The “logical union of women’s ordination and sodomy”

I have noticed lately an uptick in chatter about women deacons, deaconettes, deaconesses, whatever.  There was a conference at Fordham recently at which speakers (read: promoters) blew past the obvious problems of our lack of certainty about what ordination may have meant for women in the ancient Church, etc., and the fact that Lumen gentium definitively identifies diaconate, with priesthood and episcopacy, as a grade of Holy Orders (reserved to men), and also made assertions about how deaconettes would be accepted in parishes, etc.

Essentially, promoters of women’s ordination, even to the diaconate, comes down to this:

Maybe we don’t know some essential points about ancient deaconettes, but we want them now because they could be useful for ministry today.

This is a deadly trap.

However, there is a brilliant response to the trap available at this month’s number (Jan/Feb 2019 – Vol. 32, No. 1) of Touchstone James A. Altena.   This superb article is a must read for anyone even slightly interested in the issue of women’s ordination to any of the three grades of Holy Orders.

Sex, Women’s Ordination and the Rejection of Hierarchy and Equality.

The article is, alas, behind a paywall.  You can subscribe monthly online with Kindle – US HERE – UK HERE.

The author lays down the “irreducible theological connection between women’s ordination and ethical normalization of homosexuality.

The article slays women’s ordination.  The fact that Altena writes from an Anglican perspective makes no difference whatsoever for the inescapable logic of his conclusions.

The writer, James A. Altena, carefully sets forth his argument, to which in a single blog post I can hardly do justice.

He begins by showing how the Trinity is a hierarchy of equal persons.  Equality and hierarchy do not conflict.  Man (human beings), as God’s images, reflect in his relationships both equality and hierarchy.  The ease of harmony of human equality and hierarchy was marred in the Fall.  Maleness and femaleness reflect equality and hierarchy.

The relationship of man to woman, who signify in living forms the divinely created principles of male and female that in turn manifest the divine triune relations of hierarchy and equality, is one such unalterable symbolic relation, because it signifies the relation of Christ to his Church.  It is in the Church that the principles of the Incarnation – God made man – and of man and woman – complimentary persons made in the image and likeness of God – are brought together.

As Paul states,

the relation of Christ to his Church, and hence of male to female within it, is that headship and submission, in short, one of hierarchy…. And yet St. Paul also states that in the Church the salvific relation between its members, conferred by baptism, is neither male nor female… in short, is one of equality.    Both principles… are fully present and operative in the Church, and when rightly understood and applied, they cannot contradict each other.

Thus, the hierarchic relation of male headship to female submission cannot be one of dominance to subjugation that violates the principle of salvific equality, and the relation of equality cannot be one of undifferentiated egalitarianism that denies the principle of hierarchic relation.  Instead, as reflective of the ordered relations within the Trinity, the relation of headship to subjection, of male to female, is one of service and response – of self-sacrificial service by the head in union with the consenting and enabling cooperation and support of the subject, each selflessly seeking the greatest good of the other.

From here, Altena moves into examining ordained ministry as a sign of the Church.  As you might guess, ordained ministry, too, “embodies and manifests the principles of hierarchy and equality, and of headship and submission within hierarchy”.  Note the use of “sign”, which is a theological principle.

[T]he ordained minister does not just do things…. Rather, and far more importantly, he is something – a living sign, an ‘icon’ or ‘image’ of Christ to the Church, just as Christ as the Incarnate Son is the divinely given image of God to man (Heb 1:3), and the husband is the image of God to his wife and children in marriage and the family.

Then Altena moves into an important distinction between what he calls essentialism and functionalism.  Everything has an essential principle which makes it what it is, which orders its relations, goals and ends.  However, there is a modern, secular concept of functionalism,

“which denies the existence of any such inherent and irreducible essence, and hence of any intrinsic ontological or teleological character to things.  Instead, it asserts that a thing is nothing more than the sum of its parts and capacities for action or uses at a given moment, a particular collection of accidents which man chooses to conceptualize as a unity and to assign a name to.

Dear readers, I am harshly compressing Altena’s carefully argued article into a quick outline.  Do not assume that there are not well-argued connections and foundations for all of these moves.   However, you can see where he is going, even with my rough sketch.

