Norm has his flameproof suit on, let’s have at him!

Just kidding, Norm, but in the comments section of the post below, you raise the following interesting question about women’s ordination:

The plain reality is that the sacrament of baptism makes a male capable of receiving ordination, for one cannot ordain a male who is not baptized. The problem here is that if baptism does not also make a woman capable of receiving ordination, one in fact has two baptisms — one conferred on men and the other conferred on women — that differ materially in effect. This is, of course, irreconcilable with the plain teaching of scripture that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism…” (see Ephesians 4:5). Perhaps there is a way to reconcile this reality with the “cannot” position, but I don’t see how and the Vatican’s statements on the subject have not done so.

To be clear, I am NOT advocating any change in the present discipline of the church by raising the second of these issues. Indeed, such a change in discipline is far from opportune, the most profound being that it would create additional obstacles to ecumenical relations with the Orthodox Communion and the ancient oriental churches, none of which ordain women. I also should point out that the second of these issues does not in any way abrogate the canon declaring the ordination of women to be null and void, for that canon merely reflects the intrinsic defect of intent that is inherent in any action contrary to the intent of the universal church, nor is it in any way contrary to the statement by Pope John Paul II that he lacks the authority to change the discipline, for one whose ministry is to maintain and to restore the unity of the church (see the encyclical Ut unam sint) clearly does not have authority knowingly to create new obstacles to unity.

In writing about the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council for Catholic papers and going over some of the key legacies of this event in the life of the Church, it is clear there was an emphasis on the Priesthood of Believers by virtue of our Baptism into Christ.   However,  where I think the most progressive proponents of the spirit of Vatican II ran into error is that they used these insights to horizontalize the liturgy and the relationship between clergy and lay people.   While perhaps there was a need to get “Father” off his pedestal and a kind of magic view of the ontological change ordination confers, what happened was a blurring of the roles of the laity and the ordained.

I believe these views—-of the People of God participating in the priesthood of Christ, male and female, through the sacrament of Baptism, and that of the unique role of an ordained male priesthood regarding the Eucharist need to be held in tension and balanced so that one does not displace or lessen the importance of the other.

The reason why there is a male priesthood is because the priest re-presents Christ in a unique way that involves liturgically entering into that once-and-for-all, historically particular event of Christ’s sacrifice.    To have women doing this tampers with this particularity of Christ’s maleness, to say nothing of having implications for the nuptial mystery of the Mass and Christ as the Bridegroom.

However, as a woman, I fully believe I participate in Christ’s priesthood in powerful, supernatural ways, exercising whatever gifts I may have been given by the Holy Spirit.  We all have been given supernatural gifts, but not all of us “stir them up” the way Paul exhorted Timothy to do.

What Vatican II was supposed to do was emphasize that lay Catholics are called to be saints, not just those called to the priesthood or consecrated life.  But that calling to sainthood was not supposed to undermine the unique role of the male priesthood in the economy of grace.

Here is the listing of spiritual gifts from I Corinthians 12 from the King James Version, and I do not see myself barred as a woman from exercising any of them out in the world on behalf of the Kingdom of God.  So much of what I am discovering about Catholicism is that often we deal with mysteries and paradoxes where an “either/or” view truncates Reality.

From I Corinthians 12:

4 ¶ Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9 to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10 to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
11 but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. Rom. 12.6-8 
12 ¶ For as the body is one, and hath many members and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. Rom. 12.45 
13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whetherwe be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.



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15 Responses to Norm has his flameproof suit on, let’s have at him!

  1. That the laity of the Church have a true priesthood is seen in the following two liturgical practices.

    1. The laity eat from the sacrifice. In the Old Covenant, only the levitical priests ate from the sacrifices offered at the Temple altar.
    2. The laity offer intercessions. This is seen, not only in the restored practice of the “common prayer” or prayer of the faithful, but in the historical fact that the catechumens were dismissed from the assembly before the common prayer. One had to be a Christian to participate in this.

