Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Women's "Ordination" is a Christological error

I came across a fine book review in First Things by Monica Migliorino Miller, which you may read in its entirety by clicking here. She has made a very good point, namely that the error of women's "ordination" violates Christological dogma. I quote a few lines below:

"Christ is the Lord of history, he is the Lord of his Church. Behind the 'fundamental reasons' is a christological one, and while the Church’s documents insist on Christ’s freedom, it is the theologian’s task to explain why this is important...the theological reasons are absolutely necessary unless we are to accept that Christ’s will is arbitrary and shrouded in an unfathomable mystery that makes no sense to believers...The theology of an all-male priesthood has to do with the complementary/nuptial meaning of human sexuality and Christ’s masculine identity as bridegroom to the Church—a marital I/Thou relation that forms the very order of the covenant of salvation itself...there are trinitarian, christological, and metaphysical reasons for Christ’s incarnation as a male...The ban on women priests is not simply a matter of the Church remaining true to a fact—Christ only chose men—but a matter of the Church remaining faithful to the fundamental truth of the relation between the order of redemption and the order of creation—an order the Church has no power to undo."

All of these lines are excellent, because Christology is the issue in the Women's "Ordination" debate. And yet, these excellent points show why all of our arguments over the years have not so much as slowed the tide of apostasy in this matter. How can we talk about theology to people who answer with sociology, political theory and trendy psychology? We are up against a kind of blindness that carries culpability, indeed, a form of willful ignorance. Why do they fail to see the priesthood as a theological subject? Why do they think of it in strictly political terms? Such blindness is sinful because it involves volition, the will not to see.

In January I posted a blog article in response to a piece by Frederica Matthews-Green, because, with all due respect for her, I did not accept her idea that the significance of the priesthood can be reduced to what happens at the altar. It is the most important part, yes, but not the whole. In so doing, I wrote something very relevant to this whole subject, which can be found here.


Alice C. Linsley said...

I agree that the error of women's ordination reflects inadequate or erroneous Christology. For the strident women's rights activist, it reflects a defiance of orthodox Christology.

Anonymous said...

"How can we talk about theology to people who answer with sociology, political theory and trendy psychology?" It's as it always was: we talk on one plane, they on another, and ne'er the two shall meet. Those who tried meeting the sociological and psychological arguments tended to meet them with arguments that led to conclusions that women shouldn't be in the professions, or any responsible out-of-home occupation, at all, often based on psychological judgments such as 'women tend to be better at x than y, while men tend to be better at y than x', which was fine for the women (possibly the majority) who really were better at x. I never played with dolls.

In my middle age I now consider that girls of my generation were not taught to value motherhood highly enough, and that the present generation of undergraduates (which I sat among not all that long ago) is frighteningly dismissive, if not frightened, of what one might call traditional feminine work (although at the same time allowing their femininity to be sexualised and put on display by the fashion industry--my generation of undergrads wore jeans and loose t-shirts, but we still knew that we were girls), and that they feel resentful of the possibility of a baby delaying their progress to partnership in the firm by 5 or more years. I look at the present generation of family- and career-juggling professionals and those whom, like me, the whole family thing just passed by, and I think that those who chose full-time motherhood for even a few years have chosen the better part.

That said, however, the kinds of arguments that come out of, for example, the Diocese of Sydney, are founded on the plain words of Scripture, but in many case psychological and sociological in their content, and can tend to make women feel that they are simply inferior to men. I've heard that there are even people on the extreme evangelical fringe who do not believe that women should be teachers of any kind: Sunday School, Primary School, Secondary School, and let's not even think of professors. I don't understand this; I don't hold with this; I feel insulted by it.

It would appear that, in the eyes of the majority, the pro-WO lobby has won the argument by the time-honoured tactic of refusing to engage with our genuine argument, and by therefore forcing our people into a position of engaging with them in their arguments, a position from which we were always going to lose.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Sandra, as you may know I was a "priest" in ECUSA until I renounced Episcopal orders in March 2005. (I left parish ministry on the Sunday that Gene Robinson was consecrated.) I had numinous dreams over the years that nudged me to look at the reality of my being something that I was not. Those dreams are available to read online here:

(While there scroll up and read Ed Pacht's wonderful poem about the priesthood.)

