Women in ministry, "gaystapo," and gender dysphoria in Catholic schools.
Some years ago, my wife and I found ourselves in upstate New York during Holy Week. It was the year Pope John Paul II “went home to the Father’s House,” and I recall watching the Stations of the Cross on television, with now-St. John Paul sitting in his chapel, clutching a crucifix as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger led the Stations in Rome’s Colosseum.
We attended the Easter Vigil Mass in the local church. Boy was I surprised—after all the candles in the dark and singing of the Exsultet and the Old and New Testament readings and glorious Gloria and Alleluias—to see not the pastor ascend the pulpit to deliver the homily but a religious sister. It was announced that she would offer a “Gospel reflection,” and I think we visitors were the only ones who were surprised.
Recently, a local newspaper from that area reported that such scenes are not likely to be repeated.
This is, in fact, the Diocese of Rochester, N.Y., and the practice of allowing women religious and lay persons giving homilieswas tolerated, according to the Democrat and Chronicle, for “the better part of 40 years.”
(So it started some time after Bishop Fulton Sheen’s brief tenure as ordinary of the Diocese of Rochester.)
The new bishop, Salvatore Matano, told the newspaper he’d been confronting the issue on a case-by-case basis since January, when Pope Francis asked him to “go west,” from the Diocese of Burlington, Vt. Now, he is drafting guidelines to clarify that homilies are reserved for ordained priests and deacons, as prescribed by canon law, the paper said.
"I am trying to help the faithful understand what is the universal law of the Church and how important it is that in the celebration of Mass," said the bishop. "We do what the Church asks of us."
From Rochester to Russia…
Like Bishop Matano, the Russian Orthodox Church felt it necessary to clarify Church teaching on a subject affecting women, i.e., the Church of England’s decision to allow female clergy to ascend to the episcopate. Granted, the ROC and the state within which it operates are not winning too many popularity contests these days, but the Moscow Patriarchate felt compelled to clarify what effect the Anglican vote to ordain women as bishops would have on efforts for Church unity. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales had already spoken of the stumbling block the vote put on that road. But the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations noted that a “centuries-old relationships between our two Churches had shown possibilities for the Orthodox to recognize the existence of apostolic succession in Anglicanism.”
“The decision to ordain women, which the Church of England took in 1992, damaged the relationships between our Churches, and the introduction of female bishops has eliminated even a theoretical possibility for the Orthodox to recognize the existence of apostolic succession in the Anglican hierarchy,” the statement flatly said. “Such practice contradicts the centuries-old Church tradition going back to the early Christian community. In the Christian tradition, bishops have always been regarded as direct spiritual successors of the Apostles, from whom they received special grace to guide the people of God and special responsibility to protect the purity of faith, to be symbols and guarantors of the unity of the Church. The consecration of women bishops runs counter to the mode of life of the Savior Himself and the holy Apostles, as well as to the practice of the Early Church."
I suspect the unsigned statement was written by Metropolitan Hilarion, a gifted theologian who serves as the Moscow Patriarchate’s point man for relations with other Churches. “In our opinion, it was not a theological necessity or issues of Church practice that determined the decision of the General Synod of the Church of England, but an effort to comply with the secular idea of gender equality in all spheres of life and the increasing role of women in the British society. The secularization of Christianity will alienate many faithful who, living in the modern unstable world, try to find spiritual support in the unshakable Gospel’s and apostolic traditions established by Eternal and Immutable God."