    As for Norm’s post that questions the unicity of baptism (because although it is required for ordination, but doesn’t qualify all for ordination), the problem posed rests on a misunderstanding of the nature of a sacrament; there is always a symbolic value to any sacrament, even though sacraments are not only symbolic; in fact, there is a symbolism in both the sacramental action, and an enduring symbolism in the recipient of the sacrament.

    In baptism, the symbolic washing away of sins is shown in the action of immersion or pouring of water, and the death of the old Adam and rising of the new creation in the plunging and rising up from the waters (which is why immersion is the preferred method of administration). But the white garments worn by the baptized are part of that symbolism of the now divinized/glorified Christian, who shines as did Christ in his Transfiguration. That symbolism should be continued in the life of each Christian, whose life, particularly whose love, will show forth that s/he is a disciple by that love (cf. John 13). The Christian himself, therefore, is the primary continuing symbol of the sacrament of baptism, in which the theosis of the believer is begun; each Christian is an icon of Christ.

    But the enduring symbol of Holy Orders is the particular role of Christ as Head of the Church, as High Priest of humanity before God, and as Bridegroom of the Church (as noted by Deborah). St. Paul situates Christ’s love for the Church precisely in his having delivered himself up for her (Ephesians 5) and notes that this is how all husbands should strive to live in relation to their wives. Being a Christian husband requires sacrifice, just as Christ sacrificed himself for us. In ordaining men, the Church ordains each to live as an icon of the spousal, sacrificial, priestly Head of the Church. As an icon, this is not something a woman can do, despite any gift she has for some of the activities that priests commonly do such as teaching or preaching.

    Likewise, in the sacramental of the consecration of a virgin, only a woman is suitable, because only a woman can be the icon of the Church, the people of God which is the Bride of the Lamb.

    That in both cases baptism is a necessary prerequisite means that sacraments and sacramentals are for Christians and not those outside the Church. There may be many who will never receive the Sacrament of Anointing because they never become seriously ill and thus never have recourse to its healing grace. But that does not call into question baptism’s unicity, one meaning for those who become ill and another for those who do not; only that this Sacrament of Anointing is for the sick, who are icons, by virtue of their illness, of humanity weighed down with the effects of sin, who needs the grace of Christ for healing.

  2. Ioannes says:

    I thought that men cannot be ordained into Holy Orders, nor can they be with women bound in Holy Matrimony without receiving the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Confirmation?

    Only men can be priests, only women can be nuns, and so forth- men and women have the same dignity as human beings, but with different obligations and abilities.

    For a chuckle, read this:

    • Rev22:17 says:


      You wrote: I thought that men cannot be ordained into Holy Orders, nor can they be with women bound in Holy Matrimony without receiving the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Confirmation?

      Theologically, confirmation and baptism are intrinsically linked, such that confirmation in some sense completes baptism. One cannot solemnly baptize an “adult” (understood by the Catholic Church to mean anybody past the “age of reason,” which is nominally about seven years of age) without confirming that adult and admitting that adult to communion at the same time, as in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). The custom of deferring confirmation of those baptized as infants until a later age actually is limited to the Roman Rite, as all non-Roman rites confirm even infants at the time of baptism.

      You wrote: … only women can be nuns…

      That’s about like saying that only a woman can be an “actress” — its veracity rests on a linguistic technicality of supplying a different word (“actor”) for a man who does exactly the same thing. In the Catholic Church, the religious orders for men are just as diverse as the religious orders for women. Men who live in strict cloister (in the same manner as nuns) are usually called “monks” instead even though both follow the same rule of life and the respective superiors (abbot or abbess). The use of gender specific nouns does not indicate a difference in role or function.


      • Ioannes says:

        Oh, what came into my mind was “Nuns on a Bus” angry about “Patriarchal Domination” and declaring a “Magisterium of Nuns” and such. yes, I know monks/nuns, etc. It was just an oversight.

        But my point was: men are called to something different than women.

        So this business of women-priests is like… talking about “Male pregnancy.” To which I ask “whaaaaaat?”

  3. Pingback: Norm has his flameproof suit on, let’s have at him! | Catholic Canada

  4. I don’t think that the “business of women-priests” is quite as hard to understand as Ioannes makes out. Particularly in the anglophone world, which seems to me to be the primary source for continuing questions/pushes about this.

