Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What I Never Learned, Part VII: Authority

Years ago, I sent out some "catechesis emails" to interested friends and family. They, like me, never really learned much in Catholic religious education and CCD classes (I was catechized in the 1970s and '80s). What I wrote was pretty basic stuff, and I thought some of the Bubble readers might like the overview. 


Part IV: Why it had to be Jesus, and Why He Had to Die
Part V: Jesus as the "Lamb of God"
Part VI: Jesus, the Mass, and the Eucharist




It all comes down to the "A" word: Authority.

Many years ago, my friend Kim and I were on the phone one evening, having a friendly debate about the Pope. She, a Protestant, asked me a sincere question about something that made no sense to her: “America was built on the idea of freedom and independence, and the right of a person to think for himself. So, how, as an American, can you submit yourself to the authority of the Pope? How can you give up your own will in obedience to a mere man?”

Coming from an American Protestant perspective, she was understandably perplexed. And frankly, many American Catholics have acquired the same sentiments, rejecting the idea that they owe filial obedience to the Pope ("Papa") when he speaks as the head of the universal Church. He is, in the minds of many American Catholics, just one more opinion among many. Perhaps he deserves greater respect than others, they might say, but to submit in pure and humble obedience to his teachings? Um, no thanks.

However, let’s look at what God thinks of authority and our obligation to submit to it.

From the very beginning (remember the Garden and the Fall?), man’s big problem has been the refusal to submit to legitimate authority. Pride is the culprit, of course, as pride makes us believe that we are somehow above authority, and that we are able to declare what is good and evil for ourselves, which is exactly what Adam and Eve attempted to do. Humans are always forgetting their place in the hierarchy of created order (yes, God is the author of hierarchy!), and that is what gets us in trouble.

Let’s look at a specific incident in the Bible which really illustrates the point well. If you read Numbers chapter 16 (Numbers is one of the Old Testament books), you will read the story of Korah’s rebellion. Korah was a man who had that streak of stubborn independence that we tend to admire here in America and which is good in proper context; however, that rebel attitude doesn’t always fly with God Almighty. Korah and his supporters decided that they did not like being under Moses’ authority and were upset with his leadership. They confronted Moses and said, “Enough of you! The whole community is holy! Why should you set yourself over the Lord’s people?” (Today we might say it more like this: “We are all equal, and you are no better than us. You can't tell me what to do!”)

In reply, Moses warned Korah and his supporters that if they were conspiring against Moses, then they were really conspiring against God Himself. After all -- and this is key -- it was God who gave Moses authority over His people.

Sooooooooo, to make a long story short (although it’s really not that long of a story, and I highly recommend you go to Numbers 16 and read the entire account), some pretty dramatic things transpired, and God made quite clear whose side He was on by making the earth open up and swallow Korah and his followers whole. Yep, the earth swallowed them up with all their possessions and closed over them and they were never to be seen again. Let's just say that God is not a big fan of open rebellion against those He sets in authority.

God's delegation of that kind of authority is not unique to Moses. In fact, there is never a time when God does not delegate authority from the top down. We see that in every covenant He makes with mankind over the course of history, the Lord always works through mortal, sinful men, setting those men apart and giving them the power and jurisdiction to govern the people in God's name.

Consider these powerful words of our Lord Jesus (speaking of the sinful, hypocritical religious leaders of His day): 

“The scribes and the Pharisees have succeeded Moses as teachers; therefore, do everything and observe everything they tell you. But do not follow their example.”  -- Matt. 23:2-3

Think about that for a minute! Jesus Christ (i.e., the Lord God, the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity) is saying that even if God's appointed teachers are great sinners, we still must submit to their legitimate authority. We must not follow the example of their sin, but we must obey their teachings because their authority to teach comes from God. Therefore, when we obey them, it is really God Whom we obey.

The moral of today’s catechesis is: Don’t be a Korah! Prideful disobedience, rebellion, and a refusal to submit to legitimate authority are not attributes of a faithful child of God. Obedience and humility are, as every saint's life can attest.

Oh, and by the way, my friend Kim became a devout Catholic within a year of our "authority" discussion. She went on to teach the Catholic faith formally for six years after that, at the parish level and beyond. She was able to remain a great American patriot as well. :)

Next time, we will talk more specifically about the establishment and the authority of the Church. Finally understanding what the Church is really blew me away and kept me Catholic when I was ready to bolt.

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PS: If you still balk at rules, check out this past post:






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105 comments:

  1. Great post, Leila! Thank God your friend was able to remain patriotic after she converted! Catholics in this country may not be described as patriotic for much longer if we hold to our values as our "rights" and freedoms change.

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  2. The 70's and 80's are still doing a number on my home parish :( The youth aren't meeting Jesus, nor are they understanding anything about the church other than it's really old and absolute. I say this as a 23 year-old, commenting on the JH and HS programs.

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  3. So...did you know what today's gospel reading was before you wrote this/scheduled to write this today?
    Either way - I read this right before going to mass and I couldn't have asked for a better focuser (and as usual, education!). Thanks so much :) - God is truly using you in awesome, awesome ways!

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  4. Manda, sadly you might be right on that! Sigh…

    R.E.O. Johnson, that is very, very sad to hear. Is your bishop fairly weak or liberal? I get very frustrated at how bad some programs still are out there. Hey, lead some of those youth to this blog if you can. ;)

    Rebecca, I didn't know and now I am going to go read the gospel for today!! Thank you!

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  5. Rebecca!!!! Oh my gosh!!! I am stunned, ha ha! That is too providential! Thank you, God, for that sweet "coincidence". That truly made my day.

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  6. OK...I sorta get this, and although I do regard the Korah story along the likes of Jonah and Noah (not historical, but used to illustrate a point), it strikes me that Jesus himself was, if nothing else, a radical. He rose up against the authority of the Jewish authority of his day. So how am I to interpret that?

    Also, it strikes me that any organization that quells rebellion and independence does this partly to retain authority, even for nefarious reasons. So discerning when it is right to buck authority and when it is not is not so easy. Many people look at the Catholic Church's discipline of celibacy for clergy as a problem, and they rebel against it...just one example of people using their reason and hearts to rebel a church teaching.

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  7. Mary, good questions.

    First, Jesus was a faithful Jew, not a rebel. He came to fulfill the law, not abolish it. He also was God Himself, so He was the highest authority. We submit to Him and Whomever He delegates in His place.

    As for rebelling as a Christian: The only thing the saints rebelled against was sin. That was the only thing. If a superior (even a stupid, unjust one) told a saint to do something (that was not sin), the saint would do it. It was not obedience for the sake of the superior, it was obedience to God. There have been Marian apparitions where those who saw her were told by Mary to obey the bishop before they even obeyed what she was telling them (even if the bishop was a fool), because obeying the Bishop is showing obedience to God.

    St. Ignatius of Antioch, writing to the Church in Smyrna about A.D. 107 exhorts them: 'Follow your bishop, every one of you, as obediently as Jesus Christ followed the Father' (Smyrneans, no. 8).

    As for priestly celibacy: It's a discipline, not a doctrine, so one may certainly hold a contrary opinion, and we do have married priests. However, it is binding on the priests who choose to enter the priesthood (no one if forcing them). If they break their vows, woe to them. They took a vow of obedience, and that should mean something.

    But just to clarify, Mary, who is "rebelling" against priestly celibacy (as opposed to offering an opinion and yet still submitting to the Church)? And is that the only Christian teaching they rebel against?

    Also, do you think the Church continues to teach the same moral and doctrinal teachings throughout 20 centuries for "nefarious reasons"?

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  8. PS: Moses was real and Korah was real. Why do you think it is a fake story?

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  9. One more thought, to emphasis that Jesus was not a rebel at all. He was, as the Bible relates, humble and obedient. "…He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. That is how obedient we are called to be as Christians: Obedient to the point of accepting death, rather than be disobedient. It's radical, but it's not rebellious. Clearly, obedience is of fundamental importance to God, and we are called to radical obedience.

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    1. I forgot to close the quote. It should read:

      "…He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

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  10. Mary, you said:

    So discerning when it is right to buck authority and when it is not is not so easy.

    It's never right to buck the authority of God or those He has appointed. Now, of course we are to submit to legitimate authority. Once an authority has been determined to be legitimate, we submit and we do not "buck".

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  11. If, as a faithful Catholic, one knows, accepts, and submits to the authority of the Lord and, thereby, to His Bride the Church and all Her teachings, it is quite easy to discern "when it is right to buck authority": if man's law is unjust as compared to Divine Law, then that law must not be followed. Now, the ability to discern when it is right to buck authority and actually having the courage to do so are two very different things. I pray that when the day comes that I have to choose between violating my conscience or remaining true to my faith, I can muster the courage to do what God requires of me.

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  12. I will answer your questions...but one thing I want to say is "how do you know"? Many, many children and adults were instructed in this type of obedience to their priest and bishops and this helped the sexual abuse scandal simmer out of control for years. Adults trusted the authority of their clergy. This lead to too much trust. Is that not apparent?

