Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 1, 1999
WCR Letters to the Editor
Uniting priesthood and the right to life
Why can't women be Catholic priests? This issue has never been more pressing than in the 20th century.
Since the foundation of the Church, no female has been ordained to the holy order of the presbyter. Most opponents of the invalidity of women's ordination believe that this prohibition is merely due to the fact that "a Polish pope has . . . refused to move with the times" (Bogle, Catholic Women, p. 18).
The truth however is simply: women cannot be Catholic priests because the Church does not have the power to ordain them. This conclusion is resounded in all historical, theological, biblical and ecclesial evidences. The contention that women are being "short-changed" comes from an insufficient respect for life and women in general.
There is a popular myth that deaconesses were ordained in the early Church (Romans 16:1). This however, is not true. In fact, there is a well-known book which used to uphold this view entitled When Women were Priests. Unfortunately, many parts of the book were considerably wanting for cogency.
Lay apologist Brent Arias explains: "Women have the apostolate of life-giving (birth), while men have the apostolate of Eucharist ministration. Not all men nor all women will embrace the gifts proper to them (that is, not all women are mothers, and not all men become presbyters).
"Yet both are given the role of spiritual leadership and care of souls. It is as foolish, unbalanced, and impossible to have women become priests as it is foolish, unbalanced and impossible for men to become mothers.
"The real reason why people want women to become priests is because they have insufficient respect for the dignity and power of the role women play in bringing life into the world.
"Part of the reason that this apostolate of women is belittled (by the very people who seek 'rights' for women) is because life itself has been belittled in our country. If a human infant has no rights and dignity (that is, abortion), then the role women play in bringing them into the world is mundane and second class."
"If the foot should say, Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body, that would not make it any less a part of the body. . . . But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose.
"If all were a single organ, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body" (1 Corinthians 12:15-20).
Only faulty reasoning can lead someone to conclude that "because women can't be priests, they are not a part of nor participate in the body of Christ."
Indeed, the effort of some Catholics to force on the Church the role of women as priests is clearly the same disobedient effort which characterized the sin of our first parents. This movement is factious and causes dissension and confusion.
In Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul states: "Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Luke 22:32), I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."
This declaration is as infallible as it gets. If supporters of women priests cannot submit to the Roman pontiff when he acts in his official capacity as the head of the Church, then just like the rich man's brothers, "neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead."
We as honest Christians should ask ourselves whether the time spent in arguing about women's ordination, inclusive language etc., might not have been better used in trying to prevent abortion, teenage suicide or the moral decay of our youth?
Indeed, one of the biggest problems in the Catholic Church today is that we have a lot of people who have their priorities seriously screwed up.
Youth ministry and vocations
I have been following the progress of ToPs in the Edmonton Archdiocese, and have read with great intrigue the letters that have begun to surface since John Acheson declared that "to date, there has not been a great deal of anger" (WCR, Dec. 7).
We have read of many people's thoughts, disappointments, frustrations, hurts, solutions and questions - all of which are carried by an underlying sense of despair - does what anyone says really make much difference?
The only prevalent cause for restructuring that I have heard given is the lack of priests available to serve in the archdiocese. The catechism states: "No one has a right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Indeed no one claims the office for himself; he is called to it by God" (no. 1578).
We are called by God to fulfill whatever office we are gifted for. Through Baptism we are made to be God's children, called to be disciples and to go where God calls us.
How well are we nurturing the discernment of our young people so they might discover where God wants them to go? Young people struggle severely with this challenge, whether they are called to teach, to fix cars, to raise a family, to practise law, to serve the Church or to coach hockey.
How well do our parish communities welcome and include young people and make the faith relevant to their lives?
As colleagues we often discuss the "vocation crisis" and it is often said that it is not God who fails to call, it is the called who fail to answer - or even to hear. The larger a parish becomes, the easier it is to hide in a corner or to get lost in the crowd.
