Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr. Dwight Longenecker

4/8/2010 (4 years ago)

Inside Catholic (www.insidecatholic.com)

The feminists had promised that their argument was not theological, merely pragmatic and egalitarian. "Women will make good priests," they said, "and it is unfair that they should be barred from ordination." However, the argument became theological because it was always theological. The traditionalists understood this from the beginning, and the saavy feminists did too -- but they understood that their case for ordination would be derailed if they hinted that they wanted to unseat God the Father completely.

Father Nichols points out that the relationship between the Father and the Son takes us to the very heart of the mystery of the Holy Trinity, and therefore to the heart of the mystery of God Himself. God is who He is, because He is in a relationship with three persons in one. The great I AM says, 'I AM because I AM in relationship.'

Father Nichols points out that the relationship between the Father and the Son takes us to the very heart of the mystery of the Holy Trinity, and therefore to the heart of the mystery of God Himself. God is who He is, because He is in a relationship with three persons in one. The great I AM says, "I AM because I AM in relationship."

Highlights

By Fr. Dwight Longenecker

Inside Catholic (www.insidecatholic.com)

4/8/2010 (4 years ago)

Published in Living Faith


WASHINGTON, DC (Inside Catholic) - When I was an Anglican priest and the feminists were arguing for women's ordination, those who were opposed used the theological argument that the fatherhood of the priest was an indispensable part of a patriarchal system of belief, and that the patriarchal system of belief was indispensable to the Judeo-Christian revelation. In other words, in the family of faith, the priest represents God the Father, and a female can't do that. Tinker with the symbolism of priesthood, and you tinker with the revealed faith.
 
The feminists countered by saying, "This is not a theological argument. We have no problem with the revelation as it stands. Instead, this is simply a matter of justice. This is about equal rights. That's all." So, eventually, they won the argument, and the Anglican Church voted for women priests.

Almost immediately, the feminists began to tinker with the liturgy to make it "non-sexist." Prayers to "God the Father" were changed to simply address "God" or "Almighty God," and "Father" or "Father in Heaven" was altered to "Almighty God." The changes were subtle and slight to start with. Then they began their revision on the hymns. Any references to God as Father were changed. If they hymn was too grounded in the Fatherhood of God, it quietly disappeared from hymnals altogether.
 
The next revision was to excise references to God as Son. An alternative Trinitarian formula was offered: Instead of "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," it was suggested that we say, "Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer." New revisions of the prayer book started to include new "female-friendly" psalms and canticles. Not only were feminist-friendly Scripture passages -- like the ones personifying Divine Wisdom as female -- turned into canticles for worship (no problem with that, necessarily), but sections by much-loved female spiritual writers from the past, like Julian of Norwich, were incorporated and structured as "alternative canticles."
 
In addition to these innovations, completely new compositions by feminist theologians were also interpolated. You can see the slow drift: Include new scriptural canticles, then include non-scriptural material from the Sacred Tradition, then weave in new material that will eventually become part of the Tradition.
 
The feminists had promised that their argument was not theological, merely pragmatic and egalitarian. "Women will make good priests," they said, "and it is unfair that they should be barred from ordination." However, the argument became theological because it was always theological. The traditionalists understood this from the beginning, and the saavy feminists did too -- but they understood that their case for ordination would be derailed if they hinted that they wanted to unseat God the Father completely.
 
In his book Criticizing the Critics, English Dominican Rev. Aidan Nichols outlines the case against the feminist theologians who wish to get rid of patriarchal terminology and so get rid of patriarchy altogether. The feminists argue that patriarchy is a culturally determined part of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and as such it is expendable. God as Father originated in a patriarchal culture. It worked then; it doesn't work now, as we don't have a patriarchal culture anymore. Therefore the patrimony of patriarchy should be scrapped.
 
Father Nichols stops them in their tracks with a trenchant argument. First of all, he reminds us that, if we believe in a revealed religion at all, it is revealed by God within the times and cultures of human history. In Galatians 4:4, St. Paul teaches, "In the fullness of time God sent forth his son born of a woman." Locked within this short phrase is all the theology that unseats the feminists.
 
