Thursday, November 08, 2007

Female Catholic Priest: A Meaningless Vocal Utterance

A CONTROVERSY is stirring in Saint Louis over the supposed ordinations of two women to the Roman Catholic priesthood, scheduled this upcoming weekend at Central Reform Congregation.

There is outrage over the audacity of two women pretending to receive Holy Orders, and also because this event is to be held in a Jewish synagogue.

See the article, The Nature of Priestly Ordination: Theological Background and Some Present Concerns, found at the Archdiocesan website. Also see the article, Women as priests? Plans test alliances, from the secular Post-Dispatch.

First, we note that Judaism is non-creedal and non-hierarchical, and so the actions of Central Reform Congregation are independent from the rest of the Jewish community. Also, the organization "Roman Catholic Womenpriests" has no recognition by the Church.

This is seen as generating division within the Church, and is also bad for ecumenism and interfaith affairs, but this is really missing the point. Rather, we ought to recognize that Womenpriests and Central Reform are actually different branches of the same religion.

They both belong to the religion of the Enlightenment, the religion founded by western thinkers such as Immanuel Kant. In this religion, the ideas of Jesus and Moses are important only insofar as creating identifiable communities, while secular Enlightenment ideas take precedence. This is the same religion that is the "spirit of Vatican II". In this religion, any faith is merely personal and is not binding on anyone, which is opposed to the Catholic view that the Faith is objective and discoverable. Kant describes this new Enlightenment religion (1793, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, translated by Theodore M. Greene & Hoyt H. Hudson):
There is only one (true) religion; but there can be faiths of several kinds. We can say further that even in the various churches, severed from one another by reason of the diversity of their modes of belief, one and the same true religion can yet be found.
The Enlightenment religion is not well suited for being a self-sustaining institution, and instead its adherents prefer to subvert (Latin: subvertere 'to turn from below'), existing religions, and are identified by the slogan "change from within".

We are upset that there are women who call themselves "priests", and that they call themselves "Roman Catholic" makes it worse. However, we need to realize that a core idea in the Enlightenment is the philosophy of nominalism. In the form of extreme nominalism, any two objects that are given the same name have nothing in common but the name. Therefore, in this view, the noun "priest" is merely an arbitrary designation without any meaning whatsoever, and the same goes with "Roman" and "Catholic". To the extreme nominalists, any vocal utterance is just as good as any other. However, we attach meaning to the word "priest" even if they do not; therefore this word is useful to them as a weapon. The fact that this group calls themselves 'Womenpriests' tells us that they perhaps view this word nominalistically, not wanting to use the two words "Women priests" that would imply an adjective modifying a noun. Of course, we see this same thing in business, especially with product names, but in those cases we are usually aware that they are playing a game.

Thus we find that the concept of self-identification is of supreme importance in the Enlightenment religion. A person identifies himself with a noun, be it 'Catholic' or 'female' or whatever, and inclusive religion will accept this self-noun-identification at face value; there is to be no further analysis of what the noun means, for to them it has either no meaning or at best a private subjective meaning. And if we try to discern objective meaning in the use of the words, then by definition we aren't members of the Enlightenment religion.

Those attached to these progressive congregations because of their social justice mission ought to be aware that the term "social justice" may also be used nominalistically, with little or no objective meaning whatsoever.

Most of the Founding Fathers of the United States observed the religion of the Enlightenment, and perhaps it could be called the Official State Religion of our Nation, especially revealed in the light of various Supreme Court decisions. However, the Founders tended to be publicly honest about their personal views and did not receive communion.

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