Sunday, August 06, 2006

Confession: I attended a woman's ordination!*

* A Protestant woman's ordination, that is...

And that's allowed.

The pastor of one of the local Protestant congregations invited me (I'm sure he invited all the local clergy) to attend, and I was happy to do so.

He did invite all the elders and ministers "and priests" present to lay hands on the candidate. I remained in my pew.

Later, when he asked everyone to pray for the well being of the family from any evil, well of course I was happy to join that prayer.

When I was in the seminary, I was part of summer education experience, involving theology students from various backgrounds. The other male in the group asked me, one evening, what I thought about women's ordination. I responded, "do you mean for you all (i.e., Protestants)? Makes no difference to me!" He laughed.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Father, I wonder why you remained in your pew?

Anonymous said...

I chuckled at your seminary story :)

Father Martin Fox said...

anonymous #1:

I remained in my pew because I believe it is not appropriate for me to participate in a rite of ordination in another religious body. (Oh, I'm aware there's a directive on ecumenism that gives "dos and don'ts," which I didn't consult since I planned to take no part -- I was very confident my merely attending, and singing a hymn and saying a prayer for the family would be ok.)

Being a guest, however, and entering into a general spirit of prayer and fellowship, is something else -- and I was happy to do that.

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Anonymous said...

father i didn't quite get the seminary story:S kindly explain please?

Father Martin Fox said...

Anonymous:

My Protestant friend asked my opinion on ordaining women; I said I didn't care when it was Protestant women being ordained by a Protestant body. He understood me to feel otherwise when it comes to the Catholic Church (and he was correct); also, I was making the point, gently and in a non-confrontational way, that we Catholics don't consider Protestant and Catholic ordinations equivalent.

Lynne said...

Parables are tough. ;-)

Andrew said...

Don't you think, Father, that we should oppose women's ordination in Protestant denominations as well? Even though they don't have apostolic succession, having women in "spiritual fatherhood" roles is still problematic, and we don't wish that upon them, or do we? Plus it's a barrier to ecumenism. Or do we think they're so far gone we might as well forget the whole thing? Isn't attending a non-Catholic woman's ordination kind of like attending a non-Catholic "gay marriage". Do we just say, that's okay as long as it doesn't happen in the Catholic church?

I know that's not a great example, and I'm not trying to be difficult here. Just wondering what your thoughts are on this.

I did notice there were several women clergy member present among the protestants and other faiths present at our bishop's installment ceremony last year. It didn't bother me, really. Just having some random thoughts.

Orange_Cross said...

Awesome Andrew!

Father Martin Fox said...

Andrew:

While I am open to an argument for why Catholics should have a position on women being ordained leaders in other religious bodies, I have to say I haven't seen an argument that convinces me. And I don't see it as equivalent to "gay marriage."

As to the first issue. For clarity and brevity's sake, I may fail to be as diplomatic as some would like. Sorry...

The Catholic Church does not recognize these other "ecclesial communities" as "Churches" in the proper sense. They are organized groups of Christians (if they are validly baptized). Hence, there is no equivalency between their ordained ministries and the sacrament of holy orders as exists in the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, and other Churches in the proper sense.

So women who are "ordained" in such an ecclesial body are lay women, given leadership roles in their own bodies.

Suppose we termed them "clubs": if the 4th Street Christian Club decided to put a woman in charge, how is that an issue for Catholics? The issue comes should there be any attempt to say their club = the Church Christ founded, led by Peter's successor.

The Anglican Church is a special issue, precisely because, while in the main, their orders are not valid, occasionally, for obscure reasons I shan't go into now, sometimes they do have valid orders. And they do often claim to have equivalent orders.

As to the comparison with "gay marriage," it is inapt.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with an organization of laity creating structures that involve women in leadership. This, by the way, would be true for Catholic lay organizations. So having Protestant lay organizations (which is, theologically, how we understand these other "ecclesial bodies") led by women isn't an issue for us.

But we do assert there is something intrinsically wrong with "gay marriage."

Further--while the Catholic Church does not recognize these other bodies' ordinations as valid (i.e., as we mean valid orders), the Catholic Church does recognize their marriages -- if between two baptized persons (and a man and woman!) otherwise eligible for marriage, as valid.

