Is it Right to Intentionally Lie Because the Church Says to? The Case of Fr. Roy’s Assertion of Conscience Over Vatican’s Mandate to Lie By Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Fr. Roy Bourgeois has many titles: Nobel Peace Prize winner, purple heart recipient, former missionary, member of the Maryknoll Fathers for 44 years, and ordained priest for 38 years.  He has long been associated with social justice and helping the oppressed and marginalized.  He was a peace activist during the Vietnam War and founded the School of Americas Watch.  He is found often marching and protesting in front of the School of Americas (now WHINSEC ), a terror training camp at Ft. Benning  where soldiers are trained in devices of torture.  This is where soldiers that were members of the death squads that existed in Latin America, especially in El Salvadorwere trained. This is also where the soldiers who killed the Jesuits, their maid, and her child as well as Monsignor Romero were trained.

Fr. Roy is and continues to be an important activist for peace and justice and a champion for the poor.   At the risk of being defrocked, Fr. Roy is also an advocate on behalf of another oppressed group – women in the Catholic Church. Fr. Roy, through his actions, is now among the group of the oppressed and stands in punishment of a crime considered “delicta gravioria” by the Vatican.  The brevity of his crime defined as “delicta gravioria” is shared with other offenders such as John GeoghanJohn Birmingham, Paul Desilets, Robert V. Gale, and others found guilty of pedophilia in the Sex Abuse Scandal that rocked the United States.  However Fr. Roy’s crime is not pedophilia; it is the public support of ordaining women.

The Vatican issued a canonical warning to Fr. Roy for his “crime” in record time; a mere three months after Fr. Roy participated in a women’s ordination ceremony.  In Nihil Obstat, the author pointed out that there has not been a single instance where a priest was publicly excommunicated for sexual abuse or rape of a minor and posed the question: Is it more of a grave action to lay hands to ordain a woman or lay hands on a minor?  Though this statement may seem harsh, the Vatican’s actions are no less harsh in their actions against Fr. Roy and their categorization of ordaining women within the same grouping as pedophilia, abuse of the mentally ill, and pornography.

The Vatican has also taken the position that Fr. Roy’s actions caused a latae sententiae excommunication by acting, participating, and supporting issues forbidden by the church. Excommunication, the most severe sentence handed down by the Church, denies the participation in the Sacraments of the Church.  Excommunication and the withholding of Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, was a tool used in the Middle Ages to control or coerce a King and his vassal into obeying the demands of the Church.  This abuse of authority did not fade in light of the Reformation. The threats and mandates made against Fr. Roy to coerce obedience and publicly confirm the party line is evidence that the abuse of power still remains a problem; not just with the Vatican, but also with some Bishops.   Examples exist where this method of coercion has caused former supporters of female ordination, even those ordained, to publicly recant their support.  In fact, Fr. Roy can remain a priest and avoid excommunication and laicization if he obeys the Vatican’s demand to recant or lie to the public.

In April of this year, the threat of a second canonical warning was made.  However Fr. Roy continued to stand firm in his position and refused to compromise his conscience by obeying the Vatican’s edict to recant.  He asserted and continues to assert his obligation to follow his conscience; to do otherwise would violate divine law as well as church teaching.  This statement is absolutely correct.  Though it is not greatly publicized, following one’s conscience can trump church teaching. To do so has to be done through theological reflection; a thoughtful examination and reflection on church teaching, scripture, context, and your conscience.

Following one’s conscience is vital and integrated into many aspects of church teaching and Scripture.  Teachings found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 6: Mortal Conscience, and Canon Law, Canon 748 support Fr. Roy’s assertion that he cannot be coerced to divert from his conscience.  In the article, “Conscience vs. Canon Law,” James Martin, S.J., writer of America magazine identified two documents from the Second Vatican Council, Dignitatis Humane and Gaudium et Spes, that necessitates adherence to one’s conscience. Dignitatis Humane states that a person cannot be obligated to act against his/her conscience nor should he/she be restrained from acting in accordance with their conscience, especially in religious matters.  Gaudium et Spes addresses the sanctity of a person’s conscience. In Scripture, this appears in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The obvious beginning point is the Ten Commandments that forbid giving false testimony (Exodus 20:16; 23:1,7) and bearing false witness (Deuteronomy 19:16-21).  Ephesians 4:25 reminds us that we are all members of one body and should speak peacefully putting falsehood off.  Colossians 3:9-10 tells us not to lie to each other, that our new selves are renewed in knowledge in the image of the creator.

