The Church is someone, not something

The internet will teach you how to turn a “no” into a “yes.” The phrase  appears in tutorials designed for salespeople, but also in more sinister contexts.  In militant men’s rights groups, there are forums and even study guides that teach men how to manipulate women and extract the sexual goodies they want from them.

They understand that, in these whacky times, women may pursue legal prosecution for rape or assault if you don’t listen to their “no;” so men who consider sex a right coach each other on how to pressure, manipulate, disorient, confuse, and guilt women into yielding a reluctant but legally watertight “yes.” Rather than being ashamed of this gross display of inhumanity, these men preen themselves on their skills. They know that, if they are challenged for their behavior, they can point to their victim’s coerced consent, and then she will be blamed for what happened to her.

Healthy men would vomit at the very idea of approaching a woman this way. No man enjoys rejection, but they do understand that women are human, and shouldn’t be treated like an object whose body and will can be forced into whatever position you like. No means no. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to accept it.

I’ve heard this approach before, in an entirely different context. I’ve heard this refrain of “I hear your ‘no,’ but I refuse to accept it, and I even feel proud of my persistence. So I’m going to keep chipping away at you with everything I’ve got in hopes that you’ll give in and let me have what I think I’m entitled to.”

Here’s what I hear:

“All the other churches go along with this stuff, so why won’t you? What’s wrong with you? Why are you so uptight?”

“Of course I love you, Catholicism! That’s why I want to see you change.”

“No one can possibly love you, you Catholic Church, if you keep on acting this way. I’m the only one who could put up with you, and you better give in, or I’ll leave, too.”

It’s the language of Catholic dissenters — including myself, at times, to my shame. It’s the language of people who have heard her say “no” very clearly — “no” to contraception, “no” to women priests, “no” to gay sex. But they love her, they say, so they just keep chipping away, threatening, negging, pressuring and wheedling, priding themselves on their persistence in trying to wear her defenses down, to turn her “no” into a “yes.”

When we hear pressure and threats from a would-be rapist who clearly despises women as much as he craves their companionship, it’s easy to see these tactics for what they are: Abuse. An abuser allows himself to speak this way because he doesn’t really recognize the humanity of his victim. He sees her primarily as something that could potentially deliver what he wants, if only she would know her place and cooperate with his demands. He sees her primarily as a thing, and not as a person.

I am here to tell you that the Catholic Church is a person. It is the Body of Christ. And the Body of Christ has a right to her bodily autonomy. She is not here to assume whatever position will satisfy our current appetites, whether they’re intellectual or spiritual or psychological or social. The Church is Someone, not something, and she has the right to say “no.”

Now let me make some disclaimers, because I know I’ve said something tough to hear.

When I talk about people pressuring the Church to change, I’m not talking about people who are sincerely struggling, even angrily struggling, bitterly struggling, fearfully struggling with some of the hard teachings of the faith. Healthy relationships have struggles. I struggle, sometimes angrily or bitterly or fearfully, with some fundamental teachings of the Church, just as my own beloved husband almost certainly struggles with some of the things that make me fundamentally me. It’s not always easy being in love. So I’m not saying that struggling with doctrine is abuse. Struggle is normal, and struggling with the Church does not make us abusers.

And more importantly, I’m not saying that the Church is not in need of change. God knows it is badly in need. Sometimes there are things about your beloved that ought to change, and insisting on that change sometimes truly is an act of love. Many loving spouses will eventually find occasion to hold their beloved to account for intolerable behaviors which must be changed if the marriage can survive; and so it it is with faithful Catholics and the Church. Wanting to reform what is wrong in the Church does not make us abusers.

Does the Church need reform? Oh literally sweet Jesus, yes. The hierarchy and much of its pastoral authority is deformed almost beyond recognition. They don’t even seem to realize that they have lost our trust and need to work to regain it. There are abusers in power. There are structures in place that make it impossible to hold abusers and their enablers to account. There are too many ways to keep horrible secrets; too many places for abusers to hide. God’s word is used to shout down victims and their defenders and to amplify hypocrites, opportunists, and predators. This is the state of the Church today. These are the things that must, please God, change.

