The Ordained Priesthood

Author: Eamonn Keane

The Ordained Priesthood

by Eamonn Keane

Foreward by Matthew Habiger

Author's Preface


1.The identity of the Ordained Priest 2.The Two Priesthoods: A Difference in Essence 3.Confusion of Roles 4.Teach Transubstantiation and the Church's Moral Doctrine


1.At the Last Supper Jesus Instituted the Ministerial Priesthood 2.The Early Church was Hierarchically Organised


1.The Choice of the Twelve 2.The Apostolic Community Remained Faithful to the Intention of the Lord 3.The Equality of 'Male and Female' Does Not Mean the Suppression of Differences 4.Sacramental Truth and Women Priests? 5.Revealed Anthropology 6.Christ: Bridegroom of the Church 7.Marital Symbolism and the Eucharistic Sacrifice 8.Adam: A Man or a Woman? 9.'In Persona Christi' or 'In Persona Ecclesia'? - A Question of Priority 10.Women Priests? - An Ancient Heresy


1.Development of Doctrine 2.The Meaning and Nature of Authority 3.Infallible Teaching and Authentic Teaching 4.Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: The Church Has No Authority Whatsoever to Confer Priestly Ordination on Women 5.Dissent from Ordinatio Sacerdotalis 6.The CDF Reply 7.Who Determines what is the Teaching of the Ordinary Universal Magisterium: The Theologians or the Magisterium? 8.The Ordination of Women: A Corruption of Doctrine


1.Women's Particular Genius 2.Radical Feminist Attack on Sources of Christian Revelation 3.Radical Feminist Attack on the Ordained Priesthood 4.The Unisex Utopia


1.Objections to Celibacy 2.Celibacy is Most Appropriate for the Ministerial Priesthood and it is Rooted in the Example of Christ and the Apostles 3.The Church Resolutely Defends Celibacy 4.Celibacy: A Sign of Contradiction


1.Are Catholic Schools Transmitting a Sound Knowledge of the Catholic Faith? 2.The Indispensable Place of Doctrine in a Catholic Religious Education Program 3.Parramatta Catholic Education Office: Corrupt Religious Education Materials 4.Catholic Institute of Sydney: Attacking the Catechism of the Catholic Church 5.Parramatta CEO Again 6.Parramatta CEO: Transmitting Marxist Based Liberation Theology 7.The Morality Section of the 1995 Parramatta CEO Support Units 8.HSC Studies of Religion


1.The Catholic University at the Service of Truth 2.The Catholic University and Academic Freedom 3.Has The ACU Repudiated the Church's Moral Doctrine? 4.Intrinsically Evil Acts 5.Fundamental Option and Deliberate Choices 6.Can the Magisterium Teach Infallibly on Specific Moral Issues? 7.Should Catholics Dissent from the Moral Doctrine of the Church? 8.St Thomas Aquinas Did Nor Permit Abortion 9.Jesus Knew Himself to be Divine 10.The Corpse of Jesus Did Not Remain in the Tomb After His Resurrection 11.Confusion and Error in First Year Undergraduate Course


Every age has its confusions and rages. In these times radical feminism is the rage and spreads its confusion everywhere, including marriage, the family, parenting, human sexuality, religious life and the priesthood.

Australia's Eamonn Keane provides the entire English-speaking world a service by examining the real issues surrounding the Ordained Priesthood. He brings all the pertinent literature into the discussion (Papal documents and addresses, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Vatican II documents, Jean Galot S.J., Bishop Dunn's (Auckland, N.Z.) Priesthood, Dr John Haas, Hans Urs von Balthasar, etc. He lists the main arguments of feminists who want to change the priesthood and re-interpret Scripture and Tradition. He explains the nature of the ministerial priesthood and why Jesus called only men to this ministry: "I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgement is to be definitively held by all Christ's faithful" (Pope John Paul II, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, n. 4).

Confusions, left unanswered, distract people from their true purposes. Instead of building up the People of God, they demolish it and render some structures of the Church helplessly ineffective. An authentic theology of women, based upon an anthropology revealed in the Mystery of Creation and Redemption, is always needed. The Church stands firmly against every form of discrimination which compromises the equal dignity of women and men. The complete equality of persons is accompanied by a marvellous complementarity. Radical feminism ignores this and pursues a dull amorphous unisex.

When reading this manuscript I was at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, for the ordination of a former student to the transient deaconate. The ceremony and sacrament were profound, but the numbers too few. Radical feminism's confusions are claiming their toll. In the USA, despite its immense material wealth there are fewer seminarians than ever before (48,000 major seminarians after WWII; 6,000 today).

When confusion abounds about the nature of the priesthood, when radical feminists use the priesthood as a political tool to advance their purposes, when radical "feminist theology" is brought into seminaries, college classrooms and RCIA classes, and when Women Ordination Conferences are allowed to happen with religious, priests and even some bishops in attendance, then we should not be surprised at the results: fewer young men aspirants to the priesthood.

The Lord of the Harvest is always generous: there are as many vocations offered to young men today as in any previous age. But are we exercising good stewardship over them? Are we shaping an environment where vocations can flourish? Is God's plan for His priesthood respected or denigrated? Will the latest rage replace good theology of the priesthood? Will seminarians be subjected to militant feminists who will propagandise them mercilessly?

The Ordained Priesthood is a very useful tool to help clear away the confusions created by radical feminists. Keane's book deepens our appreciation of the priesthood, and why God devised it as He did. The challenge now is for many Catholics to understand the issues, put our house back into order and begin a real spring house-cleaning! We know that God's truth ultimately prevails. What happens in the immediate future, however, or even during the intervening centuries, depends upon the practical wisdom of the Catholic people under the prudent leadership of their bishops. Like Keane's earlier book, Population and Development, this book addresses a widespread confusion. We are indebted to him.

Fr. Matthew Habiger, OSB PhD

President, Human Life International


Those Catholics who publicly criticise the Magisterium [1] for its teaching on a male-only ministerial priesthood, and for its refusal to lift the celibacy rule in the Latin Church, only serve to deflect attention away from the real problems facing the Catholic Church in Australia. In the ongoing debate over the growing shortage of ordained priests, dissenting theologians and others often suggest the problem could be solved if the Church would only ordain women. When it is pointed out that this cannot be a solution since the Magisterium has ruled it out, those same dissenting theologians often respond in one-line cliches such as "the final word has yet to be said on the question".

There is a need in the Church for a comprehensive catechesis (education) on the origin, nature and dignity of the ministerial (ordained) priesthood. This catechesis needs to draw on the sources of Divine Revelation and it needs to be detailed and logical in its presentation. In general, Catholics in Australia have been heavily exposed to the views of dissenting theologians on the questions surrounding the ordained priesthood. In their public utterances, these dissenters often sound more like party political propagandists than theologians. To listen to the charges they level against the Magisterium, e.g. "the Vatican is bullying the theologians", one could be forgiven for forgetting that the ministerial priesthood belongs ultimately to the mystery of the Church itself and that it has its origin in the creative and redeeming wisdom of the Blessed Trinity.

In this book I will endeavour to express my understanding of those doctrines pertaining to the ordained priesthood which are most under attack today. In particular, I will endeavour to show that in virtue of the consecration he receives by the gift of the Holy Spirit at Ordination, the priest is empowered to perform those sacramental acts through which Christ makes present and effective his own life-giving mission in the Church. The consecration effected by the Sacrament of Holy Orders affects the priest both in what he is and in what he does. It configures him to Christ the Head, Shepherd and Bridegroom of the Church in such a way that the ordained priest is able to continue Christ's prayer, preaching, sacrifice and saving action in the Church. It is in relation to the doctrine which expresses these realities that I will try to show why the ordination of women is impossible. Coupled with this, I will spend one full chapter outlining the reasons why celibacy is most appropriate to the ordained priesthood.

In presenting the doctrine of the Church on the ministerial priesthood, I will be doing so against the backdrop of some common expressions of dissent from the Church's teaching with which many Catholics are now familiar. While much of what I have to say in the pages that follow is drawn from Magisterial documents of the Church, I make no claim however to speak with any particular authority on Church doctrine. It is the Pope alone, and the Bishops in communion with him, who can claim such authority.

A good indicator of the overall state of the Catholic Church in Australia is the quality of Religious Education and Theology courses in its schools and tertiary institutions. If in such courses the doctrine of the Church is being undermined, then it should not surprise anyone to find that the decline in vocations to the priesthood is paralleled by falling Mass attendances and by an increase in the alienation of youth from the practice of the faith. Consequently, chapters 7 and 8 of this book are given over to the education question.



1.The word 'Magisterium' refers to the office of teaching inscribed in the Church by Christ. This office is exercised by the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him when they act as teachers and preachers of the truths of faith and morals.




The Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass is "the source and summit of the Christian life". {1} At the Last Supper Christ changed bread and wine into his Body and Blood and gave it to his Apostles to eat and drink. Then he said to them: "Do this as a memorial of me" (Lk 22:19). The whole work that Jesus had come to do was summed up in this gift of himself to his disciples. This is why he wanted them to continue to do what he had just done as a memorial of him. By saying that the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass is a 'memorial' of Jesus we mean that through it Our Lord becomes present in the fullness of his being and life in such a way as to make his sacrifice on the Cross present to us. It does not repeat what happened on Calvary but simply prolongs it down through the years. This indeed is "the great mystery of faith".

The Catholic Church in Australia is now characterised by an ageing priesthood and falling seminary enrolments. If this trend continues it will lead to a considerable decline in the number of clergy available for parish and other work. This should be a matter of concern to all Catholics for it is only validly ordained priests who can preside over the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass. Speaking of this, the Second Vatican Council said: "Though everyone can baptise the faithful, the priest alone can complete the building up of the Body in the Eucharistic Sacrifice". {2} The Australian trend of falling vocations is not however a universal phenomenon. The publication of the Church's annual statistics for 1994 shows that after a sharp decrease in the period between 1970 and 1974, vocations since then have been steadily increasing. In 1994, the number of major seminarians worldwide was 105,075, up 74.7% as compared with 1975, and 44.1% compared with 1970. In Africa during this period, the number of major seminarians grew by 393.5%. In Central America the increase since 1975 has been 165.1%. In South America vocations are up 253.3% since 1970. In South East Asia the increase since 1974 has been 152.5% and vocations have also increased in the Middle East. While in Europe vocations have not yet regained their 1970 levels, they have nevertheless increased by 23.4% in the period from 1978-1994. The only parts of the world where the trend of the early 70's has not been reversed is North America and Oceania. {3}

In 1991, Pope John Paul II set up a commission charged with establishing a system that would ensure a better global distribution of priests. Archbishop Cresenzio Sepe, Secretary for the Congregation for Clergy, has recently reported that the commission has completed a survey of the world's bishops and that it is now ready to start "matchmaking". {4} Hopefully any missionary priests that arrive in Australia will receive a warm welcome from all sectors of the Church here. The causes of the vocations drought are no doubt many and complex. Some of these are I believe:

•a lack of awareness of the true identity of the ordained priest;

•a blurring of the distinction between the hierarchical priesthood and the common priesthood of all the baptised;

•loss of both the sense of God and of sin;

•the scandal of public dissent from the teaching of the Magisterium;

•general decline in Church attendance;

•a fall in the birth-rate amongst Catholics partly accounted for by a high rate of contraceptive use;

•increased rates of family breakdown;

•liturgical abuses and a decline in faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist;

•the adoption of a secularist view of life by a large number of Catholics;

•several decades of defective catechesis/religious education;

•diminished status of clergy in society;

•an advanced materialism and exaggerated individualism in Western society.

At a Vatican Conference on the ministerial priesthood held during October 1995, participants were unanimous in their agreement that lost awareness of the particular identity of the ordained priest was the major factor contributing to the problems facing the priesthood today. Stressing the need to reaffirm the true identity of the ordained priest, Cardinal Ratzinger in addressing the Conference said: "The Catholic Church must rediscover the sacred character of the priesthood and avoid tendencies to see it just as a functional office within the Church". He added that "one symptom of the problem" of priestly identity was the "growing tendency to avoid using the expressions 'priest' or 'priesthood' which carry a sacred connotation, and substitute them with the neutral, functional 'minister' which in Catholic theology was never given much importance". {5}

As presented by the New Testament and Church Tradition, the ordained priesthood in the Catholic Church "is essentially the extension and realisation of the priesthood of Christ himself". {6} Consequently, it is "impossible to understand the essence and nature" of the ordained priesthood "except in relation to Christ". {7} The central mystery of Christianity, from which all the other mysteries and articles of faith flow, is the Blessed Trinity. Man's absolute dependence on God imposes on him the obligation to glorify God. In the Divine plan, however, the glory God desires can only be rendered to him by the God-Man who renders it in as much as he is the Mediator between God and Man. Now to be a mediator between God and man is to discharge the role of priest. Describing the priestly nature in this perspective, Fr Rom Josko said:

In a supernatural religion the priest is chosen by God to offer sacrifice and oblation to him in the name of the people and to communicate God's gifts of grace and pardon to mankind. This is the teaching of Sacred Scripture: "The purpose for which every high priest is chosen from among men and made a representative of men in their dealings with God is to offer gifts and sacrifices in expiation of their sins" (Heb. 5:1). The special dignity of the priesthood resides in this mediation. The dignity bestowed by this office of mediation is such that not even Christ, in his humanity, assumed it for himself: "His vocation comes from God, as Aoron's did: nobody can take to himself such a privilege as this. So it is with Christ. He did not raise himself to the dignity of the high priesthood: it was God that raised him to it, Thou art my Son, I have begotten you this day" (Heb 5:4-5). As such, the priesthood is, therefore, a gift bestowed upon Christ's humanity by the Father, and the prerogative of Christ's priesthood is to offer to the Blessed Trinity, in the name of mankind and of all creation, a homage acceptable to God. Because of the Hypostatic Union, Christ, unlike all other priests, received no external anointing as a priest. At the moment of the Incarnation, the Word assumed a human nature and in assuming it consecrated it, rendered it an apt instrument for Itself and was designated, by the Father, the sole and eternal Mediator between God and man: "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizidech" (Heb 5: 6). Christ is therefore the eternal High Priest.{8}

Speaking of Christ's unique priesthood, and of how the ordained priesthood in the Church is related to it, Pope John Paul II in his Holy Thursday Letter to Priests for 1996 said:

"Let us consider our call, brethren" (cf. 1 Cor 1:26). The priesthood is a call, a particular vocation: "one does not take this honour upon himself, but he is called by God" (Heb 5:4). The Letter to the Hebrews harks back to the priesthood of the Old Testament in order to lead us to an understanding of the mystery of Christ the Priest: "Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him: ...You are a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek" (5:5-6). Christ, the Son of one being with the Father, has been made priest of the New Covenant according to the order of Melchizedek: therefore he too was called to the priesthood. It is the Father who "calls his own Son, whom he has begotten by an act of eternal love, "to come into the world" (cf. Heb 10:5) and to become man. He wills that his only-begotten Son, by taking flesh, should become "a priest for ever": the one priest of the new eternal Covenant...Thus the mystery of the priesthood has its beginning in the Trinity and is, at the same time, a consequence of the Incarnation...The priesthood of the New Covenant, to which we are called in the Church, is thus a share in the unique priesthood of Christ".{9}

Since the ordained priesthood "depends entirely on Christ and His unique priesthood", then the exercise of the authority it bestows must "be measured against the model of Christ, who by love made himself the servant of all". {10} The ordained priesthood in the Catholic Church is conferred through the Sacrament of Holy Orders which communicates a "sacred power" which "is none other than that of Christ himself." {11} It is a gift to the Church which was instituted by Christ who conferred it on the Apostles in order to continue his own salvific mission and it remains in the Church through the Bishops and their successors. {12} Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders which is conferred by the imposition of hands and the consecratory prayer of the Bishop, a specific "ontological bond which unites the priest to Christ, High Priest and Good Shepherd" is established. {13} Josef Pieper says that a priest "is a consecrated person, specifically ordained for the celebration of the sacramental mysteries". {14} This consecration, which is accomplished "by God through the ministry of the bishop", is irrevocable and final since "it confers an indelible spiritual character". {15} Thus consecrated, the ordained priest "receives a new and essential inner quality - the consecration transforms him into a persona sacra". {16} Through the anointing of the Holy Spirit which they receive at ordination, priests "are signed with a special character" and so are configured to Christ the priest in such a way that they "are able to act in the person of Christ the Head". {17} By this "sacred power that he has", the ordained priest, "forms and rules the priestly people; in the person of Christ he effects the eucharistic sacrifice and offers it to God in the name of all the people". {18} Speaking of how the ordained priest is able to act in the person of Christ, Dr John M. Haas said:

By virtue of God's grace and the indelible character the priest now acts, as St Paul puts it, in persona Christi (2 Cor 2:10). Christ's life and ministry are now his life and ministry. As he surrenders his life to Christ's the Lord's promise is fulfilled in him: "It will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you" (Mt 10:20). The priest does not stand between God and man, but rather mediates Christ immediately to the faithful. The sacramental powers that he has are Christ's, not his. That is why Saint Thomas refers to them as instrumental rather than personal powers. When the priest administers the sacraments, Christ works in and through him.{19}

Being a sacramental representation of Christ, the ordained priest "participates ontologically in the priesthood of Christ; he is truly consecrated, a 'man of the sacred,' designated like Christ to the worship that ascends to the Father and to the evangelising mission by which he spreads and distributes sacred realities - the truth, the grace of God - to his brothers and sisters. This is the priest's true identity; this is the essential requirement of the priestly ministry in today's world too". {20} This means that through the ministry of the ordained priest, "it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of His Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth". {21} The priest "finds the full truth of his identity in being a derivation, a specific participation in and continuation of Christ himself, the one high priest of the new and eternal covenant. The priest is a living and transparent image of Christ the priest". {22} Consequently, through the ordained ministry of the bishops and the priests, "the presence of Christ as head of the Church is made visible in the midst of the community of believers" {23}

As "ministers of sacred things", priests are "first and foremost ministers of the sacrifice of the Mass". {24} This role is "utterly irreplaceable, because without the priest there can be no eucharistic offering". {25} In referring to this central aspect of the priest's identity, the Second Vatican Council said: "It is in the Eucharistic cult or in the Eucharistic Assembly of the faithful that they [priests] exercise in a supreme degree their sacred functions; there, acting in the person of Christ and proclaiming his mystery they unite the votive offerings of the faithful to the sacrifice of Christ their head, and in the sacrifice of the Mass they make present again and apply, until the coming of the Lord, the unique sacrifice of the New Testament, that namely of Christ offering himself once for all a spotless victim to the Father". {26} Commenting further on this point, Pope John Paul II said: "In the Eucharist the presbyter [priest] reaches the high point of his ministry when he pronounces Jesus' words: 'This is my body...This is the cup of my blood...' These words concretize the greatest exercise of that power which enables a priest to make present the sacrifice of Christ. Then the community is truly built up and developed...Today, it is necessary to rediscover the central importance of this celebration in the Christian life and, thus, in the apostolate". {27}

A crisis of priestly identity will arise whenever confusion is spread about the priesthood of Christ himself. For example, Fr Brian Byron's publicly expressed view that the priesthood of Christ is metaphorical rather than literal may lend itself to the spreading of such confusion. Fr Byron says:

At first sight it may seem obvious that Jesus was literally a priest, for it is clearly stated in the Letter to the Hebrews that Jesus is a priest, indeed, a high priest (2:17; 3:1; 4:14). He is given the title of high priest by God...Furthermore, the assertion of Jesus' priesthood is repeated many times by the fathers of the church, by St Thomas popes and councils, in the liturgy...Nonetheless, the description of Jesus as a priest by the author of Hebrews is metaphorical, not literal, and as all other assertions are based on Hebrews, they too must be understood metaphorically.{28}

In noting that it is the author of Hebrews alone who in the New Testament explicitly designates Jesus as priest, Fr Byron says: "In doing this the author was brilliantly original. He had a poetic mind. He was using allegory, or extended typology, which fits the category of metaphor. This is not to deny divine inspiration". {29} Then, in what appears to me as a very confusing statement, Fr Byron says:

The literal acceptance of Jesus' priesthood has forced theologians to an explanation of ordained ministers as being priests by participation in the unique priesthood of Christ whereas the correct understanding, in my opinion, is that they, literal priests, are thereby sacraments of Christ interpreted precisely as 'priest'. The literal interpretation has also made the 'essential' distinction between ordained priesthood and the general priesthood of Christians (asserted in the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Church, no. 10) difficult to define.{30}

The main theme of the Letter to the Hebrews is the priesthood of Christ (cf. Heb 10: 5-10). It teaches that his priesthood is linked to the mystery of the Incarnation, that it is a unique priesthood and consequently that the truth regarding the priesthood is to be found only in Christ. {31} The Gospel and the other New Testament writings present Christ as Teacher, Prophet, King and Priest. The purpose of his teaching is to proclaim God's kingdom (Lk 9: 11). In the words and actions of Christ, the words and mission of the Old Testament prophets are fulfilled (cf. Lk 4:15; 13:32-33). Before Pilate, Jesus reveals the kingly aspect of his power (cf. Mt 27:11; 28:18-20). Finally, of his own free will, Christ, the Good Shepherd, "lays down his life for his sheep" (Jn 10: 11). The Gospel sees in this spontaneous sacrifice of Christ the sacrifice of the Priest who sheds his own blood for the expiation of sins (cf. Mk 14:24; Rom 5:6; Eph 1:7; 2:3; 1 Jn 2:2; Gal 1:4; Eph 5:20-25). {32} As was noted earlier, the New Testament and Church Tradition presents the ordained priesthood as an extension and realisation of this unique priesthood of Christ himself. In view of this, I fear that in asserting that Jesus' priesthood was metaphorical rather than literal, Fr Byron is running the risk of removing the foundations of the Catholic Church's doctrine on the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Indeed, I detect something of a contradiction in his proposition. If, as Fr Byron asserts, the priesthood of Jesus is merely metaphorical rather than literal, and if Pope John Paul II is correct (as indeed he is) in teaching that the Sacrament of Holy Orders bestows on the ordained priest an "ontological" participation in the unique priesthood of Christ, then how can Fr Byron consider the ordained priesthood to be a literal priesthood when it participates "ontologically" in a priesthood of Christ which is only "metaphorical"?

The identity of the ordained priest is also undermined when doubt is cast on the sacrificial nature of Christ's death on the Cross which is sacramentally made present in every Mass. Consistent with his belief that Christ is not "literally" a priest, Fr Byron also argues that Christ's death on Calvary is not literally a sacrifice. He says: "Calvary is literally not a sacrifice: historically in human terms it was an execution; transcendentally it surpassed all previously existing human categories, including sacrifice. When we use human terms to describe it we use them metaphorically which acknowledges that they essentially fall short of the truth. So when we describe Calvary as a 'sacrifice' we are speaking metaphorically". {33}

Taking Fr Byron's ideas to their logical conclusion, it could be said that "transcendentally" all aspects of the Paschal Mystery surpass "all previously existing categories". But does this mean however that we cannot make factual or "literal" statements about the historical and concrete events which lie at the basis of the saving mysteries? For example, while the Resurrection of Jesus is both a transcendent {34} and historical reality which "surpasses all previously existing categories", does this mean that when we speak of the Lord's remains being lifted up in his Resurrection we are thereby referring to something that is merely "metaphorical" rather than "literal" and consequently must thereby "fall short of the truth"? Obviously not! Reality becomes intelligible through words. Man speaks so that through naming things what is real may become intelligible. {35} Consequently, if Fr Byron's proposition were true, we would have no alternative but to conclude that doctrinal statements do not accurately convey realities expressed in the divinely revealed mysteries.

Fr Byron says he has difficulty accepting "the particular theology of eucharist sacrifice proposed by the Vatican" which is that in the Eucharist the Church "makes present the sacrifice of Calvary". {36} Explaining how he thinks the word "sacrifice" should apply to the Mass, Fr Byron says: "When it comes to explaining how the name 'sacrifice' is applied to the Mass, my argument is that the Mass is called a sacrifice because of its own essence and not because of its relationship with Calvary. In fact interpretative descriptive meaning flows from the symbol to the reality, from the type to the anti-type, from the Mass to Calvary, not the other way around. The only positive way that Calvary can be said to be present in the Mass, as far as I can see, is by real- symbolisation". {37}

In what he has said above, I believe that Fr Byron has got things back to front. Jesus' whole life was oriented toward the redemption of the human race through his sacrificial death on Calvary. In recounting the redemptive action of Christ, the New Testament does so in terms of its sacrificial nature. This is brought out in the words of Jesus himself when at the Last Supper he speaks of his blood "to be poured out on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins" (Mt 26:28). Speaking of how Christ, of his own free will, offered himself in sacrifice on Calvary and of how this is sacramentally made present in the Mass, Pope Pius XII said: "The august sacrifice of the altar, then, is no mere empty commemoration of the passion and death of Jesus Christ, but a true and proper act of sacrifice, whereby the High Priest by an unbloody immolation offers Himself a most acceptable Victim to the Eternal Father, as He did upon the Cross". {38}

In the Credo of the People of God, Pope Paul VI said: "We believe that the Mass, celebrated by the priest representing the person of Christ by virtue of the power received through the Sacrament of Orders, and offered by him in the name of Christ and the members of His Mystical Body, is the Sacrifice of Calvary rendered sacramentally present on our altars". Pope John Paul II said: "The Eucharist is above all else a sacrifice. It is the sacrifice of the Redemption and also the sacrifice of the New Covenant, as we believe and as the Eastern Churches clearly profess: 'Today's like that offered once by the Only-begotten Incarnate Word; it is offered by him (now as then), since it is one and the same sacrifice'. Accordingly, precisely by making this single sacrifice of our salvation present, man and the world are restored to God through the paschal newness of Redemption". {39} The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the Mass is called a Holy Sacrifice "because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ". {40} It adds that in the Eucharist, Christ "gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins". {41} Consequently, the Eucharist is a sacrifice "because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross". {42}


Christ the Lord, the High priest of the new and everlasting covenant, "wished to associate with His perfect priesthood and to form in its likeness the people He had bought with His own blood (cf. Heb 7:20-22, 26-28; 10:14, 21). He therefore granted His Church a share in His priesthood, which consists of the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood". {43} Through Baptism all the faithful share in the priesthood of Christ. This participation is called the "common priesthood of the faithful". Based on this common priesthood and ordered to its service, "there exists another participation in the mission of Christ: the ministry conferred by the sacrament of Holy Orders, where the task is to serve in the name and in the person of Christ the Head in the midst of the community". {44}

The Second Vatican Council stressed that the common priesthood of all the faithful and the ministerial priesthood "differ in essence and not only in degree". {45} In reference to the distinction between the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood, Jean Galot S.J. says: "There is a difference as to the mission assigned to the two priesthoods in the Church. The Twelve who receive the ministerial priesthood are entrusted with a pastoral mission. They are given an authority which empowers them to proclaim the gospel, celebrate the Eucharist, forgive sins, and lead the community" {.46} Just as the Sacrament of Baptism sets all the faithful apart from those who are not baptised, so does the Sacrament of Holy Orders set the ordained priest apart from the rest of the faithful. Speaking of this, Pope Pius XII said:

In the same way, actually, that Baptism is the distinctive mark of all Christians, and serves to differentiate them from those who have not been cleansed in this purifying stream and consequently are not members of Christ, the Sacrament of Holy Orders sets the priest apart from the rest of the faithful who have not received this consecration. For they alone, in answer to an inward supernatural call have entered the august ministry, where they are assigned to service in the sanctuary and become as it were, the instruments God uses to communicate supernatural life from on high to the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. Add to this...the fact that they alone have been marked with the indelible sign 'conforming' them to Christ the Priest, and that their hands alone have been consecrated 'in order that whatever they bless may be blessed, whatever they consecrate may become sacred and holy, in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ'. Let all then who would live in Christ, flock to their priests. By them they will be supplied with the comforts and food of the spiritual life. From them they will procure the medicine of salvation assuring their cure and happy recovery from the fatal sickness of their sins. The priest, finally, will bless their homes, consecrate their families and help them, as they breathe their last, across the threshold to eternal happiness.{47}

The ordained priesthood is planted in the Church by God to guarantee "that it really is Christ who acts in the sacraments" and to serve the common priesthood of all the faithful by way of teaching and governance. {48} Regarding this last mentioned aspect of the priest's identity, Pope John Paul II said:

The priest is first of all a minister of the word of God. He is consecrated and sent forth to proclaim the good news of the kingdom to all, calling every person to the obedience of faith and leading believers to an ever increasing knowledge of the communion in the mystery of God, as revealed and communicated to us in Christ...In order that he himself may possess and give to the faithful the guarantee that he is transmitting the Gospel in its fullness, the priest is called to develop a special sensitivity, love and docility to the living tradition of the Church and to her Magisterium.{49}


Two of the many great achievements of the Second Vatican Council were its reform of the liturgy and the new focus it brought to bear on the mission of the laity in the Church and in the world. The Council said that the laity have the special vocation "to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's will". {50} Therefore, the laity's role in the Church is not to be mere recipients of doctrine and the grace of the sacraments, but also to serve as "active and responsible agents of the Church's mission to evangelise and sanctify the world". {51} Thus it falls especially to the laity to permeate family life, the world of work, politics, education, science, economics - indeed the whole of culture itself - with the light of the Gospel. Referring to this task of the laity, Pope John Paul II in speaking to a group of Bishops from the United States said:

Perhaps, as the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici points out, more attention should be given in catechesis and preaching to the 'deep involvement and the full participation of the lay faithful in the affairs of the earth, the world and the human community' (n. 15), so that the laity may better understand that this is their primary apostolate in the Church. They need your constant encouragement. They expect their Bishops to strengthen them in holiness and guide them with authentic teaching, while at the same time leaving them room for initiative and freedom of action in the world.{52}

While stressing that the primary focus of the mission of the laity is to imbue the social order with Gospel values, Vatican II however also encouraged the laity to take up new ministries in the Church itself. It stated that "the laity have an active part to play in the activity of the Church". {53} In regard to the liturgy, it stressed that texts and rites should be drawn up "so as to express more clearly the holy things they signify," and in such a way that "the Christian people, as far as possible, should be able to understand them with ease and take part in them fully, actively, and as a community". {54} Speaking of the Council's wisdom in undertaking the reform of the liturgy, Pope John Paul II said:

The Council's directives to make the liturgy ever more meaningful and effective were truly wise. It made the rites correspond to their doctrinal meaning, imbuing the proclamation of God's word with renewed vigour, encouraging a more attractive participation by the faithful and promoting these different forms of ministry which, while expressing the richness and charisms and ecclesial services, eloquently show how the liturgy is at the same time an action of Christ and of the Church. Moreover, the impetus given to adapting the rites to the various languages and cultures, so that in the liturgy too the Church could give complete expression to her universal character, was decisive. With these innovations the Church did not cut herself off from her tradition, but on the contrary, fully interpreted its riches and its demands.{55}

Christian vocation, whatever shape it takes, is "a gift whose purpose is to build up the Church and to increase the kingdom of God in the world". {56} This being the case, it is necessary for the good of the whole Church, and indeed the whole world, to keep the laity focused on their own vocation because "the more the laity's own sense of vocation is deepened, the more what is proper to the priest stands out". {57} If instead, the laity attempt to take over from the priest roles that are best left to him, then it can easily happen that we end up "clericalising" the lay vocation. {58} Consequently, when introducing new ministries, it is important that they be accompanied by a proper catechesis lest they further erode awareness of the true role of the ordained priest. This is particularly true of ministries centred on the liturgy. In a book he had published before receiving his episcopal appointment, Bishop Patrick Dunn of Auckland said:

Liturgical renewal, with its greater lay participation, has further obscured the traditional understanding of the priest's uniqueness...The present proliferation of ministers within the Church can make priestly ordination seem somewhat anomalous because so many ministers who are not ordained are now also involved in the liturgy. And increasingly today pastoral ministers are being installed in public ceremonies very analogous to ordination. In the midst of all this, the position of the traditional priest is being queried more and more.{59}

Of particular concern is the enthusiasm with which the notion of "lay pastors" servicing "priestless parishes" is being promoted by various Church agencies. This enthusiasm however is not shared by Pope John Paul II who in speaking to a group of Canadian Bishops about the priest shortage said:

In meeting this challenge, certain fundamental principles should always guide your pastoral response. The parish is a community of the baptised who express and confirm their identity through the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice...This requires the presence of an ordained priest whose first privilege and irreplaceable responsibility is to offer the Eucharist in persona Christi...Great care must be taken to ensure that no misunderstanding arises about the nature of the Eucharist and its essential link with the ordained priesthood. When a community is deprived of the priest who acts publicly in the name of Christ...this regrettable situation calls for an emergency response. Sunday celebrations should continue, and lay persons who lead their brothers and sisters in prayer are exercising in a commendable way the common priesthood of all the faithful, based on the grace of Baptism. It would be a serious mistake, however, to accept this as a normal way of involving religious and lay men and women in the liturgy. Such provisions should be regarded as only temporary, while the community is 'in expectation of a priest'....Your assiduous oversight is required so that all will see 'the substantial character of these celebrations, which should not be regarded as the optimal solution to new difficulties'...On the contrary, the sacramental incompleteness of these celebrations should lead the whole community to pray more fervently that the Lord will send labourers into his harvest...{60}

This warning by Pope John Paul II not to allow the faithful to become conditioned to accepting as normal Sunday liturgies other than the Mass is particularly relevant to Australia. In a letter dated 21st March, 1996, Archbishop Little of Melbourne wrote to priests of the Archdiocese in order to correct directions sent out without his prior approval from the diocesan Office of Worship. Headed Some Principles of Alternative Sunday Worship, the document from the Office of Worship emphasised the "local community" as the main focal point for the Church's activity. It stated that "where viable the local community should continue, both liturgically and pastorally without a priest" and added that "the worship leader should come from within the local community". The document strongly suggested that the faithful should prefer a liturgy of the Word in their own parishes on a Sunday if there was no priest available to travelling to a neighbouring parish for Mass. It said: "It is preferable to gather on a Sunday in your own community rather than travel to another parish, i.e., the priority is to gather as a local assembly on a Sunday".

In his observations on the document from the Office of Worship, Archbishop Little first faulted it for not making clear in its discussion of the "Means of Christ's presence in the Church" that Our Lord's presence in the Eucharist "is a presence par excellence". Archbishop Little also drew attention to the misleading nature of the statement in the document which spoke of "forms of worship alternative to Eucharist". The Archbishop pointed out to his priests that "there can be no alternative to the Eucharist" and he stated that "the Church only strongly recommends (rather than obliges) the faithful to other forms of worship if the Eucharist is unavailable". In highlighting the erroneous views contained in the Office of Worship document, Archbishop Little referred several times to the to the Code of Cannon Law. He said:

The fundamental flaw in the document is that the parish, rather than the diocese, is presented as the basic unit. Because of this, there is no mention of the Bishop. While the parish priest is obliged to see that the Word of God is preached and that the Blessed Eucharist is the centre of the parish (Canon 528) and that the solemn celebration of the Eucharist on Sundays is especially entrusted to him (Canon 530), the parish priest is not obliged to preach the Word of God and celebrate the Eucharist personally on all occasions. Other priests can assist or replace him on occasions (Canons 539-541, 545-550). The parishioners are obliged to assist at Mass on Sundays, but they are not obliged to do so in their parish church or with the parish community. They have the freedom to fulfil their obligation wherever Mass is celebrated in any Catholic rite (i.e. even outside the Latin Rite), on Sunday or the previous evening (Canons 1247-1248). If it is impossible to assist at Mass because no priest is available or for any other grave reason, the faithful are strongly recommended (but not obliged) to take part in a liturgy of the word or to pray privately or with others (Canon 1248).

Archbishop Little concluded his letter to his priests by drawing their attention to two accompanying documents: Directory for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest (Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship) and a Pastoral Letter of the Kansas Bishops in 1995. The Directory for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest includes the following direction: "Whenever and wherever Mass cannot be celebrated on Sunday, the first thing to be ascertained is whether the faithful can go to a church in a place nearby to paricipate there in the eucharistic mystery..." (n. 18). In their statement the Bishops of Kansas said: "We, the Bishops of Kansas, have come to judge that holy communion regularly received outside of Mass is a short-term solution that has all the makings of becoming a long-term problem. It has implications that are disturbing:

•A blurring of the difference between the celebration of the eucharist and the reception of communion.

•A blurring of the distinction between a priest and a deacon or a non-ordained minister presiding over a communion service.

•A blurring of the relationship between pastoral and sacramental ministry.

•A blurring of the connection between the eucharist and the works of charity and justice.

•A bluring of the need for priests and therefore a blurring of the continual need for vocations.

•A blurring of the linkage between the local church and the diocesan and universal church that is embodied in the person of the parish priest".

Having thus outlined the implications of conditioning the faithful to accepting communion services as a long-term alternative to the Mass, the Kansas Bishops went on to add: "These implications give us pause in approving the distribution of holy communion outside of Mass on Sundays. Such practice could well contribute to the erosion of our many-sided belief in the eucharist. It is for this reason that we restrict such services to emergencies only. And by that we mean unforseen circumstances when a priest is not available". {61}

Diocesan officials in Rockhampton appear to have gone even further in their attempts to undermine the centrality of the Sunday Mass in the lives of Catholics than has Melbourne's Office of Worship. In the October 1993 edition of the Continuing Education Newsletter of the Rockhampton Diocese, Dr Peter Young who is the Director of Continuing Religious Education in the Diocese said:

What we all have to learn - and very quickly - is that the Mass 'the apex of communal celebration', is not the only way to ensure the presence of Christ in our community. Every time 'two or three gather in His Name' there is Christ really present amongst us; we have 'eucharist'. When we gather to 'break bread' we have THE EUCHARIST...Not being able to go to Mass does Not absolve us from the obligation of 'keeping holy the Sabbath'. Whatever the form of the weekly community celebration might be, we are obliged in conscience to participate. But here again we have to remember that while the celebration of the Eucharist (Mass) is the 'source and summit of all preaching of the Gospel' there are other ways to celebrate, there are other ways of praying together, other ways to 'make eucharist'. As is clear from the letter of Archbishop Little cited earlier, Dr Young is out of order in stating that Catholics are "obliged in conscience" to participate in Sunday liturgies other than the Mass. Writing in the July 1993 edition of the Rockhampton diocesan monthly The Review, Dr Young said:

Until recently, a Catholic understanding of the Sacraments was that there were SEVEN, and that they were 'signs instituted by Christ to give grace' - despite the fact that there is no evidence in Sacred Scripture that Jesus actually instructed his followers to perform some of these rituals...The Sacraments - like the liturgical life of the People of God (Church) - must meet today's needs in today's (Australian) society. What the Apostles did, or the Medieval Church did is 'interesting' but not sacrosanct. If further changes to the Sacraments are needed - and there have already been many - then it is essential that we explore in greater depth WHAT the Sacraments ARE, what is their PURPOSE, and are the NEEDS of the People of God being met by the current Sacramental formulas.

Since writing the article from which the above quotation is taken, Dr Young has been appointed editor of the The Review. In its March 1996 edition it carried a full-page reprint from the US National Catholic Reporter of 21 April 1995. In this article we read:

According to the old Baltimore Catechism 'a sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace'. The Church has had to perform logical gymnastics to accommodate its chosen seven sacraments to this tidy definition. One might conclude that the shortage of priests is God's way of telling the Vatican it is on the wrong track. In the early Church the master of the house blessed the bread, broke it and distributed it, though it is not certain that the meal thus celebrated was the sacramental Eucharist. The practice of the early Church with respect to what we call the Mass varied widely until officially made uniform a considerable time after Christ...It's not clear that anyone in particular was commissioned to preside over the Eucharist in the very beginning...The words of transubstantiation are ultimately effective, however, only if they create a true sense of community...The day will come, and is probably already here in so- called base communities, when a priest is rarely seen - when the laity may celebrate eucharistic ceremonies at home in a true family setting. The failure of centrally organised religious ceremonies is that they have lost their relevance to the real world...".

If the theology espoused by Dr Young and his fellow travellers in the Melbourne Office of Worship is allowed to infect the general body of the Catholic faithful in Australia, then the Church in this country will be in danger of being reduced to the status of a sect.

Alongside the tendency to clericalise the laity is the corresponding danger of "laicising" the ordained priesthood. {62} Bishop David Konstant alluded to this when in speaking of the need to promote a greater awareness of the role of the ordained priest he said: "Priests are often expected to do a great many things outside their real function". {63} When the ordained priest takes on roles unrelated to his true identity, a blurring of the distinction between the two priesthoods occurs. The likelihood of a confusion of roles is increased when priests publicly adopt and promote partisan political positions on questions in which there exists a legitimate plurality of opinion amongst the faithful. Consequently, "the priest, as a servant of the universal Church, cannot tie himself to any historical contingency, and therefore must be above any political party". {64} Also, in imitation of Christ (cf. Jn 6:15), the priest "ought to refrain from actively engaging himself in politics, as it often happens, in order to be a central point of spiritual fraternity". {65} Instead, the priest must act to form the laity in the social doctrine of the Church in order that they be able to act with correctly formed consciences in temporal affairs. {66} Speaking of the consequences of the secularisation of the priestly life, Pope John Paul II said:

It is easy to allow oneself to be guided by appearances and to succumb to a fundamental illusion concerning what is essential. Those who call for the secularisation of the priestly life and applaud its various manifestations will undoubtedly abandon us if we succumb to temptation. We shall then cease to be needed and wanted...In practice, the only priest whom people will always feel they need is the priest who is conscious of the full meaning of his priesthood, the priest of deep faith, who professes his faith courageously, prays fervently, teaches with deep conviction, serves, lives the beatitudes, knows how to love disinterestedly and is close to all, especially to those who are in most need.{67}

In proclaiming the Gospel, the ordained priest must "avoid falsifying, reducing, distorting or diluting the content of the divine message". {68} His role in this regard "is not to teach his own wisdom but the Word of God and to issue an urgent invitation to all men to conversion and to holiness" {69} When the ordained priest starts propagating theological opinions that are opposed to the teaching of the Magisterium, or when he remains silent about those parts of the Gospel which are most counter-cultural, then by degrees his preaching loses its persuasive power and his flock begins to scatter. Hans Urs von Balthasar touched on this problem when he said:

Today the people of God thirst for spiritual drink in a world that is ever more secularised and emptied of God. They want to find teachers of silence, of recollection, of prayer; and instead they find busy clerics and often religious who have gotten stuck in postconciliar confusions and anti-authoritarian disputes, endlessly struggling for their own identity. For this reason, many depart and seek what they have a right to in places where they cannot find it: from teachers of Eastern meditation, who may be able to give them psychological comfort but never the encounter with the loving God of Jesus Christ. Those searching people of God must not allow their sense of what is Catholic to be dulled; instead, they must realise their responsibility, and, in the hour when many pastors fall silent or even fail, the laymen must raise their cry of protest in the name of the complete Creed in which they were baptised.{70}


The ministerial priesthood is inextricably linked to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. If faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist diminishes, then esteem for the sacred meaning of the ordained priesthood will also diminish. When this happens says Josef Pieper: "There no longer...will be any reason whatsoever to see the priest as someone 'consecrated' and 'set apart' for the sacred. And it would be difficult to shake my conviction that the ultimate and perhaps the only cause of that much discussed 'identity crisis' of the priesthood nowadays is anything else but the unwillingness or even inability - for several reasons - to acknowledge and accept the connection between the sacramental, consecrating action of the priest and the divine presence in the mystery of the Eucharistic sacrifice". {71}

There is evidence of a decline in Eucharistic Faith amongst Catholics in both the United States and in Australia. This should be a matter of grave concern, especially when we consider the words of St Paul to those who approach the Sacrament without the proper disposition: "For all who eat and drink without discerning the body eat and drink judgement against themselves" (1 Cor. 11:29). Referring to the situation in the United States, Bishop Weigand of Sacramento said:

According to results of a Gallop survey taken in December 1991 and January 1992 on U.S. Catholic understanding of Holy Communion, only 30% believe 'they are really and truly receiving the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, under the appearance of bread and wine'. Some 29% think they 'are receiving bread and wine, which symbolise the spirit and teachings of Jesus and in so doing are expressing their attachment to his person and words'. Another 10% understand that they are 'receiving bread and wine, in which Jesus is really and truly present'. Twenty-three per-cent say they 'are receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, which has become that because of their personal belief.

These results, said Bishop Weigand, "are terribly alarming because only the first formulation is orthodox Catholic doctrine. The others are all variations of the 16th century Protestant teachings from Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and others. We have every reason to ponder how this most central teaching of our Catholic faith got so watered down and distorted over the past 25 years". {72} This loss of faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist by U.S. Catholics was further borne out by a Spring 1994 New York Times/CBS poll which showed that 70% of Catholics in the 18-44 age group think that at Mass the bread and wine serve only as mere "symbolic reminders" of Jesus rather than being changed into his Body and Blood. Commenting on these findings, Fr Kenneth Baker S.J. said:

I can think of nothing that so indicts the quality of religious instruction in our Catholic Schools and colleges during the past thirty years as the sad results of these polls. They also indict the preaching of us priests who have failed in our duty to instruct the faithful on the basics of the faith, especially on such things as the Trinity, the Incarnation, Grace, the Sacraments and the Mass. We must ask ourselves: How is it possible that so many Catholics do not know what the Mass is all about? What are they thinking and doing when they go to Mass on Sunday? If they are truly Catholics, how is it possible that they do not know that Jesus Christ our Lord and God is really present body, blood, soul and divinity in the Blessed Sacrament? Have they never heard about that? Has not one teacher or bishop or priest told them what the faith of the Church is with regard to the Eucharist...Taking a broad view of the Catholic Church in the 1990s, what we see is a Church that is infiltrated with secularism and secular ideas. Therefore, many of our bishops and priests are pushing human and this-worldly values, rather than the adoration of God and the eternal salvation of our immortal souls. The supernatural is out and the natural is in. Therefore, our liturgy tends to glorify man rather than God. No wonder millions of Catholics do not know what the Mass is all about. Now is the time to do something about this. {73}

In also expressing concern about these findings on the loss of Eucharistic faith, Germain Grisez and Russell Shaw said: "In the general crisis of the Church in the United States, no individual crisis is more serious and urgent than this one. This is not least because, as we shall see, this collapse of eucharistic faith is related, as both cause and effect, to the broader crisis". {74} Grisez and Shaw gave the major reasons for this loss of Eucharistic faith as:

• the pervasive secularisation of Western culture;

• erroneous theological theories such as transignification and transfinalisation, both of which were rejected by Pope Paul VI in Mysterium Fidei (1965);

• unauthorised changes in the words and gestures of the Mass;

• no first confession before first Communion;

• indiscriminately inviting everyone (sometimes even non- believers) to receive;

• an overly casual approach to the consecrated elements;

• virtual elimination of Benediction and other Eucharistic devotions outside the Mass;

• removal of the tabernacle to an obscure place in some churches;

• little or no pause for thanksgiving after Communion;

• weak and ambiguous homilies on Holy Thursday and Corpus Christi;

• general forgetfulness of heaven and hell which has to do with the propagation of an optimistic view that all will be saved - a belief which is at odds with the New Testament and tradition;

• subversion of the sense of the sacred through sexual immorality.

