Richard McBrien in his column in the National catholic Fishwrap says that the Church’s infallible teaching about the impossibility of the ordination of women isn’t really infallible. How dare the Pope say that it is?
His basic idea is that since the 1983 Code of Canon Law says in can. 749.3 that “if there is any doubt about the infallible nature of a teaching, it is not infallible. The canon reads: ‘No doctrine is understood to be infallibly defined unless it is clearly established as such.’”
McBrien doubts that it is infallible. Therefore it isn’t. See? See?
But wait! Other theologians think it isn’t infallible! And some other folks too! They doubt it.
And therefoooooooore … it isn’t infallible.
It’s all a mass of twaddle, of course. McBrien is just plain wrong.
But this twaddle points to two important facts you ultraconservative Catholics should keep in mind when daring to disagree with McBrien. We are just puir slow-witted gowks.
First, you are stupid. As McBrien writes: “ultraconservative Catholics — most or all of whom have had no formal education in theology, Scripture, liturgy, or canon law”. Then he says that Archbp. Chaput is an “ultraconservative”. He thinks Pope Benedict is an ultraconservative. McBrien thinks anyone who sticks to the Church’s teachings are ultraconservatives.
Second, there are pecking orders within academe which leave the hierarchies of the Church waaaaay behind. There are, for example, levels of professorships. There are assistants and associates. There are visiting and full professors. But then there is the crème de la crème of professors. There are the holders of endowed chairs, endowed chair professors. McBrien is the Crowley-O’Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. What was the little radio program on NPR? Mister Science? Remember him? “He knows more… than you do!”
McBrien, who surely values his endowed chair even more than being a priest, given the way he dresses… after all, anyone can be a priest ….errrr… ummmm… any man can be a priest, we should probably refer to him as “Holder” McBrien.
Think of the College of Cardinals and, within the College, the Cardinal Bishops. They’ve got nuthin‘ on the Endowed Chair Holder!
He’s an Endowed Chair Holder. Think of the prestige! The authority!
Who needs the Magisterium?
Holder McBrien is wrong about Ordinatio sacerdotalis, even though he… he, The Holder, and others beneath him, have a “doubt”.
We, the stupid, were capable of reading both Ordinatio sacerdotalis and the CDF response and, afterward, set aside doubts. Imagine how many subtleties we must have missed, subtleties spotted only by Holders of Endowed Chairs and their like.
I suspect the thought of the Holders is so far above ours that they have a hard time understanding why we don’t doubt the Church on this point of women’s ordination.
Let me try to explain to them why we, the stupid, still have faith.
A good source for clarity on the infallibility of the Church’s teaching on the ordination of women, see Avery Dulles’s excellent book Magisterium.
Put succinctly for you stupid ultraconservatives, the doctrine about women’s ordination is infallible as part of the ordinary and universal Magisterium.
The language used by John Paul in Ordinatio sacerdotalis makes it clear:
“Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) 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“.
If that wasn’t enough, and it isn’t for the ineducable… but remember, the ultraconservatives are the stupid ones, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explained the Pope’s teaching for those who were still inexplicably having doubts.
This, from the CDF, removes the doubts:
“In response to this precise act of the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, explicitly addressed to the entire Catholic Church, all members of the faithful are required to give their assent to the teaching stated therein. To this end, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of the Holy Father, has given an official Reply on the nature of this assent; it is a matter of full definitive assent, that is to say, irrevocable, to a doctrine taught infallibly by the Church. In fact, as the Reply explains, the definitive nature of this assent derives from the truth of the doctrine itself, since, founded on the written Word of God, and constantly held and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary universal Magisterium (cf. Lumen Gentium, 25). Thus, the Reply specifies that this doctrine belongs to the deposit of the faith of the Church. It should be emphasized that the definitive and infallible nature of this teaching of the Church did not arise with the publication of the Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. In the Letter, as the Reply of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also explains, the Roman Pontiff, having taken account of present circumstances, has confirmed the same teaching by a formal declaration, giving expression once again to quod semper, quod ubique et quod ab omnibus tenendum est, utpote ad fidei depositum pertinens. In this case, an act of the ordinary Papal Magisterium, in itself not infallible, witnesses to the infallibility of the teaching of a doctrine already possessed by the Church”.
Hey! Stooopid people! There are actually criteria by which we can tell that some teaching is infallible.
First, the Pope must be intending to teach. Pope John Paul was teaching in Ordinatio sacerdotalis.
Second, the Pope must intend to teach by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, his role as Peter to strengthen the brethren. He did that pretty clearly, even making reference to Luke 22.
Third, it must be about a point of faith or morals, not on the baseball season. This is a matter of faith, for certain.
Fourth, it must be a teaching that is to be held by the all the faithful, the whole Church. John Paul II explicitly mentioned all the faithful in Ordinatio sacerdotalis.
Ordinatio sacerdotalis does all these things. John Paul II taught, spoke of his role as Peter, said that this is a matter of faith and not just of some law or custom, and he said that all the faithful are to accept this.
With all these factors in play, he didn’t need the word “infallible”.
Then the CDF, with the approval of John Paul, made the situation clear.
There is no way to say that there is any doubt … unless you are stupid.
In any event, Holder McBrien ironically tries to support his dissent by citing Canon Law.
But the Rome Pontiff is the Legislator, the Lawgiver.