But these grotesqueries, these deformations, are not who the Church herself is. They are like parasites living off the Body of Christ. They fight like mad to preserve their host, not because they love her, but because they need their daily feeds. They must be scoured away so that the body of Christ can be pure again. I don’t know how, but I see it must be done.

But there is change, and there is change. If we want to preserve our loving relationship with the Body of Christ and not unwittingly fall into patterns of abuse against her, we must learn to make the distinction between who the Church is, and what her members and her representatives do — what they have done, in fact, to her. The latter must often be changed; the former is inviolable.

We can learn who the Church is by what she teaches, what she says. And sometimes, what she says is “no.” This is inviolable. She is inviolable.

Lately, we have perhaps become used to thinking of the Church as the abuser. So many people have been maligned, mistreated, guilted, shamed, or literally raped by those who call themselves the Church. But we must see clearly. Those who abuse and enable abuse in the name of Christ are not the Church; they are to the Church as a pimp is to a sex slave. They will defend her, not because they love her, but because she brings them power and money. They are the ones who must repent and reform, not her. She is the victim. She is not the one who needs to change. The Church is a person, and she has the right to say “no,” both to those who abuse her outright, and to those who want to blame her for being abused.

We will not purify the Body of Christ by attacking what and who she is, and that includes what she says. No means no. Like anyone whose demands have been rejected, we don’t have to like it, but we do have to accept it, especially if we say you love the Church. She is someone, not something. When she says “no,” she means “no.”


Image: detail of photo by Stefano Merli via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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70 thoughts on “The Church is someone, not something”

  1. Simcha this is a very interesting analogy. Thank you. I get it.
    I would urge you to take the comments from the “Karens” for what they are: cathartic rage.
    Peace to you and keep the up the valuable sharing of insight.

  2. Just to be clear: the Men’s Rights movement is not synonymous with the kind of sexual game playing you rightly criticize.

    Just as the Church is not her abusive priests, the Men’s Rights movement is not its sexual predators.

    1. Actually the MRA’s are exactly the men who use these kinds of sexual games, at least when they aren’t whining that cheerleaders won’t go out with them. (Clue, guys: take a shower and quit talking about yourself and you might, y’know, get a date? Also, consider girls that aren’t conventionally attractive. If you make looking a certain way valuable, you can’t complain when the women who have that value decide to exploit their value with men richer and more powerful than you are.)

  3. Stop. Just stop.

    We’re in the middle of a crisis, and it is not time to debate church doctrine…either from a conservative or liberal bent. The Church is falling down upon us and our kids.

    If you care about the Church, please do the following:

    1) Call your state’s attorney general. Tell them that there is a cancer in our Church, and that every diocese needs to turn over its historical records.

    2) Google your priests. Especially those that are not permanently assigned to your parish.

    3) Simcha, you’re a journalist. Do everybody a favor and report back to us on what the background checks in Virtus actually mean. Which offenses set off flags? Do the flags disappear after a period of time? I’m thinking that you need to ask specifically about child por*, drug offenses, violent crimes, and soliciting a prostitute.

    4) Demand that your parish put together a comprehensive list of priests that have been assigned to your parish and post it to the internet. If you know that there was an abuser assigned to your parish, please post that information.

    5) If you know somebody affected by the scandals, encourage them to contact police. Not the Church.

    6) Insist that confession for children should always be done out in the open rather than in a closed confessional.

    These steps are just a start. We need comprehensive investigations into what the bishops knew and didn’t know. We will see both conservative and liberal leaders depart. Our Church can’t be rebuilt on rotted wood, so can’t we agree to just table these conversations for a bit?

    1. So…we have to just cease talking and thinking about everything until…you’re satisfied? Haven’t you ever heard the expression “if you can’t keep up with the conversation it’s impolite to try?”

  4. Thank you for writing this. Again, you make me think in a new way about these things. I disagree with the comments made that this analogy went too far…those who claim this did not read your words for what they meant. The Church is indeed a Person and her “no” indeed means “no.” And those who ignore this do not respect Her nor do they love Her. Yes, great article!!