The last point made above by Grisez and Shaw is very significant. In some respects it indicates the presence of Gnostic tendencies amongst some Catholics which is something I will have occasion to deal with in greater depth in Chapter 3. Explaining how the decline in faith in Jesus' bodily presence in the Eucharist is related to the decline in sexual morality, Grisez and Shaw say:

Underlying what has happened in this area is an implicit body-soul dualism: the essential reality of the human person is regarded, not as the body that is abused, but as something non-material - spirit or mind or soul - and 'mere bodily behaviour' is thought not to impinge significantly upon the moral goodness and holiness of this non-material self. Beyond the devastating impact this way of thinking has on morality, it also subverts the incarnationalism and sacramentalism at the heart of Catholic faith. Specifically, it subverts faith in the Real Presence. The problem is reinforced and made worse by pastoral practice that condones sexual sins and makes little of the sacrament of penance. To encourage people who live in bad marriages and other sinful relationships or who otherwise engage in unrepented sexual sins to receive Communion strongly suggests that nothing particularly sacred is involved in Communion - that people who find themselves in these situations do not really "eat and drink judgement against themselves".{75}

Turning now to the other points made above regarding the decline in Eucharistic faith. There is an urgent need for a renewed Eucharistic catechesis which would re-emphasise the sacred in the liturgy. Fr Max Thurian, who is a member of the International Theological Commission, says that the great problem of contemporary liturgical life (boredom and apathy etc) stems from the fact that the celebration of the Holy Mass "has sometimes lost its character as mystery, which fosters the spirit of adoration". {76} We often encounter says Fr Thurian, "an inflation of words, explanations and comments, homilies too long and poorly prepared, which leave little room for the mystery being celebrated". {77} In saying that there is a great need to rediscover the liturgical enthusiasm of Vatican II, Fr Thurian adds: "Bishops and those responsible for the liturgy should give new life to what before Vatican II was called the 'liturgical movement', not for purposes of innovation but to revive true, beautiful liturgy, the prayer of the whole Church and the source of spiritual enrichment for every Christian". {78} Coupled with this need to rediscover the sense of the sacred in the liturgy, it must always be borne in mind that any changes to the Mass can take place only with the approval of the Magisterium and the appropriate Ecclesiastical authority. One of the worst liturgical abuses we have witnessed in recent times is the way in which some priests and liturgists have treated the Holy Mass as though it was their personal possession. Speaking of this, Fr Thurian said:

The celebrant must remember that he is there to serve the liturgy of God's People. The text of the liturgical prayers is not at his disposal to be modified according to his whim or for personal theological reasons...There is a sort of neoclericalism bent on modifying the liturgy, which the faithful however have the right to receive in its integrity as a gift of Christ and the Church, without priests taking the liberty of changing it. The faithful expect this fidelity to Tradition, since the liturgy is a good belonging to all the People of God. The liturgy has a formative character. Through the liturgy, the Church hands on the Gospel of Christ in all its wealth and diversity. The liturgy is one of the forms of the living Tradition, by which the word of God is communicated to men in order to transform them. Thus it cannot be modified without undermining in its fullness the Church's intention in her transmission of the truth through the liturgy.{79}

Eucharistic adoration outside of Mass should be encouraged. Speaking of the place of Eucharistic adoration in the life of St John Vianney, Pope John XXIII said:

"We can hardly conceive of the depth of his burning devotion to Christ hidden beneath the Eucharistic veils...He worshipped the adorable Sacrament of the Altar with an incandescent love, and his soul was drawn to the sacred tabernacle irresistibly, as by some supernatural magnetic power". {80} In speaking of Eucharistic adoration, the Catechism of the Catholic Church said: "As faith in the real presence of Christ in his Eucharist deepened, the Church became conscious of the meaning of silent adoration of the Lord present under the Eucharistic species...In his Eucharistic presence he remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who loved us and gave himself up for us, and he remains under signs that express and communicate this love. The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in the sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration". {81} Speaking of how we can foster Eucharistic adoration, Fr Max Thurian says: "It is fitting that the tabernacle be placed in such a way that it can be seen on entering the church. It should be beautiful and illuminated, like an act of praise to the glory of Christ really present. The whole church should be arranged so as to invite adoration and contemplation even when there are no celebrations. One must long to frequent it in order to meet the Lord there...The church, by its beautiful liturgical layout, its well-designed and solemnly adorned altar, its tabernacle radiating Christ's real presence should be the beautiful house of the Lord and of his Church, where the faithful love to recollect themselves in the silence of adoration and prayer". {82}

To create an environment conducive to prayer and adoration, it is important that the church interior be adorned with religious images and icons. As opposed to this, it is not uncommon today to walk into a church only to have difficulty finding there a sacred image. Even if some are there, they are often tucked away in some obscure corner and of such a bland nature as to be barely distinguishable from poorly painted murals in a city subway. When not due to the growing secularisation of a society that is becoming ever more estranged from spiritual values, this neglect of the place of religious images in the spiritual life can be expressive of a resurgent iconoclasm. The iconoclast movement considered the veneration of images a return to idolatry. While the iconoclasts would not allow their churches to be adorned with religious art and icons, they had no objection however to importing profane images into their places of prayer and worship.

The iconoclast heresy was condemned by the Second Council of Nicea (787). In sanctioning the veneration of sacred images, this Council permitted that the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the martyrs and the saints be represented in pictorial form and sculptor in order to sustain the prayer life of the faithful. To commemorate the 1200th anniversary of this Council, Pope John Paul II issued an Apostolic Letter entitled Duodecimum Saeculum in which he pointed out that the iconoclast movement ultimately "called into question the whole Christian vision of the reality of the Incarnation and therefore the relationships of God and the world, grace and nature, in short, the specific character of the 'new covenant' that God made with humanity in Jesus Christ". {83} The Holy Father added that in working with the elements of matter, Christian art should seek to speak "the language of the Incarnation". In saying this, Pope John Paul II quoted the beautiful expression of St John Damascene who in speaking of the Incarnation referred to Christ as the One who "deigned to dwell in matter and bring about our salvation through matter". {84}

In Duedecimum Saeculum, Pope John Paul II placed the veneration of sacred images within an overall Christian context when he said:

"The iconography of Christ involves the whole faith in the reality of the Incarnation and its inexhaustible meaning for the Church and the world. If the Church practises it, it is because she is convinced that the God revealed in Jesus Christ has truly redeemed and sanctified the flesh and the whole sensible world, that is man with his five senses, to allow him to be ever renewed in the image of his Creator (cf. Col 3:10)". {85} After recalling the teaching of Pope Hadrian I that by praying before a sacred image "our spirit will be carried by a spiritual attraction towards the invisible majesty of the divinity", the Holy Father concluded Duedecimum Saeculum by saying that "the rediscovery of the Christian icon will also help in raising awareness of the urgency of reacting against the depersonalising and at times degrading effects of the many images that condition our lives in advertisements and the media, for it is an image that turns towards us the look of Another invisible one and gives us access to the reality of the spiritual and eschatological world". {86} The iconoclast mentality has continued to assert itself in various forms throughout history. During the Reformation in England for example, the impassioned leaders of the new "Protestant iconoclasm" set about "the stripping of the altars" whereby they substituted the commonplace for the sacred.



• 1 Vatican II, Lumen Gentium , n.11; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) n. 1411.

• 2 Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n. 17.

• 3 The report on the vocations statistics appeared in L'Osservatore Romano on 31/6/96.

• 4 Cf. Catholic Weekly, November 5, 1995, p. 6.

• 5 Catholic Weekly, November 12, 1995, p. 22.

• 6 Archbishop Henryk Muszynski, L'Osservatore Romano, 26/8/92.

• 7 Ibid.

• 8 Fr Rom Josko, in an unpublished paper entitled The Sacrament of Holy Orders.

• 9 Pope John Paul II, Holy Thursday Letter To Priests, L'Osservatore Romano, 27/3/96.

• 10 CCC. n. 1551.

• 11 CCC, n. 1551.

• 12 Cf. Directory On The Ministry and Life of Priests, Congregation for the Clergy, n. 1.

• 13 Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 11.

• 14 Josef Pieper. In Search of the Sacred, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1991, p. 46.

• 15 Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 5; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) n. 1582

• 16 Josef Pieper, In Search of the Sacred, op. cit. p. 62.

• 17 Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 2.

• 18 Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n. 10.

• 19 Dr John M. Hass, in The Catholic Priest as Moral Teacher and Guide (A Symposium), Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1990, pp. 134- 35.

• 20 Pope John Paul II, General Audience, 31/3/93.

• 21 CCC. n. 1548.

• 22 Pope John Paul II. Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 12.

• 23 CCC. n. 1549.

• 24 Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 48.

• 25 Ibid.

• 26 Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n. 28.

• 27 Pope John Paul II, General Audience, 12/5/93.

• 28 Fr Brian Byron, in Priesthood: The Hard Questions, edited by Fr Gerald Gleeson, E. J. Dwyer, Sydney, 1993, pp. 43-44. Fr Byron chairs the Commission for Ecumenism in the Archdiocese of Sydney.

• 29 Ibid. pp. 47-48.

• 30 Ibid. pp. 53-54.

• 31 Cf. Jean Galot, S.J. Theology of the Priesthood, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1985, p. 65.

• 32 For these points on Christ as Teacher, Prophet, King and Priest, I have drawn on an article by Archbishop Henryk Muszynski referred to earlier and which was published in L'Osservatore Romano on 26/8/92.

• 33 Fr Brian Byron, Compass Theological Review, Summer 1992, p. 43.

• 34 For a statement of the Church's doctrine on the Resurrection as a transcendent event, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 647, 656.

• 35 I have taken this description of the relationship between speech, intelligibility and reality from the back cover of Josef Pieper's book Abuse of Language-Abuse of Power, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1992.

• 36 Fr Brian Byron, Compass Theological Review, Summer 1992, p. 41.

• 37 Ibid. p. 42.

• 38 Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, n. 68.

• 39 Pope John Paul II, DominicaeCenae, n. 9.

• 40 CCC. n. 1330.

• 41 CCC. n. 1365.

• 42 CCC. n. 1366.

• 43 Congregation For the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), In Defense of the Catholic Doctrine on the Church, June 24, 1973, n.6.

• 44 CCC. n. 1591.

• 45 Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n. 10.

• 46 Jean Galot S.J. Theology of the Priesthood, op. cit. p. 118.

• 47 Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, n. 43.

• 48 Cf. CCC. nn. 1120, 1547, 1592.

• 49 Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 26.

• 50 Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n. 22.

• 51 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 7/7/93.

• 52 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 7/7/93.

• 53 Vatican II, Apostolicam Actuositatem, n. 10.

• 54 Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 21.

• 55 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 15/11/95.

• 56 Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 34.

• 57 Ibid. n. 3.

• 58 Cf. Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 7/7/93.

• 59 Bishop Patrick Dunn, Priesthood, Alba House, New York, 1990, p. 20.

• 60 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 17/11/93.

• 61 The statement of the Kansas Bishops was first published in Origins on 13/7/95.

• 62 Cf. Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 7/7/93.

• 63 Bishop David Konstant, Australian, 2/11/95.

• 64 Directory On the Ministry and Life of Priests, Congregation for the Clergy, n. 33.

• 65 Ibid.

• 66 Cf. Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, n. 43; Directory On Ministry and Life of Priests, n. 33.

• 67 Pope John Paul II, Pope John Paul II, Letter to Priests, Novo Incipiente Nostro, 6 April, 1979, n. 7.

• 68 Directory On Ministry of Priests, n. 45.

• 69 Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 26.

• 70 Hans Urs von Balthasar, A Short Primer For Unsettled Laymen, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1987, pp. 113-114.

• 71 Joseph Pieper, In Search of the Sacred, op. cit. p. 30.

• 72 Bishop W.K. Weigand, AD2000, June 1994.

• 73 Fr Kenneth Baker, S.J. Editorial, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, February, 1995.

• 74 Germain Grisez and Russell Shaw, The Crisis of Eucharistic Faith, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, February 1995, pp. 16-21.

• 75 Ibid.

• 76 Fr Max Thurian, L'Osservatore Romano, 24/7/96.

• 77 Ibid.

• 78 Ibid.

• 79 Ibid.

• 80 Pope John XXIII, Encyclical Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia, n. 28

• 81 CCC. nn. 1379-1380.

• 82 Fr Max Thurian, L'Osservatore Romano, 24/6/96.

• 83 Pope John Paul II, Duodecimum Saeculum n. 8.

• 84 Ibid. n. 11.

• 85 Ibid. n. 10.

• 86 Ibid. nn. 9, 11.




Catholic educational institutions have an important role to play in defending the true identity of the ordained priest. In order to do this however, it is essential that theology courses and related disciplines taught at Catholic tertiary institutions be faithful to the doctrine of the Church on the origin and nature of the ministerial priesthood. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case at the Australian Catholic University (ACU) in Sydney where the doctrine of the Church has been contradicted in various units of the Graduate Diploma in Religious Education Course which is currently being run there. [1] This is a two-year part-time course which is conducted at the Strathfield campus. In the course which began in 1995, the Scripture Unit was entitled An Introduction To The Word of God and it contained two prescribed texts entitled The Christian Story by Dr Laurie Woods and Book of Readings edited by Sandra Carroll. Both Woods and Carroll lecture in the Religious Education Department at the ACU in Sydney. Speaking of ministry in the early Church, Woods says:

Ministering to members of the community was an activity that grew naturally in Christian circles. . . Over a period of time, and as communities grew in size and complexity, different ministries became distinct and organised until a definite hierarchy of ministries was established in church order. . . In any discussion of ministry it has to be kept in mind that the New Testament communities did not have the kind of organisation that we are familiar with in today's church. Initially there were no ordained priests. . . There is not enough information for us to know how certain individuals came to preside over the Eucharist in the first decades of Christianity. We can only say that they performed this function with the approval of the community. There is certainly no evidence to suggest that there was a class of professional presiders equivalent to today's priesthood. As churches grew larger and developed more complex organisational structures it became necessary to regulate the selection of those who presided over the Eucharist. Eventually, this became a function reserved for presbyters and bishops (around the turn of the first century C. E.). [2]

Carroll's Book of Readings contains an article written by Kerrie Hide entitled Women In Luke Acts. Hide, who lectures in the School of Religion and Philosophy at the Signadu Campus of the Australian Catholic University, begins her article by saying:

Recent scholarship has highlighted the patriarchal nature of scripture and how it represents a male's point of view of women's experience. Luke's view of women from the time of the prophets, the time of Jesus' ministry and the time of the Church reflects this patriarchal interpretation of the significance of women. Feminist authors such as Schussler Fiorenza are pointing to the layers of Lucan redaction which suggest that while Luke reports more stories about women than any of the other gospel writers, they are stories that generally dis-empower women and encourage them to remain in subordinate positions. [3]

Then, in reference to what she believes were the ministries performed by women in the early Church, Hide says:

Lydia, named in Acts 16:11-15 is another woman of authority who had her own business in purple cloth trading. As a gentile worshipper of God she becomes a model of perfect discipleship because she hears the word of God and takes this to her heart so that her conversion takes place at a personal and communal level. She then shares her insight with her entire household and becomes a model of hospitality, an indication of her true discipleship. There is no evidence that she did not celebrate eucharist and since her home became the mission base for the Philippian church it is highly likely that she did so. . . through Jesus women were encouraged to realise the reign of God in their midst and to be involved in all ministries in the Church [4]

The Unit on the Sacraments for the Graduate Diploma in Religious Education is entitled Religious Education And Living The Tradition (Code RE 601). The Unit began in February 1996 and the recommended text is a book called Sacraments Alive written by Sister Sandra DeGidio, OSM. In fact the book is compulsory reading for the students since part of their written assessment for the unit requires them to answer questions at the end of certain chapters in DeGidio's book. In her introduction to the Sacrament of Holy Orders, DeGidio says:

This is, without doubt, the most difficult sacrament for me to address. This difficulty exists because holy orders is incredibly complicated in its origin and development. The greater difficulty for me, though, has to do with the changing role of ministry in today's church and the current unchanging climate and attitude in the institutional church. In a word, I have a real problem, scripturally, theologically, and in justice, with the exclusion of women and married people from ordained ministry. I also have a problem with the attitude of clericalism that is present in the church and some of its leaders, and with a hierarchical structure in which some people are caught, some people wield power for power's sake, and some are squeezed out.

I bring to this chapter some anger. And I bring to this chapter some pain. Pain for my sisters who feel gifted for and called to a priesthood that is not open to them. Pain for my brothers who must make a choice between celibacy and service. Pain for the Christian communities whose church doors are closed because some minds seem closed about ministry and priesthood. . . It strikes me that if Peter or any of the twelve apostles - or any of the seventy-two disciples or any of the first Christians, for that matter - were to come back today, they would be truly puzzled by a priesthood imbued with personal powers and thought of as being personally instituted by Jesus himself. It is my guess that they would look to the Christian Scriptures (New Testament), and find that nowhere in the story of the origin of Christianity is the word priest. What they would know is that Jesus called twelve ordinary lay people as his apostles, to preach and teach. When Judas defected, the Twelve chose Matthias as a replacement, but after that there was no immediate attempt by the early church to replace the twelve. They were in a sense, founding fathers, living witnesses to the Christ event. "Apostolic succession" had little to do with bishops and priests in the early church. It had everything to do with discipleship and with being faithful to the Jesus tradition. . . At best, we can say that Jesus commissioned those who were closest to him to use their gifts. He wanted them to be part of and to influence the political, social, and cultural character of their communities". [5]

I assume that in referring to "New Testament Communities", Woods is in fact referring to the Church founded by Jesus Christ which "subsists in the Catholic Church" and which "is governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him". [6] The New Testament does not contain a shred of evidence for Woods' assertions about the origin of the ministerial priesthood in the Church. Also, from what Hide has written, I understand her to be saying that since "all ministries" in the early Church were open to women, then Lydia possibly presided over a Eucharistic celebration. The approach to the Bible taken by Hide and DeGidio is typical of those feminist theologians who politicise the interpretation of Sacred Scripture to such an extent as to relativise the objective truth which it contains. Speaking of this, Fr Albert Vanhoye, S. J. who is Secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission says:

As for the attempt made several years ago to base an egalitarianism upon a 'feminist theological reconstruction of Christian origins', it is unfortunately necessary to say that it is without theological validity because, instead of accepting the testimony of the New Testament, it adopts a 'hermeneutics of suspicion' in regard to it. That is, in studying the writings of the New Testament, it takes as a point of departure the 'suspicion' that their authors more or less consciously hid their egalitarian leaning, which was supposedly the tendency of Jesus and his first disciples. Consequently, they claim to reconstruct this 'authentic' orientation through the unilateral use of some clues found in the texts, completing them with many conjectures, often directly contrary to other New Testament texts. Such a method is obviously not capable of providing the Church with a sure foundation for changing one of her traditions in such an important area (non-admission of women to the ranks of the ministerial priesthood) . A reconstruction based on historical conjecture is completely out of place in this matter. The only valid foundation is perfect obedience to the word of God. [7]


While the words "ordained" and "ministerial" priest do not appear in the New Testament, equivalent terms such as presbyteroi (presbyters) do. The word "presbyteroi" initially meant "elder ones" or "elders" which in French is translated as "pretres" and hence the English word "priests". Those who received the power of the apostolic ministry from the Apostles were called "episcopoi" which primarily used to mean "overseers". The English word "Bishop" comes from this Greek term "episkopos". In the New Testament however, it is not always easy to distinguish between "presbyters" (elders) and "bishops" (overseers). [8] In establishing the Church, Christ inscribed within it the ministerial priesthood as one of its constituent elements. The Eucharist, and the ministerial priesthood which is inextricably linked to it, are grounded in the words and deeds of Jesus at the Last Supper. In teaching that the ministerial priesthood was instituted by Christ Himself, the Council of Trent said: "If anyone says that by the words 'Do this in remembrance of me' (Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11: 24) Christ did not establish the apostles as priests or that He did not order (ordinasse) that they and other priests should offer His body and blood, let him be anathema". [9] Elaborating on this doctrine in a later session of the Council, Trent added: "Sacrifice and priesthood are so joined together by God's foundation that each exists in every law. And so, since in the new covenant the Catholic Church has received the visible sacrifice of the Eucharist from the Lord's institution, it is also bound to profess that there is in it a new, visible and external priesthood into which the old one has been changed. The sacred scriptures show, and the tradition of the Catholic Church has always taught, that this was instituted by the same Lord Our Saviour, and that power was given to the Apostles and their successors in the priesthood to consecrate, offer and administer his body and blood, as also to remit or retain sins". [10] In harmony with this teaching, Trent went on to declare: "If anyone should say that in the New Testament there is no visible and external priesthood, or that power is not given to consecrate and offer up the true body and blood of the Lord and to forgive sins, but only the duty and mere function of preaching the Gospel. . . let him be anathema". [11] The teaching of Trent on the origin and nature of the ministerial priesthood was reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council when it said: "The same Lord has established certain ministers among the faithful in order to join them together in one body where 'all the members have not the same function' (Rom. 12:4). These men were to hold in the community of the faithful the sacred power of Order, that of offering sacrifice and forgiving sins, and were to exercise the priestly office publicly on behalf of men in the name of Christ". [12] In speaking of the mission and power to celebrate the Eucharist which Christ conferred on the Apostles when he addressed to them the sacramental charge "Do this in memory of me" (Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24-25), Pope John Paul II said: "The charge to do again what Jesus did at the Last Supper by consecrating bread and wine implies a power of the highest degree; to say in Christ's name, 'This is my Body', 'This is my Blood', is to be identified with Christ, as it were, in the sacramental act". [13] On another occasion when speaking of the ministerial priesthood and its institution by Christ, Pope John Paul II said: "The participation in Christ's one priesthood, which is exercised in several degrees, was instituted by Christ, who wanted differentiated functions in his Church as in a well-organised social body, and for the function of leadership he established ministers of his priesthood. He conferred on them the sacrament of Orders to constitute them officially as priests who would work in his name and with his power by offering sacrifices and forgiving sins". [14] As we noted in the last chapter, the ordained priesthood finds its definitive expression in the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice and this partly explains why its institution by Christ took place at the Last Supper. Speaking of this, Pope John Paul II said: "The Eucharist is the principal and central raison d'etre for the sacrament of the priesthood, which effectively came into being at the moment of the institution of the Eucharist, and together with it". [15] Repeating this teaching in his Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday in 1996, the Holy Father said:

"Precisely during that Paschal event Christ revealed to the Apostles that their vocation was to become priests like him and in him. This took place when, in the Upper Room, on the eve of his death on the Cross, he took bread and then the cup of wine, and spoke over them the words of consecration. The bread and the wine became his Body and Blood, given up in sacrifice for all mankind. Jesus concluded by commanding the Apostles: "Do this in memory of me" (1 Cor 11:25). With these words he entrusted to them his own sacrifice and, through their hands communicated it to the Church for all time. By entrusting to the Apostles the memorial of his sacrifice, Christ made them sharers in his priesthood. For there is a close and inseparable bond between the offering and the priest: the one who offers the sacrifice of Christ must have a share in the priesthood of Christ. Consequently, the vocation to the priesthood is a vocation to offer in persona Christi his own sacrifice, by virtue of sharing in his priesthood. From the Apostles, then, we have inherited the priestly ministry". [16]

While the Apostles were the first to be invested with the ministerial priesthood, Jesus did not intend it to be reserved to them alone. The Gospels tell us that during his earthly life, Jesus indicated his intention to establish the presbyterate by appointing certain "disciples" who, though subordinate and distinct from the Apostles, were nevertheless to be endowed with their priestly task (cf. Lk 10: 1-24). In reference to this, Jean Galot, S. J. says:

Luke reports a mission of the disciples distinct from the mission of the Twelve. After recounting how Jesus called the twelve together and invited them to proclaim God's kingdom (Lk 9:1-2), he writes: "And the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them ahead of him in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit" (Lk 10:1). As in the case of the twelve, Jesus addressed to them words of instruction. When we compare the two missions, we notice no significant difference between the one and the other. The purpose is the same: to proclaim the good news. Like the Twelve, the seventy-two disciples are endowed with Christ's authority to teach. According to Luke, they are told: "Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who has sent me' (Lk 10: 16). There is a similarity also between the powers conferred on the two groups. . . "(Lk 10:17-19). [17]

This account of the commissioning of the Seventy-two leads Galot to the following conclusion:

Jesus willed to share with the seventy-two disciples, as well as with the Twelve, his own mission to proclaim the Gospel and his power over the forces of evil. This proves that Jesus intended to appoint, together with the Twelve, a large number of disciples entrusted with the same mission. The Twelve were given a higher authority, but with respect to the essential characteristics and the power attached, the two missions are obviously similar. Jesus wills, then, that the Twelve should be surrounded by many co- workers entrusted with a priestly task similar to their own. Nevertheless, the fact remains that only the Twelve received directly from Jesus the pastoral and priestly power intended to provide for the future of the Church. It was to them that the fullness of this power was entrusted, yet they in their turn would have to exercise that power together with co-workers to whom they would impart their own mission and power. [18]

Pope John Paul II places the commissioning of the Seventy-two disciples in much the same context as Galot. He says:

What the evangelist Luke attests is significant, namely, that Jesus sent the Twelve on mission (Lk 9:1-6), he sent a still larger number of disciples, to indicate as it were that the mission of the Twelve was not enough for the work of evangelisation. "After this the Lord appointed 72 others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit" (Lk 10:1). Doubtless this step only prefigures the ministry that Christ will formally institute later on. However, it already shows the divine Master's intention to introduce a sizeable number of coworkers into the 'vineyard'. . . Like the Twelve (cf. Mk 6-7; Lk 9:1), the disciples receive the power to expel evil spirits, so much so that after their first experiences they say to Jesus: "Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name. " This power is confirmed by Jesus himself: "I have observed Satan fall like lightening from the sky. Behold I have given you the power 'to tread upon serpents' and upon the full force of the enemy. . . "(Lk 10;17-19). This also means that they participate with the Twelve in the redemptive work of the one priest of the new covenant, Christ, who wanted to confer on them too a mission and powers like those of the Twelve. The establishment of the presbyterate, therefore, does not only answer one of the practical necessities of the bishops, who feel the need for coworkers, but derives from an explicit intention of Christ. In fact, we already find that in the early Christian era presbyters (presbyteroi) are present and functioning in the Church of the Apostles and of the first bishops, their successors (Cf. Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23, 41; 16:4; 20:17; 21:18; 1 Tim 4:14; 5:17, 19; Ti 1:5; Jas 5:14; 1 Pt 5:1, 5, 15; 2 Jn 1; 3 Jn 1). [19]

Since the ministerial priesthood was instituted by Christ and exists in the Church as a constituent element of it, then it is not possible as Laurie Woods asserts to conceive of the Church in its infancy without the presence in it of ordained priests. In regard to this point, Pope John Paul II said:

The priest's fundamental relationship is to Jesus Christ, head and shepherd. Indeed, the priest participates in a specific and authoritative way in the "consecration/anointing" and in the "mission" of Christ (cf. Lk. 4:18-19). But intimately linked to this relationship is the priest's relationship with the Church. It is not a question of "relations" which are merely juxtaposed, but rather of ones which are interiorly united in a kind of mutual immanence. The priest's relation to the Church is inscribed in the very relation which the priest has to Christ, such that the "sacramental representation" to Christ serves as the basis and inspiration for the relation of the priest to the Church. In this sense the Synod Fathers wrote: "Inasmuch as he represents Christ the head, shepherd and spouse of the Church, the priest is placed not only in the Church, but also towards the Church. The priesthood along with the word of God and the sacramental signs which it serves, belongs to the constituent elements of the Church. . . " (1990 Synod, Proposition 7) . Therefore, the ordained ministry arises with the Church and has in bishops, and in priests who are related to and are in communion with them, a particular relation to the original ministry of the apostles - to which it truly "succeeds" - even though with regard to the later it assumes different forms. Consequently, the ordained priesthood ought not to be thought of as existing prior to the Church, because it is totally at the service of the Church. Nor should it be considered as posterior to the ecclesial community, as if the Church could be imagined as already established without this priesthood. [20]


Before examining the question of how the early Church was organised, it will be useful to first outline what the Catholic Church understands by the term Divine Revelation. According to Vatican II, Divine Revelation comprises both Sacred Scripture and Tradition. Sacred Scripture "is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit". [21] Sacred or Holy Tradition "transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the Apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound, and spread it abroad by their preaching". [22] As a result, Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition "are bound closely together and communicate one with the other" because both of them flow out "of the same divine well-spring". [23] Consequently, the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of revelation is entrusted, "does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the Holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence". [24] Sacred Tradition however needs to be distinguished from the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical and devotional traditions which arise in local churches over time. These traditions can be "retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church's magisterium". [25] Instead, Tradition as part of Divine Revelation refers to what "comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus' teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit". [26] The Apostles entrusted the "Sacred deposit" of faith contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition to the whole Church. [27] Returning now to the question of the Church's structure. The Church is composed of "a human and a Divine element, " and insofar as it is a human reality, it is "a society structured with hierarchical organs". [28] This structure, which is "hierarchical and ministerial", was established by Christ and "has an essential role in the whole development of the Christian community, from the day of Pentecost until the end of time". [29] Its purpose in the Divine plan is to provide pastoral governance for the continual formation and growth of the community. The Twelve Apostles were the first to have this ministerial authority conferred upon them. According to Pope John Paul II, the following are the specific duties which are inherent in the mission entrusted by Christ to the Twelve: i) the mission to evangelise all nations, as the three Synoptic Gospels clearly attest (cf. Mt 28:18-20; Mk 16:16-18; Lk 24:45-48); ii) the mission and power to baptise (Mt 28:29), as a fulfilment of Christ's command, with a baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity. Since this baptism is tied to Christ's paschal mystery, it is also considered in the Acts of the of the Apostles as baptism in the name of Jesus (cf. Acts 2:38; 8:16); iii) the mission and power to celebrate the Eucharist: "Do this in memory of me" (Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11: 24-25); iv) the mission and power to forgive sins (Jn 20: 22-23). [30] The mission of the Twelve "included a foundational role reserved to them which would not be inherited by others: being eyewitnesses of Christ's life, death and resurrection (cf. Lk 24:28), handing on his message to the early community as the link between divine Revelation and the Church, and for that very reason, initiating the Church in the name and power of Christ under the action of the Holy Spirit. Because of their function the Twelve Apostles represent a uniquely important group in the Church defined by the Nicene- Constantinopolitan creed as apostolic. . . due to this unbreakable link with the Twelve". [31] In forming the group of the Twelve, "Jesus established the Church as a visible society organised to serve the Gospel and the coming of God's Kingdom". [32] In the group of the Apostles, a special authority was bestowed by Christ on Peter. Speaking of this authority bestowed by Christ on Peter, Pope John Paul II says: "This authority is pastoral, as we can see from the text on the mission specifically entrusted to Peter: 'Feed my lambs. . . Feed my sheep' (Jn 21: 15-17). Peter personally receives supreme authority in the pastoral mission. This mission is exercised as a participation in the authority of the one Shepherd and Teacher, Christ". [33] In conferring on the Twelve their pastoral and ministerial authority which was related to their mission to evangelise all nations, Jesus knew it would take a long time, indeed a time that would last "until the end of the age" (Mt 28:20). Consequently, the Apostles understood that it was "Christ's will that they provide for successors, who as their heirs and representatives, would continue their mission". [34] Speaking of this, Pope St. Clement of Rome, who was the third successor of St Peter, wrote: "Our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of Bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect knowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned, and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry". [35] Referring to the Church's hierarchical and ministerial structure and its institution by Christ, the Second Vatican Council said:

This sacred synod, following in the steps of the First Vatican Council, teaches and declares with it that Jesus Christ, the eternal pastor, set up the holy Church by entrusting the apostles with their mission, as He Himself had been sent by the Father (cf. Jn 20:21). He willed that their successors, the bishops namely, should be the shepherds in his Church until the end of the world. In order that the episcopate itself, however, might be one and undivided he put Peter at the head of the other Apostles, and in him he set up a lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and of communion. . . That divine mission, which was committed by Christ to the Apostles, is destined to last until the end of the world (cf. Mt 28:20), since the Gospel, which they were charged to hand on, is, for the Church, the principle of all its life for all time. For that very reason the apostles were careful to appoint successors in this hierarchically constituted society. [36]

It is impossible to conceive of the Church at any stage of its existence without its hierarchical and ministerial structure. Speaking of this as early as A. D. 115, St. Ignatius of Antioch said: "When you submit to the bishop as you would to Jesus Christ, it is clear to me that you are living not in the manner of men but as Jesus Christ. . . Let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and college of Apostles. Without these it cannot be called a Church". [37] The testimony of St Ignatius of Antioch is very important because not only was he the third bishop of Antioch (St. Peter was the first), but he was also a hearer of St. John the Evangelist. Around the year 115, St. Ignatius died a martyr's death when he was sentenced to the beasts in the arena during the reign of the Emperor Trajan. From earliest times also, it was acknowledged that supreme power over the whole Church belonged to the Bishop of Rome as the successor of St. Peter. For example, St Irenaeus, the martyred Bishop of Lyons, insisted that in doctrinal disputes, agreement with the Church of Rome was the test of orthodoxy. Further to this, he explained that the root of all heresy is found in deviation from the Church's teaching authority as centred in the Pope who is the successor of St Peter. In his youth, St. Irenaeus who was a native of Asia Minor, had been a pupil of St. Polycarp who in turn was a disciple of St. John the Evangelist. St Irenaeus therefore saw himself in continuity of teaching with the Apostles. [38] Commenting on the relationship of the Apostolic authority to the structure of the Church, Hans Urs von Balthasar says:

The Catholic Church will never be able to abandon the idea that Jesus entrusted his powers of consecration and of absolution from grievous guilt to an office in the Church that was first carried out by the "Apostles" and then explicitly passed on to others who in turn pass it on: "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you set in order anything that is still lacking and appoint presbyters in each city, as I directed you to do" (Titus 1:5). This order appears completed even in the earliest postapostolic writings (Letter of Clement, circa 96; Letters of Ignatius, circa 115), and the Church cannot go back beyond this order to possible but more or less hypothetical community structures that formed under the eyes of the Apostles and with their approbation. Full communion of Churches - and the Eucharist is the expression of the full, not of a partial, communion - presupposes communion, both visibly embodied and spiritually acknowledged, in the office of the Church, of which one cannot say. . . that it can be changed in its essential structure by the Church herself. For it is essentially and permanently a gift of Christ to the Church, which is permitted to be what she is by virtue of this gift. [39]

Bishop Dunn draws attention to the key role of the Apostles and of the "official Church" in the appointment of leaders during the New Testament era. He says:

The most detailed information we have on how early Church leaders were appointed comes from the account of the institution of "the Seven" (Act 6:1-6). The initiative is taken by "the official Church", in this case "the Twelve", who call a full meeting of "the disciples", and suggest to them what should be done to settle the differences between the "Hellenists" and the "Hebrews". "The whole assembly approved this proposal", held an election, and "presented these to the apostles", it is these "official leaders" who then, through prayer and the laying on of hands, confirm "the Seven" in office. Other New Testament texts which refer to the instituting of ministers make no mention of any community role in the process - so, whatever form it may have taken, it certainly does not seem to have been the most decisive element. It is said of Paul and Barnabas, concerning the communities they had founded: "In each of these churches they appointed elders" (Acts 14:23). . . Titus was left behind in Crete "to get everything organised there and appoint elders in every town, in the way that I told you" (Tit 1:5). [40]

Regarding the hierarchical structure of the Church communities established by St Paul, Bishop Dunn says: "Paul's letters reveal that none of his communities was permitted to go its own way. He insists that they remain faithful to what was done 'everywhere in all the churches' (1 Cor 4:17; 7:17). Although so conscious of his own apostolic authority. . . Paul was still prepared to submit his version of the Gospel to 'the leading men' in Jerusalem to be sure of their approval (Gal 2:2). Paul feared that without this recognition from 'the official church' his own work would lose its validity". [41] There is no possibility then that any of the earliest Church communities existed in a form other than with a hierarchical and ministerial structure that rested on the Apostles and their successors. According to Hans Urs von Balthasar, the faith which expresses itself in the New Testament "is not the faith of isolated individuals but that of a community. This community is linked to its founder; Jesus had himself chosen, trained and commissioned its nucleus, the Twelve". [42] From Peter's first appearance in the Acts of the Apostles, "through the strict Church regime exercised by Paul in his communities, to the teaching of the First Letter of Peter about the task and attitude of the 'shepherds', it is clear that the Church is structured by office". [43] The office "must thus itself be a sacrament received from Christ or those commissioned by him". [44] Since "the opinion of the New Testament about Christ cannot be contradictory in itself, " we can say that "however the first communities may have been organised structurally, some this way and others that way, it cannot have been the will of the Apostles, who determined the structure, to plan or even to tolerate contradictory structures: for example, next to a 'hierarchic' structure in which chosen heads, approved by the Apostles, led the community, a purely 'democratic' structure in which the community consecrated its leaders by its own authority and enabled them to perform sacramental acts". [45] We know for certain that leaders of some sort existed in Corinth. In the Letter to the Philippians "they are expressly mentioned together with deacons, and Paul certainly did not establish two fundamentally different community structures in such close vicinity. These leaders may have been with Paul when the letter was written. Besides Paul sends his official collaborators to Corinth 'for an apostolic visitation'". [46] Von Balthasar concludes his discussion of the early Church by saying that its structures were consolidated slowly under the eyes of the Apostles. [47] In relation to this question of Apostolic succession, Vatican II said: "In order that the mission entrusted to them might be continued after their death, they (Apostles) consigned, by will and testament, as it were, to their immediate collaborators, the duty of completing and consolidating the work they had begun". [48] As well as transmitting their apostolic authority to their successors, the Apostles also appointed presbyters as coworkers in the episcopal order. Regarding this, Vatican II said: "Christ sent the Apostles as he himself had been sent by the Father, and then through the Apostles made successors, the bishops, sharers in his consecration and mission. The function of the bishops' ministry was handed over in a subordinate degree to presbyters so that they might be appointed in the order of the presbyterate and be coworkers of the episcopal order for the proper fulfilment of the apostolic mission that had been entrusted to it by Christ". [49] Speaking of how the Apostles called other men to be Bishops and priests, Pope John Paul II said:

In their turn, the apostles. . . progressively carried out their mission by calling. . . other men as bishops, as priests and as deacons in order to fulfil the command of the risen Jesus who sent them forth to all people in every age. The writings of the New Testament are unanimous in stressing that it is the same Spirit of Christ who introduces these men chosen from among their brethren into the ministry. Through the laying on of hands (cf. Acts 6:6; 1 Tm. 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tm. 1:6) which transmits the gift of the Spirit, they are called and empowered to continue the same ministry of reconciliation, of shepherding the flock of God and of teaching (cf. Acts 20:28; 1 Pt. 5:2). Therefore, priests are called to prolong the presence of Christ, the one high priest, embodying his way of life and making him visible in the midst of the flock entrusted to their care. We find this clearly and precisely stated in the first letter of Peter: "I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in our charge but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory" (1 Pet. 5:1-4). [50]

The transmission of the Apostolic authority and the ministerial priesthood was effected through the imposition of hands by either the Apostles themselves or by those whom they appointed to succeed them in the Apostolic ministry. Some references to this in the New Testament are:

"You have in you a spiritual gift which was given to you when the prophets spoke and the body of elders laid their hands on you, do not let it lie unused" ( 1 Tim $:14);

"Do not be too quick to lay hands on any man" (1 Tim 5:22);

"That is why I am reminding you now to fan into flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you" (2 Tim 1: 6).

The Catholic Church today, ruled by the Pope and the Bishops, and assisted by their presbyters (priests), has substantially the same hierarchical structure as the Church of the New Testament era. In reference to this, Jean Galot says that "Jesus does not limit himself to 'making the Twelve' in order to confer upon them his own priesthood. He also establishes a basic structure that pertains to the nature of this priesthood". [51] This structure, continues Galot, "is rightly called 'hierarchical', since it consists of a gradation of 'sacred powers', which is what the notion of the hierarchy entails". [52] Galot also points out that in judging by "the intentions disclosed by Jesus", there are three degrees in the mission and power of the shepherd. [53] He says that while "these degrees do not correspond exactly to the traditional trilogy of episcopacy, presbyterate, and diaconate", they have however "always being acknowledged by the Catholic Church in the doctrine and in the exercise of the priesthood". [54] Finally, says Galot, "In addition to the Twelve, there is the supreme pastoral power conferred on Peter, which marks the summit of the structure. We also have evidence suggesting that Jesus intended to give the apostles a large number of co-workers subject to their authority". [55] Holy Orders is the sacrament "through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time. Thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate". [56] The Magisterium of the Church recognises "that there are two degrees of ministerial participation in the priesthood of Christ: the episcopacy (bishops) and the presbyterate (priests) . The diaconate is intended to help and serve them". [57] There is continuity between the way candidates for the sacrament of Holy Orders were chosen in the early Church and what happens today. The essential rite of the Sacrament of Holy Orders "consists in the bishop's imposition of hands on the head of the ordinand and in the bishop's specific consecratory prayer asking God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and his gifts proper to the ministry to which the candidate is being ordained". [58] This to me does not seem very far removed from the practice of the early Church. In view of all that has been said above about the hierarchical and ministerial nature of the Church, it should now be clear to see why Pope Pius VI taught that it is "heretical" to assert that "the power of the ministry and of ecclesial rule comes to the pastors from the community of the faithful". [59] If the Sacrament of Holy Orders is not of Divine origin, but rather is something that merely evolved in the first few decades of the Church's life and whose form was dependent on the consent of the "local community", then the Church herself can change and manipulate this sacrament at will. Fr Galot warns of this danger of suggesting that the "community" had a decisive role in the appointment of leaders in the early Church when he says: "If the local community is entitled to institute ministries to meet its own needs, it is difficult to see what could possibly prevent the community from choosing women and entrusting to them the task of pastoral leadership". [60]



• 1 In this chapter, I will be referring only to the Scripture and Sacraments Units of this Graduate Diploma in Religious Education course. Overall, the course is seriously defective, in chapter 8 of this book I will highlight other serious flaws in it.

• 2 Laurie Woods, An Introduction To The Word of God, Australian Catholic University (NSW), 1995, p. 78.

• 3 Kerrie Hide, in Book of Readings, by Sandra Carroll, Australian Catholic University, 1995, p. 183. This article by Hide was first published in the Spring 1994 edition of Compass: A Review of Topical Theology.

• 4 Ibid. p. 189.

• 5 Sandra DeGidio, OSM, Sacraments Alive: Their History, Celebration and Significance, Twenty-Third Publications, Mystic, Connecticut, 1994, pp. 122-24. It is incredible that while the Catechism of the Catholic Church is not included in the recommended reading for this course this book by DeGidio is compulsory. The book is so inadequate that it would need a very lengthy review to highlight its more serious defects. For example, she says that there is little if any scriptural evidence for the "notion of original sin (p. 40) and she advocates that the number of sacraments be increased to include "a sacrament for divorce" (p. 145) and "a sacrament for abortion" (p. 146).

• 6 Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n. 8.

• 7 Fr Albert Vanhoye S.J., L'Osservatore Romano, 10/3/93.

• 8 Cf. Pope John Paul II, General Audience, 31/3/93.

• 9 Council of Trent, DS 1752, Session XXII, 1562, Canon 2.

• 10 Council of Trent, Session XXIII.

• 11 Council of Trent, Session XXIII, Canon 1.

• 12 Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 2. Footnote number 5 appended to this statement of Vatican II was inserted by the Council Fathers to indicate that it had to be interpreted in the light of the teaching of the Council of Trent.

• 13 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 8/7/92.

• 14 Pope John Paul II, General Audience, 31/3/93. Unless otherwise stated, wherever bold print appears in this book it has been inserted by this author.

• 15 Pope John Paul II, Dominicae Cenae, n. 2.

• 16 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 27/3/96.

• 17 Galot. op. cit. p. 85.

• 18 Ibid.

• 19 Pope John Paul II, General Audience, 31/3/93.

• 20 Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 16.

• 21 Vatican II, Dei Verbum, n. 9.

• 22 Ibid.

• 23 Ibid.

• 24 Ibid.

• 25 CCC. n. 83.

• 26 Ibid.

• 27 CCC. n. 84.

• 28 CCC. n.771; cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n.8.

• 29 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 8/7/92.

• 30 I have here summarised these specific duties of the Apostles as Pope John Paul II has listed them. For the full outline see L'Osservatore Romano, 8/7/92.

• 31 Ibid.

• 32 Ibid.

• 33 Ibid.

• 34 Ibid.

• 35 Pope St. Clement of Rome, Letter to The Corinthians, cited in William A. Jurgens' The Faith of the Early Fathers, Liturgical Press, Minnesota, 1970, Vol. 1, p. 10.

• 36 Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, nn. 18, 20.

• 37 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Trallians, cited in William A. Jurgens' Faith of the Early Church Fathers, Vol. 1, p. 20, Liturgical Press, Minnesota, 1970.

• 38 References to the supreme authority over the whole Church of the Pope as the successor of St Peter are found in various writings of the Early Church Fathers; e.g. Letter to the Corinthians (St. Clement, circa. A.D. 96), Letter to the Romans (St. Ignatius of Antioch, circa A.D. 115), Against Heresies (St. Irenaeus, circa A.D. 190).

• 39 Hans Urs von Balthasar, A Short Primer For Unsettled Laymen, op. cit. p. 100.

• 40 Bishop Patrick Dunn, op. cit. p. 40.

• 41 Ibid. p. 38.

• 42 Hans Urs von Balthasar, A Short Primer For Unsettled Laymen, op. cit. p. 29.

• 43 Ibid. p. 31.

• 44 Ibid.

• 45 Ibid. p. 44.

• 46 Ibid. p. 45.

• 47 Cf. Ibid.

• 48 Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n. 20.

• 49 Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 2; cf. CCC. n. 1562.

• 50 Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n.15.

• 51 Galot, op. cit. p. 77.

• 52 Ibid.

• 53 Ibid.

• 54 Ibid.

• 55 Ibid.

• 56 CCC. n. 1536.

• 57 CCC. n. 1554.

• 58 CCC. n. 1573.

• 59 Pope Pius VI, Const. Auctorem Fidei, August 28, 1794: Dz. 1502.

• 60 Jean Galot, S.J. op. cit. p. 252.




At the Last Supper Our Lord instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. Speaking of this, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: "This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us". [1] Speaking of how the essence of the Eucharistic celebration as we experience it today has its origin in the words and actions of Jesus at the Last Supper, Pope John Paul II said: "Beginning with the Upper Room and Holy Thursday, the celebration of the Eucharist has a long history, a history as long as that of the Church. In the course of this history the secondary elements have undergone certain changes, but there has been no change in the essence of the 'Mysterium' instituted by the Redeemer of the world at the Last Supper". [2] Consequently, the "sacred character of the Mass is a sacredness instituted by Christ" in which "the words and actions of every priest, answered by the conscious participation of the whole Eucharistic assembly, echo the words and action of Holy Thursday". [3]

The command of Jesus to repeat his actions and words "until he comes", does not "only ask us to remember Jesus and what he did. It is directed at the liturgical celebration, by the apostles and their successors, of the memorial of Christ, of his life, of his death, of his resurrection, and of his intercession in the presence of the Father". [4] From the beginning the Church has been faithful to the Lord's command. Of the Church of Jerusalem it is written: "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers...Day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts". [5] It was above all on "the first day of the week," Sunday, the day of Jesus' Resurrection, that the Christians met "to break bread" (Acts 20:7). Regarding the manner in which the Apostles determined the form of the Eucharistic celebration in the early Church, Fr Paul Stenhouse, MSC PhD said:

Every Sabbath, and every day in some places, when the Bread was broken, this was done according to ritual laid down by the authority of the apostles. The liturgy of the Mass, in the rich variety of its ancient rites, was an action that ante-dated, and was quite independent of, any subsequent narrative that recorded it. When St Paul wrote his first epistle to the Corinthians around 56 AD he referred to "the tradition which I already had handed on to you" that "came from the Lord," concerning the Lord's Supper - the Mass (1 Cor 11, 23)...The Mass was the Church's principal, explicit and most solemn demonstration of her faith in action. The Mass was an action that made Jesus Christ visible to his followers in the midst of the Church...As they passed from city to city the apostles selected those whom they thought to be suitable and shared their power with them. They did this through the imposition of hands, accompanied by a ritual that like that of the Mass, was not written down, but communicated to the faithful by word of mouth. The Church's very life depended on this transmission of power. The conveying of this power was an act of authority similar to that which instituted the ritual of the Mass. Part of the power transmitted concerned the right and power to celebrate the Lord's Supper, forgive sins and preach the message of Jesus. The Pastoral Epistles speak of the grace and power communicated by the imposition of hands on Timothy and Titus. But the letters of St Paul do not contain the rite itself, even though it was crucial for the continuation of the Church's very existence. [6]

From the very beginning of the Church "on down to our own day the celebration of the Eucharist has been continued so that today we encounter it everywhere in the Church with the same fundamental structure. It remains the center of the Church's life". [7] Speaking of the place of the Liturgy in the ongoing life of the Church, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: "From the first community of Jerusalem until the parousia, it is the same Paschal mystery that the Churches of God, faithful to the apostolic faith, celebrate in every place. The mystery celebrated in the liturgy is one, but the forms of its celebration are diverse". [8] The diverse forms in which the liturgy is celebrated in the Universal Church spring from the diverse cultures in which the Church has taken root. The liturgical traditions or rites presently in use in the Church are: the Latin and Byzantine, Alexandrian or Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Maronite and Chaldean. These diverse liturgical traditions or rites "manifest the catholicity of the Church because they signify and communicate the same mystery of Christ". [9] Consequently, all of these liturgical rites are "of equal dignity" and the Church "wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way". [10]

The Sacred Liturgy includes divine as well as human elements. The former, "instituted as they have been by God, cannot be changed in any way by men". [11] The human components on the other hand do admit of various modifications, as "the needs of the age, circumstance and the good of souls require, and as the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy under guidance of the Holy Spirit, may have authorised". [12] Consequently, in regard to the divinely constituted parts of the Mass, the Church is merely the guardian and has no authority to change them. [13] The divinely constituted part of each of the Sacraments is often referred to as their substantial core or essential signs. For example, the Sacrament of Matrimony can only be conferred on a man and a woman who are baptised and it is based on the mutual consent of the contracting couple who agree to give themselves to each other definitively in order to live a covenant of faithful and fruitful love. [14] The Sacrament could not for example be conferred on two pagans or on two members of the same sex.

