Tuesday, May 31, 2005

John Allen's Word From Rome

Among other things, an intersting perspective on Eastern Rite Catholic consciousness....


Deep Throat Identity Revealed

In 1972, I was only 7 years old, and I thought "Watergate" referred to a breaking dam. For those who remember the issue as adults, this a big story.


Did Saint Catherine of Sienna Want to be a Priest?

The link above is to an article also referenced in Zagano's book (see below). Apparently, Saint Catherine of Sienna, who is counted among the doctors of the Church, wanted to disguise herself as a man to enter the Order of Preachers!


Holy Saturday: An Argument for the Restoration of the Female Deaconate in the Catholic Church

I just finished the book linked above, written by Phyllis Zagano. When I went to a local Catholic bookstore, I was actually looking for the opposing arguments, but couldn't find anything I hadn't already read. So I picked up this work that I had not got around to reading.

Zagano has to be one the most theologically and canonically careful advocates of women's ordination I have ever read. It is almost as though she is writing directly to Pope Benedict using his language on his terms with all due respect to his office.

I think every opponent of women's ordination - especially to the deaconate - needs to read this book.

Zagano accepts that the Church is not authorized to ordain women as ministerial priests and bishops as a starting point for dialogue with Church authority.

While she clearly does not accept Ordinatio Sacerdotalis as a solemn exercise of ex cathedra papal infallibility, she chooses to concede the point to Rome in its entirety, and focuses exclusively on the issue of female deaconate as an ordained ministry conferring sacramental grace and the canonical status of a cleric bound to the bishop's household.

The case is extremely compelling theologically, scripturally, in tradition, and canonically, as well as in the wider Church. She also offers practical reasons for why it is in the Church's interest to move forward with this.

The only thing she doesn't deal with that I felt was left hanging is that she builds a case that being ordained a deacon(ess) does not imply any potency in the ordinand for ministerial priesthood. She builds this case precisely in order to avoid the implication that by ordaining deaconesses, we must accept priestesses.

However, canon 3 of the Council of Trent seems to me to imply that all minor orders are directed to priesthood, even where no sacramental grace if conferred.

In other words, I accept all of Zagano's reasons for why we need deaconesses, and I believe that once we accept those reasons, we must admit that women can be priests, bishops, and even pope.

Since I base much of this assessment on my reading of Trent's explanation of orders, I wish she would have addressed this issue - either to demonstrate that women can be deaconesses without implying potency to priesthood, or to prove that since women have been deaconesses, we already know they can be priests.


Monday, May 30, 2005

Welcome to a New Catholic Christian

My daughter, Serafia Mwesegha, was baptized during the Mass yesterday.

When asked what we seek from the Church, the priest told not to simply say "baptism". So we said, "On this feast of Corpus Christi, we wish the Church to receive our daughter, Serafia Mwesegha, into that mystery of what we are: the body of Christ."

The music was multi-cultural, with heavy emphasis on Swahili hymns and African songs to celebrate Serafia's African heritage.

We began in English with Gather us In from the Gather hymnal, then a multi-language Gloria in Latin, Spanish, French, Swahili and English. The responsorial Psalm was sung in African American Gospel style. The Alleluia was a Creole version from Haiti.

Prior to the baptism, the priest invited not only the parents, godparents, and family members to mark her with the sign of the cross, but all the children in the congregation.

The baptism was performed by a married permanent deacon.

The baptism was followed by a sprinkling rite of the entire congregation, while the choir sang Wade on the Water. Then they sang a Swahili song of blessing called Bwana Awabariki.

The Offerotory hymn came from a South African communion hymn, called Halleluia, Pelo Tsa Rona followed by a West African Sanctus in French.

During the rite of peace, the choir sang another Swahili song called Amani Ya Bwana (Peace of the Lord). This was followed by a French version of a West African Lamb of God.

The Communion hymn was Somos El Cuerpo De Christo in Spanish and English.

The closing rite included a procession of the host in a monstrance followed by adoration while the choir sang Panis Angelicum in traditional Latin.

After the celebration of the sacraments, we had about 60 family members, fellow parishioners, and friends gather at a choir member's house to celebrate this new birth in Christ.

It was a wonderful celebration. Pray that the infusion of the Holy Spirit with the three-fold gifts of faith, hope and love will shape Serafia's whole life.


Saturday, May 28, 2005

A Follow Up to Yesterday's Post

In the link by track-back to my post yesterday, Tony Miller suggests that I hold my opinions about women's ordination and married priests because of the vocation crisis.

It is also suggested that I think that the Church is a democracy.

Just to clarify, neither of these assertions are a correct assesment of my position.

I would argue that women and married men can be ordained even if there were a surplus of male celibate priests and few other people were rasining the issue. I might not argue in public about this under different circumstances, but I would still hold the position.

My reasons for supporting the notion of women's priests are purely theological: It at least implicitly denies the Chalcedonian dogmatic formula on the humanity of Christ to insist an ontological difference between men and women. There is sufficient evidence of women Apostles to at least keep the question open which has not yet been solemnly defined by the Vatican's own admission.

In the case of married priests, it is clear that Jesus selected married men. Pope Saint Peter, our first pope, was a married man, and Saint Paul refers to married apostolic ministry as a right, and warns that forcing people into celibacy is a possible sign of demonic influence.

The reason I point out the vocation crisis is not that this is a cause for changing theology. Rather, the crisis is a sign that the theological questions I am raising are a likely reflection of what the Holy Spirit is saying today about things that should be considered of no more than disciplinary force.

Likewise, while the Church is not a democracy or a monarchy or any form of human government, widespread dissent is a sign from the Holy Spirit that something is amiss.

The Vatican can dig in its heels on all male celibacy all it wants. God seems to basically be saying to the Vatican, "No. I won't give you enough vocations to celibacy from this point forward until you listen to me and ordain women and married people."

Is it presumptuous to claim to know the mind of God?

Well, if I were claiming personal infallibility, it might be. I'm not.

I very well could be misreading the signs of the times, and I could be mistaken in some fundamental way in perceiving theological inconsistencies or cognitive dissonance in the Vatican position.

Nevertheless, under canon 212.3, I have both a right, and a moral obligation to speak up if conscience dictates that there is an issue of grave concern with Church governance.

In my perception, it seems clear that prohibiting the ordination of women and married priests borders on heresy, and God seems to be affirming my judgment by denying the Church celibate vocations.

If I am even partially right in my perception, it would be immoral and irresponsible not to speak my mind on the issue.


Friday, May 27, 2005

The Vocation Crisis

In a single year from 2000 to 2001, the Catholic Church saw a gain of 15,783,000 members. The growth rate of the worldwide Catholic population from 1975 to 2002 was 52% to reach 1.7 billion.

That's the good news.

My daughter is about to be formally incoporated in the body of Christ through baptism this Sunday.


In 2000 there were 801,185 women religious worldwide compared to 968,526 in 1975. The average and median age in many women's communities is in the 70's.

In 1975 we had 404,783 priests compared to 405,058 priests in 2002. They are aging as well, and recently rocked with scandal on a global scale.

We have a mere 275 priests added in 27 years of explosive growth in the numbers of Catholics worldwide.

I am open to gay unions and gay clergy.

Throughout most of the world, it is acknowledged that celibate male clerical culture has a higher percentage of gays than the general popuation.

While I am open to gay clergy, I do not think it is in the Church's interest to create a clerical culture that is predominantly or exlcusively gay.

In the Americas, Europe, and Southeast Asia, allegations of sex abuse of minors are rampant, while Africa suffers with credible allegations of priests raping nuns and keeping women partners on the side.

I believe these unhealthy patterns are not the result of gay men in the clergy, but the result of an unhealthy forced clericalism and forced celibacy on those not called to it that encourages a culture of secrecy, cover up, hypocricy, and out-right deceit to maintain.

I'm not against the celibate vocation. I am against making celibacy a condition of another vocation.

The number of women religious is on the down-swing. I wonder why. Could it be that women are tired of being second class citizens in the kingdom of God?

Meanwhile, the permanent married deaconate, not uniformly encouraged throughout the world by the bishops, has grown from the early 1970's to about 28,238 by 1998 and continues to grow at a rate of about 17% per year.

So far, little to no scandal is known among the permanent deacons.

It is estimated that about 120,000 men who were ordained to priesthood in the Catholic Church have left to marry. Many continue to minister outside of the institutional structures that ordained them.

The argument that conservative orders are growing is misconstrued by comparing local statistics and playing with numbers. An increase of 20% is meaningless if that means you went from 10 men to 12, when you once had a 1,000.

If there were 10,000 people joining 100 communities in 1960 (100 for each community), and 90 communities lost their attractiveness by changing their charism, one would expect the 10,000 people attracted to the traditional way to join the 10 communities still holding the old way.

There'd be an increase of ten-fold in those ten communities to 1,000 new members per traditional community.

But this is not what occured.

The vocations to the old way did not remain constant. If they had, there would not be a global decline. In proportion to the global growth of Catholics, the vocations declined - all across the globe.

The same answer applies when people say vocations are growing in the developing world. If true, they are not keeping pace with the death and drop out rate, and the Catholic population continues to grow.

It's the global number that matters.

What does the Church need to do to bring back women willing to commit their lives to the Church?

And is it fair to the Catholic laity to hold the Eucharist hostage in exchange for celibate male vocations?


Thursday, May 26, 2005

It Just Needs to be Said,...

Even though I call myself a liberal or progressive Catholic, one does not need to define oneself as a liberal or progressive Catholic to recognize the following:

Being Roman Catholic is not simply Evangelical Protestantism mixed with liturgy and Mary.

Being Roman Catholic is not being a neoconservative Republican.

