From: DAVID BARRETT
Sent: Friday, 13 June, 2008 2:00:46 PM
Subject: re Petition
(This is my text with spelling mistakes corrected and clarifications)
As a Catholic priest ordained 15 years ago and now doing further studies in Rome I would like to:
1. Affirm my wholehearted support for the ancient practice of celibacy for the presbyterate in the life of the Church Voluntary celibacy is indeed a great gift to the Church, but has it been worth paying the price for the sexual difficulties of so many celibates in the last few decades, or can one justificiably question the value of an imposed discipline of this sort?
I think it is simplistic to make the link between celibacy and "the sexual difficulties of so many celibates in the last few decades". There are many reasons for these difficulties. The Church of England has many sexual and relationship problems with its clergy, many of whom are married. A married clergy therefore does not solve sexual/relationship problems amongst clergy. One could argue, for example, that because the average profile of a child abuser is a married man with some kind of real or legal relationship of kin to the victim, that a married clergy does not solve the deeper problems of child abuse either. I have been involved with child protection work in my own diocese and it is clear that the pathology of child abuse amongst clergy is not reducible to the question of celibacy, since the abuser is one who will abuse in or out of a stable relationship. I won't deny that there have been problems - but much of them has been due to a tendency to reduce clerical celibacy to an "imposed discipline" rather than the deepest expression of the heart of the priesthood as the spousal relationship of Jesus Christ to His one bride the Church. Perhaps what we should question is not celibacy but rather the deplorable lack of formation - theological, personal, human, psychological, spiritual and ascetical - that has characterised the liberalised form of seminary and clergy formation since the Council. Without such foundations celibacy is going to be harder to live; but the knock on effect is that this lack of formation and liberalism in doctrine has meant that many of our people have not been formed well for relationships and for marriage. The cultural crisis of sex and relationships which has characterised our modern era has had a very destructive effect in the lives of so many of our people and they have been ill-served by the Church whose clergy were not formed in the deeper catechism of Christian living and the ideals of Christian holiness in life. So I think it is too simplistic to situate "the sexual difficulties of so many celibates in the last few decades" within the context of celibacy as an "imposed discipline": one needs to address the profound doctrinal/spiritual/moral crisis since the Council and the sudden shift of culture since the 1960s - that's the wider and more complicated context for this question.
2.. Affirm my wholehearted support for the maintenance of clerical celibacy as a necessary sign to the world of the priority of the Kingdom of God and the call of Jesus, of love for Him and for His Church over other earthly ties How can an obligation (imposed on western rite clerics not previously employed as Protestant ministers) be a necessary sign of the Kingdom?
"It was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer..." "I have a baptism to be baptised with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!" There is a deeper link between obligation and commitment and love than meets the eye. Christ did the will of the Father - He came not to do His will but that of the one who sent Him - and this is a missio, an "obligation" - which is also freely accepted. I am not sure your implicit view of human freedom really can make sense of the possibility of love with and through obligation: the sacrament of marriage imposes obligations in love. The Tradition of the Church has always been that once ordained a man was no longer free to be married - this is an obligation which does not necessarily inhibit freedom but manifests the priority of the heard and accepted call from God over one's own desires and aims in life. An obligation can indeed be a sign of the Kingdom - of the priority of God's call. Christ's call imposes obligations which manifest the free nature of His call and the free nature of our response while at the same time maintaining a necessary structure of consequences - so that it is possible to refuse absolutely the call to salvation, a decision God respects in freedom, but a human being is obliged to answer that call positively if they wish to be saved (I am not here excluding salvation for non-Catholics!).
3. Affirm my support for celibacy not just as a discipline but as a practice grounded in the example of the Lord Himself, as a way of life that expresses the heart of the priesthood as a complete self-giving for the Church, as Christ gave Himself totally for His one bride - and so affirm that there are good doctrinal and theological reasons for this practice But why then has the Church allowed married clergy in the Eastern rites for so long - or is their sacramental ministry characterised as second class?
