Monday, 19 July 2010

Two letters

On 17th July, the Times published a letter from Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP. One should perhaps recognise that Fr Radcliffe may not have chosen the heading under which it was published.

Clarifying Vatican line on priestesses

Sir, The Vatican did not declare that "female priests are as sinful as child abuse" (report, July 16). That would be absurd. The papal press office direction, Father Lombardi, SJ, explained that they are completely different. The attempted ordination of a Roman Catholic woman raises different issues.

The priest presides at Holy Communion, the sacrament of our unity in the Church, and so an ordination that is productive of division would be a contradiction in terms. Many Catholics believe that women should not be excluded from ordination, but this will only be possible with the concensus of the communion of the Church. Excommunication is not a punishment, nor exclusion from the Church, but recognition that communion is seriously damaged and needs to be repaired. One might not think that this is the best way to do so, but it is a position that is perfectly comprehensible.

Blackfriars, Oxford

And today, the following letter appeared:

Female priests

Sir, Father Timothy Radcliffe ("Clarifying Vatican line on priestesses", letter, July 17) rightly points out that the illicit ordination of a woman, being productive of division, would be a contradiction in terms. He then interestingly suggests that the ordination of women might be possible "with the concensus of the communion of the Church". Is he suggesting, perhaps, that women's ordination could be considered in those countries, possibly including England and Wales, where such a move would be largely accepted by Catholics? It would certainly be a means of easing relations with the Anglican Church.

It is certainly and unfortunately the case, however, that the Vatican's description of the ordination of a woman as "a grave delict" inevitably reduces its credibility when pronouncing on other matters.

Chislehurst, Kent
Fr Radcliffe does clarify that the Holy See did not equate the attempted ordination of women with the sexual abuse of minors. From then on, though, he does anything but clarify the position of the Holy See with regard to the ordination of women. The ecclesiology underlying Fr Radcliffe's second paragraph looks, not just decidedly Anglican, but decidedly that of a particular school of Anglicanism, a school that has been pretty much put to death by the recent decisions of the General Synod. Communion as social consensus seems to be Fr Radcliffe's notion of the theology of "Church as communion". There is a fudge of the Roman Catholic position, fudge in large quantity, too. What do "should not be excluded from ordination" and "consensus of the communion of the Church" mean? Let alone the infallible magisterium expressed by the "Many Catholics believe ..".

Alan Pavelin takes up the implication that the position of the Holy See is that an ordination of a woman is limited to being illicit - it isn't so limited, being that such an attempted ordination would be invalid, it just wouldn't "happen" despite the words being said and the actions undertaken. He also reads the consensus ecclesiology in a localised context - which Fr Timothy Radcliffe and the Anglican school he reflects would certainly not do - though I am not at all convinced that the ordination of women would be "largely accepted by Catholics" in England and Wales.

Ah, bless.


Fr John Abberton said...

It is interesting that Fr. Timothy Radcliffe is one of those Catholics involved in the "Suppose We Just Said Wait?" movement against the new English translation of the Mass. Initially I was interested in this, and because I signalled this on the website I have had email-shots inviting me to get more involved and keeping me up to date with who is saying what. Early on I noticed that there was an "agenda". It's not just about a new translation, but what that new translation "means" in terms of Catholic ecclesiology. Fr Radcliffe is certainly what we used to call a "liberal" Catholic and believes in the possibility of the ordination of women. I realised some time ago that his theology was not to be trusted, so it comes as no suprise at all that he should write what is actually a very damaging letter, giving some people the idea that it's O.K. to believe in the ordination of women. In fact, it is NOT O.K.

Paul said...

So much of the coverage of this has been startlingly ill-informed. As though I were to take the fact that non-penetrative sexual assault of a child under 13 and impersonating a police officer can both be punished with a six-month custodial sentence to mean that the English government thinks they're effectively "the same thing".

Ben Trovato said...

I also think we should not be shy of stressing how serious the attempted ordination of women is.

We are running so scared of a hostile media equating it with child abuse, that we risk sounding as though it is not that serious. But it is.

I have posted my unacceptable views on this...


Alan Pavelin said...

I came across this blog almost by accident, as the author of the Times letter replying to Fr. Radcliffe. I simply want to disagree with the poster who said it is "not OK" to believe in the ordination of women. It is certainly "not OK" to attempt to do it, and I would not go marching in the street for it. But to my mind it is perfectly OK to hold the view that the official reasons given against women's ordination are not convincing. If Catholics were required explicitly to subscribe to every single teaching of the magisterium, there would be very few Catholics.