Being Roman Catholic is not being anti-woman and anti-gay.

While being a Roman Catholic is to be pro-life, this means more than being anti-abortion.


More Evidence That Levada Was Right for the CDF

If there was any concern among my more liberal readers that Archbishop Levada is a conservative, he certainly is. Yet, I think he was a good choice. Here's why,....

Domenico Bettinelli's blog is no bastion of Catholic liberalism.

Apparently, Papa Ratzi did not pick a Prefect for the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that meets his criteria of Catholic orthodoxy:

This is not good news. Archbishop Levada is the prelate who compromised with the city of San Francisco over the city's demands that Catholic Charities and other Church organizations provide "domestic partner" benefits to employees. His archdiocese is also a mess with dissenting priests, homosexual activists running all over the place, the University of San Francisco trampling the faith, and more.
If Dom doesn't like him, he's liberal enough for me, even if he is a conservative.


A Conservative Catholic Blogger Admits OS is Not an Act of Papal Infallibility!

I don't really know if Jimmy Akins would define himself as conservative or not, but he is unquestionably not a liberal.

Jimmy is one who encourages obedience to Rome and tends to take the apologetics approach to the Catholic faith. He is not a proponent of women's ordination.

He also has no love for the Democratic party, if that matters to anyone.

No matter how he defines himself, Jimmy is popular with the more conservative Catholic bloggers, and has shown the sense to see that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is not an exercise of papal ex cathedra infallibility.

This is obvious to me, especially since Papa Ratzi said so with John Paul's permission while he was a mere Cardinal, and I've been beating this theme to death for a couple of weeks.

I don't know if Jimmy ever reads my blog, but it's good to see that even those with unquestionable loyalty to the Vatican have the good sense to see the truth as it really is.

Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is not an infallible document in itself, and you don't have to be a flaming liberal biased in favor of women's ordination to recognize this!


Gitmo Controversy Continues

Newly declassified documents from the FBI indicate a grain of truth to recently retracted stories in Newseek regarding conduct at Guatanamo Bay interrogation facilities.


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Owens Accepted on Federal Court

I'm pro-life, and I would rejoice if Roe were overturned. Apparently, Owen's would like to contribute to this happening.

Yet, I am nervous about judges ignoring legal precedent and legislating from the bench, even when they do it with good motive for a moral cause I support.

Of course, I don't want judges who ignore legal precedent and legislate from the bench with evil motives for immoral causes either.

Bottom line: I wish the rest of the pro-life movement would stop trying so hard to win the battle in the courts, and work for a Right to Life Amendment instead, as well as addressing social issues that lead women to choose abortion.

Yes, I pray judges will rule as morally as the law permits, but I don't want them using their position to make up laws - even moral laws!


House Votes to Destroy Human Embryos

Fifty Republicans joined an overwhelming majority of Democrats in support of legislation that can rightly be said to kill an innocent human being.

The ends do not justify the means, and adult stem cell research is still very promising, making embryonic stem cell research unnecessary.


Were There Women Apostles?

This may be the longest I continued on a single theme since the 2004 election. I apologize if I am boring everyone.

"In this case, an act of the ordinary Papal Magisterium, in itself not infallible, witnesses to the infallibility of a doctrine already possessed by the Church."

- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's Commentary on the Responsum Ad Dubium

"In the case of a non-defining act, a doctrine is taught infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Bishops dispersed throughout the world who are in communion with the Successor of Peter. Such a doctrine can be confirmed or reaffirmed by the Roman Pontiff, even without recourse to a solemn definition..."

"A similar process can be observed in the more recent teaching regarding the doctrine that priestly ordination is reserved only to men. The Supreme Pontiff, while not wishing to proceed to a dogmatic definition,..."

- CDF Commentary on the Profession of Faith
The current teaching of the Roman Catholic Church on women's ordination is not solemnly defined, even according to the man now known as Pope Benedict.

This does not mean that Pope Benedict considers the doctrine untrue, nor that he considers it fallible.

The teaching seems to rest to a large extend on the example of Christ choosing Apostles. Thus, it is critical to ask who the Apostles were and whether any of them might have been women.

Obviously, there were no women among the Twelve, but the college of Apostles in the New Testament era was not limited to the Twelve.

There were others designated Apostles who clearly had Apostolic authority over other offices in the church.

Paul uses the word "Apostle" as a title designating certain rights and authority: 1 Cor 4:9, 9:1, 9:5, and 12:28-29, 1 Thess 2:7.

Paul calls himself such an Apostle: Rom 1:1, 1:5, 11:13, 1 Cor 1:1, 4:9, 9:1, 9:2, 9:5, Gal 1:1 and 2:8.

The Book of Acts refers to both Paul and Barnabas as Apostles in 14:14 and states that they have charge over presbyters 11:30.

Indeed, in an article I wrote almost two years ago, I examine every single instance of the word "Apostle" in the New Testament, and I cannot find any passage that does not imply the word is a title of a person with some sort of high authority in the Church.

The article is HERE, and what you are reading now is an abbreviated version of this earlier piece.

In 1 Cor 15:3-9, Paul speaks of the risen Lord appearing to Kephas, then the Twelve, then to 500 others, then to James and all the Apostles, of which Paul is considered the last and the least. Eusebius admitted that this implied 500 Apostles!

What's my point?

In the argument over women's ordination, the Vatican uses the selection of the Apostles as the primary criteria for who can be ordained, and since there are no women Apostles, it is argued that the Church is not authorized to ordain women.

According to Scripture, there were more Apostles than the Twelve.

I am not saying that the Twelve are not Apostles. They are Apostles according to Luke and Acts. However, Paul and Barnabas and another James known as the brother of the Lord are also counted among the Apostles, and none of these three are counted among the Twelve.

So, when we run across a passage like Romans 16:7 indicating that maybe a woman was counted among the Apostles, this is significant:
Aspasasthe Andronikon kai Iounian tous suggeneis mou kai sunaichmalotous mou, oitines eisin episemoi en tois apostolois, oi kai pro emou gegonan en Christo

Which translates to:

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives and my fellow prisoners; they are prominent among the apostles and they were in Christ before me. (Rom 16: 7)
There are typically two arguments made against rendering this verse as referring to a woman Apostle.

1) Many argue that it is possible that Junia is really referring to a man, Junias.

This argument is weak for two reasons:
(A) There was no masculine form of this name in the first century, and
(B) The text was read in tradition for a millennium as referring to a woman Apostle.

2) A grammatical argument is made that "among the Apostles" more properly means Junia was known "to the Apostles" rather than "as an Apostle".

There are two arguments against this rendering of the verse:
(A) We have already mentioned that the text was read as referring to a woman Apostle for the first millennium, and
(B) There is extra-biblical evidence that other women were counted among the Apostles.

How reliable is my assertion that the text was read this way for a millennium?
Throughout the patristic literature, the feminine "Junia" (sometimes written in the variant form "Julia" ) seems to have been recognized, perhaps because there is no record elsewhere of a masculine "Junias", where "Junia" and above all "Julia" were known."

- Women in the Priesthood? A Systematic Analysis in Light of the Order of Creation and Redemption by Manfred Hauke, Ignatius Press (1988) p. 358.
This is a work adamantly opposed to women's ordination, and supposedly considered an excellent treatment by Pope John Paul II.

If Hauke, of all people, affirms that the patristic literature calls this person "Junia" or "Julia", we must demand anyone claiming the contrary to produce the text.

When I have put people to this challenge, nobody yet has produced a text in the entire first millennium that indicates Junia was a man or not an considered an Apostle.

Hauke tries to get around the implication by building an elaborate case that 1 Cor 14:33-35 is a "command from the Lord" that prohibits the possibility that a woman could actually function as an Apostle by absolutely silencing women in the Church.

If women were bound to silence, Hauke argues, Junia could not have been an Apostle in the same sense as Paul if Junia were a woman.

Yet, Paul clearly offers instruction to women to prophecy in 1 Cor 11:5, and many scholars believe 1 Cor 14:33-35 is an interpolation inserted in Paul's original text before the verse referencing a "command from the Lord". The chapter flows better and makes more sense without verses 33-35.

HERE are what the Bible scholars say on this passage, with a bibliography.

HERE is a brief overview with bibliography of 1 Tim 2:11-15 showing that the text admonishing women to silence is likely a temporary prohibition aimed at women under instruction in a community influenced by gnosticism. This is not an absolute prohibition for all times.

HERE is a similar overview of 1 Cor 11:2-16 showing that the original text implies the equality of women rather than the opposite.

What is the extra-biblical evidence that other women were counted among the Apostles?

The second century Acts of Paul and Thecla was held in high regard by Thomas Aquinas, and calls a woman, Thecla, and Apostle. The second century Gospel of Mary also presents Mary Magdalene as one with authority over Peter, and Dialogue of the Savior from the same time period also gives Mary Magdalene a preeminent role as one with apostolic authority. This makes sense if we interpret 1 Cor 15:3-9 as referring to Apostles as those who received a commission from the risen Lord, since Mary was the first to encounter the risen One.

HERE is evidence that women might have been considered presbyteresses in the early church. In the original Greek of 1 Tim 5:1-2 and Titus 2:1-5 we see evidence of this possibility as well.

We also know from Rom 16:1-2 and canon 15 of the ecumenical council of Chalcedon that women were ordained deaconesses.

Does it go too far to suggest that there were certainly women apostles?

Perhaps it does go too far to make such a claim with absolute certainty. But it also goes too far to suggest with any absolute certainty that there were not women Apostles.

More research and prayerful discernment needs to be done before we make any solemn definitions on this subject.


Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Cognitive Dissonance

I've been kind of busy in real life today, but managed to put together a few thoughts for late in the day.

The link above is to a very short article by a cognitive psychologist who developed the theory of "cognitive dissonance".

There are some other short but informative articles on the subject HERE and HERE.

The theory developed as part of trying to understand how to deprogram participants in a cult where members had sold all their belongings and believed the world was soon to be destroyed by a flood.

The first and somewhat obvious principle of the theory is that we hold "cognitions" which are pieces of knowledge, beliefs, and values.

Most of our "cognitions" are related to one another in "irrelevant" ways. For example, one of my congnitions is that my favorite color is blue, and another is that the moon orbits the earth, but there appears to be no relationship between these two "cognitions".

The second fundamental principle of the theory is that human beings demonstrate a universal tendency to find "consonance" among their cognitions.

We like our cognitions to fit together in an interconnected way where one cognition follows from another.

When cognitions are discovered to be opposed, we experience a state of "cognitive dissonance". In everyday language, there is an internal contradiction.

Cognitive dissonance is universally experienced as unpleasant. A tension is created within the psyche.

Following from these general observations of human nature, the theory holds that there are certain predictable behaviors when people are faced with new cognitions or questions about currently held cognitions that elicit an experience of "cognitive dissonance".

If someone is presented a new idea that contradicts previously held cognitions, that person will resist accepting the new idea and even refuse to learn it.

However, if one has experienced difficulty learning something, perhaps even overcoming prior cognitive dissonance to accept a cognition, that person will cling more strongly to what was previously learned.

A person who learned something difficult through a process that was highly uncomfortable or humiliating is less likely to later admit that he or she learned something useless or was "conned".

When people experience cognitive dissonance, they react in one or more of three ways:

1) Reduce the importance of the dissonance beliefs. For example, a person who purchases an expensive car believing it to be a good car may experience cognitive dissonance if she or he discovers after the purchase that it is uncomfortable on long drives. They decide that it doesn't matter, since they will use the car mostly for short trips.

2) Add more consonant beliefs to outweigh the dissonance beliefs. In the same example, the purchaser of the expensive car decides that not only is the car primarily used for short trips, but decides to focus on strengths of the car that may have had little to do with the original purchase, such as focusing on safety, appearance, mileage or handling.

3) Change the dissonant beliefs so that they are no longer dissonant. In this example, one would decide that the car was not worth the expense after all, and trade it in for a more comfortable car that meets the other standards of a "good car".

Cognitive dissonance theory holds that this third option is the most satisfactory way to permanently resolve the tension of cognitive dissonance.

Yet, for unknown reasons, it is the hardest for people to actually do. Few people will change a belief to relieve the internal tension of the experience of cognitive dissonance.

Let's apply this theory to some of my favorite subjects.

Women's Ordination

The Vatican teaches that the nature (ontology) of Christ is a human nature, and that what is not assumed is not saved. In the incarnation, the incomparable dignity of the human person is revealed. Certain rights are universally inherent to the human person due to this incomparable dignity. Men and women are both human natures. Men and women share equal rights and dignity.

Yet, the Church teaches that there is some sort of ontological difference (difference in nature) between men and women that makes a woman unfit to act in the person of Christ or to icon the salvific work of Christ incorporating us into his body. It is said the Church is not authorized to ordain women for these reasons.

These two teachings create an experience of cognitive dissonance. We can resolve the tension of this dissonance in one of three ways:

1) Reduce the importance: After already having decided to accept the Vatican's position, say to yourself that women can serve the Church in other ways than ministry, and question whether a person has a right to be ordained.

2) Add more consonant beliefs: Ignore evidence of women apostles, and comb through scripture and tradition seeking proof texts that support the Vatican's position, stack on appeals to authority and prepare arguments in response to counter-examples in scripture and tradition.

3) Change beliefs so that they are no longer dissonant: Either change the belief that the Church is not authorized to ordain women, or change the belief that women are fully human nature in the same sense as the male Christ, and women do not share equal dignity or rights with men. Finally, one can decide faith is irrational and allows for contradictions.

The third option is the hardest path, but it is the only path that ultimately resolves the tension once and for all. Let's continue to look at another issue:

Married Priests

The Vatican teaches that marriage is a vocation - a calling given by God to an individual. The Church supports family values. People called to marriage have a right to marry that cannot be denied by a human institution like the state or a business corporation.

The Vatican also teaches that thought the Church is an institution comprised of human beings, it retains the right to enforce a discipline of celibate priesthood.

How do people deal with this dissonance?

1) Reduce the importance: After having already decided your own vocation, say to yourself that you weren't called to priesthood anyway.If you are a priest, try to distract yourself from the longing for a wife by focusing on ministry and prayer.

2) Add more consonant beliefs: After already having decided the issue, build arguments from the life of Christ as a model. Comb through scripture and tradition seeking proof texts that support the Vatican's position and prepare arguments in response to counter-examples in scripture and tradition, or emphasize how freedom from family obligations may make you more available. Stack on appeals to authority.

3) Change beliefs so that they are no longer dissonant: Decide that it is wrong to demand celibacy of a man with a dual calling to marriage and priesthood. Conversely, one can decide marriage is not really a calling and a right, and all people should strive for celibacy. Finally, one can decide faith is irrational and allows for contradictions.

Human Sexuality

The Vatican teaches that unitive love may be expressed within a heterosexual marriage where there is deliberate effort to avoid conception by timing the conjugal act during a the period of a woman's cycle where she is infertile.

Yet, the Vatican condemns all other deliberate conjugal or sex acts that are not procreative, including foreplay between a married heterosexual couple that does not involve penile penetration and ejaculation in the vagina.

How do people deal with this cognitive dissonance?

1) Reduce the importance: Focus on what the Church is permitting, rather than the dissonance itself. Say to yourself that you wanted children anyway.

2) Add more consonant beliefs: Focus on "irrelevant" cognitions that support the decision to accept the Church teaching such as health advantages of not injecting hormones in the body, or improved verbal communication with your spouse, neither of which is a theological argument. Stack on arguments derived by combing through scripture or tradition after the fact to support your decision, and appeal to authority. Prepare responses to counter examples.

3) Change beliefs so that they are no longer dissonant: Decide that on this non-infallible issue, the unitive dimension of human sexuality can render any sexual act morally licit, including not only contraception within heterosexual marriage, but gay sex. Alternately, decide that even natural family planning as a means of birth control is immoral. Finally, one can decide faith is irrational and allows for contradictions.

What is my point?

There are two points here.

First, those who argue strenuously to defend each of these areas that produce an experience of "cognitive dissonance" for most Catholics often appear to have "reasoned towards" their position.

This is seldom the case, and if it were the case, the teachings would make sense even to non-Catholics.

The reasoning is more often done after a decision was made in favor of the Church's teaching based on some other value, and is a person's own effort to reduce the tension of "cognitive dissonance" of obeying the authority that holds their other values.

Second, the cognitive dissonance will not really go away until there is a change in some sort of belief.

A change in belief can often be accommodated through a development in understanding.

Simply asserting the dissonance does not exist and trying to stack consonant beliefs on top of that assertion while minimizing the importance of the issue will not reduce the tension for those keenly attuned to the cognitive dissonance of the contradictory beliefs.

I believe legitimate dissent arises on non-infallible teachings when the non-infallible teaching produces cognitive dissonance with more certain doctrines.


Monday, May 23, 2005

Supreme Court to Hear Parental Notification Case on Abortion

Pray for a greater respect for human life throughout our culture and the world.


Officially Forty

I officially turned the big four "O" yesterday. My lovely wife invited family and friends over to celebrate and it was a great time.

I wish I had something profound to say about turning forty, but I'm not sure I do.

Let me say this to younger readers: Each decade of my life so far seems to get better and better - more fun!

I am sometimes bewildered when I hear people speak of high school or college being the best years of their life.

That has not been my experience of life at all, and I have no desire to go back (though I sometimes think, "If I knew then what I know now" ).

It's not that prior years were bad. I had fun at the time, and I'm having more fun now.

The best years of my life hopefully lie ahead of me, and today is a better day than yesterday, and yesterday was better than before.

Yeah. I am noticing a few aches and pains I never noticed before, but life is full of joy.

It was great to have family and friends over, and I received some great cards and gifts for which I am deeply touched and grateful.

The biggest thrill was my seven month old daughter laughing with her daddy.

We discovered she may be naturally shy, since all the company made her a bit fussy. Before people arrived and after they left, she seemed to just want to wish me a happy birthday with her constant giggling.

Next week, she will be baptized, and we are very excited about that!

I hope to accomplish some things in the next decade that I have put off over the last two decades (maybe run a marathon, or complete a graduate degree).

Life is grand! Praised be to the creator of life!


Saturday, May 21, 2005

Why Believe in Religious Authority?

Radical Islam tells me that I must submit to Allah alone and his prophet Mohammed or face dire consequences.

The conservative Evangelical Protestant tells me I must embrace the plain sense of the words the Bible (meaning I interpret the text exactly like him or her) or I will likely burn in hell.

Then, some Roman Catholics tell me I must accept everything the Pope says, even non-infallibly, or I might burn in hell, or at least spend a very long time in purgatory.

Similar beliefs can be found among orthodox Jews, many Jehovah's Witnesses, many Mormons, and so forth. The threat may vary, but there is a clear indication that I adhere or face a negative consequence.

In almost every case, those who hold these various religious beliefs have some things in common, and a recent phenomenon in America is that "the religious right" or "social conservatism" has become ecumenical.

1) There is a long list of things one cannot do or should not believe, but none of their list are in full agreement.

