Premium

Too dumb to check: Will a woman be ordained a Roman Catholic priest tomorrow?

Pope Francis holds his weekly general audience in the Pope Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Spoiler alert: No, no, no, no, and no. But you’d expect a publication called National Catholic Reporter would grasp this point immediately. Instead, one has to stumble through eight paragraphs of silly nonsense like this …

When asked why she has chosen to be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest — thus breaking the Catholic Church’s ban on the ordination of women and crossing the threshold of formal excommunication — Anne Tropeano’s response is simple.

“God is asking me to do this,” she says. “God is calling me to be ordained in the Roman Catholic tradition and to work for justice.”

… to get to the point:

The official Catholic Church disputes their claims. In his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II said, “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women.” Pope Francis further codified the church’s stance this June, updating canon law to reflect a 2007 decree that women who are ordained be automatically excommunicated.

The Vatican does a lot more than “dispute” this. The “official Catholic Church” — which is the only “Roman Catholic” church there is, by the way — has declared such “ordinations” as entirely invalid for two thousand years. So why is the National Catholic Reporter describing this as a Roman Catholic ordination? It’s likely in part because of the organization that’s conducting this utterly nonsensical ceremony has the fanciful title of …

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius “changed me profoundly and forever,” said Tropeano, whose ordination is being organized by the Association of Roman Catholic Womenpriests.

In case this escapes this Catholic news organizations, “Roman Catholic Womenpriests” is an oxymoron. Treating it seriously as part of the Roman Catholic Church requires one to go heavy on the “moron.” This doctrine not only vastly predates both Francis and John Paul II, it goes to the heart of the Roman Catholic Mass, as I explained seven years ago directly from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, with references:

Priests act in persona Christi capitis during the Mass (CCC pp 875), especially during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The congregation becomes an earthly part of the eternal celebration of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, as described in Revelation, in which the Church becomes the Bride of Christ. The priestly authority comes directly from Christ Himself through the apostolic succession of the bishops and their authority to ordain priests for this purpose. It is in this role that priests can effect the transformation of the sacrifice of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ through the unity of the Holy Spirit with Christ and God the Father, as seen in Revelation, and offer it to the faithful as a sacrament of union with Christ and that eternal celebration. Acting in persona Christi capitis, the priest acts in place of Christ the bridegroom in that moment in time here in the world (CCC pp 1348). Also, the priest’s role in the Mass occurs through the power of Christ the bridegroom (CCC 1548). This is how the two will become one flesh, as in sacramental marriage in this world. If the congregation is the bride, the priest as groom must be male to act in persona Christi capitis, according to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

It’s worth noting that the Womenpriests plan to conduct their “ordination” tomorrow at an Episcopalian church. Episcopalians do ordain women, but they do not have the Mass or the Eucharist in the same sense as Roman Catholics. If women feel a call to the priesthood, then they can certainly choose to become Episcopalians or any other Christian denomination that offers that opportunity. If they really believe that the priesthood should be open to them, then they are rejecting the very Catholic doctrine into which they are demanding ordination, including the very meaning of the Mass they want to celebrate.

“Womenpriests” isn’t the only definitional contradiction occurring here, in other words.

That this is nothing more than a political stunt is made clear in their invocation of “glass ceiling” to describe their predicament:

Maggie Wright, who met and befriended Tropeano while visiting the Jesuit School of Theology while conducting research for her website about women inspired by Jesuit spirituality, said it was difficult for a woman to study in an institution where the vast majority of the students were Jesuits.

“Behind Anne are many women who have felt the call to join the Society of Jesus,” said Wright. “It’s a touchy subject as Jesuit men are pretty progressive, and Jesuit parishes, schools and retreat centers are generally good places to be a Catholic woman who wants to serve, study, speak and lead. But the glass ceiling is the Society of Jesus itself. There are many Jesuit vocational events for men, but silence around women’s vocation.”

This is clearly a political position rather than a spiritual calling. Women have a vocations in the Catholic Church, albeit fewer of them than men because of the priesthood. The Jesuits have even fewer for women, being one order that do not provide for nuns or even less formal recognition for women other than just in the laity. That restriction was imposed by Ignatius himself … whose spirituality these women claim to be following.

It’s not particularly surprising to see media outlets play along with provocateurs such as the “Womenpriests,” given the cultural hostility toward the Catholic Church often seen in secular media. It’s something else to see this kind of credulous reporting provided by a media organization that claims expertise and insight into the Catholic Church. At any rate, “Father Anne” will most definitely not be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest tomorrow, or any other day.

Addendum: For those who consider “excommunication” as an unduly harsh punishment, it’s not actually a punishment at all — it’s a status. By rejecting the doctrine of the Catholic Church, they have entered themselves into a state of excommunication, ie, outside the communion of the Church. Formally it’s known as excommunication latae sententiae, meaning “by the commission of the act.” It’s not a specific edict, nor does it have to be permanent.