The essential sign of the Sacrament of the Eucharist "are wheat bread and grape wine, on which the blessing of the Holy Spirit is invoked and the priest pronounces the words of consecration spoken by Jesus during the Last Supper: 'This is my body which will be given up for you ...This is the cup of my blood". [15] Inextricably bound to the Sacrament of the Eucharist is the fact that "only validly ordained priests can preside at the Eucharist and consecrate the bread and the wine so that they become the Body and Blood of the Lord". [16] In instituting the Eucharist, as we have already seen in chapter 2, Jesus "commanded his apostles to celebrate it until his return; thereby he constituted them priests of the New Testament". [17] The teaching authority of the Church, basing itself on the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men, has consistently held that the practice of excluding women from the priesthood is in accordance with God's plan for his Church. [18] Consequently, since it is only men that can be validly ordained, then it is only men also who can validly preside over the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Therefore, Kerrie Hide's assertion that Lydia could have presided over a Eucharistic celebration cannot possibly be right.


The teaching of the Church on a male only ministerial priesthood tends in our increasingly unisex culture to be regarded as somewhat archaic and inimical to the cause of the advancement of women. Advocates of women's ordination often assert that the Church's teaching is expressive of a misogynist prejudice which implicitly rejects the equal dignity women possess with men. These advocates argue that in choosing only men to be his apostles and in addressing to them only the sacramental charge - "Do this in memory of me" (Lk 22:19) - Jesus was acting in conformity with the social mores of his patriarchal society. They claim that the social and legal structure of first-century Palestine was such that Jesus had no choice but to pick twelve men since women would have been precluded from preaching the Gospel due to the fact that they were excluded from public teaching in the synagogues. Consequently, these advocates argue, it is not proper to deduce from Jesus' choice of twelve male apostles or from his action at the Last Supper a normative value which vindicates the practice of the Church in conferring priestly ordination on men only.

The charge that Jesus could not break through or overcome the sociological and legal structures of his time ignores the internal evidence of the Gospel which clearly shows that Our Lord freely dispensed with social custom and religious traditions when they no longer served the cause of justice. One of the Pharisees bears testimony to this fact when he says: "Teacher, we know that you are true and that you teach the way of God truthfully and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men" (Mt 22:16). On the basis of his Messianic claim, Jesus set himself sovereignly above even the Mosaic law in its interpretation of the Sabbath commandment (cf. Mk 2: 23-28; 3: 1-6). Coupled with this, a striking characteristic of the Gospel is the great concern Jesus shows to all who suffer, be they men or women. "Do not weep!", he says to the widow of Nain (Lk 7:13) before giving back to her the son he raised from the dead. To the deceased daughter of Jairus he showed similar compassion. The Gospel shows Jesus' kindness to several women sinners, whose repentance he asks for without treating them harshly (cf. Jn 8:3-11). Indeed, at times Jesus' attitude to female sinners aroused the anger of the Pharisees as for example when he allowed himself to be touched by one (cf. Lk 7:33-43). Jesus publicly expresses admiration for the faith of some women. For example, in the case of a woman with a haemorrhage, he tells her: "Your faith has made you well" (Mt 5:34). This praise is all the more significant as the woman concerned was subject to the segregation imposed by the old law.

In reconciling us with God and with each other, Jesus was concerned to uphold the dignity of those most burdened by injustice not least amongst whom were women. In first-century Palestine, women were treated as chattels whose place in the home was not beside their husbands but alongside the children and the slaves. Contrary to such oppressive conventions, Jesus numbered women amongst his friends and he shook the foundations of patriarchal privilege when he forbade men to divorce their wives (cf. Mk 10:1-12). In his ministry, Jesus was accompanied by many women who followed him and assisted him and the community of disciples (cf. Lk 8:1-3). This was something new in respect of Jewish tradition. In drawing those women to follow him, Jesus thus shows that he was not bound by whatever prejudices existed against women in his male-dominated world.

In a society that barred women from the study of the Torah, the Gospel pays a profound tribute to the dignity of women and to their place in the redemptive work of Christ when it presents them as the faithful disciples who accompany the Lord to Calvary (cf. Mk 15:40-41). The radical nature of the Gospel's understanding of the role of women in salvation history is highlighted by the fact that it records that it was to women that Jesus first appeared after the Resurrection (cf. Mt 28:1-10; Jn 20:11-19). In appointing these women as the first witnesses to His resurrection, Jesus was making a radical break with social and legal convention since women were precluded from giving official public witness which meant that their evidence was not accepted in a Jewish court of law. All this clearly indicates that Jesus' relationship to women was not conditioned by the prejudice against them which was characteristic of his time.

In a commentary she wrote on Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, the German theologian Jutta Burggraf, who took part as one of the experts at the Synod of Bishops on the role of the Laity, said:

When reconciling the human race with God, and human beings among themselves, Christ promotes law and justice, and concerns himself particularly with the humbled and the despised. Woman was then among them. She was not even accorded full recognition as a person...Christ takes a stand that is radically opposed to this discrimination against the feminine sex. Towards women he shows a total absence of the prejudices of a male-dominated society. Christ cures several women of their diseases, feels compassion for them and comforts them, defends them vis-a-vis the established social system. Women, in turn, trust him and love him; some of them accompany him in his travels and help him with their own means. At his side, women find themselves accepted and loved, with their virtues as well as with their sins and their defects. Christ takes them seriously and reveals to them God's mysteries. They, in turn, let the new teaching enter into their heads and reach their hearts, and respond with a faith which finds confirmation in their union with Christ on the Cross. At the hour of truth, "the women proved stronger than the Apostles", as John Paul II soberly remarks. [19]

Despite his liberating attitude towards women, the fact remains that in choosing his Twelve Apostles, Jesus did not include any women amongst them (cf. Mk 3:13-19; Mt 10:1-4; Lk 6:12-16). Coupled with this, it was only the Twelve that were present with Jesus at the Last Supper: "with the Twelve" (Mk 14:17); "with the twelve disciples" (Mt 26:20); "and the apostles with him" (Lk 22:14). Jesus personally made very careful arrangements for the Last Supper which took place against the backdrop of the Passover meal (cf. Mk 14:12-16). Commenting on the significance of this decision by Jesus to invite only his Apostles to the Last Supper, Fr Manfred Hauke said:

The Eucharist was made present in a Passover meal, or at least has a clear connection with such. Now, women and children were also admitted to the Paschal feast, and they dined at the table along with everyone else. But even though the most esteemed women among Jesus' company, and the most intimate group of his followers, were in Jerusalem at the relevant time (Mk 15:40f. par; Jn 19:25-27), no one except the Twelve participated in the Last Supper. This fact is even more remarkable given that, with reference to all the other dining scenes during Jesus' lifetime that are described in the Gospels, we hear nothing about any similar drawing of boundaries. [20]

Why, then, we might ask, did Jesus only invite the Twelve Apostles to the Last Supper? The answer I believe is clear - Jesus only invited the Twelve to the Last Supper because it was only on them he wanted to confer the sacramental charge: "Do this in memory of me". Several New Testament texts make it clear that Jesus did not act casually in his choice of the Twelve. According to St Luke, the Twelve were chosen after Jesus had spent a whole night in prayer: "In these days he (Jesus) went out into the hills to pray; and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called his disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles..." (Lk 6:12-13). According to St Mark, Jesus "called to him those whom he desired" (Mk 3:13). Thus in St John we read: "You did not choose me, no, I chose you, and I commissioned you" (Jn 15: 16). The Seventy-two disciples who were sent on a mission similar to that of the Apostles (cf. Lk 10: 1-12) were all men. [21] After the Resurrection it is only on the Apostles that Jesus bestows the power to forgive sins and it is to them also that he entrusts the mission to evangelise the whole world - an act in which Jesus reaffirms the Apostles and their successors as rulers over his Church (cf. Jn 20:21-23; Mt 28:16-20). St Paul teaches that it is in accordance with "a command of the Lord" that women are not called to be "teachers" in the Church (cf. 1 Cor 14: 34- 38; 1 Tim 2:12). In his book Women In The Priesthood?, which according to Hans Urs von Balthasar is "undoubtedly the definitive work available on this important topic", Fr Manfred Hauke argues that the ban on women "teaching" in the Church refers in fact to a prohibition against their fulfilling the role of the priest. Hauke devotes over sixty pages to an exegesis (interpretation) of the relevant passages from St Paul in which he draws attention to the four reasons given by the Apostle for the prohibition. The first three are the practice of the Church, the general moral code, and the argument from Scripture. The fourth and clinching reason however is that it is "a command of the Lord" (1 Cor 14: 38). [22]

Everything in the Church is not restructurable according to modern psychological and sociological categories. The Church's hierarchical structure, together with its sacramental system, was laid by God's "Only-begotten Son" as an act of Divine Love and Wisdom. Those who claim that Jesus' choice of twelve male apostles was historically and culturally conditioned fail to give due weight to the fact that in the Incarnation the pre-existent Son of God did not cease to exist. Those who seek to imprison Our Lord within the cultural limitations of his time are only giving voice to a form of "Christological humanism" which reduces Christ "to the condition of a mere man". [23] One might object that the details given above regarding Jesus' choice of the Twelve are only mere deeds which without accompanying words have no binding or normative significance. This objection fails to take account of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council that divine revelation consists not only of explicit words but also of deeds [24] which "become words in the living memory of the Church". [25] Consequently, Jesus' example of conferring on men only the sacramental charge - "Do this in memory of me" - is of critical importance as it constitutes an aspect of Divine Revelation. Speaking of this non-verbal aspect of Divine Revelation, Fr Avery Dulles S.J. said: "The Constitution on Divine Revelation...insists on the nonverbal elements in tradition: Christ communicates the gospel not by his words alone but also by his dealings with others and his behaviour (DV 7). The apostles transmit the gospel not only by preaching but also by examples and ordinances (institutiones, ibid.)". [26]

In forming the group of the Twelve, Jesus thereby "established the Church as a visible society organised to serve the Gospel and the coming of God's Kingdom". [27] The number 12 referred to the 12 tribes of Israel, and Jesus' use of it "reveals his intention to create a new Israel, the new People of God established as a Church". [28] According to Pope John Paul II, Jesus' intention to create appears in the very word used by St Mark to describe the foundation of the Twelve: "He appointed Twelve...he appointed the Twelve" (Mk 3:13-19). The word "Appointed" or "made" says the Holy Father, "recalls the verb used in the Genesis account about the creation of the world and in Deutero-Isaiah (43:1; 44:2) about the creation of the people of God, the ancient Israel". [29] Jesus' creative will in this instance is also expressed in the new names given to Simon (Peter) and to James and John (Sons of Thunder). Indeed, St Luke tells that Jesus specifically "chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles" (Lk 6:13). [30] Speaking of this "creative" action whereby Jesus links the choice of the Twelve to the establishment of the Church and to the creation of the ministerial priesthood which is a constituent element of it, Jean Galot says:

Jesus establishes the group of the Twelve in order to establish the Church. This is his way of declaring that the role he assigns to the Twelve in the establishment of the Church is an essential one. Mark takes pains to emphasise that there is something of a creation in the initiative of Jesus...The event that happens here is not then, only the choice of twelve men one by one; it is the constitution of the group, a group that bespeaks a new creation. The verb 'to make' suggests by association the verb that appears in the Genesis account of the first creation, and again in Isaiah (43:1; 44:2) with reference to the establishment of God's people. This association is even more significant in view of the fact that the verb occurs twice in Mark and that the idiom is unusual. We discern in the use of it the evangelist's intention to acknowledge that, in the establishment of the new people, Jesus exercises a creativity similar to God's own. Note more specifically that the semitic usage of the verb "to make" with persons as objects occurs three times in the Old Testament. In I Kings 13:33 and 2 Chronicles 13: 9 we have the phrase "to make priests", and in I Samuel 12:6 the statement: "(the Lord) made Moses and Aaron". The expression "to make a priest" or "to make priests" reappears in the New Testament (Heb 3:2; Rev 5:10). The verb used by Mark is particularly apt to point to the creation of the new priesthood, even if the word 'priest' does not appear in the account. The will to create is expressed in a special way in the case of Simon, James and John...the names assigned to them suggest that they acquire a new personality (Mk 3:16-17). And a new personality for the Twelve is indicated in Luke's account: "...he named them 'apostles'" (6:13). It is generally known that the Hebrew mind sees a great significance in names: to give a man a new name is to bestow a new reality upon him, to fashion or refashion his personality anew. [31]

Advocates for the ordination of women sometimes point out, that in choosing his Apostles, Jesus not only called no women but also no Gentiles. Consequently, these advocates argue, since the Church has not subsequently restricted the Sacrament of Holy Orders to Jewish Christians, then it should feel free to confer the sacrament on women as well as on men. This argument ignores the fact that the extension of the apostolic office to the Gentiles is implicit in Jesus' final instructions to the Apostles to "make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28: 19; cf. Lk 24: 47; Acts 1:8). Indeed, in the early Church we see that there was never any controversy about the legality of admitting Gentile Christians to apostolic office but only about the question of observance of certain Jewish customs by new members (cf. Gal 2:3, 7-9; Acts 15). [32]


From what has been said above regarding Jesus' choice of Twelve and his having conferred on them a sacramental participation in his own unique priesthood, it is clear that the Catholic Church's doctrine on a male-only ministerial priesthood pertains to the divine constitution of the Church itself. In his Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II teaches that the Gospel witness is that Jesus acted deliberately in calling only men to the ordained ministry and that the Apostles "did the same when they chose fellow workers who would succeed them in their ministry". [33] In Inter insigniores, we read that after the Resurrection: "The apostolic community remained faithful to the attitude of Jesus towards women. Although Mary occupied a privileged place in the little circle of those gathered in the Upper Room after the Lord's Ascension (cf. Acts 1:14), it was not she who was called to enter the College of the Twelve at the time of the election that resulted in Matthias: those who were put forward were two disciples whom the Gospels do not even mention". [34] Then, in pointing out that the New Testament witness is that not even women of the highest calibre were considered for the ministerial priesthood, Inter insigniores added:

On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled them all, men and women (cf. Acts 2:1; 1:14)), yet the proclamation of the fulfilment of the prophecies in Jesus was made only by 'Peter and the Eleven' (Acts 2:14). When they and Paul went beyond the confines of the Jewish world, the preaching of the Gospel and the Christian life in the Greco-Roman civilisation impelled them to break with Mosaic practices, sometimes regretfully. They could therefore have envisaged conferring ordination on women, if they had not been convinced of their duty of fidelity to the Lord on this point. In the Hellenistic world, the cult of a number of pagan divinities was entrusted to priestesses. In fact the Greeks did not share the ideas of the Jews: although their philosophers taught the inferiority of women, historians nevertheless emphasise the existence of a certain movement for the advancement of women during the Imperial period. In fact we know from the book of the Acts and from the Letters of St Paul that certain women worked with the Apostle for the Gospel (cf. Rom 16:3-12; Phil 4:3). St Paul lists their names with gratitude in the final salutations of the Letters. Some of them often exercised an important influence on conversions: Priscilla, Lydia and others; especially Priscilla, who took it on herself to complete the instruction of Apollos (cf. Acts 18:26); Phoebe, in the service of the Church of Cenchreae (cf. Rom 16:1). All these facts manifest within the Apostolic Church a considerable evolution vis-a-vis the customs of Judaism. Nevertheless at no time was there a question of conferring ordination on these women. [35]

The point made above in Inter Insigniores that in several religions in the Graeco-Roman world of the first century it was acceptable for women to be priests was also made Fr Louis Bouyer. In reference to those who argue that the Apostles could not have ordained women when they took the Gospel outside of Palestine because women priests would have been unacceptable in the prevailing culture, Fr Bouyer said: "One thinks one is dreaming when one hears people who consider themselves enlightened and unprejudiced, calmly come up with such a gross blunder. In fact, the ancient particular the Mediterranean world, had always known, from the most ancient civilisations of the fertile crescent of Greece and Rome at the time of the origins of Christianity, female priests alongside male priests, and not at all in a condition of inferiority in relation to the latter. And if there was a particular tendency in this connection, at the time of Christ and the apostles, it was rather towards the crediting than the discrediting of female priests". [36] Having said this, Fr Bouyer went on to add: "It is necessary, therefore, to recognise without beating about the bush what is an obvious fact: when we study, in their historical and cultural context, the developments of the Hebrew, then Jewish, and finally Christian religion, it is plain that it was not out of unthinking adherence to the practices or prejudices of their contemporaries that the Christians, following the Jews...were constant in their refusal to accept women priests. It was on the contrary, in constant opposition to what, in practice, the whole of antiquity considered normal". [37]

Taking up the point made in Inter insigniores regarding the practice in the apostolic community of restricting the ministerial priesthood to men, Fr Albert Vanhoye, S.J. says:

When Judas had to be replaced after the Ascension, Luke states that Peter expressly limited the choice to "men" (andres in Greek: Acts 1:21) who had accompanied Jesus during his public life, although some women at the time had stronger claims since they had been more faithful to Jesus than his male disciples, even on Calvary and at the tomb (Mt 27;55; 61; par.)...In spite of this, the possibility of choosing one of them was not considered. The names of two men who were never mentioned in the Gospel accounts were proposed ( Acts 1:23). Later when the increased number of disciples caused problems in the community and required a more diversified organisation of the ministry, the Twelve likewise invited "the community of the disciples" to select for the new task "seven men (andres)" (Acts 6:3), even though the problems concerned female groups, those of the widows (Acts 6:1). In this account the laying on of hands is mentioned (Acts 6:6) as the ordination gesture for a ministry. It meant - and still means - the bestowal of a spiritual power conferred by God. In the New Testament women never receive this laying on of hands. The cases mentioned concern only men: Barnabas and Saul in Acts 13:3, when at the Holy Spirit's command they were sent on an apostolic mission, and Timothy, in 1 Tm 4:14 and 2 Tm 1:6, texts which speak of a "gift of grace (charisma)" conferred by this rite. Similarly the texts that give directions for choosing presbyters (Ti 1:5-6) and the episkopos (1 Tm 3:2), state clearly that it is a question of men (andres). [38]


In contrast to the clear New Testament evidence regarding the non- admissibility of women to the ranks of the ordained priesthood, those advocating a change in the Church's Tradition "cannot cite any explicit New Testament text" to support their position says Fr Vanhoye. [39] He adds that they can only refer to "some details of uncertain and disputed interpretation (for example, the titles diakonas and prostatis given by St Paul to a Christian woman in Rom 16:1-2). Others try to show that Jesus founded a community of 'equals' in which absolutely no attention was paid to the difference between women and men. The assertion is then made that the Church soon began to depart from this ideal and the New Testament, although preserving some traces of the original orientation, now reflects the return to a 'patriarchal' system that oppresses women". [40] As support for their cause, supporters of women's ordination often cite the Letter of St Paul to the Galatians where it says: "All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourself in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28).

Equality does not mean identity and different roles do not make one person superior to another. There are many ways in which the text of Galatians 3:28 can be interpreted so as to harmonise with the deposit of faith to which belongs the Church's doctrine on a male-only ministerial priesthood. Referring to Galatians 3:28, Inter insigniores says: "This passage does not concern ministries: it only affirms the universal calling to divine filiation, which is the same for all". [41] Pope John Paul II in one instance interprets the passage as referring to Jesus' intention to unify humanity. He says that Jesus wished: "To reconcile all men through his sacrifice 'in one body' and make everyone 'one new man' (Eph 2: 15, 16), so that now '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 (Gal 3:28)...If Jesus Christ reunited man and woman in their equal status as children of God, he engages both of them in his mission, not indeed by suppressing their differences, but by eliminating all unjust inequality and by reconciling all in the unity of the Church". [42] The passage can also be taken to refer to how believers who respond to God's word become members of Christ's Body. The "body's unity does not do away with the diversity of its members" but rather "the unity of the Mystical Body triumphs over all human divisions". [43] In commenting on Galatians 3:27-28, Fr Manfred Hauke says:

The new unity in Christ is effected by the Holy Spirit, who sends his gifts to all the baptised. However, this Holy Spirit does not level out all differences in favour of a common equality. Exactly the reverse is the case...The different gifts of grace are not distributed according to the principle of equality, but rather: "All these are inspired by the one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills" (1 Cor 12:11). "But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another" (1 Cor 7:7). Thus, the Spirit of God does not do away with differences but makes possible their fruitful development. Galatians 3:28 does not therefore, speak simply of "being equal" but rather of "being one"...on the basis of a common Christian piety within the Holy Spirit. [44]

Speaking of how the Letter to the Galatians and the First Letter to the Corinthians complement each other, Fr Vanhoye says:

The Letter to the Galatians discusses the foundation of Christian existence. On this basic level only one thing counts: faithful adherence to Christ. The "works of the law" do not matter, nor do individual differences, whether religious, social or sexual in origin. United to Christ through faith, all are "one". On the other hand, the First Letter to the Corinthians considers another level, that of the various functions carried out in the Church, the Body of Christ. At this secondary level, St Paul affirms the necessity of the differences. Not everyone can be an apostle, not everyone prophets or teachers (cf. 1 Cor 12:29-30). These differences, established by God himself (12:28), are to be accepted by each person for the good of the whole Body. They are the conditions for a life of effective charity. Egalitarian claims, however, cannot be reconciled with authentic charity because they are in accord neither with the divine disposition contained in creation (cf. 1 Cor 12:18) nor with the example of Christ in redemption (cf. Phil 2:6). Of course, every Christian man and woman are equal in their fundamental dignity. "For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:26). However, it does not follow that all have a claim to the same functions within the Church. [45]


While the main argumentation the Church uses to justify a male- only ministerial priesthood is based on the normative practice of Christ, then of the Apostles, and then of the Tradition of the Church, there are however other lines of argument that can be used to show how the practice of the Church harmonises with the rest of the deposit of faith. In particular, the relationship between sacramental truth and revealed anthropology has a very important bearing on the reason why the Church knows herself to have no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women. To see how this is so, we will first look at what is meant by a sacrament.

A sacramental celebration "is woven from signs and symbols". [46] The Council of Trent taught that sacraments are outward signs instituted by Christ through which He acts to confer grace. [47] The words, actions and elements used in the sacraments constitute what is called the 'sign' of the Sacrament. As a social being, man "needs signs and symbols to communicate with others, through language, gestures, and actions". The same holds true for his relationship with God. As a being at once body and spirit, man "expresses and perceives spiritual realities through physical signs and symbols". [48] The visible sign of each sacrament "symbolises the gift of grace conferred by Christ in that sacrament". [49] Hence, sacramental signs are said to symbolise what they effect and to effect what they symbolise. The "Sign" of the Sacrament of Baptism for example is the pouring of water and the pronouncement of the sacramental formula which invokes the Holy Trinity. [50] Through the symbolic action of washing with water and the use of the sacramental formula, Jesus Himself acts in such a way that the baptised person is cleansed of all his sins (original and personal), is incorporated into Christ so as to become a member of His Mystical Body, and he receives all the graces of the supernatural life. In the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the elements of the bread and wine represent a means of life-sustaining sustenance. However, the ultimate source of man's life is God Himself: "If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you will not have life in you..." (Jn 6:53-58). Consequently, the symbols of bread and wine used in the Eucharist are representative of the Body and Blood of the Lord. This means that through the words and actions of the ordained priest at the consecration of the Mass, Jesus becomes present under the appearances of bread and wine in a "true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity". [51]

The Second Vatican Council taught that in the Mass, while Christ is especially present in the Eucharistic species, he is also present in the person of the priest. [52] To stress this point of Catholic doctrine, Archbishop Desmond Connell says: "The Eucharist is not just a celebration by the Christian community of a meal made sacred by the sacramental representation of Christ's unique act of sacrifice on Calvary. The sacramental representation is effected in the elements of the meal, the bread and the wine as representative of his body and blood; and it is effected by the one who has been made sacramentally one with him so as to be able to say in all sacramental truth; 'this is my body, this is my blood'." [53] In discussing the identity of the ordained priest in Chapter 1, we noted that through the sacrament of Holy Orders the ordained priest participates "ontologically in the priesthood of Christ" so as to make him "visible in the community of believers". [54] The priest offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in personna Christi, which according to Pope John Paul II, means more than offering "in the name of" or "in the place of" Christ. [55] In persona Christi means, says the Holy Father, "in specific sacramental identification with 'the eternal High Priest' who is the Author and principal Subject of this Sacrifice of his, a Sacrifice in which, in truth, nobody can take his place". [56] Consequently, in the Mass, it is Christ, represented by the celebrant, "who makes his entrance into the sanctuary and proclaims the gospel" and it is Christ also who is "the offerer and the offered, the consecrator and the consecrated". [57] The efficacy of a sacrament depends on the integrity of the symbol. For example, we could not use rice and lemonade in the Eucharist instead of bread and wine since it was the latter that Christ singled out as the symbols of his Body and Blood. In selecting the Apostles to sacramentally represent him in the Eucharistic sacrifice, Christ thereby guaranteed that those who were destined to represent him as the mediator of salvation would be able to do so fully in terms of his masculine identity. [58] Barbara Albrecht touched on this point when in commenting on St Paul's teaching that the Incarnate Son of God has become like us in all things but sin (cf. Heb 4:15) she said:

"In all things" - that includes that the Son of God has also submitted as man to the order of creation, hence also to the order of sex. The Son of God was purely and simply a man, and that surely not by accident. There are no accidents in the Incarnation of God. The Incarnation of the Word "has been effected in the male sex. This, of course, is an issue of fact; this fact, however, is indissolubly linked with the economy of salvation, without in the least denoting a presumed natural superiority of man over woman" (Inter insigniores, n. 5). Since the priest represents the Lord not in his Godhead, but as the One who is incarnate, crucified, resurrected, and ascended to the Father in Heaven, the logical conclusion is that the priest, too, must be a man. [59]

In the Mass the ordained priest "takes the part of Christ, lending him his voice and gestures". [60] As such, he is a sacramental sign acting in the person of Christ "to the point of being his very image" when he pronounces the words of consecration. [61] This means that in the Mass the ordained priest serves as a sacramental sign of Christ who now offers in an unbloody manner the same sacrifice as he once offered on Calvary. [62] According to St Thomas Aquinas, sacramental signs "represent what they signify by natural resemblance" - something which "is required for persons as for things". Consequently, in the Mass there is a need for a "natural resemblance" between Christ and the person who is his sign. [63] In relation to this very point, St Thomas Aquinas recalled: "Since a sacrament is a sign, what is done in the sacrament requires not only the reality but also the sign of the reality". [64] If Christ's role in the Eucharist were taken by a woman, there would not be a "natural resemblance" between Christ and his sacramental sign since "Christ himself was and remains a man". [65]


The will of God is revealed in the nature of things. Being a unity of body and soul, and endowed with reason and freedom, man is thereby capable of understanding the order of things established by the Creator. By the exercise of free will, man is capable of directing himself toward his true good and perfection which is found "in seeking and loving what is true and good". [66] The "order of things" which is inscribed in creation and which plots out the course which man's actions must follow if he is to fulfil his vocation is known as the Divine Law. Speaking of this Divine Law, Vatican II said: "The highest norm of human life is the divine law - eternal, objective and universal - whereby God orders, directs and governs the entire universe and all the ways of the human community by a plan conceived in wisdom and love. Man was made by God to participate in this law, with the result that, under the gentle disposition of Divine Providence, he can come to perceive ever increasingly the unchanging truth". [67] Consequently, human nature is not a product of random evolutionary forces but rather bears the imprint of the creative Love and Wisdom of God.

Man and woman have been created, which is to say, "willed by God: on the one hand, in perfect equality as human persons; on the other, in their respective beings as man and woman...In their 'being-man' and 'being-woman', they reflect the Creator's wisdom and goodness". [68] Man and woman are "made for each other - not that God left them half-made and incomplete: he created them to be a communion of persons, in which each can be a 'helpmate' to the other, for they are equal as persons ("bone of my bones...") and complementary as masculine and feminine". [69] In creating man as "male and female", God created them in his own image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26-27). However, in no way "is God in man's image. He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes. But the respective 'perfections' of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband". [70]

While teaching that "the equality of the baptised" is one "of the great affirmations of Christianity," Pope John Paul II points out however that this equality "exists in a differentiated body, in which men and women have roles which are not merely functional but are deeply rooted in Christian anthropology and sacramentology". He adds that this distinction of roles "in no way favours the superiority of some over others; the only better gift, which can and must be desired, is love (cf. 1 Cor 12-13). In the kingdom of heaven the greatest are not the ministers but the saints". [71] During his January 1995 visit to Australia for the beatification of Mary McKillop, Pope John Paul II met with the Sisters of St Joseph at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney. In his address to the Sisters, the Pope again drew attention to the relationship between Christian anthropology and the role and mission of women in the Church and in the world. He said:

Among the pressing issues facing the People of God in Australia there is the need for an understanding of the dignity and mission of women, in the family, in society and in the Church, which is faithful to "the truth of the Gospel" (Gal 2:14). An authentic theology of woman, based upon an anthropology revealed in the mystery of Creation and Redemption, brings to light women's feminine "originality" and particular "genius"...Women who seek a true Christian concept of femininity can look to the free and active role assumed by Mary of Nazareth, the Virgin Mother of the Lord. In her all women can discover "the secret of living their femininity with dignity and of achieving their own true advancement"...It must be clear that the Church stands firmly against every form of discrimination which in any way compromises the equal dignity of women and men. The complete equality of persons is however accompanied by a marvellous complementarity. This complementarity concerns not only the roles of men and women but also, and more deeply, their make-up and meaning as persons...For that reason I am convinced that a mistaken anthropology is at the root of the failure of society to understand Church teaching on the true role of women. That role is in no way diminished but is in fact enhanced by being related in a special way to motherhood - the source of new life - both physical and spiritual. [72]

In Sacred Scripture, marital symbolism is often used to express God's relationship to his people. By examing the Divine plan for marriage, we obtain a proper insight into God's purpose in creating man as "male and female" and hence into the meaning of the Redemption. In revealing the whole of the liberating truth about the human person, Jesus also revealed the truth concerning the place of marriage in the Divine plan. His teaching emerges during the course of a discussion with the Pharisees who asked him a question about the indissolubility of marriage. They said to him: "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?". The Lord answered: "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, therefore, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, man must not divide". The Pharisees came back at him and said: "Then why did Moses command that a writ of dismissal should be given in cases of divorce?". To this the Lord replied: "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so" (Mt 19:3-9).

When Christ proclaims the indissolubility of marriage, he does so with reference to how it was "in the beginning". By locating the integral truth of the creation of man as "male and female" in the first few chapters of Genesis, Jesus gives a normative value to what is revealed there. His moral commandments are a continuation of the order of creation, the order from the beginning, even though at first his disciples considered it an unreasonable demand. [73] As noted earlier, Genesis affirms that man and woman were created for each other: "It is not good that the man should be alone" (Gen 2:18). The woman, "flesh of his flesh," i.e. his counterpart, his equal, his nearest in all things, is complementary to him and given to him by God as a "helpmate" (cf. Gen 2:18-25). They give themselves to each other in an unbreakable union so that they are no longer two but rather "one flesh"(Gen 2;24; cf. Mt 19:6). God, who is Love, in creating man in his own image, created him to love. The love between the husband and wife is intended to be a reflection of the creative and redemptive love God has for man. God blesses the couple and he inscribes within the complementarity and dynamism of their sexual union the gift of their combined fertility whereby they are able to cooperate with God in the creation of new human beings (cf. Gen 1:28, 31).

Commenting on Pope John Paul II's teaching on the profound complementarity God has inscribed in the nature of man as "male and female", Jutta Burggraf says:

Going back to the beginning of things, John Paul II points out the permanent validity of the two well-known texts of Genesis concerning the creation of humanity - man and woman - in his own image and likeness. This means that both sexes have the same essential foundation: to both - and to the human race - the Creator entrusts the dominion over the earth; both are ultimately directed toward God. As beings endowed with reason and freedom, they are persons whom God loves for their own sake; and herein lies their dignity. The second text (Gen 2: 18-23) says that the woman was created by God from the rib of Adam, as a helper for man. Adam recognises the woman as flesh of his flesh, i.e., he understands that Eve is essentially identical to him. The unity of the two helps Adam overcome his original solitude. Man and woman, created as a unity of the two in their common humanity, are called - according to John Paul II's explanation - to live a community of love, and in this way to mirror in the world the love that is God, through which the Three Persons love each other in the intimate mystery of their own divine life. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God through the unity of divinity, exist as persons through the inscrutable divine relationships...Since human beings are created as men and women, they are called from the beginning not only to exist side by side or together, but they are also called to exist mutually one for the other. That is why Eve is called in Genesis Adam's helper. The Pope makes it clear that it is a mutual help, since nature itself made them complementary. On the other hand the concept of help, indicates that both man and woman can only achieve their full development through the sincere gift of self. [74]

While salvation history is the story of God's love for the people he has created, it is also an account of their infidelity. Consequently, we find in Genesis that alongside the account of the profound dignity in which God created man in the beginning, there is also an account of Original Sin through which our first parents abused their freedom. Through their refusal to obey the prohibition laid upon them by God, they lifted themselves up against him - "you will be like gods" (Gen 3:5) - and one of the consequences of their sin was that they disturbed the primeval unity of the relation between the sexes. However, God's mercy is stronger than man's sin. The Old Testament reveals how God set about preparing the human race to receive its Redeemer. Here, God's Covenant with Israel is expressed through the wedding symbolism: that is, it is presented as a marriage relationship between God and humanity. In Isaiah we read: "As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you. And as a Bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you" (Isa. 62:5). Both Jews and Catholics have seen in the Song of Songs two valid interpretations: one a praise of ideal human marriage, the other being the wedding between God and His people.

In the Old Covenant, Yahweh appears as the Bridegroom of Israel, the chosen people. As Bridegroom, he is both affectionate and demanding, as well as jealous and faithful. [75] Even in their moments of betrayal, desertion and idolatry, the Prophets were sent to the chosen people to call them to conversion and to remind them of Yahweh's faithful love. With dramatic images, the prophet Hosea develops the theme of the spousal Covenant between God and his people where the prophet's personal experience serves as an eloquent symbol of Yahweh's relationship to his unfaithful people. Hosea's marriage, and the subsequent infidelities of his wife, gives symbolic expression to the infidelity of the Chosen People to Yahweh. In the overflow of Divine Mercy however, Yahweh will not forsake his sinful people: "Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her" (Hos 2:7). Through the prophet Jeremiah, God again speaks to his people as a husband to his spouse: "With age-old love I have loved you: so I have kept my mercy towards you. Again I will restore you and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel"(Jer 31:3-4). Commenting on this passage, Pope John Paul II says:

Historically this text is to be seen in relationship with Israel's defeat and deportation to Assyria; that humiliated the chosen people who were reduced to thinking that they had been abandoned by their God. But God reassures them by not hesitating to speak to them as a father or as a spouse to a beloved maiden. The marital analogy becomes clearer and explicit in the words of Second Isaiah, directed to Jerusalem during the time of the Babylonian exile as to a spouse even though she did not keep fidelity to the God of the Covenant: "He who has become your husband is your a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, the Lord calls you back, a wife married in youth and then cast off, says your God. For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back. In an outburst of wrath, for a moment I hid my face from you; but with enduring love I take pity on you, says the Lord, your redeemer" (Is 54:5-8). In the texts cited, it is stressed that the marital love of the God of the Covenant is "eternal". Even though God, faced with the spouse's sin, the infidelity of the chosen people, permits sad experiences to befall them, he still reassures them through the prophets that his love does not cease. He overcomes the evil of sin, in order to give himself once again. With still more explicit wording, the Prophet Hosea declares: "I will espouse you to me forever, I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy; I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the Lord" (Hosea 2:21-22). [76]


The Old Testament texts cited above which tell of God's marital love for man receive their definitive fulfilment in the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery of Christ. The entire Christian life "bears the mark of the spousal love of Christ and the Church". [77] Speaking of this, Pope John Paul II says:

The marital love of God towards Israel but also towards every person, is carried out in the Incarnation in a way which goes beyond the measure of people's expectations. We discover this in the annunciation passage where the New Covenant becomes known as the Covenant of God's marriage with mankind, of divinity with humanity. In the light of the marital covenant, Mary, the Virgin of Nazareth, is the preeminent "virgin-Israel" of the prophet Jeremiah. In her the marital love of God announced by the prophets is perfectly and definitively focused. She is also the virgin- spouse to whom it is granted to conceive and bear the Son of God: the special fruit of God's marital love towards humanity which is represented by and almost summarised in Mary.

The Holy Spirit, which comes down upon Mary during the Annunciation, is the one who, in the Trinity's relationship, expresses in his person the marital love of God, the 'eternal love'. In that instant he is in a special way God-the-Spouse. In the mystery of the Incarnation, in the human conception of God's Son, the Holy Spirit maintains the divine transcendence. Luke's text expresses that in a precise way. The nuptial quality of God's love has a completely spiritual and supernatural character. What John will say regarding the believers in Christ is valid all the more for the Son of God, who was conceived in the womb of the Virgin "not by natural generation, not by human choice, nor by man's decision, but of God" (Jn 1:13). But it especially expresses the supreme union in love, brought about between God and the human being by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In this divine marriage with humanity Mary answers the angel's announcement with the love of a spouse who is able to respond and to adjust to the divine choice in a perfect way...In Mary's act and gesture which contrast as a mirror image with Eve's behaviour, she stands out in humanity's spiritual history as the new Spouse, the new Eve, the mother of the living, as the Doctors and Fathers of the Church will often say. She will be the type and model of the New Covenant as a nuptial union of the Holy Spirit with individuals and with the human community, far beyond the sphere of ancient Israel: the totality of individuals and peoples will be called to receive the gift and become its beneficiary in the new community of believers who have received "the power to become sons and daughters of God" (Jn 1:12) and in Baptism are born again "of the Spirit" (Jn 3:6) by entering into and belonging to God's family. [78]

God's fundamental and original intention with regard to man was not withdrawn or cancelled out even when our first parents sinned and broke the original covenant with their Creator. [79] Since the relationship between man and woman in marriage and all that it symbolises was established by God, then it is not subject to manipulation or change by man. Consequently, in ushering in the order of Redemption, Christ lifted up the relationship of man and woman in marriage and assumed it into his redeeming life and into the action of the Church. When St Paul speaks of marriage as a "great mystery", he adds that this has many implications which apply to the relationship between Christ and the Church (cf. Eph 5:32). The Church professes that Marriage, as the sacrament of the covenant between husband and wife, is a "great mystery" because "it expresses the spousal love of Christ for his Church". [80] The Lord "referred to himself as the 'bridegroom' (Mk 2:19). In the Book of Revelation we read: "Let us rejoice and be glad, and give him glory! For this is the wedding day of the Lamb. His bride has prepared herself for the wedding" (Rev. 19:7). Through his Incarnation and Paschal victory, Christ who is God-the Bridegroom has demonstrated that he "loves to the end" (cf. Jn 13:1). He is with all of us, he is with the Church which has become a Bride, the Bride of Christ. [81] The Church is the spotless bride of the spotless Lamb (cf. Rev 22:17; Eph 1:4; 5:27). The Corinthian Church is for St Paul a virgin bride wedded to one husband, Christ (2 Cor 11:2; cf. Eph 5:25). St Paul further speaks of the whole Church and of each of the faithful, members of his Body, as a bride 'betrothed' to Christ the Lord so as to become but one spirit with him (Cf. Mt 22:1-14; 25:1-13; 1 Cor 6:15-17). At the same time, the unity of Christ and the Church, Head and members of the one Body, implies "a distinction of the two within a personal relationship". [82] The image of "Bride and Bridegroom" expresses this aspect of Christ's relationship to the Church. Consequently, when acting in persona Christi in relation to the Church, the ordained priest does so not only as Head and Shepherd, but also as Bridegroom.


The model for the relationship of the ordained priest to the Church is the sacrificial and spousal relationship that Christ Himself has to it. In speaking of this, Pope John Paul II said:

Christ's gift of himself to his Church, the fruit of his love, is described in terms of that unique gift of self made by the bridegroom to the bride, as the sacred texts often suggest. Jesus is the true bridegroom who offers to the Church the wine of salvation (cf. Jn. 2:11). He who is "the head of the Church, his body, and is himself its saviour" (Eph. 5:23) "loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:25-27). The Church is indeed the body in which Christ the Head is present and active, but she is also the bride who proceeds like a new Eve from the open side of the redeemer on the cross. Hence Christ stands "before" the Church and "nourishes and cherishes her" (Eph. 5:29), giving his life for her. The priest is called to be the living image of Jesus Christ, the spouse of the Church. Of course, he will always remain a member of the community as a believer alongside his other brothers and sisters who have been called by the Spirit, but in virtue of his configuration to Christ, the head and shepherd, the priest stands in this spousal relationship with regard to the community. "Inasmuch as he represents Christ, the head, shepherd and spouse of the Church, the priest is placed not only in the Church but also towards the Church" (Synod, Proposition 7). In his spiritual life therefore, he is called to live out Christ's spousal love toward the Church, his bride. [83]

The Eucharist is the Sacrament of our Redemption and it embodies the spousal relationship between Christ and the Church. In the Eucharist, Christ continues to sacrifice Himself for His spouse. Speaking of this dimension of the Eucharistic mystery, Pope John Paul II said:

Christ is the Bridegroom because "he has given himself": his body has been "given", his blood has been "poured out" (cf. Lk 22: 19- 20). In this way "he loved them to the end" (Jn 13:1). The "sincere gift" contained in the Sacrifice of the Cross gives definitive prominence to the spousal meaning of God's love. As the Redeemer of the world, Christ is the bridegroom of the Church. The Eucharist is the Sacrament of our Redemption. It is the Sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride. The Eucharist makes present and realises anew in a sacramental manner the redemptive act of Christ, who "creates" the Church, his body. Christ is united with this "body" as a bridegroom with the bride. All this is contained in the letter to the Ephesians. The perennial "unity of the two" that exists between man and woman from the very "beginning" is introduced into this "great mystery" of Christ and the Church. Since Christ, in instituting the Eucharist, linked it in such an explicit way to the priestly service of the Apostles, it is legitimate to conclude that he thereby wished to express the relationship between man and woman, between what is "feminine" and what is "masculine". It is a relationship willed by God both in the mystery of creation and in the mystery of Redemption. It is the Eucharist above all that expresses the redemptive act of Christ the Bridegroom towards the Church the Bride. This is clear and unambiguous when the sacramental ministry of the Eucharist, in which the priest acts "in persona Christi", is performed by a man". [84]

On another occasion Pope John Paul II again returned to this theme of the relationship between marital symbolism and the requirement of a male-only ministerial priesthood when he said:

If a reason is sought as to why Jesus reserved admission to the ministerial priesthood to men, it can be discovered in the fact that the priest represents Christ himself in his relationship to the Church. Now this relationship is spousal in nature: Christ is the Bridegroom (cf. Mt 9:15; Jn 3:29; 2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:25), the Church is the bride (cf. 2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:25-27, 31-32; Rev 19:7; 21:9). Because the relationship between Christ and the Church is validly expressed in sacramental Orders, it is necessary that Christ be represented by a man. The distinction between the sexes is very significant in this case and cannot be disregarded without undermining the sacrament. Indeed, the specific nature of the sign used is essential to the sacraments. Baptism has to be performed with water which washes; it cannot be done with oil, which anoints, even though oil is more expensive than water. Analogously, the sacrament of Orders is celebrated with men, without questioning the value of persons. [85]


Integral to the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass is the symbolism of the New Adam and the New Eve. Speaking of this, Archbishop Desmond Connell says: "The symbolism of the New Adam and the New Eve is profoundly involved in the Eucharistic Celebration. Now the distinction between Adam and Eve is the sexual difference between man and woman, the primordial distinction universally present wherever human beings are found". [86] Coupled with this, the whole sacramental economy is "based upon natural signs, on symbols imprinted upon the human psychology". [87] The ordained priesthood is sacramental not only because it is conferred by a sacrament and because its ministry is sacramental, but also because "the priest himself is 'sacramental', a sign of Christ". [88] Since a woman does not have that "natural resemblance" to Christ who "was and remains a man", [89] then a woman cannot serve as a sacramental sign of Christ the New Adam and Bridegroom of the Church in the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass. To argue to the contrary is equivalent to holding that the signs used in the sacraments do not effect what they symbolise and that they do not necessarily have to comply with certain objective requirements. This becomes clear when we look at the symbolism of the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass in conjunction with the symbolism of the Sacrament of Matrimony. The Sacrament of Matrimony is a "real symbol" of the nuptial union of Christ the Bridegroom with the Church his Bride. [90] To say that in the Mass a woman can be a sacramental sign of Christ the "Bridegroom" of the Church, is equivalent to asserting that a man can be a sacramental representation of Christ's Bride the Church within the symbolism of the Sacrament of Matrimony. Such a thing is not possible since it would contradict the meaning of the Sacrament of Matrimony which is intended to be an efficacious sign of the covenant between Christ and the Church. [91] If on the other hand this assertion was true, then it would be difficult to justify objections to homosexual marriages since one could argue on the same basis that the union of "male and female" are not necessarily required for a valid celebration of the Sacrament of Matrimony.

