Obsession, but on whose part?

wuyts“The power church in 2013 remains legalistic, massive and obsessively occupied with trivialities such as the denial of women priests and the defense of celibacy.”

So speaks Fr. Jan Wuyts, retired dean of Louvain in Belgium, in an interview for Christian magazine Tertio. And how heartily I disagree with him. The topics he mentions – women priests and the abolishment of celibacy for priests – are the hobby horses of the modernist movements that he seems to represent. The Church as a whole, while admittedly massive and often slow to react, has long since spoken authoritatively on these matters. There is no obsessive occupation, except in the minds of the likes of Fr. Wuyts and for those in the Church who are tasked with explaining, time and again, what the Church has always taught about matters.

Blessed John Paul II has stated several times that the Church “does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination”. Likewise, the Church has consistently handled the topic of celibacy as a factual and beneficial element of the priesthood. There is obsession in neither issue, except on the part of those who want the Church to change what either can’t be changed, or where there is no good reason to change it at this time.

Fr. Wuyts’ words are a reflection on his own words and actions, and not on those of the Church.

Published by

incaelo

I'm a 37-year-old lay Catholic from the diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden. I write about the Catholic Church in the Netherlands. I not only enjoy bringing selected developments to the attention of readers, but I also think that it is sometimes important to allow a wider audience to read about the state of the Church in the Netherlands. That's why a fair number of posts about that topic will be translations of Dutch articles, episcopal writings and whatever else.

7 thoughts on “Obsession, but on whose part?”

  1. The question of priestly celibacy is not quite comparable with female priesthood.. as the first is perhaps one day even possible.
    My idea of female priesthood – which by papal authority is currently is not to be discussed among theologians – is that in any hypothetical debate around the topic the issue of gender, identity and role should be included. As a ‘modernist’ I accept and understand the way it is and think there are various other ways in which women could have other important roles in the church (next to the existing). It’s not explicitly forbidden to discuss the possibility of female cardinals and female lectors, acolytes or perhaps even deacons.

    I think the word ‘obsession’ is too strong, one task of the Church is to protect the Faith. One might have the opinion that the Church is obsessed with ‘protectionism’, which is more or less understandable in this rapidly changing world. Even so an 100% ‘obsession’ with ‘protectionism’ wouldn’t explain the recent news of potential acknowledgement of the rights of unmarried homosexual or heterosexuals living together or the changing views with regard to remarried people.
    Perhaps ano might say the church pre-occupied to matters of sex and gender. While understandable if this is the case I am of the opinion the debate on these and related matters should either be re-opened and be thorough, which means including the *scientific* insights on the difference between gender and sex.

  2. It seems to me that the modernists in the Church are the ones obsessed with the idea that the Church ought to be following the dictates of the world. A world where there is no truth and everything is relative. Nothing is permanent and everthing can, and will, change from day to day. It is a permanent merry go round. And since God (if He really exists) loves everybody, and everything todays perfect and oh so enlightened man (oops, I meant to say human being) does, why, then we are totally free and can live without any restraint. So the modernists keep trying to change, and crying and complaining ad nauseam about, those horrible Traditions and permanent Teachings of the Church, and the unwashed and uneducated masses urge them on. Could it be perhaps that Satan (if he really exists) has it in for the Church? If so, then he has plenty of gullible and evil followers which, especially during the last 50 years, have caused massive loss of faith, confusion and misery. God gives all of us free will. Each one of us must decide; are we going to be faithful to God and His Church, or are we going to pay homage and submission to the world?
    Pax Christi.

  3. Francis, you imply there is a papal “gagging order” specifically repressing theological discussion of the topic you mention. At the wikipedia level of accuracy it is is sometimes asserted that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1994) and/or Ad Tuendam Fidem (1998) contains such a gagging order. That assertion is incorrect.

    There are, however, principles of general application which preclude debate on matters of faith and morals which have been (i) propounded by the magisterium as divinely revealed, or (ii) definitively taught by the magisterium. For present purposes, let’s call these “magisterial teachings”. The reason debate is precluded is because magisterial teachings are true.