In essence following one’s conscience and lying are addressed at length in Church teaching as well as in Scripture.   In the face of persecution and hypocrisy, Fr. Roy followed the example of Jesus by standing against the institutional coercions and threats.  As Jesus was ostracized and ridiculed for his stance and denouncement of institutional abuse, Fr. Roy is also being ostracized by his peers, his Maryknoll brothers with whom he ministered with for the last 44 years.  Forcing a person to lie can only be viewed as an act to falsifying support or manipulating one’s agenda; giving an illusion of unity, and forcing blind obedience to policies that are clearly antiquated and baseless, especially when the church cites tradition as their only authority.

August 8th, in the New York Times, the second canonical warning was formally issued and Fr. Roy was dismissed by the Maryknoll order. The reason given for his dismissal was his continued defiant stance that incited an illicit and grave scandal for the Church caused by his refusal to publicly recant his support of female ordination.  Now even as his case goes to Rome for formal laicization proceedings, Michelle Somerville points out that even if Fr. Roy is defrocked, he will be no less a priest.  A collar does not make a priest; acts and works do. He will certainly continue to adhere to his baptismal call to ministry and continue to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.    However Fr. Roy, even without his title, abides by his baptismal call more clearly then some who wear a collar and blindly adhere to church teaching just “because the church says so.”  To follow and preach on an item that is contrary to your conscience ‘because the church says so” does not make a faithful follower; it makes a hypocrite.

Consider supporting Fr. Roy by signing the petition to Maryknoll brothers.  Fr. Roy has not wavered in his support for a woman’s right to be ordained, let’s return the favor and show our gratitude and support.

Author: Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Michele Stopera Freyhauf is a Doctoral Student in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and a Member of the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University as well as an Instructor at John Carroll University’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies. Michele has an M. A. in Theology and Religious Studies from John Carroll University, and did post-graduate work at the University of Akron in the area of History of Religion, Women, and Sexuality. She is also a Member-at-Large on the Student Advisory Board for the Society of Biblical Literature and the student representative on the Board for Eastern Great Lakes Biblical Society (EGLBS). Michele is a feminist scholar, activist, and author of several articles including “Hagia Sophia: Political and Religious Symbolism in Stones and Spolia” and lectured during the Commission for the Status of Women at the United Nations (2013). Michele can be followed on Twitter @msfreyhauf and @biblicalfem. Her website can be accessed here and is visible on other social media sites like LinkedIn and Google+.

13 thoughts on “Is it Right to Intentionally Lie Because the Church Says to? The Case of Fr. Roy’s Assertion of Conscience Over Vatican’s Mandate to Lie By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

  1. With all respect, Fr Roy was in the wrong. It isn’t wrong for Fr Roy to believe that women should be priests. Nor is it wrong for him to theologize on a female priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church. It’s not wrong to bring that into dialogue in hopes of contributing to a deeper communal insight on the nature of the priesthood. Those are all matters of conscience and for him to say that he believes otherwise would be a lie. There are a good number of Catholics within the Church who are of that same mind, clergy and lay people alike.

    However, it WAS wrong for him to participate in an ordination ceremony where women were being ordained as priests. As a priest, he represents Christ, he represents himself, he represents the body of believers, he represents the Tradition, and he represents those folks in Rome that he doesn’t seem to agree with. He has done so much good, and none of that work is called into question. But that doesn’t make him perfect or right in what he did. If a priest is excommunicated or removed from his community because he acted in a way that no longer represents his Church, then that is his choice. He can’t be surprised at this. Maybe he no longer feels that the Catholic Church represents who he is, but certainly as a priest (and in virtue of the vows and promises he made at his own ordination) it would be wrong for him to misrepresent that Church by his actions. He freely bound himself up with that Church, choosing to tie who he was as an individual to something larger than himself.