Stepping away from Altena for a moment, the promoters of women’s ordination deny this hierarchal dimension when in comes to male and female.  They don’t like the “iconic” argument, that males reflect the male Christ in ordained ministry and maleness is necessary.  They say that women are also icons of Christ. Sure they are!  In the salvific dimension of equality.  But the way God has it set up, as revealed in the Trinity, equality can’t be considered alone.  There is also hierarchy, an ordering of headship and submission, in the Trinity, in nature, in the Church, in ministry.

Proponents of women deacons refer to how “useful” they would be.  This is a functionalist argument that does not account for what Altena calls essentialism.   The idea is this.  If ministry is a function, a job, in the Church, then anyone qualified should able to fulfill it because all in the Church, men and women, are equal.   Some men who are ordained can barely put three coherent sentences together in the pulpit and some women are brilliant orators and scholars.  Why shouldn’t they be ordained?  That reduces ministry to a function.  That’s a trap.

Going back to Altena, you can see where he is going with the connection between those who promote women’s ordination (to any grade of order) and those who promote sodomy. If sex is just a detail, then why shouldn’t men have sex with men?

When it comes to promotion of women’s ordination and of homosexuality

both positions deny or reject essentialism in favor of functionalism.  Apologists for sodomy deny that there his any underlying significance or purpose to sexual relations as essentially procreative and unitive, which naturally constitutes them and orders their use to those specific ends.  Rather, since they they can be conceived of and use (physical and emotional pleasure), these become [pace James Martin!] ends in themselves, and the means to them is asserted to be ‘natural’ in a reductionist sense.

Likewise, apologists for women’s ordination deny that there is any underlying significance of purpose to the ordained ministry as essentially hierarchical and authoritative, which naturally constitutes it and orders its use to that specific end.  Rather, since it can be conceived of and used functionally to obtain other desired results (e.g., pastoral care, Bible study, church administration, etc.), these become [pace Phyllis Zagano, Fr. Pottier, etc.] ends in themselves, and the means to them is asserted to be ‘natural’ in a reductionist sense.

Second, both sets of apologists deny or reject the Christian belief in divine signs, symbols, and signification.  For both, there is no belief that created things – whether sexual relations or the ordained ministry – are divinely constituted with any essential power or meaning to signify and point beyond themselves to revealed, eternal divine verities.  Instead, all symbols are purely human concepts which may be created, altered, and discarded at will, since their signifying power and meaning are determined by man (not God) to satisfy human desires and needs.

Altena keeps arguing through eight different points with two more quickly mentioned.   One of them, point eight, mentions a long-time reader of this blog…

Eighth and last, the final fruit of support for both women’s ordination and “sanctified sodomy” (to borrow William Tighe’s term) is the fundamental inversion of divine human relations.  Both the ability and the asserted right to take as a sexual partner a member of one’s own sex, or to ordain as a minister a woman rather than a man, presume that it is man and not God who sets the terms. As with inclusive language – the assertion of the right to name God as man desires rather than as God reveals – these are (as with all acts of disobedience) ultimately acts of idolatrous self-worship that seek to conform God to the image of and likeness of fallen man.

Do you hear the cosmic echo of the Fall of man?  Remember the lie of the serpent?   “Did God really tell you that?  You shall be as gods!”

Altena goes on to shoot down the counter-arguments, which I won’t summarize here.  You should get that article.  But if you have followed this, you can hear anticipate them: there is a priesthood of all believers… ministry is a job, a function… ministry shouldn’t reflect any sort of hierarchy…etc.

Altena shows in his superbly argued article – 9 densely argued pages – that the same line of thought and desire underlying the defense of and promotion of sodomy undergirds the promotion of women’s ordination.  And that applies to ordination all grades of Holy Orders.  The fact that Altena writes from an Anglican perspective makes no difference whatsoever for the inescapable logic of his conclusions.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The interesting bit is that nobody is calling for the new deaconesses to be church ladies who launder linens and teach CCD and visit the sick. Nope, nope, gotta be imitation men doing clergy stuff, not faithful women doing historical deaconess activities. It is humbug, and a hatred or self-hatred of women doing their own traditional stuff.

  2. Akita says:

    Years ago my cousin told me that a priest, at the moment of consecration, in persona of Christ, says “ This is my body”. The maleness of the priest is in perfect congruence to that statement. The words reflect reality. A woman saying those words would be a falsehood, a delusion.

    In this evil era of gender bending on all fronts the near successful drive of women’s ordination may be the moment when all things appear to be lost. Then, the Immaculate Heart of Mary will triumph.

