Monday, May 05, 2008

Anglican Arguments for Women's Ordination

This is an old post I stumbled on but I wanted to respond to a few of the errors (My replies in Red):

The priest is a sign, the supernatural effectiveness of which comes from the ordination received, but a sign that must be perceptible, and which the faithful must be able to recognize with ease. The whole sacramental economy is in fact based upon natural signs, on symbols imprinted upon the human psychology: “Sacramental signs,” says Saint Thomas, “represent what they signify by natural resemblance.” The same natural resemblance is required for persons as for things: when Christ’s role in the Eucharist is to be expressed sacramentally, there would not be this “natural resemblance” which must exist between Christ and his minister if the role of Christ were not taken by a man: in such a case it would be difficult to see in the minister the image of Christ. For Christ was and remains a man.

Leaving aside the fact that women are as “perceptible” as men, this leads to a kind of sacramental receptionism (in which the believer’s perceptions are what render the sacrament valid).

I think it is self evident that women are not as perceptible as men when it comes to being 'in persona Christi'.

Your main error on this point is that you have read it to say "perception validates a sign" or even that "a sign must be perceptible to be effective" whereas it's not saying that at all - it's saying that "a sign must be perceptible to be a sign". A message must contain information. If you have a message that does not contain information, it is not considered an ineffective message, it's not considered a message at all. In the same way, a sign which is not by its nature, perceptible isn't an ineffective sign - it's simply not a sign!

This reduces the sacrament from an objective reality into a subjective experience.

This coming from an Anglican? No, the Catholic Church has been rather objective and particular about this sacrament. You folks are still hammering it out and splitting your ecclesial community at every decision. Don't throw stones if you live in a glass house.

It also puts an undue focus upon one aspect of the priestly person: his (or her!) sex. Why, after all, should sex be any more determinative of perceiving Christ — if perception were the sine qua non for the validity of the sacrament — than any other quality.

This is a fair question to ponder, but the answer shouldn't evade us for long. We must consider that sexuality is not a mere natural phenomenon that we shall soon be rid of. Sexuality is a reflection of the very cosmos itself. We will not be neutered in Heaven; if anything we will be more masculine and more feminine respectively. When God has referred to Himself in Divine Scriptures, He may have just as easily referred to Himself as an it. He may have made it clear that He was both Father & Mother and even when He was Incarnated, He may have just as easily come as a neutral being. What is important to ask is first what did He do and then why did He do it. Perhaps God was afraid of offending the mideastern macho sensibilities of the time which the Scripture was written. Or perhaps still (call me a fundamentalist but this seems a better alternative to me) perhaps masculinity and femininity and the realities each represent, exemplify and personify aren't merely beautiful (yet temporal) concepts but extremely important roles in God's cosmos.

God loves masculinity and femininity. He doesn't seem to like the in-between. God loves distinction and discrimination. Creation is teeming with it. He likes opposites, paradoxes and analogies. Why is the cosmos so analogous to itself in various ways? Why can so many analogies be made effectively of so many other things? We have no reason to assume the cosmos would be that way. But it is. And we find that few (if any) phenomena are more analogous and powerfully descriptive of great truths than human sexuality.

God's Fatherhood is not merely man's projection of our anthropological experience onto our God to better understand His role (although this is unfortunately how we often think of it). The reality is profoundly opposite: our earthly fatherhood is but a shadow and an image of true Fatherhood - God's. Likewise, Jesus' maleness, His masculinity is not an image of ours, we were made in His image. Jesus didn't just personify true humanity, He personified true masculinity. Jesus didn't have His masculinity projected on Him by us, we had our masculinity projected on us by Him.

I hope we are starting to see the importance of gender. Notice that none of this has denigrated or lessened the value of femininity in the least. If Christ personified true masculinity, Mary personified true femininity. Yet both Jesus and Mary can each be regarded as acting on behalf of humanity (male and female). Mary's "yes" to God said what none of us, male or female, could have. Jesus death & resurrection accomplished for humanity what none of us, male or female, could have. But this in no way detracts either from Jesus' masculinity or Mary's femininity.

So, in conclusion, I don't think it adds undue attention to Christ's gender at all. Why is gender so important? We may not be able to fully answer why - but we can be certain that it is. God didn't design the entire cosmos around trivial details.

