Wednesday, December 06, 2006

An Anatomy of Error III

In the March 2003 issue, New Directions continued the series that I have been recommending, and to which I have provided the first two links. Again, I offer an excerpt:

It is a commonplace of the debate about women’s ordination that Evangelical and Catholic opponents are coming from different corners. The Catholics, it is said, major on the priest as icon of Christ; the Evangelicals on the Pauline doctrine of Headship. This distinction – the darling of those Liberals whose aspiration is to divide and rule – is expressed in the wording of the two Schedules to the 1993 Measure.

But is it the case that the Catholics and Evangelicals are using different, perhaps incompatible, arguments? It has never seemed so to us. Evangelicals, of course, have often majored on issues of authority in the Church: what they delight to call ‘leadership’. Catholics have been wary of such language as dangerously unscriptural – and any Cruden, they tell you, will establish that! So what is the argument from ‘headship’; and what is the primary meaning of kephale in the relevant texts?

Again, here is the link to the whole article.


Ken said...

I was under the impression many Evangelicals caved in on WO.

Anonymous said...

The Diocese of Sydney has remained steadfast in opposition to O of W. Actually, I think the article a bit theoretical and neat. Presiding at the eucharist isn't what Sydney apologists seem to consider all that important when going on about headship. I remember years ago one of their synodsmen being quoted as arguing that men were simply more reliable than women. (Hey, who had to fight whom off in order to uphold the teachings of the Church on what belonged only inside marriage?) The fact is, the evangelicals don't regard Holy Order as a sacrament--they very strictly believe there are only two of such--and have produced an environment in which some women have been made to feel inferior, and not necessarily without good reason.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Ken, I didn't really express myself very well. To answer your statement, most evangelicals are, as I see it, pretty indifferent to O of W. There is often a perception that being a priest is just being a better sort of Sunday School teacher, and if women can do the latter, why not the former? And then many 'low Church' Anglicans are pretty liberal.
Sydney is in a different category. It's so 'low Church' that it's barely 'Church' at all. I actually have real validity qualms about its orders because of a fear that its bishops really don't have the intention of passing on anything recognisable as orders within the Apostolic Succession. In an interview on television (not, I admit, the greatest source of truth), the Archbishop characterised his job as one of preaching the Word. Sacraments (all 2 of them) just don't come into it. Note that the current Archbishop and his brother the Dean were heavily influenced by Billy Graham. The Holy Table in the Cathedral has wheels on it so it can be put out of the way when they are not having The Lord's Supper. That, I admit, is a recent development. But I was catechised in a Sydney outpost and the book I used for confirmation classes was all about why we're not RC, why Rome is wrong, and basically pushed an interpretation of the Articles at completely the the opposite end of the spectrum from Tract 90.
All of which (sorry folks) is to lead to my conclusion that the Sydney view of 'headship' is didactic and administrative, and any fond attempts to theorise it into something compatible with concern for the integrity of the representation of Christ at the eucharistic table, or of the preservation of a valid Apostolic succession, won't get far.
I'd like to know Fr Kirby's thoughts. He's possibly more in the know than I and, as a mere woman, I humbly seek his correction.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Sydney rejects WO, but favors an equally dangerous heresy called Lay Administration. It won't catch on, because the women who believe that they have acheived the "power" of the priesthood (how foolish) are not going to be equalled by just any laity.

As for the kind of arguments they are left with for for rejecting WO, they are just plain idiotic. The answer to the reliability argument is easy enough to refute by the example of any reliable woman. The Catholic argument, however, is one of substance.

poetreader said...

Here we have an instance of the ultimate insufficiency of sola scriptura. It is possible to build a seemingly consistent case for either position by ostensibly good hermeneutical methods. WO can quite sensibly (and, sorry, Father H) not idiotically argued on the basis of headship. I've made such arguments myself. However, one can just as convincingly argue the contrary on the indubitable principle in the NT that women are simply not inferior to men. In my Evangelical years, I was never successful in defeating the arguments. Very simply, they work.

Sola Scriptura leads to an impass. Either one cannot ordain women, or allow them any other sort of authority over men (the headship principle), or one must ordain them (the equality principle). If either view is accepted, the other must be seen as sin. Efforts to introduce extra-biblical evidence of either inferiority or equality are irrelevant to sola scriptura exegesis, besides the fact that such concepts are ultimately unprovable anyway.