  5. That header image is a picture of a statue of a woman which symbolizes the Church. The accompanying statue is that of a blindfolded woman holding the Law, symbolizing the Jews and their rejection of Christ, the Gospel, and their blindness making them as St. Paul says in 1 Thess 2:14-16, enemies of all mankind.

    1. This passage of 1 Thessalonians seems to be speaking of a few ‘Judean’ authority figures who specifically opposed St Paul’s mission to the Gentiles and for this reason Paul speaks of them as opposing all people, meaning the Gentiles Paul was evangelizing. It is not speaking of all Jews of Paul’s time, let alone of all time and everywhere, being enemies of mankind.

    2. That is … not correct. Lady Justice is depicted with a blindfold because “justice is blind,” i.e. she rules impartially without respect for wealth, social status, etc.

      1. Actually, it is from a traditional pairing of figures, Ecclesia et Synagoga, personifying Christianity and Judaism. Synagoga appears in a variety of ways, sometimes downcast, sometimes blindfolded, and sometimes merely side by side with Ecclesia, with a scroll in hand.

          1. No, you posted a bunch of anti-semitic gobbledigook. Thanks for reminding me to send it back into eternal “moderation” where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

  6. You have produced well-written and inspiring pieces about the perniciousness of sexist assumptions and structures at Catholic institutions. I think you should re-read those pieces and then edit this one afterward. You have failed to acknowledge that the dissenters recognize that Catholicism’s view of the role of women — inferior doormats who are supposed to die rather than lose their virginity or have cancer surgery when pregnant — is a lot closer to the view of rapists. So long as Christianity sees women as something to be confined to a purely and stupidly domestic role, women will have no path to escape abusers. A church that sets half the human race up as objects for the use of the other half in everything BUT sex will have zero authority to restrain men who want to use women for sex. (Also, Catholicism is responsible for the idea that women can only be Madonnas or whores. That idea alone should keep any woman from ever being Catholic.)

    Please, reconsider this piece.

    1. Karen, what absolute, utter nonsense. Where do you get this absurd and false idea of Catholicism’s “view” on women? Have you ever actually read what the Church says about women? About sex? About responsibility? About the obligations of men toward women and children?
      There are entire books. Encyclicals. Shouldn’t be hard for you to find. Read and learn.

      1. I have read almost all of it, including the church ‘fathers’ whose views of women are uniformly repellent.

        Seriously, though, you belong to a church that says that only men can be the image of Jesus and that no woman can ever be. Jesus = God. Women = church, which is human. Human < God. Women < God, therefore Women < Men. The whole structure demonstrates that women are inferior to all men. How can you fail to see that?

        1. I cannot see what is not there, Karen. If you are referring to the male-only priesthood, then you are mistaken. Christ established it male-only, not “the Church.” And it is because the priest stands “in persona Christi”, and Christ’s human nature is, in fact, male. I know our present society would disagree, but the fact is, a woman can never be a man.
          I, as a woman, am created in the image and likeness of God every bit the same as a man. There is nothing inferior about women. Different in design, but absolutely equal in dignity, worth, value, and love in the eyes of God. Equality does not require sameness.
          The Church is the Body of Christ, made up of every baptized Christian on Earth, whether male or female, so your “Women = church, which is human, Human < God" argument is nonsense.

          1. How can you possibly say that the Church teaches that men and women are equal when every Sunday it says, by virtue of having only male priests, that women are inferior because we do are not as much in the image of God as men are?

    2. Karen,
      *People* who are Catholic do awful things–not the Church or Church doctrine! It’s true that *some* men AND WOMEN have tried to twist the truth about the roles of women and men. It’s true that society, educational institutions, and families have condoned that false version, but there needs to be some personal responsibility for that kind of behavior, even if brainwashing was involved. Show me where the Church has pronounced something as infallible, that oppresses women. Please.

      I call B.S. on the cancer surgery statement. It’s patently false. An individual woman might *choose* that route, but the Church doesn’t tell her she must.