  3. Clinton R. says:

    A priest is indeed Alter Christus when consecrating and offering the Body and Blood of the Lord. Jesus is male, so thus it is complete heresy to suggest women should be ordained. Female deacons? A non starter. Holy Orders are for men only. That Pope Paul VI suppressed minor orders is to be greatly lamented as it opened the doors for laymen to do the work of the ordained priests. So one door opens and the provocateur figures another one can be opened. I digress. Our Blessed Mother and all the female saints were not priests or deacons. Did this diminish their importance to the Church and the salvation of souls? Of course not. This is the way God established His Church. The evil one has sown the seeds of dissent between the sexes. God created man and woman to be complimentary to each other. The devil wants competition and distrust and turmoil between them. God created all things (Man in particular) in perfect harmony and order. Homosexuality is not of God. Any and all attempts to normalize it are doing the work of the father of all lies.

  4. Imrahil says:

    There isn’t any chance of buying this article (or issue) without the subscription thing?

  5. fr.ignatius says:

    “Women priests” is certainly linked to transgenderism because priesthood is intrinsically linked to maleness, ‘women priests’ are essentially women choosing to cross dress in the sanctuary and want to engage in a collective imagination that they are in fact men, because priesthood is intrinsically linked to maleness.

  6. dahveed says:

    Hi Father,
    for those with Kindles, it is possible to try the subscription for free for thirty days. Surely, that’s enough time to read the article.

  7. Joel says:

    Mulieres in Ecclesiis taceant.

  8. MB says:

    Wasn’t the idea of deaconesses addressed in the Council of Nicea, Canon 19: “…And we mean by deaconesses such as have assumed the habit, but who, since they have no imposition of hands, are to be numbered only among the laity.” ???

    [While interesting, that doesn’t really concern the argument made by the writer in Touchstone.]

  9. John V says:

    A subscription to Touchstone is worth every penny.

  10. RichR says:

    Before modern methods of birth control, people were forced to respect the natural order of creation. I say “forced” from the perspective of a person now living in a contraceptive culture that values comfort, pleasure, and self-determinism as ultimate goods. However, back then it was just the reality of life that you were a man or a woman by nature, not by choice, and certain responsibilities flowed from that identity. Once we turned women into “womb-less” beings, we artificially inserted a license to deny central aspects of the created order, and from that denial has flowed much of this confusion and hopelessness. People of the opposite sex no longer know how to relate to each other, so they rebel against each other. The result is sodomy, ultra-feminism, pornography, father-less homes, Tinder, transgenderism, etc…. The answer is to recapture this sense of hierarchy and responsibility. Heaven knows we are overdosed on the equality of people’s dignity.

  11. St. Irenaeus says:

    I’m having issues with the Kindle thing, and apparently can’t read touchstone on the Kindle app for PC/mac, only on actual kindles. I might actually recommend doing the digital subscription for $20/year, gives you pc/mac access, access to archives, pdf downloads, etc.

    I really like Touchstone. There’s a lot in it readers of this blog would appreciate, month after month.

  12. JustaSinner says:

    Why are these women-ordinators so jealous of men? As a woman, they have THE gift from God: motherhood! It was a WOMAN, Mary, that God created without sin to be the mother of His son…speaking volumes as the true nature of womanhood.

  13. philosophicallyfrank says:

    What nobody seems to “Get” is that “The Left” (Communists – The Bella Dodd Document) do not “ever” stop pushing their agenda which is to destroy The Church. Remember the “Equal Rights” Amendment to the Constitution of 50 years ago? We may have forgotten it; but, they haven’t. It currently is only ONE State away from the 38 States needed to add it to the Constitution. What perversions we have seen be legalized to date is nothing compared to what the “Equal Rights” will produce as the 28th Amendment to the US Constitution. “You ain’t seen nothing yet” as the old show biz adage goes. Is it too late to save our nation? Probably, God could turn things around; but, have we done anything to convince Him that we’re salvageable?

  14. Pingback: US bishops asked about women deacons | Fr. Z's Blog

  15. William Tighe says:

    philosophicallyfrank claimed:

    “Remember the “Equal Rights” Amendment to the Constitution of 50 years ago? We may have forgotten it; but, they haven’t. It currently is only ONE State away from the 38 States needed to add it to the Constitution.”