Anonymous said...

Father, whereas there are numerous anonymous posters overlapping now, I will identify myself as the one who said you were sometimes cynical and angry. You replied that you would like for me to pinpoint instances when this seemed clear. I also said your flock might absorb your attitudes, and that anger was typical among many Catholics.

Herewith, I would like to cite your post describing the Protestant ordination of a female minister, an event which you attended. One of "the anonymous community" subsequently questioned you about the seminary story and you replied, in part, ". . .also, I was making the point gently and in a non-confrontational way, that we Catholics don't consider Protestant and Catholic ordinations equivalent."

When someone doesn't consider two sides equal, he is always saying he considers his own side superior
and the other side inferior. First of all, it is not necessary to criticise another faith's beliefs or procedures at all. That would be their business, not ours. God did not invite Catholics to decide who is equal or who is superior or inferior. It's not our role to judge others, but only His.

To judge and to assume you find those whom you judge inferior, and to laugh about it among those you consider your peers, reveals anger. It's impossible to feel the impulse to belittle others (and enjoy doing it...) unless you are angry with them.

You go on to state that the Catholic church does not recognise other Christian ecclesial communities as churches. First of all, this is untrue and inaccurate. To suggest in a somewhat patronising manner that we might call them "clubs", shows disrespect to those whose beliefs may not be like yours.

Picking up on the fun Catholic pastime of Protestant bashing, a couple of other posters jumped in with both feet. At least you defended Protestant female ministers as a different ilk than homosexuals trying to get married to each other.

It's almost like some Catholics have the mistaken idea that the more they detest other faiths, the better Catholics they must be. So not true!

I know I am showing some anger here too, but I am tired of Catholics having this holier than thou attitude and giving themselves carte blanche to say hurtful things about their fellow Christians. At a meeting in my parish people were talking about an excellent article in Christianity Today written by a non-catholic author. One of the ladies present said she didn't think the piece could be any good because it was "written by a Protestant and they don't know anything about religion". Can't we ever ditch these archaic attitudes - can't we please all respect and get along with one another?

There is a great deal we could learn from our Protestant brethren, especially in terms of community, tolerance, and joyful worship.

I have used up more than my share of space and your time, so I plan to take a hiatus and let others have their well-deserved chance to speak. Thanks for listening, and remember - be nice to non-Catholics! They are God's people too.

Father Martin Fox said...

Anonymous:

If you think my post above is an example of me being "cynical and angry," then I do not think we use those words the same way. I simply reject the allegation that that post was either "cynical" or "angry."

It happens simply to be true that Catholics do not consider "Protestant and Catholic ordinations equivalent." I do not agree that it is somehow wrong or inappropriate to point that out.

"You go on to state that the Catholic church does not recognise other Christian ecclesial communities as churches. First of all, this is untrue and inaccurate."

I think it is very accurate -- it is what Dominus Iesus says. Do you dispute that?

I think the fact that I chose to attend an ordination of a Protestant minister speaks far more about how much respect I have for people who have other beliefs.

If I suggested perhaps you are a little over-sensitive on these issues, would that make me "angry and cynical"? I don't see that...

Anna said...

Anonymous (#5)

As a former Southern Baptist, where some churches had ordained women deacons, and some did not, I think that Father's gentle explanation is right on the money. They don't even have sacraments, but two ordinances. Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

DimBulb said...

Anonymous (you'll know who you are),

you write, "When someone doesn't consider two side equal, he is always saying he considers his own side superior and the other inferior."

So, when you criticise Father M for believing that his Catholic faith is superior to others you find this a sign of his (and his religions) inferiority? If not, why else criticise him?

Were the prophets wrong for criticising the pagans for their "faith" practices? Was Paul wrong for telling timothy to stay in Ephesus to command certain people to stop teaching false things? When Our Blessed Lord said, "if he will not here the Church let him be to you as a heathen," was he teaching falsely, according to your gospel?

You write: First of all, it is not necessary to criticise another faith's belief or proceedures at all."

Have you ever read St Paul, or the early church fathers?

Jackie said...

Anonymous,

I hope you are not feeling 'piled on' and take the discussion and comments in the way I'm sure they are intended - as discussion as well as points to think about.