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  13. Mary, Leila already answered your question.

    As for rebelling as a Christian: The only thing the saints rebelled against was sin. That was the only thing. If a superior (even a stupid, unjust one) told a saint to do something (that was not sin), the saint would do it. It was not obedience for the sake of the superior, it was obedience to God.

    If a bishop commands you cover up child abuse - a SIN! - you should not, of course, be obedient to that command.

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  14. Mary, you asked, "How do you know?" But I don't understand the question. How do I know what?

    Let's talk about adults. You are an adult. How much obedience does God require of you, as an adult? We are talking about obedience to Church teaching and the moral law, to be very clear. (Sexual sin is not Church teaching, it is the opposite of Church teaching. It is sin. The Church says we are not ever permitted to sin.)

    So my question is how much obedience does God require of you, or any of us?

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  15. Great post. One of the reasons I became Catholic is because I WANTED to submit to something bigger. I needed that authority, the centuries of experts, the traditions... everything.

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  16. For me, I like having a "Moses" (i.e. the Pope) to follow and learn from. Having this "father figure" on earth is greatly comforting to me!

    DD

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  17. OK. Re: Noah, Jonah and Korah, they might be historical figures, but I do not believe the world was covered in water and he made an ark to house the animals two by two. Nor do I believe the earth opened up and swallowed them whole, although this is more believable. Same with the giant fish. I think these stories are meant to illustrate a point, not to be taken as fact.

    In terms of Jesus' radicalism. I have a very different view of his teachings than you portray. He absolutely upturns the traditional Jewish teachings about women. Read again his interaction with the Samaritan woman. She herself is utterly shocked that he would deign to speak with her. From the Torah “If any man teaches his daughter Torah it is as though he taught her lechery”...women were unclean temptresses. Jesus treated them as worthy of hearing his word, even worthy of declaring his resurrection. This is utterly radical. http://www.directionjournal.org/article/?680.

    Also read, When Jesus Came to Harvard by H. Cox to get more of a sense of Jesus' radical message.

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  18. Leila said, " 'Also, do you think the Church continues to teach the same moral and doctrinal teachings throughout 20 centuries for "nefarious reasons'?"

    As far as I can understand, the teaching limiting women from leadership roles in the Church is somewhat "nefarious". Do I think women and men are the same? No. But, I do think some women are amazing leaders, preachers etc. Just as some men make excellent preschool teachers and nurses. Not most, but some.

    I just cannot see it any other way.

    In regards to St. Ignatius, when he says, "'Follow your bishop, every one of you, as obediently as Jesus Christ followed the Father' " This is crazy. Bishops are human and they sin. Some of them have embezzled, some have, like Bishop Robert W. Finn, apparently covered up misdeeds by their priests, or how about when even JPII blindly promoted Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado?

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  19. But Mary, St. Ignatius is not saying anything different about obedience than Jesus was in the quote I gave. What do you make of Jesus' words? Let's focus on Jesus, since you discount the Church as a teacher of truth, but you do consider yourself a Christian. How do you account for Jesus' words? And how do you account for the story of Korah? What was Korah's sin?

    Also, you say that Jesus was a radical for women's rights. How do you account for the fact that he appointed Twelve males as his Apostles, and did not include any women in the Twelve? Was he a sexist? Or was he a coward (even as he was a radical)? Or was there something else?

    Thanks!

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  20. PS: Of course women make great teachers and leaders. Was just reading about St. Catherine of Siena, who was a papal advisor and quite a woman (like all the female saints). And the Church teaches that a woman, Mother Mary, was the most perfect creature ever created, even surpassing the angels (who rank higher than man in the created order). So, the male-only priesthood certainly is not something nefarious against women. I am a huge champion of the male-only priesthood (which will never change), and I consider myself a strong woman, and even, dare I say, a teacher of the Faith. :)

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  21. Mary, just a general question: What if, on an issue, you "cannot see it any other way", and yet God does see it another way? Would you submit in obedience?

    (What is the virtue of obedience if it means just doing what you want to do already, and believing what you want to believe already?)

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  22. You say that we should not follow the Church leaders when they sin. But, sometimes they lead people into sin in ways that are not apparent to adults and children.

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  23. But, sometimes they lead people into sin in ways that are not apparent to adults and children.

    And they will be culpable for that. They should be very afraid of God's judgement on that, as there are many warnings from Jesus about leading people astray, especially young people.

    Would you say we should do away with parents since so many lead their children to sin? Why or why not?

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  24. Mary, do you agree with either of these statements?

    1. Your children owe you no obedience unless what you tell them to do is something they wanted to do anyway.

    2. Your children owe you no obedience because other parents have led their children into sin or harm.

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  25. I just would like to add that both Bl. John Paul II and Benedict XVI have stated that sexism is a sin. So for Christ to be "disobedient" to sexist laws, such as not teaching women, is consistent with the concept that sinful laws have no authority.

    And REO- can you do anything to change the youth ministry in your church? Ours here in NJ is beautiful- faithful and vibrant. I just had a kid ask about our Saturday event "is there going to be Adoration" with such enthusiasm and hope... YOU may be the one who can make the change! We need great young adults to share their love for Christ and energy with our youth!

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  26. Re; the statements,
    1. No
    2. No, but if I was to do something like decided to only send my boys (i have no girls actually, but pretend I do) to school and keep my girls home, or only send my boys to college and keep my girls home) I would hope they would rebel.

    This is the problem with obedience...it is absolutely necessary up to a point, and then it is harmful.

    BTW I actually do not "want" to get out of bed and drag my family to Church every Sunday morning. Sometimes I do, but often I would rather sleep in. I do it because I understand the greater point, how you have to work to become part of a community and part of that is showing up. How you (i) need to hear the word every week, and pray with others.

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  27. Mary, but if you knew that God taught that only men could be priests, or that contracepted sex was immoral, would you obey? That's the real question.

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  28. This is the problem with obedience...it is absolutely necessary up to a point, and then it is harmful.

    Who decides what is necessary and what is harmful?

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  29. And just to be annoying (because you know I think you should get your butt back to the Church and the Eucharist :) :) ), why do you "need to hear the word every week, and pray with others" when you could read the Word with your kids at home, pray to God alone or with your kids, and then get to church every month or so? Also, without an authority over you, how do you know what the Word even means? After all, you go to a Church (Lutheran- ELCA) which interprets the Word to mean that abortion is okay with God in many circumstances.

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  30. Also, if you could address the stuff at 7:29am. No hurry, whenever you have time.

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  31. Why did Jesus not have any female apostles? This is an interesting point, but my first answer would be to understand the world in which he was teaching. In this world women were like slaves. They were not allowed to run around without a related male consort, and they were certainly not allowed to teach. His interaction with Mary Magdalene is very interesting, and somehow she was allowed some freedom to consort with him. I think Jesus had little opportunity to teach and consort with women enough to create them into disciples. Perhaps he knew it would be futile to ask a woman to travel and teach his word.

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  32. Mary,

    I think your last statement there is very important. I felt the same way before I fully accepted the truth of the Church and submitted myself to greater obedience. I went to Church because I thought it was important for my family, I often didn't want to go and made up many excuses to skip it. Then I read "Rediscover Catholicism", started watching and listening to Fr. Barron (wordonfire.org), and finally went to confession after an untold number of years. My eyes were opened...actual Resurrection, the Real Presence, magisterial authority...it's all bound together, take a single aspect of the Church out and it ceases to be reasonable and logical. Now I long for Mass on Sunday, I long for the Eucharist. I would go everyday if I could work out my schedule (I just need to work harder at it). Yes the kids are at times unruly in the pews, yes other people (and their kids) are often annoying, yes it breaks my heart to watch other people appear to take the Eucharist as nothing special (I'm trying hard to stop speculating and worrying about this and not judge others' hearts at that moment). But, the point is, if one knows and accepts that Christ is present in the Church, waiting to feed us with his Body and Blood, how could one not be excited about that?

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    1. Sorry, I was referring to your statement: BTW I actually do not "want" to get out of bed and drag my family to Church every Sunday morning. Sometimes I do, but often I would rather sleep in."

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  33. I think Jesus had little opportunity to teach and consort with women enough to create them into disciples.

    But Mary, Jesus was God.

    Perhaps he knew it would be futile to ask a woman to travel and teach his word.

    But Jesus was a radical and a rebel! What you are saying makes no sense. You can't have it both ways.

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  34. But, Mary, earlier you said that "Jesus himself was, if nothing else, a radical. He rose up against the authority of the Jewish authority of his day."

    If He was such a radical, as you suggest, why would he bow to the social pressures against teaching women? I find it hard to believe that the Son of God would not be able to find opportunities "to teach and consort with women enough to create them into disciples" were that part of His divine plan.

    One can only go so far with that line of logic before we begin to deny Jesus' divinity.