    Whatever the goals of the English reformers, the typical worship life of most English parishes from Elizabeth on consisted of Sunday Mattins, Ante-Communion, and Evensong. The Ante-Communion (or what we might term today the “Liturgy of the Word” portion of Mass) was celebrated most Sundays, communion coming only once per month in many parishes, and as infrequently as 3-4 times per year in parishes under Puritan influence. As such, the view of the priest was primarily as a preacher. Even in areas of more ‘catholic’ theology, the impracticability of purchasing sufficient wine for weekly communion made infrequent celebrations of the rule; wine was either too expensive, or too unavailable (being mostly imported, and running wars with France and spain being all too common in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries). (This also explains the unique Anglican practice of using Port as communion wine, Portugal being the one reliable ally – and wine producer – on the continent.)

    In the Puritan and Independent churches, this view of the minister as primarily a minister of the Word gained ascendancy.

    Now, there’s little doubt that women can in fact be “ministers” of the word, another term for which, of course is “prophetess”. The New Testament names Anna and the daughters of deacon Phillip as prophetesses. And we might now use the term “doctor of the Church” for women like St. Hildegarde, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Siena and St. Therese of Lisieux, but certain prophetess or even minister of the word is equally correct.

    The push for women’s ordination arises in the context of both a recognition that God does teach through women, and an impoverishment in our understanding of just what a priest is; when we reduce the priest to an administrator/teacher we then leave the field open to the question ‘Well, if it is just a matter of being able to do x, y, z, why can’t women do that just as well? Or why can’t we have part-time priests?’ But the priesthood, being sacramental, has an essentially symbolic nature, which we have not sufficiently appreciated all too often.

  5. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    I’m not surprised that Norm would lodge such a claim. But it is ridiculous. The fact that Baptism is a necessary condition for ordination does not mean that it is a sufficient condition for ordination. Philosophy 101?


    • Rev22:17 says:


      You wrote: The fact that Baptism is a necessary condition for ordination does not mean that it is a sufficient condition for ordination.

      True, but nobody remotely suggested otherwise. The church obviously has a solemn duty to determine who best can serve in ordained ministry and to ordain only those who best can serve. There is no theological problem whatsoever with the sex of the individual being part of this “who best can serve.” Rather, the problem is only if baptism of a woman does not have the same effect as baptism of a man.


      • Ioannes says:

        This issue of women being ordained into the priesthood or just being present at the sanctuary… seems to me… to be a part of a larger gender identity political agenda being pushed by Cultural Marxists, the roots of which can be traced back past Mary Wollstonecraft and directly into the roots of liberalism with the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his Enlightenment posse.

      • Rev22:17 says:


        You wrote: This issue of women being ordained into the priesthood or just being present at the sanctuary… seems to me… to be a part of a larger gender identity political agenda being pushed by Cultural Marxists, the roots of which can be traced back past Mary Wollstonecraft and directly into the roots of liberalism with the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his Enlightenment posse.

        This is an area in which the Catholic Church is not nearly as restrictive as many traditionalists.

        >> Women may now serve in all liturgial ministries proper to the laity, including those performed within the sanctuary, on an equal basis with men. This includes the ministries of reader, cantor, musician, acolyte, and extraordinary minister of communion. Additionally, a lay woman with proper deputation may lead the Celebration of Sunday in the Absence of a Priest or any other communion service outside of mass.

        >> A diocean bishop or other ordinary also may appoint a woman to be the canonical administrator of a parish, with full power of governance thereof.

        >> And with deputation from the diocesan bishop or other ordinary, a lay catechist, either male or female, may solemnly baptize and may witness vows of marriage, though this faculty is normally used only in mission lands where there are not enough clergy to fulfill these functions.

        So the bottom line here is that there is virtually no official distinction between the roles of lay men and lay women in the Catholic Church now.