And isn’t a woman more “perceptible” as Christ than a loaf of bread is as his flesh? Personally, I don’t find the figure of a paunchy octogenarian cardinal to be as “natural” or immediate a reminder of Christ as a younger and more ascetical woman.

If this point proves anything, it proves too much. Isn't a child more "perceptible" as Christ than an infant? Isn't an infant more so than an ape? An ape more than a frog and a frog more than an oak tree? An oak tree is more perceptible than a rock. If this point disproved apostolic tradition, then we could start ordaining oak trees.

It is not Christ’s maleness that is of significance, in the Eucharist or in anything else, but his humanity, which obviously includes his maleness, but just as obviously is not limited to or by it.

Christ's maleness is of significance when it comes to who He is. You could not adequately understand or represent me without understanding or representing my maleness and you couldn't (and can't) of Jesus' either. Gender is a highly significant part of who we are regardless of how liberalism tries to deny it. Furthermore, masculinity is not a limiting quality and neither is femininity. Was Jesus limited by being human? Being human itself can be rightly understood as a "limiting quality" just as much as being male or female could. He was limited to being Human in the sense that He was not a Kangaroo. And He was limited to being male in the sense that He was not a female. But in the practical sense of the word, it doesn't belong here. God is limited by nothing but even we who are extremely limited, should never refer to gender roles as limitations. That's a mistake of liberalism and egalitarianism. Masculinity and femininity are to be respectively embraced not abhorred or even lamented.

Which brings us to the serious doctrine this position contradicts. For it is taught that what is not assumed (by Christ in the Incarnation) is not redeemed. And Christ assumed the whole of human nature. Otherwise how could women be saved?

Again I think this point would prove too much if it proved anything. Why not extend it to races? Since He did not come as a Chinese man, Chinese people cannot be redeemed! But in fact, He could have come as a neutral gender as mentioned above. He didn't, He came as Man. But man isn't "human minus woman", man is human. Likewise, woman is not "human minus man", woman is human. The full image of God may be perfectly represented by man and woman together as one flesh but it makes me no less fully human as a man. And as the Scriptures say: "A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man."

Let’s look at the issue more closely, by asking what relationship sex has to human nature. The nature of any class must be something possessed by every member of that class. As Hooker says, “Now if men had not naturally this desire to be happy, how were it possible that all men should have it? All men have. Therefore this desire in man is natural. It is not in our power not to do the same...” (Laws, 1.11.4) The desire to happiness is thus a part of human nature. But what about sex? “Having a sex” is natural to all human beings. But the actual quality of being male only applies to men; being female only to women. So it is part of the manly nature to be male, the womanly nature to be female. But when human nature is considered as a whole, including both men and women, the specific sex is left to one side as a quality of the individual or of the class of men or women, and only the generic quality of “having a sex” applies to human beings. Maleness or femaleness applies only to individuals [such as Jesus Christ], and not to human nature as a whole. So, the “natural resemblance” argument already having been defeated both on objective grounds and on the grounds of a proper understanding of the nature of the sacrament[I've shown above that you are far from defeating it], we are left with an assertion that there is something about maleness, as a human quality, that is required for ordination.


And this is where the conflict with Chalcedon arises: for the Council affirmed that whatever it is in human nature that is of saving importance (since that is the object of the Incarnation) came through a woman — the Blessed Mother of God — and she could not confer what she did not possess. Ergo, the male character is not essential, but accidental. Even if Christ’s maleness was necessary for the fulfilment of prophecy, there is no natural reason to think this carries over to the ministers of the church. To do so is to attach a greater significance to maleness than is warranted.

This goes back to what I said earlier about God's masculinity not being a projection of our masculinity on Him but rather His masculinity is reflected by us (made in His image). Jesus received not the masculinity of men but the masculinity of God - true masculinity even though He fully received humanity and maleness from Mary. Jesus didn't default into masculinity and do a good job of being masculine, He defined masculinity by His character from eternity. Maleness is a reflection and an outward sign of true masculinity - God's.

They say that women may not receive the benefit of the sacrament of order. But how is this; seeing that they may receive the benefit of both of the sacraments ordained by Christ, and may be, as they will admit, the ministers of baptism, which is the prime sacrament of the church’s very being; and seeing that they may alike receive the benefits of the other sacramental rites of the church, in confirmation, penance, matrimony, and unction; wherefore then are they incapable of receiving benefit of this one only sacrament of orders?