The question resolves only in the context of Tradition. It is the iconic nature of the priest as 'alter christus' that brings about resolution. The sacramental working of the Christ through men (who represent His divinity effective through their humanity, as an icon of His humanity, which was and is male) is an incarnate representation of the whole sacramental principle. This leaves the equality principle untouched and allows for the enormous authority over men exercized by such as Hilda of Whitby, Bridget of Sweden, Teresa of Avila, and countless others.


Fr. Robert Hart said...

To interpret scripture outside of the Catholic Tradition is to invite complete chaos, since the subjective opinion of every reader becomes "Biblical truth." However, read correctly, both the iconic and headship arguments present the correct understanding of scripture, and neither of them are touched by the irrelevant and modern concept of equality.

Equality is a false concept, except for the idea of legal standing (as used in the Declaration of Independence). Men and women are not equal, since to be equal means that they would all be the same. Equal worth, yes. Equal value as persons, yes. Equal as in two things equal to the same thing are equal to each other, no. Some women are smarter than some men, and some men are smarter than some women, and so on. However, no woman can be a father, and no man can be a mother, as both are superior to each other in their respective qualifications, designed by the Creator. The egalitarian is every bit as prejudiced as the misogynist.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

By the way, when I used the word "idiotic" I was not thinking of the Biblical argument for headship, but of the attempt to isolate that argument from the Tradition of the Church, especially by people who do not value the priesthood at all. The argument about reliability was what I really saw as scraping the bottom of the intellectual barrel, that is, as idiotic.

poetreader said...

Exactly. Men and women are not identical. There certainly are differences that need to be recognized. There is nothing more obvious.

Equality, however, does refer to value, and Scripture is very clear that God ascribes equal value to men and women, to all humans, regardless of gifts or whatever. Equality implies equal 'right' to whatever function one's gifts will support. If women were able to be ordained, it would then be obligatory to do so, but they aren't, as has been the universal view of the Catholic Church - and if they aren't able, it is foolish and malicious to put them to doing an impossible task. That constitutes difference, but not inequality, a difference of definition obvious to Jefferson & company , though largely forgotten in this semi-literate and non-logical society.

and OK, Father. If you meant the weird ancillary arguments like 'reliability'. They are entirely the invention of people who want to make the Scriptures say what they'd like them to say. Therefore 'foolish', as in 'The fool hath said in his heart ..."


Fr. Robert Hart said...
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Fr. Robert Hart said...

The problem with the word "equality" in current usage is that our non-philosophical society uses it with mathematical precision, reducing it to sameness. Oh, they think they mean equal worth (which concept would be true). But, they are so confused that they really do reduce "equal" to its usage in mathamatics, making men and women completely interchangable. They want to put women in combat, on the Fire Department (even though they simply cannot lift the ladders in time to save lives), and into the priesthood. They want to make men into wives, women into husbands, and bless same sex unions as marriages.

So we need to be clear that we believe in equal human worth, but not this new confused notion of "equality." It is not how Jefferson used the word "equal," but rather how an arithmatic teacher uses it.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...


Sorry I did not see these comments and reply earlier. Your summary of the Sydney Anglicans' position probably fairly describes most or many of them. However, one of the regional/coadjutor bishops (Paul Barnett I think -- one of the most theologically impressive) has changed his mind on lay administration and is now against it. The argument he gave was, roughly, that the authority/headship of the clergy gave their preaching a different character than lay preaching, therefore it was not automatically the case that allowing lay preaching but disallowing lay presidency at the Eucharist was inconsistent. Thus he implicitly saw Eucharistic Presidency as proper to "headship" in the congregation.

As for Apostolic Succession and Intention, the mere fact that a bishop does not believe in, for example, the normal Catholic doctrines of Tactile Succession from the Apostles and the imprinting of a certain indelible character ex opere operato at ordination is not sufficient to void intention at his ordinations. All that is required is that he "outwardly" intend by his actions and words in conformity with an appropriate rite to "do what the Church does" and always has done in ordaining priests etc. There may, however, be other reasons to doubt the validity of Orders in that Diocese.

Finally, I am a little confused by the clause "as a mere woman, I humbly seek his correction". I'm hoping it was just light-hearted banter and not pointed sarcasm! :-)

Anonymous said...

It was light-hearted banter, I assure you. My tongue finds its way into my cheek all too readily, I'm afraid.

I think my concern about intention is that they seem at times so Low Church they are Sub-Church, so I have trouble with 'what the Church does' because I'm not sure I know what they believe about 'what the Church is'.