NCR Editors Scandalously Wrong on Women’s Ordination; Father simply uses his thumb.

Just to keep you smiling as you read what follows, I’ll start off with a couple short clips that pretty much encapsulate the problems. You can skip them, but they’re short and I think worth it:


Okay, smile firmly in place, the editors at the National Catholic Reporter issued this amazingly daft bit of theologizing. They are just madder than a cut snake and have some venom to spit. The tragedy will be the scandal to anyone poisoned by this reckless conglomeration of bad theology and insidious interpretation.

I make some in-line comments in green with longer reaction between paragraphs where appropriate.

The call to the priesthood is a gift from God. It is rooted in baptism and is called forth and affirmed by the community because it is authentic and evident in the person as a charism. [Yes, but whither the hierarchy of the Church instituted by Christ on Peter, the Rock, and the other eleven Apostles, to teach the Truth guided by the Holy Spirit? Do they have a say in such a sensitive matter?] Catholic women who have discerned a call to the priesthood and have had that call affirmed by the community [again, whither the hierarchy?] should be ordained in the Roman Catholic church. Barring women from ordination to the priesthood is an injustice that cannot be allowed to stand. [Balderdash. To pretend to ordain women would be a far graver injustice, mostly because it would actually *be* an injustice.]

The most egregious statement in the Nov. 19 press release announcing Roy Bourgeois’ “excommunication, dismissal and laicization” is the assertion that Bourgeois’ “disobedience” and “campaign against the teachings of the Catholic church” was “ignoring the sensitivities of the faithful.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Bourgeois, attuned by a lifetime of listening to the marginalized, has heard the voice of the faithful and he has responded to that voice.

Ah, here is the crux of the matter: The stodgy hierarchy silenced and laicized a cleric with whom the editors at the Reporter agree. That is why they’re madder than a wet hen, and almost as coherent. Mr. Bourgeouis heard “the voice of the faithful,” and since what he claims to have heard matches what the Editors also want to hear, they and Mr. Bourgeouis are right, and the bishops of the Church in union with the pope, wrong. Q.E.D. “My magisterium trumps obedience to the one Christ established.” Pity. Obedience is a great virtue, and obedience even when one believes the order is misguided is a mark of many a canonized saint.

Moving along.

Bourgeois brings this issue to the real heart of the matter. He has said that no one can say who God can and cannot call to the priesthood [what if God Himself said so? … we’ll get to that in a moment.], and to say that anatomy is somehow a barrier to God’s ability to call one of God’s own children forward places absurd limits on God’s power. The majority of the faithful believe this.

A breathtakingly unCatholic and ignorant thing to say. We believe that human persons are enfleshed spiritual beings, not animals with immortal souls. The soul of the person is primary in the person and the body is the physical manifestation of that soul. A person’s soul, not just his or her anatomy, is also masculine or feminine. A man is a father and a woman a mother not just because the biology works out that way, but because a man has a fatherly spiritual makeup and a woman a motherly spiritual makeup. The reason a given person is the sort of person who can be ordained is because he is male through and through, not because he has a penis. Impotency and sterility are impediments to Orders for a man!

The reason this is a hideous lie goes far beyond mere biology.

I recall a story concerning Father George Rutler of the Archdiocese of New York, a story I received second- or third-hand so my details may be fuzzy without damaging the point. He was leaving the hospital room of a woman to whom he had just administered the Anointing of the Sick and was stopped by a woman who tersely informed him, “I could have done that if I had a penis!” To which Father Rutler simply replied, “Madam, I used my thumb.” And continued on his way.

Again, men are not eligible for Orders because of anatomy; rather the substance of their masculinity at one and the same time makes men the “stuff” capable of receiving Holy Orders and also manifests itself physically in the male anatomy.

