The group “We Are Church Ireland” are sadly deluded in their claim. This self appointed group believe that they are the Church and that whatever they say should be what the Catholic Church teaches and believes. Their misguided beliefs are understandable in an age where proper catechesis is hard to come by, their incredible arrogance less so.
Colm Holmes, a spokesman for ‘We Are Church Ireland’, in an interview for Soul Waves Radio referencing Pope Francis said, “Dialogue dialogue dialogue… we’re happy to engage in dialogue with people.” However this is not really true. Colm, his wife Soline Humbert, and the ‘We Are Church’ organisations worldwide take an absolutist position when it comes to women’s ordination. They will not accept anything less. They will not accept ‘NO’ for an answer. Their position with regards to dialogue is that they are happy to engage in dialogue until everyone accepts what they have to say.
But the Catholic Church also has an absolutist position with regards to women’s ordination. Pope Saint John Paul II issued a definitive document, ‘Ordinatio Sacerdotalis’ in which he declared.
“Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force. 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.”
Both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have reaffirmed this constant teaching of the Catholic Church.
Those who oppose this teaching whilst still claiming to be faithful Catholics, rely on the usual emotive arguments and on caricaturing those who oppose them. For example, Josepha Madigan, at her recent talk to We Are Church said, “The role of women in the priesthood is still considered a taboo topic at the highest levels of Catholic Church. What is the church afraid of?” She caricatures the Catholic Church as being afraid. The Church is not afraid of you Josepha nor is the Church afraid of women.
What saddens me most about this affair is that these people are really saying that Jesus was afraid of women because he did not invite any women to His last supper. Not even His mother Mary was present. ‘We Are Church’ even went so far as to commission a painting of the last supper which distorts the Gospel accounts. They have included women and children in the painting.
Josepha also said, “For me, and I am sure for many others, faith is closely connected to very personal aspects of my life – my childhood, my family, important memories of my life to date. I believe faith should be active not passive. Faith is best served by clearly participating in life in order to make it better for not just ourselves but for others. I try to live by that code every day of my life in everything that I do. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail.”
For Josepha, her faith is all about what she believes, not what the Catholic Church teaches as true. Josepha supports abortion, and divorce, contrary to what Jesus Christ Himself teaches. Josepha, even though she says she is not a theologian, a canon lawyer, or a priest, claims to have greater insight into humanity than Christ Himself. If what Josepha and ‘We Are Church’ say is true, then Christ was mistaken. There is no middle road and this is known to ‘We Are Church’. Their claim is that the Catholic Church and Christ Himself are mistaken by not ordaining women. This is why they admire the protestant Churches, because they themselves are protestants, although they don’t admit it.
This can be seen from another quote from Josepha’s talk. She points out that the protestant churches allow women in ministry and says, “Nobody finds this unusual because in those church communities it is considered quite the norm. Why can’t the Catholic Church be the same?”
The Catholic Church cannot be the same, because the Catholic Church believes what Jesus Christ taught and maintains that through Tradition, Scripture and the Magisterial teachings of the Catholic Church, some of which teachings the protestants reject. Josepha ironically fails to mention that the Catholic Church does not accept protestant orders as valid, be they conferred on either men or women.
You will notice that when these dissenters talk about faith they are not talking about the clearly defined ‘Catholic Faith’. Unlike the Catholic Church, they do not define exactly what they believe in nor do they give the historical foundations for their beliefs because their beliefs are not grounded in scripture, Tradition and the Magisterial teachings of the Catholic Church.
Sadly, many of the poorly catechised Catholics of our day are easily misled by the superficial arguments presented by ‘We Are Church Ireland’ and that is the only reason why I addressed the issue.
Josepha in her talk asks the question “How long will it take for the Catholic Church to realise that their prohibition on women priests is not just at best brazen discrimination but at worst could lead to the slow death of their beloved Church in its entirety?”
I will close with the question and answer from Peter Seewald’s interview with Pope Benedict XVI who has already answered this question in the book ‘Light of the World’
“[Peter Seewald:] Critics see this as a form of discrimination. The only reason Jesus did not call women to be priestesses, it is said, is that this would have been unthinkable two thousand years ago.[Pope Benedict:] That is nonsense, since the world was full of priestesses at the time. All religions had their priestesses, and the astonishing thing was actually that they were absent from the community of Christ, a fact that in turn is a point of continuity with the faith of Israel.
Pope John Paul II’s formulation is very important: The Church has ‘no authority’ to ordain women. The point is not that we are saying that we don’t want to, but that we can’t. The Lord gave the Church a form with the Twelve and, as their successors, with the bishops and the presbyters, the priests. This form of the Church is not something we ourselves have produced. It is how He constituted the Church. Following this is an act of obedience. This obedience may be arduous in today’s situation. But it is important precisely for the Church to show that we are not a regime based on arbitrary rule. We cannot do what we want. Rather, the Lord has a will for us, a will to which we adhere, even though doing so is arduous and difficult in this culture and civilization.
Incidentally, women have so many great and meaningful functions in the Church that there can be no question of discrimination. That would be the case if the priesthood were a sort of dominion, whereas it is actually intended to be pure service. If you look at the history of the Church, women — from Mary to Monica and all the way down to Mother Teresa — have so eminent a significance that in many respects they shape the image of the Church more than men do. Just think of major Catholic feast days such as Corpus Christi or Mercy Sunday, which originated with women. In Rome, for example, there is even a Church where not a single man can be seen in any of the altar pieces.”