All that we have said up to now about Jesus as Head, Shepherd, Bridegroom and New Adam are consistent with the fact that in the Incarnation the pre-existent Son of God took on a male human nature. In other words, all of Christ's tasks are inseparably bound up with his male human nature. To assert that the Church can confer priestly ordination on women is equivalent to asserting that the Church can dispense with the historical, objective and normative aspects of Divine Revelation. Speaking of the doctrinal content of Inter insigniores and of the "profound fittingness" that only men are called to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders, Fr Inos Biffi from the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Northern Italy said:

As is known, it is intrinsic to "sacred doctrine" to try to find the rationes for the content of the faith. According to Inter insigniores, against the background of the relationship between Christ, the Head and Bridegroom of the Church, his Body and bride, one can "understand" how it is man who, through ordination, is constituted to represent Christ, that is a man and not a woman who is to act in his name - in persona Christi; to be his image; and even more so, one can see the "plausibility" that the incarnation of the Word took place according to the male sex, with a choice that is "in harmony with the entirety of God's plan as God himself has revealed it, and of which the mystery of the covenant (or the nuptial mystery) is the nucleus" (Inter insigniores, n.5). In this view a priesthood of women would obscure at the symbolic level its immediate and perceivable Christological reference and signification. [92]


A common objection to the teaching that a woman cannot be an authentic sacramental representation of Christ the Head and Bridegroom of the Church is that since the ordained priest also represents the community of the Church - which is composed of men and women - then logically there cannot be any impediment to women taking on the priestly role. Rev Dr Gerald Gleeson raised such an objection when he said: "By ordination the priest is constituted the representative of the Church's faith and apostolic mission, and because he represents the members of the Church, he represents Christ its Head. Given that the Church is made up of men and women, it is difficult to see why an ordained woman could not likewise represent Christ". [93] Fr David Coffey echoes Fr Gleeson's viewpoint when he says that it is possible to see the ordained priest's role of acting "in persona Christi as a function of in persona Ecclesiae". [94]

Hans Urs von Balthasar points out that "the body of the Church is guided by a 'head' who is above her and is 'supernatural' in relation to her. The function of the Church's unceasingly to focus attention on this transcendence and even to represent it". [95] He also points out that the Church is "first of all a mysterium" whereby she is "Christ's Body and his Bride" and it is only in the light of this mysterium that she becomes the "socio-psychological reality" of the People of God. [96] Pope Pius XII said that "...the priest acts for the people only because he represents Jesus Christ, Who is Head of all His members and offers Himself in their stead". [97] When stating that "the Priest is placed not only in the Church, but also towards the Church", Pope John Paul II was referring to the manner in which the priest acting in persona Christi relates to the Church. [98] As "Christ is the Head, the Bridegroom and the Shepherd so too must the priest be". [99] Fr Manfred Hauke has said that "representation of Christ" and "representation of the Church" cannot be "played off against each other in regard to the priest". He adds that the priest "represents the Church insofar as he first represents Christ as the Head of the Church" who in the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass nourishes the divine life in the members of his body. [100] This is described especially in the Letter to the Ephesians where we are told that "Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, by the washing of water and the word" (Eph 5:25-26). According to Hauke, the symbols of "Head" and "Bridegroom" are "virtually merged into one another" in the Letter to the Ephesians. [101] In the Eucharist, Christ assures us that the Bridegroom is still with us (cf. Mt 9:15). Indeed, the "most profound meaning of Baptism and the Eucharist", is that they allow us to partake of "the fruits of the love with which the Bridegroom has loved us to the end, a love which continually expands and lavishes on people an ever greater sharing in the supernatural life". [102]

While the ordained priest does represent the Church in the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass, this representation is subordinate to his representation of Christ as Head, Bridegroom and Shepherd of the Church. In other words, in the Mass, there as a question of "priority" associated with the ordained priest's representation of Christ and his representation of the Church. Speaking of this, the Declaration Inter insigniores said: "It is true that the priest represents the Church, which is the Body of Christ. But if he does so, it is precisely because he first represents Christ himself, who is the Head and Shepherd of the Church". [103] Elaborating further on this response of Inter insigniores, Archbishop Desmond Connell said: "The Declaration here affirms that although the Church as Corpus Christi (Body of Christ) is one with Christ, he as caput et pastor Ecclesiae (Head and Shepherd of the Church) nevertheless transcends the Church: that within the unity between Christ and the Church there is a distinction involving an order of priority and posteriority; and that in celebrating the Eucharist the ordained priest must in the first place, in primis, represent Christ in his very priority...The reason why a woman cannot be ordained has essentially to do with that priority; which enters into the symbolism, the sacramental mode of signification of the Eucharist". [104] Highlighting this order of priority in the ordained priest's representation of Christ in the Mass, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: "It is because the ministerial priesthood represents Christ that it can represent the Church". [105] Perhaps the reason why Fr Gleeson sees no problems with an "ordained woman" acting in persona Christi in the Eucharistic Sacrifice is that he has not given sufficient consideration to this question of priority.


In view of all that has been said above about the ordained priesthood and sacramental truth, I believe that Fr David Coffey is very much mistaken when in relation to the ordained priest's representation of Christ in the Mass he says: "The priest represents Christ because he first represents the church; and a woman can represent the church better than a man; but a man can represent Christ better than a woman. In regard to their total representative ability, there appears to be little to chose between a man and a woman. Either can represent Christ and the Church". [106] As we have already seen, man and woman reflect a mysterious but profound complementarity - not only physical, but also spiritual. This complementarity is 'Real' in that it exists not as an abstract concept but as something embodied in human nature by every man and woman. It is 'Symbolic' in that it points beyond itself to God's creative and redemptive plan for the human race. Sometimes referred to as "metaphysical symbolism", this symbolism cannot be tampered with without doing great damage to man's spiritual and moral well-being. C.S. Lewis displayed a keen awareness of this when he said: "We have no authority to take the living and sensitive figures that God has painted on the canvas of our nature and shift them about as if they were mere geometrical figures". [107] It is not possible for the Catholic Church to efface the nuptial symbolism which God has inscribed within the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass without thereby altering the content of the sacramental realism that is contained there. Any "Eucharistic" celebration that would allow a woman to act as a sacramental representation of Christ the New Adam and Bridegroom of the Church could never claim to be the Mass of the Catholic Church.

Western societies are now experiencing a deep crisis of religious and moral consciousness. The moral failings of the West stem from a runaway pluralism which sees practically all beliefs and lifestyles as possessing equal moral value. As signs of this crisis one could list the following examples: drug abuse, violence, the dearth of ideals and values, the lack of meaning and respect for life, indifference to the elderly, corruption in public life, the insecurity of youth and rising rate of teenage suicide. However, the key indicator I believe to this breakdown in moral and religious consciousness is the wholesale rupturing of the natural linkages which bind marriage, love, sexuality and procreation together. The widespread acceptance of divorce, contraception, abortion and homosexuality: is in effect expressive of a rejection of "marital symbolism" as this has been stamped on our human nature in God's good creation of man as 'male and female'.

The failure in moral and religious consciousness referred to above has given rise amongst 'progressive' Catholics to a litany of objections to certain aspects of the Church's teaching. In particular, the Church's moral teaching on sexuality and marriage is under attack, as is its doctrine on a male-only ministerial priesthood and its prohibition against the reception of the Eucharist by the divorced and remarried. It is striking, is it not, that in general we will be able to predict what a Catholic will hold on any of these matters once we know what he holds on one of them. Why should this be so? Cardinal Ratzinger has pointed out that the above litany of objections to the Church's doctrine is rooted in a faulty vision of man. He says that this faulty vision is based on an erroneous understanding of both conscience and freedom, and that it is "closely associated with the inability to discern a spiritual message in the material world". [108] The scholarly Cardinal adds that men and women of today cannot understand that "their bodiliness reaches the metaphysical depths and is the basis of a symbolic metaphysics whose denial or neglect does not ennoble man but destroys him". [109] In this setting, the human body is not given its due honour, it is not seen as the "temple of authentic human dignity because it is God's handiwork in the world". [110] Instead, it is viewed as a possession to be used and abused or even as something which at times the human person needs to be liberated from. For those whose vision of man is based on such a faulty anthropology which fails to recognise in the "being" of the human person the handiwork of the Creator, there is "no difference whether the body be of the masculine or the feminine sex: the body no longer expresses being at all". [111] Consequently, the difference "between homosexuality and heterosexuality as well as that between sexual relations within or outside marriage have become unimportant". [112] Likewise divested of "every metaphysical symbolism is the distinction between man and woman, which is to be regarded as the product of reinforced role expectations". [113]

The assault upon the Church's moral and sacramental doctrine which we have been discussing above, are in many respects expressive of a resurgent Gnosticism which was a heresy that plagued the early Church. Gnosticisn took many forms all of which were based on a religious syncretism (fusing together) of various and often opposing sources such as Eastern religions, Christianity, Greek philosophy, the Jewish Cabala and Babylonian religion. Devotees of Gnosticism were promised salvation through the possession of secret knowledge and understanding. Most Gnostics believed in a remote and Supreme Being and that there was a necessary antagonism between the body and the soul - the soul was spiritual and regarded as good, while the body (matter) was evil. Salvation depended on the soul freeing itself from the body and returning again to the spiritual world from which it had fallen. Gnosticism's contempt for all things material is possibly of Eastern origin. Five centuries before the Christian era, in Persia and Iran, Zoroaster had spoken of an irreconcilable conflict between Spirit and Matter. In India, the Buddha Guatama had proclaimed his antagonism against the material universe and taught that peace could result only with its annihilation. [114]

The most perilous aspect of Gnosticism was its adaptability. It appropriated doctrines and rites from other religions and refashioned them to fit its own particular cult. Gnosticism attempted to express itself in Christian forms from the very beginning of the Church. When Gnosticism attacked the early Church, it denied Jesus' physical body, his real suffering on the Cross and his Resurrection from the dead. It also forbade marriage. Archbishop Francis Stafford says that Gnosticism, in all its varied presentations, consists "in a reversion to paganism under pseudo-Christian auspices". [115] In the Acts of the Apostles for example, we see an attempt at such a rapprochement in the case of Simon Magus who offered to pay the Apostles in order to gain access to the power which was conferred through the laying on of hands (cf. Acts 8:9-13). This case of Simon Magus illustrates however that Gnosticism only made contact with Christianity for the purpose of reshaping and assimilating Christian doctrines to its own syncretistic system. The most influential form of Gnosticism was Valentinianism which denied the Resurrection and that Mary was the Mother of God. Coupled with this, the Valentinians also denied free-will, they taught justification by faith alone, and they invented an absurd genealogy of Eons and gods.

The basic dualism that characterised Gnosticism, between faith and experience, between spirit and matter, and between the soul and the flesh led it to adopt divergent moral positions - sometimes to a rigid asceticism and in other instances to a libertine approach where everything was permitted. When pursuing an exaggerated asceticism, it endeavoured "to mortify the flesh, to kill the flesh, in order to set the soul free of its imprisoning influence". [116] In its more libertine form, however, it "manifested itself in an unbridled licentiousness, a conscious effort to free oneself of the law of the flesh by flouting it". [117] So long as "the soul feasted on the true knowledge or gnosis, it could not be defiled by so worthless a thing as the body or so inconsequential a thing as carnal sin. Like the more ascetical-minded of their confreres, they too would repudiate marriage lest they perpetuate the kingdom of darkness by imprisoning souls in the flesh, but there were other means of gratifying their lusts and there is sufficient evidence in the history of every Gnostic group that they speedily found them". [118] Since Gnosticism alienated the human person from his or her bodiliness, then the body came to be viewed as an object or tool to be used and manipulated in whatever way possible to provide satisfaction for its owner - even if this involved perverse sexual behaviour.

Unlike Christian knowledge which is based on faith and leads to charity, the knowledge the Gnostics pursued was of a speculative kind which tended to "puff up" with pride those who embraced it. Speaking of this aspect of Gnosticism, Cardinal John Wright said: "This element of pride is seen in the idea of one religion designed for the intellectuals, and another for the ignorant masses. For the Christian wisdom founded on faith was God's free gift to the simple and to the wise alike, to the weak even more than to the strong. For the Gnostic, wisdom was the fruit of man's own reasoning and could be possessed only by the elite, by men of intellect and refinement. Salvation by way of faith, informed by charity, was the goal set for the Christian; salvation by way of knowledge, gnosis, was the goal set for the Gnostic. The Gnostic's 'vocation was not to believe but to know'". [119]

As a religious and moral system, Gnosticism never really disappeared. It had a significant influence on Manichaeism which incorporated into its religious system a contempt for the flesh which was based on an irreconcilable conflict between spirit and matter. Even though the Manichaeans believed that matter was evil, this did not prevent them indulging their self-centred permissiveness in all things sexual. In doing so however, they avoided human conception through whatever means possible. In his 1994 Letter To Families, Pope John Paul II branded as "neo- Manichaean" the present day practice of regarding the human body as material to be used and manipulated in the same way as the bodies of animals are. [120] As examples of this the Holy Father cited the trend towards the manipulation and exploitation of human sexuality as well as destructive experimentation on human embryos and fetuses. [121] Apart from Manichaeism, Gnosticism also influenced many other heresies such as Albigensianism and Catharism. The Cathars celebrated non-procreative sexual union - regarding the conception of a child as the bringing of another "son of the Devil" into the world. While people today may not use such terms to express their contempt for childbearing, they have however embraced the "contraceptive mentality" which views the procreative meaning of marital intercourse as a subhuman activity that needs to be overcome in whatever way possible.

Gnosticism rejected the "metaphysical symbolism" the Creator has stamped upon the nature of man as 'male and female'. Consequently, it tended to be marked by an androgynous anthropology whereby the differences between the sexes was seen in some instances as a limitation from which it was necessary to be liberated. Many Gnostic cults worshipped an androgynous Deity who was addressed as "Mother and Father God". In the "eucharistic" celebrations of several Gnostic groups, the Holy Spirit was regarded as the "mother of all", and praise of "God as mother" constituted the theme of many of their chants and invocations. [122] In his outstanding work entitled The Early Liturgy To The Time of Gregory the Great, Josef Jungmann, S.J. devotes an entire chapter to the way in which the early Church had to struggle to protect its doctrine and liturgy from contamination by Gnostic concepts and practices. [123] In reference to contemporary expressions of Gnosticism, Cardinal John Wright has said: "All the Gnostics are not yet dead. They publish articles regularly and have 'renewed' their theology for our generation and our age in the life of the Church". [124] Dr Germain Grisez has warned that Gnosticism has risen like the phoenix from the ashes and taken up residence in the Church. He has stated that "in many places...(Gnosticism) has become institutionalised so that it constitutes the establishment, while genuine Catholicism exists only as a dissident remnant". [125]

It is an undeniable fact that the constant Tradition of the Church has excluded women from the ministerial priesthood. This Tradition has been common to both East and West. The Church has always taught that she cannot confer priestly ordination on women as this would be contrary to the intention of the Lord and to the practice of the Apostles. According to Bishop Patrick Dunn and Fr Manfred Hauke, the Church in the era of the Fathers saw the ban on women priests as a "secure truth of the faith". [126] In their turn, the Popes and great scholars of the Middle Ages also saw the ban on women priests as belonging to Divine Law. In a letter of 11 December 1210 to the Bishops of Palencia and Burgos, Pope Innocent III said: "Although the blessed Virgin Mary was of higher dignity and excellence than all the Apostles, it was to them, not her, that the Lord entrusted the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven". [127] Speaking of the ban on women priests, St Bonaventure said: "Our position is this: it is due not so much to a decision by the Church as to the fact that the sacrament of Order is not for them. In this sacrament the person ordained is a sign of Christ the mediator". [128] Blessed John Duns Scotus made a somewhat similar point when he said: "It must not be considered to have been determined by the Church. It comes from Christ. The Church would not have presumed to deprive the female sex, for no fault of its own, of an act that might licitly have pertained to it". [129]

It was only within some heretical sects of the early centuries, principally Gnostic ones, that attempts were made to confer the priesthood on women by allowing them to "preside" over "eucharistic" celebrations. St Irenaeus identified the practice with Valentinian Gnosticism. [130] Whenever the subject of ordaining women was raised it was rejected not simply as a breach of Church discipline, but rather as heresy. There are explicit references to this in the writings of Tertullian (d. 220), St Epiphanius of Salamis (d. 403), St Augustine (d. 430) and St John Damascene (d. 749). Fr Louis Ligier, S.J., in speaking of the practice amongst heretical sects of conferring the "priesthood" on women said: "It is united with the corrupted eschatology and pneumatology of Montanism. It is met with furthermore in the corrupted Marian cult of the Coliridians, who admitted the offering or prosfora in Mary's name. Such a heretical milieu was in itself and still remains for us today, a sign of a considerable alienation from the genuine Christian tradition". [131]



• 1 CCC. n. 1323.

• 2 Pope John Paul II, Dominicae Cenae, n. 8.

• 3 Ibid.

• 4 CCC. n. 1341.

• 5 Acts 2:42, 46; cf. CCC. n. 1342.

• 6 Fr Paul Stenhouse, Annals Australia, October 1995, pp. 20-21.

• 7 CCC. n. 1343.

• 8 CCC. n. 1200.

• 9 CCC. n. 1208.

• 10 CCC. n. 1203.

• 11 Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei,n. 50.

• 12 Ibid.

• 13 Cf. CCC. n. 1205

• 14 Cf. CCC. n. 1662.

• 15 CCC. n. 1412.

• 16 CCC. n. 1411.

• 17 CCC. n. 1337. Cf. references to the Council of Trent in chapter 2.

• 18 Cf. Pope Paul VI, Response to the Letter of His Grace the Most Reverend Dr. F. D. Coggan, Archbishop of Canterbury, concerning the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood, 30 November 1975.

• 19 Jutta Burggraf. The Dignity And The Vocation of Woman, a commentary on Pope John Paul II's Mulieris Dignitatem, published as a Catholic Position Paper by Perspective Magazine, Australia.

• 20 Fr Manfred Hauke. Women In The Priesthood: A Systematic Analysis in the Light of the Order of Creation and Redemption, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1988, p. 333.

• 21 Cf. Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 3/8/94. See also Fr Jean Galot, S.J. Theology of the Priesthood, op. cit. p. 255. Some commentators attempt to lend legitimacy to the call for women priests on the basis that there exists a precedent for it in that women were leaders in communities founded by St. Paul. In particular, they assert that on the basis of the list of greetings in the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul's reference to "Junias" is in fact a reference to a female apostle named 'Junia' (cf. Rom. 16: 7). This is the line taken for example by Hans Kung in his dissent from Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (cf. National Catholic Reporter, 15/12/95). However, the name 'Junias' as it appears in the Letter to the Romans is to be understood as referring to a man. The RSV Bible specifically inserts the word "men" in this passage. An indepth exegesis of the name 'Junias' and its various Greek derivatives can be found in Fr Manfred Hauke's Women In The Priesthood?, op. cit. p. 358-59. Fr. Hauke concludes that the so- called female apostle 'Junia' falls into the category of a modern myth.

• 22 Fr Manfred Hauke, Women In The Priesthood, op. cit. For the section on St Paul's teaching see pages 340-403. The statement by von Balthasar appears on the back cover of the book.

• 23 Cf. Statement by the Sacred Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith, July 24, 1966.

• 24 Cf. Vatican II, Dei Verbum, n. 2.

• 25 Cf. Presentation of Letter, L'Osservatore Romano, 22/6/94.

• 26 Fr Avery Dulles, S.J., The Craft of Theology: From Symbol to System, Crossroad, New York, 1992, p. 95.

• 27 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 8/7/92.

• 28 Ibid.

• 29 Ibid.

• 30 Cf. Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 8/7/92.

• 31 Jean Galot, Theology of the Priesthood, op. cit. pp. 72-73

• 32 Cf. Fr Manfred Hauke, Women In The Priesthood, op. cit. p. 334.

• 33 Pope John Paul II, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, n. 2; Cf. 1 Tim 3:1; 2 Tim 1:6; Tit 1:5-9.

• 34 Sacred Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith, Inter insigniores, n. 3.

• 35 Inter insigniores, op. cit. n. 3.

• 36 Father Louis Bouyer, L'Osservatore Romano, 20/1/77.

• 37 Ibid.

• 38 Fr Albert Vanhoye, S. J. op. cit.

• 39 Fr Albert Vanhoye, op. cit.

• 40 Ibid.

• 41 Inter insigniores, n. 6.

• 42 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 13/7/94.

• 43 CCC. n. 791.

• 44 Fr Manfred Hauke, op. cit. p. 346.

• 45 Fr Albert Vanhoye, S.J. op. cit.

• 46 CCC. n.1145.

• 47 Cf. Council of Trent, Session 7, March 3, 1547.

• 48 CCC. n. 1146.

• 49 The Teaching of Christ, A Catholic Catechism For Adults, edited by Ronald Lawler, Donald W. Wuerl and Thomas Lawler, Sunday Visitor Inc., Indiana, 1976, p.413.

• 50 CCC. n. 1278.

• 51 CCC. n. 1413.

• 52 Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 4.

• 53 Archbishop Desmond Connell, L'Osservatore Romano, 7/3/88.

• 54 Cf. Pope John Paul II, General Audience, 31/3/93; CCC. n. 1549.

• 55 Pope John Paul II, Dominicae Cenae, n. 8.

• 56 Ibid.

• 57 Ibid.

• 58 Cf. Manfred Hauke, Women in the Priesthood, op. cit. pp. 338- 339.

• 59 Barbara Albrecht, in The Church And Women: A Compendium, by Hans Urs von Balthasar, Walter Kasper, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger et al., Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1988, p. 200.

• 60 Cf. Official Commentary on Inter Insigniores, published in L'Osservatore Romano on 3/2/77.

• 61 Inter insigniores, n. 5. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In IV Sent., dist. 25, q. 2, quaestiuncula 1a ad 4um.

• 62 Cf. CCC. n. 1367. See also: Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 7; Council of Trent, Session 22: Doctrine on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, ch. 2.

• 63 Cf. Offical Commentary on Inter Insigniores, published in L'Osservatore Romano, 3/2/77.

• 64 St Thomas Aquinas, cited in Official Commentary on Inter Insigniores, published in L'Osservatore Romano, 3/2/77.

• 65 Cf. Inter insigniores, n. 5.

• 66 Cf. CCC. nn. 1704, 1705.

• 67 Vatican II, Dignitatis Humanae, n. 3.

• 68 CCC. n. 369.

• 69 CCC. n. 372.

• 70 CCC. n. 370.

• 71 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 7/7/93; Cf. Inter insigniores, n. 6.

• 72 Pope John Paul II, Catholic Weekly, 25/1/95, p. 22.

• 73 Cf. Dr Robert Spaeman, L'Osservatore Romano, 15/12/93.

• 74 Jutta Burggraf, op. cit.

• 75 Cf. Pope John Paul II, Letter To Families, n. 19.

• 76 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 7/5/90, p. 11.

• 77 CCC. n. 1617.

• 78 Ibid.

• 79 Cf. Pope John Paul II, Laborem Exercens, n. 9.

• 80 Pope John Paul II, Letter To Families, n. 19.

• 81 Ibid.

• 82 CCC. n. 796.

• 83 Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 22.

• 84 Pope John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem, n. 26.

• 85 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 3/8/94.

• 86 Archbishop Desmond Connell, op. cit.

• 87 Cf. Inter insigniores, n. 5.

• 88 Cf. Cardinal Pio Laghi, L'Osservatore Romano, 18/8/93. See also Official Commentary on InterInsigniores, published in L'Osservatore Romano, 3/2/77.

• 89 Inter insigniores, n. 5.

• 90 Cf. Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, n. 13.

• 91 Cf. CCC. n. 1617.

• 92 Fr Inos Biffi, L'Osservatore Romano, 17/3/93.

• 93 Rev Dr Gerald Gleeson. Catholic Weekly, 16/10/91.

• 94 Fr David Coffey, Priestly Representation and Women's Ordination, in Priesthood: The Hard Questions, edited by Gerald Gleeson, op. cit. p. 80.

• 95 Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1986, p. 15.

• 96 Ibid. p. 24.

• 97 Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, n. 84.

• 98 Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 16.

• 99 Cardinal Pio Laghi, op. cit.

• 100 Fr Manfred Hauke, Women In The Priesthood, op. cit. p. 336- 338.

• 101 Fr Manfred Hauke, Women In The Priesthood, op. cit. p. 338.

• 102 Pope John Paul II, Letter To Families, n. 19.

• 103 Inter insigniores, n. 5.

• 104 Archbishop Desmond Connell. op. cit.

• 105 CCC. n. 1553.

• 106 Fr David Coffey, Priesthood: The Hard Questions, op. cit. p. 97.

• 107 C.S. Lewis, "Priestesses in the Church?", in Undeceptions: Essays on Theology and Ethics, London, 1971, p. 195, cited by Manfred Hauke in Women in the Priesthood, op. cit. p. 193.

• 108 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, L'Osservatore Romano, 24/7/89.

• 109 Ibid.

• 110 Ibid.

• 111 Ibid.

• 112 Ibid

• 113 Ibid.

• 114 Cf. The Cult of Mary in the Age of the Cult of the Flesh, by Cardinal John Wright, L'Osservatore Romano, 20/5/76.

• 115 Cf. Archbishop J. Francis Stafford, The 'New Age' Movement: Analysis Of A New Attempt To Find Salvation Apart From Christian Faith, published in L'Osservatore Romano, 27/1/93. In this excellent article, Archbishop Stafford examines the relationship between contemporary attacks on Catholic doctrine and New Age religious syncretism which he sees as a contemporary expression of ancient Gnostic heresies.

• 116 Cardinal John Wright, op. cit.

• 117 Ibid.

• 118 Ibid.

• 119 Ibid.

• 120 Cf. Pope John Paul II, Letter To Families, n. 19.

• 121 Ibid.

• 122 Cf. Manfred Hauke, Women in the Priesthood, op. cit. pp. 161-164.

• 123 Cf. Josef A. Jungmann, S.J. The Early Liturgy To the Time of Gregory the Great, chapter 10 entitled The Defense Against Gnosticism, University of Notre Dame Press, Indiana, 1959.

• 124 Cardinal John Wright, op. cit.

• 125 Germain Grisez, cited by Fr Tom O'Mahony in Gnosticism: A Perennial Heresy, Challenge Magazine, Canada, February, 1992, p. 20.

• 126 Cf. Bishop Patrick Dunn, Priesthood, op. cit. p. 193; Fr Manfred Hauke, Women in the Priesthood, op. cit. p. 478.

• 127 Pope Innocent III, cited in Commentary on Inter Insigniores, published in L'Osservatore Romano, 3/2/77.

• 128 St Bonaventure, cited in Commentary on Inter Insigniores, published in L'Osservatore Romano, 3/2/77.

• 129 Blessed Duns Scotus, cited in Commentary on Inter Insigniores, published in L'Osservatore Romano, 3/2/77.

• 130 Cf. St Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 1,13,2.

• 131 Fr Louis Ligier, S.J., L'Osservatore Romano, 2/3/78.




In recent times the Magisterium of the Church has intervened decisively in the debate about the male-only ministerial priesthood. Before turning directly to these interventions and the controversy they have given rise to, I will first treat of three important areas of theology and doctrine that bear upon the questions involved: i) the development of doctrine, ii) the meaning and nature of authority in the Church, iii) the meaning and scope of infallibility.


There is a very important distinction between Church Doctrine and Church Discipline. A "Doctrine" is any truth taught by the Church as necessary for acceptance by the faithful. In reference to this, the First Vatican Council defined as follows the matter of Catholic faith: "All those things are to be believed by divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the written or transmitted word of God and which are proposed by the Church, either by a solemn judgement or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, to be believed as having been divinely revealed". [1] The specific objects of Catholic faith are called dogmas. The phrase doctrine of "faith and morals" means that the teaching can involve either a truth to be believed (e.g. the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist) or a judgement about the rightness or wrongness of an action (e.g. that adultery is seriously wrong). To put it another way, doctrine refers to divine teaching and divine law. That Our Lord is truly present in the Eucharist is divine teaching while the truth that acts of adultery are wrong is divine law. Church "Discipline" on the other hand is generally taken to refer to those regulations and rules which the Church puts in place in order to enable her to carry out her mission more effectively.

With respect to divine teaching and divine law, the Church has the responsibility to proclaim them faithfully but no authority whatsoever to change them. For example, because the doctrine of the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist is derived from Jesus Himself (i.e. it is part of the deposit of faith), then the Church has no authority whatsoever to reverse and contradict the content of this doctrine (i.e. it has no authority to say that Jesus is not really present Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Eucharist). Similarly with Divine Law, the Church cannot issue a statement saying that adultery is no longer wrong since the prohibition - "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery" - is a law of God and not a regulation or discipline of the Church.

In contrast to the unchangeable nature of Church doctrine, Church discipline can and does change. For example, for a long period during its history, it was the discipline or law of the Church that Mass in the Latin Rite had to be said in the Latin language. However, since this discipline was of human rather than divine origin, the Church was able to change it so as to allow Mass in the Latin Rite to be said in vernacular languages such as English. Similarly in the 1960's did the Church change her discipline with respect to Friday abstinence from meat. When she judged it prudent and necessary to do so, the Church was able to make these changes in her discipline because they did not involve a change in the teachings of Christ.

While the meaning of a particular Church doctrine can never change, we can however come to penetrate it more deeply with accurate insights and learn to apply it more thoroughly to life. [2] This process whereby the Church deepens her understanding of the deposit of faith is known as the "Development of Doctrine" (sometimes the misleading term refinement of doctrine is used instead). One of the great authorities on the Development of Doctrine was St Vincent of Lerins who lived in the 5th century. In order to distinguish the true concept of doctrinal development from erroneous expressions of it, the Church has in recent times emphasised St Vincent's teaching by inserting an extensive quotation from him in the Divine Office which is the official prayer of the Church that all priests are expected to pray. In considering how development of doctrine occurs, St Vincent gives us the example of a child growing into an adult. There is great physical progress but it is always the same person that stands before us. What we see in the adult was always present but in an undeveloped way in the child. In short, then, development must never be confused with alteration. If the child grows up and becomes a man, that is development, but if he becomes a cow that is alteration. [3]

Referring to ways in which dogmas must retain their original meaning in the course of their development, the First Vatican Council said: "That meaning of sacred dogmas...must always be maintained which holy mother Church declared once and for all, nor should one ever depart from that meaning under the guise of or in the name of a more advanced understanding". [4] Moreover, Vatican I pointed out that the doctrine of the Church is not a philosophical system that needs to be perfected by man: "For the doctrine of the faith which God revealed has not been handed down as a philosophic invention to the human mind to be perfected, but has been entrusted as a divine deposit to the Spouse of Christ, to be faithfully guarded and infallibly interpreted". [5] To reinforce this point, the Council quoted and made its own the following statement of St. Vincent of Lerins: "Therefore...let the understanding, the knowledge, the wisdom, of individuals as of all, of one man as of the whole Church, grow and progress strongly with the passage of the ages and the centuries; but let it be solely in its own genus, namely in the same dogma, with the same sense and the same understanding". [6] In harmony with this teaching, Vatican I condemned the opinion that "dogmas once proposed by the Church must with the progress of science be given a meaning other than that which was understood by the Church, or which she understands". [7] The Second Vatican Council, in speaking of doctrinal development said:

The tradition that comes from the apostles makes progress in the Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts (cf. Lk 2:19 and 51). It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth. Thus as the centuries go by, the Church is always advancing towards the plenitude of divine truth, until eventually the words of God are fulfilled in her. [8]

As the understanding of doctrine develops in the Church, "it sometimes happens that some dogmatic truth is first expressed incompletely (but not falsely), and at a later date, when considered in a broader context of faith or human knowledge, it receives a fuller and more perfect expression". [9] As indicated earlier however, the meaning of such dogmatic formulations "remains ever true and constant in the Church, even when it is expressed with greater clarity or more developed". [10]


In order to distinguish between authentic doctrinal development and its counterfeit, it is necessary to have a clear idea of the nature of the authority that resides in the Magisterium of the Church. Pope John Paul II alluded to this when he said that it is "urgently necessary to recover the authentic concept of authority, not only from the formal juridical standpoint, but more profoundly, as a means of guaranteeing, safeguarding and guiding the Christian community in fidelity to and continuity with Tradition, to make it possible for believers to be in contact with the preaching of the Apostles and with the sources of Christian reality itself." [11]

K. D. Whitehead says that authority "is the power to decide or direct on the part of the one who possesses it; and it constitutes what must be followed on the word of another by the one who is subject to it". [12] Whitehead distinguishes between knowledge and authority. He says that when one pauses before crossing a street he is acting on the basis of knowledge. In contrast to this, when one stops his car at an intersection in response to a signal from a policeman, he is then acting on the basis of authority. There is rarely a day that passes that we do not act in this fashion, i.e. on the authority of another. Coupled with this, we do not always have, and indeed are not always capable of acquiring, all the knowledge we need to act at every moment of our lives in the way that is best both for ourselves and for the common good. At times we have to act simply on the basis of the authority of another. Thus we take medicine on the basis of the doctor's authority. Consequently, there is nothing immature about acting on the authority of others - we do it all the time.

Whitehead also distinguishes two types of authority: one which he calls the authority of knowledge and the other which he calls the authority of function or office. [13] Authority of knowledge is the acquired authority of a person who has special qualifications, skills, experience etc. For example, a doctor can tell us all about medicine because of his particular study. We say that the doctor "knows what he is talking about" because of his first hand experience - i.e. we say he speaks "with authority". We ignore at our peril the advice a doctor gives on subjects within the ambit of his competence - unless of course our own knowledge is superior to his. Since there are so many things we cannot learn firsthand, it is our common experience therefore that we are obliged on an ongoing basis to act in our own best interests on the word of those who have "authority of knowledge".

In contrast to "authority of knowledge", "authority of function or office" pertains primarily to the practical order and does not necessarily depend on superior knowledge. In most affairs of our life, especially our life in society, there are times when it is necessary for a decision to be reached in order that life may go on. It is the principal function of authority of office to make decisions - which implies that someone must be vested with the power to do so. Taking up this point, Whitehead says:

No human society or community is possible without some procedure or machinery to decide in the myriad conflicts or potential conflicts which inevitably arise from the simplest human relationships, as from the complex ones. In most human affairs the buck must stop somewhere. For this obvious reason we have governments and courts, for example. Indeed, no two, or three or more people ever get together to accomplish anything without in some way, formally or informally, agreeing on who is "in charge," who decides - who, in other words has authority. Examples of this authority of office or function are the coach over his team (as well as the referee!), the father in the family, the teacher in the classroom, the policeman on the beat, the commander over his troops, the judge in his court, the president in the White House. In all of these situations there would be chaos and irresolvable conflict if there were not someone "in authority - in authority of office or function. [14]

Unlike those who have authority of knowledge, those who have authority of function or office are able to demand compliance. For example, the doctor, who has authority of knowledge, cannot demand that we take the medicine he prescribes. The highway policeman however, who has authority of function or office, can demand that we pull over to the kerb. Regarding the question of authority in the Church, Whitehead points out that the content of the deposit of faith which comes down to us from the apostles is a form of knowledge that is grounded in authority of function or office. In committing His word to the Church, Christ gave Peter and the other Apostles the authority of office to teach the truths of faith in such a way as to command assent: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28: 19-20). Referring to this authority of office which reposes in the Magisterium of the Church, Whitehead says:

It is true that the Church's magisterium, when it teaches, includes appropriate arguments and evidence based on theological research and reflection on the data of divine revelation committed into the Church's keeping; but the latter is not required for the Church to teach truly. She already has the authority of knowledge, from the fact that revelation has been entrusted to her, and she has the authority of office to teach it in turn. Thus the Church "knows what she is talking about" when she teaches because of this latter kind of authority to teach, conferred on her by Christ when he committed his word to her. She is also assisted in a special way by the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent (cf. Jn 15:26). If she goes on to explain in human language why something is true, that is her privilege. But the motive behind her teaching, by which the faithful are moved to accept her doctrine, is not these reasons but the simple fact that she teaches with the authority vested in her by Christ. [15]


In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the Apostles, Christ who is the Truth, willed to confer on the Church "a share in his own infallibility". [16] The word infallibility refers to an inability to err in believing or teaching revealed truth. The infallibility of the Church takes several forms. First, the whole Church is infallible in her belief when, "from the bishops to the last members of the laity it shows universal agreement in matters of faith and morals". [17] Secondly, in establishing the Church, Christ endowed its shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. [18] The infallibility of the Church's shepherds is present in both the solemn definitions of Popes and Ecumenical Councils, and in the teaching of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium. [19]

In almost all situations, when the Pope teaches officially on matters of faith and morals, he employs what is referred to as the "ordinary magisterium". In contrast to this, it is only on very rare occasions the Pope exercises his "extraordinary magisterium". "Ordinary" refers to the fact that this is the usual way of teaching, while "extraordinary" means that this is the method employed in exceptional circumstances. Apart from "ordinary" and "extraordinary", there are two other words that are used frequently in connection with the Pope's teaching office - ex cathedra and authentic. The terms ex cathedra and authentic are used in reference to the various ways in which the Holy Father exercises his divinely established teaching office. The term ex cathedra means "from the Chair" which in turn means "official". "Authentic" also means "official". Speaking of the relationship between the terms ex cathedra and authentic, Gerard Morrissey says:

Despite the similarity in their literal meaning, however, the phrase ex cathedra is often used to refer to the extraordinary magisterium, while the word 'authentic' is employed with a broader meaning to include both the extraordinary magisterium and the ordinary magisterium. Thus, the "ordinary" teaching authority of the Holy Father is sometimes described as "authentic teaching that is not ex cathedra. [20 ]

The exercise of the authentic teaching magisterium of the Pope takes place only under certain conditions. First, the Pope has to be teaching on faith and morals in his official capacity as Vicar of Christ and successor of Saint Peter. In other words, he is intending to exercise his divinely established teaching authority. Therefore, excluded from this exercise of his authentic teaching magisterium are all occasions when the Pope speaks as a private theologian expressing personal opinions, as was the case for example when John Paul II published Crossing The Threshold Of Hope. Second, the Pope is not addressing questions of Church discipline - rather he is "purposely passing judgement" [21] on a matter of faith and morals. Third, the Pope is dealing with a question upon which he intends to make a binding decision. Consequently, excluded from this are situations where the Pope, though exercising his Magisterial power, is not nevertheless intending to make a binding decision no matter how much he leans towards a particular position in a theological controversy.

The Pope may make ex cathedra statements to settle a controversy or to give added emphasis and honour to a truth already believed by the entire Church as was the case in 1950 when Pope Pius XII defined the doctrine of Our Lady's Assumption into Heaven. Since the exercise of the ex cathedra magisterium of the Pope tends to be so dramatic, many people have wrongly concluded that if a matter is really important then the Pope will intervene with an exercise of his extraordinary magisterium, i.e. with an infallible teaching act. People who hold this view sometimes go a step further to erroneously conclude that they are free to dissent from any or all authentic teachings of the Pope which are not framed in ex cathedra statements. Those who fall into this error seem to forget that it was Jesus who entrusted to the Pope a teaching office that enables him to teach the truths of faith and morality with God's own authority: "He who hears you, hears me" (Lk 10:16). This implies that in exercising his authentic teaching magisterium, the Pope is in fact exercising a divinely established teaching office which of its very nature must be able to command assent. Speaking of this, Pope Pius XII in his famous encyclical Humani Generis said:

Nor must it be thought that what is contained in encyclical letters does not of itself demand assent, on the pretext that the Popes do not exercise in them the supreme power of their teaching authority. Rather, such teachings belong to the ordinary magisterium, of which it is true to say: "He who hears you, hears Me" (Lk 10: 16). For the most part, too, what is expounded and inculcated in encyclical letters already appertains to Catholic doctrine for other reasons. But if the supreme Pontiff in official documents purposely pass judgement on a matter debated until then, it is obvious to all that the matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiff, cannot be considered any longer a question open for discussion among theologians.[22]

The teaching of Pius XII in Humani Generis was echoed by the Second Vatican Council. In emphasising the responsibility of Catholics to assent to the authentic teaching authority of the Pope, the Council stated that a "loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and that one sincerely adhere to decisions made by him, in conformity with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated". [23] According to Canon Law, this "submission of will and intellect" means that "Christ's faithful are therefore to ensure that they avoid whatever does not accord with that doctrine".[24]

According to Pope John Paul II, "the supreme authority of the papal Magisterium...even in its ordinary exercise derives from the institutional fact that the Roman Pontiff is the Successor of Peter in the mission of teaching, of strengthening his brothers, of guaranteeing that the Church's preaching conforms to the 'deposit of faith' of the Apostles and to Christ's teaching". [25] In exercising this divinely established ministry of service to his brethren, the Pope is accountable to no one other than to God Himself. Speaking of this, the Second Vatican Council said: "The Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, namely, and as pastor of the entire Church, has full, supreme and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered". [26] Consequently, when the Holy Father exercises his authentic teaching authority so as to require the faithful to hold firmly the doctrine he is then proclaiming, even though he is not speaking ex cathedra, then his teaching in this particular instance is stamped with the authority of Christ Himself who can neither deceive or be deceived: "He who hears you, hears me" (Lk 10:16). To argue that Catholics have a right to dissent from such teaching is equivalent to saying that they are free to court error on the grounds that Christ may have deserted Peter at the very moment when Peter was about to "strengthen his brethren" (cf. Lk 22;32) in accordance with the mandate given to him by Jesus Himself.


At issue in the debate over the Church's no to women's ordination is the question of fidelity to the ministerial priesthood as it was instituted by Christ. Pope Pius XII referred to this when he said that the Church must accept as normative Christ's "practice of conferring priestly ordination on men alone" on the grounds that "the Church has no power over the substance of the sacraments, i.e. over anything that Christ the Lord, as attested by the sources of Revelation, wanted to be maintained in the sacramental sign". [27] Despite many reaffirmations by the Church's Magisterium of this doctrine over the last three decades, dissent from the teaching was so widespread in some parts of the Church that uncertainty began to spread amongst some of the faithful. It was to address this problem that Pope John Paul II issued his Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis in May 1994 in which he said: "In order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgement is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful". [28]

In Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II taught that the practice of not conferring priestly ordination on women was founded on the written Word of God and on Sacred Tradition. In particular, the Pope located the basis for the teaching in the example of Christ who chose the Twelve Apostles from among men, in the apostolic tradition and in the constant teaching of the Magisterium. [29] In the aftermath of the release of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, expressions of gratitude were directed to the Holy Father from all over the world for having taken such a definitive step in "confirming the brethren". As Cardinal Ratzinger has pointed out, the fruits of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis have been evident since its publication. Many consciences says the Cardinal, "which in good faith had been disturbed, more by doubt than by uncertainty, found serenity once again due to the teaching of the Holy Father". [30] In a message to the people of his diocese, Bishop William Brennan of Wagga said:

Pope John Paul II has given us a direction that should save the Church much anguished debate. I use the word "direction" not in the sense of "instruction" so much as in the sense of "pointing out the way". One does not have to know much about the development of Christian doctrine to know that in the course of its history there have been many false starts. A plausible idea became fashionable among some theologians and then even widely acceptable, but it was wrong and the role of the successor of Peter was to intervene and point out the correct path. Once again the successor of Peter has intervened. Just as his predecessor Pius XII intervened to determine that the Church had authority to specify the form and matter of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, so John Paul II has intervened to declare that the Church has no authority to ordain women. It is an exercise of his teaching authority as Supreme Pastor. We must accept it, for if we do not, to whom shall we look for guidance? Who else in the Church, or outside it, can make such a decision and bind the faithful in this way? As the Bishops proclaimed at Chalcedon in 451, Peter has spoken. Let us pray that all Catholic people throughout the world will heed the words of the one to whom alone has been given the commission of feeding the entire flock of Christ. [31]


Not everyone however greeted Ordinatio Sacerdotalis with the assent it warranted. In Australia, opposition to the teaching was led by members of religious institutes and by members of the theological establishment. The Australian Catholic Theological Association, the Australian Catholic Biblical Association, and the National Executive of the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes (ACLRI) either publicly distanced themselves from the teaching or repudiated it entirely. Referring to this scandalous expression of dissent from the teaching of the Magisterium, B. A. Santamaria writing in the Weekend Australian said: "Granted the authority of the bodies they claimed to represent, these statements constituted a general rebellion of the entire Catholic educational leadership in this country against papal authority". [32]

In their press release, the theologians said: "The Australian Catholic Theological Association (ACTA) at its recent conference in Melbourne considered the challenges posed by the Pope's recent letter on the ordination of women...The meeting decided to respond positively to these challenges. It established two committees. The first will study the precise authority of the document and its implications for theology. The second committee will examine the arguments which have been made for and against women's ordination. It will ask whether they are persuasive and are consistent with the dignity of women". [33] In their press release, the biblical scholars said: "The Catholic Biblical Association of Australia met for its Annual Meeting (July 1-4) at Corpus Christi College, Clayton, Victoria. Amongst other matters, the recent Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II, 'On Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone', was discussed. While acknowledging the authority of the Letter, the members of the Association expressed disquiet, as biblical scholars, at the way Scripture is used in this document. It was recommended, therefore, that further studies be undertaken to build on the significant biblical research already available in relation to ministry in the New Testament, especially women's ministry". [34]

In their dissenting statement, the National Executive of the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes said: "We write to express our dismay and disappointment at the recent Apostolic Letter of the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, so far as it prohibits further discussion of the ordination of women. We can appreciate the Holy Father's reluctance presently to authorise the ordination of women. We are dismayed, however, that, without advancing any arguments other than those espoused in the previous Instructions, Inter Insigniores (1976) and Mulieris Dignitatem (1988), he has seen fit to embargo any further discussion within the Roman Catholic Church of this very important and evolving issue". After suggesting that there was "no conclusive scriptural evidence" debarring women from entering the ranks of the ministerial priesthood, the religious leaders went on with what can rightly be judged an arrogance born of ignorance to justify their revolt on the grounds that their opposition to the Pope had a parallel in the early Church in the stance taken by St. Paul at the Council of Jerusalem. They said:

In the absence of any further arguments, therefore, we stand like St Paul at the first Ecumenical Council of the Church at the Council of Jerusalem in the middle of the first century. You will recall that in the face of the opposition of the first Pope, St Peter, and the more reactionary elements in the early Church, St Paul requested that Gentile and pagan, and not just Jewish, converts should be admitted to the ranks of Christians. Nineteen centuries later we join with many other Christians in requesting that the question whether women, as well as men, should be admitted to the ranks of the ordained ministry should continue to be considered as a suitable topic for further theological and scriptural research and discussion within the Roman Catholic community. [35]

What the Leaders of the Religious Institutes say about the entry of pagans into the early Church, and what they purport to have happened at the Council of Jerusalem, turns out to be absolute nonsense when we compare it with what St Luke says about these events in the Acts of the Apostles. Gentiles were admitted to the ranks of the Christians even before St. Paul's conversion. Samaratans had already been admitted (cf. Acts 8: 4-8); and the eunuch (cf. Acts 8: 26-40) was quite possibly a Gentile. Further to this, we know that St Peter, acting on a direct revelation he received in a vision, admitted a non-Jewish convert in the person of Cornelius into the Church together with some of his relatives and friends. (cf. Acts 10:1-48). In St Peter's discourse on Jesus "who is the Lord of all," the Holy Spirit came upon all his audience and he "ordered them to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ" (cf. Acts 10:36, 44,48). Meanwhile, Paul was preaching the Word in Asia Minor and performing miracles in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. When the Judaizing Christians insisted that converts from paganism to Christianity should be subjected to the Law of Moses, Paul and Barnabas were sent from Antioch to Jerusalem to consult the apostles and presbyters there about the question (cf. Acts 15: 2).

In addressing the Council of Jerusalem, St Peter said: "Brethren, you know that in early days God made his choice among you, the pagans were to learn the Good News from me and so become believers. In fact God, who can read everyone's heart, showed his approval of them by giving the Holy Spirit to them just he had to us. God made no distinction between them and us, since he purified their hearts by faith. It would only provoke God's anger now, surely, if you imposed on the disciples the very burden that neither we nor our ancestors were strong enough to support? Remember, we believe that we are saved in the same way as they are: through the grace of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 15: 8-11). Here we are presented with a practical description of St Peter strengthening the faith of the community with the truth. St Luke tells us that Peter's speech to the Council "silenced the entire assembly" so that they now "listened to Barnabas and Paul describing all the signs and wonders God had worked through them among the pagans" (Acts 15: 12). In modern terminology, the response of the Council of Jerusalem to Peter's intervention could be classed as a "religious submission of intellect and will". Peter's teaching became determinative for all that followed. It was Peter's decision not to burden new Christians with Jewish laws that was adopted. St James who had the final say only repeated what St Peter had already said. It is clear then that the biblical record shows that St Paul did not in fact oppose St Peter at the Council of Jerusalem.