See: in order for a sacrament to confer the grace and the change it is intended to confer, the matter, the stuff, upon which or with which the sacrament is confected must be correct. Pouring milk does not confect baptism, only water. Likewise, pouring water and saying the words over a dog does not baptize the dog—there is no immortal soul made in the image and likeness of God to be baptized. Hosts must be of wheat flour and water, not rice flour or any other kind of flour. The wine must have some small amount of alcohol; it cannot be grape juice. The person upon which Holy Orders are conferred must be masculine. Performing the rite of ordination over a woman is a grand and hideous lie that imperils the souls of any who take part. That is all Catholic doctrine, not just my opinions.

As for “the majority of the faithful believe this,” I believe the Editors have us confused with the Anglicans who vote on doctrine from time to time. But then: the Anglicans just failed to allow women to be ordained bishops. What is an Editor at NCR to do?

We’re Catholic: Democracy is not our way. Right is right if the world be wrong.

Back to the Editors.

Let’s review the history of Rome’s response to the call of the faithful to ordain women: [Yes, let’s.]

In April 1976 the Pontifical Biblical Commission concluded unanimously: “It does not seem that the New Testament by itself alone will permit us to settle in a clear way and once and for all the problem of the possible accession of women to the presbyterate.” In further deliberation, the commission voted 12-5 in favor of the view that Scripture alone does not exclude the ordination of women, and 12-5 in favor of the view that the church could ordain women to the priesthood without going against Christ’s original intentions.

Okay, they gave their recommendation. And what happened next?


In Inter Insigniores (dated Oct. 15, 1976, but released the following January), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said: “The Church, in fidelity to the example of the Lord, does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination.” That declaration, published with the approval of Pope Paul VI, was a relatively modest “does not consider herself authorized.”

Boom. The CDF, the congregation charged with safeguarding doctrine, within the same year of the pontifical commission cited above, affirmed a position contrary to the view the Editors got out of the commission, and the statement was published with the Pope’s signature.

Of course, while “does not consider herself authorized” does not rise to “we solemnly declare…,” the explanation given in that document (read it—it’s not very long or heady) sums up the reasons nicely. In short: God set the example while on earth, His Apostles understood the example and passed it along. It has remained the practice of the Church since the Apostles for a reason, and the Church is happy to delve into those reasons.

The Pontifical Biblical Commission can opine all it wants about the words of Scripture and what they explicitly or implicitly proscribe and prescribe; but their opinions, while valuable, are not doctrine. We are Catholic. We therefore have Sacred Tradition which includes but is not limited to what’s in the Bible. We can know God’s mind in the consistent practice of the Church as handed down from the time of the Apostles.

It should be further noted here that another papal commission appointed by John XXIII and expanded by Paul VI overwhelmingly recommended in their 1966 majority report that the Church should change her teaching on birth control. Of course, following that commission the seminal encyclical Humanae Vitae settled the matter quite the other direction. During that period, the upstart National Catholic Reporter got off the ground by publishing the leaked majority report from that commission and helping sow much discord in the time before and since Humanae Vitae was published. So bucking against the Church is nothing new for them.

But now they get into their delusional, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance…,” in earnest.

Pope John Paul II upped the ante considerably in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (May 22, 1994): “We declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” John Paul had wanted to describe the ban as “irreformable,” a much stronger stance than “definitively held.” This met substantial resistance from high-ranking bishops who gathered at a special Vatican meeting in March 1995 to discuss the document, NCR reported at the time. Even then, bishops attuned to the pastoral needs of the church had won a concession to the possibility of changing the teaching. [“So you’re telling me there’s a chance…”]

How anyone can be confused by the meaning of the words “the Church has no authority whatsoever to…” is beyond me. In so saying John Paul II essentially said, “it’s not even a question we can seriously discuss because no matter what reasons you bring up for why it’s allowable and/or a good idea, we have not the competence to change the matter.”

All I can figure by this notion of a “concession to the possibility of changing the teaching” is that some bishops got John Paul II to admit he had not declared, as a defined dogma, that the matter was closed. Not much of a concession, considering the plain language of that document and these two follow-ups:

  • A 1995 document from the CDF that says,

    This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium,” and describes the ban on women’s ordination as belonging “to the deposit of the faith.