    Maybe he feels that he is representing the Gospel and the principals of Christ. He has spent a lifetime aligning himself with the poor and the marginalized and certainly that is at the heart of the Gospel. For any Catholic advocating the ordination of women this is a matter of righting an injustice, sweeping away one of the last great holdouts of institutional sexism still present in the Western world. If I felt that particular narrative did justice to the issue then I would agree. I, however, disagree with reducing the issue to a matter of simple patriarchalism. The conversation should first deal with what a priest is and if that theology of the priesthood is a sufficient for justifying an all-male priesthood, whether the male priest is an adequate icon for Christ in His relationship with His Bride the Church, or whether the Catholic priesthood ought to be connected with that wider eschatological vision. The same goes with identifying the “presbyteros” with the “hiereus”, a development that marked a symbolic continuity with the Jewish priesthood. Certainly Exodus and 1 Peter reflect on a common priesthood of all believers, something that manifests itself in the Catholic tradition in a way that participates in but does not equal the ordained priesthood. This speaks nothing of being a leader or teacher within the Catholic Church, of representing or being represented in the community. Being a theologian, a biblical scholar, a religious educator, a pastoral manager, or a community leader is not contingent on gender.

    Your post was very good and well represents the Catholic teaching on conscience. And again, I would agree with you that Fr Roy shouldn’t be forced to act on conscience. I don’t appreciate the way he appropriates Inquisition terminology (in saying that he is forcefully being asked to utter two impossible word: “I recant”). In doing so, he heightens this issue as one of drama but not of substance. The truth is that there is a greater debate here, but he is not representing it. Surely it is fair to critique the adequacy of the current argument against women’s ordination. Personally, I don’t feel that the common arguments against women’s ordination do justice to the deeper theology of the Catholic priesthood already present within the Tradition. I do not advocate for women’s ordination and do take issue with aspects of the movement, not for desiring to elevate the status of women in the Church (again, as a Church worker I am but one of relatively a handful of men within a large diocese -plus, my mother is a Church worker as well- and that certainly affects how I see the issue) because that is a righteous cause when fighting against injustice. My issues are well reflected in my personal response to Carter Heyward’s book “A Priest Forever” which recounts her journey into the Episcopal priesthood. I left the book impressed not by her fidelity to her tradition and to Christ but her revolutionary attitude that was marked by a desire to be faithful not to her Church but to a vision of Christ that jibed well with her own feelings. The idea that somehow Christ and the Church are at odds and that fidelity to Christ will often mean standing against the community the first proclaimed Him to us as modern Pharisees seems a bit bizarre and artificial to me.

    Lastly, I very much respect your post even though I disagree with aspects of it as recounted above. I hope this response finds you well.


  2. When I read your headline, “Is it Right to Intentionally Lie Because the Church Says to?” I imagined this was about LGBT people staying in the closet because of church teachings. It turns out that the church is promoting other lies!

    When I was in seminary, a visiting professor who was a closeted lesbian claimed that it wasn’t really a lie to hide her sexual orientation because the word “lesbian” itself conjured up so many false misconceptions. I’m glad to be openly lesbian.

    The New York Times Magazine recently posted a fascinating piece about gay men who stay married to women: “Living the Good Lie: Should therapists help God-fearing gay people stay in the closet?”


  3. Kittredge,

    Thank you for your post. I am so glad that you have embraced who you are! It always saddens me when I hear of situations where people feel as if they need to hide who they are, especially when it comes to sexuality. When it comes to sexual orientation, there be only one category: love. It is really just that simple. To make people scared to publicly embrace their sexuality because of the backlash that many receive from the Church is anything but Christian; its bullying.