For example, the Christians will say I can only marry one woman, while the Muslims might permit up to four wives. Catholics drink, smoke, and play bingo while few of the other groups do - but the Catholics won't eat meat on Friday's if they are old school, and they aren't supposed to contracept, ordain women, or engage in gay sex.

The Jews eat kosher, with its list of prohibitions. The Hindus won't eat meat. Almost all of these groups will encourage occasions for fasting.

Whatever the restriction, there seems to be a strong desire to define holiness and righteousness by what one doesn't do.

2) Almost all of these groups agree that men and women have clearly different roles, and almost all are opposed to the perceived feminization of men that occurs in homosexuality.

Almost all deny that women can hold positions of leadership over men, and particularly over male spiritual leaders.

3) Almost all of these groups have some sort of just killing theory that allows them to minimally defend themselves from each other, or even in some cases attack one another pre-emptively.

4) Almost all of these groups see their own point of view as the expression of the highest truth, and all others are in some degree of error. The further from their own view, the more in error you are.

5) All of these groups foster a mentality that there are vague enemies controlled by evil supernatural powers surrounding them.

These vague enemies are not individual people, but groups of people that form a mass conspiracy of evil. Almost all of these groups consider those who define themselves as "liberals" to be in the evil camp.

If you disagree with them, you have been influenced by the conspiracy of evil.

6) All rely on sacred texts and symbols to convey their belief system from one generation to the next, and intricate debate over each and every letter of the texts is considered the cultivation of virtue.

7) All of these groups believe they behave according the highest standards of reason, logic, and a sort of natural law written on the heart of the human person.

Not all Muslims think this way. Not all Protestants think this way. Not all Catholics think this way. Not all Jews think this way. Not all Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses think this way.

Emerging in the post-modern era is a recognition by religious believers of all stripes that there are certain fundamental truths that undermine the "fundamentalist" approach:

The anti-fundamentalist fundamental: While hell may be a reality, all religion ultimately seeks to express a promise and a hope that draws the believer into encounter with divine holy mystery.

Authority is most authoritative when it constantly seeks to find ways to attract one to G-D rather than scare one away from the devil.

1) Faith at its best is not defined by what one does not do. Rather, we are all at our best when we define ourselves by what one does do.

Our acts of kindness, willingness to show mercy, desire for equity, harmony, and justice, and deeds of charity and compassion are more important than anything we deny ourselves.

Even prohibitions express positive values, or should be discarded.

The Hindu vegetarian is showing compassion for all living beings. The Christian loves one wife as a sign of devotion to the one God. Catholics are not against contraception so much as for the notion that children are a blessing. Fasting is an act of making room to be filled by the presence of G-D.

2) Men and women may be different, but difference does not imply inequity. Women can exercise leadership over men, and it is necessary that balance be created. Homosexuals are no threat to heterosexuals.

3) To deliberately kill a human being is intrinsically evil. To kill in revenge or as punishment is unnecessary and therefore immoral. G-D never wants it under any circumstances.

Pre-emptive violence is always and everywhere wrong, and even self defense should be limited as much as possible. Non-violence is a way of life that permeates all we do.

In the complexity of life, defense of the innocent may justify the use of deadly force against aggression, but even this is a supreme tragedy involving some participation in evil. It is to be avoided.

All other means of protecting the innocent and resolving conflict must be exhausted before resorting to deadly force, including non-violent resistance to violent behavior.

4) Rather than trying to discern which religion is higher than another, we should try to discern how each religion leads to an encounter with G-D.

This does not mean that we necessarily need to accept that all religions are equal, but all religions do deserve respect - not just the persons in the religion, but the religion itself as well as the persons in the religion.

We can each hold firm in our convictions, commitments and practice, but we do not judge or threaten others either in this life, or with warnings about the next life. In our firmness, the focus should on defending the good that we hold valuable.

5) There are no vague enemies out there somewhere. The greatest enemy to the entire human race is our own internal fear of others. The human race must learn to think beyond "us verses them" and start thinking "we and they".

6) Sacred texts can lead to an encounter with G-D. Nitpicking over every detail distracts one from G-D. Also, taking religious texts in a wooden literal fashion seems to lead more to fear and confusion than the joy of an encounter with G-D.

7) Reason and logic are wonderful skills to cultivate, but can become a tool to rationalize violating conscience. There are other more intuitive ways of knowing.

A natural law is written on the human heart, but no one religion is the sole possessor of that law, since all human persons have access to it.

We all know intuitively how to really show love. The ultimate goal of all religion is an encounter with G-D who is love.


Friday, May 20, 2005

Intellectual Bullying

I like to argue. It's a bit of a game to me - like playing chess. There are many people like me, and many bloggers know the thrill of a good debate.

I like to think that maybe players of the game learn from one another and sharpen one another's thinking skills.

One of the difficulties on the web is that we each have different backgrounds, and sometimes, an argument occurs between people who not equally matched. The fight isn't fair.

A person with PhD in a given subject ought to know more about that subject than a junior high school student.

Sure, there are rare times when the junior high school student is a genius or just lucked on to a great insight, but generally, the PhD will win in the eyes of an objective observer.

If the two get into an argument on the internet, and they don't know each other's backgrounds, the objective observer will see the PhD mopping the floor with the junior high school student - and the PhD nor the observer may not even know that he or she jousting with such a youngster.

As unfortunate as such an exchange might be, if the PhD did not know, there is certainly no moral fault.

Some PhD types - indeed, many - do not like to get into internet debates for this very reason. They have their academic journals where they can debate their peers.

Occasionally, a PhD type may decide to go to the web or other popular media because he or she really believes that he or she has a moral obligation to share his or her insights broadly.

Imagine if someone kept a safe and simple home remedy that could be a cure for AIDs locked up in academic journals. Some more abstract ideas feel like this to well educated people.

The prophets of the Old Testament describe feelings where conscience demanded them to speak and act in certain ways. I imagine that at least some of the prophets of today are using internet or radio or TV to get their messages out.

But some people, PhD or not, like to go out on the internet and find a mismatch to prove their intellectual prowess. This is a form of bullying.

Now, these bullies can be either liberal or conservative, Catholic or atheist, etc...

Intellectual bullies are not known by their ideology, but by their tactics.

This is what confuses many people.

When we experience being intellectually bullied by a liberal, it can drive us towards conservatism. Being intellectual bullied by a conservative drives someone else towards liberalism. A Catholic intellectual bully drives his or her victim to agnosticism, while an agnostic bully drives the person of faith towards fundamentalism.

But it's not really the ideology that matters. It is the bullying.

Does an intelligent and well educated person need to "dumb down" public discourse to avoid bullying?

I think so, but dumbing down is not all one does.

Intelligent and educated people know that there are always more than one way to do things, and more than one way to view things, and so there should be nuance tucked away in the "dumbed down" writing that signals to other educated readings, "Hey, this is a simplication, but go with this assumption for a moment to see what insight I am trying to share...."

The intellectual bully uses words that dismiss other people, insult others and takes a condescending tone. There is no nuance in the intellectual bully's writing. Things are said with certainty. The bully may ask a good question, but doesn't accept any response with anything other than a casual dismissal that you are unworthy of his or her time. The intellectual bully is using words that say "I'm smarter than you. I'm more mature than you. You utter nothing but nonsense hardly worth a reply."

Stupid people do this too, but the intellectual bully has a way of doing it that let's you know he or she is no dummy, but also that his or her intent is to make you feel dumber than they.

There are two critical clues: the refusal to engage your idea, and the use of very dismissive, insulting or condescending language. Watch out for this, no matter what the ideology.

Now, I said in the beginning that I enjoy a good debate. Many of us do.

Is debate as a game the same as bullying?

I don't think so. I think we can learn from a good debate, and there is no sin in gamemanship.

Playing chess with an equal partner - even very competitively - is not bullying.

Playing chess with a child and intentionally making mistakes or showing the kid some strategy to defeat you is "dumbing down" your own game, which may appear condescending, but is really helping someone else one day become your equal.

A football player is not a bully when he tackles his opponent, and his opponent doesn't want to play someone who won't try to tackle him and tackle him hard.

On the other hand, if a big man goes around tackling little girls hard, even in a voluntary game of football, I'd say he's being a bully.

If a grown man were playing touch football with his little daughters to make them feel included in games he plays with his sons, he's not a bully - and his game is "dumbed down" a bit.

It's not the game itself that makes the bully. Nor is it the side the player takes that makes the player a bully. Nor is even that the player has more skill than the other players.

The same is true with intellectual bullying as it is with physical bullying.

What makes a bully is the intention as it winds up getting expressed through subtle verbal clues.

Be aware that when people use language that seems intended to make you and not your idea feel stupid, you are engaging a bully. Call the person on it.

I honestly try not to do this, and if I go astray, call me on it.


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Understanding Assumptions of an Opponent in Debate

One of the things I like about being a Catholic compared to some other religious bodies is that we arrive at a point of view through various methods.

In trying to gain personal understanding or explaining our positions to others, we can shift from an appeal to Scripture, to an appeal to Tradition, to an appeal to reason, to an appeal to authority, to various arguments by analogy or personal experience, to even an appeal of democracy (we're running neck and neck with the Muslims as the largest religious body on earth).

If I was speaking with a Protestant on the existence of purgatory, I tend to start with quoting a passage like 1 Cor 3:15, because I know the Protestant will only ultimately accept the possibility of such a doctrine if I can demonstrate it is consistent with Scripture.

I don't start with Matt 16:17-19 and try to prove papal infallibilty first, and then try to prove purgatory. That's a rather round-a-bout way of going at it, and takes too much time, and he or she won't accept papal infallibility anyway so long as he or she is convinced that purgatory is impossible to reconcile with Scripture.