  • A 1998 document, also from the CDF, which said,

    The Supreme Pontiff, while not wishing to proceed to a dogmatic definition, intended to reaffirm that this doctrine is to be held definitively, since, founded on the written Word of God, constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium. As the prior example illustrates, this does not foreclose the possibility that, in the future, the consciousness of the Church might progress to the point where this teaching could be defined as a doctrine to be believed as divinely revealed.

Note in that second passage the language at the end: while the Pope did not feel the need to go all of the way to definitive doctrinal definition, it wasn’t because he, and the Church, don’t believe that to be the case. But at any rate, the matter is not one up for question, it is simply a matter of how emphatically it is taught by the Magisterium. The Church avoids issuing definitive, doctrinal statements of the strongest degree, but that does not mean everything that hasn’t crossed that threshold is utterly negotiable.

I’ll spare you the next few paragraphs which amount to the Editors at NCR trying to convince themselves “So you’re telling me there’s a chance,” blowing smoke about whether a majority of bishops actually accept the teaching and how the mean old men in Rome squelch dissent seemingly for the sheer fun of it.

There is one line, however, that is indicative of their underlying error:

Many have pointed out that to say that the teaching is “founded on the written Word of God” completely ignored the 1976 findings of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

Yes, and? A pontifical commission is not the Magisterium, no matter how badly one may want contraception approved and women ordained. The pope who called for the commission is free to take their recommendations and do with them as he sees fit. If he reads their research and comes to a very different conclusion, that is his prerogative: he is Peter. He is the one whom Christ charged to “turn back and strengthen your brethren” when Satan sought to sift them all “like wheat.”

The Editors conclude with this terrible mangling of what is the Magisterium and a call to action, as though the papacy is a Congressional committee:

Blessed John Henry Newman said that there are three magisteria in the church [What, can’t bring yourselves to capitalize “Church” in this proper usage?]: the bishops, the theologians and the people. On the issue of women’s ordination, two of the three voices have been silenced, which is why the third voice must now make itself heard.

What are they talking about? Because of the marvels of modern technology the dissenting classes have never been as capable to spread the seeds of discord and boldly proclaim their dissent from the keyboards and video cameras of convents, universities, monasteries, parishes, cathedrals, and the like, as they are today!

As for the “three magisteria,” I believe they have the Catholic Church confused with the Anglican communion—which, it should be noted, Blessed John Henry Newman fled for the historicity and security of Rome.

Newman indeed believed that the faithful and theologians had a role in the development and clarification of doctrine, but by no means did he teach that the laity’s or (God save us) the theologians’ roles were co-equal to the bishops in the establishing, defining, teaching of doctrine. Had he done so he would not be on the cusp of canonization by that same hierarchy.

The Magisterium, the official teaching office and capacity of the Church, is exercised by the Pope singly as the bishop of Rome, and by the whole body of bishops in union with the pope, all guided by and protected from error by the Holy Spirit.

Undaunted, they continue…

We must speak up in every forum available to us: in parish council meetings, faith-sharing groups, diocesan convocations and academic seminars. We should write letters to our bishops, to the editors of our local papers and television news channels.

Our message is that we believe the sensus fidelium is that the exclusion of women from the priesthood has no strong basis in Scripture or any other compelling rationale [Have you ever read Inter Insignores or Ordinatio Sacerdotalis? If so, you’re either daft or a liar.]; therefore, women should be ordained [So sayeth us, the new Magisterium]. We have heard the faithful assent to this in countless conversations in parish halls, lecture halls and family gatherings [Ah, anecdote. For what it’s worth, I and most of my Catholic friends have heard and believe the opposite. Do we cancel you out?]. It has been studied and prayed over individually and in groups. The brave witness of the Women’s Ordination Conference, as one example, gives us assurance that the faithful have come to this conclusion after prayerful consideration and study — yes, even study of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. [So, daft? or liar?]