    People misuse the Bible, as you are aware, in their condemnation. I have read stories of fundamentalist who attempt to “pray the gay away.” I have also read stories where women in Africa were gang-raped in an attempt to make them straight. These are horrifying stories that have resulted in an extreme interpretation of what society says is right and wrong; something usually rooted in skewed religious teaching. It is also a demonstration of ignorance.

    Nobody should be ashamed to be who they are or forced to fit within society’s definition, mold, or category. Society is just to focused on labels and categories. Thank you for sharing this article.

    All the best,



  4. Tom,

    Thank you for your post and your opinion. I am glad to see that we agree on some points, and disagree civilly on other points. It is the areas where we disagree that allows us to start a dialogue. In the end we may not reach an agreement, but being open to this conversation is wonderful, so I thank you.

    I agree with your comment that Fr. Roy represents the Church but the Church is not the hierarchy, it is all the members of the Church – the people. Within that context I might be so bold as to suggest that the hierarchy does not represent the Church, Fr. Roy may represent the church more fully then those condemning him. I also find it interesting that 157 Priests signed a letter of support for Fr. Roy ( So even within the “institutional” walls, he seems to be representing their interests as well. A petition currently circulating has also collected over 10,000 signatures in support of Fr. Roy.

    To say his excommunication is due to the fact that he no longer represents his church is also not accurate. First, I will reiterate that the Church is the congregation; the people. He is not only representing his conscience, but members of the Church. He has a canonical responsibility to represent the interests of his parish/his church which trumps any vow of obedience. By following his conscience, as I laid out in the post above, he is acting within Church Law, Church Teaching, and Scripture.

    Tradition is something I struggle with because it is a word that is thrown around too loosely. The word Tradition is usually used when no other word can be found to support the action. Whether you agree with that or not, I would also point out that tradition is not stagnant, nor is it set in stone; it is and has changed over time adjusting to the needs of the church (the people) and learning from its mistakes (remember it is a human institution). The Church has been able to reconcile its wrongs and make changes; the Second Vatican Council is proof of that.

    Fr. Roy represents Christ. Without bringing into this conversation his ministry and other deeds that would be considered Christlike, he is standing up against institutional hypocrisy and injustice, just like Jesus. There is a fantastic movie called Entertaining Angels that shows Dorothy Day standing in front of Christ yelling at him. She talks about ministry as dirty and hard and asks why he isn’t helping her. She was struggling to help the poor and homeless, raising a child as a single mother, and having no money to do this task. She was also confronted with a Bishop who undermined what she was doing. She was forced to stand up to him because of his wrongs and abuse of power, just as Fr. Roy is doing today. Dorothy Day stood steadfast being Christ in this world in spite of the Bishop. Ultimately she prevailed. It is my hope that Fr. Roy will prevail as well.

    As for male priests as Icons of Christ; I disagree. The image of a priest was male because of teachings like Augustine’s Imago Dei; they had to look like Christ because the congregation could not see Christ in a woman. There are many other writings of the early fathers that also took similar stances. Women are evil, responsible for sin and death, they are imperfect men, etc. There is a multitude of statements that are demeaning and antiquated and has no place in the Church today. If a Priest, as a male, are icons of Christ; then we are talking about physical likeness only. Galatians 3:28, erases the lines of gender; we are all one in Christ. If we cannot see Christ in a woman, we cannot see Christ in one another.

    While I am addressing gender and boundaries, your comment about the Bride is a literal reference; it is meant to be rhetorical, representative of the covenantal bond of marriage. Jesus was a man; the resurrected Christ is without gender. Moreover, references to God as Sophia exist in the Old Testament. We know that God is without gender, and again, that was a metaphor for wisdom that also appears in the New Testament

    The definition of a priest should not be gender related. To root authority in gender is once again, a product of patriarchy. Presbyteros in the Jewish Community did exist, but women were also Deacons (Romans 16:1) and led liturgical meals/worship in house churches. Also, there is an estimate of over 50,000 women deacons during the first millennium of the Eastern Church. It was viewed as Sacramental and they had the following authority: 1. ordination in front of the altar, 2. public election through the Divine Grace formula, 3. laying on of hands with the invocation of the Holy Spirit, 4. a second ordination prayer with renewed laying on of hands and the calling down of the Spirit, 5. receiving the distinctive diaconate stole, and 6. receiving the power to hold the chalice with the consecrated body and blood.

