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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Gender and Sacrament Pt I

Since I haven't put anything here for ages, here is a long text: a unpolished thought by a friend.
ALL Holy Orders originate in the 12 Apostles ordained by Christ at the Last Supper when He said: 'do this in memory of me'. None of the twelve Apostles were women. It is clear that the Blessed Virgin exceeded and exceeds in every way all each and every member of the human race other than her Son, including the Apostles, and yet she was not given the office of priest. Our Lord had no time whatsoever for the unjust prejudices and taboos of his age and culture. His behaviour towards women, gentiles, Samaritans foreigners and sinners was a cause of shock and scandal both to His opponents and His disciples. The Lord Jesus was not averse to sending women as his messengers to the very men He had ordained as his Apostles. Quite apart from these considerations to accuse the Lord of cultural conditioning is to repudiate Him, for it is to deny His Divinity His hypostatic oneness with the Divine Word. The actions of the Lord are thus normative they are a law for His Church. "The precepts of the Lord are right, they gladden the heart. The command of the Lord is clear, it gives light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is holy, abiding for ever. The decrees of the Lord are truth and all of them just." (Palm 19:9 - 10) Let us then examine the fittingness of Our Lord's actions that we might find light and truth therein.

In this respect St Paul, chosen by the Lord in an extraordinary manner as His Apostle to the Gentiles, both follows Him in his government of the churches and helps us to see the reason behind Jesus' decision. This reason lies in the great mystery that Jesus revealed to Paul on the road to Damascus when He said 'Saul, why persecuteth thou me?' - the mystery of the Mystical Body of Christ.

St Paul commands Timothy 'I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.' (1Tim 2:12-13) These are very hard words for this age to accept. And yet, if we are Catholics we must accept that 'All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching' (2Tim 3:16) for this is what the Church teaches. We must take the Word of God as the rule of our lives and not make the prejudices and assumptions of our age a barrier to the Word of God. It cannot be maintained that Christ's Apostle any more than Christ himself is the creature of his own age. Nor would the evidence support this claim for St Paul holds to the equality of man and women, Jew and Gentile 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." (Galatians 3:28 -29). Let us then, if we are to understand this great mystery, have recourse to the teaching of the Church which St Paul tells Timothy is 'the pillar and foundation of the truth' (1Tim 3:15).

The Catholic Church basing itself on Genesis 1:27 teaches the absolute intellectual equality of man and women. It also teaches the aboriginal intrinsic and essential character of the distinction between the sexes. The purpose of this distinction is generation and the establishment thereby of the family. The intrinsic ordering of human nature to the family renders man an essentially social being in a way that a pure and incorporeal intelligence (an angel) is not. This intrinsic social character, which is the distinctively human aspect of man's intellectual nature, also contributes to the truth of the statement that man is made 'in the image of God'. That this 'Imago Dei' is an 'Imago Trinitatis' is indicated by the use of the first person plural by God in Genesis 1:26 'let Us make man in Our own image'. Because man is ordered by his nature to the family, the family, just as much as the individual, precedes the State. Though the family by its expansion and needs also generates the state to regulate the greater society to which it gives rise. Thus the individual, the family and the state are natural institutions with absolute rights over and immunities from each other. 'The family, no less than the State, is, as We have said, a true society, governed by an authority peculiar to itself, that is to say, by the authority of the father. Provided, therefore, the limits which are prescribed by the very purposes for which it exists be not transgressed, the family has at least equal rights with the State in the choice and pursuit of the things needful to its preservation and its just liberty. We say, "at least equal rights"; for, inasmuch as the domestic household is antecedent, as well in idea as in fact, to the gathering of men into a community, the family must necessarily have rights and duties which are prior to those of the community, and founded more immediately in nature.'

Unlike the individual, the existence of the family and the state is one not of substance but of order. This order requires a regulating principle: the father and the sovereign. The authority exercised by the father and the sovereign is written into the nature of generation and of community. The community cannot exist unless its many members are ordered to a single end but this in no way subverts the equality of the intelligent persons who compose the society. Just as the origin of the second and third persons in the first person of the Trinity does not in any way subvert the equality of the persons of the Trinity that the human communities of family and state exist to imitate.