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  35. Jesus was willing to be tortured and die for his Truth. Why do you think he would be afraid to put forth women apostles if he was willing to be tortured and die? What would the cost to him be for women apostles? Something greater than torture and death? Of course not.

    You see, what you are positing makes no sense at all.

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  36. The One who cured lepers, gave sight to the blind, walked on water, multiplied the loaves, raised the dead, gave himself over willingly for an unspeakable death, then raised himself from the dead… couldn't find time to talk with women or teach them to be leaders and thought it was futile to try?

    I am sorry but I am sensing a huge, huge disconnect here.

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  37. couldn't find time to talk with women or teach them to be leaders

    The woman at the well in John 4 would disagree here, as would Mary and Martha. He taught them what they needed to know as pertains to their own examination of heart.

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  38. Mary,

    What do you make of the scriptures that describe and teach of the love of God the Father?

    Do you believe them? If you believe that God is love (1 John 4:8) and you understand that in love there would never be any harm, then how do you reconcile your statement here, "This is the problem with obedience...it is absolutely necessary up to a point, and then it is harmful."

    Obeying God is never harmful to the human soul. It may seem frightening to our limited sensibilities to obey Him, and it many be daunting, but it's never going to harm us to follow our loving God in his new covenant.

    It's impossible by virtue of his very essence. Nothing He requires of us would (nor could) come from a place of ill-will.

    It's theologically impossible.

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  39. Mary said: I think Jesus had little opportunity to teach and consort with women enough to create them into disciples. Perhaps he knew it would be futile to ask a woman to travel and teach his word.

    Really, does Jesus, who is most intimate and compassionate about each human soul, just "ppfft, why bother?" women and move on? Does He see anything as "futile"?

    On the contrary, He condescended Himself for the very fact that we are futile.

    Everyone that came into contact with Him was always asked to do something, usually that request was to trust in Him and to spread the good news.

    At other times he asked witnesses to keep quiet because His hour had not yet come. But on the whole, He was (and is) always about bringing the gift of faith to whomever He encountered.

    But to say that Jesus just poo-poos any human, esp women, is not an accurate description at all. And it doesn't indicate any reason why he chose men to carry on the apostleship of the Church.

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  40. Great post today! I like how you take on the America motto of do whatever the heck you want to do. I am a patriot and I love this country, but my first love and obedience is to Jesus Christ and His Church. Yes, Jesus Christ established the Catholic Church. Just look at Matthew 16, 28, and John 20-21 and you will see how Our Lord gives his authority to Peter and Apostles. And if you need help understanding it, feel free to write me.

    In regards to having an authority interpret the Scriptures for you, just read Acts of the Apostles 8:26-40. Philip asks the Ethiopian Eunuch if he understood what he was reading (Isaiah 53). The eunuch replies by saying, "How can I, unless some one guides me?" The eunuch is a "pro-catholic" here for he seeks help to understand the Scriptures.

    In regards to Catholicism in general, I would recommend the book - The Spirit of Catholicism by Karl Adam. I reviewed this text on my blog and my first post has the same title. It's a great read!

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  41. Hello all. Thanks for your remarks. Much to say.
    Nubby, I think you misunderstand me. I guess the word "futile" was a poor choice.

    It is really important to understand the correct cultural picture of what life was like in first century Palestine. It was essentially like Afghanistan is today under Taliban influence. Women were property. They were not educated, they were not allowed in public without a male relative. They could not own property, vote or teach. They were considered dirty and impure when they were menstruating. Go read the stories of Jesus speaking to the woman at the well and with Martha again. Especially with the woman at the well. She is utterly shocked he is speaking to her.

    For him to have access to women enough to form them into diciples would be nearly impossible. They were at home, tending to children. Magdalene is an anomaly, and from my limited knowledge of non-canonical texts, it seems quite obvious that she might have been on par with the disciples. Also, she is one of the first to see the risen Christ. Paul uses his "seeing" the risen Christ as evidence that he is indeed and apostle.

    I will have to learn more about how the Cannon was decided, but it leaves enough doubt in my mind. Also, the qualities a woman would need to lead a Church seem similar to those a woman would need to lead a nation. Angela Merkel is doing a pretty impressive job. I couldn't do it, but nor could I dance the Nutcracker! Some women are natural leaders.

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  42. Nubby said, "Obeying God is never harmful to the human soul." I agree, but the disconnect is when those who claim to speak for God ask you to do something or believe something that was never God's intention. You believe the teachings of the Magisterium to be infallible. I have serious doubts about this.

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  43. I also view the issue of women priests like the issue of slavery in the Bible. Clearly slavery was an unquestioned institution in the first century. The Bible describes it many times and never condemns it. Rather slaves are exhorted to obey their masters, but masters are asked to be just. Over the years the Magisterium has decided slavery is evil and against the teachings of Jesus, although he is never reported to have said this explicitly. I imagine that they look to quotes such as the following from Galatians when deterimining this:

    Galatians 3:28

    There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

    But, as you see, in this same line, there is neither male nor female. Obviously he does not mean this literally, he means that, as far a God is considered, they are both as important and loved. It is a close move to then consider them both able to teach and lead humans to Christ.

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  44. Women have, currently and throughout history, played a critical role in teaching and leading people to Christ. How many people do you think have found Jesus Christ through the teachings and examples of Mother Theresa, St. Bernadette Soubirous, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Katharine Drexel, Mother Angelica, The Blessed Virgin, and the countless other women of the Church (saints, religious, lay persons)?

    I like this excerpt from Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought: "…the maleness of Jesus’ sacred humanity is inseparable from the entire mystery of his incarnation, and Jesus is the icon of the priesthood and the individual priest, the sexuality of the priest is likewise indissolubly linked to the mystery of the priesthood, for in fact the priest acts in the name and person of the God-Man in such a way so as to represent him as the Bridegroom espoused to his Bride, the Church.”(http://www.hprweb.com/2012/02/women-and-the-priesthood/)

    Mary, your comparison of women priests to slavery is, in my opinion, a nonstarter. This is not about 'keeping women down', this is about Jesus Christ and the priesthood's (imperfect) emulation of Him and His priestly mission. How are we to celebrate His creation of male and female and yet deny His masculinity? Should we also deny the importance of Mary's femininity in her role as the Mother of God and the Ark of the New Covenant? How much sense would that make?

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  45. Leila,

    What exactly is the Church teaching as to WHY women can't be priests? I went to a Catholic all girls high school that was taught by Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Every Friday one particular Sister took some time out of her class to allow us to ask her anything we wanted to about the Catholic faith. It was awesome! We got honest answers with no judgement as to why we may have asked them. However, the one question we didn't get a satisfying answer to is why women can not be priests in the Catholic faith. Here we were in an all girls school where women were being "empowered" to stand up for themselves and take initiative - we were told we could be anything - doctors, lawyers, even President of the United States. I can't remember exactly the answer Sr. Virginia gave us about this, but I do remember that it was the only time we couldn't quite grasp the reasoning. If you get a chance to explain the Church teaching on this, I'd appreciate it!

    -Caitlin

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  46. Mary, a few questions:

    1) Jesus' mother was with him for his whole life. Why did he not appoint her as an Apostle? She was holier than all the Apostles, and much closer to him than they.

    2) Do you believe Jesus is God? Meaning, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Creator of heaven and earth (and all humans)?

    3) If priests stand in persona Christi ("in the person of Christ"), and represent the Bridegroom (Christ), then how would it work, in Christology and theology, to have a woman as the Bridegroom? You get some really messed up theology that way (check out the Episcopalian church…yikes).

    4) Do you think it was sexist for God to create humanity so that only women could be mothers? In other words, is He oppressing men because they were not made to conceive and bear life in their wombs?

    Thanks!

    PS: You never answered my question from way back: You said that teaching something unbroken and unchanged, for 20 centuries, is not sufficient to know whether or not something is authentic Christian teaching. You said it was helpful, but not sufficient. What would be sufficient? How can we know what is authentic Christian teaching?

    Keep in mind that the male only priesthood goes back millennia further than Christianity; the Jews had the male only priesthood since the beginning. There have never been "priestesses" in Judaism or Christianity for about 5,000 years. Why did Western liberals suddenly get it right about, oh, five minutes ago, but the Church has been wrong all along? Did the Christian Church never know what God really thought all this time, or did God suddenly change His mind in the past five minutes?

    You don't have to answer that last part. I mostly would like answers for #1 - #4.

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  47. PS: I should make this clear, as LJP did: Women are teachers in the Church. Tons and tons of them.

    So, that's not the issue.

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  48. Caitlin, first I would say that we all need to recognize one thing before we think about this issue: We are steeped in a culture which screams "equality! equality! equality!" at us from every turn. Even our laws now are not so much about espousing truth, goodness or beauty as they are about "equality!". So, we have to shake out the idea that some modern notion of "equality" is the highest good. It's not. Justice is virtue, but this notion of "equality" at all costs is not.