    I did some work researching Transvestite Legends where women disguised themselves as men, lived in a holy life in a monastery. Upon the revelation, there was awe and surprise that women could be so holy. These women are now Saints in the Byzantine Church. If women are holy enough to be elevated to Sainthood, then why aren’t they holy enough to be ordained. Moreover God chose women to fulfill the covenant promised to Abraham and bring forth Jesus into this world. Women have an important role in scripture and in the Church. Denying them the ability to be ordained is baseless.

    Bottom line, the brevity in which this is being handed down reflects that the Church is making an example of him. The categorization of his “crime” of ordaining women, sits in the same category as pedophilia; I find that to be unconscionable. Ordaining women is certainly within Church History, and Fr. Roy’s actions are within the scope of Canon Law, Church Teaching, and Scripture. I would suggest that you keep reading and looking. Carter Hayword had one experience, but it is not representative of all women’s experience. Here is a link to a book about Joy Carroll Wallis

    And another one about Women’s Ordination in the Medieval Period.

    My best,



  5. Thank you for your thoughtful response! I have the sincerest hope in mutual understanding. I get more than a little frustrated at the incivility in the Church when different sides on an issue clash. I suppose it is a byproduct of the passion we all feel for the Body of Christ and better that than total indifference.

    -I stand with you that doctrine is a living entity. Doctrine, much like Tradition (which along with Revelation gives doctrine its form and provides its root) isn’t static but living. Bl John Henry Newman’s Essay on the Development of Doctrine is the pivotal work on the issue and I’m sure you’re already acquainted with it. I can’t say it better than him but stand behind that work, especially as a precursor to those theologians who were most influential Vatican II.
    -I don’t think gender is a side issue or irrelevant to the discussion of the priesthood. As you rightly pointed out, in Christ there is no division, “Jew or Greek”, “slave or free”, “male or female”. I am aware of the OT passages that refer to God in the feminine (especially in Proverbs 8, I had to translate the Septuagint version for a class in college). When dealing with the nature of God, clearly God is not limited by gender. In Scripture, references to God are overwhelmingly masculine, but images of God draw from both genders. It’s important that Scripture includes both. God’s fatherhood is the revelation of the Son. His fatherhood is more than a cultural appropriation. It stands as the archetype, so much so that “every family in heaven and on earth takes its name” (Eph 3:15).
    -The image of the bridegroom and the bride in Revelation points to the covenantal relationship between Christ and the Church, but it also goes beyond it. The word covenant invokes the memory of Abraham, David, etc, but the concept of the covenant as expressed through marriage is far more intimate. Jesus’ relationship to the Church is a “sacramental” relationship, where the physical not only mediates the divine but is in itself is a suitable expression of that reality. There’s something about bread that is suitable for the Eucharist in a way that the traditional sacrifices were not. There’s something about water that is suitable to the expression of new life in baptism that would have been wanting in any other symbolic form. I think that we do damage to our understanding when we sidestep aspects of that imagery, especially when those images speak to us not just as a form of cultural expression but from the most basic building blocks of our existence. The uniting of a man and woman in marriage is the font of our existence, conceiving us, giving birth to us, loving us, forming us, and teaching us the basics of life. Family is where we return when life is overwhelming or unfair. Family is where our identity is formed, either with or against it. Family is with us at every juncture of our lives, all rooted in the unity of a groom and his bride. That relationship is the center of the whole identity of the family.
    -The resurrected Christ is not without gender. The physicality of Christ after his resurrection denotes a continuity of his form, not a break. IN Christ there are no divisions, but he doesn’t stop being a man because he does not cease to be human. A genderless Christ is a frightful image if only that it teaches us that our gender is ultimately meaningless. Motherhood and fatherhood are meaningless, or at best provisional. The same goes for brother and sister, husband and wife, lover and beloved. Even our sexuality becomes meaningless, certainly as the expression of a life giving relationship. A barrier to our communal nature is thrown up. It cuts us off our human condition. Paul expressed the universality of Christ in being “all things to all people” (1 Cor 9:22) and Paul’s celibacy sets aside marriage and sex for service.