      I’m tired of the whore/Madonna dichotomy. Let’s just move along, and not give it any oxygen. In the future there will probably be saints who were found to be saintly because of their extremely generous sex lives. On that note–and some might *interpret* it as dissent–(but it’s not)–my personal opinion is that ABC has become a *communal* sin. There’s going to be some really surprised old Catholic guys and gals when God brings up their sin of birth control and abortion–they’re going to say “Lord! Lord!” And then they will finally see that getting in the way of children being born because of economic policies and unjust political systems that they supported, forced the hand of people who don’t have the freedom to have more or any children. — To commit a sin, we need to have the freedom to choose it. The Catholic “perfecti” think it’s just fine to tell couples, “well then just don’t have sex”. I consider that a kind of blasphemy. It’s evil.

      1. Dr. Gianna Molla was canonized precisely and exclusively because refused to have lifesaving cancer surgery when she was pregnant. Catholic hospitals cannot treat a pregnant woman if that treatment will endanger the fetus, including giving chemotherapy.

        As for the Madonna – whore complex, you may be tired of it but your opinion is completely worthless in the eyes of Catholic hierarchy as well as irrelevant. All men in our society are raised in a culture that teaches them that women are either Madonnas or whores, and all women at some point become whores. You either become a feminist and teach men that women’s sex lives are none of their business or you accept that all men will assign you to the category of whore and treat you accordingly.

        1. I *am* a feminist. My *mother* taught me why I must be a feminist. She taught me that Jesus was the first feminist, when he stood up to the rules that needed to be confronted.

          I love and respect Gianna Molla. The Church doesn’t demand that we lay down our lives to refuse chemo. It doesn’t, so please don’t say that it does.

          I often have considered the fact that my mother named me Anna Lisa. In our small town of Santa Barbara, there was a Mexican pediatrician who was married to a lovely Scandinavian woman who had the same name as me. Strangely enough, he, Joseph, had been deported illegally by the U.S. government from Los Angeles during the late 30’s. (He was born there). He stayed in Mexico City despite his illegal deportation, eventually going to medical school. His daughter told me that he would watch (every day) from his apartment window, a beautiful Scandinavian girl walking to her embassy job. He would turn to his room mate, and say “I’m going to marry that girl someday”.

          He eventually worked up the courage to talk to her.

          Fast forward decades. My family went to the same Catholic school as her four children. She had passed away. I discovered years later that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer when she was pregnant with her fourth child John. It had come down to her accepting chemo, or saving her son John. She chose her son. That isn’t something that people forget.

          After some time, her oldest daughter and I became close friends. She told me her story over the years, and I figured out a little bit about my name. My mother never told me I was named after her, but I know that an act of heroism doesn’t go unnoticed. She, Elisabeth, daughter of Annelise became the godmother of my daughter Sophia Marie.

          Her husband welcomed us with open arms into his extended family (and was also our esteemed pediatrician). When he died, I took my children out of school, so they could attend his funeral. I wasn’t prepared for how loved he was. He wasn’t simply a great human being, who treated most of the poor community in Santa Barbara –with one of the most beautiful, calm and joyful smiles in Santa Barbara. The people who loved him literally spilled out of the church doors and the parking lot of the Santa Barbara Mission. He too poured out his life for others, and that is why they came to pay him homage.

          A life poured out for others.

          –Everyone stops and pays homage.

          We are all connected.

          1. Sorry, but I find that story horrifying. Why did that woman have to choose to die? Why doesn’t the Catholic Church spend some of its fabulous amonts of money on research into safe cancer treatments instead of glorifying the death of pregnant women? Catholic doctrine is ‘the only good woman is a dead woman, especially if she ever had filthy disgusting vile sex, which doesn’t affect men.”

      2. You are give the institutional church all the credit for what a very small number of men have SAID and ignoring centuries of what the church actuall DID and still does. So long as the only voices that matter in the catholic church are male ones, women will be worthless.

        1. “So long as the only voices that matter in the catholic church are male ones, women will be worthless.”