The first part of the phrase -- "In the fullness of time God sent forth" -- teaches us two things: first of all, that the Christian faith is revealed, not relative. God sends forth His word into the world. The entire Judeo-Christian story is one of God revealing Himself to His people. The second thing this teaches us is that God reveals Himself "in the fullness of time." In other words, He reveals Himself when it is right and through the correct human circumstances -- including the circumstances of place and time and culture. To put it bluntly, God revealed His Son Jesus Christ into the world in the first century through the Jewish people, because that was the very best time and place and culture for His self-revelation to take place.
 
If this is true, then we cannot dismiss the cultural milieu into which Jesus Christ stepped onto the stage of human history. Does this mean we must all speak Hebrew or Greek, wear long woolen robes, and live like first-century Jews? Of course not -- but there are certain attributes universal to the human race that were in place at that time that are woven into the human condition at a very basic level of physical, spiritual, and mental reality. One of these essential basics is gender and the intricate relationship of the individual to the family -- including the father-child relationship.
 
This brings us to the second part of the phrase in Galatians: "God sent forth his son born of a woman." Locked within this simple phrase is the realization that God's self-revelation is inextricably bound up with His relationship to Jesus Christ as father to son -- and therefore bound up with the father-son relationship.

Father Nichols explains that this must be so, because the revelation of the Father through the Son is not an arbitrary revelation. It is not chosen because He just happens to be speaking to a patriarchal people, but because the father-son relationship is the essence of God Himself. The self-revelation of the Father through the Son is exactly that: a revelation of God Himself at the most profound level.
 
Finally, the revelation of God the Father through the Son is accomplished "through a woman." The crucial role of the Blessed Virgin Mary is thus introduced into the divine economy of redemption as a non-negotiable. Her particular role reveals as much about God the Father and God the Son as it does about the Blessed Virgin herself.
 
Father Nichols points out that the relationship between the Father and the Son takes us to the very heart of the mystery of the Holy Trinity, and therefore to the heart of the mystery of God Himself. God is who He is, because He is in a relationship with three persons in one. The great I AM says, "I AM because I AM in relationship."

Furthermore, this relationship is essentially a filial relationship: It is the relationship of one who begets the other. It is the relationship of father to child. God the Father's identity is defined and revealed by the fact that He is Father to the Only Begotten Son. Therefore, the fatherhood of God is not a culturally determined and anachronistic fossil from a patriarchal age that we have outgrown. Instead, it is a characteristic at the very heart of the essence of who God is.
 
Arguments for the ordination of women may be conducted on sentimental, egalitarian, and utilitarian lines, but once they stray over the border into theology, they must come face to face with the innate patriarchy of the Judeo-Christian revelation. A patriarchal element is of the essence of historic Christianity and, no matter how unpopular, is indispensable.
 
Of course, to assert the primacy of patriarchy is not to condone the abuses of patriarchy -- the abuse of women or the overreach of power-hungry men who use patriarchy to consolidate their control. God the Father sets the example of a servant patriarch who gives all for those in His care. Jesus Christ reinforced that model in the story of the loving father in His parable of the prodigal son. This is the sort of father whom earthly fathers are meant to be, and this is the picture of the Heavenly Father, to whom each of us prodigals is on the journey home to meet.
 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rev. Dwight Longenecker is chaplain to St. Joseph's Catholic School in Greenville, SC. He is the author of ten books and many articles on the Catholic faith. Visit his Web site 

---

The mission of InsideCatholic.com is to be a voice for authentic Catholicism in the public square.We believe that truth is both attractive and compelling and that in the marketplace of ideas, it will invariably win out.