    Obstinate denial or doubt of a teaching of class (i) is heresy and automatic excommunication follows; those who reject a proposition of class (ii) set themselves against the teaching of the Catholic Church and thereby impair communion with the Church. See the Code of Canon Law, cann.747 to 755, read with cann. 205 and 209. This part of the Code coheres with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium, nn.12-25). See also CCL, can.1364 on excommunication for heresy.

    The topic you mention falls within class (ii). Those who deny or contest this magisterial teaching are not uniquely oppressed by a gagging order. What they are doing is impairing their communion with the Church and (if they are theologians) they are violating the science they profess to practise.

    Catholic theology cannot be independent of – still less antagonistic to – the magisterium without abandoning its essential nature, and so Catholic theologians cannot promote views (whether openly or under the mask of stimulating debate) which are contrary to magisterial teachings. In pursuing the truth, every academic discipline can only operate within its proper parameters. Step outside them, and what you are conducting is not that discipline.

    1. Thanks for the clarification Bain and especially the final paragraph. I understand fully but I have an important question or remark about it.
      As our understanding of the world progresses through the humanities, biology, evolutionary theory, social and hard sciences, insights can have implications for our understanding of the male and female. As these words are also used within theology and the church there can’t be a disconnect between the two. While certain things could be unthinkable now and appear to be antagonistic to magisterial teaching, they might be incorporated in it later. Shifts like the one toward the nouvelle theologie in it’s response to the anti-modernism cannot happen otherwise. There is a reason why the SSPX hasn’t joined us yet.
      For example, and this is purely hypothetical and a though experiment, in the far future ‘man’ might discover or create a similarly intelligent race which doesn’t have the male and female sex. If they are considered to be souled and are allowed baptism, could they be priests? And if so, would this have implications for the ordination of women priests. What if we made contact with yet another race, which does have a male and female equivalent (chances are even slimmer or non-existent as humankind would have died out)… would Aliens A be disallowed to the priesthood and Aliens B allowed; creating discrimination on a new level?
      Just to be clear I am not proposing women priests based on this speculation. I am just commenting on the ‘bounds’ you mention. There should be some level of eccentricity within the church to allow for the development of it’s thought. Who decides who is it’s custodian and what the proper parameters are? Similar processes are described in organisational psychology, sociology and the philosophy of science, should the organisational structure of the Church be inspired or reformed based on these insights?

      1. An interesting and provocative contribution, Francis. I should have said that my brief analysis comes from “Ad Tuendam Fidem” itself. See also the CDF Instruction “Donum Veritatis” (1990) – all of which you probably know.

        As for your thought experiment, it concerns, I gather, (i) extra-terrestrial beings, (ii) artificial intelligence, and possibly (iii) the manipulation of human genes to create a non-sexual human life-form or even a trans-human life-form. You don’t mention (iv) so-called “sex-change” operations or hermaphroditism, no doubt because they are not theoretic.

        The moral and theological problems raised by (i) and (ii) would not necessarily require any fundamental reassessment of the economy of salvation or of the sacramental economy. I am in no position to speculate, but you might be interested in what one Catholic scientist (Steven Barr, a physicist) said on these topics a few years ago – not with reference to the sacrament of orders, however. See an interview with him at http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2006/sbarr_interview_sept06.asp which will also give you a link to a book of his, published at about the same time.

        On (iii), you may know that the possibility of science manipulating a “new type of human being” and of human-animal genetic hybridisation were adverted to in the CDF Instruction “Dignitatis Personae” (2008, at 27, 33), itself an up-dating of the Instruction “Donum Vitae” (1988). All such manipulations are condemned by the Church, not least by the Holy Father in his speech to the Roman Curia on 22 December 2008. What we do know is that only males are eligible for ordination, and only grown males and grown females are eligible for marriage. Decisions on whether a candidate for either sacrament is male or female or neither are, as I understand it, already being made in particular cases under (iv), so there is no reason in principle why they could not be made under (iii) if, God forbid, the question should ever arise practically.

  4. ‘the difference between gender and sex.’
    There is NOT such as thing as ‘gender’.

    As a Hispanic, i am TIRED of white people(those who work at universities specially) making up stuff for the rest of the world.

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