May I echo Father Clem Gauthier of Rocky Mountain House (WCR, Jan. 11). Young People stand a better chance of hearing and understanding God's call to them within a parish community that really knows them, that supports their parents, that has a healthy and living faith, and that prays "for young people in their discernment," not just "for vocations."
We cannot presume that other countries will provide us with priests indefinitely. Are these young men not needed at home; is there not also great need in other parts of the world?
We have many gifted men in our own diocese who have answered a call to ministry and have left their homelands to join us here; yet, if our own communities can't support young people enough to allow priestly vocations to emerge, how effectively will we encourage and support others who arrive from elsewhere?
Give solid and committed youth ministry 20 years in a parish or diocese, and then let's revisit the "vocation crisis."
Youth Ministry Coordinator
St. Bonaventure Parish
Disheartened by negativity on ordaining women
I've been disheartened by negative responses to the topic of women as Church leaders but somehow the Father puts peace in my heart once again when I see women serving as acolytes, eucharistic ministers, RCIA team members, and Sunday school teachers. They're already right before our very eyes.
This isn't about power or equal rights, it's about answering God's call. I just don't believe this fundamental issue would concern our Heavenly Father in the slightest.
I believe that Jesus couldn't call women to serve because it was against their culture. I know how the pope feels and right now we have to respect that; but I believe we're all on a faith journey and hopefully someday our Church will grow and accept and respect women's calling.
It's just too bad our small Church communities have to suffer; we share your pain and welcome you to our mega-churches.
I belong to OLPH in Sherwood Park; it's very dynamic with a great faith community.
I'd like to end with a prayer I read from Franciscan Father Richard Rohr: "God of life, bless our days. Keep us alive and in love. Keep us growing, Mother-God. Keep drawing us closer to you. Help our words, Father-God, not get in the way of your Spirit.
"Help the words we use not become too many or too confusing. Our faith, Holy One, is in you and not in any words or in any teaching. We just want these words to open us up to you and your Spirit among us.
"Help us not to be afraid of Jesus, the companion you have given us for our journey toward you. As St. Bernard prayed, 'Jesus, our Lord, you are honey in our mouth. You are music in our ear. You are a leap of joy in our heart.'"
Court-induced inconsistencies in law
Right now in Canada, it is okay legally to go topless in Ontario, walk down main streets in major cities mostly naked promoting homosexuality and own child pornography.
But whatever you do, don't stand on a public sidewalk and pray in front of an abortion clinic because the police will come and throw you in jail. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.
This has happened several times to a grandmother (never in trouble with the law before) who feels the need to pray to stop abortion as a violent form of birth control.
You can't even hold a picket sign stating, "Abortion stops a beating heart." Where is their freedom of speech or freedom of expression?
Something is terribly wrong here. Why should the rights of perverts and convicts override the rights of a society that wants to protect children from the moment of conception to natural death?
Research proves that pornography is addictive, it escalates and then causes compulsive behaviour. The laws in the Criminal Code of Canada are good. The problem again is the unelected, liberal-minded judges who are striking down our legislated laws.
Judges should leave law-making and talking to the politicians and enforce the laws on the books, not remove them.
A narrow view of personhood denies the right to life
Each year over 100,000 Canadian preborns are denied the right to life based on a denial of their right to personhood. Will we never learn from history?
In 1857 Afro-Americans were denied the right to personhood in order to justify slavery. Canadian women were denied the right to personhood until 1929 in order to justify not giving them the right to vote.
In 1936 the Supreme Court of Germany declared that Jews were non-persons, which opened the way for the Jewish Holocaust.
In an address to delegates at the 1998 international human rights conference held in Edmonton, Justice Minister Anne McLellan suggested a willingness on the part of Canada to look at its human rights record.
Perhaps now would be a good time to press our Members of Parliament for legislation that restores dignity to preborns by protecting their right to personhood and their right to life.
We're a long way from justice and democracy
John Zyp's letter "Justice not charity" (WCR, Jan. 18) clearly reveals his passion for social justice. However, few others know what that is or want to know for that matter.
