Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Another word or two on Celibacy and Women

In response to comments and email let me say something important: neither women priests nor non-celibate priests are essential to me, at least. And how could they be? How can a human office have any special bearing on an essentially unhuman thing, salvation?

Summa Contra Mundum and Emily Stimpson seem to think the female ordination thing is Infallible. Given the part about "a definitive act he proclaims a (1) doctrine of faith or morals" and that it is not at all clear to me that ordination of women is a "doctrine of faith or morals" I'm not sure I buy it. So far no canon lawyer has explained it to me in a convincing way. I'm way out of my depth on canon law, and so it's a little like during the Impeachment, when all us laymen were arguing about what "rises to the level of impeachment." We can parrot what we hear, but so far it's a history BA (me), a theology MA or Ph.D. candidate (Emily) and a Ph.D. in Ph. (Karl at Summa), and I can't honestly say who is "right" in a legal sense.

The celibacy thing is clearly not infallible, and also clearly worth arguing about. There is great merit in saying that all people cannot do all things right or well, and that therefore celibacy should be the rule and married clergy the exception. I put the emphasis someplace else, but I don't see celibacy as evil or automatically stunting, anymore than I see marriage as automatically fulfilling. The priesthood is what a priest makes of it. Open to the Holy Spirit, a priest will be and do good, at least on balance. Closed, he will not. Everything in between is open for discussion.

But so what? There are people ready to tear down the Church over this, and I find them reprehensible. If the Spirit wants women clergy, there will be women clergy, "infallible" declaration or not. Perhaps the Spirit already does want it, and has sent us the Protestants to fulfill that ministry. If the Spirit wants more married clergy, he will most certainly get them sooner or later. I will not stand side by side with those who would destroy, nor with those who place two essentially political goals ahead of Salvation.

As for Pope Joan, I actually rather suspect she existed. (I also believe in Big Foot and Sasquatch, if you want to know the truth. But I don't believe President Carter saw either a UFO or a Killer Rabbit. So I'm only a little crazy.) Much more intelligent and better read people than I have fallen under the spell of her legend. But she is neither here nor there to the argument, except as a curious sidebar. For those who are curious just what the heck I'm talking about, may I refer you to this book. It's utterly inconclusive, but it explains why people can get a little goofy around the idea.


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