      • Ioannes says:

        And this is why I’m a traditionalist Catholic. It’s not so much that I have anything against women, or believe that the Pope does not have the right to be generous, but I do believe in conserving what is in danger of being thrown away. I also believe that important things should not be left at the attic or the basement where they will collect dust. As a member of a younger generation, I definitely understand how many missed opportunities and well-intentioned acts of idiocies led to the destruction of sacred things, leading to banalization and desacralization which is tragic when it comes from those inside the Church.

        We can understand when French or Communist Revolutionaries put to death so many holy men and women and destroyed so many holy places- they seek to silence those who by their very existence disprove the stories they tell about us- but when things which have been regarded as holy are no longer regarded as such -from within the Church- it seems like a betrayal, a break. Why do they seek to silence sacred Tradition? Do they hate their parents and their forefathers in the faith? Is it a sense of self-loathing that came about from interacting with the “modern world”?

        Perhaps this allowing of women into the sanctuary goes hand-in-hand with the feminization of Christianity. We stopped believing that Jesus was the Perfect Man and we instead feminize him, or deny that His Mother had any significant role in the plan for Salvation, just because she is not Jesus- Is it so much a surprise when religion is now viewed as a harmless hobby for elderly women who are either widows, spinsters, or in need of escape from a frustrating husband? Is it a surprise when men who wear cassocks or pray the rosary are viewed as if they’re “Not Really Men”?

        It is truly frustrating, as a man who loves God and His Mother, to be viewed as if I’m not a real man unless I live a life of promiscuity, become a murderous thug, be a monosyllabic philistine, and spend every night and day doing harm to myself from alcohol, and other vices- And women at the sanctuary, either as altar girls or eucharistic ministers, or even as you say the allowing of women to be canonical parish administrator of a parish all do not help the case for a masculine, vigorous, vital Church.

        What we have is an effeminate, flaccid, passive Church lacking in the male example of Christ, and those men of action and spirit we call Apostles and Church Fathers.

        Speaking of women being the canonical administrator of a parish, this is from Fr. Zuhlsdorf’s blog: “What does the prayer really say?”


        VATICAN CITY 1997

        Article 5§ 3. It is for the Parish Priest to preside at parochial councils. They are to be considered invalid, and hence null and void, any deliberations entered into, (or decisions taken), by a parochial council which has not been presided over by the Parish Priest or which has assembled contrary to his wishes.(86)

        Article 5 § 2. Diocesan and parochial Pastoral Councils(83) and Parochial Finance Councils,(84) of which non-ordained faithful are members, enjoy a consultative vote only and cannot in any way become deliberative structures. Only those faithful who possess the qualities prescribed by the canonical norms(85) may be elected to such responsibilities.

        (83) Cf. C.I.C., can. 514, 536.

        (84) Cf. ibid., can. 537.

        (85) Cf. ibid., can. 512, §§ 1 and 3; Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1650.
        So at the very least, this notion that bishops can appoint women as parish administrators is misleading- the final say in a parish lies in the Pastor priest.

      • Rev22:17 says:


        You wrote: So at the very least, this notion that bishops can appoint women as parish administrators is misleading- the final say in a parish lies in the Pastor priest.

        No. The detail that you are missing is that, under the Codex Juris Canonici, an “parish administrator” is one who holds canonical power of governance, in the name of the bishop, while the office of pastor is vacant. When a bishop appoints a lay person as the parish administrator, that administrator fulfills the same role as a pastor with respect to the parish pastoral council and the parish finance council. There is a technical difference: the lay administrator holds authority delegated by the bishop, whereas a pastor holds ordinary authority by virtue of his office, but the power to act in matters of governance is substantially the same.


      • Ioannes says:

        Oh. Well, that’s lame. No wonder we’ll never get rid of women in the sanctuary and feminization of the Church, and the armies of Eucharistic Ministers. (Who tend to be women.)

        I miss the days when the Code of Canon Law allowed Ecclesiastical Prisons.

      • Ioannes says:

        By the way, what are your opinions on the campaign for “Female Priests” in the Catholic Church?

  6. EPMS says:

    Right. Let’s not forget the dark day when the 19th Amendment was passed. This kind of argument simply strengthens the case of those who interpret opposition to women priests as an expression of misogyny.

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