Why Not Women's Ordination?

I found the article on women’s ordination very interesting — especially the many quotes from the writings of Sister Sara Butler (“Answering the why not of women’s ordination,” Sept. 5). My husband and I attended a conference at Franciscan University at Steubenville, Ohio, a few years ago where Sister Sara spoke on the subject, and I was able to retrieve my recording of her speech. 

She began her talk by stating that she started out pretty much in favor of woman’s ordination. Then her bishop asked her to put together a scholarly report on the subject to present to the Church of England who were debating this at the time. She told him that he knew how she felt, and he said she could add a footnote defending her position at the time if she chose to (which she did not at the end). 

What she discovered was that, even though he had female followers, Jesus deliberately selected 12 men to build his Church and that this has been considered “infallible” from the beginning. We can debate why Jesus made that choice, but we can’t alter the essentials of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. There have been efforts through the years to change this, but they have been declared heretical and outside the Church. 

What helped my own thinking on the subject was a question following the talk by a gentleman asking if perhaps Jesus was addressing the people of his time and had not considered what might be happening in the future. Sister Sara responded rather profoundly (in my opinion). She said that even though Jesus was truly human in every respect, we cannot ignore that he also had a divine nature which would presume all seeing, all knowing. 

Yes, of course, my thinking went! 

A quibble: I am curious why OSV accompanied the article with a rather large photograph of a homosexual woman pretending to be a priest of the Catholic Church, instead of a picture of Sister Sara Butler who has become a serious scholar on the subject?  

— LaVerne Sober, Greensburg, Pa.

Open issue? 

We do not know for sure if there were no women who were considered apostles. The interpretation of Church leaders’ proclamations on this subject fit their beliefs and desires for an all male priesthood in spite of proclaiming that men and women are equal in the sight of God. 

Also, I am fully aware that infallibility applies when the pope speaks ex cathedra in matters of faith and morals. Female priesthood is not related to morals. And I do not believe it is strictly a matter of faith — that is, if you don’t believe it, you will not be saved. So, I believe the issue here remains very much open. 

— Ronald Helie, via e-mail 

Editor’s note: Your first point would require the first several generations of Christians to be deceitful and misogynist. Are you sure you want to say that? 

Your second point confuses papal infallibility and “ordinary and universal magisterium” defined by the Second Vatican Council. (See Lumen Gentium, No. 25). 

Marital purpose 

In our study of the theology of the body (In Focus, Aug. 29), there is need to consider the nuptial meaning of the body in terms of Humanae Vitae — that is, the marital act has two “inseparably connected” meanings: “procreative and unitive.” (No. 12). 

The New Catholic Encyclopedia states that Pope Paul VI “does not assign an order of priority between them (the two meanings).” However, he tells us this regulation of birth “demands true values of life and of the family”; and “far from harming conjugal love, rather confers on it a higher human value” ( HV , No. 21). 

Pope John Paul II, in his theology of the body, refers to the nuptial meaning of the body within this twofold transmission of life, human life and spiritual life, telling us “the two become one flesh” in “not only the ‘body,’ but also the ‘incarnate’ communion of persons.” 

— Ruth Kavanaugh, Kalamazoo, Mich. 

Newman Timeline 

Re “John Henry Newman: A Timeline” (Aug 8):  

A serious omission, especially for our day, of the Newman timeline is 1833: Published “The Arians of the Fourth Century.” 

This neglected work has long been underrated. Its tremendous value in the 21st century, I submit, includes the following: 

An elaboration on the Arian heresy to influence Jehovah Witnesses to come to Christ and testify on EWTN’s “The Journey Home.”

To uplift Constantine as a role model for today, who, in Newman’s words, “found his empire distracted with civil and religious dissensions, which tended to the dissolution of society.” 

To demonstrate Newman’s Augustinian consciousness confronting multiple heresies and the reconciliation of bishops to the Church. 

And, last but not least, the thought processes leading him to the Catholic Church, a tremendous aid in assisting Anglicans in their transition today. 

To study John Henry Newman’s book on “Arianism in its relations to the principal errors of its time,” is to understand better the principal errors of our own.

 — Stephen Volk, via e-mail