National catholic Reporter, Fishwrap, has an editorial today in favor of the ordination of women.
Whom did they consult as their expert? The deposed Bishop of Toowoomba, William Morris. And for their theological “insights”? You decide. I have my own ideas.
Their argument is tired, by the way: if something isn’t solemnly defined as infallibly taught, then we can change it.
My emphases and comments.
Ordination ban not infallibly taught
An NCR editorial
May. 23, 2011
By An NCR Editorial
In a national radio interview following his recent forced retirement, [It could have been voluntary. He was asked privately half a dozen times, even by the Pope.] Australian Bishop William Morris of Toowoomba, Australia, raised the issue of what he said “a lot of people are calling creeping infallibility.” [In contrast to NCR’s “creepy ineducability“.]
In the May 8 interview, on Australia’s ABC radio network program “Sunday Nights,” Morris said that Pope Benedict XVI, in his letter demanding the bishop’s early retirement, stated, “The late Pope John Paul II has decided infallibly and irrevocably that the church has not the right to ordain women to the priesthood.” [Morris said Benedict said John Paul said… sound like a game of “telephone”. Here is the bottom line. John Paul formally defined that the CHURCH teaches that women cannot be ordained. The Church has no authority to ordain women.]
“To my knowledge, I have never seen that written before — using the word ‘infallible’ concerning JPII’s statement, because he never used the word ‘infallible,’ ” Morris commented. [Imagine. This man was a diocesan bishop. Your Excellency, there are a lot of things we Catholics believe which have not been taught in a formula including the word “infallible”.]
Whether the papal treatment of Morris was fair or just is one matter — this paper thinks it was not. [Get that? “This paper”, NCR, takes sides with Bp. Morris. No surprise there. But they made it explicit.] The deeper question, going beyond individual persons and cases, is whether the church is experiencing what the Australian bishop and many theologians in recent decades have described as “creeping infallibility.” [The immediate question is whether NCR is experiencing “creepy ineducability”.]
At issue fundamentally is whether John Paul, in his 1994 apostolic letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (“Priestly Ordination”), intended to (or actually did) lay out an infallible teaching when he said, “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.” [Leaving aside for a moment the point about the word “infallible”, what part of “is to be definitively held by all the church’s faithful” don’t they understand over there. Does the Pope have to say “Pretty please?” Does everything we hold as Catholics have to come from an ex cathedra definition?]
John Paul did not formally pronounce the teaching ex cathedra (speaking from the chair of Peter) or say he was teaching infallibly in his declaration.
It is also notable that he said only that it was a “judgment” that is “to be definitively held” — not a matter of “divine faith” that must be “believed.” [This is simply embarrassing. And of course Fishwrap is working from the English version rather than the Latin. In Latin we read: “hancque sententiam ab omnibus Ecclesiae fidelibus esse definitive tenendam“. Teneo, basically “to hold”, is precisely the sort of term we use to indicate belief. English “tenet” comes from teneo. “definitive tenendam” means “it must be believed in a definitive way”.]
For any serious Catholic or student of Catholic teaching, [Clearly none were consulted in the writing of this editorial….] the issue of the words employed in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is not of minor import. [Finally something I can agree with.] It is one to which John Paul and Benedict — then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — devoted considerable energy in the 1990s. [Why? BECAUSE OF LOONY EDITORIALS LIKE THIS, that’s why.]
[You can almost hear the rasp of McBrien’s fingernails in this next part… ] There are two interconnected chords in the 1990s as the late John Paul and Ratzinger sought to strengthen the level of church teaching authority exercised by the pope or by the clear consensus of the world’s bishops on matters of faith or morals. [Bad news for Fishwrap, which wants the Magisterium of the Pope and of bishops to be subordinate to that of, say, the Magisterium of Nuns, of which NCR is the instrument of promulgation. They want a “magisterium” from below. Far below, dreadfully hot below, in this case.]
One was the doctrinal congregation’s 1998 offer of a new profession of faith and oath of fidelity for Catholic theologians and for others entering church offices. The profession introduced a new element. In addition to firm faith in the word of God and everything proposed by the church as divinely revealed, it added the declaration, “I also firmly accept and hold each and every thing definitively proposed by the church regarding teaching on faith and morals.” [Imagine the horror with which that was met in the offices of NCR or the LCWR! We have to believe what the Church teaches on faith and morals? But notice that word “definitely”. Where have I seen that word recently?]
That language, widely commented on by theologians and canonists at the time, was interpreted as a Vatican effort to restrict theological dissent on matters not infallibly defined but nonetheless regarded by church authorities as requiring assent — if not of faith, at least of intellect and will. [And who, pray tell, gave that interpretation?]