    It is not unjust to say that only women can be mothers, or only men can be fathers. Actually, some moderns would hold that it is, in fact, unjust that that's the case, but hopefully we are still clear-thinking enough to know better. ;)

    It's not unjust to say that marriage is not about two grooms (and never could be!) nor about two brides. Marriage is about man as groom and woman as bride, coming together like lock and key, as God designed for purposes of love and the procreation of His children.

    In the same way, it was not unjust or sexist for God to become Incarnate as a male. Jesus was male on purpose, by design, as God wanted. His masculinity was not arbitrary, it was meaningful. And so was Mary's femininity, by the way.

    Priests are not just "teachers" (women are teachers in the Church) nor are they simply leaders (women are leaders in the Church, also), nor are they the only ones in a position of power (though if women -- or men -- want priesthood for themselves because of the desire for power, they have it all backwards). Priests are in persona Christi ("in the person of Christ"). They represent the Bridegroom and the Church is the Bride. We would have a very messed up theology if we had women standing in the place of the Bridegroom. Others can say it better than me but there is truth and iconography in "male" and "female". It's in the denial of this that we see things like "gay marriage" force its way onto the scene. (That's a case of "equality!" trumping truth, goodness and beauty.)

    I would recommend a prayer for clarity and a setting aside of the modern notion "equality!" at all costs, and read the link that LJP provides. I will also try to find some other links for you, as well. I agree that things like a male only priesthood or heterosexual marriage are harder and harder to understand as we get further into a post-Christian, secular age. But I would posit that it's the post-Christian world which has lost sight of deeper truths, not the Church.

    Great question, and again, I will try to get you more on that issue.

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  49. And to bring it back to obedience:

    Mary, but if you knew that God taught that only men could be priests, or that contracepted sex was immoral, would you obey?

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  50. Thanks Leila! In my search to learn more about the Catholic faith these past few years, your words have been the most helpful to me. I have definitely been a quiet follower of this blog, but know that every word you and everyone else writes helps me to learn more each day. My sister is aware of the fact that I have been trying to research the Catholic Church's teachings in order to stop blindly following a faith that I may or may not even agree with. She asked me this question about why women can't be priests and I realized that I had no clue! So thanks for what you wrote above and thanks for any other future information you provide! Thanks to LJP too for that link! I will continue to pray for clarity on these things that are still a little confusing to me . . . I appreciate any prayers you can send for me as well! Thanks again for all you do!

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  51. Caitlin, there is another aspect, talked about here:

    http://catholicism.about.com/od/beliefsteachings/f/Women_Priests.htm

    Part of it is the fact that Americans tend to see priesthood as a "function" rather than something that has a nature, or an indelible spiritual character. The priesthood is not a function, and because of the nature of the priesthood as male, it is actually impossible for women to be priests. If a woman were to be "ordained", nothing would actually happen. No ordination, no sacrament, would have actually, objectively occurred. (In the same way, there is no sacrament that has occurred or that ever could occur when two men get "married", even if we dress it up and make it look like a sacrament has taken place.)

    Here's an excerpt from the above link:

    Priesthood Not a Function But an Indelible Spiritual Character

    Still, the argument continues, some traditions are made to be broken. But again, that misunderstands the nature of the priesthood. Ordination does not simply give a man permission to perform the functions of a priest; it imparts to him an indelible (permanent) spiritual character that makes him a priest, and since Christ and His Apostles chose only men to be priests, only men can validly become priests.

    The Impossibility of Women's Ordination

    In other words, it's not simply that the Catholic Church does not allow women to be ordained. If a validly ordained bishop were to perform the rite of the Sacrament of Holy Orders exactly, but the person supposedly being ordained were a woman rather than a man, the woman would no more be a priest at the end of the rite than she was before it began. The bishop's action in attempting the ordination of a woman would be both illicit (against the laws and regulations of the Church) and invalid (ineffective, and hence null and void).

    The movement for women's ordination in the Catholic Church, therefore, will never get anywhere. Other Christian denominations, to justify ordaining women, have had to change their understanding of the nature of the priesthood from one which conveys an indelible spiritual character on the man who is ordained to one in which the priesthood is treated as a mere function. But to abandon the 2,000-year-old understanding of the nature of the priesthood would be a doctrinal change. The Catholic Church could not do so and remain the Catholic Church.

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  52. From this article:
    http://www.socon.ca/?p=1189
    (Remember, the Church is the Bride to Christ's Bridegroom.)

    +++

    The priest stands in the person of Christ, “persona Christi“. It is not the priest himself who acts principally, but the Person of Christ HIMSELF who acts through the performance of the movements, gestures, and pronouncements of the priest during the Mass. And since Christ was male, the priest in whom Christ acts, must also be male in order to reflect the Incarnation in its fullness. The Incarnation, which was realized through a woman and a man, was not only a redemption of men and women, but also a redemption (and reconciliation) between men and women. At the altar, therefore, the male priest represents this incarnational reality of Jesus Christ within the womb of the sanctuary.

    When the bread and wine are consecrated by the priest, the priest in persona Christi then comes down from the altar and presents the body and bloody of Christ to His betrothed, the people of God. It is there that this one flesh union between the divine bridegroom, Jesus Christ, through the instrument of the priest, and His Bride, the Church, is consummated. This supernatural union between the Lord and His people is the mystical and ultimate reflection of natural marriage between spouses.

    As a corporate body, therefore, the Church as Bride will always be feminine just as a singular body the Priest in persona Christi must always be masculine. It reflects the divine nuptial banquet between husband and wife.

    In today’s society, however, the Catholic priesthood has been reduced to the last frontier of the feminist power-play, and it is hardly surprising or a coincidence that the push for female priests comes at the same time when same-sex “marriages” are all the rage. Since the liturgical act mirrors the reality of marriage in society, a female priest with the Church as Bride would merely reflect the culture’s approval of homosexuality in general and same-sex “marriage” in particular. As we Latins say, lex orandi, lex credendi. ("How we worship reflects what we believe.")

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  53. From the same article, above, more on our differing ideas of equality:

    +++++

    For the feminist, dignity and equality depends on allowing women to do the same things as men. And only in doing the same things – or at least having the capability to do so – can the two genders be equal in dignity. To deny a women the same function, under this rubric, would necessarily mean denying them equality and dignity. The connection is indeed logical, but the foundation itself is erroneous.

    Contrary to this, the Christian worldview does not attach dignity and equality with function or utility. A human person is not any less dignified or equal to another person based on what they can or cannot do. Performing a specific function does not make anyone more worthy or dignified than someone who cannot perform that function. That is why the Church values all human life equally, independent of the supposed value that society attaches to a particular function or “quality of life” assessment. The Church values all human life equally, including the disabled or those bedridden with a serious sickness.

    The rise of euthanasia and related “quality of life” ethic is also predicated on this feminist principle. One person decides that the utility and function of the disabled person does not meet the “quality of life” standard, and then proceeds to pull the plug or dehydrate the person to death. Instead of treating the individual with dignity and respect because of the intrinsic dignity bestowed by God, the arbiters of “equality”, through their dark lenses of utility and function, objectify the human person for their own base aspirations. Usually, this means unburdening themselves with the suffering of another human being.

    In light of these different foundations, therefore, it is important to point out to our opponents that their very conception of equality is fundamentally different than our own. There is a false assumption that both sides view equality in the same way. As we can see, however, that is not a valid assumption at all. It is no surprise, therefore, to find that there is a divergence of opinion on the issue of women’s ordination. Feminists believe they don’t have equality in the Church because they are denied a function, but this is a distortion of what true equality is. Catholics say women already have equality because of their intrinsic dignity as human persons. Women complement men but are not the same as them.

    Source: http://www.socon.ca/?p=1189

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  54. Nubby said, "Obeying God is never harmful to the human soul."

    I agree, but the disconnect is when those who claim to speak for God ask you to do something or believe something that was never God's intention. You believe the teachings of the Magisterium to be infallible. I have serious doubts about this.



    Mary,
    Let me just ask you a logical question. Simple A to simple B.

    Do you believe it reasonable that this scripture (Matt 16:15-19):

    15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

    16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

    17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[b] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.”

    equals authority, as it illustrates?

    If yes, then it follows the teaching arm of the Church is infallible, to be quite simple.
    To get into the development of doctrines, councils, etc. is incredibly important and has its place in understanding the binding power of the Church between heaven and earth.

    But for simplicity here, let's just keep it simple.

    According to scripture (which you believe in), the visible head of the Church (pope) is the keeper of the keys to heaven, he's never going to ask "you to do something or believe something that was never God's intention." You see?

    Infallibility is the charism of the Church on all things related to faith and morals.

    That is, she (the church) will never ask you to do something unholy.

    It's when we drift from the holy instruction (that binds heaven to earth under the pope) that we start getting into "believing or doing something that was never God's intention", as you put it.

    It's just cut and dry. If, then, statements.