As a result of the dissent which greeted Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, the Magisterium deemed it necessary to make a further decisive intervention on the question of the non-admission of women to the ministerial priesthood. This it did by way of a Reply from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith to the 'Dubium' published in L'Osservatore Romano on October 28, 1995. "Dubium" is the Latin term for a question posed to a Vatican agency about a matter of Church teaching or policy. This Reply was signed by Cardinal Ratzinger in his capacity as Prefect of the CDF and it was approved by Pope John Paul II who ordered its publication. In a covering letter to Presidents of Episcopal Conferences which accompanied the Reply, Cardinal Ratzinger said:

The publication in May 1994 of the apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was followed by a number of problematic and negative statements by certain theologians, organisations of priests and religious, as well as some associations of lay people. These reactions attempted to cast doubt on the definitive character of the letter's teaching on the inadmissibility of women to the ministerial priesthood, and also questioned whether this teaching belonged to the deposit of faith.

This congregation therefore has judged it necessary to dispel the doubts and reservations that have arisen by issuing a Responsum ad dubium, which the Holy Father has approved and ordered to be published.

In asking you to bring this Responsum to the attention of your episcopal conference before its official publication, this dicastry is confident that the conference itself, as well as the individual bishops, will do everything possible to ensure its distribution and favourable reception, taking particular care that, above all on the part of theologians, pastors of souls, and religious, ambiguous and contrary positions will not again be proposed". [36]

Here now is the actual Dubium and the Reply:

Dubium: Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is the be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.

Reply: In the affirmative.

This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written word of God and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman pontiff exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on the same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of faith... [37]

In Australia, this clarification by the Magisterium again met with dissent from members of the theological community. In describing himself as "a loyal Catholic", Fr Tony Kelly, President of both the Yarra Theological Union and the Australian Theological Association, publicly accused the Vatican of attempting to "theologically bully" both clergy and laity. In expressing concern about what he perceived as the Pope's "autocratic" style, Fr Kelly referred to the CDF Reply as a "ham-fisted" attempt to mould public opinion and "a very depressing development". [38] Writing in the December 1995 issue of Eureka Street, Fr Bill Uren, head of the Jesuits in Australia, argued that despite the CDF statement it was "important to keep remembering that it is still our Church - both men and women". Fr Richard Lennan, who is head of theology at the Catholic Institute of Sydney, was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald in May 1996 as having difficulties with the Church's teaching on a male-only ministerial priesthood. The report quoted Fr Lennan as having said: "What I'm most concerned about is society's view of the Church. The Pope's directive that all the faithful are to hold 'definitively' that women cannot be ordained to the priesthood will not be the final word on the matter...Other people, including Catholics, will make judgements. In a society where gender is no longer accepted as sufficient explanation for discrimination, the Church (both Catholic and Anglican) appears not just reactionary, but even bizarre when it insists that gender has a role in determining who has access to both influence in the Church, and, even more importantly, the things of God". While informing the Herald that he did not wish to be disloyal to Church authority, Fr Lennan stated that the Pope was not however "the whole Church". [39]

After the publication of the CDF Reply, a lengthy two-page commentary on it was published in the Sydney Catholic Weekly on January 7, 1996. Entitled Cardinal Ratzinger's Statement - A Theological Commentary, the commentary was written by Fr Gerald Gleeson who teaches at the Catholic Institute of Sydney. Fr Gleeson began his commentary by first making a distinction between infallible teaching acts and infallible content. He notes correctly that Pope John Paul II did not in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis invoke his extraordinary magisterium to define ex cathedra a doctrine of faith and morals. To remove any doubt regarding this point, Fr Gleeson quoted Cardinal Ratzinger who said that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was "an act of the ordinary authentic magisterium". Fr Gleeson also quoted from the official commentary which accompanied the CDF Reply which said: "It should be emphasised that the definitive and infallible nature of this teaching did not arise with the publication of the Letter Ordinatio act of the ordinary papal Magisterium, in itself not infallible, witnesses to the infallibility of the teaching of a doctrine already possessed by the Church". [40] Fr Gleeson then raised an interesting question in relation to all of this. He said: "Many readers may be puzzled as to how a teaching can be held to be infallible if a papal letter in which it is declared is not an act of teaching infallibly". Having posed this question, Fr Gleeson then went on to argue that the CDF Reply is simply a "theological judgement" on the grounds that the CDF does not of itself establish the fact of infallible teaching by the ordinary magisterium. Then, after some observations on conscience and related matters, Fr Gleeson in drawing his conclusion said: "...It must be said that neither the Pope's letter nor this CDF statement is an infallible teaching act which thereby requires an irrevocable assent of Catholics. As such, these teaching acts are not guaranteed to be free of error". [41]

The doctrine on the male-only ministerial priesthood was reaffirmed by the Magisterium of the Church in the Declaration Inter insigniores, in the Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem (n. 26), in the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici (n. 51) and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 1577). Cardinal Ratzinger has noted that "a one-sided understanding of infallibility as the only binding form of decision in the Church has become a lever for relativizing the documents mentioned above and for thus asserting that the question is still open". [42] A problem with Fr Gleeson's conclusion that - "neither the Pope's letter or the CDF statement is an infallible teaching act which thereby requires the irrevocable assent of Catholics" - is that it could easily leave one with the erroneous impression that irrevocable assent is owed only to those Magisterial affirmations of doctrine that are expressed by way of a solemn judgement or a definitive act (infallible teaching acts). The Magisterium, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ, [43] is nothing less than the living voice of Christ in history. To use the words of Pope John Paul II, the Magisterium is "an organ of service to the truth and is responsible for seeing that the truth does not cease to be faithfully handed on throughout human history". [44] Being this organ of truth, the Magisterium is a living and ever-present reality in the life of the Church, not something that only comes to life with the occasional ex cathedra pronouncement of a Pope or the solemn definition of an Ecumenical Council. Through the exercise of his authentic teaching authority, the Pope guarantees that the Church remains faithful to the content of the deposit of faith. In exercising his authentic teaching authority, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra, the Pope is at that moment carrying out the mandate given to him by Christ to nourish the flock placed in his care with the heavenly food of sound doctrine: "Feed my lambs...feed my sheep" (cf. Jn 21: 15-17).

The fact that there exists various degrees in the exercise of the teaching authority of the Magisterium does not imply that firm assent is owed only to the supreme expressions of this authority. According to Pope John Paul II, this hierarchy of degrees of teaching authority "does not entitle one to hold that the pronouncements and doctrinal decisions of the Magisterium call for irrevocable assent only when it states them in solemn judgement or definitive act, and that, consequently, in all other cases one need only consider the arguments or reasons employed". [45] After saying this, Pope John Paul II then added: "In the Encyclicals Veritatis splendor and Evangelium vitae, as well as in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, I wished once again to set forth the constant doctrine of the Church's faith with an act confirming truths which are clearly witnessed to by Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the unanimous teaching of the Pastors. These declarations, by virtue of the authority handed down to the Successor of Peter to 'confirm the brethren' (Lk 22:32), thus express the common certitude present in the life and teaching of the Church". [46] In effect, what Pope John Paul II is saying here is that the doctrinal affirmations of Veritatis Splendor, Evangelium Vitae and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis have all been taught by the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium and hence the faithful owe to them their irrevocable assent. That this is so is indicated by the words of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis where Pope John Paul II, after stating that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, then added that "this judgement is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful". Note that the Holy Father here calls for "definitive" assent. In reference to this aspect of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Fr Avery Dulles has pointed out that "in the documents of Vatican II, 'definitive' assent is the assent to be given to the unanimous teaching of the magisterium on matters of faith and morals - a form of teaching characterised as infallible (see Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 25)". [47]

That the central affirmation of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis regarding the non-admissibility of women to the ministerial priesthood requires the irrevocable assent of all the faithful is made clear in the statement that accompanied the presentation of the Apostolic Letter where it says: "No one, therefore, not even the Supreme Authority in the Church, can fail to accept this teaching without contradicting the will and example of Christ himself and the economy of revelation". [48] It added that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, by "formally declaring the nature and the definitive force of this teaching" to be derived "from the will of Christ and the practice of the Apostolic Church", was thereby confirming "a certainty which has been constantly held and lived by the Church". [49] Therefore, continued the statement, the teaching of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is not "a question of a new dogmatic formulation, but of a doctrine taught by the ordinary Papal magisterium in a definitive way: that is proposed not as a prudential teaching, nor as a more probable opinion, nor a mere matter of discipline, but as certainly true. Therefore since it does not belong to matters freely open to dispute, it always requires a full and unconditional assent of the faithful, and to teach the contrary is equivalent to leading consciences into error". [50]


Returning now to the CDF's Reply. Fr Gleeson's assertion that the Reply is simply just another "theological judgement" is rather misleading. The task of the CDF is to "preserve the doctrine of faith and morals in the whole Catholic world". [51] Speaking of the authority belonging to Magisterial documents such as the CDF Reply, the Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian said: "The Roman Pontiff fulfils his universal mission with the help of various bodies of the Roman Curia and in particular with that of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in matters of doctrine and morals. Consequently, the documents issued by this Congregation expressly approved by the Pope participate in the ordinary magisterium of the successor of Peter". [52] In the Reply, the CDF has clarified the doctrinal nature and binding force of the central affirmation of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. Since the CDF has done this with the approval of Pope John Paul II who himself ordered the Reply to be published, then, in terms of Lumen Gentium 25, the Reply has officially clarified "the manifest mind and will" of the Roman Pontiff in relation to the question posed (dubium). Consequently, Catholics owe firm assent to all that is affirmed in the Reply.

Earlier we saw that the CDF Reply stated that the central doctrinal affirmation of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis had been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium. In his commentary on the CDF Reply, Fr Gleeson wonders how such infallible teaching is to be identified. He adds that since "what is involved is the agreed teaching of the world's bishops, both past and present", then "it will be for them to evaluate and respond to the Congregation's judgement". [53] This immediately gives rise to a question. Since all "past bishops" are now dead, I wonder how exactly Fr Gleeson expects them to respond to the "Congregation's judgement"? Coming back to reality, the question regarding the recognition of the teaching of the ordinary and universal magisterium is a very important one since it is this particular exercise of the Magisterium which Pope John Paul II says "can truly be considered as the usual expression of the Church's infallibility". [54] Before addressing the question raised here by Fr Gleeson, it will be useful to first outline the conditions governing the infallibility of the ordinary and universal magisterium as set down by Vatican II. They are, that the Bishops: i) dispersed throughout the world but maintaining a bond between themselves and the Roman Pontiff, ii) authoritatively teach on matters of faith and morals, iii) agree that such a teaching be held definitively and absolutely. [55] For a teaching to have been taught infallibly therefore, all that is necessary is for it to have been promulgated as binding by the Episcopate and for it to have been presented as immutable and unchangeable.

Some who have dissented from The Church's teaching on the non- admissibility of women to the ranks of the ministerial priesthood have faulted Pope John Paul II and CDF for not adequately consulting the world episcopate before issuing Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and the Reply. Those making this allegation however seem to have overlooked the consultation that went on during the process of producing the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism which took six years to complete owes its origin to a resolution of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985. Fr Kevin Nichols says that "the process by which the Catechism was composed - drafting, discussion, the assimilation of criticism both far- reaching and detailed, consultation, questioning, revision, redrafting - was certainly arduous". [56] He adds that "those responsible for the Catechism travelled far and wide in order that it might express Catholic tradition in its breadth and variety and also extensively represent its present pastors and teachers". [57] Most importantly however, the project was the object of extensive collaboration and consultation among all Catholic Bishops as well as their Episcopal Conferences or Synods. Referring to this, Fr. Nichols says: "Among the authors of the Catechism we should also number...the bishops of the universal Church. They were consulted, both individually and as episcopal conferences, along with academic institutions and the Dicasteries of the Holy See, between November 1989 and June 1990". [58] Archbishop Jan Schotte says: "the Episcopate of the whole Church was called to collaborate through a formal consultation process that was to ensure the final product's seriousness and credibility. In fact, the draft text was submitted to the Bishops for their study, suggestions and observations". [59]

The Catechism was carried through ten separate drafts by the drafting Committee which availed itself of expert theological advice and assistance at every stage. As a result of the consultation with the world's Bishops and their advisers, nearly 25,000 separate proposed amendments (modi) were sent back to the drafting committee. In reference to this collaboration amongst the bishops of the world, Cardinal Ratzinger says that the production of the Catechism truly represented "a signal event of episcopal 'collegiality' and that in it the voice of the universal Church speaks to us in all its fullness". [60] The final draft was personally reviewed by Pope John Paul II who, after calling for certain modifications, ordered its promulgation. In his Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, through which the Catechism was promulgated to the world, the Holy Father said: "It can be said that the Catechism is the result of the collaboration of the whole Episcopate of the Catholic Church...The achievement of this Catechism thus reflects the collegial nature of the Episcopate: it testifies to the Church's catholicity" (n.2).

In Depositum Fidei, the Holy Father highlights the doctrinal authority of the Catechism by stating that it "is a statement of the Church's faith and of Catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Church's Magisterium. I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion". [61] Cardinal Jose Sanchez says that with the Catechism's promulgation, "the authentic, authoritative catechism has finally arrived, the regula fidei, the sure and no longer disputable measure of orthodoxy". [62] In describing the response of one bishop to the Catechism, Cardinal Ratzinger said: "Before the Catechism was published, one of its final drafts was shown to an elderly bishop, highly respected on account of his erudition, in order to obtain his judgement. He returned the manuscript with an expression of joy. Yes, he said, this is the faith of my mother. He rejoiced to find the faith which he had learned as a child and which had sustained him his whole life long expressed in its wealth and beauty, but also in its simplicity and indestructible unity. This is the faith of my mother: the faith of our Mother, the Church. It is to this faith that the Catechism invites us". [63]

Referring to the cohesive nature of the Catechism, Bishop David Konstant said that "you can't ignore one part of the Catechism without making a nonsense of the whole thing". [64] Cardinal Ratzinger says that "the weight of the Catechism itself lies in the whole. Since it transmits what the Church teaches, whoever rejects it as a whole separates himself beyond question from the faith and teaching of the Church". [65] In relation to the Church's teaching on the impossibility of conferring priestly ordination on women, the Catechism says: "Only a baptised man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination. The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ's return. The Church recognises herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible". [66] In light of what has already been said about the collaboration of the world Episcopate in the production of the Catechism, we can conclude that the doctrine reaffirmed by the Catechism regarding the non-admissibility of women to the ranks of the ordained priesthood is a reputable witness to the ordinary, day-to-day teaching of the bishops throughout the world in union with the Pope. As such, it represents a form of teaching that requires the irrevocable assent of all Catholics. As I indicated earlier, the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium does not have to proclaim itself and it does not rely on extraordinary or solemn definitions. Agreement among the Bishops in union with the Pope may be either vertical as reflected in continuity of teaching, or horizontal, as seen in their concurrence at any given period of the Church's life and worship. [67] If at any time a teaching meets the requirements for it to be infallible, then it remains so for all time, even if at some later date a large number of bishops dissent from it. The unity of the whole body of bishops with each other and with the Pope does not entail a mathematical unanimity of the bishops which would be broken by the dissenting voice of any one individual. A good example of what is involved here was given by John Ford S.J. and Germain Grisez. Basing themselves on a speech of Bishop Martin to Vatican I, Ford and Grisez pointed out that not all Catholic Bishops believed in the divinity of Christ either before the Council of Nicea or after it. [68]

That agreement among the bishops does not entail mathematical unanimity for the ordinary and universal magisterium to express itself is also borne out by the events leading up to Pope Pius XII's definition of the dogma of Our Lady's Assumption into Heaven. The Pope stated that he had written to all the bishops in the Catholic Church to ask whether they believed that the Assumption could be defined as a dogma of faith. In Pope Pius XII's own words, he received "an almost unanimous affirmative response". Then, quoting the teaching of Vatican I about the infallibility of the ordinary and universal magisterium, Pius XII concluded that: "...from the universal agreement of the Church's ordinary teaching authority we have a certain and firm proof, demonstrating that the Blessed Virgin Mary's bodily Assumption into a truth that has been revealed by God". [69] In effect what Pope Pius XII was saying here is that he is defining the dogma of the Assumption by way of an ex cathedra (extraordinary) act of his Magisterium because he knows already from the ordinary and universal magisterium that the teaching is certainly true despite the fact that there does not exist mathematical unanimity amongst the bishops in their endorsement of the dogma.

In his commentary on the CDF Reply, Fr Gleeson mentions some ways that may be used to determine "what is to be believed and professed in accordance with the Gospel as necessary for salvation". He says that the "ordinary way in which this determination is made is in and through the prayer and practice, the preaching and teaching, and the ordinary living out of the Catholic faith". This "ordinary way" says Fr Gleeson, is "largely implicit in what is said and done, only partly articulated, and certainly more a matter of prayer and practice than formal definition". Having said this he then adds: "This is why, as Newman showed, one must 'consult the faithful' in matters of doctrine - not to ask their 'advice' or 'opinion', but to establish a matter of fact, what is believed". [70]

While I do not necessarily disagree with what Fr Gleeson says above, I do however think he has taken Cardinal Newman somewhat out of context. In regard to the question Fr Gleeson has raised, i.e. how is one to discern the content of the Deposit of Faith, Cardinal Newman, in the very work that Fr Gleeson has just referred us to, gives a very definite answer when in relation to the Tradition that has come down from the Apostles he says: "The gift of discerning, discriminating, defining, promulgating, and enforcing any portion of that tradition resides solely in the Ecclesia docens". [71] By the term Ecclesia docens, Newman means the teaching authority of the Church. This statement by Newman is based on the fact that while the faithful as a whole bear witness to the Gospel, this does not however render superfluous the role of the Magisterium. Newman's keen awareness of the need at times for direct intervention by the Magisterium in order to specify the content of the Deposit of Faith was based on his common sense understanding that at times the sensus fidelium (the sense of the faithful) is not always clearly discernible due to inroads into the consciousness of many Catholics by the spirit of the age. Newman cites as an example of this the period during the Arian crisis when the faith of some sectors of the laity had become contaminated through the influence of corrupt Arian Bishops "who got possession of the sees and ordained an heretical clergy". [72]

Regarding the authority of the Magisterium to specify what belongs to the Deposit of Faith, the Second Vatican Council said: "The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ". [73] In relation to the question of who can validly receive the sacrament of Holy Orders, this "living teaching office of the Church", whose authority we saw is "exercised in the name of Jesus Christ", has in recent times proclaimed that the doctrine regarding the non-admissibility of women to the ranks of the ordained priesthood has been taught infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium. As such, this doctrine requires the irrevocable assent of all Catholics. Consequently, in regards to the question raised by Fr Gleeson as to who is to decide what is Catholic truth, this is not a matter for mere theologians to decide, especially when they appear to be simply defending their own cause. This question has long since been answered by Christ himself when he conferred on Peter a unique participation in his own Divine authority as Shepherd and Teacher: "Feed my lambs... feed my sheep" (cf. Jn 21: 15-17). In the Gospel of John, the Beloved Disciple is tied to the Office of Peter (cf. Jn 1:37-39; 13:22-30; 20;1-10; 21:1-23). Like the Beloved Disciple - who on being first to arrive at the Empty Tomb did not enter until Peter had first done so (cf. Jn 20:1-8) - so too must Catholics adhere firmly to the teaching of the Pope out of deference to the Petrine Office. When the Pope exercises his authentic Magisterium, the flock must follow simply because Peter has commanded or gone ahead: "Simon Peter said to them, 'I am going fishing'. They said to him, 'We will go with you'" (Jn 21:3). [74]


In concluding this chapter, there is one last point I want to make in regard to the development of doctrine. In the time since Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was released, there have been some who have suggested that some future development or refinement of doctrine may make possible the entry of women into the ranks of the ministerial priesthood. The truth is however that such a thing could never happen. Recall the teaching of the First Vatican Council quoted earlier which said: "That meaning of sacred dogmas...must always be maintained which holy mother Church declared once and for all, nor should one ever depart from that meaning under the guise of or in the name of a more advanced understanding". [75] Since the Magisterium has formally declared the nature and definitive force of the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, then it would not be possible for the Magisterium to say at a future date that the Church has such an authority without in the process changing the meaning of the received doctrine and thereby contradicting what has gone before. Any ecclesial community that would do such a thing could no longer claim to be in communion with the Catholic Church.



• 1 Vatican Council I: Dogmatic Constitution, Dei Filius, ch. 3; Conc. Oec. Decr. (3), p. 807 (DS 3011).

• 2 Cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n. 12.

• 3 For this section on the Development of Doctrine, I am drawing heavily on an excellent treatment of the question contained in Gerard Morrissey's book Defending The Papacy, published by Christendom Press, Virginia, 1984.

• 4 Vatican Council 1: Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, ch. 4; Conc. Oec. Decr. (3), p. 809 (DS 3020)

• 5 Ibid.

• 6 Ibid.

• 7 Ibid. can. 3; Con. Oec. Decr.(3), p. 811 (DS 3043).

• 8 Vatican II, Dei Verbum, n. 8

• 9 Declaration in Defense of the Catholic Doctrine on the Church Against Certain Errors of the Present Day, CDF, June 24, 1973, n. 5

• 10 Ibid.

• 11 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 29/11/95

• 12 K. D. Whitehead. The Need For The Magisterium Of The Church, Synthesis Series, Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago, 1979, p. 11. This excellent apologetical work was published in L'Osservatore Romano shortly after it was written and I will be drawing heavily on it for this section on authority.

• 13 Ibid. p. 12

• 14 Ibid. pp. 13-14

• 15 Ibid. p 19

• 16 CCC. n. 889

• 17 Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n.12

• 18 Cf. CCC. n. 89

• 19 Cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n.25

• 20 Gerard Morrissey, op. cit. p. 42

• 21 See reference below to Pope Pius XII's Humani Generis.

• 22 Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis, n. 20.

• 23 Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n. 25

• 24 Canon 752

• 25 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 24/3/93

• 26 Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n. 22

• 27 Pope Pius XII, cf. AAS 40 [1948] , p. 5. Cited by Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 3/8/94

• 28 Pope John Paul II, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, n. 4

• 29 Cf. Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, n. 2

• 30 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, L'Osservatore Romano, 22/11/95

• 31 Bishop William Brennan, Together, June 1994, p. 3

• 32 B. A. Santamaria, Weekend Australian, January 21-22, 1995, p. 26

• 33 Cf. Catholic Weekly, 13/7/94, p. 3

• 34 Ibid.

• 35 Cf. Sydney Morning Herald, 16/6/94.

• 36 Cardinal Ratzinger, Cover Letter to Bishops' Conference Presidents prior to publication of Reply, published in Origins, November 30, 1995.

• 37 Reply of CDF to the 'dubium', L'Osservatore Romano, 22/11/95

• 38 Fr Tony Kelly, Sydney Morning Herald, 15/12/95. In the July 2-3, 1994 edition of the Australian, Fr Kelly wrote a glowing review of the 3rd Edition of Fr Richard McBrien's Catholicism in which he said: "All in all, a big book on a huge, ever-expanding subject; a boon for teacher and student, and a valuable resource for clergy. True believers will find steady illumination, and those not of the fold will find the information they are looking for". In contrast to this, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Doctrine in the United States censured McBrien's book for "certain shortcomings" as "an introductory textbook of Catholic theology". In particular, the U.S Bishops' Committee on Doctrine was concerned about McBrien's treatment of the Virgin Birth of Jesus, the perpetual virginity of Mary and the ordination of women. The committee also expressed concern about McBrien's tendency to place the teaching of the Church on the same level as the opinion of dissenting theologians and for his treatment of moral issues such as homosexuality and contraception. The review of McBrien's book by the Bishops' committee on doctrine was published in the April 18, 1996 edition of Origins.

• 39 Fr Richard Lennan, Sydney Morning Herald, May 18, 1996, p. 11

• 40 Cf. Catholic Weekly, 7/1/96; L'Osservatore Romano, 22/11/95; Cardinal Ratzinger's statement appeared in the Tablet on June 11, 1994

• 41 Fr. G. Gleeson, Catholic Weekly,7/1/96.

• 42 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, L'Osservatore Romano, 29/6/94

• 43 Cf. Dei Verbum, n. 10

• 44 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 29/11/95

• 45 Ibid.

• 46 Ibid.

• 47 Fr Avery Dulles S.J., The Tablet, December 1995, p. 1572

• 48 Presentation of Letter, L'Osservatore Romano, 1/6/94

• 49 Ibid.

• 50 Ibid.

• 51 Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution, Regiminis Ecclesiae Universae, AAS 59 (1967), p. 897

• 52 CDF The Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, n. 18. Cf. Code of Canon Law, cc. 360-361; Pope Paul VI, Apost. Const. Regimini Ecclesiae Universae, August 15, 1967, nn. 29-40, AAS 59 (1967), 879-899; Pope John Paul II, Apost. Const. Pastor Bonus, June 28, 1988, AAS 80 (1988), 873-874.

• 53 Fr. G. Gleeson, Catholic Weekly, 7/1/96.

• 54 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 24/10/88

• 55 Cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n. 25

• 56 Fr Kevin Nichols, Living Light, Summer 1993, p. 7. Fr Nichols is a former National Adviser on Religious Education to the English Bishops and he assisted in the drafting of the Catechism.

• 57 Ibid. p. 12

• 58 Ibid. p. 11

• 59 Archbishop Jan P. Schotte, Secretary General Synod of Bishops, L'Osservatore Romano, March 10, 1993.

• 60 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and Christoph Schonborn, Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1994, p. 25

• 61 Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, n. 3.

• 62 Cardinal Jose T. Sanchez, L'Osservatore Romano, April 14, 1993.

• 63 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and Christoph Schonborn, op. cit. p. 36.

• 64 Bishop David Konstant, Australian, 2/11/95.

• 65 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and Christoph Schonborn, op.cit. pp. 26-27

• 66 CCC. n. 1577

• 67 Cf. John Hardon, S.J. The Catholic Catechism, Macmillan, New York, 1977, p. 233

• 68 Cf. John Ford S.J. and Germain Grisez, in Humanae Vitae: A Defense, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1988, pp. 147-49

• 69 Cf. Morrissey, op. cit p. 52

• 70 Fr. G. Gleeson, Catholic Weekly, 7/1/96.

• 71 Cardinal Newman. On Consulting The Faithful In Matters of Doctrine, Edited by John Coulson, Collins, 1986, p. 63

• 72 Cf. Cardinal Newman, On Consulting The Faithful In Matters of Doctrine, op.cit. p. 75.

• 73 Vatican II, Dei Verbum, n. 10

• 74 Cf. Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Office of Peterand the Structure of the Church, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1986, p. 62.

• 75 Vatican Council I, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, ch. 4.



The Church is very concerned to uphold the dignity of women and to promote their advancement in society. In an address to the World Union of Catholic Women's Organisations on 29 September 1957, Pope Pius XII said: "You can and must make your own, without restriction, the programme of the advancement of women - a programme which upholds with an immense hope the unnumbered throng of your sisters who are still subjected to degrading customs or who are the victims of poverty, of the ignorance of their milieu and of the total lack of means of culture and formation". The Second Vatican Council stated that it was regrettable that "fundamental personal rights are not yet universally honoured. Such is the case of a woman who is denied the right and freedom to choose a husband, to embrace a state of life, or to acquire an education or cultural benefits equal to those recognised for men". [1] During International Women's Year in 1975, Pope Paul VI drew attention to "the immense task of creating awareness and of bringing about the advancement of women at the grassroots level, in civil society and also in the Church". [2] In Familiaris Consortio, Pope John Paul II condemned offences against women's dignity such as discrimination in the fields of education, employment and wages as well as practices which reduce women to the status of instruments of pleasure such as pornography and prostitution. [3] Here Pope John Paul II also drew attention to the many forms "of degrading discrimination" still persisting today "in a great part of our society" which seriously harm particular categories of women such as "childless wives, widows, separated or divorced women, and unmarried mothers". [4]


In the opening section of his Apostolic Letter On the Dignity and Vocation of Women (Mulieris Dignitatem), Pope John Paul II recalled what the Second Vatican Council declared in its Closing Message: "The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of women is being acknowledged in its fullness, the hour in which women acquire in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women imbued with a spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling". [5] The Holy Father also says that the "complementarity and reciprocity" which characterises the relationship between men and women "emerges in every context of coexistence". [6] He adds that the contribution of women's particular "genius" is indispensable in the building of a culture "which is ever more truly human and in conformity with God's plan". [7] In acknowledgment of their role in the creation of such a culture, Pope John Paul II issued a special word of gratitude to women by saying:

Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God's own smile upon the new born child, the one who guides your child's first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life. Thank you, women who are wives! You irrevocably join your future to that of your husbands, in a relationship of mutual giving, at the service of love and life.

Thank you, women who are daughters and women who are sisters! Into the heart of the family, and then of all society, you bring the richness of your sensitivity, your intuitiveness, your generosity and fidelity. Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life - social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of "mystery", to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.

Thank you, consecrated women! Following the example of the greatest of women, the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, you open yourselves with obedience and fidelity to the gift of God's love. You help the Church and all mankind to experience a "spousal" relationship to God, one which magnificently expresses the fellowship which God wishes to establish with his creatures. Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman!. Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world's understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic. [8]

In Mulieris Dignitatem, Pope John Paul II said that "virginity and motherhood" are "two particular dimensions of the fulfilment of the female personality" which find their "full meaning and value in Mary, who as a Virgin became the Mother of the Son of God". [9] Speaking of the Gospel meaning of virginity, the Holy Father said: "Virginity according to the Gospel means renouncing marriage and thus physical motherhood. Nevertheless, the renunciation of this kind of motherhood, a renunciation that can involve great sacrifice for a woman, makes possible a different kind of motherhood: motherhood 'according to the Spirit' (cf. Rm 8:4)...Spiritual motherhood takes on many different forms. In the life of consecrated women, for can express itself as a concern for people, especially the most needy: the sick, the handicapped, the abandoned. orphans, the elderly, children, young people, the imprisoned and, in general, people on the edges of society". [10] In this way said Pope John Paul II, "a consecrated woman finds her Spouse, different and the same in each and every person, according to his very words: 'As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me' (Mt 25: 40)". [11] Spousal love, says the Holy Father, always involves "a special readiness to be poured out for the sake of those who come within ones range of activity". [12] Applying what he said above about spiritual motherhood to physical motherhood, Pope John Paul II says: "One can say that the profile of marriage is found spiritually in virginity...Does not physical motherhood also have to be a spiritual motherhood, in order to respond to the whole truth about the human being who is a unity of body and spirit. Thus there exist many reasons for discerning in these two different paths - the two different vocations of women - a profound complementarity, and even a profound union within a person's being". [13] In Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II pointed out that women had a pivotal role to play in the creation of a new "culture of life". He said:

In transforming culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a 'new feminism' which rejects the temptation of imitating models of 'male domination', in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation. Making my own the words of the concluding message of the Second Vatican Council, I address to women this urgent appeal: 'Reconcile people with life'. You are called to bear witness to the meaning of genuine love, of that gift of self and of the acceptance of others which are present in a special way in the relationship of husband and wife, but which ought also to be at the heart of every other interpersonal relationship. [14]

In a reflection on the way the question of the identity and vocation of woman is treated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Mother Anna Maria Canopi, O.S.B. wrote:

The Catechism first presents the face of the "eternal woman", conceived and desired by God as an image of his loving devotion, together with man, her partner: 'Man and woman are created, that is desired by God: perfectly equal in one way, inasmuch as they are human beings and in the other way, in their respective identities as male and female. 'To be man' or 'to be woman' is a reality that is good and desired by God' (n. 369). From this comes "the insuppressible and identical dignity" that man and woman possess in the eyes of their Creator and which they must recognise in one another. Both "reflect the wisdom and goodness of the Creator", both are loved by God, and are "desired by God for one another" (n. 371), i.e., placed in a relationship of love. In this enrapturing reciprocity woman is particularly characterised by her oblatory nature, as being a gift and source of consolation and joy for the other. She, in fact, "draws from man a cry of admiration, an exclamation of love and communion" because man "discovers woman as another 'I' of the same humanity" (cf. n. 371). Since each is complete in him or herself and open to communion, they help and enrich one another precisely because of their differences (cf. n 372) and in the measure in which each one authentically lives his or her own specific nature. With this clear statement, we see the failure of all the vague reasons for seeking equality of the sexes based on the presumed rights of the woman to "act like a man", that is, to assume typically male roles while renouncing their own; while, on the contrary, "the harmony of the human couple and of society depends in part on the way in which complementarity, mutual need and reciprocal help are lived between the sexes" (nn. 2333; 2433)...

It may not be excessive to state that woman has a certain connaturalness with the Holy Spirit because of her capacity to love, to welcome life and to give it. For this reason, in Mary she is placed at the source of regenerating grace. The Church is "feminine", as is the community of the redeemed incorporated into Christ its Head, mother and nurse of all those whom she generates in the Spirit. The feminine element has its own irreplaceable position in the economy of redemption because it expresses the tenderness of the merciful and patient God who suffers...The exclusion of women from the ordained priesthood, to which the Catechism soberly refers in n.1577, should not be misunderstood as a limitation or, worse, as a discrimination, but rather as acknowledgment of a different way of participating in the work of redemption with respect to the creative and redemptive design of God and the explicit will of Jesus Christ. Beyond every question of a social and cultural nature, it is evident that the role of woman in the Church has always been essentially maternal and charismatic. For this reason, because of the original grace of which she is the bearer, woman can exercise a profound and beneficial spiritual influence on the ministry of the sacred hierarchy. [15]

After saying this, Mother Maria went on to say a few words on the vocation of the consecrated woman and of how in the order of grace she becomes a universal mother:

There are women who, through a special vocation beyond the natural level, offer themselves to God with an undivided heart and anticipate in time the eternal reality of the mystical marriage of Christ and his Church. The Catechism notes...that they are "the transcendent sign of the love of the Church for Christ, the eschatological image of the heavenly Bride and of the life to come" (n. 923). Precisely because of their total dedication to God these women become universal mothers in the order of grace and by their presence they offer the Church and mankind, especially the most materially and spiritually poor and needy, an inexhaustible source of charity, tender compassion and consolation. Like a spring of water, hidden but full of boundless spiritual life, is the presence of consecrated women in the monastic and contemplative life (cf. nn. 2687; 2691). Their radical separation from the world in order to live in God's presence in pure offering and unceasing prayer, makes them closer to all people and renders them, in a certain way, the soul of every other vocation or mission in the Church; this is so because prayer is the 'living source" which nourishes faith and charity and makes their works bear fruit.

In locating the identity and vocation of the Christian woman in the creative wisdom and goodness of God, Phyllis Schlafly rightly contends that the true dignity of women is advanced not by the strident demand of militant feminism for a gender-free society but by the Christian vision of womanhood which rests on a woman's innate capacity for nurturing life and for leading others to love, beauty and happiness. She says:

The Christian woman knows who she is and where she is going. She also knows "where she is coming from" - her roots and her beginnings. Therein lies the foundation of her stability, her strength, and her power. She does not need to "search for her identity" - as do so many women today - because she knows that God gave her an eternal identity, different from everyone else's in the world. A woman is a created, spiritual being. She did not happen by the chance arrangement of molecules. She did not suddenly ooze out of a crack in the ground, or result from an explosive accident. Like man, she was created by an all-powerful and all-knowing God. God expended particular effort to create man and woman in His image and likeness, and to breathe into them the breath of life. They are not equal to God, of course, but they are the climax of His creation. Both man and woman are living spiritual beings, with the capacity to think, to speak, to laugh, to cry, and to respond to God. Just as woman is like man in many essential qualities, she is different from man in other essential, innate, and eternal qualities. Woman was not made identical to man, nor was she designed to be his competitor. Woman and man were made to complement each other. To "complement" means to complete and make perfect. That is what man and woman do for each other - spiritually, psychologically, physically and sexually...All this was not just a pleasant accident. God planned for this type of interdependence to be cemented with a mutual commitment of marriage. The marriage relationship is to supersede the parent- child relationship. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Gen 2:34). The dependent relationship of parent and child is to be replaced by a new, separate, interdependent relationship between husband and wife, so that another family can begin.

The marriage relationship is to be a complete commitment of both mates. To cleave means to be cemented or glued together so tightly that the parts cannot be separated. Marriage is a commitment made with "super glue". It is not a decision to be made on an impulse; nor is it to be a temporary roommate arrangement to be dissolved when things don't go "my way". In marriage, two people become "one flesh," an expression which refers to the intimacy of sex as well as of two people acting as a unit. This does not mean that each of the spouses becomes less a person, or that the wife sacrifices her individuality to take on the husband's identity. Instead, it is a voluntary partnership: the husband does his part and the wife does hers. They are not competing but completing, not clashing but cooperating. They are not crying about what they lost, but rejoicing about what they gained. When the wife takes her husband's name, she does not lose her own identity; she merely proclaims the social and moral integrity of the new family unit. The husband, wife and children are bonded together under the single name that is the outward sign of their common hearth and home. If, along the way, one turns aside to pursue selfish desires that strain the relationship, the primary goal will probably not be reached. Women should rejoice that they have a partner with whom to share life, and to make life worth living. The women's liberation ideology teaches woman to seek their own self- fulfilment over every other goal...But that goal is simply incompatible with a happy marriage and motherhood. A happy marriage requires many social compromises; motherhood requires years of personal sacrifices. Yet, most women find that marriage and motherhood are worth the compromises and sacrifices because the rewards are love and a happy home". [16]


Pope John Paul II has said that "the authentic advancement of women" will be achieved "only if it is anchored in the truth of creation and of divine Revelation". [17] On another occasion the Holy Father said: "Woman's true advancement consists in promoting what is proper and fitting to her as woman, i.e. as a creature different from man and called herself, no less than man, to be a model of human personhood. This 'emancipation' corresponds to the indications and instructions of Jesus, who wished to give woman a mission of her own in conformity with her natural difference from man. Carrying out this mission opens the way to the developing of woman's personality, which can offer humanity, and the Church in particular, a service conforming to her own qualities". [18] The equality and fundamental human rights of all human beings was expressly confirmed by the Second Vatican Council when it said: "Forms of social or cultural discrimination in basic personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, colour, social conditions, language or religion, must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God's design". [19] However, access to the ordained priesthood cannot be numbered among the fundamental rights in which a differentiation of the sexes is "incompatible with God's design". In addressing a group of U.S Bishops on their duty to promote the participation of all members of the Church in its life and mission, Pope John Paul II said: "This zeal will be manifested in supporting the dignity of women and every legitimate freedom that is consonant with their human nature and their womanhood. The bishop is called upon to oppose any and all discrimination of women by reason of sex. In this regard he must likewise endeavour to explain as cogently as he can that the Church's teaching on the exclusion of women from priestly ordination is extraneous to the issue of discrimination and that it is linked rather to Christ's own design for His priesthood". [20] Having thus reaffirmed this point of doctrine regarding Christ's design for the ordained priesthood, the Pope went on to exhort the Bishops to courageously and unequivocally defend the teaching. He said:

The bishop must give proof of his pastoral ability and leadership by withdrawing all support from individuals or groups who in the name of progress, justice, or compassion, or for any other alleged reason, promote the ordination of women to the priesthood. In so doing, such individuals and groups are in effect damaging the very dignity of women that they profess to promote and advance. All efforts made against the truth are destined to produce not only failure, but also acute personal frustration. Whatever the Bishop can do to prevent this failure and frustration by explaining the truth is an act not only of pastoral charity, but of prophetic leadership. [21]

Those who campaign for the ordination of women often confuse the equality of men and women with that of pure identity. Due to this, they lose sight of that true and fruitful complementarity that exists between man and woman. In 1977, Fr Louis Bouyer pointed out that a failure to safeguard this necessary complementarity leads not to the advancement of woman but rather to the annihilation of her originality and true identity. He said: "The present demand for the ordination of women, in fact, with a view to ensuring the equality of woman and man, supposes that this equality can be obtained only by as radical an elimination as possible of the differences between man and woman...In this case we find ourselves, actually, in the presence of a form of feminism which, however well meant, cannot but be ruinous for a real liberation of woman. For an equality that is confused with sheer identity with another, when he is certainly your equal but without being completely identical for that reason, can only be a delusion. It cannot but lead in the end, for the one who claims it, to loss of identity". [22] Fr Bouyer added that such an "over-simplified feminism" only succeeds in making a woman "mannish" which in effect means "the definitive consecration of the most uncomprehending masculinity, of the most absurd masculinism". [23] Fr Bouyer concluded that it was not by mere chance "that the very age in which it is claimed to make woman the equal of man by giving her the priesthood, is an age in which we see her, more than ever before, perhaps, reduced to a mere object of pleasure for man, for the idle male. In both cases, in fact, it is agreed to deny woman all that is specifically hers; recognising her as having only a borrowed value, either in complete dependency on the male, or in complete confusion with him". [24] After stressing the need to ensure that "Collaborative Ministry" remains "faithful to sacramental doctrine", Pope John Paul II in an address to a group of Bishops from the United States went on to challenge them to combat radical and perverse feminist religion. He said:

In some circles there continues to exist a climate of dissatisfaction with the Church's position, especially where the distinction between a person's human and civil rights and the rights, duties, ministries and functions which individuals have or enjoy within the Church is not clearly understood. A faulty ecclesiology can easily lead to presenting false demands and raising false hopes. What is certain is that the question cannot be resolved through a compromise with a feminism which polarises along bitter, ideological lines. It is not simply that some people claim a right for women to be admitted to the ordained priesthood. In its extreme form, it is the Christian faith itself which is in danger of being undermined. Sometimes forms of nature worship and the celebration of myths and symbols take the place of the worship of the God revealed in Jesus Christ. Unfortunately this kind of feminism is being encouraged by some people in the Church, including some religious, whose beliefs, attitudes and behaviour no longer correspond to what the Gospel and the Church teach. [25]

Feminism and feminist theology are far from unified movements. Regarding the various expressions of feminism, Bishop George Pell, in a monograph entitled Why Can't Catholic Women be Priests? which he co-authored with Anna Krohn and Mary Helen Woods, said:

Feminists are behind the call for women priests. But there are several different kinds of feminists. Some Catholic feminists simply wish to uphold the equal dignity and importance of women, and believe that a more positive understanding of women's ministries should be made. They do not disagree with the Catholic teaching on the priesthood. Other Christian feminists are reformers, who believe they are campaigning for a 'fair go for women' in the Church by altering the language of the liturgy and the nature of the priesthood. They do not realise that these proposed changes go far beyond the social changes of equal opportunity and call into question the foundational beliefs of Christianity. Yet another group of feminists within the Church uses the assumptions of revolutionary secular humanism to measure the claims of Christianity, believing that males have conspired over hundreds of years to use institutions, such as family and Church, as a means of silencing and oppressing women. Their intention is not just to install women at the altar, but to replace beliefs about the Trinity, the Word of God becoming man, Church teaching on human life and sexual morality with a new 'Woman-Church'. Finally, there are feminists who are either ex- Christians or non-Christians who are very vocal in their support of women's ordination. Many of these feminists are opposed to Christianity, and they want to bring it down and replace it with a woman-centred paganism.