Since 2004 I've been studying the institution of the priesthood from the earliest times up to the catholic priesthood of today. In every stage of development the preisthood is male because of what it involves: blood and bloodguilt. In no society with priests are women to be involved with blood sacrifice and ritual that address bloodguilt and the anxiety caused by the shedding of blood. This is work that pertains to males. It is not difficult to understand why this is so. What community wants those who are to bring forth and nurture their young ones to be engaged in blood shed and all the spiritual contamination that that involves? Women had their own monthly blood to deal with, not to mention the blood shed in the birthing process. They too were contaminated by blood. That's where the "churching" of women came into play.

When we consider primitive societies we note universally that hunting is a male task whereas agriculture is a female task. Both hunting and agriculture require physical strength, but the spiritual danger associated with bloodletting requires that hunting be undertaken by the physically stronger. Among every primitive society that has been studied anthropologists have noted the belief that here is power in the blood and this power is spiritual and potentially dangerous. This brings us to an important anthropological principle that states: “The older the trait, the wider the distribution.”

Since this anxiety about the shedding of blood is universal, we conclude that it is also very old. It is in fact primeval, and from the first day that man shed blood, the priesthood has existed to address this anxiety.

When archaic man took life in the hunt, the spiritual leader of the community offered prayers for the sacrifice of the animal. The ritual act of sacrifice and prayer is apparent from the beginning. The sacrifice gave the community life and the prayer protected it from bloodguilt. The prayers and the sacrifice of the hunt were performed according to sacred law. The priest then symbolizes prayer, sacrifice and law. That is true most fully in Christ, our Great High Priest. This anthropolically well documented reality surrounding blood among primitives societies stands behind the Church’s tradition of a male priesthood. This also stand behind the Council of Jerusalem's decision: "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meat from which the blood has not been drained and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things."

I pray that other women will set aside what is not natural for them so that they may enjoy the fruits of what God's Spirit intends for women.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Let us ponder the great mystery of Christ and the Church, and take note that St. Paul places it in a context that modern ears do not want to hear, namely that 5th chapter Of Ephesians. When speaking of the submission that a wife is to render to the husband, St. Paul instantly speaks of the matter as a reflection in Christian life of the great mystery of Christ and the Church. After pointing out that the man is head of the wife as Christ is head of the Church, these words follow: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it." Understanding the Christian priesthood requires that extra step of revelation, that the shedding of blood by our great High Priest was done by offering Himself and letting His own blood be shed. That His priesthood is carried on by men has a lot to do with the fact that a true priest carries the weight of the cross on his back in a very special way. It really is a very brutal life, receiving the kind of treatment we simply do not send women to receive.

That modern people have lost this picture of the Gospel, the love of the heavenly Groom for His bride, should not surprise us. Love stories, romantic stories, have ceased to be written in a society that knows only animal passion (compare a Chopin waltz, or even a love song that Frank Sinatra would have sung, to a Rap "song"). Anyway, I am straying from my usual scientific approach here.

Sandra McColl wrote:

That said, however, the kinds of arguments that come out of, for example, the Diocese of Sydney, are founded on the plain words of Scripture, but in many case psychological and sociological in their content, and can tend to make women feel that they are simply inferior to men.

So, too, the AMiA's study of women's "ordination." It was purely Protestant, based mostly on Wayne Grudam, and never got beyond the rudimental basics of "headship" into the real substantial meaning of that headship in terms of the theology of the priesthood. Such arguments as theirs and Sydney's are just not good enough.

poetreader said...

As a Protestant pastor I was consistent in declaring that women should not be ordained. However, I was never able to take that stand on the usual 'headship' arguments. It is very difficult indeed to present the ultimate headship of the male and the ultimate followership of the female on a totally consistent basis without running headlong into passages that declare equality. If woman is less than fully equal to man, much of what Scripture has to say, much, indeed, of what was liced out in Our Lord's life, becomes very difficult to swallow.

Even in Protestant circles, the only argument I could confidently make was a sacramental one -- that the minister, both in presiding at the Lord's table, and in living that out in the world, was a living symbol of Christ Himself, and, as such needed to be male as was Christ.

That, of course, was ultimately a traditional Catholic argument, the line of thinking that preserves the male priesthood, yet allows abbesses, female teachers, and even Doctors of the Church, to have enormous influence, and even authority.

The necessity of this line of thinking is part of what drew me back to the Tradition.


Fr. Robert Hart said...

The headship is not man as head of woman, but husband as head of wife (and family). This is why it represents the mystery of Christ and the Church.