If I am speaking with a Muslim about the same topic, I may not mention a single scriptural passage, and will instead appeal to our common experience of growth in maturity in relationship to Allah as an analogy to the notion of purification that may extend into the next life.

With the Muslim, I know my Scriptures are considered corrupt by him or her, and it is a poor place to start by quoting either 1 Cor 3:15, or Matt 16:17-19. I need to shift gears with the Muslim and find some other sort of common ground.

I might take a similar vein as with the Muslim if I were speaking to an agnostic, though there may be more fundamental questions about the existence of God, the meaning of suffering, and belief in an afterlife that need to be settled first.

If I were speaking with a fellow Roman Catholic who believes that purgatory creates fear, I would try to clarify what the doctrine does and does not say and how the doctrine could be interpreted in such a way as to be a doctrine of hope and a big sigh of relief for the scrupulous conscience.

I might also appeal to the sense of the faithful and our sense of connectedness with our beloved deceased.

I might appeal to the authoritative teaching of the Vatican with a fellow Catholic only as a last resort.

I tend to want to do this only if the person with whom I am speaking were simultaneously claiming to be Catholic and calling me a heretic at the same time - or implying my opinion is not in line with Church teaching.

In such an instance, I am using authority not to convince the other Catholic to change his or her mind, but to rebutt the accusation that I am a heretic, or that my opinion is not in line with the Church.

My point is that I don't talk to each person the same.

I shift to a different set of assumptions based on the assumptions of the one I am speaking with, and I save appeals to papal authority for those instances where it is necessary to defend my own Catholicity against a fellow Catholic.

Over the past couple weeks, I have been in almost constant argument with fellow Roman Catholics about the issue of women's ordination.

I could summarize the arguments against women's ordination presented to me during this entire period as follows:

1) The Pope said "no". What part of "no" do you not understand.

2) Even if you won't accept the pope's "no", this is the way it's always been. That should be enough.

Rather than a last resort to defend their own Catholicity, my opponents start with the appeal to authority in an effort to convince.

Then we get into a long debate about conditions for infallibility, and whether John Paul invoked it, and whether ordinary and universal magisterium (OUM) holds a position definitively.

Of course, I have responded to my opponents on their terms, pointing out that the pope's "no" was not a solemn definition using ex cathedra papal infallibility, and that the history is a little murkier than many people suppose, and a claim that OUM hold this definitively is dubious enough to say the requirements for infallibility in canon 749.3 are not met.

Yet, whatever the merits or demerits of my arguments on these two issues, I have also tried to reframe the discussion, and I am very frustrated that we can't seem to look at it any other way then these two ways of "Catholic knowing".

I have raised positive arguments for women's ordination which tend to be ignored or dismissed based on the two assumptions.

I want to try to reframe the issue another way, that may help those who do not share my opinion understand some assumptions I am seeking. I am seeking the other ways Catholics arrive at truth than authority or historical precedent.

To help readers understand what I am seeking, imagine yourself in the following dialogues:

How would you explain to an informed Protestant - such as an educated Anglican or Episcopelian - why women cannot be ordained, especially if they counter that refusing to ordain women is not scriptural and implies heresy against the Chalcedonian formula further, undermining the notion of papal infallibility?

How would you explain to a Muslim trying to understand Catholicism's position on women vis-avis their own why the Roman Catholic teaches that women are of equal dignity to a man and share equal human rights to a man, but cannot be ordained?

How would you explain to an agnostic why a woman cannot be ordained if the agnostic stated that your position seems to be immoral gender discrimination?

How would you explain to a Catholic teenage girl with normal teenage feelings about authority who wants to be a priests why she can embrace this doctrine with joy in a way that she can accept and that will not drive her away from the Church?

In this last example, it will not suffice to tell a teenage girl that other Catholic women are not upset about this. Her question is not about other women, but her. Nor will appeal to papal authority alone sit well with a teenager.

The bottom line is that I've heard all the arguments from authority and tradition, and found them unconvincing in themselves.

Yet, even if these two aruments had more merit than they do, I want to be able to explain it to others in a compelling fashion, and giving this teaching the assent of faith would imply these other ways of knowing are achievable.

And I somehow believe that if the Vatican is right on this topic, what will convince those in dissent is not a solemn definition by the Pope or more bolstering of the historical argument, but an appeal to the other ways Catholics know dogma.


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

In Case You Were Wondering...,

..., if I've ever changed my mind.

I have written this before, but since the death of Pope John Paul and election of Pope Benedict, I have picked up new readers.

I was once a fairly conservative Roman Catholic who was adamantly pro-life, accepted that the Church is not authorized to ordain women if the pope says so, and did not understand what the big deal was about obeying Church teaching on contraception, and thought of homosexuality as a sort of mental disorder that should be cured.

I was also a registered Republican (and still officially am).

I took the Bible fairly literally, knew how to go toe-to-toe and verse for verse with an Evangelical Protestant supporting Church doctrines with the Bible. I also memorized Aquinas' proofs for God and was familiar with Catholic apologetics.

I also studied Latin and sort of thought wider availability of the Tridentine Mass would be a great thing for the Church.

I entered seminary with these views, and it was in seminary that I was taught both more sophisticated arguments to support Church teaching, but also how to read and interpret Church teaching critically.

I learned that many things I had taken as infallible teaching were not infallible at all.

I was exposed to new ways of interpreting dogma, and came to realize that the saints often interpreted a dogma differently, and openly disagreed with one another.

I learned about higher criticism - which I resisted at first - but came to see is basically a good tool to have in your tool-box.

And it was living with gay priests and religious men that changed my mind about the homosexual condition. It is simply wrong to think of homosexuality as a mental disorder, and it does gay people grave harm to cling to this view.

When I left seminary, I was still not sold on the idea of gay marriage, but I was convinced that somehow the Church had to find a way to explain how a gay man lives a graced life as a gay man.

I had grown close to a moral certainty that women should be ordained, and I know that enough people in ecclesial power agree that it is almost certainly going to happen one day.

The most personal conversion was realizing that a man can have a dual vocation to priesthood and marriage, and there is no way to express this in the Latin Rite or in the Eastern Rites in North America.

Still, I was a political conservative and Republican all the way up to the year 2002, and I am still registered Republican. The Bush Administration does not represent what I thought was good about Republicanism, and the party's willingness to back him has turned me off of the Republicans.

But I also find Church teaching having its effect on me, and over the last two years of blogging, my mind has changed from political conservativism to political liberalism.

The more time I spend blogging, the firmer my conversion to liberalism has become - except that I remain adamanetly pro-life.

So, yes, I do change my mind. It is not from reading liberals and ignoring conservatives that my mind was changed. Rather, my own personal experience has been that reading both sides has led me to become more liberal than I once was.

In my actual lived daily life, I am not all that liberal.

I am a faithfully married man who, by the grace of God, has not even desired to cheat on his wife. I am a frequent church-goer and daily pray-er who does volunteer work and doesn't use illegal drugs, nor drink to excess, nor even use contraception. My biggest fault is probably spending too much time on the internet.

I get the sense that some commenters of late have drawn a conclusion that my mind is incapable of changing.

I'm trying to say that my mind has changed and my thinking has been evolving for years - it's just not going in the direction Vatican supporters think it should for one who prays frequently and studies Church teaching so intensely.

I'm going to suggest to my more conservative readers a little exercise that I have actually done. It is one I cannot see how any supporter of the Vatican could possibly object to doing.

I would challenge more conseravative Roman Catholics to go to a library or This Site and print off all the decrees of the ecumenical councils of the Church and read them straight through.

You may not be able to do it in one day, but the point is to do it straight through without interupting your reading with other reading. Write notes in the margins too.

Two very fascinating things emerge.

First, one grows in appreciation for the core doctrines of the faith, such as the meaning of the incarnation, and how tradition develops almost like a blogging thread, each council adding to the conversation as though there was no break between councils.

Second, it begins to dawn on one that most of the things we discuss in Catholic circles have not been defined by any of these councils.

To round out this experience with solemnly defined dogma, take a look at the full texts of the solemn definitions on The Immaculate Conception and The Assumption.

As you read all of this, which is the fullness of that which the CDF and most Roman Catholics accept as solemnly defined, you will see that many things covered in The Catechism of the Catholic Church are not covered by solemn defintions, which is also obvious in the footnotes contained in the CCC.

I also encourage buying one of those "through the Bible in a year" bibles, and do it (which I have also done more than once).

Again, with this perspective, I think you will see that doctrine itself is evolving in a "liberal" direction or trajectory, rather than the opposite.

Meanwhile, what is acknowledged as custom and discipline or even potential error tends to grow very conservative just before it is recognized as such.

Is it possible that I will circle back around to a more conservative position on a few issues?

Of course such a thing is possible. But the path back will involve resolving the questions I tend to raise on this site, and not simply ignoring those questions.


Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?

The world is asking the Bush Administration this question about the uprising in Uzbekistan. It seems possible that the definition depends on how much you support United States' interests.


How Do Women Image God?

The Book of Genesis tells us that women are created in the image of God, just as men are created in the image of God. The first result of the Fall of humanity into the condition of original sin is male dominance over women, but Christ comes to redeem the human race.

Saint Paul tells us that all creation is one in Christ, and that in Christ, there is no longer a difference between men and women.

The late Pope John Paul II proposed that women and men are equal in dignity, but different in ways that are complementary to one another.

If we assume that John Paul is correct, which I have never denied, then we must assume that inherent gender differences have divine significance: that the unique perspective of a woman as a woman tells us something about what God is like.

When one explores the writings of the Vatican on this subject, one could draw an oversimplified conclusion that the Vatican sees the differences between men and women as expressed in conjugal love where the male is the active initiating principle that penetrates and fills and impregnates in a creative act of self-giving love.