The sensus fidelium does not mean the general clamor of all baptized persons, or even of all baptized Catholics, and certainly not a poll of the noisiest people, but of all Catholics who retain the obedience of faith to the Roman pontiff and all legitimate authorities above them—i.e., faithful Catholics. On matters such as the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption—and even the “Santo subito!” chant that spontaneously erupted in St. Peter’s Square during the funeral Mass for Blessed John Paul II—the sensus fidelium pointed toward something that was already a wholesome thought, a good and legitimate possibility, with a corpus of supporting evidence and no major roadblocks within the Church to becoming a reality. The first two were defined, the third has been expedited and is on the way. The sensus fidelium isn’t there like a rival legislative body to countermand the clear and unequivocal teaching of the Pope, but to urge the Church toward a conclusion clearly within reach and clearly a worthwhile conclusion to reach.

NCR joins its voice with Roy Bourgeois and calls for the Catholic church to correct this unjust teaching.

The worst injustice—offense against God by injuring your neighbor—is scandal: Leading souls away from Christ and His Church, especially through heretical teaching, dulling their ability to receive the Truth. Scandal and heretical teaching poison the mind against the Truth and damage trust in the teachers, making the teachers’ task that much more difficult and dulling the individual’s ability to accept the Truth.

Mr. Roy Bourgeouis and all within the Church who persist in their errors and use their considerable megaphones to spread this discord sincerely need prayers, as do any whose faith is damaged by their prideful, irresponsible, writings.



  • John Nahas

    I wouldn’t say they are wrong. Their opinion is different than yours. It’s not a matter of right or wrong.

    • Michael Shea

      “Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?'” (John 18:38)

  • abadilla

    Bob, I’m also a lay person too, and I often comment on the faith because I teach it at a Catholic High School. While I freely admit our bishops and the Pope are the leaders of the Church, whenever I echo church teaching, particularly basing myself on the catechism and on orthodox materials. I think I’m perfectly within my right to do so as a lay person. Have I missed something of Catholic teaching particularly written during the Second Vatican Council about the role of the laity in our church?

  • naturgesetz

    A further point, one made by someone commenting on the NCR’s website, is that they take the sensus fidelium to be the opinion among North American and European Catholics they associate with. Even if that is the majority opinion in those regions, it almost certainly is not in the rest of the Church. So the actual sensus fidelium, if there is one, is opposed to women’s ordination.

    • abadilla

      Thank you for coming back onboard. On the last days of the troll revolution here I would often read what you wrote and I found you to be very articulate and reasonable, to the point I could not understand how anyone could be dismissive of your arguments. Well, I’m glad to see you back in business at CV.

    • Msgr. Charles M. Mangan

      J.M.J. And along with that, Naturgesetz, if we consider the question of duration in addition to geography, there is no question that the sensus fidelium has been completely in harmony with the Magisterium–for two millennia.

  • Shawn

    Fantastic article! Thanks for writing a response to that editorial.

  • abadilla


    This, by far, is one of your best articles. I can remember a time when it would have been rejected by many vulgar voices and I’m glad we are back to civility.

    The consolation I have is that papers like the NCR will eventually die out because the people who run it are running out of ideas. New Catholics, especially new priests, understand well the teachings of the Church, even the unpopular ones, and those who insist on a female priesthood, eventually go over to Anglicanism, so much more receptive to the total rejection of Christian Tradition. Since many in this reading crowd, the folks who read the NCR, no longer believe or never believed the Church was founded by Christ, I don’t see what keeps them within the boundaries of Catholicism other than pure sentimentality. They’re not looking for truth, they’re looking to conform to the times and the Anglican church is perfect for them.

  • Andrew

    I saw that article yesterday, and then this happened to be my Catechism reading for today:

    God’s timing is just awesome.



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