    If Christ founded a Church, then which Church was it? If you take this Scripture in hand with oral tradition, then you have the Catholic Church as your answer. If the Catholic Church is your answer, then you can trust that the Church teachings are straight from Christ, himself, guarded by the Holy Spirit, passed on through the Church, unchanging.

    It is to be trusted if it all indicators point to this authority.

    Is it logical to you? Can you extrapolate logically where the binding authority comes from and how it would never waiver from holiness?

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  55. Nubby, exactly right. I wrote this in a past blog post (Sept. 25, 2010)

    If Jesus literally rose from the dead, then He is God, and I will submit to Him in all things.
    If Jesus established a Church, then I will be a member of His Church.
    If Jesus appointed leaders for His Church and delegated His teaching authority to those leaders, then I will submit to those leaders when they speak on matters of salvation, faith and morals.

    If those "ifs" are false, then ignore the Church, as she is irrelevant. But if they are true, then obey.

    Amen.

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  56. Sorry...busy... will return, but quickly:
    "Mary, but if you knew that God taught that only men could be priests, or that contracepted sex was immoral, would you obey?"

    Yes., but for me to "know" this without reservation it would probably take a divine personal vision for myself or my agnostic husband; and then a complete mental checkup to make sure I was not hallucinating.

    Much of my now "acceptance" of my Christianity from youth is due in part to living in this world and seeing that some of the teachings ring true. They might be hard to do, I may not want to do them, but they are true. This helps me accept it.

    However, my life has also lead me to understand (through experience) that women can be and often are, better leaders than men (or just as good), and that contraception in a marriage can be good. Also, I cannot think of one, concrete reason why a woman cannot be a priest without using your analogy of the bride and the bridegroom. Can you come up with another concrete reason?

    My understanding of the bride and bridegroom mentality stems from my understanding that women were viewed as property to be wedded off quite young to their older husband who was to take care of them and protect them. The women were to be subordinate and obey, much like children. Today, I see that the best marriages I know are those where both parties sacrifice themselves for the marriage (not inconsistent with Catholic teaching), but most decisions are joint. No man is lording over the household with final say over how things go.

    Jesus taught he was the bridegroom who would come and take care of his bride the wayward church that needed guidance. Today our marriages do not reflect this idea of the man as the head, fathering his young, naive bride...the idea seems almost silly. Maybe it is time for a change!

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  57. Mary, after reading your response, I am discouraged. I think we are at an impasse. I will bow out of this conversation and let others take it from here. We are not only not on the same page, I fear we are not even in the same book. :)

    But one thought:

    Jesus taught he was the bridegroom who would come and take care of his bride the wayward church that needed guidance.

    Marriage is about free, faithful, fruitful and total union. The marriage between a human being and God is the point of life. That union is called the Beatific Vision, and it's bliss and perfection. If you think that equates to some silly notion of "a wayward bride who needs guidance", then I just don't know what to say. But you should read some Teresa of Avila or John of the Cross to see what spiritual union (sanctity) really is. I recommend Fire Within by Thomas Dubay.

    Blessings!

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  58. Though just for curiosity, if you could answer those #1 - #4 questions I posed for you. Especially if you believe that Jesus is God Almighty.

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  59. Rambling thoughts, but they help me see how we got where we are:

    If one's theology of Eucharist is wrong, one's theology of Matrimony will be skewed.
    If one's theology of Jesus is wrong, one's theology of Eucharist will be skewed.
    If one's theology of Matrimony is wrong, one's theology of Jesus will be skewed.
    If one's theology of Church is wrong, one's theology of Matrimony will be skewed.

    And so on, and so on, and so on.

    Matrimony, Incarnation, Trinity, Eucharist, Church… they are all connected on so many levels and in so many directions. It's a tapestry that hangs together with every part intact. Take one part and unravel it, and you can no longer see the beauty of the whole. We are a very confused people.

    I praise God for the clarity of the Church. She is trustworthy and has preserved the whole Deposit if Faith. Remove any part and you devolve into relativism and personal preference -- darkness.

    I know, I said I would stop, but Mary… You didn't hear what I said. There have been so many female leaders in the Church. Why do you not hear? Who is disputing that women can be good leaders? Not I. Not the Church.

    And every time you give me a justification for contraception in a marriage, it's a justification that is used for abortion, too. I know plenty of people who can tell you that they have seen "that abortion in a marriage can be good". That type of reasoning is not enough. It's an opinion, an idea, but it's not enough.

    Sigh, going now….

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  60. They were considered dirty and impure when they were menstruating.

    Mary... this one sentence shows that you are, quite frankly, ignorant about Old Testament Judaism. That's not meant as a criticism, but rather a statement of fact.

    From here:

    The Hebrew expressions tohoRAH (cleanness, purity) and tumAH (uncleanness, impurity) are technical terms that have no positive or negative connotations. Scripturally, one is either in a state of purity, or not in a state of purity. Uncleanness is a human phenomenon, almost commonplace, and one must view the contrast between clean and unclean as a contrast between that which is holy and that which is not (Lev. 11:47), between that which is divine and that which is human. Ritual cleanness and uncleanness should not be thought of as a contrast between good and evil.

    Furthermore, regulations pertaining to cleanness and uncleanness do not single out women. There are types of uncleanness specific to men, and there are types specific to women, but most apply to both sexes.

    Feminists have often failed to recognize these distinctions. Biblical regulations pertaining to ceremonial cleanness do not negate a woman’s religious experience; they emphasize unique feminine life experiences (gender appreciation). Thus, after giving birth, a woman made a pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem to bring the prescribed sacrifice and to purify herself. She did not come with a sense of guilt, but came celebrating a distinctive feminine experience. Her religious ceremony in the temple was a celebration of femininity.

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  61. And this is the viewpoint of a Jewish woman:

    The dead body of a human being is the strongest form of "tuma" because it represents the greatest loss of spiritual potential. Similarly, the unfertilized egg that is shed during menstruation is also a form of tuma because it could have housed a soul if it had been fertilized. Never again will the minuscule egg have the opportunity to become a human being and carry the amazingly complex human soul.

    The state of tuma, the state resulting from contact with death, is not a negative thing. If a person buries a dead person, he too becomes tamei (adjective form). He is not contaminated; in fact, burying a dead body is such an important mitzvah that it takes precedence over almost all others (Maimonides, Yad HaChazkah, Laws of Mourners, 14:9; Shulchan Aruch, "Escorting the Dead," 361:1). Thus, being tamei is most certainly not a state of spiritual inferiority. It means only that the person involved cannot participate in certain rituals.

    A further indication that tamei does not mean unclean or contaminated is in the way we remove ourselves from this state. The tuma that results from menstruation is removable by immersion in a mikvah, a special pool of water. If tuma meant uncleanliness, a shower would be sufficient. A woman is in fact required to bathe and shower before immersing in a mikvah. She must remove every speck of dirt from her body. But this does not remove the tuma. Only immersion in the mikvah can do that.

    The underlying reason for mikvah also reflects the fundamental sanctity of life. Water is the primordial substance of the world; it existed before anything else in Creation. We see in the second verse of the Torah: "The earth was empty and desolate, with darkness on the face of the deep, and G-d's spirit fluttering on the face of the waters." The Jerusalem Talmud teaches us that it was from these waters that G-d developed the entire universe (Chagigah 2:1). The scientists' term "primordial soup" is quite apropos. Thus, in the words of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, ". . . water represents the womb of Creation. When a person immerses in the mikvah, he is placing himself in the state of the world yet unborn, subjecting himself totally to G-d's creative power (Waters of Eden , p. 13.)" In this context, it is easy to understand why immersion in a mikvah removes tuma. After the contact with death, we submerge ourselves in the substance from which life emerged.

    I hope that this discussion has made it clear that the matter of tuma is a highly spiritual concept, far beyond simple cleanliness. Menstrual blood is NOT taboo in Judaism, nor is it something distasteful. The menstrual Laws, like all the Laws of Judaism, imbue us with a constant consciousness of the miracles which comprise our daily existence. We certainly do not view the menstruation cycle as disgusting, or even as routine and ordinary. Rather, these Laws enable us to recognize the awesome potential of life as it regenerates itself within our very own bodies.
    (bolding mine)

    As Catholicism is the fulfillment of Judaism, these concepts have carried over. Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. He may have abolished the rituals associated with people and animals being "unclean," but He did not abolish the rich symbolism and spiritual aspects of feminine body.

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  62. My understanding of the bride and bridegroom mentality stems from my understanding that women were viewed as property to be wedded off quite young to their older husband who was to take care of them and protect them. The women were to be subordinate and obey, much like children. Today, I see that the best marriages I know are those where both parties sacrifice themselves for the marriage (not inconsistent with Catholic teaching), but most decisions are joint. No man is lording over the household with final say over how things go.

    Mary, your understanding is closer to the Church than you think, but in a way also severely flawed.