          That’s an incredibly sexist thing to say.

          The Truth is true, regardless of the sex of the speaker.

  7. Simcha,

    My initial reaction to this piece was that you are covering a lot of territory. Huge. I love the Church like you do–I think that it, she, (the whole tamale) has saved me from myself in. so. many. ways. I’m on to the abusers, but it took me a while to get up to speed with not being naive (wise as serpent/meek as lamb…)

    This whole “crisis” episode/chapter in the Church almost makes me feel like we are getting sucked into something. We need to keep it all in perspective, and consider time frames. I’m not shrugging off anything, and fully agree that prelates behaved like CEOs and parasites. But while correcting B.S., I also want to move along, and stop the wallowing.

    Yesterday at my work, this Mom came in to pick up her daughter. They came in late because they just got back from a four year contract in the middle east. She explained to me what it was like living in a Muslim police state. My coworker chimed in and described what a beheading in Riyadh looked like. When the description involved the fact that some of the onlookers were watching the beheading like it was a lunch side show (they were literally sitting in a cafe)–I was speechless with a sense of horror. If an American says one word against a single rule, or even complains against standing in line too long they are subject to fines in the tens of thousands–or worse.

    The next day, I described what we’d been talking about to one of my 20-something kids. We were talking about how not so long ago Catholic Kings did horrible things to their subjects with prelates looking on. They would violate the marriages of their subjects, and it was literally considered their right. They would draw and quarter their enemies and put their heads on spikes.

    I dunno. I feel like despite it all, we, as a world have come a long way. We’re getting better, not worse. Some cultures need to reallllllly catch up–but it’s not like our Catholic predecessors weren’t capable of some pretty crazy and murderous and parasitic tendencies.

    Yes, it’s all a big subject. But the bottom line is that we’re all in this together. Nobody and nothing is a separate entity. The Church *should* behave better, and it ….does….but….

    I love the Church, and I trust. — Right now there is too much baby and bathwater flying around! We need to take a deep breath–and I say that, considering the fact that my pastor acted like the biggest assh*t in the world this morning. I wanted to tell him that he needed to stop acting like a prince in his kingdom, but the poor guy is on the spectrum. It’s not entirely his fault. He simply has no idea how wide the gulf is between his sermons and his actual behavior. He has no idea what the real world is actually like while he lives in his private/exclusive kingdom. God loves him too. God has so much patience with us. We’re just a hair’s breath from behaving like a pack of Bonobos.

  8. This piece wasn’t ready for prime time. Too hard to follow the conceit. Just write about the game blogs, you obviously want to.

    1. From a man who makes his living teaching other men to be almost-but-not-quite-rapists, that’s rich. Also, have you ever considered being nice to women? And if not, have you ever considered what kind of women likes being abused and what’s wrong with you that you want that kind of woman?

      1. I’m female. Being something of an over-trusting person, I was easily misled, and though I usually awoke to the dangers soon enough to avoid serious damage (at least of the physical, financial, or otherwise criminal kind), I suffered heart break and wasted my time. Reading Chateau Heartiste helped me learn to *avoid* abusive men. I began for the first time to see through their tricks.

        I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this approach to other women, but it worked for me, in my particular circumstances.

  9. Oh noooo. Oh no, Simcha. This is not good.

    This analogy would be offensive and tone deaf and inaccurate any time, but given the current crisis concerning members of the Church who were *literally* raped, this analogy is incredibly inappropriate. That you gave a line of lip service to that reality doesn’t make up for an entire post turning the true power dynamic that exists within the Church on its head and accusing people who have legitimate concerns and burdens of being precisely what so many in the hierarchy actually are. Given how outspoken you have been about the sex abuse crisis, I am fairly aghast.

    I am sure many people will nod along with this post. But they are people who, like you, are not in any real danger of leaving the Church. They are people who are saddened by the Church’s troubles, but will ultimately come out of this spiritually unscathed. Of course those who find it easier to hang on (even in spite of momentary faltering) will feel self-righteous affirmation that THEY are not going to rape the Church.

