Friday, June 24, 2005

I Love You, Fr. Alice B. Toklas

Every once in a while, a few folk decide that voluntary membership in a free-will association gives them the right to muddle with the rules by fiat. Witness this faux-dination by some lasses in Europe. (w/t to The Curt Jester; and check out his caption contest. I hope he'll consider the title to this post.)

Holy Orders is a bit of a sticking point for many; the Catholic church ordains only men as priests, feeling itself subject to the wishes of its divine Captain in this matter. There's a lot in the Catechism that explains it better than I could. (Very briefly, the priest stands "in the person of Christ" and his sex is a necessity to the character of his office.) My own thought on this is that it reflects an understanding of the nature of God that other groups have missed, working from our level upward rather than His level downward.

That's the rub - that "His" referring to God, the Father. Many prefer "Creator." I have known a priest who started Masses by saying "God, who is Father and Mother to each of us..." Some people like to try to be fair, I suppose, and others are uncomfortable with the concept of masculine nature being rooted in more than just biology. That strikes me as upside-down thinking. Biology is the way it is because masculine and feminine were there first - the sexes are a spiritual reality expressed materially. God is called "Father" and "Lord" not because He's a dude, but because He holds a particular relationship with us. Not coincidentally, this relationship is one much under fire in our country today - fatherhood is considered a helpful extra option instead of a necessity.

You won't find me, here or anywhere, defending the old double-standards of "men who score" vs. "easy women." I do note, however, two things - first, that this stereotype is hardly universal. You can just as easily find descriptions of such men as sinister, rutting cads, and women who surrendered their affections to them as misled victims. (Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice gives an excellent example.) Second, the double-standard is a diseased, false expression of a true observation - men and women are different creatures, beyond their physical differences. (Depending on your age and neighborhood, you may also have noticed, as I have, a general discomfort with, if not outright hostile rejection of, masculine character and gender differences.)

As regards the topic at hand, the ladies involved in this ceremony fail to notice this, and decide that in order to be equals before God, they have to assume roles that their Church has never held to be theirs. It is only the first of their errors. The second is clerisy - the presumption that a Church is exclusively its clergy, or that the priests are the only full initiates of the creed. A third is (irony of ironies) a certain double-standard of their own: they feel that the Church has no right to tell them they can't be priests, but they have no problem dictating terms in the other direction - they don't have to subordinate their own wishes in any way. (Again, you may have observed that this is a common error - the Church apparently has no right to insist on any code of conduct for its members, in sexuality, abortion, charitable giving, what have you.)

The whole case relies on a key Biblical quote, "In Christ there is neither male nor female, Greek or Jew, slave or free; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" [Galatians 3:28] and the Catholic teaching that conscience is binding on the individual; i.e. if one thinks it wrong to do an otherwise innocent thing, one sins in disregarding that thought.

Nonsense, I fear. The whole third chapter of Galatians makes it clear that the Church of Galatia had a problem with legalism and artificial divisions among its members - and the division between clergy and laity is, as mentioned before, one such example. Salvation is not exclusively a matter of ordination; all who are baptized already belong to Him, and the immediate context [Gal 3:27 & 29] says that baptism is what St. Paul is talking about: "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. ... . 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." Second, the Church holds that, due to primacy of conscience, one is obliged to properly inform oneself, which means (in part) reading the Church's teachings on the matter in question. If those teachings are so unimportant, why the mad rush to be ordained a priest - one whose responsibility it is to safeguard and promote them?

Neat bit of self-refutation, that. Par for the course, as it's one example of the larger contradictory thought: "This Church is my home and I have every right to be here, regardless!" The question is, what makes a particular expression of faith unique? And if those unique things are changed, how are we talking about the same thing anymore? It's as if I said, "Hockey is my sport and I have every right to play it!" Well, if I insist on using a lacrosse stick and wheeling around the rink on a bicycle, then I'm not playing hockey anymore. I've excluded myself. Likewise, Catholics for Choice and other dissident groups that insist that core teachings are mutable are destroying the walls of the home they insist that they love and honor. Knock down enough of them and you no longer have a home, you have a pile of rubble; what's more, none of the rest of us have a home, either.

And, bless me, but the accompanying pictures look as ridiculous as the muddled thinking that they started with. "Uh, father, ma'am? The high school called - curtain's in ten minutes, and they need their Technicolor Dreamcoat back."

I'd like to thank the local public library for the use of their public computers for this post.

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