Maybe a way to look at this, that will help, is that you can disagree with someone about a particular point (woman's ordination and the understanding of ordination in general - in this discussion) and NOT be nasty or mean spirited BUT in fact disagree. But, in order to discuss something, you have to accurately layout the factual points and compare and contrast the points. What's different and what's the same.

You can do this in love and discuss, passionately - because it's important - and NOT be nasty or angry or putting someone down.

So - in this case - there are Protestant denominations that are wonderful Christian communities that are filled with love for Christ that are following Christ. They may have male or female ministers.

This doesn't change at all the fact that both the Catholic and this Protestant community have a different understanding of ordination - both their own and the other groups. They would both agree that they are different. And both of them, if they are honest, think their way is the better way -otherwise they would change. This is not anger or nasty - just factual and truthful.

The next logical question would be - 'In fact - which one is true? Which one did Jesus intend?' Logically the answer can be one, the other or neither. It CANNOT be both.

We as Catholics would say - the Catholic Church is the Church instituted by Christ, 2000 years ago, on the Rock - Peter and hence, the Catholic Church is correct. (And there could be a whole bunch more reasons put forth to demonstrate this.) We don't and ought not say this with arrogance - because it's NOT us who did it - it was Christ. It is HIS Church; HIS Mystical Body; HIS Bride. We want the Church to change us. We have no reason to boast about anything.

The Protestants would put forth a bunch of reasons as to why they are correct. (Though to be fair, most Protestant denominations would not say that they are the Church instituted by Christ.) This does NOT mean that either one is being nasty or arrogant.

I hope this is helpful in providing a different way of looking at this.

God Bless

Andrew said...

Fr.,
Thank you for responding. I'm still pretty confused, and the other thoughts I had in response opened up a whole 'nother can of worms. So, I'll just trust your judgment, you seem to be a very orthodox priest.

David L Alexander said...

Anon et al:

Personally, I don't have any problem considering my being Catholic on the grounds that I consider it superior to allegiance to a Protestant body. It is the belief, the way of life, to which I ascribe the superior quality, not myself.

Indeed, if I didn't think being Catholic was the superior choice, if I did not believe salvation only came through that Church which Christ established on earth, it would hardly seem worth even the occasional inconvenience -- you know, getting up early every Sunday morning, that sort of thing.

40lovemom said...

I guess I am not as enlightened Catholic as I thought. After reading the comments, and taking a few minutes to digest them, I have come to the conclusion that I must be pretty out of the loop.

I think it was a wonderful gesture of Christianity for you to attend the ordination. I understand why you did not participate in the ordination rite, but it was great that you were supportive of another clergy member.

I have always felt that it doesn't matter if people aren't Catholic as long as they follow their religion as their religion prescribes. I know people who can't understand why I would attend a wedding or funeral if it is not a Catholic mass. I hate to think of what they would think of the bat mitzvah of my cousin's daughter that I recently attended. It was a wonderful experience and I marveled at the amount of preparation that the bat mitzvah had to make. The preparation for Confirmation pales in comparison.

I was always taught that, as Christians, we should love each other. And sometimes that means accepting and celebrating our differences.

Anonymous said...

but I am tired of Catholics having this holier than thou attitude and giving themselves carte blanche to say hurtful things about their fellow Christians
anonymous-we catholics know exactly how you feel because we too get 'bashed' by protestant denominations. actually i think catholics gets it worse, we actually have websites and people who make it their whole lfe purpose to attack the catholic church. i see this as the underlying issue for you here, and i'm sorry you see it this way but it's not just all one sided.
as far as superiority goes i think that the Catholic Church is far superior than other churches out there, but as far as catholic people it's not the same.

Anonymous said...

oh! hahah thank you father, that makes sense now. sorry kinda took me a whole while.
-anony 4

RC said...

sounds like an interesting event for so many ppl. to be there.

--RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I have a question for you that in some way relates. In the near future my nephew will be getting married in a protestant church service. He is Catholic and the girl is not. By brother and his wife are both Catholics and are saddened that their son has chosen to be married outside the faith which carries all the baggage of living in the state of sin. They are going to the wedding and plan to participate as asked. It is my understanding that we are not to attend this event since it is clearly one outside our faith and belief. Is this not correct and if so,how does this square with priests attending the ordination of a woman in another protestant church?
This is not meant to be a put down in any way, but a very real question about something that will cause my brother some pain.

Father Martin Fox said...

Anonymous:

I am sorry for the situation you describe.

You probably realize this, but just in case -- your nephew could, if he made contact with a priest, still marry this girl, and even marry her in the ceremony at the Protestant church; the issue is not marrying a Protestant, or marrying in a Protestant church, but marrying "in the Church" -- which means, working with a Catholic priest or deacon to prepare, and getting permission for a non-Catholic ceremony.

As to the ordination.

The difference is that the woman being ordained was not Catholic; she was not doing anything contrary to Catholic teaching, except that she is not, herself, a Catholic.

I.e., would you have any problem with a Catholic, even a Catholic priest, going to a wedding of two Protestants?

Anonymous said...

Father Fox, in your post of Aug 7 re Dominus Jesus, were you referring to the part which states:

"Therefore there exists a single
Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united when by the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches." Hmm. It doesn't seem to say true particular communities or true particular religious clubs,does it?

Father Martin Fox said...

No, I was referring to another paragraph:

"On the other hand, the ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery, are not Churches in the proper sense; however, those who are baptized in these communities are, by Baptism, incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Church. Baptism in fact tends per se toward the full development of life in Christ, through the integral profession of faith, the Eucharist, and full communion in the Church."

The paragraph you quoted rather obviously refers to the Orthodox, the Ancient Churches of the East, and a Church like the Polish National Catholic Church.

Note: I bolded the language of this document that I used in my earlier post -- since you seem to have missed it.

(I think your treatment of my use of the term "club" is especially dishonest. I explicitly used the concept as an illustration, and I think the context makes clear why I did that. I never claimed Protestant ecclesial communities are "clubs," nor did I claim that was language from Dominus Iesus. Snide insinuations are a poor substitute for real argumentation.)

In case you're wondering where the paragraph I quoted came from, it came immediately after what you quoted. Hmm.

Really, shouldn't you get over the anger you feel over my presenting Church teaching?

Anonymous said...

Father Fox, I did not know we were having an argument. I thought we were having a conversation, albeit one in which we disagree on some points, particularly on the validity of non-Catholics' faith and/or right to be designated as a church and respected as such.

When I sponsored an RCIA candidate I recall the instructor saying that the Anglican and Lutheran churches had valid sacraments. Should they not then be added to your list of churches in communion with the RC church? Yet they are Protestant.

I sincerely apologise if I misunderstood your use of the word "clubs", though at the time I did not make my comments about that in reference to Dominus Jesus.

We see DJ from two sides of the fence. To you it defends the RC church as the one and only church. To me it envelops all true Christians under the aegis of the RC church and validates all who worship Christ with sincerity.
That is a conviction of the emerging RC church and not one held just by myself, although even were I the only one to believe it I would still know it as truth. I really don't like it when those who are not RCs but who are "catholic" in their understanding of universal Christianity, are viewed as second class spiritually.

When you used the word dishonest, by the way, I think you meant to say inaccurate instead. Dishonest implies deliberate deceit. When we talk about anger we are speaking of a transient feeling. When we talk about inaccuracy we refer to error. Dishonesty is different because honesty concerns deliberate morality. I may be inaccurate at any time, and so may you be, but I am wholly confident that neither of us is dishonest.

I do agree with your presentation of church teaching when it is correct, as it is 99.9% of the time. I don't agree with your presentation of non-Catholic faiths or individuals. It's very hard to show prejudiced white people that they are prejudiced - they will always say something like, "Oh no, I'm not. Some of my best friends are black." I find it equally difficult asking RCs to examine their feelings or attitudes about non-Catholics. There is always evasion or defensiveness instead of confronting their hidden attitudes.

Father Fox, I really admire you! You are also a fun and likable person. Just because I don't agree with you on this particular point does not affect my respect for you and the work you do. You are an outstandingly gifted person. That made it seem more important to me that you would reconsider your prejudice toward non-Catholics. Your words carry much influence. Let them guide people to unity, not division.