In this monograph, Bishop Pell stated that "the Church does not have power to ordain women as priests because Jesus and the Apostles did not authorise this". In stating this, Bishop Pell was simply asserting the doctrine of the Church as is his duty. However, the Parramatta Catholic Education Office did not see it like this. In the August 1993 edition of its official publication Catholic Schools Update, which is circulated to all schools and parishes in the Parramatta Diocese, there appeared an unsigned article headed Women and the Priesthood? which said: "In recent times there has been much public discussion concerning the document Why Can't Catholic Women be Priests? published by the Thomas More Centre in Melbourne. The document was written by Bishop George Pell, Anna Krohn and Mary Helen Woods and presents a series of questions and answers on the issue of Catholic women and ordination. It is important to appreciate that the views expressed in the publication are personal ones of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of all Catholic Bishops and theologians in Australia". This matter aside, it was revealing to note the expressions of hope that the recent appointment of Bishop Pell as Archbishop of Melbourne elicited from Catholics across Australia. Apart from the campaign for the ordination of women, the attack by religious feminism on Catholicism also involves radical proposals for the reformulation of the lectionary and liturgical prayers in gender-inclusive language. If this campaign were successful, it would deprive the Church of necessary linguistic resources and conflict with its duty to hand on what it has received. [26] The religious feminists argue that the Sacred Scriptures should be rewritten in order to lend support to their ideology. In this rewriting, masculine words would no longer be used in reference to God; instead of the use of pronouns, the word God is repeated over and over again, e.g. "God sent God's Son to Redeem God's people". Rather than address the First Person of the Holy Trinity as "Our Father" as Jesus taught us, we should instead according to the feminists address Him as "Our Father and Mother". Sexual images applied to God can relate to his imminence or his transcendence. For pantheists, God does not transcend his creation but rather is fully contained in it. A study of comparative religion reveals that religions with female or doubly-sexed divinities are generally pantheistic. The revelation of God as "Father" is integral to the Judeao-Christian understanding of God as transcendent primarily and imminent only secondarily. While God is sometimes compared to a mother in the Bible, he is never addressed as such. He is revealed as a transcendent God who is addressed as "Father" except when he is referred to as Lord, King, Bridegroom etc. Speaking of the revelation of God as "Father", the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: "By calling God 'Father', the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children...He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard: no one is father as God is Father". [27] The most authoritative source for addressing God as "Father" is of course Jesus Himself who is "the only Son of the Father" ( Jn 1:14). In revealing the Holy Trinity, Jesus revealed that God "is Father not only in being Creator", but also that "he is eternally Father by his relationship to his only Son who, reciprocally, is Son only in relation to his Father". [28] When Jesus prays aloud he begins with the word "Father" (cf. Jn 11: 41; 17:1). While making this distinction between the Father and himself, he reveals however that they also share the same nature: "I and the Father are one" (Jn 10:30). Jesus also reveals that God is Father to him in a different way than he is Father to the rest of us: "I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (Jn 20:17). Religious feminists would have us reject the revelation of the Holy Trinity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit on the grounds that this is expressive of patriarchal perceptions. Instead, the feminists want to name the persons of the Holy Trinity as Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. Religious feminists have proposed a change to that part of the Creed where in relation to the Incarnation it says "He Became Man" to the ambiguous "and became truly human". Perhaps the radical and corrupt nature of the religious feminist agenda was best described by C.S. Lewis when he said:

Suppose the reformer stops saying that a good woman may be like God and begins saying that God is like a good woman. Suppose he says that we might just as well pray to 'Our Mother which art in Heaven' as to 'Our Father'. Suppose he suggests that the Incarnation might just as well have taken a female as a male form, and the Second Person of the Trinity be as well called the Daughter as the Son...Now it is surely the case that if all these supposals were ever carried into effect we should be embarked on a different religion. Goddesses have, of course, been worshipped: many religions have had priestesses. But they are religions quite different in character from Christianity. [29]

Dr William Oddie, in describing the motivating principle of radical feminism says: "The radical feminist fights the battle of the sexes in deadly earnest. She profoundly believes that she lives in a culture which for millennia has been expressly fashioned by her degradation. The aim, no matter how ill-defined, is a revolution and nothing less, a revolution involving more than a mere assertion of women's rights". [30] Fr Manfred Hauke says that feminist theology must basically be understood "as calling into question the male cast of both the image of God and the office of priest". [31] Cornelia R. Ferreira sees secular feminism and spiritual feminism as closely related. She writes:

Spiritual feminism first sprouted in academic circles, amongst Catholic and non-Catholic women studying theology, mostly in non- Catholic colleges and seminaries. These women influenced nuns, turning them into feminist nuns or ex-nuns. Then, through teaching in Catholic seminaries and schools of theology, they converted priests. Once they obtained bishops as supporters, they were able to infiltrate nearly every area of Church administration and teaching. Converting the grassroots, however, proved to be trickier, and in order to speed up the process, methods of consciousness-raising had to be devised. Basically, just as secular feminism rejected Judeo-Christian values, so too did religious feminism, by rejecting the revealed God and his Church. Using their humanist concept of justice "to give birth to a new vision of Church and community," Christian feminists have been trying to create a new God, Church and society in their image and likeness. Here lies the root of Christian feminist illogic: the problem is a lack of faith. Without faith, the Church is perceived only as a human construction which needs continual reformation to accommodate changing ideas. Faith, on the other hand, knows the Church is more than a human institution - she also exists on a supernatural plane as the Mystical Body of Christ and is more than the sum of her members...This false theology (feminist theology) underlies feminist spirituality, which is a "spirituality" of liberation from the authority of the Church. This spirituality is concerned only with the human spirit and this world and not with the soul or the world beyond death. Women of Power magazine, whose staff includes spiritual feminists Ruether and Carol Christ and witches Starhawk and Budapest, in its Statement of Philosophy, defines a woman's spirituality as "a world-wide awakening of woman-power whose vision is the transformation of ourselves and our societies". This transformation includes "the activation of spiritual and psychic powers; of honouring women's divinity; reverence for the earth, and the celebration of her seasons and cycles". [32]

In her book Ungodly Rage: The Hiden Face of Catholic Feminism, Donna Steichen did a marvellous job in unmasking the radical nature of religious feminism. In her review of Ungodly Rage, Ronda Chervin, who served as a consultant to the U.S Bishops for the production of their Pastoral on Women's Concerns said: "Steichen's zealous research has produced this incisive critique indispensable for all Catholics confronted or puzzled by this destructive movement". [33] Steichen reveals that the theoretical and psychological roots of religious feminism lie in a loss of faith which expresses itself in new religious rituals based on goddess religion together with the espousal of a subjectivist morality and vengeful revolt against all spiritual authority. She says:

Viewing existence through the distorting lens of self-pity, they are enraged with the limitations of incarnational reality. Probably because few of them are tied to the concrete necessities of family life, they exceed secular feminists in ideological zeal and perseverance and exceed Prometheus in presumption. Their ultimate rebellion, against God the Father and his Son, the male Saviour Jesus Christ, has been disguised for public consumption as a campaign for "inclusive" liturgical language...But in private, and in their own publications, feminist theologians reveal, behind that mask, naked denial of the objectively existent, transcendent Father God. They hope to replace him with a gnostic deity, androgynous, immanent and worshipped in themselves. Chesterton's prediction "that Jones shall worship the god within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones", is as true of Catholic feminists as of other gnostics. "Feminist theology" is not the study of what can be known about the true God but justification for the invention of a symbolic deity better suited to their ideological purposes. Its formula is drawn from comparative religion: first the god, then the dance and finally the story; that is, first the subjective emotional experience - interpreted in collective encounters - then the ritual and finally the new religion. Feminist ritual is not intended as worship but as psychological manipulation and political theatre. The drive for feminist "liberty" very slightly conceals an intent to impose universal submission to its own rigid orthodoxy. As Brigitte Berger has observed, feminism has become a new imperialism". [34]

Dr Joyce Little, who teaches at St Thomas' University in Houston, has pointed out that for all practical intents and purposes, it is impossible to speak in a Catholic way about the advancement of women within the context of the feminist debate inasmuch as the feminist notion of advancement is based on inadequate notions of faith, freedom and authority. She says:

From the feminist point of view, faith arises out of and is defined by the experience of women, freedom is linked to liberation from the realities and responsibilities of marriage and childbearing (as in 'reproductive freedom'), and authority is viewed solely as power. Hence feminists seek 'empowerment', and see women's ordination as the means for getting a place in the power structure of the Catholic Church...The true advancement of women rests upon a true understanding of the faith of the Church. The cause of women is not well served either by the feminist repudiation of traditional Catholic faith or by inadequate theologies of the Catholic faith which fail to take into account the enormous significance of the Marian/ecclesial character of the new covenant. To repudiate or to misunderstand the faith of the Church is to repudiate or to misunderstand the female role of Mary and the Church in relationship to the male role of Jesus Christ within that covenant. [35]


The ministerial priesthood and the authority associated with it, should be seen as an invitation to a deeper reflection on the meaning of service and authority in the Church and not as a denigration of women. Referring to this, Dr Joyce Little writes:

Women in particular are called to bear Christ, first, into their families, bringing up children who are the sons and daughters of God, and second, into the larger world, by living out and bearing witness to the order of love, in which the sacred values of human life and personhood from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death are placed ahead of secular values of power, fame and fortune. As regards these secular values, it should be noted, finally, that nothing is more misinformed than the feminist notion that the priesthood will give women access to power in the Church. The Magisterium exercises not power but authority, and there is a world of difference between the two. Power is the exercise of the human will over reality, to change or affect it in some way. Authority is the ability to discern a reality and to define the doctrines of the faith. The Magisterium has no power to change the reality of revelation. The Magisterium has only the authority to discern the mind of Christ and the truth as Christ embodies and reveals it. The notion that the Pope and/or the Bishops could allow divorce and remarriage, contraception, the ordination of women and a host of other things desired today rests upon the assumption that they exercise power, not authority. But they have no power to change what Christ has revealed. They have only the authority to discern that revelation. The Pope and the Bishops are as bound to the faith of the Church as is every other member of the Church. [36]

Speaking of how deep is the anger and vehemence with which some feminists are opposed to the priesthood and to the moral doctrine of the Church, Helen Hull Hitchcock says:

So long as the Church stands, the Church's moral law 'oppresses' them - makes them feel powerless. It should be no surprise that the priesthood is the focus of utter abhorrence for the feminist/liberationist. First of all because it claims authority - in fact, Divine authority, supernatural authority which transcends human experience and comes, not 'from within', but from outside the self. Second (and at least equally), because the priesthood is utterly and unchangeably male. For feminists of both sexes, resentment against, if not hatred of, the male sex is the filter through which all existing institutions - especially religion, and certainly including the language of worship - must be strained. For many feminists the determination to exact justice for their oppression by 'patriarchal religion' dominates virtually every other concern. Deep and ineradicable resentment underlies the feminist attack on the authority of the priesthood as well as the demand that the exclusively male priesthood be abolished...Meanwhile, the feminists' thirst for power, combined with deep resentment of the Church (which, for them, looms as the most insuperable obstacle to their achievement of 'freedom' and exercise of power), gives rise to their overwhelming desire - and apparently equally overwhelming energy - to destroy her at her very foundation: the Word of God - the Scripture, and rites and prayers based on acknowledging that Divine authority. [37]


Philosophically, feminism has borrowed from Marxism and Liberalism. From Marxism it takes the notion of the need to overthrow all alienating power structures in order to create the "new man". The struggle in this regard must be extended to the family and the relations between men and women. According to Engels, private households based on marriage must, as far as possible, be broken up and children raised by the state. [38] In this perspective, feminism views the family based on marriage as a vehicle for the domestic enslavement of women, who in order to be liberated, must extricate themselves from the nurturing of children and become employed instead in what is deemed to be more socially productive forms of labour. Marxist inspired feminism posits that differences in behaviour between the sexes are determined by social conditions and role expectations rather than by nature. From liberalism, feminism borrows the notion that in planning their lives and in striving for personal autonomy, women must have the widest possible range of choices, e.g. the so-called "right to choose" in relation to abortion. In stating that "woman is called to motherhood", Jutta Burggraf adds:

Some radical feminists see motherhood as a 'shackle of nature', from which the emancipated woman should free herself. Many women are unaware of how greatly they are influenced by this perspective, how much their own scale of values depends on it in regard to 'self-fulfilment', the number of children, and salaried employment. Nevertheless, an ever increasing number of Christians are managing to escape this cultural terrorism. To the extent that they enjoy an ever deepening experience of faith, they understand that rebellion against their own nature means rebelling against the Creator - and that one can have a balanced personality only by living at peace with oneself and one's body. The 'self-liberation' of woman cannot be reduced to a banal leveling according to the male model". [39]

After stating that "feminism is one of the worst threats to the Church today", Dr Alice von Hildebrand went on to say: "The roots of feminism are pride, resentment, rebellion, arrogance, impurity and atheism - a rejection of God because he has, so to speak, placed women in what feminists consider to be a place of inferiority. It is a revolt against a woman's situation that she is receptive, that a woman becomes pregnant, that she gives birth in pain and anguish and therefore that she seems definitely inferior to man from the human point of view". After saying this, Dr von Hildebrand added: "Feminists totally betray femininity and totally misunderstand the mission of a woman. They reject the Holy Virgin as model of all women. Feminists have a desire to be like men and compete with men...Meditate on the fact that the Holy Virgin was not chosen to be an Apostle, was not chosen to be a priest, and nevertheless was infinitely holier than any of the Apostles". [40] In dismissing all distinctions between man and woman as simply the product of reinforced role expectations, radical feminism thereby divests the difference between men and women of all metaphysical symbolism. This depraved vision of the human person inevitably leads to the assertion of a moral equivalence for all forms of sexual behaviour, to the rejection of marriage, and to problems with the sacramental system of the Catholic Church. [41] Touching on some of these points, Jutta Burggraf said:

Contemporary feminism does not concern itself with the legal and social equality of women but rather with the total equalization of the sexes, or even the elevation of women above men. Sexuality, motherhood, marriage, and family are definitively rejected. Free abortion is advocated, and after the education of children is transferred to men and society, the substitution of pregnancy by test-tube breeding is envisaged. The long-term objective is the radical change of human beings as they exist in traditionally structured society, the achievement of a "new" (androgynous) man in a "new world"...Feminism may even be considered the climax of contemporary anti-Christian revolutions: the French Revolution of 1789, for instance, had abandoned the Three Estates, the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, private production. Now, however, an immediate work of God is abolished, namely, the polar sexuality of man, the psychological and biological nature of man and woman. [42]

As is clear from what has been said above, radical feminism postulates that attachment to an objective norm derived from creation which anchors the vocation of woman in a complentary relationship to that of man is inherently oppressive. Speaking of this, Barbara Albrecht said:

It is part of feminism's "secret dogma" that anything objectively given or pre-assigned, not determined by the individual, is a priori an obstacle to self-fulfillment and must therefore be rejected. I wish to determine all the conditions of my life myself!...This "dogma" results in the belief that change alone (down to an ontological revolution and the creation of a counterculture) is a worthwhile goal. Stability, on the other hand, measuring against an objective norm which is contained in the creative order, submitting to the fundamental givens of life, is in itself regarded as alienation. The rage against Rome and all it entails is so violent because the radical feminists feel instinctively that the Catholic Church is the strongest bastion, the last institution which fervently defends marriage, family, and a concept of man and woman which corresponds to the order of creation. [43]

While the influence of secular feminism now appears to be waning as it disintegrates into a multiplicity of warring factions, the same cannot however be said about religious feminism. Speaking of this, Donna Steichen said:

When feminism is defined as a movement to establish the equality of women it sounds plausible. But its fruits betray its real nature. Even at its least destructive, it is a tactical falsehood, like the Emperor's new clothes. It attempts to establish equality between the sexes, which already exists in fact, by forcing everyone to pretend the sexes are identical. In the family, it would substitute performance contracts and pre-nuptial divorce agreements for the loving donation of all one's self and goods to a permanent common life. In commerce, it is a divisive form of reverse discrimination. In academia, as academics know, it is a cut-throat politics, unconcerned with fact or scholarly objectivity. In its ultimate manifestation, in religious feminism, it is an anarchic madness. Most of secular society has moved past it to different enthusiasms, not necessarily wholesome. Even Gloria Steinem is talking more about the New Age "journey within" than about feminism these days. But in the Church, feminism is still at fever peak. Catholic feminists are like Gadarene swine, plunging off a cliff into the sea. Eventually, like all religious revolutionaries, they will dash themselves to destruction against the rock of the Church. Even Elaine Pagels, fond though she had grown of gnosticism, admitted in the Gnostic Gospels that ancient gnosticism died and Catholicism lived because the Church's sacraments and moral teachings, affirming the goodness of the natural order, of marriage, procreation, childbirth and practical charity, are exactly what men need to make ordinary life sacred. In the end, in his own time, God will restore his Church, writing straight with man's crooked lines. [44]



• 1 Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, n. 29.

• 2 Pope Paul VI, L'Osservatore Romano, 1/5/75.

• 3 Cf. Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, n. 24.

• 4 Ibid.

• 5 Pope John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem, n. 1. Quoting Vatican II's Message To Women (8 December 1965).

• 6 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 12/7/95

• 7 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 9/9/95

• 8 Pope John Paul II, Letter To Women, L'Osservatore Romano, 12/7/95

• 9 Pope John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem, n. 17.

• 10 Ibid. n. 21.

• 11 Ibid.

• 12 Ibid.

• 13 Ibid.

• 14 Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, n. 99.

• 15 Mother Anna Maria Canopi, O.S.B. L'Osservatore Romano, 21/7/93

• 16 Phyllis Schlafly. The Power of the Christian Woman, Standard Publishing, Cincinnati, 1981, pp. 9-12

• 17 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 17/11/93

• 18 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 3/8/94

• 19 Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, n. 29.

• 20 Pope John Paul II, Address to 23 Bishops from the United States at Castlegandolfo, September 5, 1983.

• 21 Ibid.

• 22 Fr Louis Bouyer, L'Osservatore Romano, 20/1/77.

• 23 Ibid.

• 24 Ibid.

• 25 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 7/7/93

• 26 Cf. Mons. Robert Sokolowski. Some Remarks On Inclusive Language, L'Osservatore Romano, 3/3/93.

• 27 CCC. n. 239.

• 28 CCC. n. 240.

• 29 C.S. Lewis. 'Priestesses in the Church?', from God in the Dock (London 1979), p. 90. Cited by William Oddie in What Will Happen To God? Feminism and the Reconstruction of Christian Belief, p.2, see reference below.

• 30 Dr William Oddie, What Will Happen To God? Feminism And The Reconstruction Of Christian Belief. Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1988, p. 11

• 31 Fr Manfred Hauke. Op. cit. p.72

• 32 Cornelia R. Ferreira. The Emerging Feminist Religion, Life Ethics Centre, Toronto, 1989, pp. 3-7.

• 33 Ronda Chervin, reviews on back cover of Ungodly Rage.

• 34 Donna Steichen, Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism, Ignatius Press, 1991, pp. 23-24.

• 35 Dr Joyce Little, L'Osservatore Romano, 14/4/93

• 36 Ibid.

• 37 Helen Hull Hitchcock. The Politics Of Prayer: Feminist Language And The Worship Of God, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1992, pp. xxiv-xxv

• 38 Engels, Ursprung, p. 62, see Fr Manfred Hauke, op. cit. p. 31.

• 39 Jutta Burggraf, L'Osservatore Romano, 7/4/93.

• 40 Dr Alice von Hildebrand. These observations were made during the Young Adult Symposium at Domus Pacis in Fatima, Portugal, on August 25, 1990.

• 41 Cf. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, L'Osservatore Romano, 24/7/89

• 42 Jutta Burggraf, in The Church and Women, op. cit. pp. 238-39.

• 43 Barbara Albrecht, in The Church and Women, op. cit. p. 39.

• 44 Donna Steichen, Ungodly Rage, op. cit. pp. 398-99



At present the Australian media seems to be engaged in a concerted drive for the acceptability by the Catholic Church of a non- celibate and married clergy. In a permissive society like our own, which has come to increasingly assert that sexual gratification of whatever kind is normal and necessary for the maturation of personality, celibacy tends to be regarded as something of an enigma. Consequently, the debate over the celibate priesthood, as it is conducted in the public arena, rarely gets beyond psychological and sociological categories to the way in which celibacy is rooted in the mystery of Christ and his Church. In 1985, Ignatius Press published an excellent book by Cardinal Alfons Maria Stickler entitled The Case For Clerical Celibacy. The book deals with the historical development and theological foundations of the Church's law on celibacy. Speaking of the futility of trying to understand in secular terms the rationale for the Church's law of celibacy, Cardinal Stickler said: "The priesthood of the Catholic Church is a mystery which is, in its turn, immersed in the mystery of the Church of Christ. Every problem concerning this priesthood - and especially the great and ever-present problem of celibacy - can and must not be resolved on the basis of considerations and reasons which are purely anthropological, psychological or sociological, or in terms which are in general profane and of this world. The problem of celibacy cannot be resolved within purely secular categories. Every aspect of the life and activity of the priest, his nature and his identity, is founded first of all on a theological justification". [1]


I am convinced that those who in the Latin Church are campaigning for a lifting of the celibacy rule in the hope that it will alleviate the priest shortage are in fact only serving to deflect attention away from the real causes of the vocations drought in this country. Advocates for the lifting of the celibacy rule assert that if celibacy were made optional then more candidates would present themselves for the Sacrament of Holy Orders. They also claim that if the celibacy rule were lifted, then many of those who left the priesthood in order to marry would return to the active ministry. In his great encyclical on priestly celibacy entitled Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, Pope Paul VI before developing the reasons why the celibacy rule is a good for the Universal Church first enumerated some common objections to it such as:

• Jesus did not make it a prerequisite in his choice of the Twelve, nor did the Apostles in choosing those who would preside over the first Christian communities; [2]

• The traditional arguments in favour of celibacy are no longer in harmony with the different social and cultural milieux in which the Church today, through her priests, is called upon to work; [3]

• It is unjust to exclude from the priesthood those who, it is claimed, have been called to the ministry without having been called to lead a celibate life; [4]

• Maintaining priestly celibacy in the Church does great harm in regions where there is a shortage of priests - even jeopardising the initial proclamation of the Gospel; [5]

• A married priesthood would remove occasions of infidelity and reduce the potential for scandals in the Church. Also, the Church would benefit from the witness to Christian living of a married clergy; [6]

• Some priests by reason of their celibacy find themselves in a situation that is physically and psychologically detrimental to the development of a mature and well-balanced human personality; [7]

• Young men are not mature enough to make the type of decision that a vow of celibacy involves. [8]

After stating that he was well aware that there were other objections that can be made against priestly celibacy, Pope Paul VI went on to say:

The sum of these objections would appear to drown out the solemn and age old voice of the Pastors of the Church and of the masters of the spiritual life and to nullify the living testimony of the countless ranks of saints and faithful ministers of God, for whom celibacy has been the object of the total and generous gift of themselves to the mystery of Christ, as well as its outward sign . . .we cannot close our eyes to this magnificent, wonderful reality: that there are still today in God's holy Church, in every part of the world where she exercises her beneficent influence, great numbers of her ministers - subdeacons, deacons, priests and bishops - who are living their life of voluntary celibacy in the most exemplary way . . .they live in chastity, not out of disdain for the gift of life, but because of a greater love for that new life which springs from the paschal mystery. They live this life of courageous self-denial and spiritual joyfulness with exemplary fidelity and also with relative facility. [9]


Pope Paul VI began the encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus by saying: "Priestly celibacy has been guarded by the Church for centuries as a brilliant jewel, and retains its value undiminished even in our time when mentality and structures have undergone such profound change". [10] The ministerial priest is called to have the same "mind which was in Christ Jesus" (Phil 2:5). In choosing the celibate life, Jesus Christ - "who remains a priest for ever" (Heb 7:3) - left us an example of the perfection of charity which culminated in His complete self-emptying on the Cross. [11] Jean Galot, in speaking of how priestly celibacy is rooted in the example of Christ says: "The link between priesthood and celibacy was established first in Christ himself. The indisputable fact of Christ's celibacy shows that, in its most perfect realisation, the priesthood entails the renunciation of marriage. This is the first ray of light coming to us from the Gospel: the supreme model of the priesthood is the celibate model". [12] Wholly in accord with the mission he had received from His Father, Christ "remained throughout his whole life in the state of celibacy, which signified his total dedication to the service of God and men. This deep connection between celibacy and the priesthood of Christ is reflected in those whose fortune it is to share in the dignity and in the mission of the Mediator and eternal Priest; this sharing will be more perfect the freer the sacred minister is from the bonds of flesh and blood". [13]

Referring to the Gospel accounts of the call of the first priests, Pope Paul VI said: "Jesus, who selected the first ministers of salvation, wished them to be introduced to the understanding of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (Mt 13:11; Mk 4:11; Lk 8:10), to be co-workers with God under a very special title, and His ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20). He called them friends and brethren (Jn 15:15; 20:17), for whom he consecrated himself so that they might be consecrated in truth (Jn 17:19), he promised a more than abundant recompense to anyone who should leave home, family, wife and children for the sake of the kingdom of God (Lk 18:29-30). More than this, in words filled with mystery and hope, he also commended an even more perfect consecration to the kingdom of heaven by means of celibacy, as a special gift ( Mt 19:11-12)". [14] The Apostles, including St Peter who was married, lived celibate lives from the time they became disciples of Jesus. The way of life Jesus instituted for those he called to the priestly ministry was not only an invitation to them to assimilate his teaching and pass it on to others, it was also an invitation to unite themselves to Him by making a total gift of themselves. Jesus called on them to renounce everything to follow him. He enumerated these renunciations as: "house, brothers, sisters, father, children, land" (Mt 10:29). To this list St Luke adds "wife" (Lk 18:29; 14:26), a text supported by Jesus' praise of voluntary celibacy (Mt 19:12). Referring to these renunciations, Jean Galot says:

Three basic renunciations are discernible: marriage and family, possessions, and secular occupation. These renunciations impinge upon the essential dimensions of man's life: man's relational being which, through marriage and family, inserts itself into a network of social relationships and contributes to the natural growth of society; man's having which implies the possession of goods by which man extends his control over the world and insures his own material future; man's doing by which men make a living and contribute a share of their own to the well-being of society. By this call, then, Christ claims possession of the person, all personal dimensions included. [15]

In an article entitled The Logic of Priestly Celibacy, Fr Anthony Zimmerman, S.V.D. made some interesting observations on the celibate lifestyle of the Apostles when he said:

"Come, follow me," Jesus said very simply to Peter and Andrew as they were casting their nets. "I will make you fishers of men" (Mt 4:19). They did exactly that: leaving their nets they followed him. That would be quite unusual if they intended to support a family. Going on from there, Christ saw James and John, also fishermen. Jesus called them too, and "immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him" (Mt 4:22). We see a pattern developing, of disciples who quit work which is necessary to support a family . . .Christ eventually filled out the band to twelve whom he then called apostles (Lk 6:12-16). This initial band, according to Matthew, then travelled throughout Galilee preaching the good news of the kingdom. Their home, henceforth, was the road. Their income was alms . . .We see that the lifestyle Jesus led with the apostles practically prevented them from leading a normal family life. Family life was not compatible with their itinerant apostolic lifestyle as described in the Gospel . . .A rich young man was told: "Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Lk 18;22). That is not the kind of advice one gives to a man preparing for marriage, or to a husband and father who intends to care for a family. At that point Peter spoke up, reminding Christ that they had actually made the renunciations which the rich young man had failed to make. Peter said to Jesus: "We have left all we had to follow you". Christ then gave explicit approval to what Peter and the apostles had apparently done: "I tell you the truth: no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and in the age to come eternal life" (Lk 18:29-30). [16]

The Church's law on celibacy is not prompted by a concern for 'ritual purity' nor by the belief that only through celibacy is holiness possible as some advocates of optional celibacy have claimed. Celibacy is a positive reality in that it calls the ordained priest to unconditionally lay down his life for the salvation of others. Like the Sacrament of Holy Orders itself, celibacy "is a consecration to God on behalf of the people whom priests are sent to serve". [17] In the Gospel, Jesus says that "unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies; it bears much fruit" (Jn 12:24). Applying these words of the Gospel to St Paul and to the vocation of the celibate priest, Pope Paul VI said: "The Apostle Paul did not hesitate to expose himself to a daily death, in order to obtain amongst his faithful glory in Christ Jesus (1 Cor 15:31). In a similar way, by a daily dying to himself, and by giving up the legitimate love of a family of his own for the love of Christ and his kingdom, the priest will find the glory of an exceedingly rich and fruitful life in Christ, because like him and in him, he loves and dedicates himself to all the children of God". [18] Speaking of this sacrificial aspect of the commitment to celibacy, Cardinal James Hickey said:

Celibacy is an apt, indeed, a beautiful expression of the Lord's sacrificial love, which the priest bears in the depth of his being. It helps the priest reveal the love he proclaims to his people. Just as celibacy is undertaken in freedom, so too Jesus laid down his life freely. Just as celibacy means a deep giving of self, so too Jesus gives us everything for the sake of our Redemption. If being a priest means being but an instrument of the Great High Priest, then surely the celibate state of life illuminates rather than obscures the meaning of that life, which, like the Lord's, is "for others". [19]

In reference to the authentic meaning of clerical celibacy, John McAreavey says: "Celibacy does not reflect a sterile misogynism, a rejection of marriage or a denial of the goodness of human sexuality; neither is it the price placed by an unfeeling Church on entry to the priesthood. It is a charism by means of which those who are called to consecrate themselves to Christ in the service of his people can do so 'with an undivided heart'. It is a radical, loving gift of themselves made in imitation of Christ himself. It is a response made in love through the grace of the Holy Spirit to the love that the Father has shown us in Christ. Moreover it is a gift which needs to be sustained by a life of prayer and fraternal encouragement". [20] Speaking of this sacrificial love by which the celibate priest reflects the love of Christ for the Church, Archbishop Desmond Connell said:

Celibacy then is a special perfection of priestly love by which the priest surrenders himself entirely to Christ and becomes able thereby to reflect in his own life the love of Christ for the Church. The Church knows how her Head and Shepherd gave himself for her sake and that is why she looks to the priest as his representative to manifest before the world that total gift of love. And so, in the priest's fidelity the Church possesses a powerful sign of the love with which she is loved by Christ . . .Celibacy is not a cruel imposition but a life of love in the likeness of the love by which the world was redeemed. It is a sign that love overcomes the world, a pledge of the hope in the power of Christ's resurrection to raise our weak and mortal bodies to the new and everlasting life of heaven. The world does not want our priests to be celibate because it does not have faith. And so it does not understand the depth of the mystery of love in Christ, a gift that gives new meaning to the total gift of self and makes it a source of imperishable life for the world. [21]

Neither is the celibacy rule for priests a rejection of the dignity and nobility of marriage as some commentators have claimed. Matrimony and celibacy are two states of life which shed light on each other insofar as both of them involve a living out of the virtue of chastity. Referring to celibacy chosen for the sake of the Kingdom of God, Pope John Paul II said: "In virginity and celibacy, chastity retains its original meaning, that is, of human sexuality lived as a genuine sign of and precious service to the love of communion and gift of self to others. This meaning is fully found in virginity which makes evident, even in the renunciation of marriage, the 'nuptial meaning' of the body through a communion and a personal gift to Jesus Christ and his Church". [22] Going beyond a purely legalistic understanding of the celibacy rule and seeing in the celibate priest one who is configured to Christ the Head and Spouse of the Church, Pope John Paul II said: "

Inasmuch as it is a law, it {celibacy} expresses the Church's will, even before the will of the subject expressed by his readiness. But the will of the Church finds its ultimate motivation in the link between celibacy and sacred ordination, which configures the priest to Jesus Christ the head and spouse of the Church. The Church, as the spouse of Jesus Christ, wishes to be loved by the priest in the total and exclusive manner in which Jesus Christ her head and spouse loved her. Priestly celibacy, then, is the gift of self in and with Christ to his Church and expresses the priest's service to the Church in and with the Lord". [23]

In the community of the faithful, the consecrated celibacy of the priest manifests the virginal love of Christ for His spouse which is the Church and for which "he sacrificed Himself to make her holy" (Eph 5:25-27). The Second Vatican Council said that by means of celibacy "priests profess before men their willingness to be dedicated with undivided loyalty to the task entrusted to them, namely that of espousing the faithful to one husband and presenting them as a chaste virgin to Christ. They recall that mystical marriage, established by God and destined to be fully revealed in the future, by which the Church holds Christ as her only spouse. Moreover they are made a living sign of that world to come, already present through faith and charity, a world in which the children of the resurrection shall neither be married nor take wives". [24] Consequently, celibacy freely chosen for the sake of the Kingdom of God - not only does not contradict the dignity of marriage - but presupposes it and confirms it". [25] Marriage and celibacy are thus "two ways of expressing and living the one mystery of the covenant of God with his people". [26] Through the witness of his life, the celibate priest aids Christian spouses to live fully the 'great sacrament' of the love of Christ the bridegroom for his spouse the Church. Through the example of his own faithfulness to celibacy as the gift of himself to Christ and to the people he is called to serve, the celibate priest thus challenges married couples to be faithful to each other as husband and wife. [27] In a civilisation that has trivialised marriage and sexuality, it is not surprising to find that it also regards celibacy as an enigma. Speaking of this, Archbishop Desmond Connel said:

The world has no understanding of the celibate life because it does not see it as a gift from God, which he faithfully sustains in the priest who relies on his help. The requirement of celibacy is seen by some as an offence against the dignity of marriage. How then can it be that the Church is the foremost defender of the sanctity of marriage in a world that has ceased to protect it? Experience has shown that it is where the gift of celibacy is honoured that the gift of marriage is preserved. That is because the Church sees these two different vocations not in purely worldly terms but in relation to God and his grace. [28]


Those who call for a change in the celibacy rule in the Latin Church often distort its meaning and its history. For example, Sandra DeGidio, in her book Sacraments Alive, which as we saw in Chapter 2 is compulsory reading for students at the Australian Catholic University in Sydney, in speaking of the relationship between priesthood and celibacy says:

Toward the end of the tenth century another dramatic change began to take place in the development of the priesthood - the issue of celibacy. Prior to this time, priests and bishops were married with families. There was no such thing as celibacy for diocesan clergy. For the sake of ritual purity however, priests were required to refrain from sexual intercourse the night before celebrating the eucharist. Once a week, this was not difficult. As daily eucharist became fashionable, however, this obviously presented some problems. Contributing to the celibacy issue was the priests' and bishops' involvement in the feudal system, their ownership of land and other property that they could pass on to their children. Power brought with it greed. Human in the midst of trying to be like the divine, bishops and priests fell into a situation of nepotism. They began passing on their power, their property, and sometimes church property as well to their offspring. The Church's property began to disappear and there was a call for reform. A rule of celibacy for priests and bishops became the solution to the problem. Although the idea of celibacy was advocated and locally imposed (with greater or lesser success) as early as the fourth century, and restrictions were introduced at the end of the tenth century, there was no law of celibacy as a universal requirement for priests of the Latin rite until the twelfth century. In a 2000-year history, the law of celibacy is relatively new, and its rationale may no longer exist. [29]

Cardinal Stickler exposes as false the claims that clerical celibacy began either with the Council of Elvira (AD 306) or that it was a medieval invention dating from the Second Lateran Council (AD 1139). He demonstrates that from Apostolic times and in the early centuries of the Church there were universally two categories of celibate priests. The first were the Viri Probati. These were priests who were married before ordination, but once ordained and with prior spousal consent, they abstained permanently from conjugal relations. This category of priest existed up until the Council of Trent. The second category of celibate priest - the one preferred by the early Church - was the Virgin Celibate. These were not married before ordination, and were bound to celibacy from ordination onwards. Cardinal Stickler shows that during the period of the persecutions in the first three centuries of the Church, there were binding laws and rules regarding obligatory celibacy which had been passed down orally from one generation to the next. This process was similar to the development of law in most countries - oral tradition first and then with the passage of time their codification. As regards St. Paul's words that "the elder . . .be married not more than once (cf. 1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:6), Cardinal Stickler reveals that the early Church understood this as signifying that a married candidate for Holy Orders must have been married only once and that thenceforth he was bound by absolute celibacy. [30] This was how St Ambrose for example understood the Pauline recommendation. [31]

In the year 390AD, a group of bishops was gathered in Carthage to discuss celibacy. In canon 2 accepted by the Council of Carthage, the Bishops succinctly summarised the longstanding tradition in respect of married clergy when it declared: "That the chastity of the Levites and the priests must be preserved . . .The rule of continence and chastity had been discussed in a previous council. Let it {now} be taught with more emphasis what are the three ranks that, by virtue of their consecration, are under the same obligation to chastity, i.e., the bishop, the priest and the deacon, and let them be instructed to keep their purity . . .What the apostles taught and what antiquity itself observed, let us also endeavour to keep". [32]

Commenting on canon 2 of the Council of Carthage, John McAreavey says:

"This canon assumes that the clergy it addresses are married. The discipline it expresses is not a new one, having 'been discussed in a previous council'. Moreover the Fathers of Carthage are only expressing something that was 'taught by the apostles and observed by antiquity itself'. This discipline can be regarded as settled in as much as it was accepted 'unanimously' by the bishops". [33] McAreavey brings a further perspective to bear on this ruling of the Council of Carthage when he says: "It {canon 2} is directed at those who have reached the three higher ranks of the clergy through their consecration. This consecration of themselves is the principal reason for their chastity. By their consecration they have been raised to the status of sacred persons, set apart to carry out functions of a divine nature. Those who receive this consecration must manifest in their lives that they have been introduced into an order of realities that is different from the one in which they were previously involved. The most obvious sign of this passage is that of putting an end to conjugal intercourse, a bond that would hold the minister outside the sacred sphere where he must now live . . .In other words, it is their service of the eucharist that is the basis of the continence they are asked to observe". [34] From the beginning of the fourth century, the Popes and pastors of the Church promoted and defended ecclesiastical celibacy "even when they met opposition from the clergy itself and when the practices of a decadent society did not favour the heroic demands of virtue. The obligation of celibacy was then solemnly sanctioned by the Sacred Ecumenical Council of Trent and finally included in the Code of Canon Law". [35]

Those who campaign for a lifting of the celibacy rule often appeal to the practice of Eastern Churches in communion with Rome who ordain married men and who in doing so are supposed to have preserved the original general discipline of the primitive Church. However, this question is not as simple as it is often presented and it ignores the fact that celibacy has an important place in these Churches too. In the Eastern Churches, only celibates are ordained bishops who receive the fullness of the priesthood. Moreover, although married men are ordained as priests, no priest is permitted to marry after he has been ordained - even after the death of his wife. This "indicates that these venerable Churches also possess to a certain extent the principle of a celibate priesthood. It shows too that there is a certain appropriateness for the Christian priesthood, of which the bishops possess the summit and the fullness, of the observance of celibacy". [36]

The practice in Oriental Churches of allowing married priests conjugal relations after ordination cannot find any support in the discipline of the early Church. Roman Cholij, a priest of the Ukrainian rite, has studied the origins of this tradition in the Oriental Churches and in his book Clerical Celibacy East and West (1989) he shows that it dates only from the Oriental Council of Trullo in 691. The book is based on a thesis Cholij presented to the Faculty of Canon Law at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome during 1986. [37] Cholij points out that while there were instances of married men being ordained deacons, priests, and even bishops prior to the Council of Elvira, the fact that they were however called upon to renounce their conjugal rights was seen as something which was in fidelity to the Apostolic tradition. Consequently, the Council of Elvira introduced nothing new but was simply codifying what had been the accepted practice up until that time. The findings of Colij are corroborated by Cardinal Stickler whose research also reveals that the Eastern Tradition of allowing married priests conjugal relations after ordination only goes back to a decree of the Council of Trullo. This decree however was based on a falsification of the celibacy legislation from the Council of Carthage whose Codex as we saw earlier upheld absolute celibacy as derived from Apostolic tradition. Commenting on this alteration of historical texts undertaken in order to facilitate a change in the celibacy rules of the Oriental Churches, Cardinal Stickler says: "This attitude and approach to the question of celibacy by the Trullan Fathers constitute a further not unimportant proof that the tradition of the Catholic Church of the West remains the genuine one. The fact is that it can be traced back to the apostles and is founded on the living consciousness of the entire early Church". [38] Cardinal Stickler also points out that several leading scholars and canonists in the Oriental Churches have since the fourteenth century been sceptical about the translations of the texts of the early African Councils which were adopted by the Council Trullo and upon which the decree allowing married priests conjugal relations was based. [39]

In his Apologia, Cardinal Newman said that one of the things that impressed him about the Catholic Church before his conversion to it was "her zealous maintenance of the doctrine and rule of celibacy, which I recognised as Apostolic". [40] Newman undertook to write his Apologia in order to respond to an attack on himself and on the Catholic priesthood by Charles Kingsley who said: "I found him {Newman} denying or explaining away the existence of that priestcraft which is a notorious fact to every honest student of history". [41] In continuity with great teachers of the Church such as St Augustine, Newman knew from the time he was 15 years old that God called some men to lead a celibate life in order to place themselves unreservedly at the service of the Gospel. Speaking of this in the Apologia, he says that it was in Autumn 1816 that he first became aware "that it would be the will of God that I should lead a single life". [42] After he had become a priest, Newman saw his work as virtually inimical to marriage. This was partly because of the demands it placed upon him, and partly because of the necessity he felt of regarding the priestly calling as a semi-retirement from the world. [43] However, Newman was careful to point out that those who like St Paul, decide not to marry in order to serve God, should do so "not to labour less, but to labour more directly for the Lord". [44] Also, while Newman was especially conscious of the dignity and holiness of marriage, he nevertheless saw the vocation to celibacy as a particular grace which in exemplifying the virtue of purity entailed a special interchange of love between God and the person called to it. Speaking of this to his congregation in 1841, he said: "If there is one grace in which Christianity stands in special contrast to the old religion, it is that of purity. Christ was born of a virgin; his beloved disciple was a virgin; he abolished polygamy and divorce; and he said that there were those who for the kingdom of heaven's sake would be even as he" [45]

Those who at present are calling for a lifting of the celibacy rule do not seem to appreciate the fact that the question has been dealt with at length over the last 40 years. On one occasion Pope John XXIII said: "It deeply hurts us that . . .anyone can dream that the Church will deliberately or even suitably renounce what from time immemorial has been, and still remains, one of the purest and noblest glories of her priesthood. The law of ecclesiastical celibacy and the efforts necessary to preserve it always recall to mind the struggles of heroic times when the Church of Christ had to fight for and succeeded in obtaining her threefold glory, always an emblem of victory, that is, the Church of Christ, free, chaste, and catholic". [46] In his Encyclical Letter Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia, Pope John XXIII in speaking of the place of celibacy in the life of the priest said:

This type of spirituality {celibacy}, grounded in the observance of priestly chastity, far from imprisoning the priest's soul within the sterile confines of its own self-seeking, will set it free from self, and leave it wide open to embrace the needs of others. As St John Vianney so well observed: 'The soul that is adorned with this virtue of chastity cannot help loving others, for it has found God, the well-spring of love'. How innumerable, how immense are the benefits such men confer upon society. Emancipated from the cares of the world, they have found full freedom in the service of God; freedom to spend their lives, their thoughts and energies, upon the welfare of their fellows. How great is the service which such priests render to the Church; priests whose first care it is to preserve perfect chastity, which we, no less than our illustrious Predecessor, Pius XI, regard as 'the most precious treasure of the Catholic priesthood'. Such chastity, 'is something which seems to us to correspond better to the desires of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and to his purpose in regard to priestly souls. [47]

Referring to how the celibate life is most appropriate to the priestly vocation since it better actualises the priest's consecration to Christ with an undivided heart which affords him greater freedom for the service of God's Kingdom, the Second Vatican Council said:

Perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven was recommended by Christ the Lord. It has been freely accepted and laudably observed by many Christians down through the centuries as well as in our own time, and has always been highly esteemed in a special way by the Church as a feature of priestly life . . .There are many ways in which celibacy is in harmony with the priesthood. For the whole mission of the priest is dedicated to the service of the new humanity which Christ, the victor over death, raises up in the world through his Spirit and which is born 'not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God' (Jn 1:13). By preserving virginity or celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven priests are consecrated in a new and excellent way to Christ. They more readily cling to him with undivided heart and dedicate themselves more freely in him and through him to the service of God and of men. They are less encumbered in their service of his kingdom and of the task of heavenly regeneration. In this way they become better fitted for a broader acceptance of fatherhood in Christ. [48]

Linking celibacy to the holiness of the Church, Vatican II said: "The Church's holiness is fostered in a special way by the manifold counsels which the Lord proposes to his disciples in the Gospel for them to observe. Towering among these counsels is that precious gift of divine grace given to some by the Father (cf. Mt 19:11; 1 Cor. 7:7) to devote themselves to God alone more easily with an undivided heart (cf. 1 Cor 7: 32-34) in virginity and celibacy. This perfect continence for love of the kingdom of heaven has always been held in high esteem by the Church as a sign and stimulus of love, and as a singular source of spiritual fertility in the world". [49] While the Council acknowledged that celibacy "is not demanded of the priesthood by its nature," [50] it did however reaffirm the practice in the Latin Church of linking the ordained priesthood to celibacy. It said: "Celibacy, which at first was recommended to priests, was afterwards in the Latin Church imposed by law on all who were to be promoted to Holy Orders. This sacred Council approves and confirms this legislation so far as it concerns those destined for the priesthood, and feels confident in the Spirit that the gift of celibacy, so appropriate to the priesthood of the New Testament, is liberally granted by the Father, provided those who share Christ's priesthood through the sacrament of order, and indeed the whole Church, ask for that gift humbly and earnestly". [51]

In a homily at Knock Shrine in June 1995, Cardinal Cathal Daly stated that "the mind and will of the worldwide College of Bishops, in communion with the Pope, on the question of priestly celibacy, cannot be claimed to be in doubt". As evidence of this, Cardinal Daly cited a Proposition adopted by the Bishops at the 1990 Synod. After stating that celibacy "is a charism", this proposition went on to say:

Celibacy is a priceless gift of God for the Church and has a prophetic value for the world today. This synod strongly reaffirms what the Latin Church and some Oriental rites require - that is, that the priesthood be conferred only on those men who have received from God the gift of the vocation to celibate chastity (without prejudice to the tradition of some Oriental churches and particular cases of married clergy who convert to Catholicism, which are admitted as exceptions in Pope Paul VI's encyclical on priestly celibacy, no. 42). The synod does not wish to leave any doubts in the mind of anyone regarding the Church's firm will to maintain the law that demands perpetual and freely chosen celibacy for present and future candidates for priestly ordination in the Latin rite. The synod would like to see celibacy presented and explained in the fullness of its biblical, theological and spiritual richness, as a precious gift given by God to his Church and as a sign of the kingdom which is not of this world - a sign of God's love for this world and of the undivided love of the priest for God and for God's people, with the result that celibacy is seen as a positive enrichment of the priesthood. [52]

The Bishops explicitly asked Pope John Paul II to include this proposition in his post-Synodal Exhortation, which he subsequently did. According to Cardinal Daly, Pope John Paul II on receiving the proposition is rumoured to have said: "Well, they can't say any longer that it's only a Polish Pope who insists on maintaining the tradition of priestly celibacy". [53] In a clear reference to dissident views publicly aired by some bishops on the subject of priestly celibacy and other issues, Cardinal Daly pointed out in his Knock homily that such "personal opinions" which departed from communion with the world-wide college of bishops, or which were at variance with the teaching of the Holy Father - were just that, "personal opinions" - and as such "they cannot be said to carry the special weight of the episcopal office or to be an exercise of episcopal authority in the proper sense". [54] Those Catholics - both clergy and laity - who sometimes feature in the media calling for a change in the Church's law on celibacy, often base their case on pretentious arguments such as that of "an abstracted spiritualism or claiming that continence leads to indifference for sexuality, or they start from the consideration of difficult and painful cases, or even generalise particular cases". [55] This denies, however, "the testimony offered by the great majority of priests, who live their celibacy with internal freedom, rich evangelical motivation, spiritual depth, all in a panorama of strong and joyful fidelity to their vocation and mission". [56]


In response to calls for the lifting of the celibacy rule, Pope Paul VI said: "It is simply not possible to believe that the abolition of ecclesiastical celibacy would considerably increase the number of priestly vocations: the contemporary experience of those Churches and ecclesial communities which allow their ministers to marry seems to prove the contrary. The cause of the decrease in vocations is to be found elsewhere, especially, for example, in the fact that individuals and families have lost their sense of God and of all that is holy, their esteem for the Church as the institution of salvation through faith and sacraments, the institution which must study the true roots of the problem". [57] Speaking of the difficulty the secular world has with the idea of celibacy freely chosen for the sake of the Kingdom of God, Fr Kenneth Baker, S.J. says:

Priestly celibacy, in the sense of a lifetime renunciation of marriage and conjugal love, is difficult to live in imitation of Jesus Christ and it is also difficult to understand. There are few things in the Catholic Church that are more opposed to the 'wisdom' of this world than celibacy for the kingdom of God. The secular world in which we live does not understand why a healthy young man or woman would renounce for life the right to sexual pleasure and the personal intimacy that should go with it. The reason for this lack of understanding is not far to seek - it lies in the fact that the secularist lacks faith. Without faith in Jesus Christ one cannot understand what celibacy is all about and one cannot live a celibate life. [58]

The fact that we live in a divorce/contraception/abortion and pornography-ridden society makes the fostering of vocations for the celibate priesthood all the more difficult. The high rate of contraceptive practice amongst Catholic couples affects priestly vocations in at least three ways. First, it reduces the birthrate amongst Catholics. An analysis of the 1991 Australian Bureau of Statistics census figures shows that women who described themselves as Catholics now tend towards the two child norm. In 1966, married Catholic women aged between 35 and 39 had an average 3.18 children compared with 2.91 children across all religions. In 1991, the average family size for Catholic women between 30 and 34 was 1.73 children, compared with 1.7 children across all religions. [59] As a result of this falling birthrate, the Catholic population is ageing, with the result that there are proportionately less young men available to consider whether or not God is calling them to the priesthood. Secondly, in families where the parents practice contraception, a secularist mentality is more likely to prevail, since the contraceptive act itself has an atheistic aspect to it insofar as it denies that God is the final arbiter of the coming into existence of a new human being. [60] Thirdly, children of contracepting parents are less likely to be brought up in an atmosphere characterised by a spirit of love and reverence for the teaching of the Magisterium.

As a teacher, I have noted over the last two decades how secularism has invaded every aspect of education. I teach mostly in the area of the humanities. The dominant view that is presented in both textbooks and syllabi, even if only implicitly, is that God is irrelevant to human affairs. Moral relativism reigns supreme across the curriculum - it informs both the syllabus documents and the textbooks. This defect in education, together with the loss of true family values and the advanced materialism of Western culture, are all contributing to the severe alienation of youth. Many of today's youth have a deep seated consumer consciousness and live in what Solzhenitsyn has called a "TV Stupor". As such, they are says Pope John Paul II, "prisoners of the fleeting moment" who seek "to 'consume' the strongest and most gratifying individual experiences at the level of immediate emotions and sensations, inevitably finding themselves indifferent and 'paralysed' as it were when they come face to face with the summons to embark upon a life project which includes a spiritual and religious dimension and a commitment to solidarity . . .there is spreading in every part of the world a sort of practical and existential atheism which coincides with a secularist outlook on life and human destiny". [61]

In view of the present situation in the Western world which is not at all sympathetic to the notion of celibacy voluntarily embraced out of love for Christ and his Church, there exists an urgent need to explain the authentic meaning of clerical celibacy to the faithful. Pope John Paul II stressed this when he spoke of the need "to instruct and educate the lay faithful regarding the evangelical, spiritual and pastoral reasons proper to priestly celibacy, so that they will help priests with their friendship, understanding and cooperation". [62] It is also essential that "celibacy should be presented clearly, without any ambiguities and in a positive fashion" in seminary formation programs. [63] Coupled with this, "the seminarian should have a sufficient degree of psychological and sexual maturity as well as an assiduous and authentic life of prayer, and he should put himself under the direction of a spiritual father". [64] The spiritual director should help the seminarian in such a way "that he himself reaches a mature and free decision, which is built on esteem for priestly friendship and self-discipline". [65] However, in order that the seminarian "may be able to embrace priestly celibacy for the kingdom of heaven with a free decision, he needs to know the Christian and truly human nature and purpose of sexuality in marriage and in celibacy". [66] Should they proceed to ordination, seminarians will have to carry out their priestly ministry in a very permissive environment. Consequently, they should be taught to "conduct themselves with due prudence in dealing with those whose familiarity" might tempt them to forsake their vow of celibacy and they should learn to follow those "ascetical norms" which will enable them to "prudently avoid frequenting places, attending shows or reading materials which constitute a danger to the observance of celibacy". [67]

The cultural factors which work to diminish esteem for the priesthood will only be overcome by way of a new evangelisation. The laity have a very important part to play in this new evangelisation but they first need to be properly formed and educated. To talk of lifting the celibacy rule as a means of dealing with the problems the Church is facing in Western society is to misinterpret the signs of the times. Instead, we need to take to heart the words of Pope John Paul II when he said:

Ecclesiastical celibacy is for the Church a treasure to be carefully guarded and to be presented especially today as a sign of contradiction for a society which needs to be called back to the higher and definitive values of life. Present difficulties cannot cause the rejection of such a precious gift, which the Church has made her own uninterruptedly from apostolic times, overcoming other difficult moments that threatened its preservation. It is necessary today, too, to interpret concrete situations with faith and humility, without introducing anthropological, sociological or psychological factors that, while seeming to resolve problems, actually add to them beyond measure. Gospel logic, as the facts prove, demonstrates clearly that the noblest aims are always hard to achieve. We must work hard, then, and never turn back! So it is always most important to take the road of a courageous and incisive vocation's apostolate, in the sure knowledge that the Lord will not fail to provide labourers for his harvest if young people are offered high ideals and visible examples of austerity, consistency, generosity and unconditional dedication". [68]



• 1 Cardinal Alfons Maria Stickler, The Case for Clerical Celibacy, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1995, p. 105.

