NEWS:  June 29, 2011

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Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães

WOMEN PRIESTS, SERIOUS CRACKS IN THE DAM  -   In the May issue of the Bulletin of the Lawyers Society in Portugal, the Patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal José Policarpo, gives an interview on different topics of the interest that has started to set off media fireworks. This reaction is due mainly to the news report of the interview by Ecclesia agency issued on June 22, 2011 and an item spotlighting the Cardinal’s words in Lisbon’s Jornal de Noticias [News Journal] on June 24, 2011.

Cardinal Jose Policarpo on the cover of Oa

Cover of the Lawyers Society Bulletin in Portugal features Card. Policarpo's interview
Among the topics addressed by Card. Policarpo is the possibility of women becoming priests. Although the Prelate considers that one should not change the man-priest ruling for the Church today, he affirms that “there is no theological obstacle” for the ordinations of women, because it is only a tradition. Commenting on the definitive ban for women to become priests by John Paul II in his apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Policarpo says:

“At a certain moment the Holy Father seemed to settle the matter. However, I believe that this question cannot be resolved like this. Theologically there is no obstacle. Let’s just say that there is this tradition; it has never been done otherwise. I believe there is no fundamental obstacle. There is a fundamental equality of all the members of the Church. The problem should be placed in another perspective, that of a strong tradition that comes from Jesus and the ease with which the reformed churches have done this [ordain women].

“This did not help to find a solution to this problem, if this problem has a solution. If it does, it is not in our lives. In the time we are living, it is better not to even mention the problem, because it raises a lot of reactions.” (Ordem dos Advogados, May 2011, p. 40).

Shortly before, asked about the possibility of allowing women to become priests, he also affirms: “At this moment the Pope does not have power to do this. It would cause tensions. It will only happen if God wills. If it is in God’s plan, it will happen” (ibid, p. 39).

Basically, what the Lisbon Cardinal affirmed can be summarized thus:
  • The Church tradition to have only men as priests is theologically groundless;

  • The 2,000 year teaching of the Church on men priests does not involve the infallibility of the ordinary Magisterium;

  • John Paul II did not in fact close this question that he intended to close with his authority;

  • The only real reason not to ordain women priests now is the tensions it produces.
Bishop Gebhard Furst

Bishop Furst - the same stance on women priests
One sees that the practical effect of these statements by the Patriarch of Lisbon is to add fuel to the blazing topic of women priests that has been in the news these last three months.

Indeed, in May Bishop Gebhard Fürst of Rottemburg-Stuttgart in Germany gave an interview on the topic to the local newspaper Ludwigsburger Kreiszeitung [Louisburg’s Circle], which was reproduced by the The Tablet. On the ordination of women Bishop Furst declared:

“At first glance arguments such as ‘only a man can represent Christ at the altar’ seem paradoxical today, and I can understand that women feel excluded, especially as they make up the majority of churchgoers and do most of the volunteer work in the Church today.”

Then Furst pondered that the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide come from a broad spectrum of cultures and introducing women priests at the present time would endanger Church unity. Countries like Germany and US may be prepared for this step, but not others. The Bishop of Stuttgart concluded: “If we differ too greatly on such pivotal issues, our huge Catholic family will be torn apart. I don’t rule out that there will be women priests one day, but not for the moment. I most probably won’t experience it in my lifetime” (The Tablet, May 28, 2011, p. 29).

We see the same tactic of Cardinal Policarpo used by Bishop Furst: Both downplayed Church tradition; both approved the ordination of women in theory, but postponed it to a uncertain future for practical reasons, after tensions have diminished. Is this similarity only a coincidence or are both Prelates singing from the same score under the direction of the same maestro?

women priest saying mass in Switzerland

A woman ‘priest’ saying Mass in Switzerland, an abuse overlooked by Bishop Buchel
This question is all the more opportune when we consider that Bishop Markus Büchel of St. Gallen, Switzerland, defended much the same thing. As reported elsewhere on this website, on April 24, 2011, Bishop Buchel granted an interview to his diocesan paper Pfarrei Forum [The Parish Forum] in which he suggested making women deacons as a first step toward their ordination as priests. Referring to that last step, he said: “But we understand that this question will not be resolved tomorrow.”

Taking an indirect position against the John Paul II’s ban of women priests, Bucher affirmed that even though it was once agreed this was not a topic for discussion, “in our society today this would be extremely difficult. It can no longer be avoided.” The original statement of Bishop Buchel may be found in French here; a substantial summary can be read on the TIA website here.

The ordination of women is a topic that also has surfaced in the official documents of some Episcopates, such as the case of the Brazilian Bishops Conference. In their preparations for Benedict XVI’s visit in May 2007, those Bishops issued a document titled Summary of the Contributions of the Church in Brazil to the Aparecida Conference. In it they affirmed:

“Conservative tendencies, which reject the thinking and participation of women in tasks of direction and Church coordination … cannot prevent the Church from making prophetic gestures. Giving women access to the ordained ministry is a pending debt.”

At a press conference on the topic of the Summary, Brazilian Bishop Celso Queiroz, former Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference, spoke more on this “debt to women.” He said: “At the moment we know that the dialogue in the Church on the possible ordination of women is closed, which does not mean that it cannot be opened.” (for more check here)

In that same year of 2007, Bishop Patrick Power of Canberra-Goulburn, Australia, supported a petition calling for a wide-ranging discussion about women’s ministry, including ordination (The Tablet, June 4, 2011, p. 6).

Those who follow the progressivist onslaught against the Church with analytic eyes can see that a planned process is being executed to impose women priests:
woman priest, Dena O'Callaghan, Florida

Pushing the process: O'Callaghan, above, is ‘ordained’ and has a ‘parish’ in Florida
  • First, only radicals like Hans Kung and Leonardo Boff called for it;

  • Second, progressivist movements in the Church like Call to Action and We Are Church accustomed parts of Catholic public opinion to this possibility through petitions;

  • Third, some isolated avant-garde voices of the episcopate like Jacques Gaillot in France, Rembert Weakland and Thomas Gumbleton in the U.S. support it;
  • Fourth, “moderate” Bishops in good standing start to defend women’s ordination and spread the word that it is feasible and will resolve many practical problems – we are in this phase;

  • Fifth, more and more persons and groups will pressure the Vatican to change this Catholic “tradition.”

  • Sixth, the Vatican will allow some exceptional cases;

  • Seventh, women priests will be approved.
A similar process is in the works to abolish the vow of celibacy in the clergy. I believe that married priests will become a reality before women priests. But the maneuver to impose them is going full steam ahead.


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