the valid Apostolic Succession (though she suggests that). Her real point is that the Apostolic Succession, unbroken or not, doesn’t make any difference.
Watch what happens in her article. From the very beginning of her piece, she merely assumes that ordination of women, in any form, is valid.
But then she turns to the example of a breakaway community in California, the Mary Magdalene Apostle Catholic Community. This MMACC is simply calling forth women they think embody what they are doing and "ordains" them on their own, without the involvement of any of those Danube-riverboat-style ordinations which meticulously tried to show that they had some involvement of Catholic bishops in the Apostolic Succession.
On the one hand, we have the Euro/Teutonic womenpriests of the Roman Catholic Women Priest thing, who in a good German style want to build the precision autobahn machine. They really care about the Apostolic Succession and Rome’s approval. They want to tinker with that engine can get it just right.
On the other hand, we have the California gals who could care less about the precision of the engine. They just want to turn up the radio and whip down the road with the top down. They could care less about Apostolic Succession and Rome’s approval.
Cutting through the long Patristic thing and the long-rehearsed feminist stuff in RRR’s article, RRR is terrified that there is going to be a messy split between two groups of women who want to be ordained.
This is what keeps RRR awake at night: not that Rome might not give approval to their ordinations, but that one group of women not approve the other. One group will tell the other that they are not – wait for it – validly ordained because there was not womenpriest bishop from some river-boat thingy involved. The Eurowymyn will point at the Calgals and say "You are not validly ordained!"
Just as the early Church was messy, and RRR describes this at length, RRR is worried that these groups could get all messy. They could even "excommunicate" each other.
These women – in either group – can claim that they are priests till the cows come in, so to speak. Christian history of who says whom is ordained is a mess. Some denominations might accept some of the wymyn as ordained, some won’t. Some catholics will migrate to the Magdalen Catholic Church or the Roman Catholic Women Priests thing. It could happen. So what. We have seen this movie before. Heck, millions could join!
They will never have approval of Rome and they will never be priests.
But Rosemary Radford Reuther is worried about a first schism in their new birthing church. She covers her fear over with a little anger about graviora delicta. She deflect us from her real concern in her long exposition about the early Church.
Her new church – and she favors the non-Apostolic-Succession-style California-Gal Magdalen Church Community stuff and not the precise i-dotting t-crossing Euro-boat-riders – Rosemary’s new church even in its birth pangs is already going into schism with itself over the question of Apostolic Succession. Her new heroines are on the verge of a cat fight over true priesthood and how it is transmitted.
One of these days it is going to happen, you know.
The boat-riders are going to say that the California gals are going to have to be ordained by one of them or they will not be validly ordained.
Sardonic Question: Will the Roman Catholic Women Priests establish a doctrinal congregation to settle this? Will they need their own CDF?
Which penalties will be applied by women to women when they attempt ordain without a bishop in the Apostolic Succession?
I will make popcorn.