    -I also agree that in reading the Fathers there is a cultural prejudice against women that is glaring when we read it today. The CDF makes the same point in Inter Insigniores. I don’t blame the Fathers for originating or perpetuating it. Revelation is communicated in and through a real history, using that history has a “language” of sorts. That “language” can be coarse or limited in its earlier stages, like translating Shakespeare into Akkadian. To believe in Scripture as revelation (or as relating God’s revelation among His people) may often mean suspending judgment on elements of that history that reflect a way of living that makes us feel uncomfortable, especially in light of the fullness of God’s revelation in Christ. Recently, I taught a number of classes on the Old Testament for my parish. When we encountered stories from Joshua and Judges that made the class a little uncomfortable, I reminded them that it was okay to feel uncomfortable with those stories. It is precisely because of Christ that we feel uncomfortable with the death of Sisera at the hands of Jael, or the way David sent Bathsheba’s husband to his death, or even the rhetoric of the conquest of Canaan. The fullness of God’s revelation in Christ illuminated the heart of the Law in the forgiveness of sin, solidarity with the oppressed, true holiness, and our ultimate desire of union with God. After Christ, doctrine develops in a history. As time passes and we contemplate that history, the eternal aspects of that revelation become clear. Theology is purified by Christianity’s encounter with Greek philosophy. The Catholic understanding of salvation is better articulated in the wake of the Reformation. The theology of the office of the papacy is purified by the loss of the Papal States. Biblical theology is purified by the emergence of modern biblical theologies. The encounter with the “other” is an impetus to deeper understanding in the Church. As time passes those aspects to Church teaching that are historically contingent will be stripped away and the heart of that teaching will beat in the body of our time. This encounter means avoiding a fetishistic traditionalism on one hand, and syncretism on the other. The question is whether or not the issue of women’s ordination is a matter of historical contingency, and again I disagree that it is.
    -There were certainly deaconesses in the early Church. I suspect that the practice of ordaining women to the diaconate was not revived for a number of reasons. Up until the revival of the permanent diaconate, the role of the deacon was transitional. You were ordained a deacon in preparation for the priesthood. Within the Church today, that link still exists. A deacon may pursue ordination to the priesthood if his spouse dies. In the early Church, the offices of diakonos, presbyteros, and episkopos did not necessarily exist on a trajectory. As the theology of the priesthood organically developed, so did the application of the diaconate. In the future that might look differently, but seeing that it is an office primarily ordered in service it will fundamentally be ordered towards the service of the community and the service of the priest. As it stands, the diaconate shares in the responsibilities of the priests, aiding them in the Mass and in the community. Given that the laity now have a greater role in the service and governance in the Church, non-ordained people in ministry share in most of those roles. It would be cool to see the development of the deaconate so that it includes women because it would also open up teaching in the Mass. That might seem like too little a thing and a pitiful concession, but I mean that in the best way.

    -I think that comparing the case of Fr Roy with the many cases of pedophile priests illustrates many of the problems in implementing penalties in canon law. When the CDF recently published a clarification on canonical penalties reserved for grave crimes within the Church, it was foolish to treat the sex abuse with minors along with the attempted ordination of women. Certainly these have to do with canonical procedures and not civil law and our sensibilities see that correlation as being intrinsically off. One commentator noted that the issue dealt not with elevating the issue of attempting to ordain a woman as the sex abuse of a minor, but with handling the case of a priest sexually abusing a minor within the church at LEAST as seriously as they currently treat treat the issue of women’s ordination. The truth is that it should have been handled separately, given the sensitivity of the issue and the great scandal and harm the sex abuse of minors caused within the Church. As a Church worker who runs a large religious education program and who has worked in youth ministry for 10 years, I live in the fallout of that disaster.

