Trads and Womenpriests – same problem, just dressed differently

By Paul Fahey                                                                                        Thursday, September 19

“One who believes may not be presumptuous; on the contrary, truth leads to humility, since believers know that, rather than ourselves possessing truth, it is truth which embraces and possesses us.” Lumen Fidei, 34.

When reading through Lumen Fidei, this quote reminded me of something one of my Theology professors used to teach – one must be docile to the Truth. Included in his explanation of this docility, he would proceed to draw on the blackboard an ass (beast of burden) being lead forward by the rope tied around its neck. “This,” he would say, pointing at the ass, “is what it means to be docile.” All men, particularly Christians (and even more particularly, theologians) must allow themselves to be led by the Truth. In a similar way, paragraph 36 of Lumen Fidei calls all theologians to docility to the Magisterium and the Pope.

…theology cannot consider the magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him as something extrinsic, a limitation of its freedom, but rather as one of its internal, constitutive dimensions, for the magisterium ensures our contact with the primordial source and thus provides the certainty of attaining to the word of Christ in all its integrity.

However, this call to humble docility toward the teaching authority of the Church, because it is She who puts us in contact with He who is Truth, is not just for theologians – it is a call meant for all believers. All Catholics are called to humbly submit their personal preferences and their ideologies to the Magisterium. This does not mean that one should never question the Church, rather that, at the end of the day, a faithful Catholic realizes that Mother knows best. Herein lies my problem with, and the rather obvious similarity between, both “traditionalists” and “progressives.”

Before I go further, I think that a definition (or at least a working definition) of these terms is needed (since language is important). By “traditionalist,” in this particular instance, I mean somebody who has a preference for the traditions and practices of a pre-Vatican II and post-Trent Church. In many ways this individual remains respectful and docile to the Church, but there are some personal preferences (whether it be boy only altar servers, detest of the vernacular, etc.) that they simply refuse to let go of and submit to Holy Mother. Likewise, a “progressive” is someone who greatly appreciates the changes made after Vatican II, and, in many ways, remains docile to the Church. However, there are some personal preferences and ideologies (think female ordination or a change in the Church’s sexual ethic) that they simply cannot let go of. Here are some examples of what I mean:

Recently I read this rather abhorrent blog post from the Catholic Gentleman titled “Masculinity and the Liturgy” (Some of the Gentleman’s gross patriarchal commentary was very gracefully responded to by Karen). This particular blog post represents an attitude of pride in face of the Church rather than docility. One area, for example, is his opposition to female altar servers, lectors, and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. He says:

Now, girls can be altar servers, and boys aren’t as interested. It’s like adding girls to the football team—it saps the masculinity right out of it…In addition to altar girls, the distinctive role of the priest—who is, of course a man—has been diluted by the introduction of laypeople into the liturgy. The very fact that a woman can now distribute communion or read the Epistle immediately makes the liturgy less masculine.

Just look at her sap away the masculinity

And by “less masculine” I think he really means “not as good as it could be.” While the actual teaching authorities of the Church completely support women participating in the Liturgy, the “traditionalist” still has a real problem with it. I’m with Blessed John Paul II when he says, “Who can imagine the great advantages to pastoral care and the new beauty that the Church’s face will assume, when the feminine genius is fully involved in the various areas of her life?”

The “traditionalist” way of thinking is not terribly unlike the “progressives” who support the ordination of women (or are ordained women themselves). In the Womenpriest’s own words,

The Womenpriests, who have 145 women members worldwide, don’t let the canon law bother them. “It doesn’t have any meaning because no one really pays attention to it,” Suzanne A. Thiel, a representative of the organization and one of the ordained, told The Atlantic Wire. “I think most of us just ignore it… When people say the Womenpriests operate outside of “The Church,” she argues that it depends on your definition of the Church. “Are you looking at the Church as the Vatican, the Pope, the hierarchy, or are you looking at it as the people?” Thiel said. “We’re flourishing and the people have accepted us.” 

Clearly not concerned with Canon Law

Doesn’t Suzanne Thiel sum it up perfectly? She acts in obedience only toward the church that she has defined for herself. She simply refuses to accept all of the teachings and teachers that she disagrees with. But doesn’t that sound eerily familiar to the “traditionalist” who says, “I will accept the infallible authority of all the Ecumenical Councils…except Vatican II.” Docility does not pick and choose what is authoritative and what is not, docility seek to conform one’s self to the Truth, no matter how difficult or inconvenient.

Paul Fahey is a husband, father, and catechist. He has a BA in Theology with minors in History, and Catholic Studies and is currently studying at the Augustine Institute for a MA in Theology. 

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7 thoughts on “Trads and Womenpriests – same problem, just dressed differently

  1. Thanks for the cogent explanation Paul. I’m a convert, and I have experienced both positions since coming home to the faith in 2006. Being in a University town in the deep south, I have seen a good bit of the progressives, and once in a while a trad or two pop up. It’s brilliant on your part to equate the two. I have felt the same. I often use the Democrat and Republican party example. Though on the service they are supposedly different, their fruit looks the same. It tastes the same, smells the same, and hangs the same way from the tree. Trads and Progs do more harm than good. They separate, divide, and harden hearts.

  2. I think the womenpriest lady is being too subjective to be anything like docile. She is an ass following her own ass around.

    • I mean! Hasty. Yes, that’s the point, that she’s being subjective irrespective of Canon law (and clearly some important papal teachings) but I would argue that, as a traditional Catholic in line with Church teaching, I personally don’t disregard Vatican II. That would be sinful even if I wanted to disregard it. Vatican II is a valid Council, yes, the effects of which have been rather devastating to the liturgy–only on account of subjectivity! People pounced upon a few sentences, here and there, that used ambiguous language. Much in the same way that the mainstream media have been pouncing on our Holy Father lately. Poor man is only trying to reach out and he’s misinterpreted. And I think that this misinterpretation, like the misinterpretation stemming from Vatican II, can have concerning and deleterious effects upon the Body of Christ.

      • I agree, and in no way was I trying to insinuate that all Catholics with more traditionalist preferences are not docile to the Church. Only those who let their personal preferences come before the legitimate teachers within the Church.

  3. The difference is that Church leaders have made no positive move to have women in the sanctuary; it’s just a permission. However, the womenpriest movement commits a very grave sin by simulating the mass. There are laws against it and very severe penalties for it. There are no laws against a priest who insists on only having altar boys or instituted acolytes (who have to be men) as lectors, etc.
    Furthermore, those changes such as the vernacular were only suggested with reservation in Sacrosanctum Concilium, and having women in the sanctuary is nowhere to be found among the documents of VII.
    I suppose what I’m trying to say is that the similarity between the trads and progressives as you describe them is not as great as you make out, in that the trad may disagree with those things you mention (viz. “boy only altar servers, detest of the vernacular, etc.”) and be in full communion with the Church (hence Ecclesia Dei groups, bishops who do not allow female altar servers) whereas the progressive’s preferences (womenpriests, different sexual morals) are roundly condemned (and penalised) by the Church’s highest authority.

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