• 2 Pope Paul VI, Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, n. 5

• 3 Ibid. Cf. n. 6

• 4 Ibid. Cf. n. 7

• 5 Ibid. Cf. n. 8

• 6 Ibid. Cf. n. 9

• 7 Ibid. Cf. n. 10

• 8 Ibid. Cf. n. 11

• 9 Ibid. n. 13

• 10 Ibid. n. 1

• 11 Cf. Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n.30

• 12 Galot, op. cit. p.230

• 13 Pope Paul VI, Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, n. 19

• 14 Ibid. n. 22

• 15 Galot, op. cit. p. 221

• 16 Fr Anthony Zimmerman, SVD. The Logic of Priestly Celibacy, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, April 1995, pp. 19-25

• 17 Sacred Congregation For Catholic Education,: A Guide To Formation In Priestly Celibacy n. 1; Cf. Vatican II, Decr. Optatam Totius, n.1

• 18 Pope Paul VI, Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, n.30

• 19 Cardinal james Hickey, Mary at the Foot of the Cross: Teacher and Example of Holiness, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1988, p. 157.

• 20 John McAreavey, Priestly Celibacy, Irish Theological Quarterly, No. 1, 1993, p. 42.

• 21 Archbishop Desmond Connell, Speaking of Priests, op. cit.

• 22 Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 29

• 23 Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 29

• 24 Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 16

• 25 Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, n. 16.

• 26 Ibid.

• 27 Cf. Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 50

• 28 Archbishop Desmond Connell, Pastoral Letter, Speaking of Priests, Veritas, Dublin, 1995.

• 29 Sandra DeGidio, op. cit. p. 134-35

• 30 Cf. Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler, op. cit. p. 31 and pp. 37-38

• 31 For an outline of St Ambrose's understanding of the Pauline recommendation that "the elder . . .be married no more than once" see Christian Cochini's The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy, Ignatius Press, San Francosco, 1990, pp.234-236. This book is a translation of a work that was first published in Paris in 1981 and is based on a thesis presented for the degree of doctor of theology to the Institut Catolique de Paris in 1969. Henri de Lubac, S.J.said of it at the time: "This work is of the first importance. It is the fruit of serious and extensive research. There is nothing even remotely comparable to this work in this whole twentieth century".

• 32 Council of Carthage (390), cited by Cardinal Stickler, The Case for Clerical Celebacy, op. cit. p. 24.

• 33 John McAreavey, Priestly Celebacy, The Irish Theological Quarterly, No. 1, 1993, p. 30.

• 34 Ibid.

• 35 Pope Paul VI, Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, n. 35

• 36 Ibid. n. 40

• 37 Roman Cholij, Clerical Celibacy in East and West, Fowler Wright Books 1989.

• 38 Alfons Cardinal Stickler, op. cit. p. 76-77.

• 39 Ibid. p. 77.

• 40 Cardinal John Henry Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, Penguin Classics, London, 1994, p. 65

• 41 "What then does Dr Newman Mean?" in Kingsley versus Newman. The Full Text (Oxford 1913) 33. Cited by Joseph Tolhurst in The Interchange of Love: John Henry Newman's Teaching on Celibacy, The Irish Theological Quarterly, No. 3, 1993, p. 218.

• 42 John Henry Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, op. cit. p. 28.

• 43 Cf. Joseph Tolhurst, The Interchange of Love: John Henry Newman's Teaching on Celibacy, Irish Theological Quarterly, No. 3, 1993, p. 219.

• 44 John Henry Newman, Cf. Ibid. p. 223.

• 45 Ibid. p. 222.

• 46 Pope John XXIII, Address To Roman Synod, 26/1/60

• 47 Pope John XXIII, Enc. Sacerdotti Nostri Primordia, nn. 18, 19

• 48 Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 16

• 49 Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n. 42

• 50 Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 16

• 51 Ibid.

• 52 Synod of Bishops 1990, Proposition 11; Cf. Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 29

• 53 Cardinal Cathal Daly, The Irish Family, 30/6/95, p. 3

• 54 Cardinal Cathal Daly, op. cit.

• 55 Directory On The Ministry and Life of Priests, n. 60.

• 56 Ibid.

• 57 Pope Paul VI, Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, n. 49

• 58 Fr Kenneth Baker, S.J.Homiletic and Pastoral Review, May 1995, p. 80

• 59 Cf. Catholic Families Getting Smaller, Sydney Morning Herald, 18/12/95, p. 3

• 60 Cf. Address by Pope John Paul II on 17 September 1984.

• 61 Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 7

• 62 Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 50.

• 63 Ibid.

• 64 Ibid.

• 65 Ibid.

• 66 Ibid.

• 67 Directory On The Ministry and Life of Priests, n. 60.

• 68 Pope John Paul II, 22/10/93



Vocations to the priesthood are adversely affected not only by influences from the prevailing culture, but also by negative forces operating in the Church itself. Speaking of this, Pope John Paul II said:

There are also worrying and negative factors in the Church herself which have a direct influence on the lives and ministry of priests. For example: the lack of due knowledge of the faith among many believers; a catechesis which has little practical effect, stifled as it is by the mass media whose messages are more widespread and persuasive; an incorrectly understood pluralism in theology, culture and pastoral teaching which - though starting out at times with good intentions - ends up by hindering ecumenical dialogue and threatening the necessary unity of faith; a persistent diffidence toward and almost unacceptance of the magisterium of the hierarchy; the one-sided tendencies which reduce the richness of the Gospel message and transform the proclamation and witness to the faith into an element of exclusively human and social liberation . . . An increasing number of Christians seem to have a reduced sensitivity to the universality and objectivity of the doctrine of the faith because they are subjectively attached to what pleases them; to what corresponds to their own experience; and to what does not impinge on their own habits. In such a context, even the appeal to the inviolability of the individual conscience - in itself a legitimate appeal - may be dangerously marked by ambiguity. This situation also gives rise to the phenomenon of belonging to the Church in ways which are ever more partial and conditional, with a negative influence on the birth of new vocations to the priesthood. [1]

To prepare the way for a new springtime of vocations in Australia, it will be necessary to renew the whole catechetical effort in the Church. Catechesis refers to all efforts made within the Church "to help people to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, so that believing they may have life in his name, and to educate and instruct them in this life and thus build up the Body of Christ". [2] The definitive aim of catechesis "is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only he can lead us to the love of the Father in the Holy Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity". [3] Further to this, the person who engages in the catechetical activity of the Church must endeavour to ensure that it is Christ's doctrine that is transmitted and not the opinions of dissenting theologians. To ensure that this occurs, the catechist needs to immerse himself or herself in prayer, in the sacramental life of the Church, and in the teaching of the Magisterium. [4] Catechesis is expressed across the whole spectrum of the Church's life: in the Catholic family and school, in the parish and in Catholic tertiary institutions etc. In this chapter I wish to focus primarily on Religious Education in Catholic high schools, but before doing so, I will first make a few brief comments on what I see as some major catechetical challenges facing the Church as a whole in Australia.

In Chapter 1 we stressed the need for a renewed Eucharistic catechesis. Coupled with this, as many of the faithful as possible should be encouraged to study the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The whole of the Church's moral doctrine needs to be proclaimed with renewed vigour. The importance of regular confession, together with the reality of Heaven and Hell, needs to be emphasised. The Sacrament of Penance is tailor-made to heighten a person's sensitivity to the will of God in his or her life. In stressing more regular confession, however, it is the First Rite that must be promoted. The First Rite "makes possible a highlighting of the more personal - and essential - aspects which are included in the penitential process". [5] On the other hand, the unauthorised use of the Third Rite of the Sacrament of Penance should never be tolerated.

Seminary formation and training needs to be evaluated to see how effective it is in turning out priests who are intent on striving for personal holiness and who are imbued with a spirit of obedience to the Magisterium of the Church. Luckily for Australia, Bishop Brennan's Seminary in Wagga appears to hold great promise in this regard. If on the other hand a seminary is allowed to serve as a base for launching attacks against the Magisterium, then it is only natural that few young men will want to enter it. Perhaps seminary directors have something to learn from Fr Marcial Maciel who is the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. When asked to account for the astonishing success of his order in attracting new members, Fr Maciel responded by first thanking "the Lord of the harvest" for blessing his congregation with "abundant vocations". Having said this, he then added:

I believe God uses simple means to bring young people to the legion. Here they find a haven, peace and fraternal charity, within a context of strong commitment to apostolic work. But above all they realise that in our communities and formation centres we impart sure doctrine and live a firm discipline, motivated by love of Christ and sustained by a solid prayer life. This prayer life is based on an inspiring but down-to-earth spirituality; personal and passionate love for Jesus Christ; faithful love for the Church and its pastors (the Pope and the bishops in communion with him); profound devotion to the Virgin Mary and imitation of her virtues - that is the secret of our expansion in a nutshell. [6]


If current trends in Mass attendance are anything to go by, and if the findings in Br Marcellin Flynn's book The Culture of Catholic Schools - A Study of Catholic Schools 1972-1993 are accurate, then the Catholic Church in Australia is failing to effectively transmit knowledge of the faith to a large portion of the younger generation of Catholics. Br Flynn is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Religious Education at the Australian Catholic University in Sydney. He is a respected educational researcher and his study involved 6000 Catholic Year 12 students, their parents and teachers in NSW and the ACT. While Br Flynn identified many positive things about Catholic schools, the survey drew attention however to what can only be considered a crisis in the religious area. According to the survey, the number of students attending Sunday Mass fell from 69% in 1972 to 38% in 1990. [7] Commenting on this tragic fall off in Mass attendance, Br Flynn said: "Only a little over one-third of students consider going to Mass is important to them or that Catholics should receive the Sacraments regularly. When students' attitudes towards the Mass over the years 1972, 1982, 1990 are examined, a decline in their love for the Eucharist is evident". [8]

Regarding morality, Br Flynn found that 58% of the Year 12 students believed abortion was all right if the pregnancy resulted from rape. He also found that only 20% of the students thought that premarital sex was wrong and that only 19% of them accepted the Church's teaching on contraception. [9] Br Flynn said that over the survey period there had been "a marked decline in the moral values of students". [10] This moral decline said Br Flynn was characterised by "greater acceptance of abortion, increased permissiveness regarding sexual intercourse outside marriage, greater willingness to accept that it is all right for people who are not married to live together, increased tendency to consider euthanasia as morally permissible". [11] Most revealing of all, Br Flynn attempted to test the religious knowledge of the students but he had to shelve the project. He said: "In an effort to assess students' knowledge of the Catholic faith, they were presented with 24 multiple choice questions related to various aspects of religious knowledge as part of this research. It quickly became apparent that year 12 students were not familiar at all with the theological concepts and language used . . . It was decided on grounds of validity, therefore, not to proceed further with analysis of this section of the study". [12] Br Flynn's findings in this area have been corroborated by the findings of survey work done by Sr Carmel Leavy who is another highly respected educational researcher.


For the remainder of this chapter, I will use the term Religious Education and Catechesis interchangeably. Religious educators often distinguish between "education in faith" and "education in religion". Education in faith carries a meaning similar to catechesis in that it is taken to refer to the educational process of handing on the faith of the Church to the younger generation. Education in religion on the other hand is geared towards learning about religion from a sociological/historical perspective and it delves a lot into the study of comparative religion. Indeed, some Catholic educators have argued that religious education should not concern itself with catechetical objectives at all. For example, Br Graham Rossiter of the Religious Education Department at the Australian Catholic University, has called for "a creative divorce between catechesis and religious education". He assigns catechesis which he regards as the more "personal" to the parish and religious education which he regards as the more "intellectual" to the school. [13]

Attempts to treat catechesis and religious education in Catholic schools as though they were mutually exclusive realities are I believe very naive. Catholic schools should seek to provide their students with a religious education that will enable them to grow in their knowledge of Catholic doctrine. Indeed, the entire curriculum of a Catholic high school should be integrated in such a way that the doctrine of the Church informs all areas of academic and cultural activity. Consequently, while the study of religion as a sociological/historical phenomenon has a place in a Religious Education curriculum of a Catholic high school, nevertheless, the overriding objective of such a curriculum should be to transmit a knowledge of Catholic doctrine in order to nurture students in the Catholic faith.

A good educational process calls the learner to dialogue and to question as well as to make judgements. In such a process the learner's achievements and gifts are acknowledged while at the same time the student is led to understand that working through failure can be a positive part of the learning process. A good religious education process should contain a variety of pedagogical techniques that will engage both the analytical and affective modes of consciousness. It should make use of personal and social awareness exercises, role-plays, drama, music, art, video and media resources etc. No matter how good the method or process of religious education is however, it will serve little purpose if it is not based on a systematic treatment of Catholic doctrine which is sequentially programmed and is appropriate to the stages of development of the students. Doctrinal formulas provide young people with something their minds can grasp and they provide teachers with coherent lessons which are free of deceptive ambiguities and error. Consequently, a good religious education program should seek to have the students commit to memory certain words of Jesus as well as the Ten Commandments, doctrinal formulas, Creed, essential prayers and liturgical texts. [14] Coupled with this, good school liturgy which is faithful to the liturgical law of the Church is important for cultivating in the students a love for the Mass.

Pope John Paul II has said that "the mission of the Catholic teacher is to train the mind to accept the truths of faith". [15] On another occasion while addressing delegates to the 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus in 1995, the Holy Father in describing the type of teaching that should form the younger generations said: "This teaching must seek to provide students with a clear, solid and organic knowledge of Catholic doctrine, focused on knowing how to distinguish those affirmations that must be upheld from those open to free discussion and those that cannot be accepted". [16] In an address to participants at an inservice on Religious Education for the Catholic Secondary Schools Association of NSW in 1989, Bishop William Brennan of the Wagga Diocese made a similar point when he said: "To teach students to distinguish between Church teaching and theological opinion is, I believe, to teach them true wisdom, which is the greatest of the intellectual virtues . . . But to be able to do this one must know oneself how to differentiate between what is the doctrine of the universal Church and what is merely the opinion of Fr Jim Bob or Sr Mary Beth, admirable people though they be". In the course of this address, Bishop Brennan quoted a certain author as having said:

Important to a Catholic curriculum is a belief about truth. Truth is achievable, so the curriculum should present more than mere matters of opinion. Finding truth may at times be difficult, and therefore the curriculum should teach its preciousness. Truth is one, therefore the curriculum should not be fragmented . . . Truth is important, so the curriculum should encourage and present the cogent rather than the merely persuasive. Truth, when obtained, is sure, and therefore words like 'absolute' and 'dogma' forbidden in the curriculum of some philosophies, are acceptable to Catholics. Truth is perceivable in stages, and therefore there is no conflict between a child-centred and a subject-centred curriculum.

When the Catechism of the Catholic Church was published in English, Bishop Brennan was quick to implement it in his own Diocese. Under his leadership, the Wagga Diocese brought to completion a religious education syllabus for primary schools that had been in preparation for several years. Entitled We Belong To The Lord, the syllabus was well received by the Diocese's primary school teachers. The doctrinal statements in the syllabus are divided into three stages of learning spread over the seven years of primary school, i. e. Infants, Middle Primary and Senior Primary. Each year the children cover all the main doctrines of the faith but in progressively greater detail each year. There are 20 topics divided into four sections to parallel the structure of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, i. e. Creed, Sacraments, Morality and Prayer. These in turn are developed into 129 units covering all the years of primary schooling. Each unit contains a variety of teaching resources, they are cross-referenced to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and to other areas of the primary school curriculum. There are 133 worksheets which may be photocopied. This syllabus has been so well received that it is now being marketed in England. [17]

According to Cardinal Newman, Gospel faith is "a definite deposit, a treasure common to all, one and the same in every age, conceived in set words, such as to admit of being received, preserved, transmitted". [18] In Newman's understanding of how a vibrant faith develops, doctrinal knowledge was not seen as something which only the intellectual needed to be in possession of. He said: "{Gospel} faith is what even the humblest member of the Church may and must contend for; and in proportion to his education will the circle of his knowledge enlarge . . . and according as his power of grasping the sense of {the Creed's} articles increases, so will it become his duty to contend for them in their fuller and more accurate form". [19] While it is true that greater knowledge of the doctrine of the faith does not necessarily confer greater sanctity, it is also true however that "the blossoms" of faith and piety "do not grow in the desert places" of a memory empty of doctrinal content. [20] In this regard, Catholic educators should bear in mind what Cardinal Newman said of his own spiritual journey: "When I was fifteen (in the autumn of 1816) a great change of thought took place in me. I fell under the influences of a definite Creed, and received into my intellect impressions of dogma, which, through God's mercy, have never been effaced or obscured". [21] Later he added: "From the age of 15, dogma has been the fundamental principle of my religion: I know no other religion: I cannot enter into the idea of any other sort of religion . . . What I held in 1816, I held in 1833, and I hold in 1864. Please God, I shall hold it to the end". [22] In speaking of how doctrinal knowledge is a constituent aspect of personal integration, Newman said: "{Doctrinal} propositions may and must be used, and easily can be used, as the expression of facts, and they are necessary to the mind in the same way that language is ever necessary for denoting facts . . . Again, they are useful in their dogmatic aspect as ascertaining and making clear for us truths on which the religious imagination has to rest. Knowledge must ever precede the exercise of the affections". [23]

From what has been said about the relationship between faith and doctrine, it is clear that Catholic youth have "a right to receive 'the word of faith' not in a mutilated, falsified or diminished form but whole and entire, in all its rigour and vigour". [24] Further to this, "Unfaithfulness on some point to the integrity of the message means a dangerous weakening of catechesis and putting at risk the results that Christ and the ecclesial community have a right to expect from it". [25] Also, it is naive to claim that in order to make religious education appealing to youth, it is necessary to sacrifice doctrinal content in order to give sufficient weight to the students' life experience. It must not be forgotten that "no one can arrive at the whole truth on the basis solely of some simple private experience". [26] In the twenty years I have been teaching religious education in Catholic high schools in Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, I have always found that young people love solid doctrine when it is presented to them in an interesting way. Besides, any teacher with common sense will always try to relate doctrine to the experiences of the students. Finally, in challenging young people to accept the Catholic way of life, it is "useless to play off orthopraxis against orthodoxy: Christianity is inseparably both. Firm and well-thought-out convictions lead to courageous and upright action". [] [27]

The 1970s and 80s was a period characterised by great efforts to bring about a renewal of religious education throughout the Western world. Much attention was given to method but not enough to content. Commenting on why this attempted renewal floundered, Peter Ritzer, who is a director of religious education in the United States said:

Instead of systematic study of religion, we students were invited to engage in discussions, projects, or games presumably designed to help us examine how Catholic teaching applied in everyday life . . . Sure, discussing and reasoning out the proper behaviour in a limited number of situations could be useful, but we were already capable of reasoning and arriving at conclusions before we entered the classroom. What we were not capable of doing was applying teaching that we did not know. And we did not necessarily know the Church's teaching on given issues and the profundity of reasoning behind it. That is why we attended religious education. The educational approach described above was why we left disappointed. Furthermore, there seemed to be a reluctance on the part of many religious education representatives to talk much about the Church's teaching and the reasoning behind it. It was as if they were afraid that we might not like it. Or perhaps, in the catechetical climate of the time, they were less sure of things about which they had been very sure in the past. Whatever the case, we usually skirted around the material instead of going through it, which was a very frustrating experience to those of us who wanted to learn. [28]

Ritzer's description of the experiential catechetical process which has dominated religious education in the U. S for the last three decades could just as easily be applied to Australia during the same period. In 1988, Archbishop Eric D'Arcy called for greater emphasis on the content of religious education when he said:

We urgently need a renaissance in the doctrinal dimension of education-in-faith . . . The Catechetic which has dominated Australian Religious Education for nearly two decades has been blessed with many beautiful successes. But it has failed badly in the doctrinal dimension . . . Since 1970 many Australian pastors, parents and teachers have been expressing strong and constant dissatisfaction about the 'Experientialist Model Catechetic' which became dominant in Catholic high schools. As the system became entrenched great numbers of young Catholics were coming away from twelve years of Catholic schooling, ignorant of the reasons that support those doctrines: vulnerable to even the most elementary and hackneyed secularist objections to Catholic beliefs. [29]

Catholic faith is first and foremost concerned with facts and not with notions and concepts. For example, we believe in realities such as the Incarnation of God's Eternal Word, the Virginal Conception, Christ's Bodily Resurrection and his Real Presence in the Eucharist. An overemphasis on experientialism in religious education overlooks this fact that we believe there is an objective basis to our faith which requires us to believe that certain things are true and others false. Consequently - memorising, understanding, knowing, interrelating and accepting on trust - are all part of our growing in knowledge of the faith. Archbishop Eric D'Arcy gave a good example of why it is necessary to go beyond mere experiential considerations when teaching religion when he said: "I do not experience the changing of the bread and wine into our Lord's body and blood at Mass, any more than I experience the neuronal changes constantly occurring in my own brain. But a knowledge of the latter is an item of every educated person's general knowledge; a knowledge of the former is an item of every well instructed Catholic's faith-knowledge; and in both cases one acquires the knowledge not through experiencing it, but by being taught it by those who already possess it". [30]

Coupled with their responsibility to impart a systematic education in Catholic doctrine, Catholic schools must also ensure that those who teach religion actually believe what they are teaching. Young people thirst for authenticity in those who teach them about ultimate realities. In Evangeli Nuntiandi, Pope Paul VI highlighted this need for authenticity in the one who teaches the Catholic Faith when he said: "Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses". [31] The question that needs to be addressed to all religion teachers is this: "Do you really believe what you are proclaiming? Do you live what you believe? Do you really preach what you live?". [32]


Br Marcellin Flynn's findings on the lack of knowledge of Catholic doctrine amongst our senior high school students indicates that there is an urgent need for a renewal of religious education at the high school level. A factor contributing to this ignorance of doctrine is the rubbishy (in some cases subversive) materials students sometimes have to work with in their religious education classes. A good example of what I am talking about here is the Years 11 and 12 Support Units for the Diocesan Religious Education Curriculum Sharing Our Story produced by the Parramatta Catholic Education Office (CEO) in 1993 and 1995. The Sharing Our Story curriculum was launched and introduced into schools in the Parramatta Diocese in 1991. The release of the first edition of the Years 11 and 12 Support Units for Sharing Our Story in 1993 gave rise to much public controversy. In the Units dealing with Christology, Ecclesiology (Church), Human Relationships and Decision Making, correct doctrinal statements were muddled up with ones that were erroneous and in many cases contradictory. Here is just a sample of how the Support Units deviated from the teaching of the Church in the areas of Christology and Ecclesiology:

• the definition of Christ's Divinity by the Council of Nicea was described as the official mythologisation of Christianity;

• the material implicitly denied that the Church was founded by Christ;

• asserted that the teaching of the Church whereby we are ransomed and reconciled with God through Christ's death on the Cross is merely a historical model for interpreting the Crucifixion which no longer "holds sway, "

• claimed that the Second Vatican Council redefined the role of the Pope as the "first among equals, "

• applied the Canticle in St Paul's Letter to the Philippians in respect of Christ's Incarnation to the Marxist guerrilla Che Guevarra;

• one suggested activity involved students considering possible future trends in the Church including the abolition of its hierarchical structure, women priests and a female Pope.

The morality section of the 1993 Sharing Our Story Support Units was spread largely across the Human Relationships and Decision Making topics. A comprehensive outline of the many serious defects these units contained is not possible here. Instead I will confine myself to highlighting some of their worst aspects. The Support Units listed Anthony Kosnik's book Human Sexuality as a key teacher reference and the Kit included pages from this book which were recommended for distribution to students. The book was written by a committee of the Catholic Theological Society of America under the leadership of Kosnik. The Committee on Doctrine of the U. S Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement in November 1977 officially condemning the Kosnik book. The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also issued a statement condemning Human Sexuality and it ordered Paulist Press to stop publication and distribution.

There are few sexual perversions that Kosnik and his co-authors cannot justify on the grounds that they may be conducive to "creative growth towards integration". [33] They hold that contraceptive sterilisation can be a morally licit expression of responsible parenthood and that contraceptive modes of marital intercourse can be morally acceptable even if they prevent implantation of the fertilised ovum rather than preventing fertilisation (cf. pp. 114-136). They say that artificial insemination by a donor is justifiable when "there exists a strong mutual desire on the part of husband and wife and sufficient stability in the marital life to offset" any risks that it might pose to marital harmony (cf. p. 139). Though they express concern that practices such as adultery and mate swapping can destabilise marriages, they are nevertheless open to such "variant patterns of extramarital relations" on the grounds that such relationships may "truly be 'creative' and 'integrative' for all involved, and therefore morally acceptable" (cf. pp. 151-152). They assert that premarital sexual intercourse may be morally good (cf. pp. 159- 165) and that homosexual acts are morally responsible as long as they are an expression of a close and committed friendship (cf. p. 215). Finally, they assert that bestiality is only pathological "when heterosexual outlets are available" (cf. p. 230).

One suggested activity in the Support Units involved giving the students a handout taken from Kosnik entitled The Virtue of Chastity which said: "Chastity calls one to a generous pursuit of that creative growth toward integration that is the purpose of human sexuality. This remains true for any way of life, that is for the married, unmarried, celibate, or homosexual . . . Only in the context of one's state of life can the expression of human sexuality be evaluated properly. This approach bespeaks the conviction that, morally speaking, attitudes, patterns, and habits that reflect a continuing life-style are far more significant than individual, isolated acts". [34] The Support Units also presented a poor explanation of conscience. In the Human Relationships Unit, one suggested activity entailed giving a handout to students containing two pages on Church teaching about conscience supplemented by four pages from Kosnik. In these pages, Kosnik states that intrinsically evil acts such as masturbation, direct sterilisation, contraception and premarital sex cannot be regarded as prohibited by universal and absolute moral norms (cf. pp. 78- 83). On the basis of their reliance on Kosnik alone, these 1993 Support Units of the Parramatta CEO stand condemned. Recently, a report of a review of Sharing Our Story appeared in the Parramatta CEO's Newsletter Catholic Schools Update. This report said:

Sharing Our Story, the groundbreaking religious education curriculum, developed by the Parramatta Catholic Education Office (CEO) has just undergone an intensive review under the leadership of Associate Professor Patricia Malone of the Australian Catholic University. Sharing Our Story is used by all schools in the Parramatta Diocese and many throughout Australia to educate students in the rich tradition of the Catholic religion. It has been instrumental in changing the focus of religious education from dogma to enlightened belief. [35]

I wonder to what extent is the fall-off in Mass attendances in the Parramatta Diocese related to its "groundbreaking religious education curriculum" as Sharing Our Story is described above? The April 1996 edition of the Parramatta Diocesan Journal One Heart reported that in the three-and-a-half years previous, the Mass attendance rate for the diocese had fallen by 9. 6% to an average of 16. 75%. Commenting on the trend, the report said: "If the current rate of loss is sustained then the Mass-going population for Parramatta Diocese will be 41, 600 in 2000 and 31, 000 in 2010" (p. 9). Another article in this edition of One Heart offered advice on What Makes a Parish Effective? The article listed 9 central characteristics of effective parishes including "Corporate, dynamic worship" and "Streamlined structure and solid, participatory decision making". Explaining what it meant by "Corporate dynamic worship, " the article said: "The weekly services are holistic in music and message, planned together, and led by a compassionate, competent team of laity and pastor" (p. 8). The reasons why Mass attendances are falling in the Parramatta Diocese are I am sure many and complex. However, the chaotic state of catechesis in the diocese, as characterised by the Support Units for Sharing Our Story, must in some way be contributing to the alienation of youth from the practice of the faith. If instead of sound doctrine our youth are being taught error, then we can conclude with Aristotle that "a little error in the beginning will lead to a larger error in the end". [36] A diocese can have the best financial planners in the business, its "streamlined structures and solid participatory decision making" processes may well reflect the sociological and psychological flavour of the month, but if Catholic doctrine has been displaced by the corruption of Kosnik in the schools of the diocese, then falling Mass attendances are the inevitable result.


The chaotic nature of the 1993 Support Units for Sharing Our Story are testimony as to why the Catechism of the Catholic Church was necessary. If the Catechism is accepted as a basis for catechetical renewal, then it can be used to bring integrity back into religious education where this has been lost. On its release in Australia however, the Catechism came under attack from several staff members of the Catholic Institute of Sydney who were chosen to conduct seminars on the Catechism for priests and for teachers in Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney and in the Diocese of Parramatta during 1994. [37] Extended versions of their lectures were gathered into a book entitled The New Catechism: Analysis and Commentary. [38] In what follows I will limit myself to highlighting just a few of the criticisms it makes of the Catechism. Before doing so I wish to point out that the contributions to the Commentary by Fr Clem Hill, Fr Gerard Kelly, Fr Edmund Campion and Fr David Walker were not critical of the Catechism.

The general tone of the Catholic Institute of Sydney Commentary is set early by its editor Fr Andrew Murray. In his introduction, Fr Murray announces that all four papers dealing with the "Profession of Faith" section of the Catechism "are generally critical, although they do find some positive elements of the Catechism's treatment" (p. 6). Fr Murray also alerts us in advance that Fr Neil Brown's treatment of the Ten Commandments section of the Catechism points out "the ways in which it has failed to take into account modern learning and circumstances" (ibid. ). In his contribution to the Commentary entitled Faith in the Creator God, Fr David Coffey says that the Catechism "is not notably successful, even in its own terms, in fulfilling its stated aim of being 'an organic synthesis of the essential and fundamental contents of Catholic doctrine, as regards faith and morals, in the light of the Second Vatican Council and the whole of the Church's tradition'. " To have achieved this says Fr Coffey, the "framers" of the Catechism "would need to have assimilated the Council, an object not achieved simply by larding the text with quotations from Council documents". Having said this, Fr Coffey then added: "For a person of my generation it is not difficult to identify the mentality of the Catechism: it is that of the Latin Roman theology manuals of the 1950's complete with their tendency to integralism, their lack of historical awareness and their hermeneutical naivety" (p. 20). Indeed, Fr Coffey even asserts that the Catechism is already obsolete. He says: "the actual culture of the Catechism is not hard to identify, and it is one that has serious problems of its own, which is why it has been left behind by modern theology" (p. 21).

Fr Coffey describes as "regrettable" (p. 17) some aspects of the Catechism's treatment of the Blessed Trinity saying that "most people would find it baffling" (p. 18). He expresses surprise that the Catechism teaches as "a truth of faith" that angels actually exist (p. 19). He is even more surprised that the Catechism teaches the existence of guardian angels saying: "the sole authority cited for this being St. Basil" (ibid. ). By way of footnote (n. 202), the Catechism in fact gives several Scripture references to the existence of guardian angels including the words of the Lord Himself: "See you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven" (Mt 18:10). In criticising the Catechism for following Vatican II in taking the historical existence of Adam and Eve for granted, Fr Coffey says: "Thus the uncritical use of scripture in Vatican II, which has been the object of scholarly comment, is continued in the Catechism. In assuming the existence of Adam and Eve, the Catechism signals in advance its approach to original sin" (p. 14). He complains that in the Catechism "original sin is presented in an extremely literal way, based . . . on the historical existence of the first parents, their sin (to which they were tempted by the devil, whose personal existence is affirmed) and a historical contraction from Adam by all human beings through propagation". All of this, Fr Coffey suggests, is hardly "credible by contemporary standards" (p. 20). [39]

In his contribution to the Commentary, Fr Richard Lennan says: "A more developmental understanding would have enabled the Catechism to demonstrate how the Church can respond to the challenges raised by contemporary exegesis, fundamental theology, and hermeneutics. As it stands, the idea of Jesus bequeathing the Church a definite and immutable structure, is vulnerable to the insights of these disciplines . . . The Catechism's failure to adopt a historical consciousness means that it cannot commend itself as a modern document" (p. 36). [40] Commenting on the Catechism's approach to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sister Marie Farrell says: "It is to be hoped that during the preparation of local catechisms issues raised by feminist theologians concerning mariology will be given due consideration. A serious critique concerns the title 'New Eve', which is used so frequently in the Catechism, and the patriarchal idealisation of Mary to such an extent that all 'other' women become (even subliminally) seductresses, temptresses and the origin of evil in the world" (p. 45). Fr Joseph Sobb, S. J. criticises the Catechism for what he believes is its improper use of Scripture. He says:

On a number of occasions, various texts are cobbled together, apparently in an attempt to make 'an organic presentation' of some Christian Doctrine. 'God's Spirit and Word in the time of the promises' quotes directly or refers to passages from 8 New Testament books . . . Though the topic is treated in a systematic and well-ordered way, the major themes and emphases of this quite disparate collection of books is not addressed or even averted to. Thus a 'new thing' is created which may be more or less valid, but which is certainly not biblical, but which merely uses biblical language . . . As a doctrinal exposition it is scarcely true to the Scriptures. On other occasions, a phrase is taken from the biblical text where it is of theological import and used in a superficial way; the result is to trivialise the Scriptures (p. 90).

In his contribution to the Catholic Institute Commentary entitled The Moral Life As Christian Vocation, Fr Gerald Gleeson says: "A weakness of the Catechism is its reliance on existing and, at times rather dated theology. Genuine theology must be 'contemporary', that is, must re-appropriate traditional beliefs in the light of the best scholarship available" (p. 73). Fr Gleeson goes on to say: "The Catechism's compendium on sin is hamstrung by the tension that has beset the theology of sin for many centuries . . . This tension is between whether to view the gravity of sin primarily in terms of the objects of one's choice, or in terms of the disorders of one's heart and motivation" (ibid. ) Fr Gleeson faults the Catechism's treatment of sin on the grounds that "it does not take up recent and well attested insights into the psychology of moral choice and the different 'levels' of freedom" (ibid. ). In harmony with this view, Fr Gleeson adds that the Catechism's treatment "of mortal sin is problematic" (p. 75). All of this leads Fr Gleeson to the following conclusion: "Clearly, current theology and magisterial teaching on sin is in much need of refinement and development. Unfortunately the Catechism simply repeats an account which is inadequate to the moral experience of practising Catholics who no longer examine their consciences, nor approach the sacrament of reconciliation, in the terms laid down by the Catechism" (p. 75).

When reading these negative comments about the Catechism, I thought how symptomatic they are of what Hans Urs von Balthasar has called "a deep-seated anti-Roman attitude within the Church". [] [41] This attitude, says von Balthasar, has "to be overcome again and again by the community of the Church". [42] He points out that this anti-Roman propaganda is spread by people from both inside and outside the Church who use the mass media and their numerous publications to "demonstrate their Christian 'adulthood' by an arrogant and even venomous superiority towards all that comes from Rome, happens in Rome or goes to Rome". [43] Describing in more precise terms the nature of this onslaught against the Church, von Balthasar says: "Whatever comes from Rome is measured by current criteria of theological or sociological research and is declared a priori to be behind the times. This reaction finds two expressions: the subject matter is treated ironically, and, having been filtered through a critical sieve, it is presented in small doses; or it is simply treated with complete silence". [44] Moreover, adds von Balthasar, while Catholics are generally aware of the disparaging onslaught against the Church by those who from outside it spread anti-Roman propaganda, they are not however "necessarily equally alert to the more harmful" and "insidious methods employed" by those who are of "their own camp". [45]

It is revealing to compare what some distinguished scholars have said about the Catechism with the criticisms levelled against it by the staff of the Catholic Institute of Sydney. In reviewing the Catechism, Fr Avery Dulles, S. J. said: "The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the boldest challenge yet offered to the cultural relativism that currently threatens to erode the contents of Catholic faith . . . This sophisticated relativism, widespread though it may be among intellectuals, has had only limited impact on the mass of the Catholic faithful and is firmly rejected by the hierarchical leadership of the Church". [46] Fr Dulles adds that "the Catechism sets forth the whole body of Catholic teaching in an organic manner. It is a serene, comprehensive presentation of the authoritative teaching of Scripture and Catholic tradition". He says that the Catechism as a whole "is a magnificent panorama, breathtaking in its scope". Where else, asks Fr Dulles, "could one find between two covers a digest of the full teaching of the Church, down through the ages, about almost any conceivable point from the dogma of the Trinity to the morality of gambling". [] [47] Fr Dulles quotes the prominent American religious educator Francis D. Kelly, who in referring to the potential of the Catechism to provide a basis for the renewal of education in faith, spoke of it as "a clarion call to catechesis to refocus clearly on the objective mystery of faith, on its doctrinal, moral, and ascetical content, as the most solid and fruitful foundation for building the faith community". [48] In concluding his review of the Catechism, Fr Dulles said: "As a reliable compendium of Catholic doctrine, the Catechism brings together the wisdom of the centuries in an appealing synthesis. By virtue of its consistency, beauty and spiritual power, it offers a veritable feast of faith". [49]

The Catechism presents us with real Catholicism as opposed to the convoluted theological gibberish which has become so commonplace in some Catholic educational circles. It aims to foster internal unity in the faith and its proclamation. Describing the benefits the faithful should derive from the Catechism's clear articulation of the contents of Catholic faith, Fr James V. Schall, S. J. said: "What this Catechism does is to give to the faithful an authentic, accurate statement of the essence of each teaching and practice of the faith". Having said this, Fr Schall then added:

Thus, if a priest or anyone else confuses or misstates the teaching of the Church . . . it can easily be shown what the Church authoritatively teaches on the topic. The doctor can check the pastor and the pastor need not rely on his own private views . . . If you will, this Catechism is a kind of long-awaited proclamation of intellectual freedom for individual Catholics, the freedom of the truth that makes Christians free, the freedom that revelation gives to reason, the freedom to be aware of the limits of intellect itself, the freedom from doubts about the faith originating in the disorders or confusions of individual priests, bishops or theologians. [50]

I think it rather presumptuous of Fr Coffey to assert that "most people" will find "baffling" the Catechism's treatment of the Blessed Trinity. Entitled The Profession of Faith, the first part of the Catechism begins by explaining the entire economy of Revelation which culminates in the mystery of Christ. The Apostles' Creed is presented in its Trinitarian context which determines the character and content of the economy of Divine Revelation. Consequently, in presenting the very first article of the Creed ("I believe in God the Father"), the Catechism intends to first profess the truths concerning the very life of God in his Trinitarian mystery. [51] After this the Catechism goes on to unfold the revelation of the Blessed Trinity in the history of salvation: the work of creation, the work of redemption through Jesus Christ, and the work of sanctification in the Holy Spirit through the Church. Describing the Revelation of the Blessed Trinity as the "most fundamental and essential teaching" in the "hierarchy of the truths of faith", the Catechism systematically develops and explains that "the whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men" and reconciles and unites with himself "those who turn away from sin". [52] As a teacher, I am very conscious of the need to be coherent and systematic in the presentation of ideas. In this regard, my impression is that the Catechism's treatment of the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity is simply excellent.

Fr Lennan's comment that the Catechism's treatment of the origin of the hierarchical structure of the Church does not reflect modern "insights" and that it is "vulnerable" to the insights of "contemporary exegesis" is puzzling. The statements in the Catechism relating to the College of Bishops and to its head, the Pope, as well as to their threefold office of teaching, sanctifying and governing, are to a great extent drawn from Sacred Scripture and from the Second Vatican Council's own expositions in Lumen Gentium (cf. CCC. nn. 874- 896). In consequence of this, are we not justified in interpreting Fr Lennan's criticism of the Catechism's treatment of the origin of the Church's hierarchical structure as perhaps a veiled assertion that Lumen Gentium's teaching on this question is also "vulnerable to the insights" of "contemporary exegesis, fundamental theology, and hermeneutics"? If "the idea of Jesus bequeathing the Church a definite and immutable structure" is vulnerable to the "insights" of contemporary exegetical science as Fr Lennan claims, then surely as a teacher of Catholic theology he would agree that the problem would have to lie with the particular exegetical "insights" he is alluding to and not with the Church's teaching? Hans Urs von Balthasar, after stating that in the Church the "office of Peter remains as does that of the apostles, the bishops", [53] goes on to recall how St Thomas Aquinas in refuting the idea of a purely personal transmission of authority in the Church pointed out that Jesus' Church had to endure until the end of time and therefore had to be endowed by him with a structure and not merely with a foundation. [54] In all discussion about the place of the Petrine Office and the office of bishop in the immutable structure inscribed by Jesus in his Church, it should be borne in mind that a common thesis of Protestantism, which presents itself with manifold nuances, is that the authority bestowed on Peter and the other apostles by Christ is historically unique whereas those whom the apostles appointed to succeed them are far below them in rank and authority. [55] For example, in commenting on the passage in Matthew 16: 18-20 where Jesus bestows on Peter the power of the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Protestant theologian Oscar Cullmann says: "He who proceeds without prejudice, on the basis of exegesis . . . cannot seriously conclude that Jesus here had successors of Peter in mind". [56]

In regard to the Catechism's treatment of the Christian moral life, it is significant that this part of the Catechism is entitled Life in Christ. The Catechism stresses that our vocation is to become the persons God created us to be and that this can only be achieved through our cooperation with God's grace. As the title of this section indicates, becoming the persons God wants us to be means we are to become more and more like Christ. In detailing the scope of the Christian moral life, the Catechism uses the Ten Commandments as an organising principle. The emphasis throughout is on following God's Holy law as the means to human fulfilment. Speaking of this positive treatment of the Ten Commandments in the Catechism, Bishop Christoph Schonborn said:

It {Catechism} emphasises the liberating character of the Decalogue (2057), together with its incorporation into the preaching of Christ (2052-55) and its role in the catechesis of the Church (2064-68). Here too there must be no doubt about the primacy of grace (2074). The Ten Commandments, divided between the "two tables", are presented as an unfolding of the double commandment of love (2067, 2083, 2197). The expositions of the individual Commandments all begin on a positive note, by drawing attention to the virtues and attitudes which correspond to the Commandment in question. Against this backdrop emerge clearly the defective attitudes and wrong actions which can only be described as vices and sins. [57]

Before looking at what various scholars have said about the Catechism's use of Sacred Scripture, I will first outline a few important points about the Bible's use in the Church. The Fathers of the 1995 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops noted in their Final Report that Vatican II's Constitution Dei Verbum on Divine Revelation tended to be neglected in contemporary theology and catechesis. They cautioned against a partial reading of Dei Verbum and they insisted that the original meaning of Scripture cannot be separated from the living Tradition of the Church, nor from the authentic interpretation of the Church's magisterium. [58] Sounding a note of alarm, William Cardinal Baum, Prefect of the Congregation of Catholic Education, told the Synod of a split that was occurring between the Bible and the Church, between Scripture and Tradition. The confusion that has resulted from this split, has in the minds of many, cast doubt upon the essential truths of the Faith. Cardinal Baum stressed that this split between the Bible and the tradition of the Church was largely facilitated by a tendency for exegesis to take on a life of its own without reference to the Church's teaching. Describing how this undermined the faith, Cardinal Baum said: "Bowing before the exigencies of 'science, ' exegetes are no longer disposed to interpret Scripture in the light of faith, and hence end up calling in question essential truths of faith, such as the divinity of Christ, the Virginal conception, the salvific and redeeming value of Christ's death, the reality of the Resurrection, and the institution of the Church by Christ".

On April 23, 1993, Pope John Paul II addressed the Cardinals, the diplomats and the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission on the occasion of the centenary of Leo XIII's encyclical Providentissimus Deus, the anniversary of Pius XII's Divino Afflante Spiritu, and the publication of an important new document by the Pontifical Biblical Commission on The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church. [59] The Holy Father affirmed the legitimacy and the necessity of scientific biblical scholarship. He pointed out that exegesis must be attentive to the human aspects of the biblical texts and that it must be open to all the disciplines that shed light on the historical elements conditioning the sacred texts. At the same time the Pope insisted that the Divine element in Scripture must always be respected. Recalling that Holy Scripture is the Word of God in human words, the Pope said that "the exegete himself has to perceive the divine word in the texts". [60] The Holy Father cautioned that another condition necessary for the exegete to bear fruit is that he carry out his work "in fidelity to the Church". [61]

A valuable analytical tool for the study of the Bible is what is known as The Historical-Critical Method. The method involves various stages of analysis: "from textual criticism one progresses to literary criticism, with its work of dissection in the quest for sources; then one moves to a critical study of forms and, finally, to an analysis of the editorial process, which aims to be particularly attentive to the text as it has been put together". [62] All this has made it possible to understand far more accurately the intention of the authors and editors of the Bible, as well as the message which they addressed to their first readers. [63] However, there will always be a certain tension between scholarship and faith since scholarship changes while faith does not. New scholarly theories of biblical exegesis are being advanced all the time which may eventually turn out to be devoid of all validity. For example, on the sources of the Bible, the Documentary Hypothesis Theory sought to give an explanation to the editing of the Pentateuch (first five Books of the Old Testament). As regards the sources of the New Testament, the Two Source Hypothesis postulated that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were composed out of two principal sources: on the one hand, the Gospel of Mark and, on the other, a collection of the sayings of Jesus called the "Q Source". However, these two theories are now under challenge and many well-known scholars have abandoned them. [64]

Though far from being an exact science, the historical-critical has contributed to our ability to penetrate the message of Sacred Scripture. The method's achievements in this regard has lent it "an importance of the highest order". [65] It remains "the indispensable method for the scientific study of the meaning of the ancient texts". [66] The method "approaches the Bible as it would any other piece of literature" and seeks to "fix a text in its historical context and to determine as accurately as possible the meaning its author intended to convey". [67] The meaning thus obtained is known as the Literal Sense of Scripture the fundamental importance of which was affirmed by St. Thomas Aquinas. [68] This literal sense should not be confused with the "literalist" sense to which fundamentalists are attached. [69]

The Church also recognises two other senses of Scripture - the Spiritual and the Fuller senses. The Spiritual Sense of Sacred Scripture can be defined as "the meaning expressed by the biblical texts when read, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, in the context of the Paschal mystery of Christ and of the new life which flows from it". [70] In this context, "the paschal event, the death and resurrection of Jesus, has established a radically new historical context, which sheds fresh light upon the ancient texts and causes them to undergo a change in meaning". [71] For example, "certain texts which in ancient times had to be thought of as hyperbole (e. g. the oracle where God, speaking of a son of David, promised to establish his throne "forever": 2 Sam 7:12-13; 1 Chr 17:11-14), these texts must now be taken literally" if it is to be read in the light of Christ's paschal mystery. [72] In a case such as this, the literal sense is already a spiritual sense. [73] It follows that "it is most often in dealing with the Old Testament that Christian exegesis speaks of the spiritual sense". [74]

The Fuller Sense of Scripture is defined "as a deeper meaning of the text, intended by God but not clearly expressed by the human author". [75] Its existence in the biblical text "comes to be known when one studies the text in the light of other biblical texts which utilise it or in its relationship with the internal development of revelation . . . For example, the context of Matthew 1:23 gives a fuller sense to the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 in regard to the almah who will conceive, by using the translation of the Septuagint (parthenos): 'The virgin will conceive'. " [76] Another example is how the teaching of the early Church Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils about the Blessed Trinity "expresses the fuller sense of the teaching of the New Testament regarding God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit". [77] The definition of original sin by the Council of Trent "provided the fuller sense of Paul's teaching in Romans 5:12-21 about the consequences of the sin of Adam for humanity". [78] However, attempts to read into Scripture its fuller sense must be subject to control either "by an explicit biblical text or by an authentic doctrinal tradition" as otherwise its use could lead to subjective interpretations that lacked all validity. [79]

Returning now to the use of Holy Scripture in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism itself explains the Catholic understanding of the various "senses of Scripture" and how they influence the interpretation of the Bible in the Church. [80] In an article entitled Beyond The Literal Sense: The Interpretation of Scripture in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Fr Joseph Jensen, OSB, who teaches Scripture at the Catholic University of America and who is executive secretary of the Catholic Biblical Association in the United States said: "The Catechism speaks explicitly from the standpoint of Christian Faith, which it intends to affirm; its use of the Old Testament accords well with the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament. Many developments in hermeneutics can be invoked to suggest that the Catechism is more on target than might at first appear". [81] Having said this, Fr Jensen added: "The Catechism reflects the sense that God is working out a plan in history, speaking of 'the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments' which dictates that 'the New Testament must be read in the light of the Old' (128-129)". [82] After saying that the Catechism "insists upon the need to establish the literal sense of the biblical texts (see nn. 190-110)", Fr Jensen added that it "also reflects contemporary hermeneutical positions". [83]

While pointing out that "the Catechism neither neglects nor canonises any particular school of exegesis", Monsignor William Smith adds: "It is true that some critics have complained that the Catechism does not analyse biblical texts in their own context without reference to the Church's doctrinal tradition. But, it is after all the Catechism of the Catholic Church, not the Catechism of any singular hermeneutical society. Following Vatican II, the Catechism affirms that Scripture should be read as an inspired document within the framework of the Church's Faith, not apart from it". [84] Speaking of the Catechism's use of Sacred Scripture, Fr Giuseppe Segalla who is a member of the Pontifical Theological Commission said:

The references to Scripture are consistently accurate because the text was carefully reviewed by experts in the Old and New Testaments prior to its final draft. What use is made of Scripture? By and large, I would say that a canonical usage is practised, in the sense that Scripture is viewed as a unified book, the book of God. Thus Old Testament texts are cited together which are quite far apart from the historic literary point of view, or texts of the Old and New Testaments that have to do with the same subject are brought together. A unity is thus imposed by the one plan of God and by the one Author of Scripture . . . The result of the catechetical effort displayed in the use of Scripture is to reduce the tension between the historical sense of the text (what the text meant), which is, however, usually respected, and the present meaning (what the text means today), since Scripture is read within the context of the living tradition (patristic, liturgical, hagiographical, magisterial) and in the light of today's culture. The weight falls obviously on the present meaning, but always in conjunction with the original sense . . . One could say that Scripture in the Catechism is read and interpreted as the living word of the living God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) for man, the Church and the world of today. [85]


If the criticisms levelled against the Catechism by the staff of the Catholic Institute of Sydney were intended to dissuade Catholic educators from using it as a basis for the renewal of their religious education programs, then they seem to have been successful as far as the Parramatta CEO is concerned. In response to the public controversy surrounding the 1993 Years 11 and 12 Support Units for Sharing Our Story, the Parramatta CEO reviewed the materials and reissued a new edition of them in February 1995. Incredibly, despite the release in the meantime of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there was not a single reference to it in the approximately 600 pages of the 1995 edition of the Support Units. In contrast to this, the reference sections within the various Units listed many of those who have championed dissent against the Church's teaching, e. g. Bernard Haring, Charles Curran, Leonardo Boff, Richard McBrien, Hans Kung and Paul Collins. While some of the most objectionable material in the 1993 Support Units did not appear in the 1995 edition (e. g. Kosnik), there is still much in the new edition however that should cause concern to parents of students who will use the materials. The outline which follows will document only some of the defects in the 1995 Support Units.