    I don’t know what else to say. I am shocked and disgusted by this post.

    1. How incredibly presumptuous. What can you possibly know about my spiritual state? You don’t know me or “people like me.” Good grief.

          1. I have no idea, but I didn’t write a blog post with presumptuous and bizarre declarations about the state of people’s soul.

        1. I think the difference here is that Simcha is speaking in very general terms (there can be dissenters who can be compared to rapists) but she is not accusing any one person of being that spiritual rapist.

          You, on the other hand, are making a specific accusation against Simcha, based on your presumption of your knowledge of her spiritual state. I am not making any assumptions about your spiritual, emotional or mental reasons for making this accusation, I am just saying that you did.

          1. Is Simcha in serious danger of dissenting against the Church. Or is she, as it appears to me, troubled about a few things, finds a few teachings difficult and inconvenient, but ultimately confident she will die a Catholic? If the latter, I apologize. But I trust Simcha is honest and will not claim that is the case.

  10. Excellent commentary, Simcha! So important for faithful Catholics, so outraged and disappointed with the state of confusion, immorality, and absence of spiritual leadership( with very few exceptions), abounding in the universal Church, to place the blame squarely where it belongs…

  11. Faithful Catholics understand that when you say ‘the Church says no’ what that really means is that Jesus is saying no. Jesus Christ and His Church are One and the Same. What liberals are doing when they say they don’t agree with this or that church teaching is looking to protestantism and what protestantism really is….separating Jesus from His Church, the Catholic Church. The mean Church made up these rules but ‘my’ Jesus wouldn’t be so mean as to calling sin a sin.

    I think Faithful Catholics need to emphasize that the teachings the liberals dissent from are in fact teachings of Jesus. That means that the Church must get back to it’s key mission given to her by Christ…..the salvation of souls. The identification and condemnation of sin is necessary in carrying out that mission.

    Unfortunately it seems the liberals have control and the Church is just another social organization and many souls will be lost.

    1. Yes, Christ sends us out into the world to convert the world, not the other way around where instead we are converted by the world and changed to follow the ways of the world. We are to be separate from the “world” as a shining Light in the darkness and not the other way around bringing the darkness into the Church to extinguish Her Light. Jesus Christ IS the Way to eternal life, He is the Light, there is no substitute and that was the Good News of the Disciples, and that is our message of eternal life to a world which is lost in darkness and confusion.
      Romans 10:15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

  12. There is Power in restraint, God knows this for us and even in the beginning we were taught this, “do not eat the apple”…. hmmm, no restraint. This challenge which can be our downfall or our path to salvation… restraint, even for the Church who is the Bride of Christ.
    Sort of like the marshmallow test:

  13. The church here on earth is more precisely the community or the family founded by Jesus. It began with the 12 disciples who were commissioned by Jesus to go out to the world and teach all that he commanded in His teaching to them. And that was to make them disciples. Teach them, educate them and those who freely accepted the teaching, then baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And this family is 1,500 billion in no, today. The question does arise, but how many are disciples?
    Now the Church, notice the word is capitalised, because the Church is Christ. He, not she, is Church. The analogy applies to the church as bride of Christ, not to Christ who is the Church.
    The abominable homosexual scandal is so because it involves the unfaithful successors to the apostles who are supposed to defend, protect and teach faithfully all that Jesus teaches. No one in the church has the authority to change or modify the dogmatic or moral teaching, not even the Pope.
    The article is very sincere and thought provoking. Thank you.

  14. Good analogy! Some of us faithfully believe that the ordination of women and married people, while no panacea and not without introducing new problems, will nonetheless help with the sexual abuse issues in the priesthood. We can respect the ‘no’ of the church authorities, and live within a church that is 50-100 years (more or less) behind the times. We dissenters would do better to think of creative and effective ways to charm and woo and seek the hand of the church. Angrily yelling at someone is not usually a good way to court a prospective bride.

    1. There’s no and No when it comes to the church. Married priests are actually possible- it’s tradition that they’re celebate, but it’s not required.

      Women priests aren’t possible. It has to be a man that’s ordained- just as hosts for the Eucharist have to be wheat. At that point, you’re getting into the matter of the sacrament. Change that, and you may not have the actual sacrament any more.

      Hope that helps.

      1. St Paul speaks of Junia as ‘distinguished among the apostles’ (Ἰουνία … ἐπίσημος ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις). If this woman could be an apostle, then why not a priest?

        1. Because she was not one of the 12 at the Last Supper. It’s as simple as that; Jesus had a lot of female disciples, but for whatever reason He only picked 12 men for the Last Supper, where he instituted the priesthood.

          1. Then St Paul could also not preside over the Lord’s supper with the communities he founded? And yet it is from him that we first learn about this meal. Nowhere does it say in scripture that only (celibate) men can preside over the Eucharist. That decision was made at some unknown time in history and we have no record of when or by whom, but we have a pretty good ideas that it was made by men living in a patriarchal culture who never even imagined that it should be any other way. To claim that it was a decision made by Jesus at the last supper is simply reading something into the text that isn’t there.

          2. As I understand it, St. Paul was made a priest (and a bishop), presumably by one of the original 12 (or, I guess, a bishop one of the 12 created).

            No, scripture doesn’t say explicitly that only men can be priests, but we do believe it was the Last Supper that instituted the priesthood, and again Jesus only picked men for that, despite his numerous female disciples, including Mary Magdalene (whom some called the Apostle to Apostles). He must have had a reason for that, and a good one, because He is perfect. The Church chooses not to contradict what Jesus Himself did by ordaining women. If your argument is that Jesus’ actions at the Last Supper don’t support the creation of the priesthood (and therefore don’t support restricting it to women), than I’m not equipped to argue otherwise. But if you are truly interested in that topic, I’m sure you could find any number of writings explaining what the Church thinks and why.

            I’m curious, Robert; are you Catholic or Protestant (or something else)? The focus on what is or isn’t explicitly in Scripture is something I normally see only in certain Protestant churches.

            1. “As I understand it, St. Paul was made a priest (and a bishop), presumably by one of the original 12 (or, I guess, a bishop one of the 12 created).

              No, scripture doesn’t say explicitly that only men can be priests, but we do believe it was the Last Supper that instituted the priesthood, and again Jesus only picked men for that, despite his numerous female disciples, including Mary Magdalene (whom some called the Apostle to Apostles). He must have had a reason for that, and a good one, because He is perfect. The Church chooses not to contradict what Jesus Himself did by ordaining women. If your argument is that Jesus’ actions at the Last Supper don’t support the creation of the priesthood (and therefore don’t support restricting it to women), than I’m not equipped to argue otherwise. But if you are truly interested in that topic, I’m sure you could find any number of writings explaining what the Church thinks and why.

              I’m curious, Robert; are you Catholic or Protestant (or something else)? The focus on what is or isn’t explicitly in Scripture is something I normally see only in certain Protestant churches.”

              I am Catholic with graduate degrees in theology and scriptural exegesis. I know the traditional teachings and apologetics regarding the Last Supper, the Eucharist, and the priesthood, and respect them for what they are, but one must admit they are generally simplistic and anachronistic approaches to these texts and the history of the church. The priesthood evolved over time in cultures very different than our own. We simply do not know if women may or may not have presided or co-presided over the Lord’s Supper in the earliest house churches of Paul’s communities or those of other communities. There was no ordination ceremony at the Last Supper; we do not know if only men participated; one could just as easily presume that women were present but characteristically not even mentioned.

              The earliest account, written some 20-25 years afterwards, says nothing at all about who attended (1 Cor 11,23-26). In Mark’s account, written some 40 years after the meal, Jesus arrives for the Passover with the twelve, but we do not know who was involved in the preparation of the meal (Mk 14,16). It would not surprise me if women disciples were (also) involved in the preparation of the meal and, if they were, I would certainly hope they were not then excluded! Matthew and Luke are dependent upon Mark’s account and follow it closely, ‘though Matthew’s text may imply that the unnamed host and perhaps his household were also present for the passover meal. Luke adds that Peter and John were involved in the preparations. In the gospel of John, the Last Supper is not a Passover meal at all, and although his highly theological account spans over five chapters (13-17), there is no account of the Eucharist at all. The twelve are not mentioned, ‘though five are named in addition to the anonymous beloved disciple.

