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Tuesday, November 18, 2003

"Listen/To What the Flower People say..."

The Art Garfunkel of Catholic theology reviews a book by another prominent member of SixtiesChurch and goes all dittohead on us.

Care to guess the focus of the review? Come on, think. You can do it!

Though Steinfels sifts issues on a wide range of topics -- the replacing of nuns in Catholic schools with lay teachers in parish catechetical sessions, the identity of Catholic higher education and social services, the need for a more inspired liturgy -- he boldly makes questions of sex and gender the center of his concern.

"Boldly"? Merciful God, "questions of sex and gender" are all we ever hear about from SixtiesChurch.

"Pedro Martinez boldly makes questions of pitching the center of his concern."
"August Busch IV boldly makes questions of brewing the center of his concern."
"William Clay Ford Jr. boldly makes questions of auto manufacture the center of his concern."

The solution to all the problems plaguing the American Church today? Viva la revolucion sexual!

Catholics have overwhelmingly reflected the shift going on all around them, and are ignoring the Vatican's increasingly shrill orders to pay it no mind. More than 90 percent ignore the papal ban on contraceptives. A priest who had counseled young adults for 23 years told Steinfels that not once, not ever, did those people raise the subject of contraception with him.

Jesuits are funny that way.

Really--that's the answer? Saying OK to wrapping Mr. Happy in an oven mitt? That's the silver bullet?


Now, time for your mandatory Joan Baez moment:

More than 60 percent of Catholics favor the ordination of women. More endorse the removal of mandatory celibacy in the male priesthood. As the number of priests falls dramatically, lay ministers have taken over many parish duties -- there are more lay ministers now than priests, and more than 80 percent are women. Women make up a substantial number of qualified theologians in the church. The Catholic Theological Society was founded in 1946 by priests, who alone could be members of it. By 1995 one out of every five members was female, and now the society's new president is a woman.

"More than 95% of poll-citers fail to give us any context for their citations...."

Never, ever, ever--in a million years--will a card-carrying member of SC look at the other side of the coin: where did the men go? What happened in the past 40 years to send Catholic men scurrying toward the exit, avoiding vocations and even lay participation, ensuring the alarm will be off on Sunday morning, even if the wife and kids go? Not that Wills and Steinfels give a rat, but it would be interesting to hear some kind of coherent response to this phenomenon.

Something other than "ordain women and lift the celibacy requirement."

Speaking of women's ordination:

Will women be ordained? Steinfels thinks so, because the alternatives are either a) an impossibility or b) a disgrace: "There are three possible outcomes: Women will be ordained, or the church will render its teaching convincing, or Catholic commitment to equality and justice for half the human race will be in doubt." A sensible leadership would be thinking of careful steps to make the transition -- trial ministries, changes in the seminaries, theological reflection on the meaning of the axial shift (instead of ineffectual bans on addressing it). But Vatican officials try to pretend the shift is not occurring, and to prevent discussion of what is settled (but only in their own minds). The Vatican dismisses the vast social change as a scatter of pesty little isolated fires, to be sluiced down with ancient formulas.

There are Catholic women I would pay to hear speak from any lectern in the land. Strong, capable and BS-free, they defend the Catholic faith with an intellect and vigor that I can only marvel at. While I accept the theological arguments against women's ordination, I can't deny that I would enjoy replacing more than a few wayward priests with orthodox women.

Answering Will-fels' pragmatism with pragmatism, perhaps the strongest argument against women's ordination is pragmatic: in every single case where it has been permitted, it has been invariably followed by a fundamental decay of the ordaining church. Consider the Efiskable Church, USA: there is a straight-line "progression" from the ordination of the Philadelphia 11 to the rise of Bp. Spong to the elevation of VGeR. Along the way, any recognizably Christian understanding of theology or the world has been explicitly or implicitly jettisoned. It's currently happening to my former UMC, which is currently in its Spong phase in the person of C. Joe Sprague of Chicago, but is quickly moving into VGeR territory--it is simply a matter of time, and it is inevitable. For whatever reason, churches that make that leap are in varying but recognizable stages of dissolution. Again, not that Will-fels give a rat--like Marxist believers who assert that true communism hasn't been properly tried yet, they are sure it will work for them. Never mind the fact all evidence is to the contrary, and no worries about how much gets destroyed in the process.

Well, as they say, you can't make a revolution without liquidating a few kulaks.

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