Father Martin Fox said...

Anonymous:

"When I sponsored an RCIA candidate I recall the instructor saying that the Anglican and Lutheran churches had valid sacraments."

It depends on what that means. Certainly baptism (if performed right; can't always assume that) and marriage, despite the fact that they don't deem marriage to be a sacrament. (On this, Anglicans are across the board--some are more Protestant in having only two proper sacraments, others are more Catholic, in having seven. I can't help it that Anglicanism embraces both a virtual-Catholic wing and a highly Evangelical wing, so it's hard to describe what "Anglicans" believe, as a group).

But except in the rare case of an Anglican cleric being validly ordained, the Anglican church does not have any other valid sacraments, as the Catholic Church understands "sacrament" and "validity." And the Lutheran church lacks valid orders, and so does not have any valid sacraments other than the two I mentioned.

"Should they not then be added to your list of churches in communion with the RC church? Yet they are Protestant."

No, they should not. They and we would agree they are not "in communion" -- and per Catholic teaching, they are not Churches "in the proper sense." The paragraph you quoted is speaking about Orthodox, Ancient Churches of the East, and -- for lack of a better term, "breakaway Catholic" Churches such as the Polish National Catholic Church, and anyone else that has maintained valid orders, apostolic succession, and thus, valid sacraments.

"I sincerely apologise if I misunderstood your use of the word "clubs", though at the time I did not make my comments about that in reference to Dominus Jesus."

Your most recent comment certainly did refer to "clubs" in reference to Dominus Iesus -- or else my response was not directed to you at all.

"We see DJ from two sides of the fence."

The only reason I brought up Dominus Iesus is because someone as "anonymous" (was that you?) said I misrepresented Catholic teaching:

(From that earlier post:)

"You go on to state that the Catholic church does not recognise other Christian ecclesial communities as churches. First of all, this is untrue and inaccurate."

I called your response about "clubs" dishonest for the reasons I stated. If you say you meant no deliberate distortion, then I take you at your word.

In that case, then, all I can say is you badly misunderstood something that I think was very clear. I was using the term "club" for the sake of an illustration, to explain something to someone who -- in my judgment -- was being confused by the use of the term "church." That illustration was meant for that person only.

"When we talk about anger..."
With all respect, it is you who continually wants to talk about it. I think I have given that interest of yours generous attention.

"It's very hard to show prejudiced white people that they are prejudiced - they will always say something like, 'Oh no, I'm not. Some of my best friends are black.' I find it equally difficult asking RCs to examine their feelings or attitudes about non-Catholics. There is always evasion or defensiveness instead of confronting their hidden attitudes."

This is tiresome and offensive. When you present it this way, you win either way, don't you? Either I admit your accusation ("...reconsider your prejudice toward non-Catholics." Emphasis added.) and you're correct; or, if I deny your accusation about me, then my "evasion or defensiveness" proves you right once again!

Nice trick -- only sorry, I don't agree that you get to define reality so you're always right.

My attention to this subject ends here.

duchessSoF said...

I do not believe it appropriate for Women to be pastors but then I am a hardcore bible-banger in Reformed, Sola Scriptura tradition.

I still teach the Gospel to kidlets in jail but I consider them kidlets and have discussed the matter with my elders. My elders would prefer I go into the girl section of juvy but understand that that section is already full of bible-thumpers and I am more needed in the boys's section. None of them are over 18 (I consider them all to be BOYS).

I love some women clergy as people but I disagree with them.

These debates go on and on (we have a "dead horse" thread many pages on this in Ship-of-fools). I will not discuss it much anymore since no matter what I say, some choose to believe that it has to do with "keeping a good woman down" and "not allowing her to use her gifts" PERIOD. And the classic "I have heard women preachers preach MUCH BETTER than many men preachers". I don't doubt that. But I STILL THINK IT IS UNBIBICAL due to my understanding all the bible texts...and NOT taking one verse out of context!

Thump-thump (steel-plated bible thumped here).

I won't get started on the fact many consider "preaching" to be the MAIN GIFT when I think other ministries are JUST AS IMPORTANT.

I feel better now, I will get off my soapbox. :)