The other chord, prefiguring the new oath of fidelity, was the doctrinal congregation’s 1995 Responsum ad Propositum Dubium (“Response to a Proposed Doubt”) concerning the level of teaching authority in the pope’s apostolic letter on the ordination of women the year before.
The response, which John Paul approved for publication, said his teaching “requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the tradition of the church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium.”
That document did not place the source of infallibility in a papal judgment or decree, but in the universal teaching of all the church’s bishops. At that time there were many Catholic bishops around the world who would have regarded the ordination of women as at least possible, if not actually desirable. [At that time there were how many bishops who thought it at least possible? A handful? Maybe? Are they using psychic powers to know this? Have they gone to the Witch of Endor to ask the dead? Or even to the head of the LCWR? Individual bishops can be wrong, because they are wicked or stupid, or getting dotty.]
And even today — in spite of concerted Vatican efforts [I love that sort of liberal phrase… “concerted Vatican efforts”. Oooooo!] over the past two decades or more to stack the deck by making opposition to women’s ordination a sine qua non for promotion to the episcopacy (Jesuit Fr. Thomas J. Reese several years ago revealed a Vatican questionnaire that explicitly asked all possible episcopal nominees for their views on ordination of women) [And it’s bad to insist that bishops believe the Church’s teaching on faith and morals, too.] — the universality of Catholic bishops’ opposition to ordination of women to the priesthood is at least questionable. Witness Morris’ pastoral letter that led to his dismissal. [At this point we can cut through their inuendo by saying, gratis asseritur, gratis negatur. Let NCR show some numbers of bishops who wanted or want now the ordination of women. And then let them show what different that number would make in the face of what John Paul II and what has been held since the very earliest years of the faith.]
So if Benedict said in his letter to Morris, as the Australian bishop asserts, that “the late Pope John Paul II has decided infallibly and irrevocably that the church has not the right to ordain women to the priesthood,” how did the alleged universal opinion of Catholic bishops (which is in dispute) rise in the apostolic letter to what Benedict described — not an infallibly held universal view of the world’s bishops, but an infallibly and irrevocably taught decision by the pope himself that women cannot be ordained to the priesthood? [Get it? If even one bishop thinks women can be ordained, then John Paul’s claim was wrong. My God. It’s just embarrassing.]
The doctrinal congregation can make many definitive decisions regarding church doctrine and life. It is beyond its authority to determine which church teachings are infallible and which are not. Only a pope clearly speaking ex cathedra or an ecumenical council of the world’s bishops can determine that. [Is that so? Are those the only two ways by which we know that a teaching is taught infallibly?]
“Creeping infallibility” is precisely what is at issue here [“creepy ineducability”, rather] — a papal document that made no claim to infallibility raised to the level of infallibility by a Vatican congregation’s statement that has no competence to make such a determination, and now almost casually described as infallible in a disciplinary letter to a bishop by the current pope.
We rest our case on Canon Law 749.3: “No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident.” [It is evident that John Paul II was right.]
A couple observations. The language “sententia definitive tenenda” is from Lumen gentium 25. There would be an inherent contradiction in the Church’s exercise of the Magisterium were a “sententia definitive tenenda” not to be infallible. How can the Church require that the faithful give definitive assent to a teaching that is not infallibly taught?
Also the Church can teach something infallibly either 1) by an act that defines a doctrine in a solemn way (e.g., ex cathedra definition by the Roman Pontiff or 2) by an Ecumenical Council with the him) or by an act which is not solemnly defining. That’s what Fishwrap denies. They go only for the first, not the second. The second type of infallible teaching comes from the ordinary univeral Magisterium or the ordinary Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff. Examples of the latter, the ordinary Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, can be found in Paul VI’s Credo of the People of God, several points in John Paul II’s Evangelium vitae about the taking of life through abortion or euthanasia, and, of course, Ordinatio sacerdotalis. The Church’s highest doctrinal authority under the Roman Pontiff, the CDF, determined that what was identified as to be believed definitively in OS was a confirmation by the Roman Pontiff in the exercise of his ordinary Magisterium about something the Church holds infallibly. The teaching in OS already belongs to the deposit of faith, rooted in Scripture and Tradition.
The point is – and Fishwrap denies this: The Magisterium can teach a doctrine infallibly also by the ordinary exercise of the Magisterium, without a solemn definition.
I don’t this for sure, but I think what we have here is the fruits of the labor of a team made up of Richard McBrien, Bp. Morris, and the editor of Fishwrap, perhaps with a humorless and staring oversight of a representative of the Magisterium of Nuns.
Lastly, continue your protest against Fishwrap by sending donations to me.
Pray for them and annoy also them.