              I don’t mean any disrespect toward what is taught in catechism class, but historians, scripture scholars, and theologians rightly deal with these issues in a more subtle and in-depth manner. From those perspectives, I do believe that the church’s teachings could continue to develop in the centuries and millenia to come, just as it has over the past two thousand years.

    2. The Church has no need to keep up with ‘the times’, except that it is necessary to understand where the times have taken people in order to convert them to the truth. Bullying people into agreeing with you is certainly wrong, but so is seducing them into agreeing with you. (In the realm of sexuality, the latter is known as ‘fornication’.)

    3. I think you miss entirely the point of the article. Whilst they are different approaches, be it yelling or wooing with hand holding, neither respect the “No” that the Church has clearly given to the issue of trying to ordain females. The Church is not going to change and agree that the impossible is now actually possible after all.

      1. Why impossible? St Paul speaks of Junia as ‘distinguished among the apostles’ (Ἰουνία … ἐπίσημος ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις). If this woman could be an apostle, then why can’t other women also be priests?

      2. There was a time when the church had clearly forbidden that the bible be translated into English, but then they were led by the Spirit to change their mind on this issue. All things are possible with God. παρὰ ἀνθρώποις ἀδύνατον, ἀλ οὐ παρὰ θεῷ· πάντα γὰρ δυνατὰ παρὰ τῷ θεῷ.

    4. Robert, I sincerely hope I am wrong, but are you saying that you are a dissenter against certain teachings and if so what are they?
      Is one of them concerning ordination women to the priesthood?
      And what do you mean the church is 50 to 500 years behind the times.

      1. Yes. “50-100 years (more or less)” In that time, in our North American culture, the role of women has changed considerably, increasingly recognizing their contributions and potential for leadership. Why not also in the church? In that same time, the role of the all male celibate priesthood has becomr greatly diminished in its ability to exercise leadership in our culture. There are many reasons for this, but we are in need of leadership that can credibly speak to the larger culture, and I think that married clergy and women leaders in the church could help address this need.

        1. So the omnipotent God Who is outside of time, and Who created all things and sent His Son to redeem and save mankind, just needs to get with the times? Because our modern era is so much more advanced now? Jesus just didn’t know then what we know now? He didn’t realize that His all-male priesthood would be a problem in the 21st century?
          Christ established the priesthood. He did not make any oversights or mistakes. He did precisely what He wanted, what the Father wants. Your beef is with God. Good luck.

          1. No beef with either Jesus or his heavenly Father. I do, however, follow the view of scholars who differ on this traditional but anachronistic view of the development of the priesthood. St Paul referred to a woman as distinguished among the apostles. Why can’t we accord the same status to women?

          2. “The Last Supper. The washing of the disciples’ feet. The institution of the Eucharist, the power to forgive or withhold forgiveness of sin. All of this given only to His disciples.
            None of which were women.
            Of course many women were and are distinguished among the apostles and saints! So what? Has no bearing on the priesthood.”

            Paul and Junia, both considered apostles. Do you also think that St Paul was not allowed to preside over the Lord’s super or forgive sins?

          1. The Last Supper. The washing of the disciples’ feet. The institution of the Eucharist, the power to forgive or withhold forgiveness of sin. All of this given only to His disciples.
            None of which were women.
            Of course many women were and are distinguished among the apostles and saints! So what? Has no bearing on the priesthood.

    5. Lol yes prospective bride. A priest is married to the Church. That is why there can be no women priests and also why homosexuality is incompatible with the priesthood. Good job! If you would like to explore this a little further check out this talk…..

      Or here is Pope Benedict with a short lesson…..

      The Catholic Church is very much with the times because the teachings of Jesus are timeless. What liberal dissent comes down to is what has always plagued sinners… will before Thy Will.

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