    Here is what Pope Leo XIII had to say in 1880 about wives being subordinate: (all emphasis mine)

    Secondly, the mutual duties of husband and wife have been defined, and their several rights accurately established. They are bound, namely, to have such feelings for one another as to cherish always very great mutual love, to be ever faithful to their marriage vow, and to give one another an unfailing and unselfish help. The husband is the chief of the family and the head of the wife. The woman, because she is flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone, must be subject to her husband and obey him; not, indeed, as a servant, but as a companion, so that her obedience shall be wanting in neither honor nor dignity. Since the husband represents Christ, and since the wife represents the Church, let there always be, both in him who commands and in her who obeys, a heaven-born love guiding both in their respective duties. For "the husband is the head of the wife; as Christ is the head of the Church. . . Therefore, as the Church is subject to Christ, so also let wives be to their husbands in all things."(18)

    In 1930, Pope Pius XI wrote: (again, all emphasis mine)

    26. Domestic society being confirmed, therefore, by this bond of love, there should flourish in it that "order of love," as St. Augustine calls it. This order includes both the primacy of the husband with regard to the wife and children, the ready subjection of the wife and her willing obedience, which the Apostle commends in these words: "Let women be subject to their husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ is the head of the Church."[29]

    27. This subjection, however, does not deny or take away the liberty which fully belongs to the woman both in view of her dignity as a human person, and in view of her most noble office as wife and mother and companion; nor does it bid her obey her husband's every request if not in harmony with right reason or with the dignity due to wife; nor, in fine, does it imply that the wife should be put on a level with those persons who in law are called minors, to whom it is not customary to allow free exercise of their rights on account of their lack of mature judgment, or of their ignorance of human affairs. But it forbids that exaggerated liberty which cares not for the good of the family; it forbids that in this body which is the family, the heart be separated from the head to the great detriment of the whole body and the proximate danger of ruin. For if the man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in ruling, so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love.

    28. Again, this subjection of wife to husband in its degree and manner may vary according to the different conditions of persons, place and time. In fact, if the husband neglect his duty, it falls to the wife to take his place in directing the family. But the structure of the family and its fundamental law, established and confirmed by God, must always and everywhere be maintained intact.

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  63. "Mary, but if you knew that God taught that only men could be priests, or that contracepted sex was immoral, would you obey?"

    Yes., but for me to "know" this without reservation it would probably take a divine personal vision for myself or my agnostic husband; and then a complete mental checkup to make sure I was not hallucinating.


    Mary,
    Why must it require all of that? Why not just use of reason?

    Faith is a gift to be used with your reason. Can I ask you, isn't there logical enough evidence, after all your time on the Bubble, and after all your conversations with your mom, with Leila, others, etc., that Catholic Church is indeed the historical, universal, holy, apostolic church appointed by Christ himself, without need of visions or mental check ups? Really asking. Just logically speaking.

    Why the need for extraordinary evidence? There's a scripture that speaks to that, you know...

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  64. JoAnna, that was some beautiful stuff. Thank you! Nubby, I was thinking of that scriptural reference, too!

    Mary, back to the foundation of this post:

    Jesus asks us to be obedient unto death (not "until it makes ceases to make sense to me or I until I disagree with it"). In light of this command of obedience: Whom or what are we to obey?

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  65. For Caitlin:
    Peter Kreeft has an excellent lecture on the question of Priestesses in the Catholic Church (and also a book, which is out of print), but the lecture is free here:
    http://www.peterkreeft.com/podcasts/index.xml

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  66. Brother Juniper, thanks! I can't wait to hear him. I love Dr. Kreeft!

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  67. I'm just watching this now, but I'm thinking it will apply to this discussion. :)

    http://www.ucatholic.com/apologetics/protestantism-and-authority/

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  68. Ok...so much to say, I am a bit overwhelmed. Let me work backwards.

    Nubby: Why need extraordinary evidence? Well, first of all, a lot is at stake. To not ever use contraception, even in faithful marriages, means many many more children born. This can be a good thing, but eventually, it will present problems. It can also be a problem for individual women. To ban women from priesthood means there is some function of the priesthood that they cannot do, by their very nature. This turns away a lot of women from Catholicism.

    But really, I can think of many things that are not true which, based on reason and faith were thought to be true by almost everyone on earth at one point. For example, up until the dawn of astronomy, pretty much everyone on earth thought the earth was flat. They believed it to be so. Therefore, all the evidence you pointed to is not enough for me. I need some concrete evidence that women are not able to be priests.

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  69. JoAnna,
    I think I understand the Church's view of marriage quite well, actually.
    You quoted, "The husband is the chief of the family and the head of the wife. The woman, because she is flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone, must be subject to her husband and obey him; not, indeed, as a servant, but as a companion, so that her obedience shall be wanting in neither honor nor dignity."

    How can I obey someone as a companion and not as a servant? Why use the charged word "obey". Why not, "assist", "support" or "work with"? I am sorry, but the pope's claim that the word "obey" does not connotate some subordinate role for the female rings hollow to me. It is like trying to say the word does not mean what it says. There is a good reason most people drop it from their wedding ceremony today.

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  70. This turns away a lot of women from Catholicism.

    Not any women I know. I would never support a Christianity with priestesses. Look to the Episcopal Church. It's got plenty of priestesses, and it's dying fast.

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  71. Mary -

    "I think I understand the Church's view of marriage quite well, actually."

    Your words indicate otherwise.

    What is wrong with obedience to legitimate authority? Soldiers in the military swear obedience to their commanding officers (but are not expected to obey orders if those orders violate the law or applicable regulations). Same concept.

    I'm going to direct you to this article by Jennifer Fulweiler, because she explains it well: http://www.conversiondiary.com/2009/08/why-it-makes-sense-to-me-to-be-obedient-to-my-husband.html

    You seem to have this kneejerk reaction to obedience, like every man will use his position of head of the household to be cruel to his wife. But if a man is doing that, he is not loving his wife as Christ loved the Church.

    Think of this, Mary - women are only called to obey their husbands. Men are called to lay down their lives for their wives. I think obedience is pretty easy in comparison.

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  72. JoAnna,
    Your lesson about the true meaning of being ritually unclean in first century Palestine is interesting. I am not an Old Testament Scholar, but are you suggesting that women were not an inferior class, treated as chattel in the Old Testament, thus reflecting their social status during the time Jesus walked the earth? I can bring up about fifty Bible verses to support this view. Do you need them? One of the most illustrative is how women are considered ritually impure for TWICE as long after giving birth to a daughter as opposed to a son. Girls are a disappointment.

    I think it is quite possible that either Jesus had very little opportunity to turn a female follower into a disciple(his mother presents an interesting case though), or he did intend Mary Magdalene to be a disciple and this was suppressed. I'm not going Da Vinci Code on you; there does seem to be some evidence of this.

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  73. 1) Jesus' mother was with him for his whole life. Why did he not appoint her as an Apostle? She was holier than all the Apostles, and much closer to him than they.

    Don't know here, but she would have had a hard time traveling without a related male companion and she was not rich, so maybe it was impossible.

    2) Do you believe Jesus is God? Meaning, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Creator of heaven and earth (and all humans)?

    I try to believe this...it is not solid in my heart, but I am a theist. I see atheism as a route to nihilism and cannot see it any other way.

    3) If priests stand in persona Christi ("in the person of Christ"), and represent the Bridegroom (Christ), then how would it work, in Christology and theology, to have a woman as the Bridegroom? You get some really messed up theology that way (check out the Episcopalian church…yikes).

    This doesn't present a problem for me, as I find the language of bride and bridegroom to be figurative not literal.

    4) Do you think it was sexist for God to create humanity so that only women could be mothers? In other words, is He oppressing men because they were not made to conceive and bear life in their wombs?

    No. I understand the two sexes (sexual reproduction) to have evolved billions of years ago in single-celled organisms. I would like to think that God "foresaw" human sexuality evolving as it exists today, but not sure. Nevertheless, women do carry babies and men do not. It just is. But, if women were supposed to solely or primarily be mothers, be submissive to their husbands etc, then why give them the ability to lead (especially over men, a.k.a. Dilma or Angela Merkel) why give some such ambition and male-like drive? Seems like a waste.
    Thanks!

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  74. I would say, Mary, that you need to get your historical information from sources other than Gloria Steinem. For example:

    The role of women in traditional Judaism has been grossly misrepresented and misunderstood. The position of women is not nearly as lowly as many modern people think; in fact, the position of women in halakhah (Jewish Law) that dates back to the biblical period is in many ways better than the position of women under American civil law as recently as a century ago. Many of the important feminist leaders of the 20th century (Gloria Steinem, for example, and Betty Friedan) are Jewish women, and some commentators have suggested that this is no coincidence: the respect accorded to women in Jewish tradition was a part of their ethnic culture.

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  75. JoAnna,
    Can you explain what I don't understand about the Church and marriage? I think I comprehend the reasoning, but don't agree.

    Can you answer me why they need to use the word "obey"?