    -Lastly, I certainly believe it to be providential that the Church’s self-understanding of the Body of Christ as developed to mean the community of all who believe. It is certainly not an innovation as it is present in the New Testament. But I am uncomfortable with the idea with the movement that seems to edge the hierarchy out of that Body. Certainly the hierarchy shares in the prophetic mission of the Church and in fact is granted a “charism” to do so. I believe that the diversity of voices in the Church is a healthy thing, provided we stand in solidarity with each other and never forget our unity as Christ’s body. But that diversity of voices does not necessarily mean that we are all necessarily right. In 1 Corinthians, in dealing with the reality of factions in the Church, he writes “…when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extend I believe it. Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you is genuine.” (1 Cor 11:19). He was dealing with abuses in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, but I think it’s a fair principal for the Church.

    While I am aware that the Church’s teaching on women’s ordination emerged out of a severely patriarchal worldview, I also believe that it is sound. I believe that John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is sound, as is the CDF’s clarification of the letter. Much of the debate on that letter centers around the fact that it is not an exercise of the ordinary Magisterium of the Church and not the extraordinary Magisterium. As such, it is not “infallible” doctrine. Both Richard McBrien and Jerry Filteau (who also cites Charlie Curran) waxed on this aspect of the debate in NCR a couple months ago. Certainly, I think the last 50 years in Catholic theology have seen a sort of exploitation in relating the relationship between ordinary and extraordinary exercises of the Magisterium with regards to conscience (as well as how that relates to activism and personal belief). Most encyclicals, apostolic letters and exhortations, bishop’s letters, and the like are left unread by Church leaders unless they deal with some current debate (a real loss to the Church given the theological pedigree of our last 2 popes) and even then they are largely rejected if they don’t conform to a view of the “sensus fidelium” that is divorced from the idea of obedience. I don’t know why obedience is such a bad thing. There are many aspects of my life and practice where I’ve chosen obedience. God blesses obedience not just in the easy things, but the hard things. God is no fan of injustice, but the magisterial documents really try to drive home the point that the Church’s teaching here isn’t based in prejudice and injustice. I’d also recommend Cardinal Ratzinger’s introduction (and the subsequent commentaries from other authors) to volume 6 of the CDF’s Documenti e Studi (published as “From ‘Inter Signiores’ to Ordinatio Sacerdotalis’: Documents and Commentaries” in the US). I know he can seem like a contentious figure, but he does a real solid job. I know this is all stuff that you’ve probably already read and have wrestled with already. You’ve already made great use of the authoritative documents from Vatican II, the Catechism, and Canon Law. I think that arm of the Church has been helpful on the issue of ordination as well.
    But imagine I live to see things 100 years from now. Let’s say that I’ve been advocating for the wrong team, that the ordination of women in the Catholic Church was the goal of the Holy Spirit in all of the passionate work and insights of people on both sides of this issue. Where would that leave me? How would I feel about the Church? How would I feel about myself? I would hope that I would take solace in Paul’s words, that this passionate dialogue served God’s greater desires, that I don’t in myself have the truth in my as much as I witness to the Truth. I hope that I would not malign the Magisterium as many malign Vatican II now. I hope I would learn to understand.

    I’m so sorry this is so long. I really meant for it to be shorter. I don’t know if you’ll want to reply. Again, I appreciate your article and your insights.


  6. I find it interesting that no priests who were convicted pedofiles were ever ex-communicated or kicked out of the church. The real threat to patriarchy always are the few male priests who say that women should become priests. Patriarchy is just that… rule of the fathers. Any institution where all men make the rules for all people will be inherently awful towards women. It’s built into the system. I don’t think men, born with patriarchal trappings really can get this from a deep level.

    So the catholic church is stuck in its male dominated teachings, stuck. Priests can rape girls, but heaven forbid that they approve of women’s ordination. SHOCK. But that is male thinking at its horrifying best.


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