No one wants to be reminded of the blood dripping from their hands from complicity in recent wars that have killed millions of innocents abroad.
Social justice is democracy and we are far from that. We don't enjoy political or economic democracy, merely their caricature.
The common good is not taught in schools, rarely mentioned in churches or reported in the corporate media. It is anathema to large corporations, which because of their nearly totalitarian nature see us, at best, as conspicuous consumers.
Take systematic poverty and its justification for example. Since most of us rent ourselves, that is, work for, or identify with power (government, industry, professional associations), illegitimate though it may be, we simply, obediently accept poverty. The poor will always be with us, says the Bible.
Indeed, we maintain and prolong it by employing social service agencies and charity. Legions of unemployed and subsistence "wage slaves" are required to keep our adversarial system functioning. For every winner there must be a loser, or hundreds of losers.
Poverty provides a job market for the social services industry, the medical professions, the judicial bureaucracy and food bank employees. People supposedly fighting poverty benefit from the enemy.
In our capitalist system making money off the misery of others is considered a virtue. Human rights, such as the abolition of poverty, are secondary to investors' rights to predatory profits.
The poor constitute a labour pool that does dirty work at low cost. They clear alleys of bottles and cans, eat old bread, use second-hand clothes and furniture, and live in substandard buildings, or in the streets.
The APEC issue demonstrates that the prime minister loves commerce more than he loathes repression. There is no known argument for stupidity.
Television brainwashes us to believe that we are what we own. Being failures at ownership the victimized are blamed for their lot. The middle class needs the poor to look down on while envying the wealthy. The rich prove their superiority with hypocritical charity to those who grub for money.
Business writers celebrate the "poor boy (or girl) who made good," that is, made lots of money. Any painting, poetry or music from a reserve is patronized in conventional cultural circles.
There really is only one political party in Canada, the Property Party. It just has five major factions. They represent the owner-managers of the country and are paid for by the same people - corporations and the unions that work for them.
Since the dispossessed are portrayed as lazy, ignorant, promiscuous etc., welfare budgets can be slashed without much public outcry. Colossal subsidy payments to industry and farmers rouse few doubts about the danger to their moral fibre.
Individuals can't change the system. The establishment is more than happy with the status quo - concentrated wealth (the main cause of poverty), a servile media and schools that don't teach critical thinking.
Sadly, schools and universities today are little more than vocational training centres. They teach much trivia, not movement towards democracy - not surprising given their corporate-controlled curricula.
If students could discuss questions such as who owns and controls our natural resources, where does money come from, democracy, social justice and the nature of poverty, they could become a serious threat to the ruling elite.
As it is, the power elite are so brilliant that no one knows that they even exist. They don't conspire. They don't have to; they all think alike and reinforce each other. Many even call themselves Christians.
If we believe that humanity is essentially good and if we cherish social justice, then we must organize for true democracy. That means having a say in the decisions and policies that affect our lives and indeed the lives of our brothers and sisters around the world.
We must push governments, our servants, to put our money where our values are, not those of their real masters, the corporate elite.
Join your parish social action committee and hope that its members believe in the common good. It's our duty to see the underdogs as ourselves and help them to dignity starting with a decent standard of living. Because, it's the right thing to do.
Pharaoh's spirit alive and well in Alberta
I am sorry to report that the spirit of a pharaoh is alive and well in Canada. In Montreal, a pharaoh built Expo at a cost of $1 billion plus dollars while forgetting the needs of the people.
Pharaoh placed such a burden of debt on the people that it would almost be impossible to extract more taxes from the people.
In Alberta, our pharaohs went overboard in spending. Now they blame health care costs and close beds in hospitals. They blame the high cost of education so they raise tuition fees which are becoming out of reach of the poor. Handicapped people, cold and hungry, remain on the streets.
