Women's Ordination, Marriage and Actively Gay Clergy

As some of the news articles linked to below point out, fleeing The Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion over women's ordination, actively gay clergy or the redefinition of marriage is not reason enough to become Catholic.

So true.

But for those of us who came from Continuing Anglican bodies, women's ordination, for example, was reason enough to flee The Episcopal Church or Anglican Church of Canada.   Our authority was the Faith handed down by the Apostles, the eyewitnesses of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We believed the Anglican Church could not change a God-ordained sacrament in a revealed religion by democracy or allow the latest social science fads to trump Revelation.

Some of us had to grow in our understanding that that the sign of unity for that faith is Peter and that we must be in communion with his successor, the Bishop of Rome.  But that does not mean we have become loosey-goosey about women's ordination or the Church's teachings on human sexuality.

So when I see these issues getting played down in quotations in news stories, I chalk it up to having good media talking points because the mainstream media is overly interested in these issues and painting those who hold traditional views as "sexist, racist, anti-gay."  You all know the chant.  The focus on unity, on the positive, and away from these pesky and divisive issues is good public relations.  It is also in line with the Holy Father's approach.  Pope Benedict has stressed the Catholic Church is a Church of Yes!, Yes! to Life, Yes! to Marriage, Yes! to Jesus Christ above all, not a Church of No! that merely throws down a bunch of rules and enforces a strict moralism.

However, given my background in the Traditional Anglican Communion, I also get a little nervous when I see these issues glossed over as if they are not important.

Since I write for the Catholic Church and interview many theologians, academics, bishops, priests and so on, I know there are many apparently in good standing within the Church who would like to see more progressive attitudes on women's ordination, for instance.   They have very complex, nuanced views of papal infallibility, for example, and can point to how various papal pronouncements on how the Church cannot change women's ordination are not in fact infallible in the strict sense of the word.

There are also many currents in the Church that buy into the world's understanding of homosexuality as a fixed, inborn characteristic like race (though some of the same people who hold this view believe our sex — male or female — is a human construct and therefore fluid, but I digress) and therefore more theological work needs to be done to bring Catholic teachings in line with this scientific view and contemporary human rights discourse, which sees homosexual acceptance as the "slavery" issue of today.

My work as a journalist puts me in touch with a wide range of opinion in the Catholic Church and sometimes I must interview representatives of various warring camps.

Though I have not disguised the fact that I am relatively conservative both theologically and liturgically, I have good, cordial relations with those with whom I might disagree.  My intention is to be fair to everyone I interview so they can be comfortable with how I have presented their point of view in print.  It has also been good for me in deepening my understanding of ecclesiology, of the Church as a family of God that is not based on ideology where the winner takes all.

And in various camps, I know what is said about the others, and how sometimes it would seem each side would be happy with a much smaller church that did not include those on the left or the right, etc.  I am learning more and more about how wrong it is to take one paragraph of an encyclical from any time in the Church and use it as a proof-text out of context, but that like our understanding of Scripture being interpreted in the light of other Scripture and the Tradition of the Church, we must be careful about jumping to conclusions based on a limited perspective.

Within the Ordinariate, we are also likely to have some of the same tensions that I see in the wider Catholic Church.  I hope we can learn to "live in tension" as one rector of a nearby university told me, esteeming each other in love and resisting the temptation to judgement or jumping to conclusions.

And on the hot button issues, I hope we learn ways of defending them in the public square that put our defense of an all-male priesthood or of chastity in a positive light.  Just as we must not be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we must not be ashamed of the Church's teachings on human sexuality, including contraception.

Author: Deborah Gyapong

Deborah Gyapong is a member of the Sodality of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (www.annunciationofthebvm.org) in Ottawa, a former parish of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (Traditional Anglican Communion) whose members were received individually and corporately into the Roman Catholic Church on April 15, 2012 by Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast at St. Patrick’s Basilica. Under the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, the community will celebrate an approved Anglican Use liturgy and hopes to soon join with other sodalities across Canada to form the Canadian Deanery of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter under Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Ordinary. As we wait for our priest(s) to be ordained as Catholic priests, God willing, Archbishop Prendergast will provide priests to celebrate our Sunday Eucharist according to the Anglican Use. Deborah is a journalist who covers religion and politics in Canada’s national capital, writing primarily for Roman Catholic newspapers since 2004. Her novel The Defilers, published in 2006, was not a best seller, alas. She spent 17 years at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in news and current affairs, including 12 years as a television producer.