This assumes a radical difference in the objectiveness of the spiritual world and that of the physical world. One might ask in the physical world why only women can give birth. It's a terribly unfair act of discrimination. Shouldn't men also have the right to experience motherhood if they want? Likewise, shouldn't women also be able to experience fatherhood? Men can be born which is the essential and defining act of humanity - why can they not have access to the fullness of humanity? They can be born but they can't give birth - it's simply unfair. Now transfer all of this logic into the spiritual world and we've just repeated your argument. We're making huge assumptions that God desires egalitarianism in the spiritual world when we've already seen that He doesn't in the physical world. The Physical world is not an evil deformation of the spiritual world as we learned from the apologists, but it is rather the exemplification of it. This is why, as stated before, so many things in the cosmos (especially sexuality) are analogous to other things. We describe the spiritual world using physical world imagery not solely because we have no other choice, but at least partly because the physical world is not only adequate but explicitly appropriate for doing so (and by divine decree).

Is it that they are incapable of receiving this grace, as if they were a material unfit to receive the impress of a seal? What is the grace? and what that receives it? Is there somewhat in male humanity that exists not in the female?

Yes and vice versa.

Is it not rather that male and female are qualities of the individual person, and not of collective human nature? For humanity as a whole is neither male nor female, but each individual is either one or the other.

This is part of the problem. Gender is not a quality or attribute, it is a defining tenant of your person. You say humanity is neither male nor female. You are wrong. Humanity is female (or more properly feminine) - (represented by the Church which is true humanity). It is not by accident she is called "the bride of Christ"! Notice how the Church is both "feminine" and "true humanity" at the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive and neither is "masculine" and "true humanity" (as was the case in the person of Jesus Christ).

To say otherwise were an error, since we know that all that is of human nature in woman comes from man, as Eve was taken wholly out of Adam; and further, all that is in human nature resides in woman, for Christ’s humanity came to him wholly by way of his blessed mother, and she could not bestow that which she did not possess: and finally both man and woman come from God as made in God’s image. (1Cor 11.12) So if they say that either humanity or divinity is the form or image that a woman cannot possess, they are mistaken, for she has it both by nature of birth; and further by the grace of baptism whatever of the divine image is marred or obscured in man or woman is restored to its original likeness.

This assumes only one "sense" of things. There is a certain priesthood of women - that is the priesthood common to all believers at baptism. The woman is baptized priest, prophet and king (but not priestess, prophetess and queen - take note here). It would not be proper to substitute the former three for the latter three. Because the woman does not assume these roles as of herself, she puts on the roles of someone else (as likewise the man does). With man, he is still called priest, prophet & king not because he is man and he gets to keep the gender of the titles but because he happens to be of the same gender as the One to whom they rightly belong and from Whom they came. The man is no less putting on the role of Christ as the woman is though, it's just that his gender happens to match.

That point aside, there is a certain sense of all three. When we are baptized king, we don't actually get any land or loyal subjects given to us. So we are only baptized as a king in a sense. Likewise, the common priesthood of all believers is a type of the more proper priesthood which itself is a type of the true priesthood - Christ's. So then we should understand that there is a certain sense in which women do receive all of these blessings in baptism just like a man does. Because she is not eligible for the literal - full priesthood detracts in no way from the fact that she can and does receive the full grace of baptism. And returning to my point above, that woman is fully human (in itself) makes her no more eligible for priesthood in the spiritual world than men being fully human makes them eligible to be mothers in the physical world.

Finally, we hold that the grace of the sacraments comes not from the ministers who perform the rites associated thereunto, but from God; and that the lawful performance of a sacramental rite assures us of its validity and of the grace imparted thereby.

Yes and the keyword is lawful performance. Since women's ordination is unlawful, we know it is invalid. If you ask what determines lawfulness - we can only answer an authoritative institution. If such a thing exists, its the Catholic Church. In other words, no other institution would have the right to declare what is lawful or unlawful concerning sacraments.

All of this is to say nothing of the pragmatics of ordaining women. I just find it strange how the Anglican community is so sure of itself and its doctrinal errors even while its structure collapses around it due in large part to heretical decisions like permitting contraception and this one: women's ordination. It's no big secret why so many thousands of Anglicans have sought stability and truth in the Catholic Church in the last decade.

1 comment:

George Weis said...


Good stuff to read in this post, but far to long for me to read at the moment. I'll take it in doses. I'll read a book if I want to read that much ;)