Comments


More Living Faith

What Pope Francis said to make millions think again about abortion Watch

Image of On Saturday, August 16, 2014, during the apostolic visit to Korea, Pope Francis made a loud statement. However, he did not use words. He did not have to. His prophetic action brought to mind a saying attributed to his namesake, Francis of Asisi - I preach the Gospel at all times, but sometimes I use words.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

When Francis began his service from the chair of Peter, much hoopla filled the media about some alleged softening in the opposition of the Catholic Church to what are dismissively referred to as complicated "moral issues" such as abortion. Sadly, even some in the ... continue reading


DEAR CATHOLIC ONLINE: Keep it free, keep it going

Image of Keep it free, keep it live.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online is heavily invested in bringing you world class news delivered from the Catholic perspective. This service is provided for free and we intend for it to remain free for the foreseeable future. However, it comes at a cost and right now, we need each ... continue reading


You Go Into the Vineyard Too! Every Baptized Christian Has a Vocation and Mission Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The Church is a seed, sign and beginning of the kingdom, making the kingdom present in a world which is wounded by the effects of sin but waiting to be born anew. The Lord continues His work through us. We are the workers in His vineyard. It matters little what ... continue reading


Friendly overtures to Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) met with mixed response Watch

Image of LCWR presidents welcome the approximately 750 members to the assembly.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, or LCWR is comprised of Catholic women religious who are leaders of their orders in the United States. The group represents about 80 percent of the 51,600 women religious in the U.S. However, relations between the ... continue reading


POPE: 'It is legitimate to halt the unjust aggressor' Watch

Image of Pope Francis said that

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Answering a wide array of questions, which included the proper response to the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities by fundamentalists of the Islamic State in Iraq, Pope Francis said that "it is legitimate to halt the unjust aggressor." ... continue reading


POPE IN SOUTH KOREA: 'Peace is not simply the absence of war, but the work of justice' Watch

Image of Pope Francis told 200 South Korean government officials that the two Koreas, halved between North and South since the end of the Korean War in 1953,

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis, in his first trip to Asia, addressed South Korean political and civic leaders and encouraged them to stay on a steady course towards social justice and democracy. "Peace is not simply the absence of war, but the work of justice," the Pope said in ... continue reading


Will Suffering, Struggle, Failure and Pain Make us Bitter or Better? Watch

Image of Because of his close communion with Jesus Christ, the Risen One who had called him in the desert, Paul cultivated an interior strength which made it possible for him to walk through the pain, to even embrace the pain, and to experience failure itself as a path to the Cross where he found comfort in the wounded side of Jesus the Savior.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

St. Paul was an extraordinary man and an extraordinary Christian. An Apostle, raised up out of the ordinary course, he accomplished great things for the Lord as he eagerly responded to His calling to build the Church and, through her, to help change the world. A ... continue reading


The Assumption: The Virgin Mary goes before us in the Order of Grace Watch

Image of

By Deacon F. K. Bartels

What God has promised on the last day for those he loves, he has already accomplished in the Virgin Mary. Let us turn to Mary and love her as our spiritual Mother in the order of grace; let us open our hearts to her Immaculate Heart, that she may illuminate her ... continue reading


The Assumption or Dormition of the Mother of the Lord: What Does It Mean? Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

This event is a part of the naturally supernatural  progression in the life of the Blessed Virgin of Nazareth. Her Yes, her Fiat of surrendered love, brought heaven to earth. This exercise of her human freedom, responding to the invitation of God, as sent through ... continue reading


Making bad situations worse in the Middle East

Image of Only by following the non-violent Christ can our world that seems so steeped in violence be converted.

By Tony Magliano

The heart wrenching tragedies throughout the Middle East are not the United States' fault, that is, at least not entirely. The fact that many Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims distrust each other, that the Allies established artificial national boundaries to suite their ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ezekiel 43:1-7
1 He took me to the gate, the one facing ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14
9 His saving help is near for those who fear him, his ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 23:1-12
1 Then addressing the crowds and his disciples Jesus ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 23rd, 2014 Image

St. Philip Benizi
August 23: Servite cardinal and preacher. Born in Florence, Italy, to a ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter