A byline in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Wednesday, November 21, 2018, by George P. Shultz, that gives me the opportunity to write on an issue that seems to get the attention of many. Yet these questions appear to miss the point of the Catholic Church denouncing these particular thoughts.
Let’s take each issue separately and dissect the very essence of the thinking extrapolated from some peoples’ ideas to correct the Church’s direction in certain matters. Present any issue in life before a chosen gathering and you’ll receive as many thoughts as there are persons in the group. It is that way with one of two problems before us; ordaining women as Catholic Priests.
Jesus called some men, fishermen and a tax-collector, to follow him on an unknown mission where all but one would end up in martyrdom. The question was not why did he call just men, but rather why did he not consider women for this auspicious journey. It would prove to be successful in one sense and end up making them forever the future bishops of a sect for the salvation of souls.
Could women have fulfilled this calling as easily and judiciously as men? Would women today fit the pattern of the call that Jesus only gave to men? Perhaps we need to address the culture that Jesus and those he chose lived in. Many will say because of the culture Jesus didn’t want to upset those in authority by going against the grain of the Jewish laws. Well, he did a lot of that by; “picking grain on the Sabbath, healing a cripple on the Sabbath, and many other signs he performed, especially in view of the Pharisees and Scribes.” No, he wasn’t concerned about doing the accepted dictates of Jewish Law. He was more concerned about people, not their rules that blocked common sense. Women were not discarded by Jesus, but were not considered as Apostles in His Church. This may appear as harsh, but who knows the mind of God? Neither you nor I. If anyone reading this or any other commentary as to why women were not chosen, you will not find a direct answer.
How about married priests? “Jesus entered the house of Peter and saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever.” (Mt. 8: 14). As early as 304 AD a mandate was written requiring priests to be chaste. Canon 33 of the Council of Elvira stated that all “Bishops, presbyters, and deacons and all other clerics were to abstain completely from their wives and not to have children.” A short time later, in 325, the Council of Nicea, convened by Constantine, rejected a ban on priests marrying requested by Spanish clerics. The Church was a thousand years old before it definitively took a stand in favor of celibacy in the twelfth century at the second Lantern Council held in 1139, when a rule was approved forbidding priests to marry. In 1563, the Council of Trent reaffirmed the tradition of Celibacy.
From Matthew’s Gospel in the teaching on divorce we read; His disciples said to him, “Is it better not to marry?” Jesus answered, “not all can accept this word, but only those to whom it is granted.” “Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.” (Mt. 19: 10a - 12).
Quite a few priests are comfortable where they are as celibates. It appears those who aren’t are not priests, but some who want to control by change what the Church has already decided.
The world we live in and the intellectual thoughts of many seem to be regulated by common sense and not by older rules set by Councils of the Roman Catholic Church. However, we are able to peek into the New-age philosophies that place the individual “Me attitude” as being the by-words of life. Who needs these outmoded ideas that do not fit with modern living and “doing it my way” attitudes. Frank Sinatra may have made millions with that song, but following God and the message given us from Jesus Christ do not rely on music and the vocalists’ words that encourage too many people to follow their own uninformed consciences.
Too often when people become dissatisfied with teachings that no longer fit their immediate needs, they dream up new ideas that on the surface appear perfect. Then, when one after another fails or doesn’t live up to their expectations of what should be done, they become frustrated and in the case of the Catholic Church they blame it’s dictates on the failure of accomplishing what they think should be done.
This is just one of many reasons the Catholic Church has called and promoted the answers in all of the Councils of the Church.
Are Married Priests and Women Priests the answer to what many are calling empty pews and a decline of priests. Absolutely not.
Have we forgotten that Christ said; “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28: 18 -20).
Schisms of the past are built on philosophies that tried to promote a different way, endorsed by those who know less about official Church Traditions that built the Church we have today.
Ralph B. Hathaway November 2018