Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr. Dwight Longenecker

4/8/2010 (5 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 (5 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

MAKE YOURSELF COUNT! Complete this quick Ash Wednesday survey

Image of Take the Ash Wednesday survey so we can better serve your needs.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online is conducting a global survey on Ash Wednesday practices. Each reader is asked to participate once. The survey will take less than a minute to complete. The results of the survey will help Catholic Online determine how best to serve your needs in the ... continue reading


Is this where the Annunciation took place? Ancient artwork sheds light an old mystery about the Virgin Mary Watch

Image of The Annunciation, 1859 (oil on canvas), Pinchon, Auguste.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

One of the oldest depictions of the Virgin Mary is casting new light on the Annunciation. A new look at an ancient depiction in the Yale University Art Gallery is making some question what they believe about the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


How do presidents pray? The beginning of a beautiful tradition Watch

Image of John F. Kennedy praying during the 9th annual Presidential Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 9, 1961 (Prayers for America).

By Abigail James (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

This morning marks the 64th annual National Prayer Breakfast and President Obama's last time attending the remarkable tradition while in office.  LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - On the first Thursday in February, the members of Congress and evangelical ... continue reading


Pope Francis will travel to Mexico as a messenger for peace Watch

Image of Pope Francis has participated in a collective interview, in which he responded to four questions posed by 33 people from various states across Mexico (Catholic News Agency).

By Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

Pope Francis will leave for Mexico in just over a week. In a new interview with a Mexican news agency, he told citizens of the crime-ridden country that while there, he hopes to be a messenger of peace, which must be fought for daily. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN ... continue reading


Sparks fly over Pope Francis' interview with Asia Times Watch

Image of Pope Francis did not speak of religion or freedom when praising China as a progressive country (Vatican).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Pope Francis' exclusive interview on Tuesday afternoon has been met with harsh criticism. Though the pontiff spoke highly of the country, he steered clear of religion and freedom talks. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis spoke ... continue reading


Sis boom bah! American Circus cheerleaders perform for Pope Francis at the Vatican Watch

Image of Pope Francis enjoyed a cheer by the American Circus, which performed at the Vatican on Wednesday (Reuters).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Following his general audience at the Vatican, Pope Francis enjoyed cheers, acrobatics and juggling performed by the Italian troupe "American Circus." LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - During the Papal Audience, the American Circus performed before the pontiff and ... continue reading


'I'm gay and I'm a priest, period': Chicago priest opens up about his same sex attraction Watch

Image of Father Michael Shanahan has announced his sexual orientation to the world (Our Lady of Lourdes).

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Twenty-three years after joining the clergy as a priest, Father Michael Shanahan, the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Chicago, has publicly admitted he is sexually attracted to other men. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The news was released via the ... continue reading


Before priests, nuns drop 'gossip bombs,' - bite your tongue, Pope Francis commands Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

"Bite your tongue!" That is the orders of Pope Francis, who said that gossip loving priests and nuns are hindering their cause by the spreading of innuendos and gossip. The pontiff also bemoaned the drop-off in vocations but said those that the church takes must be ... continue reading


Pope Francis: The actor? Watch

Image of Pope Francis is rumored to play himself in the upcoming spiritual film ''Beyond the Sun'' (Paul Haring).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

In the upcoming film "Beyond the Sun," Pope Francis will be making his acting debut. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Radio Vatican denied all claims that Pope Francis "will play himself" in "Beyond the Sun," with Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò stating only "video ... continue reading


God sends nun to save elderly man's life Watch

Image of A nun who has yet to be identified saved a man after a tree pinned him to the ground (wiseGEEK).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

In a story that sounds like the plot of a religious film, a nun, who stepped outside to pray, heard the cries of an elderly man caught beneath a tree in the frigid Wrentham, MA night. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Seventy-four-year-old Douglas Goldman was out in ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 6:1-2, 3-8
1 In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord seated on a high and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 138:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 7-8
1 [Of David] I thank you, Yahweh, with all my heart, for you have ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 5:1-11
1 Now it happened that he was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, ... Read More

Reading 2, First Corinthians 15:1-11
1 I want to make quite clear to you, brothers, what the message of the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for February 7th, 2016 Image

St. Moses
February 7: Arab hermit and bishop who is called "the Apostle ... Read More