It has done - but there is a sense in which the Eastern churches recognise a two-tier system to their priesthood. The unmarried clergy are the ones who can become bishops. The implication of course is that only a celibate can fully represent the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders. The very fact that once ordained one cannot marry in both Catholic (in all the rites) and Orthodox Churches- a position I presume you would not accept - highlights the deeper understanding of the nature of the mystery of Holy Orders. The history is still being discussed and disputed - but as ever it is not simple, from those who would argue that mandatory celibacy was merely an 11th-12th century imposition to secure Church property from the hands of children of clergy, to those who argue that after ordination the married priest had to live a life of continence (no longer as husband and wife, but brother and sister) and that the Eastern practice of the priest abstaining from sexual relations prior to celebrating the Eucharist is a throwback to the more ancient practice.
4. Affirm my wholehearted assent for the Church's definitive teaching concerning the reservation of the sacrament of Holy Orders to men alone What is the difference between infallible teaching and definitive teaching? Why did the Church ordain women in the past? Was Paul III's teaching on slavery in his Motu Proprio of 1548 definitive?
First of all, definitive teaching (i.e. teaching "to be held as definitive" ["tamquam definitive tenendam"] - Lumen Gentium 25) is infallible teaching. Lumen Gentium 25 presents the 3 levels, as it were, of guaranteed or infallible teaching - re matters of faith and morals, and truths needed to safeguard the revealed deposit of faith: a. a definition by a Council, united to the Pope; b. a definition by the Pope ex cathedra; c. teaching by the college of bishops united to its head (the successor of St Peter), though dispersed throughout the world, in day-to-day teaching. The first two are commonly designated exercises of the extraordinary magisterium and they require it to be clearly asserted that this is a definition. The last is the ordinary exercise of the teaching authority - magisterium - in matters to be held by all. A good example of this would be the descent of Christ into hell - never defined by Council or Pope, but held as part of the Faith by those who are in communion with the Successor of St Peter.
I presume you accept this teaching of Vatican II.
Women were not ordained priests in the past. Deaconesses did not have the same sacramental functions as Deacons. Epiphanius of Salamis tells us: "It is true that in the Church there is an order of deaconesses, but not for being a priestess, nor for any kind of work of administration, but for the sake of the dignity of the female sex, either at the time of baptism or of examining the sick or suffering, so that the naked body of a female may not be seen by men administering sacred rites, but by the deaconess" (Against Heresies 78:13 [A.D. 377]). And the Council of Nicea in 325 "Similarly, in regard to the deaconesses, as with all who are enrolled in the register, the same procedure is to be observed. We have made mention of the deaconesses, who have been enrolled in this position, although, not having been in any way ordained, they are certainly to be numbered among the laity" (Canon 19 [A.D. 325]).
There is no evidence for women as priests or bishops in the Catholic Church. I notice for example that http://www.romancatholicwomenpriests.org/ has a picture of a mosaic from the church of St Praxedes in Rome and says underneath
"This archaeological photograph of a mosaic in the Church of St. Praxedis in Rome shows, in the blue mantle, the Virgin Mary, foremother of women leaders in the Church. On her left is St.Pudentiana and on her right St. Praxedis, both leaders of house churches in early Christian Rome. Episcopa Theodora, "Bishop Theodora " is the bishop of the Church of St. Praxedis in 820 AD."
This is just not true and is a serious misrepresentation which no serious historian or archaeologist would maintain. There was one Bishop in Rome at the time - Paschal I. The depiction is in fact in a mausoleum built by Pope Paschal for his mother Theodora. She is the one depicted and "Theodora episcopa" really means "bishop's mother". No-one has ever seriously maintained that the Virgin Mary was appointed an apostle by her Son. Praxedes and Pudenziana - the tradition is that they were daughters to the senator Pudens who gave hospitailty to St Peter. They were not leaders of the Church in the apostolic/sacramental sense.
As for claims of ordination, St Augustine of Hippo tells us: "[The Quintillians are heretics who] give women predominance so that these, too, can be honored with the priesthood among them. They say, namely, that Christ revealed himself . . . to Quintilla and Priscilla [two Montanist prophetesses] in the form of a woman" (Heresies 1:17 [A.D. 428]).
We could go on and on. There is no convincing argument from Tradition re the ordination of women.
As for Paul III's Motu Proprio of 1548, you are probably referencing Noonan's article on his matter. A useful and nuanced response to this is found in A Response to John T. Noonan, Jr. Concerning the Development of Catholic Moral Doctrine, by Patrick M. O'Neil found in "Faith and Reason".
The history is complicated and, as you are well aware, there is not a common line of development in the teachings of the Popes: some of the teaching seems to be aimed at practical circumstances, some decisions are made in terms of punishments as a result of warfare, others seem to accept slavery as the lesser of two evils, others see it as a right of masters, others as a duty of masters to care for the children of slaves. So it is clear to me that the Motu Proprio isn't to be seen as "definitive": it isn't a formal definition; and it does not seem to lay claim to an enduring doctrine or truth. Naturally, therefore, I do not see all Papal pronouncements as definitive - just as Pope Benedict's latest Motu Proprio re the Tridentine Mass cannot be seen as an exercise of definitive teaching. It is clear from Lumen Gentium 25, that there are different degrees of teaching. The question of the ordination of women has a far surer pedigree - the Tradition goes back to the apostles. If you again look at Lumen Gentium 25, it gives the conditions for such definitive teaching.
5. Affirm my wholehearted assent to all of the Church's teachings, not as "Vatican policies", but as the teachings of Jesus Christ who gave His teaching authority to the Church's Magisterium Cardinal Hume said that the teaching of the Church on priesthood was confused (Foreword to Michael Richards People of Priests) so is there no a hierarchy of truths or are 'all of the Church's teachings' defined without room for doubt, confusion or development? Where can one find a definitive statement of all infallible pronouncements made since 1870? Why do you argue that matters of discipline demand the assent of faith - surely this belittles faith? On what authority did the Church reverse St Paul's acceptance of slavery?
The hierarchy of truths does not mean of course that some teachings are "more true" and others are "less true": it refers to the relationships that bind the truths to each other and which centre in upon the foundations of Christian Faith. Here is what the decree on Ecumenism had to say about it at Vatican II:
"Furthermore, in ecumenical dialogue, Catholic theologians, standing fast by the teaching of the Church yet searching together with separated brethren into the divine mysteries, should do so with love for the truth, with charity, and with humility. When comparing doctrines with one another, they should remember that in Catholic doctrine there exists an order or "hierarchy" of truths, since they vary in their relation to the foundation of the Christian faith. Thus the way will be opened whereby this kind of "fraternal rivalry" will incite all to a deeper realisation and a clearer expression of the unfathomable riches of Christ."
Thus it is a confusion of terms to relate the hierarchy of truths to the issue of disputed and unanswered questions.
I do believe there are many controverted questions in theology; the Church has chosen not to speak on many matters. There is room for dispute, discussion and questions. My point is that this is very different from dissent. I would say that an authentically Catholic approach is willing to discuss and delve and make full use of one's critical faculties in the many, many areas of dispute and discussion; however, this does not presume ill-faith int he successors of the apostles and the Magisterium, and it also involves an attitude of reverence towards the teaching of those who are given the task of teaching the Faith as Bishops - as referred to in Vatican II's Lumen Gentium 25:
"Bishops who teach in communion with the Roman Pontiff are to be revered by all as witnesses of divine and Catholic truth; the faithful, for their part, are obliged to submit to their bishops’ decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals, and to adhere to it with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind. This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and that one sincerely adhere to decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated."
There is no definitive list of infallible pronouncements. Again terminology is important: the only infallible definition since Vatican I was that concerning the Assumption by Pope Pius XII. There has been plenty of definitive teaching since - such as when the Bishops throughout the world united to the Pope proclaim the bodily resurrection of Christ. Indeed, the whole point of Vatican II's explanation of definitive teaching is that it happens all the time - not on an extraordinary occasion, but in the bishops' ordinary mode of teaching in dioceses etc.