The female is a passive recipient, and the virtue of the feminine lies in docility to the word of God the Father as channeled by his male popes, bishops, priests and deacons.

The teaching authority of the Church is the active initiating principle represented - those who formulate and propose dogma to be passively received by the faithful (the priests representing the groom, while the faithful represent the bride).

A woman's role in society is to receive with the assent of faith, saying "Amen" to God represented by Church authority. The laity in general are to present themselves to God as feminine recipients of God's salvation. Even men who are not priest are to adopt a feminine role before the priests, while exercising their masculinity at home.

We are to be obedient and passively contemplative: pay, pray, and obey.

The role of women in public is to submit to Church authority first, then to state authority, then to her husband at home.

If women step outside of this role, the entire foundation of family life (the domestic church) and the state and the divine constitution of the wider universal Church are threatened.

In such a world-view, does a woman really image the divine directly?

It would appear that in such a world-view, the male represents God while the female represents creation. A woman is saved through the actions of men.

Many people today think such a theology is unbalanced and inaccurate, and is based on a misconception of woman's sexuality by male celibates.

Married men know that their wives sometimes act as initiators of conjugal acts. Further, we now know from human biology that in the act of procreation, a man's semen alone does not lead to the formation of a human person in passive "ground" doing nothing. The women's egg is also given to the act of procreation.

If the masculine principle penetrates, the female principle engulfs and surrounds the other in warmth and love. The woman is not passive. She actively absorbs the other in nurturing love that gives life.

If women are the image of God, we need to imagine a God who can surround us in tender loving warmth, and meet us in the midst of the this experience (like a women's egg coming to meet the sperm) to bring new life by joining with our very nature (conception). Then, God absorbs us and nurtures us to new birth and new life, the way the fetus is taken into the womb and nourished to life.

The notion of the female as passive recipient is simply mistaken. In conjugal acts, male and female are simultaneously active initiators and passive recipients in different ways.

Love making is an act of mutual self donation and mutual reception of the gift of another self such that two persons "become one flesh".

In marriage, if the woman "submits to" her husband, the husband lays down his very life for his wife and treats her as another self. In the redeemed order, there is no longer male domination as the result of the Fall, but restored harmony between equals.

Decisions are made mutually respecting the differences between male and female, the equal dignity of each, and achieving the deepest values of both. Thus, women must be active participants in decision making.

Women as active participants in decision making means that the entire structure of family life, state law and the divine constitution of the Church needs to be shaped such as to support the full dignity and equality of women.

Even God must be imagined not exclusively as Father, though this is an apt term, but as Mother as well - for women image the divine as surely as men.

Women's unique way of knowing and deciding must be respected rather than feared. Women in positions of power must be recognized as an extension of what Christ began when a woman was chosen as the first to encounter the resurrection. The role of Mary as mediatrix and co-redemptrix also speaks to the role of woman as mediator of the divine. The role of the Apostle, Junia and the deaconess Phoebe and the presbyteresses of the early church must be restored.


Monday, May 16, 2005

Who Are the Revisionists Historians?

In my Saturday posting in preparation for Pentecost, I suggested that over 800 years of male-celibate dominance of the ecclesial decision making positions in Roman Catholic Church has colored the way we view history.

I used an example that it is difficult for most Roman Catholics to name the writings of even a single married priest from the first millennium.

Male-celibates naturally want to read the works of those who have gone before them. Therefore, as male-celibates came to dominate the hierarchy, they selected male-celibates as models for emulation, veneration, and imitation, at the exclusion of other perspectives.

I listed several examples of male-celibates that many Roman Catholics can name off the top of their heads from the first millennium. Among my examples, I included Gregory of Nyssa.

A reader pointed out that Gregory of Nyssa was married, at least for a time. The Catholic Encyclopedia puts it this way:

His family, it would seem, had endeavoured to turn his thoughts towards the Church, for when the young man chose a secular career and began the study of rhetoric, Basil remonstrated with him long and earnestly; when he had failed he called on Gregory's friends to influence him against that objectionable secular calling. It was all in vain; moreover, it would seem that the young man married. There exists a letter addressed to him by Gregory of Nazianzus condoling with him on the loss of one Theosebeia, who must have been his wife, and with whom he continued to live, as with a sister, even after he became bishop. This is also evident from his treatise "De Virginitate".
However, when one goes to the letters of Gregory of Nazianzus to determine what it says of Gregory of Nyssa and Theosebieia, one sees the following commentary:
The writer of the article on Gregory Nyssen in the Dict. Biogr. supposes her to have been his wife, but produces no evidence of this beyond the ambiguous expression in this letter which speaks of her as "the true consort of a priest," but on the other hand she is expressly called his Sister in the same letter.
Further, when one goes to Gregory of Nyssa's own "De Virginitate", there is no specific reference to his being married while he was a bishop, and he is clearly singing the praises of the celibate life.

Another reader suggested that Gregory of Nyssa was married while a young man, and that his wife died quite young, perhaps by the age of 20.

I think Gregory's treatise on celibacy makes sense in light of this other reader's comment, because one of Gregory's arguments for the superiority of celibacy seems to be that the married man will suffer loss - especially if his wife dies in child-birthing.
You would see there, if only you could do it without danger, many contraries uniting; smiles melting into tears, pain mingled with pleasure, death always hanging by expectation over the children that are born, and putting a finger upon each of the sweetest joys. Whenever the husband looks at the beloved face, that moment the fear of separation accompanies the look. If he listens to the sweet voice, the thought comes into his mind that some day he will not hear it.
Gregory of Nyssa was likely married at some point in his life, for he states the following:
I should have undertaken this labour with the greater readiness, if I could have hope of sharing, according to the Scripture, in the fruits of the plough and the threshing-floor; the toil would then have been a pleasure. As it is, this my knowledge of the beauty of virginity is in some sort vain and useless to me, just as the corn is to the muzzled ox that treads the floor, or the water that streams from the precipice to a thirsty man when he cannot reach it. Happy they who have still the power of choosing the better way, and have not debarred themselves from it by engagements of the secular life, as we have, whom a gulf now divides from glorious virginity: no one can climb up to that who has once planted his foot upon the secular life.
I believe Gregory of Nyssa qualifies as a celibate according to my intended meaning in my original post, since he seems to have embraced celibacy after the death of his wife at an early age. He is as much an example of a celibate as Augustine.

Yet, note the contrast between what the Catholic Encyclopedia said, and what Gregory of Nyssa actually implies.

The author of the article in The Catholic Encyclopedia would want us to believe that Gregory was married, and because of the superiority of celibacy, he chose to live with a wife as a sister for a very long time.

It is as though it is not enough for Gregory to sing the praises of celibacy, he had to somehow demonstrate that celibacy is a higher calling than marriage by refusing to have sex with a lawful wife!

The claim is even made with little to no evidence that it is true. It is enough to suppose it could be true to those who consider celibacy the highest calling.

This is similar to arguments I have heard that Christ intended celibate priesthood because the Apostles supposedly left their wives behind after the ascension.

Male celibate revisionist historians invented the myth that the Twelve left their wives despite evidence to the contrary, such as Paul's statement in First Corinthians:
Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Kephas? (1 Cor 9:5)
Peter took his wife with him on mission, and Paul refers to marriage as a right to a minister!

Gregory was likely married, but it is highly unlikely that he ever chose to live with his wife as though she was a sister.

Rather, she seems to have died young, and her death later became part of his decision to embrace celibacy.

Had his wife not died, he may have never embraced celibacy, and ultimately, the highest calling a person can live is not celibacy, but the vocation you are given by God!

I see a tendency to put similar "spins" on historical data by those who try to defend various Vatican teachings.

If there is a reference to a woman deacon receiving the imposition of hands by a bishops, we are told "Yes, but the gesture was non-sacramental" even if there is no evidence for this qualification.

Despite the fact that every commentary on the verse for nearly a millennium sees Rom 16:7 as a reference to a woman bearing the title of an Apostle, when you point out to the male celibate revisionists that the New Testament mentions a woman Apostle, and we are told, "Well, maybe that's really a man's name, or it means that she was known to the Apostles, rather than as an Apostle"

You point out that there were women ordained priests in the early church, and the all male celibate revisionists say, "They were ordained by heterodox bishops".

So you look for evidence of this claim, and don't find any.

You point out that there tomb-stones in the orthodox grave yards bearing the title "presbyteress" and you are advised, "Those were the wives of priests".

You look for evidence of this claim, and don't find any.

When it is pointed out to the defender's of the Vatican that maybe early church history is being interpreted with an androcentric bias unconsciously shaped by over 800 years of exclusively celibate male interpretation, you are accused of being "a revisionist".

You're told that a presumption must be afforded tradition, but we all know that the Church was not dominated by exclusively male celibates in the first millennium.

There were married priests and bishops. This is a certainty.

They have been forgotten or interpreted away by the revisionists.

The actual argument of the liberals is that history was already "revised" by the victors, and there is evidence that the early church once expressed itself in the way we envision it being expressed in the future.


What "Conservative" Catholics Need to Understand About "Liberal" Catholics

The link above is not to an article on the topic I chose, but there was a single line in the article that sparked the thought.

The link above is to an NCR article reporting various perspectives of Catholic journalists on the forced ousting of Father Tom Reese from his role of editing America.

My thought is sparked by the following comment:

"Catholics have little problem finding arguments that debate or dissent from church teaching. They find them in the secular media from which they draw most of their information about the church and the world," Our Sunday Visitor editors write.
This is a false statement, and one that enrages people like myself.

American Roman Catholics who might label themselves variously as "conservative", or "orthodox", or "traditionalist" or "faithful" etc... know that the secular press sometimes (often) misrepresents their positions.

The same is true of liberal Catholics. The secular press mis-respresents our positions!

During the period after the death of John Paul and the election of Pope Benedict, I sat in front of the TV sometimes ready to throw the TV out the window at the way the secular press framed the issues.

The single most grating thing the secular press kept saying that ticked off both liberals and conservatives is that American Catholics want to know if the new pope will change Church "policies".

The choice of this very word - "policies" - was like fingernails on a chaulk board to a Roman Catholic.

Conservatives will agree with me that the Roman Catholic Church doesn't have a single "policy" - that's not part of Catholic vocabulary, and to even use such a term demonstrates a gross misunderstanding of what the issues are.

It doesn't matter whether you are liberal or conservative, this type of misrepresentation is annoying.

What's most upsetting about the way the secular press frames an issue by using a terms like "policies" is that those who are not familiar with theological dissent assume that liberal Catholics want to change Church policies, and write their apologetics against this position as though liberals are a bunch of ignoramouses who think of doctrine as "a policy" - a position we liberals don't hold.

The secular press also repeatedly stated that American Catholics want the Church to be more in tune with the times, as though the entire argument of every liberal dissenting theologians is simply arguing Church teaching is "outdated".

Without going into detail of any specific theological arguments, this is either an oversimplification of liberal positions, or an outright misrepresentation of our positions.

The secular press broadly frames the issue as a conflict between the American Church and Rome - as though Europeans, including Italians, are not struggling with the same issues, or as though the Church in Latin America or Africa may not have more important concerns than Europe and America.

The secular press also lumps all things together, as though everyone who wants married priests also has questions about Humanae Vitae and voted for a pro-choice candidate in 2004 and is equally concerned about all three issues.

That's hog-wash.

Many conservative Roman Catholics favor married priests but accept Humanae Vitae and are opposed to abortion.

Many liberal Catholics are also adamanantly opposed to abortion - and to lump abortion in with any other issues is itself a grave misrepresentation of any Catholic ethos.

Poll after poll would indicate that the majority of Catholics are pro-life, while the same polls would indicate that an even larger majority practices contraception. One doesn't get this more nuanced point by listening to the secular press.

The two issues are not of equal weight to most Catholics, whether liberal or conservative.

The way the secular press presents the issues, one would draw the conclusion that if one favors married priest, one is on a slippery slope to supporting abortion rights.

Many conservative Catholics then tend to argue against liberals based precisely on this argument of a slippery slope, and it frustrates the heck out of liberals.

What is my overall point?

My point is that the secular press distorts all things it says about religion. Period.

One cannot trust a single word the secular press says about any religious belief, liberal or conservative, Catholic or Muslim, etc..., unless the author explicitly states that he or she is a practicing believer and explicitly states that he or she has some training in theology or has run their thoughts by an expert in theology.

There are a tiny minority of the secular press who fit the bill in this area. Newsweek's Ken Woodward tends to do a good job. Whether you agree with her or are enraged by her, Anna Quindlen also writes from a more informed Catholic faith perspective that is unabashedly liberal and critical of Rome.

But by and large, the vast majority of the secular press simply does not know enough about religion to write about religion accurately, and they always and everywhere screw up the reporting with unintended innaccuracies.

This is why a forum like Tom Reese's vision of America is so important to many Catholics, and this is what the conservative wing of the Roman Catholic Church in America seems to fail to grasp.

The editors at OSV and other more apologetic Catholic outlets believe that liberal Catholics believe exactly what the secular press says we believe.

Thus, they don't understand when we say we have no outlet for expressing our opinions to thinking Catholics who want to examine the issue from more than one side.

The apologetic styled publications spend a whole lot of effort shooting down these straw men created by the massive ignorance of the secular press, and ignore the weightier arguments informed by the Catholic tradition that give rise to dissent.

The creation of a liberal ethos by the secular press is an easy target for apologists because the secular press does a very poor job of reporting what liberal Catholics believe.

Then the conservatives cheer when Reese is ousted because they think that we liberals still have an outlet in the secular press.

The secular press is not a good outlet for any form of religious belief. Period.

Reese did not simply present the liberal side. He juxtaposed both sides on every issue, even inviting Ratzinger, himself, to make contributions to his magazine. The idea was to present a fair and balanced treatment of both sides without the distortions of the secular press - no straw men!

And if you think you have dismantled liberal theological arguments because you find it easy to argue against liberal beliefs as reported in the secular press, you have been spending a whole lot of energy boxing with shadows.


Saturday, May 14, 2005

We Hear Them Speaking in Our Own Tongues of the Mighty Acts of God

Tomorrow is Pentecost and we recall how Holy Sophia came upon the Apostles and empowered them to break through barriers in communication to speak of the mighty acts of God to diverse people in an inclusive way.

A reader yesterday responded to my post on women's intuition as a way of arriving at truth by stating women have had a prominent role in decision making in the Church.

Myself and another reader were at a loss to understand this statement. What follows is my comment:

After the fourth century, what input have women had on defining the creeds, shaping sacramental practice, interpreting scripture authoritatively (or writing scripture for that matter), formulating canon law, participating in theological discourse like Aquinas, even contributing to the formation of civil law in light of Church teaching, etc....?

I'm not saying women had no influence on the Church, and neither is Tamilda. We all know that the back-bone of the Roman Catholic Church has always been the hard work of nuns and mothers.

We also all know that there were some women who managed to write some deep theology, like Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Lisieux, Catherine of Sienna and Edith Steine.

Yet, even with these examples, their contribution was only recognized in the twentieth century, and they were selected by men. True, this was fast for the Little Flower, and Edith Stein lived in the twentieth century....but it sure took a long time recognize that maybe Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Sienna should be counted among the doctors of the Church.

A reader once asked me the following question (I'm paraphrasing):

If there were ordained women in the early Church, like you say, where are their writings?

My response to the reader was this: Name a single writing you are personally familiar with by a married priest from the first millenium!

We all know that there were lots of married priests in the first millenium, but their contribution was forgotten as celibates ascended into ecclesial power and selected who we will and will not vernerate, read, imitate, and so forth.

Sure, the celibates managed to include Thomas Moore among the saints and some other married men. But the male celibate contribution is so dominant that the average Roman Catholic is at a complete loss to name a single married saint from the first millenium.

We can name dozens of male celibates from the first millenium almost off the top of our heads: Athanasius, Anthony of the Desert, Augustine, Jerome, Benedict, Gregory the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazaizan, Basil, Peter Lombard, John Cassian, etc....

Maybe a few people remember Benedict's sister, Scholastica. But how many read her? We recall Perpetua and Felicity in our Eucharistic prayers, but how many Catholics even know who they were?

What I am getting at - and I think it also Tamilda's point - is that women have been there the whole time: celibates and married, deaconesses for sure and probably some priests, and maybe even a bishop or two and a couple of Apostles.

Their contribution, like that of the married priests, has largely been forgotten by 800 years of exclusively male celibate dominance over the Church.

I'm not judging the male celibate as intentionally evil in saying that they dominated. Males called to celibacy naturally want to read the works of others who have gone before them. Male celibate communities have their own way of seeing the world, and there is nothing wrong with that.

The problem is when this becomes the exclusive way of seeing the world due to the fact that the male celibate is the sole possessor of ecclesial power (decision making) and is unconsciously imposing their biases on the rest of us. When that happens, other experiences of truth, grace and goodness are lost.

It's not a question of abolishing male celibate religious communities. Jesus was a male celibate and male celibate religious life dates to the time of Christ and has been a valuable contribution to the Church throughout her history.

Yet, women have a different way of arriving at truth and a different experience of grace to share with the wider Church, as do married men, and perhaps gay believers and perhaps the poor and non-europeans and others who are marginalized in society, etc...

It's not an either or, but a both/and. This is why we who call ourselves liberals are always hammering at the theme of "inclusion". We understand that these other voices (women, married people, gays, minorities) have something valid to contribute to the great conversation that is Sacred Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church.

We need a new Pentecost today so that other ways of arriving at truth and other experiences of God's mighty acts can find expression, not to abolish the old ways, but to bring old and new together so that all things come together in Christ.


Friday, May 13, 2005

Levada Named Prefect of CDF

It's official. Archbishop William Levada has been named Prefect for the Sacred Congregation of the Faith.

Those who followed the debate about John Kerry's worthiness for Communion may recall that in his Reflections on Catholics in Political Life and the Reception of Holy Communion, Archbishop Levada wrote the following statement:

Can a politician be guilty of formal cooperation in evil? If the person intends to promote the killing of innocent life, s/he would be guilty of such sinful cooperation. If such an intention were present, even a voter could be guilty of such cooperation. But this seems unlikely as a general rule. Should every Catholic politician who has voted for an unjust law favoring abortion be judged to have this intention? I hope not. [emphasis in original]
The wisdom of this highly nuanced statement seems self-evident to me, and reveals why I believe Levada could make a great Prefect for the CDF.


Pope Benedict Introduces Cause for Sainthood of John Paul

Despite any areas where I with-held submission of the intellect to the teaching of John Paul, I do believe the man was saint. Pope Benedict decided to waive the waiting period for his cause, but I already count him among the saints.


An Afterthought on Post Below....

I'm obviously becoming a bit obsessed with this question of late...

Something unique about considering the notion that the Church is not authorized to ordain women as infallible dogma is that I cannot think of any other instance where infallible dogma is a negative statement.

We say "I believe [such and such]". We don't say "I don't believe [such and such]".

Sure, we do say "I reject Satan and all his empty works and promises", but this is not a negative belief, per se.