If a person owns an animal and leaves it out to freeze and go hungry, the Society to Prevent Cruelty to Animals will bring you to court. Why shouldn't there be a society to bring pharaoh to court for neglecting his duty to shelter and feed those people left in the cold?
Now I notice other pharaohs forget their Christian obligations and propose the building of a skytrain in Alberta at an approximate cost of $2 billion. Where will the money come from? More taxes of course. Cut down the services to the aged and the sick, raise the cost of education, leave the homeless on the street.
Pharaohs, before building more white elephants in Alberta, please pay the debt, reopen the hospitals, give free education to all children and young people so they may choose the vocation God calls them to. Money should not be a stumbling block.
In 1939, thousands of young people were travelling across the country to find a job. These young people were so poor - they were hungry, ragged and penniless.
As soon as the Second World War broke out these young people were given a paying job in the army. They were given new suits, guns, shelter and free training.
Shouldn't all young people, rich or poor, receive an education which will enable them to face life's battles in their chosen vocation during peaceful times?
Please, all governing groups, local, provincial and federal, cut down the frills, provide the necessities of life to those in need.
As Christians, this is what Jesus asks. Review the Beatitudes! Christ asks you to govern with wisdom and love. As Christians, let's phone, write or speak to our elected representatives. Tell them about our priorities.
We have enough ways of transportation. Let's solve our other problems first.
CCODP more Catholic than ever
In the Jan. 11 B.C. Report Hugh Buckley got more than a little carried away in his rhetoric as he tried to equate the revision of the Constitution for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace with "the formal secularization of this once Catholic organization."
Furthermore, he seems to have precious little understanding of the demands of Canadian corporate law.
His contention that all references to Catholicity have been either removed or suppressed is patently absurd. Although he is entitled to his opinion, i.e. "I believe the CCODP has made a mistake," as one of the bishops involved in the constitutional review process, I am mystified by what he has read into the constitution.
It would have helped had he done a bit more research and focused on the statutes instead of on the bylaws concerning membership and on our results and outcomes.
If I wanted to know about the vitality of an organization, e.g. a parish, I wouldn't isolate a couple of sections from the parish's pastoral constitution emphasizing concepts such as membership, consensus, collaboration and inclusion, and then conclude that this constitutes formal secularization of the parish.
The statutes of Development and Peace clearly and succinctly deal with the objectives and mission, and relations within the Church. The organization's orientations and objectives are further described in its letters patent and mission statement.
By virtue of its mandate, the organization collaborates with the bishops of Canada in order to engage the entire community in actions for international solidarity. In pursuit of its objectives with the diocesan Church, the organization works in close harmony with each bishop. Two bishops are ex officio members of the national council and one a member of the executive.
In the course of this past year Development and Peace completed the reorganization undertaken four years ago, updating its mission and reorganized the agency against the new backdrop of globalization, neoliberalism, the changing role of the state and of CIDA, and our financial downsizing.
While continuing to assert its Catholic roots and its preference for the struggles of the poorest populations, Development and Peace has tried to adapt its programs in the South, its educational strategies in Canada and its fundraising methods.
I am convinced that Development and Peace has been transformed into a modern and more effective instrument of solidarity by changing its structures and revising its work methods.
Furthermore, communication with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and religious communities continues to be a key factor in strengthening Development and Peace. There are frequent contacts with the CCCB executive, the general secretaries, and support personnel from the social affairs commission.
During the past year the CCCB has supported the process of CCODP joining Caritas International to organize better and complete the emergency relief and humanitarian aid component of our support programs.
CCODP contributed $60,000 to CCCB fund for reconciliation, solidarity and communion for aboriginal peoples.
On behalf of Development and Peace, Bishop Blanchet participated in a mission to Thailand and Indonesia and Bishop Morissette in the general assembly of APHD in the Philippines.
These few facts not only testify to the ongoing Catholic nature of Development and Peace; they may even suggest that it is more Catholic than ever.
Fred B. Henry
Bishop of Calgary