    In the military you need to obey your commander because you have it on faith that he or she is well-equipped to help win the offensive. You sign your life away. Maybe your life will be sacrificed for the good of the military goal, that is why they drill the obedience into you.

    So what is the overall goal with not allowing women to be priests? Tell me concrete things they are not able to do that disqualify them.

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  76. JoAnna, I am really puzzled. I actually never brought up Ms. Steinem. I got my list from reading the Old Testament and some other historical stuff. The words really do speak for themselves. I don't even know what Ms. Steinem has to say on the matter!

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  77. JoAnna,
    Thanks for the Jen F. link, but I actually read her regularly and, though I agree with some of her posts and like her, I thought that was one of the WORST of her posts. Poor reasoning. I know so many households that operate very well where the woman and man share decision-making (and each takes a leadership role in some spheres), that it makes her post seem silly. I am not trying to be an uber-femminist here, this is hardcore empirical evidence I am leaning on.

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  78. I should say at this point, that women priests is far down my list of issues with the Church. Celibate priests, ban on all contraception in marriage, and to some lesser extent, the teachings on homosexuality rank higher...although I find some evidence that this last one is somewhat in line with "natural law" at least for males, although it is baffling.

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  79. My parting question: What about a man makes him better to be the head of the household? Jen said that it was the time out for childbirth and nursing an infant. I don't think that is sufficient, especially if the guy is working forty plus hours per week...seems like he is the one burdened with a lot on his mind.

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  80. Mary -

    "Obey" is likely the most accurate translation of the term used in the original manuscripts. You'd have to take it up with Biblical translators, though, as my knowledge of Greek and Aramaic is sketchy.

    "I know so many households that operate very well where the woman and man share decision-making (and each takes a leadership role in some spheres)"

    ... and the above is not inconsistent with Church teaching, Mary. That's what you don't seem to get. You seem to think that men are to be DICTATORS of their households, but that is not the case - they're called to be LEADERS. And good leaders respect those they lead, treat them with dignity, delegate work according to each person's strengths, and solicit input and feedback during a decision-making process. A husband can and should do the same. If he's deficient, a wife can and should take over. If he tells a woman to sin, she is not obligated to obey.

    As Pius XI said, men are the head, and women are the heart. This is a deliberate metaphor. A body can't function without the heart anymore than it can function without a head. They are different organs with different functions; one is not superior to the other. Both are needed to work in tandem for the body to function.

    Don't you see that it's the paradigm of the Church? Men are the head, women are the heart! Both are needed for the Church to function. The Catholic Church can't survive without either.

    A priest is not a leadership role, it's the role of a servant. Same with bishops, and popes - there's a reason that one of the Pope's titles is "Servant of the Servants of God." He's called to lay down his life for his bride, and if he's a priest he's called to lay down his life for the Church, also his Bride.

    A woman has the awesome power to nurture and bring forth new life. That's her special and unique role that no man can replicate. (Once men - or I should say, those who are born genetically male - can conceive, gestate, and give birth, then women can be priests!)

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  81. What about women makes them less able to be leaders than men? Please answer that.

    Why not say, "Men, obey the woman and a marriage, and women love the man as if he were yourself"?

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  82. Mary,

    Why is obey such an ugly word? Doesn't obedience lead to order and/or support order? Or has your only experience with that word been negative?

    The Catholic faith teaches that both men and women have inherent dignity. That's never to be usurped by man or woman.

    This is a major hurdle for you, I see, that someone your experience with males = men are bully jerks.

    Maybe so, but again, it's anecdotal. It has no bearing on the true teaching of the faith.

    And to be fair, we can nit pick either sex for each of their respective faults all day long, but it's neither her nor there as pertains to living a life of obedience and charity within a marriage.

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  83. * omit the word "someone" -- typos

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  84. Well, first of all, a lot is at stake. To not ever use contraception, even in faithful marriages, means many many more children born. This can be a good thing, but eventually, it will present problems.

    It can also be a problem for individual women. To ban women from priesthood means there is some function of the priesthood that they cannot do, by their very nature. This turns away a lot of women from Catholicism.

    But really, I can think of many things that are not true which, based on reason and faith were thought to be true by almost everyone on earth at one point. For example, up until the dawn of astronomy, pretty much everyone on earth thought the earth was flat. They believed it to be so. Therefore, all the evidence you pointed to is not enough for me. I need some concrete evidence that women are not able to be priests.



    The “earth is round vs. flat” can be physically proven. Can the same be said about God and faith via the physical means you're demanding? Of course not.

    You need faith and reason together. Is it plausible that God is real? That's he's Christ?

    And this, "more children will present problems"? Are we back to this over-population thing again?

    And "to never use contraception" doesn't automatically = "many many more children". For heaven's sake, if that's the case, we NFP'ers must be pretty dim, and should brace ourselves to be constantly pregnant, despite the fact that we know exactly when we're most fertile and despite the fact that we're not all called to have large family sizes.

    Btw - from Catholic answers,

    Full Question
    Why can't women be ordained priests within the Catholic Church?
    Answer:
    The Church does not have the authority to ordain women. In his apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II declared "that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination of women" (4).
    Some of the reasons cited include:
    1. The example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his apostles only from among men
    2. The constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men
    3. The Church’s living teaching authority has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for his Church.

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  85. Mary,

    What do you make of the word "meek"?
    Do you think it's robbed of strength or power as you do the word "obey"?

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  86. Tell me concrete things they are not able to do that disqualify them.

    Mary, I feel like you are not listening. It has nothing to do with function. Nothing. You are talking like Frank, who said he cannot see any difference between mothers and fathers, because they can perform the same "functions". I don't get that mindset. Is everything utilitarian? This is not about "functions".

    I think your problem is not with the Church, I think it's with Jesus Himself. When you accept that He is God, so many of what you struggle with will be resolved. But if you don't think Jesus was God, then you will doubt everything else about Christianity and Christology. I am not even sure you believe the Bible is inerrant, and it appears you don't like a lot of what it has to say (I'm guessing)? So, I am confused about where you are in relation to Christianity in general. Am I off base?

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  87. I'm confused. It's is "baffling" for Christianity to teach that two men cannot marry? That we cannot have "two grooms" or "two brides" and call it a marriage?

    When did this become "baffling"? Ten or fifteen years ago no one outside of the fringe was even thinking of a concept called "gay marriage". This is a total break from everything the culture (or any religion) has known. But now it's "baffling" to think that marriage consists of a man and a woman? Unless I am misreading you.

    As for the wording: "a ban on contraception" -- that is just not the right wording. There is no "ban" on it. It's about affirming the truth of human sexuality as God intended it, between a man and a woman, without barriers and chemicals and gadgets between them. It is not appropriate to use the terminology of "banning" contraception, any more than it would be to say that the Church "bans adultery" or "bans stealing". Sorry, I just don't like the wording. A pet peeve of mine.

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  88. And if you could answer this, Mary, when you have the chance:

    Jesus asks us to be obedient unto death (not "until it makes ceases to make sense to me or I until I disagree with it"). In light of this command of obedience: Whom or what are we to obey?

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  89. Will respond, but quickly, Leila said, "It's is "baffling" for Christianity to teach that two men cannot marry? "
    You misunderstood me. I meant that male homosexuality is baffling to me, even from a purely evolutionary viewpoint. I simply cannot understand how it evolved, or how any person alive would ever want to do that "act".

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  90. Nubby said, "This is a major hurdle for you, I see, that someone your experience with males = men are bully jerks."

    Um...nope. I actually have a lot of great men in my life (many flaws, but no more so than the women). But, I have taken history and traveled much, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that cultures that highly value women who "obey" men are not so great for women.

    Again, I am not suggesting that women need to exert their primacy, and refuse to humble themselves and dominate over their marriages. Humbleness, compromise, the ability to give in once in a while; these are all desirable traits for both spouses. We work on this model. If my husband were to make a decision I disagreed strongly with, we would talk it out, but if I really felt it was not the right decision, I would not "obey". We have had a few of these incidences. Some were the right decision, one or two, I was wrong, a few more...still waiting to see. He has done the same on some many issues.

    I think you folks are trying to "whitewash" and "make politically correct" the word "obey". The ancient tradition where this word comes from, stemmed from cultures where women were absolutely second class citizens. All the history I ever had supported this view. JoAnna is trying to argue differently. Somehow she thinks women and men enjoyed a more equal status in First Century Palestine.

    Again, Nubby, what about women makes them need to "obey" men and men not "obey" women?

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  91. Nubby said, "The “earth is round vs. flat” can be physically proven. Can the same be said about God and faith via the physical means you're demanding? Of course not.

    You need faith and reason together. Is it plausible that God is real? That's he's Christ? "

    You are correct in pointing out this anomoly. I thought I explained this elsewhere, but perhaps not to you.