    The ERA was “proposed” by Congress to the states in 1972. There was a March 1979 deadline for ratification. Congress later attempted to extend the deadline to June 1982. Neither by 1979 nor by 1982 did the ERA gain the approval of three-quarters of the state legislatures – only 35 ratified it (38 would have been necessary for ratification) – and 5 state legislatures rescinded their approval before 1982. There was litigation over the legality of both Congress’ extending the ratification deadline and state legislatures’ rescinding their approval. The Supreme Court refused to pronounce a judgment on the questions, ruling that they were moot until such time as three-quarters of the state legislatures should have ratified the amendment.

    In recent years both the Nevada and Illinois legislatures have purported to ratify the ERA. If one more does so we may look forward to some interesting legal battles.

  16. Imrahil says:

    That Pope Paul VI suppressed minor orders is to be greatly lamented as it opened the doors for laymen to do the work of the ordained priests

    It is. But while an aside, that’s not quite the way it was.

    1. Paul VI did not suppress the minor orders but only two of them, plus the major order of the subdeaconate. The orders of lector and acolyte remain in full function even outside the traditional area. [Not quite. There are lectors and acolytes who have ministries, but they are not in “orders”.]

    2. Yes, it is now Church policy to refer to them as “ministerial services” and what not. Which means that, as with the Anointing of the Sick formerly known as Extreme Unction (though, rumors to the contrary nonwithstanding, Vatican II did not really disapprove of the latter term, but I digress in the digression), the DNS address switched, but the IP address remained the same (if you pardon the analogy from computer networks).

    3. The concept of “clergy” is a related but somewhat different concept from that of “Holy Orders” – the latter are sacramental (or sacramentalian – what is the adjective to the noun “a sacramental”?), clergy is juridic. The difference can be seen in that a laicized priest is still a priest but not a cleric.

    Here, Paul VI did do a change. A man starts to be cleric only when he is consecrated deacon. (This means that even in the traditional area, even subdeacons are now, technically, laymen. Of course the traditional community treats them in practice as clergy, using quite acceptable workarounds to do so – such as, I believe, applying a theoretical rule that anyone (or almost anyone) can straw-subdeacon in a High Mass (which I believe exists) to them and only to them.

    4. – and this is why I commented at all -: Paul VI’s actions, while to be lamented, did not actually “open the doors for laymen to do the work of the ordained priests” – if I understand the words, as I think you meant them, by actually allowing them to do minor-clerical stuff, which would them be a “door-opener” on the way to allowing them major-clerical stuff and finally priestly stuff.

    This is simply because it had already been established, as an at least centennial custom, that every baptized Catholic man (not, then, woman) can step in for minor clergy when needed (and perhaps at least in a limited amount on very festive occasions, when not needed) – in all or almost all functions, one exception, I believe, being the straw subdeacon (who is himself a step-inner). In fact, those who step in even have formed a distinct class within the Church, which could have been called the step-inners, but which conventionally goes by the name of “altar boys”.

    Hence, Paul VI did not allow minor-clerical stuff to laymen, because it already had been.

  17. Imrahil says:

    Reverend Father,

    I am aware that my opinion is maybe not quite obvious and unanimously held; but I explained in which manner I did mean that in my number 2: the names were changed, the thing remains the same. It had once the label “order” (though, to be more precise, “minor order” and, according to the ruling theological opinion, “not a sacrament but a sacramental” were attached to it – hence quite clearly something else than a sacramental order); now they have the label “ministry” (which is more confusing, because of course even orders are ministries, and in fact almost every sensible, non-sinful and a bit unselfish thing a Christian does can be termed a “ministry” of some sort); but both labels are intended to mean the same thing. [No.]

    Of course ost men and women conventionally known as “lectors” are not, actually, lectors (as in “being in minor orders”); in fact, they had better be called “readers”. However, a diocesan seminarian (or any other layman, if they succeed to do so) who has been “instituted” (as it is now called – that is, ordained) as a lector is just as much of a lector as a FSSP seminarian would be – that part, I think, is not much contested and the reason for my described opinion.

    (I know one adult EF altar boy who plans, or plays with the thought of, receiving Novus Ordo institution as acolyte by a sympathetic bishop to be able to help out in the EF Easter Vigil Mass, especially as a lector and especially since we have the traditional 12 Old Testament readings – but don’t give us away – and apparently deacon and subdeacon cannot do readings other than their own.)

  18. Barnacle says:

    Sigh. Pope Benedict now Emeritus closed all these cans of worms and Pope Francis has just gone and opened them again. Sigh.

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