We are not saying, "I do not believe in Satan". Rather, we are saying "I believe there is a good God and a power of evil opposed to the good, that evil is 'empty' and I refuse to participate in this 'emptying' of the good".

We reject sin, and the Church is certainly not authorized to sin, but this isn't a dogmatic formula. Indeed, moral theology tends to be framed as a search for the good, with a recognition that evil is the privation of the good.

We believe that certain ideas are heretical errors when they deny a positive teaching.

We do not say in a creed, "We believe that the Church is not authorized to deny the divinity of Christ".

Instead, we say, "We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, only son of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, one in being with the Father."

Aside from all the technicalities surrounding arguments over the wording of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and whether this meets some criteria of infallibilty, how would opponents of women's ordination summarize their belief in a credal statement that is positive?

Bear in mind, simply saying "We believe in the male ministerial priesthood" will not quite do it, because those who admit a female priesthood are not denying the validity, licitity or sacramental character of male priests.

So what is the positive dogma at stake?


Beating Infallibility to Death...

My wife is no radical feminist.

Indeed, her life goal prior to our wedding was simply to marry a good man and be a mother. In her mind, this was always her vocation given by God. She has never wanted to be a priest or a nun in her entire life.

She is a devout Catholic and since the birth of our daughter has been a "stay at home mom". She does not want to use contraception, and I respect her desire not to put chemicals in her body that serve no medicinal purpose. Like her, I am open to more children.

If you never asked her about an issue like women's ordination, you'd think she was some kind of Catholic saint in the making. She goes to Mass not only on Sunday's, but throughout the week. She reads her Bible. She sings in the choir. She does volunteer work. She has been a nurse in a Catholic hospital. She is pro-life, and so forth.

Yet, we have discussed this issue of women's ordination many times. I have put the question to her: "What if the Pope ever did unquestionably issue a solemn definition that women cannot be ordained?"

Her response is that she would reject the claim and keep living her life, continuing to go to Mass and confession and all the other "Catholic" things she does.

In her mind, the teaching is simply not true. Period.

No papal pronouncement will ever convince her to even consider the possibility that she is wrong on the issue.

She just knows intuitively in the depths of her heart that it is impossible that God is not calling women to ordained ministry. She doesn't even feel a need to defend her position. To her, it's obvious, and anyone who says anything different is just plain mistaken.

My wife does not have the theological training I have.

For her, this judgment is not based on some abstract notion that denying women ordination implies heresy against the Chalcedonian formula on the humanity of Christ the way I argue.

For my wife, the teaching is just plain wrong, she sees it as self-evident, and something that is self-evidently wrong cannot be infallible no matter how it is formulated and no matter who made the formulation.

I'll likely get in trouble with some feminist for saying this, but every married man, whether liberal or conservative, knows that you cannot argue rationally with women's intuition.

Of course, there are women like the frequent commenter on my blog, Elena, who do not share this intuitive insight that it is simply wrong to say that the Church is not authorized to ordain women. So, I am not claiming that all women hold this position.

Further, there are women like Rosemary Radforth Reuther, Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Mary Daly, Elizabeth Johnson, Joan Chittister and others who are critical of Rome and will argue with Rome and build a case for their various positions.

Acknowledging that not all women think and act alike, my wife's position intrigues me and seems to be common, even if not universal.

There are a good number of Catholic women through the centuries who just basically said "baloney" to church officials on certain issues, and went about their business - and eventually, the Church affirmed these women right.

I'm thinking of the era when church officials told women that unbaptized babies might suffer the fires of hell or linger in limbo without ever going to heaven.

Women through the ages just said, "baloney" until the church officials finally admitted that their opinion is not infallible, and slowly stopped talking about it at all.

Not all women said "baloney", and those who accepted what the church officials said were often in angst for their babies. Yet, it was the women who said "baloney" before the men.

The Church does teach a doctrine - probably infallibly - that the faithful have a "supernatural sense" for the truths of the deposit of faith.

This sounds like intuition to me - and if Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict are correct that men and women have significant differences that are complementary, I'd say that it is common human experience that women tend in general to be more intuitive than men.

This is a broad generalization and I could be accused of stereotyping and reinforcing patriarchal sexist assumptions for saying it, but nevertheless, I am going to assert that as a general rule of thumb, women do tend to be more intuitive than most men.

If the faithful have a supernatural sense for truth that is intuitive, and if women are generally more intuitive than men, then it must be admitted that when large numbers of women say "baloney" to church teaching, this may need to be taken seriously.

I mentioned in an earlier post this week that I have been spending a good bit of time at Pontifications debating whether Ordinatio Sacerdotalis meets the criteria of a solemn definition with ex cathedra papal infallibility, and whether there is the "manifest demonstration" required by canon 749.3 to make the claim that this teaching is infallible by the authority of the consensus of the college of bishops described as ordinary and universal magisterium.

These are two separate questions, and my answer to both questions is "no".

To the first question, does Ordinatio Sacerdotalis meet the criteria of a solemn definition with ex cathedra papal infallibility, the answer seems abundantly clear that even the man known as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) explicitly stated with John Paul II's authorization that the letter is not such a solemn definition.

The late Holy Father was using non-infallible papal authority to clarify his opinion that the ordinary and universal magisterium holds this doctrine definitively.

To the second question, whether there is the "manifest demonstration" required by canon 749.3 to make the claim that this teaching is infallible by the authority of the consensus of the college of bishops described as ordinary and universal magisterium, it seems obvious to me that at this point in time in Church history, this claim is dubious.

There were folks over at Pontifications who in various ways implied that Cardinal Ratzinger's opinion, even if authorized by John Paul, was simply mistaken.

To these folks, the intended meaning of the letter must be derived from the letter itself, which they believe meets the criteria of a solemn definition of ex cathedra papal infallibility no matter what John Paul or Ratzinger claim was the intent apart from the letter.

There are several reasons I think the letter, even considered apart from any authorized interpretation, does not meet these criteria.

I offered a simple comparison of the texts to the solemn definitions on the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception below, and I am confident that most readers can judge for themselves that there are significant differences in matter and form and style and authority between Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and these other solemn definitions.

I have been thinking more deeply about this issue on another level.

The focus of my argument here (largely with other men) has been on whether the Pope intended to make a solemn definition or not, and whether the criteria for infallibility have been met.

In such argumentation, my opponents and I are presuming that once certain criteria are met, a doctrine must be accepted as infallible even if one does not understand it and is troubled by it. We then set out to rationally discuss whether criteria for infallibility were met or not.

On the other hand, if the Church holds that the faithful have a supernatural sense for the truth in the deposit of faith, what exactly does it mean if all criteria for infallibility were met, and the faithful simply say "baloney"?

I'm not suggesting that truth is determined by a vote.

Rather, I'm asking the proverbial question of whether there is a sound when a tree falls in the forest and there is nobody there to hear it?

There are theologians who argue that in light of church history, the rejection of the robber councils and other such instances indicate that a criteria of infallibility is the reception of the faithful.

I almost never focus on this arguement, because it appears to me that those things rejected by the faithful did not meet some other criteria of infallibilty either.

Yet, the question regarding reception of doctrine by the faithful is ultimately important.

What would happen if a Pope defined that the Church is not authorized to ordain women in the exact way the Assumption was defined, and some critical mass - say ninety percent - of the faithful just said "Baloney. An error cannot be infallible, and this teaching is self-evidently mistaken."?

Personally, my wife's stance makes me, as a male Roman Catholic, just a bit uncomfortable.

There's this side of me that recognizes a need for authority in my life to challenge my fundamental assumptions and force me to think about things, and spur me towards conversion.

When a Pope says something that meets what I believe are the criteria of infallibility, I take that very seriously and want to give the teaching the assent of faith based on the authority alone - even if I don't quite understand why.

On the flip side, I can honestly say that at this point in time in Church history, there are no solemnly defined doctrines by the Pope or an ecumenical council that strike me or my wife as simply untrue. All of them seem to be good news - almost self-evidently true when properly understood.

As it stands today in Church history, as long we focus on solemn definitions and exclude non-infallible teachings, I see no conflict between the intuitive sense of faith and the more analytic reasoned approach. They both get to the same place.

What if there were a conflict?

I have argued in the past that the Pope should see his role less as dictating what we are to believe, and more as acting as a spokesperson for what we believe - not in a sense of embracing passing fads by a simple majority vote - but in the sense of upholding what the faithful have reached as a universal consensus of definitive judgment.

This is why I also believe that on women's ordination, if Pope Benedict recognizes that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was itself an exercise of non-infallible papal authority, he should not try to close the issue by making a solemn definition.

To do so would be more harmful to the Church than leaving the issue open - even if the door is only open by a tiny crack at the present moment.

Until we have very few if any people who would simply reject a papal claim in the manner of my wife, it is a very bad idea to try to persuade otherwise good Catholics of the wrongness of their intuition by a simple act of authority.

I stated earlier that married men know that you cannot argue with women's intuition, but this needs clarification.

My own experience in marriage is that I can have a dialogue with my wife, rather than an argument, where we can reach a mutual understanding that respects her intuitive values and my tendencies toward rationalism.

In this dialogue, I often find I need to modify some of my own fundamental assumptions, not in the sense of being a doormat, but in trying to use my rationalistic tendencies less to convince, and more to find a solution that respects my wife's deepest held intuitive values and my own deepest values.

Even if it is true that Christ himself has not authorized the Church to ordain women, Rome and its defenders need to do a better job of dialoguing with women in order to reach a mutual understanding. An assertion of authority will simply "bounce", and no matter how rational those opposed to women's ordination think they are, they need to speak to the heart of women and respect the intuitive values at stake.