    In brief:
    1. Raised Catholic, became agnostic in late high school.
    2. Struggled with serious problems.
    3. Lived in the world, observing and learning.
    4. Read Pascal's wager...struck me as correct.
    5. Started to read more about origins of universe, physics etc.
    6. Came to understand how atheism=nihilism. (many do not agree with this, but I cannot see it any other way).
    7. See that the idea of original sin (i.e. that we all possess evil within us) seems valid.
    8. Read more of New Testament and other writers who study it.
    9. Believe the message is true.
    10. Struggle with the divinity of Christ.
    11. Studied Near Death Experiences
    12. Believe there is life after death (consciousness after death).
    13. Believe that dying to self is the correct message....just not sure about the specifics.
    14. Believe all people have intrinsic worth.



    So...yes, I am not sure about these things without proof, but if you can follow my sketchy logic...you can see where I am at.

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  92. Leila asked,
    "Jesus asks us to be obedient unto death (not 'until it makes ceases to make sense to me or I until I disagree with it'). In light of this command of obedience: Whom or what are we to obey? "

    Well, this is the million dollar question isn't it?

    In the U.S. we would say we must obey our conscience and the law, and the law is set down by a combination of our forefathers, a democratic system with checks and balances. We have this instead of a "king". We do have a president who can use veto power, but he is elected, and he can be overruled.

    I would say that following Jesus would not present a problem for who to obey, but the burden is on what Jesus intended. If you read the New Testament, it is clear that the overarching message he was drumming into people was one of loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself and giving of yourself to an extreme. Loving and valuing people despite their shortcomings. Forgiving.

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  93. Your desire for logic and proof apply here:

    9. Believe the message is true.

    Do you believe the entire message to be true? All or nothing.

    10. Struggle with the divinity of Christ.

    So begin with: Who is His Father? If it's not God the Father, then where's the supporting evidence to point to anyone else?

    I'm taking your approach here. If you make a statement as you listed, then let's logically see your evidence contrary to the scriptures and to tradition and to salvation history.

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  94. Mary, sorry about misunderstanding the "baffling" statement! I am relieved, ha ha.

    Here's where I think you come upon a huge problem that really has to be resolved. Would the Lord Jesus (God of all), tell us to obey unto death, without giving us the means to understand very clearly what it is we are to obey? He said, "I will not leave you orphans" and that we would be led "to all Truth", etc. And he said it all within the context of the Apostles and the Church he founded, which "the gates of hell would not prevail against", giving the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven to Peter, and also the explicit power to "bind and loose" in concert with Heaven itself. Then you have the entire witness of the Early Church (many of whom saw the Risen Christ and then who also learned at the feet of the Apostles) who understood that Christ founded a Church with a hierarchy (and were willing to die for it, total obedience in martyrdom). And that Church teaches the same moral truths today as it did back then (which should be "sufficient" to knock your socks off -- no mere human institution is that consistent!), and all the saints of different times, ages and cultures have obeyed the same truths, the same faith and even died out of obedience for it. Every saint (a Christian who practiced heroic virtue on earth) held obedience as paramount to the life of sanctity. How can that be if no one has a clue what the specifics are to obey?

    Do you see, it's illogical to say that all Christ meant, and all we are left with is to "love God and neighbor" but with no more information than that…. The whole living, breathing life and witness of the Church and the saints and the martyrs from the beginning to this very day attests to something more than that, and something well-known and a road well traveled, with guideposts (the Deposit of Faith) well established and unchanging. It is a miracle and it's objective and it's not hidden, and it's what God intended. That is why St. Iranaeus in the second century holds the same faith and believes the same moral law and practices the same moral virtues and claims the same Deposit of Faith that Christ handed down as do any of the saints today. Mother Teresa could read the words of St. Clement of Rome and not feel 20 centuries of separation, but feel intimately connected. The same faith, the same truth, the same obedience to the same Church with the same Christ founded on Peter and the Apostles (and all their successors).

    If you are with the Apostolic Church (every bishop is in a direct line from the original Apostles), you can stop guessing what we are to obey.

    That was long winded. Bottom line: Why would Jesus command us to obey till death when he never left us any means of knowing we are to obey? Who would do that? Even a halfway decent parent would never do that.

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  95. I think you folks are trying to "whitewash" and "make politically correct" the word "obey". The ancient tradition where this word comes from, stemmed from cultures where women were absolutely second class citizens. All the history I ever had supported this view. JoAnna is trying to argue differently. Somehow she thinks women and men enjoyed a more equal status in First Century Palestine.

    What did Jesus (or anything in the Bible) mean by "obey"? Did He mean it in a whitewashed, 21st Century sort of way, or did He mean it hardcore as in, you will obey legitimate authority that I have set over you? (What of Korah? Was God just joking?)

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  96. If anyone thinks that Christianity is anti-woman in any way, I would have them watch this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISme5-9orR0&feature=player_embedded

    Christianity is what frees women from oppression and social evils such as this. Christianity is the antidote to what you see in the video. Christianity declares that men and women are of equal value and have the same dignity before God. We are so saturated with feminist clap-trap that we forget how paganism and also many other world religions do not, in fact, hold up the equal dignity of men and women.

    Yes, a bit of a non-sequiter, but I feel like we have lost all sight of what oppression or injustice are.

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  97. I have taken history and traveled much, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that cultures that highly value women who "obey" men are not so great for women.

    Mary, were these primarily Christian cultures? Catholic cultures? My dad is a Christian Arab who was raised among a majority of Muslims. Trust me, you'd rather be a Catholic Arab woman than a Muslim Arab. ;)

    Also, you might like to read Barbara's post of today (former radical feminist academic):

    http://intimategeography.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/dear-feminism/

    She addresses some of Mary's points:

    [Feminism,] You tell a story about how for thousands of years, women were treated as property to be bought and sold, how the whole of Western Culture, and pretty much every other civilization was structured on woman’s abasement. In your mind this thing called a “patriarchy” explicitly demanded women be enslaved to men in every way, shape and form. It determined how women would be represented in art, how health care would treat women’s issues, how husbands would treat wives, fathers, daughters, priests, nuns etc. ”The Patriarchy”, this shadowy cabal, held a tight-fisted control over every aspect of life and women had to eventually recognize it and stand up for their rights.

    Except there was never a “Patriarchy”,

    There were socially accepted gender-roles, yes, and there were prevalent ideas about how men and women should conduct themselves in relation to one another, and in public. These ideas extended to both men and women by the way. Women had certain duties to men, and men had certain duties to women. There were also horrible men who did and said horrible things, and horrible women who did and said horrible things. There were individual men who did wonderful things and individual women who did wonderful things. But for every example you can find of a “prevalent patriarchal attitude towards women” there are an equal amount of exceptions. For every misogynist cleric or bishop, there was a Sor Juana, for every screed in condemnation of the female sex, there was one in its defence. History is a wide, deep and broad thing, and most people fall just a little bit outside of the meta-narrative.

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  98. Hello! So glad to have found your blog. I am a mother of six children and have home-schooled in the past and believe I will be doing so with some of my children again starting next year. I have had quite a faith journey and struggle now and then with the Catholic faith. I have no problem with the authority issue... I have a problem with the priests not speaking out about what the Church teaches. I think I would fall over if I heard a priest say all contracepting couples were not to receive communion. I have almost lost my Catholic faith due to feeling an "outsider". I'm hanging in there, but just barely.

    I grew up Catholic, supposedly (70's catechism) and have been married for 20+ years to a Catholic man. I used to be very closed minded (Catholicism was THE only way) but now consider myself very tolerant and open minded even though I hold MOST of the teachings of the Catholic church close to my heart. (yes, I know, the word MOST shouldn't be there)

    Don't mean to babble on. I have subscribed by e-mail and look forward to future posts and perusing old ones.

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  99. Margaret, hello! You'll be pleased to know that I have two young priests who preach against contraception from the pulpit. :) And one specifically said that those who are using it may not come to Communion till they stopped and got to confession.

    I hope you enjoy the archives! Welcome!

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  100. Late to the conversation, but I read all of the comments. Took a while but great conversation! I was surprised nobody mentioned this about the woman at the well. It wasn't so much that Christ spoke to a woman, no!, but that she was a Samaritan. The Jews of the day hated the Samaritans. That's why the parable of the Good Samaritan would surprise the listeners. It's not that a nice man from Samaria stopped to help. It's that he *was* a Samaritan. A Samaritan of all things! Oh my! Context is very important. You can't read the Bible and try to understand it with today's mindset. And you can't say women then were treated as the Taliban treat woman. No.

    I would suggest to Mary that she read Catholic sources. Read the saints. Listen to EWTN explanatory or question and answer type podcasts available on their website. The more I study the Catholic faith, the more I am astounded by its profundity.

    Read also the Catechism of the Catholic Faith. That explains about everything with footnote references to the Bible or other documents and an easy index to look up specific subjects.

    This is the better way to be Catholic: start with blind faith. Believe all the Church teaches. Then study the faith. If you find something false in her teaching, then stop believing. But as other people have mentioned, the Church was founded by Christ. He would not give us a Church that taught any sort of lies.

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