I do not argue that matters of discipline demand the assent of faith. I carefully used the word assent. I wanted to include the notion of Faith where it is needed in terms of Revelation, but the notion of assent includes more in its embrace - thus referring to matters that require acceptance (e.g., matters defined infallibly that have not been directly revealed but are needed to safeguard the deposit of faith).
re St Paul's teaching on slavery: St Paul was responding to the fact of his time and giving pastoral advice. Again, we could go into this at great length. The real question is, do you accept that the Church can teach infallibly? Do you believe what Vatican II says on this matter in Lumen Gentium 25?
6. Affirm my prayers for those who have left the priesthood to get married, but my disagreement that they should be allowed back to active priestly ministry still married - such a move would be discouraging to those who have tried to maintain the promises they made at ordination and is a sign of a lack of respect to them Should we therefore disapprove of the decision by the authorities to ordain for the presbyterate married ex-Anglican clergy?
The cases are very different. You mentioned the practice of eastern Churches. After ordination, a priest is not allowed to get married. To do so, violates his promise and the Tradition of East and West. The broken promise is a serious matter and it requires repentance and a change of life. Some men cannot do so and have received laicisations. I have known a few myself and admire them greatly. But to say that they could return to priestly ministry with no attempt to resolve the situation by which they broke their initial promise is failing to take promises seriously. It sens a bad signal to those who are divorced and remarried - that they cannot come back to Communion because they are laypeople; but a priest can do anything, not resolve his situation and still return to ministry.
I think it is disingenuous to imply that the situation of those priests who left the priesthood to get married, many in very painful circumstances, many of them fine men, is equivalent to that of married former Anglican clergy. A
7. Deprecate this petition as an attempt to further the culture of dissent in the Church, a dissent whose real nature is a refusal to believe and so is opposed to the full act of faith, and so will do no good but will serve to encourage division in the Body of Christ Are the faithful not encouraged by canon law to express their needs to their pastors?
Yes, but remember Lumen Gentium 25 referred to above.
8. Acknowledge that there is indeed a crisis in the life of the Catholic Church, but this has been caused by dissent from the teachings of the Church, a lack of thorough Catholic catechesis, a lack of holiness and prayer in the life of the Church, an unwillingness to evangelise culture with the fullness of the Catholic Faith and a growing antagonistic secularism in the world which dissent actually promotes. Are there not seriously devout Catholics who disagree with your condemnations among the lower and higher clergy to say nothing of the holy and prayerful laity? Were Galileo and Rosmini dissidents? Were those who criticised John Paul II's protection of Marcial Maciel dissidents, without the fulness of faith or seduced by antagonistic secularism?
There is always room for criticism and for correction of errant Pastors. Again, the questions of Galileo and Rosmini are more subtle than just, "I dissent from the Church's teaching." Galileo was not alone in suggesting heliocentrism - Copernicus did so too and even his patron the Pope was sympathetic to the idea, as was Cardinal Bellarmine. The reasons for the condemenations are various - and there were mistake and human pride involved too on both sides.
I am not judging anyone's holiness or lack of it in these matter's. I just do not believe that dissent forms part of the act of faith. Yes to criticism, yes to correction of pastors for weakness and corruption and delusion and worldliness and pride and bad decisions: but Catherine of Siena's amazing action was born not out of dissent but the act of faith and a real reverence for the role of the Pope.
Is it all not, unfortunately, quite as open and shut as you suggest?
I think you will see that my position is far more nuanced than you would imagine me to be in your any caricature. The real question to be answered is: if the Pope decided tomorrow that women could be ordained priests, would we all have to accept it? Could I dissent from it? Would it have to be imposed throughout the Church? Would it be definitive? I have a sneaking feeling you would use all the authority of the Church to impose this, while at the moment you deny that the Church has the right to impose a decision which runs contrary to your opinion. I do not want to be uncharitable in saying this. Perhaps you believe that we could have an Anglican model where different dioceses could decide their own practice - but then the Catholic Church's foundation would be undermined at the very least. I do not see how one could operate such a decision without a requirement of assent (not necessarily of faith!), obedience and obligation. I am not against that, but you seem to be. Or is it just a political manoeuvre: dissent from the use of such means until dissenters actually have control of them?
I have spent alot of time on this over the past hour. I have to study and so will not have time to go back and forth like this. Thank you for your correspondence. I wish you every blessing and grace.
Yours in the Faith