8 thoughts on “Women's Ordination, Marriage and Actively Gay Clergy”

  1. I think you have put it quite well Deborah. Catholics do not check their brains at the door. You can believe in women's ordination as an individual for example, if that is where your conscience leads you, but have to accept that the Church teaches and always has taught otherwise. What you cannot believe is that the established praxis is sinful and contrary to the divine will, and so cannot agitate for its change on that basis or indulge in uncanonical disobedience in support of your private view. This is in fact the approach most practicing liberal Catholics take. They may agree with the liturgical preferences and at best speculative theology of liberal dissenters, and as a result discount the sinfulness of actions conforming to this dissent, that but they still recognize the Church as a divine institution sustained through apostolic succession, and as such prefer to abide by it in its "blinkered" conservatism than follow a protestant reflex of joining a more congenial "Church" or starting one of its own.

    While by no means a liberal Catholic myself, I respect this outward submission to the institutional Church, particularly at it is often coupled with a greater commitment to the poor and disadvantaged, and to good stewardship of the natural order, than many more theologically and liturgically "conservative" Catholics are willing to demonstrate. All human beings are flawed and sinful, and virtually none are fully orthodox in thought and practice. All are in need of God's help and may find it in the strictures of His Body. To wish others to leave the Church is just the height of arrogance and the nadir of charity.

  2. What a splendidly generous, thoughtful and well-balanced article! If more journalists – religious and secular – were made from the same mo[u]ld as Ms Gyapong, then the world would be a healthier place.

  3. As I have commented elsewhere, lifelong Catholics share a sense of membership even when they disagree on big issues. But it is very unlikely that the Ordinariate will attract converts from any but conservative Anglican circles, among those already feeling marginalised. It appears to me that most Catholic supporters of the Ordinariate assume that these new recruits will be adding their voices to the call for more maniples and birettas and fewer women Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers, not leading any movement for change on Humanae Vitae or whatever. Those who have other priorities seem to be a bit embarrassed by AC.

    1. If not the Anglicans, then the Roman Catholics! Those who long for tradition! Young men and women who have many children who do not wish to be sucked into the bland, liberal, modern, pro-contraceptive, pro-homosexual, permissive, protestantized church. We want some dependable rules and authority for better direction and unity. That is why vocations are growing in traditional communities, not in communities with priests that tell you that "God loves you the way you are" and wonder why no one goes to confession or care about their banal, uninspired sermons and liturgical practices which make Christianity look like the "Inoffensive Church of Good Feelings and Political Correctness."

      Since the Ordinariates are comprised of traditional Anglicans, why would it matter if the Ordinariates are popular and loved by sodomites, blasphemers, and the lukewarm? Should we care if Christianity is hated or loved by, say, Jews? Why should I care if they hate or love my faith, are they responsible for my salvation?

      What I see is that the Ordinariates are there to provide a place for those who feel that something important has to be preserved because it is in danger of being forgotten or changed. For example, if an icon depicting Jesus Christ himself can be dated to the early 1st century, we certainly would not throw it willingly into a fire as if it were worthless, nor would we paint the icon so that it conforms to contemporary understandings and interpretations and wouldn't be offensive to modern sensibilities.

  4. I'm a Roman Catholic from Argentina. There is something in particular that worries me about the advancement of the issues you mention in the Catholic Church. Those particular issues -women priests, ordaining active homosexuals, homosexual marriage, sacraments for the divorced and remarried- seem to me to be demands that the Church gets in sincronicity with the cultural tastes of the societies of western industrial countries, particularly de US and Europe.
    But the Church is Catholic, that is universal. Most of the people of the world does not live in those societies. In fact, if the Church were thinking of the new lands of mission, it should be thinking in China, India, Africa, or the moslem world.
    This being the case, and if the idea is to put the Church in step with societes, wouldn't it make more sense to make changes to make the Church more appealing to those societies?. For example by allowing a man to marry in church several women, making the church more attractive to moslems.
    Why would the Church have to pay any particular attention to the cultural needs of her american and european faithful, over those of other faithful or potential converts?.
    I understand why anglicans do this, as they are almost an ethnic Church for cultural anglos. But the Catholic Church is universal.
    I personally do not think the Catholic Church should mimic the moral ways of Communist China or of Saudi Arabia. I'm just pointing that mimicking them would make as much sense as mimicking the american or european ways.

  5. Deborah,
    I think you'd find this website of interest:
    Mr. Comiskey recently converted to Catholicism and is now re-writing his teaching curriculum so it can be introduced in Catholic parishes.

    Very exciting developments going on in the Church, I'd say.

  6. Deborah – Thanks for a great article, and I love what you say about "live the tension" – and that you see a need to move beyond "left" and "right". Fab!

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