Hans Urs von Balthasar has said that "the figure of Jesus fell apart" in the wake of the Enlightenment inspired rationalistic "demythologising" of Scripture. [86] As examples of the operation of this process, von Balthasar cites doubts about the attested facts of the Resurrection, the assertion "that the sayings of Jesus may have been stylised and elevated to a greater authority than he himself claimed", the claim that "the infancy narratives may have been added from legends", that the meaning of Jesus' death on the Cross "and its assessment by Christ himself is uncertain", and that "the miracles could have been invented or strongly exaggerated". [87] The 1995 Who Is Jesus? Support Unit of Sharing Our Story relies heavily on a biblical studies approach to Christology (the study of Christ). In doing so it draws heavily upon Jesus, Mystery and Surprise: An Introduction to the Study of the Gospels by Gideon Goosen and Margaret Tomlinson. [88] In one place the Support Unit describes this book as "excellent" (p. 37) and in another place it says: "Teachers could direct students to material that will build up a picture of the four Gospel communities. Especially recommended are Jesus, Mystery and Surprise, Goosen. G and Tomlinson, M. 1989". In several places, this Goosen/Tomlinson book contradicts or casts doubt on the doctrine of the Church. In view of the fact that Goosen/Tomlinson's ideas strongly permeate the Who Is Jesus? Unit, and since they both teach in the Religious Education Department at the Australian Catholic University in Sydney, I will therefore spend some time here outlining and responding to some of the book's more contentious aspects.

In regard to Jesus' consciousness of the salvific meaning of his Crucifixion, Goosen/ Tomlinson ask: "Did Jesus himself know the saving (soteriological) power of his death?", to which they answer: "We do not know" (p. 125). In attributing the possibility of ignorance to Jesus, Goosen/Tomlinson are simply recycling the old Agonite heresy which attributed ignorance to the humanity of Christ. [89] The Support Units reproduce Goosen/Tomlinson's erroneous views. On page 48 par. 5 of the Who Is Jesus Unit we read: "Jesus, as he became more aware of his call, gravitated to the poor and marginalised". By casting doubt on the truth that Our Lord was always fully aware of the implications of his mission, Goosen/Tomlinson are reducing Christ to the condition of a mere man. This particular form of "Christological humanism" has been condemned by the Magisterium of the Church. On July 24, 1966, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), citing erroneous interpretations of Vatican II's Christological teaching declared: "It is regrettable that bad news from various places has arrived of abuses prevailing in interpreting the teaching of the Council, and of strange and bold opinions arising here and there which greatly disturb the souls of many of the faithful . . . There creeps forth a certain Christological humanism in which Christ is reduced to the condition of a mere man, who gradually acquired consciousness of His divine Sonship".

Jesus was always fully aware (conscious) of His mission. In Mystici Corporis, Pope Pius XII reaffirmed that Jesus' human soul enjoyed the Beatific Vision, even from conception. He said: "But the most loving knowledge of this kind, with which the divine Redeemer pursued us from the first moment of the Incarnation, surpasses the diligent grasp of any human mind; for by that blessed vision which He enjoyed when just received in the womb of the Mother of God, he has all the members of the Mystical Body continuously and perpetually present to Himself, and embraces them with salvific love . . . In the manger, on the Cross, in the eternal glory of the Father, Christ has all the members of the Church before Him {conspecta} and joined to Him far more clearly and far more lovingly than a mother has a son on her lap, or than each one knows and loves himself". [90] Commenting on this teaching of Pope Pius XII, Fr. William G. Most in his excellent work entitled The Consciousness of Christ says: "The human soul, and so the human consciousness of Jesus, did enjoy the beatific vision from the first moment of human conception. That vision made known to Him all the members of His mystical Body, of all centuries. It made known also his divine Sonship. It also made known to Him the day and hour of the parousia. In itself, the beatific vision contains all knowledge". [91]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is unambiguous in its teaching on the nature of Christ's human knowledge. It says that the "truly human knowledge of God's Son expressed the divine life of his person". [92] Then, by way of a quotation from St Maximus the Confessor, the Catechism adds: "The human nature of God's Son, not by itself but by its union with the Word, knew and showed forth in itself everything that pertains to God". [93] Finally, in relation to this question of Christ's knowledge, the Catechism says: "By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal". [94]

Goosen/Tomlinson cast doubt on the historical and physical reality of the Resurrection of Our Lord. Referring to this central event of Divine Revelation they ask: "Was the Resurrection an historical event?", to which they answer: "Not in the sense of our being able to go out with a notebook and pen and make a full report as the details unwind before our eyes. But the fact that it can hardly be called an historical event in our ordinary sense of the word does not mean, as McBrien points out, that the Resurrection was not a real event for Jesus with historical implications for others. McBrien suggests the word transhistorical, rather than historical or unhistorical. The reality of the risen Lord transcends history as we know it" (p. 123). After saying this they add: "The question of whether the Resurrection appearances were physical or spiritual has long puzzled people. The Gospels seem to be saying 'both physical and spiritual' . . . The proclamation of the death, burial, rising and appearances of Jesus originated in a culture which did not have a dichotomised concept of body/soul. Whatever the explanation, the emphasis in each Gospel is that the one who appeared was the same Jesus who had been crucified, translated at his Resurrection into an entirely new mode of existence" (p. 124). [95]

Pope John Paul II points out that the Resurrection of Jesus is both an historical and trans-historical event. Referring to the historical reality of Christ's Bodily Resurrection, the Holy Father says: "The Christian faith in Christ's Resurrection is, therefore, linked to a fact which has a precise historical dimension". [96] This historical dimension says Pope John Paul II, is such that "the Resurrection is, in the first place, a historical event. It took place in a precise context of time and place: 'on the third day' after Jesus' crucifixion at Jerusalem and his burial in the tomb provided by Joseph of Arimathea". [97] In his appearances to the disciples, Jesus "invites them to verify that the risen body in which he came to them is the very same that was tortured and crucified". [98] At the same time however, the resurrected body of Jesus "possesses new properties", it has "become spiritual" and "glorified" and "therefore no longer subject to the usual limitations of material things, and therefore of a human body". [99] At the same time, however, this glorified body of the Risen Lord is "authentic and real" so that "in his material identity here is the proof of Christ's resurrection". [100] The Catechism of the Catholic Church presents the Resurrection of the Lord as "a real event, with manifestations that were historically verified". [101] It adds that "Christ's Resurrection cannot be interpreted as something outside the physical order, and it is impossible not to acknowledge it as an historical fact". [102]

Speaking of the "sense" in which the Resurrection of the Lord can be viewed as a trans-historical event, Pope John Paul II says: "Christ's resurrection is beyond the purely historical dimension; it is an event pertaining to the transhistorical sphere, and therefore eludes the criteria of simple human empirical observation". [103] Reflecting on the relationship of this trans- historical dimension of the Resurrection to the Empty Tomb, the Holy Father states that "no one was an eye-witness of the resurrection . . . no one could say how it had happened in its physical reality. Still less could the senses perceive the most interior essence of his passage to another life". [104] In concluding his discussion of the relationship between the historical and trans-historical dimensions of the Resurrection, Pope John Paul II says: "It is true that Jesus, after the resurrection, appeared to his disciples; he spoke to them, had dealings with them, and even ate with them; he invited Thomas to touch him in order to be sure of his identity. However, this real dimension of his entire humanity concealed another life which was now his, and which withdrew him from the 'normality' of ordinary earthly life and plunged him in 'mystery'. " [105]

In several places Goosen/Tomlinson impugn the historical accuracy of the Gospels. They say that the Infancy Narratives are examples of how "Early tradition tended to take to itself folklore, astrology and Old Testament interpretation. These are known features in much ancient tracing of origins, where the sophisticated modern use of genealogical and historical records was unknown" (p. 70, quoting Fitzmeyer). They say that St. Matthew "uses Old Testament texts as central and then weaves a story around these" (p. 72). Would it not be more correct to say that, in the light of the events of Easter, the Holy Spirit enlightened the Evangelists in a way that enabled them to penetrate "the prophetic value of the Old Testament. " [106] Regarding Jesus' claim to Messiahship, Goosen/ Tomlinson say: "When we hear Jesus claiming to be Messiah, it may well be the faith and understanding of the early Church that we are hearing, rather than a specific claim by the historical Jesus" (p. 50). In making this statement however, the authors are entirely consistent with their earlier assertions about the possibility of ignorance in Jesus. If as they claim Jesus was possibly ignorant of the salvific meaning of his Crucifixion, then, does it not logically follow that he would also have to be ignorant of his Messiahship?

Goosen/Tomlinson's problems with the historicity and supernatural content of the Gospels becomes particularly evident in their treatment of the miracles of Jesus. They say that a weakness of the scientific definition of a miracle is that "what is a miracle today might not be one tomorrow as a result of increased scientific knowledge" (p. 110). They say that "Jesus' miracles are not proofs of his divinity as has been sometimes taught" (ibid. ). They ask: "are the Gospel accounts of miracles accurate descriptions of what happened" (p. 113), to which they answer:

The first point to be made is that the witnesses of these miracles reported them according to their own mental horizons and perceptions of events. The witnesses gave subjective interpretations of incidents. Thus what one described as an 'unclean spirit' 2000 years ago might today be called an epileptic or someone who is mentally unstable. In reading the miracle stories, we must thus allow for this difference of perception between then and now. Secondly, the way in which the miracles were written allowed for elaboration and embellishment of the story . . . Thus the dramatic and exaggerated style of recording these miracles must be allowed for by the reader . . . Thirdly the aim of the Evangelist must be kept in mind . . . The evangelists were not concerned so much with accurately recording a past event as with putting believers in touch with the living Lord . . . Given these considerations, it is not difficult to realise that, in general, it is not possible to get to the original, actual, unadorned event in the life of Jesus. However, this should not worry us if we can remember that as regards miracles, it is not what happened that is the important thing, but the meaning of miracle (pp. 113-114).

In his book The Mystery of God's Word, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O. F. M. Cap., who serves as the preacher to the papal household at the Vatican, attacks what he calls "Biblical Ebionism". The Ebionites viewed Jesus as a great prophet but would not affirm him as Divine. By "Biblical Ebionism", Fr Cantalamessa means a dedication to the historical critical-method that is based in rationalism and does not go beyond "what is historically verifiable". [107] Fr. Thomas McGovern agrees. He says:

In contemporary biblical exegesis, one finds assertions that certain aspects of the life of Christ as recorded in the Gospels are unhistorical. With striking confidence it is declared that particular events and teachings are the outgrowth of the evangelists' imagination, or a retrospective projection of events and sayings, which amplify the personality of Christ in the light of the resurrection . . . The historical authenticity of central doctrines of the faith such as the virginal conception of Christ, Jesus' self-knowledge as the pre-existing Son of God, the fact that he instituted the priesthood and the episcopacy are frequently impugned, doctrines the certainty of which the Church has always seen affirmed in the Gospel accounts. What we are confronted with here is essentially a denial of the fundamental historical character of the Gospels . . . At one level there is an implicit denial of the supernatural character of the Incarnation . . . The Gospel stories are thus a product of 'faith' and not of history, because faith and scientific history are incompatible. [108]

Regarding the nature of miracles, Catholic apologist Michael Sheehan says: "A miracle is an occurrence outside the course of nature perceptible to the senses and explicable only as the direct act of God Himself". [109] I find it incredible that anyone who believes in the Incarnation would fail to see in Jesus' miracles proof of his Divinity. Speaking of Christ's miracles in relation to the mystery of the union of his divine and human natures, St Gregory of Nyssa said: "While we confess that the divine nature differs in majesty from a nature that is mortal and perishable, we are not capable of perceiving the manner of the conjunction of the divine and the human. Yet the miracles recorded do not permit us to doubt that God was born in the nature of a man". [110] Who other than God could raise a dead person to life? In the New Testament, the miracles are presented to us as acts that point to the mighty power of God. In fact, the Gospels themselves often describe them as "mighty acts" or "signs" (cf. Acts 2:22; Lk 7:18- 23). The important thing about them is that they demonstrate in the concrete that "nothing is impossible to God" (Lk 1:38). Speaking of Jesus' miracles, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: "These signs demonstrate in a special way that Jesus is truly 'God Who saves'". [111] To this it adds: "Miracles strengthen faith in the One who does his Father's works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God". [112] Pope John Paul II insists that the Gospel miracles really happened. He says:

As facts, the miracles of Christ belong to evangelic history, and the accounts of them contained in the gospels are as reliable and even more so than those contained in other historical works. It is clear that the real obstacle to their acceptance as facts of history and of faith is the anti-supernatural prejudice of those who would limit God's power or restrict it to the natural order of things, as though God was subject himself to his own laws. But this concept clashes with the most elementary philosophical and theological idea of God, infinite, subsisting and omnipotent being. [113]

If we were to accept what Goosen/Tomlinson assert about the nature of the miracle accounts in the Gospels, then we would be left with no choice but to conclude that there is little at all in the New Testament which is historically true and accurate. For Catholics, the historical truth of the Gospels is "a principle to be taken as a starting point for all work of interpretation of the sacred books; it is not therefore, a conclusion or an end product of critical research. " [114] In 1964, the Pontifical Biblical Commission issued an Instruction On The Historical Truth Of The Gospels. It insisted that the Gospels are trustworthy historical records that tell us what Jesus really said and did. It said: "After Jesus had risen from the dead, and when His divinity was clearly perceived, the faith of the disciples, far from blotting out the remembrance of the events that had happened, rather consolidated it since their faith was based on what Jesus had done and taught." At the same time, the Apostles, when handing on the things "which in actual fact the Lord had said and done", did so "in the light of that fuller understanding which they enjoyed as a result of being schooled by the glorious things accomplished by Christ, and of being illumined by the Spirit of Truth." When it came to writing the Gospels, the sacred authors "took this earliest body of instruction, which had been handed on orally at first and then in writing . . . and set it down in the four Gospels." In doing this, each of the Evangelists, "followed a method suitable to the special purpose which he had in view. They selected certain things out of the many which had been handed on; some they synthesised, some they explained with an eye to the situation of the churches, painstakingly using every means of bringing home to their readers the solid truth of the things in which they had been instructed."

In the Encyclical Letter Divino Afflante Spiritu, Pope Pius XII insisted on the inerrancy of Scripture. In doing so he cited the teaching of Vatican I that the books of Scripture were "written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit" and thus they "have God as their author". Therefore, adds Pius XII, Holy Scripture "enjoys immunity from any error whatsoever". He complained that "certain Catholic writers dare to limit the truth of Sacred Scripture to matters only of faith and morals (and to say) that other things, of a physical or historical nature, or things said in passing (obiter dicta)"are not protected by inspiration. Following Leo XIII, Pope Pius XII insisted that "there is no error when the sacred writer, speaking of physical things, follows what appears to the senses. " Vatican II reaffirmed the teaching of the Church on the inerrancy of Scripture. In Dei Verbum we read: "Since, therefore, all that the inspired authors, or sacred writers, affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture, firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures". Since the Church does not change officially declared doctrine, a footnote was added by Vatican II to this sentence on inerrancy to indicate that it had to be interpreted in the light of that teaching Leo XIII and Pius XII referred to above.

When Goosen/Tomlinson say that the Evangelists were not concerned with "accurately recording a past event, " they are in effect saying that the Gospels are not concerned with accurately recording the words and deeds of Jesus. Worse still, it implies that the Evangelists could have fabricated some of the stories about the miracles. For example, Jesus is reported in the Gospels to have cured a man born blind (cf. Mk: 8:22-26). There is here no half-way stage that could be "embellished". If someone claims to see Jesus give sight in an instant to a man born blind, there are no gradual steps. The claim must be true or evidently false. Often the reader's own prejudices and presuppositions can create difficulties with a miracle text. On the other hand, acceptance of the historicity and reality of such miracles is no problem to anyone with an absence of such prejudices. More importantly, incredulity is not possible for someone who believes in the Incarnation and in the power of God to create and transform matter. Consequently, the statement that Jesus healed a blind man cannot in any way be detracted from, it can only be taken as a statement of historical truth, i. e. an accurate account of an event in the life of Our Lord. The Gospels tell us that three times Jesus brought dead people back to life (cf. Mk 5:1-20; Lk 7:11-17; Jn 11: 1-44). Again, there is no middle way - Jesus either did, or He did not - raise people from the dead. If He did not, then the Evangelists are liars.

Goosen/Tomlinson suggest that the people from whom Jesus cast out demons were in reality only suffering from epilepsy. Even if this was the case, and I don't believe it was, is it still not miraculous that a word from Jesus cured them? The coming of God's Kingdom means the defeat of Satan: "If it is by the spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Mt 12:26, 28). The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that "Jesus' exorcisms free some individuals from the domination of demons. They anticipate Jesus' great victory over 'the ruler of this world". [121] Many people today testify to the fact that they once felt themselves in the grip of an evil power from which they were freed only by the power of Jesus. The Catholic Church's Rite of Exorcism is nothing more than the prolongation in time of this particular aspect of Jesus' healing ministry.

In pointing out that Christianity shared the Hebrew concern for facts, Fr. William Most says: "This is to be expected, for the first Christians were all Hebrews. And the Christians, even more clearly than the Hebrews, knew their eternal destiny depended on the factuality of the reports about Jesus. Many of them died wretchedly rather than deny that factuality. And there was a host of witnesses to the events on which Christianity is based. Many of these witnesses certainly survived to a date later than the latest dates proposed for the Synoptic Gospels". [122] In saying this, Fr. Most recalled the words of Quadratus who was the earliest of the Greek apologists. Writing around 123 AD, Quadratus said: "The things done by the Savior remained present always, for they were true. Those cured, those who rose from the dead were not only seen when they were being cured and raised, but were constantly present, not only while the Savior was living, but also for some time after He had gone, so that certain of them came down even to our own time. " [123] D. R. de Lacey and M. Turner make an interesting point regarding the historical truth of the miracle stories when they say: "It is sometimes said that people living then believed in miracles because they did not understand the 'laws of nature, ' while nowadays we know that they could not happen. But this is only a half truth. A Jew living in the first century was well aware that cripples and lepers do not suddenly get better, that no-one can stop a storm just by speaking to it. To that extent they did understand the laws of nature. But they also believed that God was perfectly able to act in the world in whatever way he wanted, so they were prepared to believe that at times things might not happen as one would expect. " [124]

As well as contradictions of the Church's teaching, the Goosen/Tomlinson book also contains many dangerous ambiguities. I will cite just one example. Referring to the Prologue to St. John's Gospel, Goosen/Tomlinson say: "The Prologue to the Gospel uses the term 'Logos', translated as 'Word', to express something of John's understanding of the identity of Jesus Christ . . . For John the Logos is not a merely abstract philosophical or religious concept - it is a living, historical person who is both (paradoxically) identical with God and yet distinct from God" (p. 79). The Prologue to St. John's Gospel falls into two parts. The first part deals with the eternity of the Word (Logos), the second part deals with the Incarnate Word. In the first instance, he (Logos) is not distinct from God if by God we mean the Divine nature, but as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity he is distinct from the Father. In the second part of the Prologue, if we are referring to his humanity, then this is distinct from God if by God we mean the Divine nature. However, he continues to be a Divine Person, distinct from the Father but identical with Him in nature.

The authors of the Who Is Jesus? Support Unit assert as a matter of fact that the words of Jesus recorded in the Gospels are simply retrojection by the Evangelists. In relation to the Gospel of Matthew, we read: "Students may have trouble with the idea of Jesus 'predicting' conflict in the community because of him. The author, of course, is 'writing back' the very real conflicts that were happening in his community, between the Pharisees and the followers of Jesus, as if they were being predicted by Jesus" (p. 30). In reference to St. John's Gospel, the Support Unit states:

The Apostle John whose name the Gospel bears was not the author, but the work comes from the traditions of his community. In reading John's Gospel, the questions of what theologians call Low and High Christology arises. A High Christology such as we find in John, shows the earthly Jesus as he was later recognised to be: the divine, all-knowing, glorious saviour and Messiah. For example John puts the words into Jesus' mouth: Before Abraham was, I am John 8:58. On the other hand, a Low Christology depicts Jesus as he would have been during his life (p. 31).

Many of St. John's details are now known to be accurate. For example, excavations at the Pool of Bethzatha provide confirmation for the details given in John 5: the five porches have all been discovered. [125] At a conference at Gazzada in Northern Italy during August 1990, Biblical scholars from around the world examined how the sayings and deeds of Jesus were handed down by word of mouth in the period between the Resurrection and the composition of the first Gospel. According to the Conference report, the scholars present at Gazzada rejected earlier scholarly scepticism based on Form Criticism that the sayings of Jesus had been foisted on him to justify practices of early Christian communities. The Conference, held under the patronage of Cardinal Martini S. J. of Milan, concluded that "Jesus presented himself as the Wisdom of God" whereas "a decade ago this would have been seen as a mere Pauline or Johannine interpretation". [126] In speaking of St John's Gospel and the place of historical narrative in it, Fr. Pedro Saenz de Argandona, S. J. says:

Like any historian, John the Evangelist researches the facts and deeds of Jesus and attempts to relate the events of the earthly Jesus in Palestine. These events are strongly present in his memory due to the fact that he was a contemporary of Jesus and knew him personally. As an historian, he also wants to be exact and precise concerning Jesus' life and personal data . . . John the Evangelist is not a historian in the ordinary sense of the word. Why? When John announces his gospel, he wants to relate to his readers that Jesus was not an illustrious dead man who lived in Palestine in the past, but is a 'living person' who is alive today in his Gospel. This means that John's Gospel sense of history deals with a component that historians do not possess: faith. It is in the name of faith that John writes his gospel. Due to faith we can now understand the 'supratemporal character' of the happenings of Jesus in Palestine. Because of faith time is not a barrier to understanding the facts, words, deeds and events of the past in Palestine. One can still see all those things that happened in the past alive 'today' in John's Gospel. In other words, John as a witness, saw Jesus living in Palestine, walking through towns, dealing with people, talking with them. He remembers what Jesus did and the words Jesus spoke. We can call them historical deeds and facts of Jesus and rightly so, but there is another dimension in John's Gospel that gives a different sense of history to his gospel. John witnessed the 'earthly' life of Jesus, but in his gospel, he narrates this personal experience 'illumined by faith' in the Resurrection and the Glory of the Lord . . .

Apart from being a witness to the life of Jesus in Palestine and being a historian who writes about him, John's Gospel is also the work of the Holy Spirit . . . The Holy Spirit engages in action to put together the 'past life' of Jesus in Palestine and 'today's life' of Jesus in John's Gospel. The role of the Holy Spirit is crucial. Through the Holy Spirit we understand the dynamics of the past and present in John's Gospel . . . In other words, the action of the Holy Spirit unites the 'past' Jesus of Nazareth with the living present Glorified Jesus in John's Gospel. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, John announces to the faithful of today the same historical deeds of the earthly Jesus . . . The record of the 'facts and deeds' of Jesus in Palestine is critical, since this proves the intervention of God in the history of man. But without faith with regard to these happenings, the intervention of God in mankind cannot be understood . . . John was witness of the manhood and divinity of Jesus and these two realities cannot be separated. In the same way, the historical Jesus of the past and the Glorified Jesus of the present cannot be separated". [127]

A striking characteristic of the biblical sections of the 1995 Support Units is that there is little if any mention of inspiration, inerrancy or historicity. The Units imply that form criticism and biblical criticism are exact sciences. At best, the conclusions reached from applying the tools of scientific analysis to the interpretation of the Bible are more or less acceptable opinions, if they agree with the teaching of the Church. At worst, they are a vehicle whereby preconceived ideas are given legitimacy. The general impression given in the Support Units is that the Bible is just another ancient text. Also, the emphasis in the Unit on "experience" and "meaning" betrays a heavy dependence upon the principles underlying Liberal Protestantism. The use of the term "faith" underlines subjective content and not its objective content. What can be expected is one of three things. The students will either, i) come to view the whole Bible as a secular text and not as the inspired Word of God, or ii) reject the Bible as a myth, or, most probably, iii) will opt for a private interpretation of the Bible - a Protestant principle.

The defective approach to Scripture leads the authors of the Support Units to make many confusing and erroneous assertions. For example, on page 26 of the Who Is Jesus? Unit we read: "At the Resurrection the disciples experienced Jesus. He had died. He was now alive. He was changing them, because his Spirit was with them and in them. It took many years of reflection on this for them to be able to say in words: Jesus is God". From its very beginning, the Church has acknowledged the Divinity of Christ. [128] If what the authors of the Support Units claim is correct, i. e. that it took the disciples "many years" to say in words that "Jesus is God", then what sense are we to make of John 20:28-29 where the Apostle Thomas in his profession of faith says: "My Lord and my God" (Jn 20:28-29)? Explaining the relevance of the term "Lord" as applied to Jesus in the New Testament, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: "In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the ineffable Hebrew name YHWH, by which God revealed himself to Moses, is rendered as Kyrios, 'Lord'. From then on, 'Lord' becomes the more usual name by which to indicate the divinity of Israel's God. The New Testament uses this full sense of the title 'Lord' both for the Father and - what is new for Jesus, who is thereby recognised as God Himself. " [129] Having said this, the Catechism then adds: "By attributing to Jesus the divine title 'Lord', the first confessions of the Church's faith affirm from the beginning that the power, honour, and glory due to God the Father are due also to Jesus". [130] Fr Terry J. Tekippe, who formerly taught at the Gregorian University in Rome and who now holds the Lonergan Fellowship at Boston College, brings an interesting perspective to bear on this question when he says:

The fact is that, from the very beginning, Christians worshipped Jesus. It is true that formal liturgical prayer is directed to the Father through Jesus. But, as Josef Jungmann points out in The Mass of the Roman Rite, there is alongside this formal tradition, from the very earliest days, a more popular tradition of directing prayer and worship to Jesus. 'Kyrie eleison! Christe, eleison!'. Jesus is called kurios, the title reserved to God, and he is requested to have mercy, as God was in the Old Testament. The same strain is repeated in the Agnus Dei: 'Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us. ' The Gloria is an ancient hymn, whose first verse is directed to the Father, as the Almighty; the second to Jesus: 'Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take way the sin of the world: have mercy on us; you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ . . . ' The Creed which is proclaimed every Sunday concludes, speaking of the Spirit: 'With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified' . . . The Church's lived experience from the very beginning, then, is one of worship of Jesus as Lord. [131]


Apart from Goosen/Tomlinson, other major influences on the Christology and Ecclesiology sections of the 1995 Support Units are Leonardo Boff, Albert Nolan and Paul Collins. Boff is one of the leading liberation theologians in South America. In 1984, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued an Instruction on Liberation Theology which warned against the danger of trying to reformulate the Gospel message in terms of Marxist ideology. Entitled Instruction On Certain Aspects Of The Theology Of Liberation, the CDF document said: "The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of freedom and a force for liberation . . . Liberation is first and foremost liberation from the radical slavery of sin. Its end and its goal is the freedom of the children of God, which is the gift of grace. As a logical consequence, it calls for freedom from many different kinds of slavery in the cultural, economic, social and political spheres, all of which derive ultimately from sin, and so often prevent people from living in a manner befitting their dignity". After saying this, the Instruction then warned: "Faced with the urgency of certain problems, some are tempted to emphasise, unilaterally, the liberation from servitude of an earthly and temporal kind. They do so in such a way that they seem to put liberation from sin in second place, and so fail to give it the primary importance it is due". [132]

The "precise purpose" of the CDF Instruction on liberation theology was stated as: "To draw the attention of pastors, theologians, and all the faithful to the deviations, and risks of deviation, damaging to the faith and to Christian living, that are brought about by certain forms of liberation theology which use, in an insufficiently critical manner, concepts borrowed from Marxist thought". [133] Rather than serving the cause of the poor, these deviations tend instead "to betray the cause of the poor". [134] Marxist inspired liberation theology emphasises the transformation of political and social structures as a prerequisite to the attainment of integral liberation. While acknowledging that "there are structures which are evil and which cause evil and which we must have the courage to change", the CDF Instruction pointed out however that "structures whether they are good or bad, are the result of man's actions and so are consequences more than causes". The Instruction insisted that the root of evil "lies in free and responsible persons who have to be converted by the grace of Jesus Christ in order to live and act as new creatures in the love of neighbour and in the effective search for justice, self-control and the exercise of virtue". [135] Pointing to the foundations of true freedom and justice, the CDF Instruction recalled the words addressed by Pope John Paul II to the Bishops of Latin America at Puebla where he said that any authentic theology of liberation must rest on the "truth about Jesus Christ, truth about the Church, and truth about mankind". [136] In drawing attention to the dangers of Marxist inspired liberation theology, the CDF Instruction was careful however to add that:

This warning should in no way be interpreted as a disavowal of all those who want to respond generously and with an authentic evangelical spirit to the 'preferential option for the poor. ' It should not at all serve as an excuse for those who maintain an attitude of neutrality and indifference in the face of the tragic and pressing problems of human misery and injustice . . . More than ever, it is important that numerous Christians, whose faith is clear and who are committed to live the Christian life in its fullness, become involved in the struggle for justice, freedom and human dignity because of their love for their disinherited, oppressed and persecuted brothers and sisters. [137]

Marxism postulates that the theory of "class struggle" is the key to understanding and directing history. Consequently, liberation theology that uses Marxist principles as a basis for social analysis draws the conclusion that class struggle also "divides the Church herself, and that in light of this struggle even ecclesial realities must be judged". [138] Basing itself on the so-called "Church of the People", whom it is necessary to "conscientise", Marxist inspired liberation theology develops "a critique of the very structures of the Church" itself. This critique "is not simply a case of fraternal correction of pastors of the Church whose behaviour does not reflect the evangelical spirit of service", rather "it has to do with a challenge to the sacramental and hierarchical structure of the Church". This challenge to the sacramental and hierarchical structure of the Church leads Marxist inspired liberation theologians to engage in "a denunciation of the members of the hierarchy and the magisterium as objective representatives of the ruling class which has to be opposed". Theologically, this position leads liberation theologians to posit that "ministers take their origin from the people who therefore designate ministers of their own choice in accord with the needs of their historic revolutionary mission". [139]

As one of the leading exponents of Liberation Theology, Fr Leonardo Boff makes no secret of his reliance on Marxist theory. In an article he co-authored with his brother, Boff declared his dependence on Marxist theory when he said:

When dealing with the poor and oppressed and seeking their liberation, how do we avoid coming into contact with Marxist groups? . . . Placing themselves firmly on the side of the poor, liberation theologians ask Marx: 'What can you tell us about the situation of poverty and the ways of overcoming it? . . . Therefore, liberation theology uses Marxism as an instrument . . . And liberation theology feels no obligation to account to social scientists for any use it makes - correct or otherwise - of Marxist terminology and ideas . . . Liberation theology freely borrows from Marxism. [140]

Boff's theology is a mishmash of Marxist theory and a very defective Christology some of which he imbibed from Karl Rahner under whom he studied in Munich. His best known book is probably Jesus Christ Liberator: A Critical Theology for Our Time. Boff is very sceptical about the historical reliability of the Gospels and he denies that Christ spoke of himself as the Son of Man. According to the New Zealand scholar G. H. Duggan, S. M., Boff "echoes Rahner" when he declares that "the Incarnation consists in a response by Christ to a proposal by God". [141] In his book From Death To Life: The Christian Journey, Bishop Christoph Schonborn, O. P. places Boff in the company of scholars such as Reimarus, Reuss, Schweitzer and Loisy - all of whom propagated the error that Jesus' disciples and even Jesus himself lived in an eschatological "high tension" expecting the imminent irruption of the kingdom of God and the overthrowing of this world. This error reached its high point in the writings of Rudolf Bultmann who equated the Kingdom of God with the end of the world. Bishop Schonborn points out that Boff simply assumed the correctness of Bultmann's theory. [142] In describing Boff's Christology, Hans Urs von Balthasar said:

Boff seems to develop a Christology strongly influenced by Bultmann, with whom he suggests that we know very little about the historical Jesus. However, he believes that we can interpret the primary intention of Jesus as that of someone who understood himself in his role as liberator of the poor and oppressed . . . The liberation - the 'Kingdom of God' - which Jesus expected to result from it - had failed to come about, as expressed by the authentic cry on the Cross: 'Why hast thou forsaken me?' The doctrine of substitution is rejected by Boff as well as by Rahner. It is up to us present-day Christians to adopt and execute what Jesus had wished and begun. [143]

In the late 1980s, after a 15-day visit to the Soviet Union, Leonardo Boff wrote a Theological Reflection On Socialism in which he said:

Socialism is what it is, but because it places the social at the centre of its organisation it is more likely than any other system to bring the revelation of God-community into history. In real socialism, in spite of all its contradictions (the human price of its implantation, the urgency of the revolution of political freedom, etc. ) we encounter more or less the social integrating itself in the social historical process . . . The Socialist Revolution of 1917 marked something new in the history of humanity. The revolution was not alien to the Holy Ghost, inspite of all the contradictions the revolution encompassed . . . How is it possible that socialism contained particular goods of the Kingdom without passing through any religious mediation? Is it possible for the Kingdom to exist where it is denied subjectively? . . . Today, since socialism has been established over vast portions of humanity, it is important to recover the viability of utopian socialism . . . Today this utopia is emerging within liberation theology. The fascination with liberation theology comes, in large part, from its utopian side, more communist than socialist, for an ideal even more radical than that of the real socialism as formulated at a certain time by Fidel Castro.

In this Reflection On Socialism, Boff also articulated a vision for the Church of the future in which he said:

Socialism asks from the Church organisation a form that is more participatory, with a better ecclesiastic division of religious labour, in which sacred power is also socialised among members of the community. This means that we will still have bishops and elders but that they will assume different functions and will incorporate a style of co-ordination and action that is distinct from that exercised by the Church-society. A Church of basics is fundamentally constituted by basic communities, with Bible circles, and one that facilitates the participation by the Christian people, that comments upon the Word of God, that builds, along with the pastors, a Church community that is the functioning model of the socialist system . . . From these reflections we can see the prophetic character of the Church of the Poor of Latin America. Here we are building already a model of Church-being that will be adequate to a future society that, we are sure, will emerge, a Church that is more social, less discriminatory, and based on a democracy of popular foundation in which the organised people will be the great historical subject in social construction.

Boff's Reflection On Socialism was first published in the November-December 1988 issue of the Brazillian Catholic Journal Vozes. The Journal is operated by the Franciscan Order and at the time Boff was himself an editor. In 1991, Boff's Franciscan Superiors removed him as editor of Vozes and ordered him to stop publicising his views for one year. This move to censure Fr. Boff was supported by Cardinal Nicolas Lopez Rodriquez who was President of the Latin American Bishops' Council. Sometime after this happened, Boff left the priesthood. Amongst the "contradictions" that characterised the Bolshevik Revolution and its aftermath which Boff conveniently glosses over in his Reflection On Socialism, was the 40 million people brutally murdered for ideological reasons - something which is openly admitted today in the former Soviet Union. Rather than ushering in Boff's "goods of the Kingdom", it is now generally admitted in Russia today that the Communist experiment was in fact a political disaster and an economic catastrophe. In his encyclical Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul II charged Communism with everything from fostering violent social conflict to utterly failing to bring about social and economic progress. He said that "class struggle in the Marxist sense and militarism have the same root, namely, atheism and contempt for the human person, which place the principle of force above that of reason and law". [144] The Holy Father also criticised the Communist experiment in Eastern Europe for "the spiritual void brought about by atheism, which deprived the younger generation of a sense of direction". [145] He added that "the denial of God deprives the person of his foundation, and consequently leads to a reorganisation of the social order without reference to the person's dignity and responsibility".[146]

In a paper entitled Exercising a Preferential Option: A Reflection for Catholic Schools, published in the May 1996 edition Catholic School Studies, Dr Michael Bezzina who is Director of Religious Education and Educational Services at the Parramatta Catholic Education Office, argues that Boff's liberation theology can provide a useful tool for the renewal of Catholic Education in Australia. After first giving a superficial summary of Boff's theology, Dr Bezzina goes on to say: "The methodology of liberation theology is essentially a methodology of faith-filled reflection on experience. It begins with the life experience of the oppressed and moves through critical reflection in the light of faith to action itself, a new form of experience. This is sometimes expressed in brief as 'see, judge, act' (Boff and Boff)".[147] In stating the aim of his paper, Dr Bezzina said: "This paper sets out to explore the possible contribution of liberation theology to Catholic education in Australia. The way it does so is to address the relationship between liberation theology and education, its applicability to the Australian context, the lessons of liberation theology for Catholic education and how these lessons might be applied".[148] In this paper, Dr Bezzina seeks to integrate the theological ideas of the Boff brothers with the educational philosophy of Paulo Freire (author of The Pedagogy of the Oppressed) in order to develop a process of "conscientisation" that can be applied at all levels of Catholic education in Australia - even at the infants level. Describing his grand vision, Dr Bezzina says:

One of the real advantages of "doing" liberation theology is that it can be done at different "levels", and is thus accessible to all. For most teachers the popular (everyday) and pastoral (ministry) levels will be the most commonly used. The cycle of experience/reflection on experience and action is one that can be utilised at all levels, from infants to high school in some form. To gain the maximum benefit, liberation theology needs to be applied both to the structures of Catholic education, and to its curriculum.[149]

Dr Bezzina sees liberation theology as offering Catholic educators in Australia a challenge to conversion. He says: "Central to the message of liberation theology is a preferential option for the poor. This challenges educators to come to terms with what a preferential option really means, to struggle for liberation from any source of oppression and to be conscious of the operations of the Reign of God in the here and now. It challenges Catholic educators to a personal conversion to action". [150] While it is true that we are called to exercise a preferential option for the poor, this should not however be understood in fundamentalist terms, or worse still, in terms of Marxist "class struggle" as is the case with Boff's theology upon which Bezzina bases his vision for Catholic education. The call to take up a preferential option for the poor was first stressed at the Conference of Latin American Bishops at Medellin and it was forcefully reaffirmed again at Puebla. However, the 1984 Vatican Instruction on Liberation Theology reminded us that "the preferential option described at Puebla was two-fold: for the poor and for the young". In recalling this two-fold option, the Vatican Instruction noted that "it is significant that the option for the young has in general been passed over in total silence". [151] Given his position as Director of Religious Education and Educational Services at the Parramatta CEO, I believe the "preferential option" that in the present circumstances should most concern Dr Bezzina is the option "for the young". In exercising this option, Dr Bezzina should first seek to protect the thousands of children in the Parramatta Diocese from the corrupt religious education materials his own office produces.

Turning now to the pages from one of Boff's books that the Who Is Jesus? Support Unit for Sharing Our Story provides for Years 11 and 12 students. The first thing to note is that Boff refers to Jesus' mission as a "utopic project". [152] Is Boff here equating Jesus' inauguration of the Kingdom of God with the "utopian side" of communism he referred to in his Reflection On Socialism? Speaking of the oppressive structures that have historically kept the poor in a state of servitude, Boff states: "Historically, the churches, especially the Roman Catholic Church, have been more involved with the interests of the organisers of this order, which marginalises the great majorities, than with the members of the subordinate strata of the population". [153] In terms of Marxist class struggle, Boff has here identified the Church with the oppressors. At the same time, those in the Church, who espouse Boff's own liberation theology are seen as the creators of the future, their vision "is based on the Gospel rather than a pure and simple propagation of Church doctrine". [154] In the student handouts, Boff uses conventional theological terminology but empties it of its theological content which he replaces with a political-social content. Boff explicitly admits to this when in speaking of his so-called "new evangelization" he says: "It is new in that it communicates new content, derived from an interrelationship between the discourse of faith and the discourse of the world of the oppressed". [155] Then, equating the coming of the Kingdom of God with the process of class struggle, Boff adds: "In biblical revelation, there is an essential bond between the God of life, the poor, and liberation, between the reign of God, which first comes into being among the impoverished, and the politico social dimension of life and the ultimate sense of history". [156] It is illuminating to compare Boff's statement here with that of the CDF Instruction where it speaks of a "tendency" in liberation theology "to identify the Kingdom of God and its growth with the human liberation movement, and to make history itself the subject of its own development, as a process of self-redemption of man by means of the class struggle". [157]

In the student handouts we are here discussing, Boff places his model of Church based on a "Communitarian Christianity" in opposition to the historical institutional Church founded by Christ. In doing so, he casts doubt on the truth that the hierarchical structure of the Church was established Christ. He says: "Communitarian Christianity, fruit of the new evangelisation, rests on 'witness persons' far more than on institutions. Therefore it is more like a movement of Jesus and the apostles than the ecclesiastical structurization that began in the third century and has predominated in conventional Christianity down to our own day, under the hegemony of the clergy". [158]

Leaving Boff and turning now to the student materials in the Support Units drawn from Fr Albert Nolan. In these pages Nolan appears to reject the Divine origin of the hierarchical structure of the Church when he says: "Jesus did not found an organisation he inspired a movement". [159] The actual teaching of the Church is: "The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church . . . as a visible organisation through which he communicates truth and grace to all men". [160] The attack on the hierarchical structure of the Church appears again in student handouts taken from Fr. Paul Collins' Mixed Blessings. Here Collins locates the origin of the hierarchical Church in the 11th century. [161] In Mixed Blessings, Collins asserts that "the priesthood as we know it today did not emerge as a separate ministry in the Church until the fourth century" (p. 79). He asserts that "although it has never been admitted, the basis of discrimination against women playing any part in the Church's liturgical ministry lies largely in the concept of ritual purity" (p. 80). He says that "it would be a mistake for women to enter the clerical priesthood as it now stands. What women need to do is to create a liturgical leadership style that is uniquely theirs, not simply to ape a male model" (ibid. ). Collins extends a gratuitous insult to the Mother of God, to Pope John Paul II and to all devout Christians when he says:

While devotion to Mary is, of course, a characteristic of Catholicism, in Poland it has been integrated into the national myth and national consciousness. Perhaps for Wojtyla [Pope John Paul II] it fulfils as much a personal as a national need. His mother died when he was very young and there is a seeming lack of any strong feminine figure in his background. Like many celibate males he seems to have replaced the real earthly person with the projected motherhood of the Church and that of Our Lady. Some celibate men fail to pass through the process of separation from the mother. The symbol of Mary becomes a surrogate, for she is both mother and virgin. She replaces the lost human mother, and as a virgin, she is inaccessible and pure. She is the woman who never confronts the celibate man's sexuality. [162]


The way in which the Support Units treat Church history is deplorable but I will not deal with this here. Instead, I want to say something about the treatment of the Church's moral doctrine in the Units. In the Unit on Human Relationships we read: "The official teaching of the Church always aims to set the ideal before people, giving guidance and support to achieve this ideal . . . "(p. 79). The word "ideal" has evolved loosely in the English language. For many people today, the word denotes something which is capable of existing only as a mental, utopian or imaginary concept. Consequently, people commonly understand the word "ideal" as referring only to a goal worth aiming at but it doesn't really matter if you don't reach it - "after all, it was only an ideal" - is an expression we often hear. We find the word frequently used by people who want to justify dissent from the Church's moral teaching. In Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II rejected the notion that the moral doctrine of the Church can be reduced to mere "ideals". He said:

It would be a very serious error to conclude . . . that the Church's [moral] teaching is essentially only an 'ideal' which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man . . . But what are the 'concrete possibilities of man'? And of which man are we speaking? Of man dominated by lust or of man redeemed by Christ? This is what is at stake: the reality of Christ's redemption. Christ has redeemed us! This means that he has given us the possibility of realising the entire truth of our being; he has set our freedom free from the domination of concupiscence. [163]

The consequences of reducing the Church's moral doctrine to a mere 'ideal' become all too apparent in the Unit on Human Relationships where it deals with the question of the reception of the Eucharist by the divorced and remarried. In regard to the case of a person who, after a failed petition for annulment, contracts a second marriage on the basis of a personal conviction that the first marriage was invalid, the Support Unit material says: "Where a case cannot be proved - for lack of witnesses, for instance - but the person feels convinced that the marriage was not valid, the Church fully respects a conscience decision to remarry, although it will not publicly authorise the remarriage. It recognises the right of such a remarried person to receive Holy Communion in good conscience, scandal being avoided" (p. 80).

The advice proffered above by the Support Unit is an expression of the so-called Internal Forum solution to the question of divorce, remarriage and the reception of the Eucharist. It is a contradiction of Catholic sacramental and moral doctrine. In Familiaris Consortio, Pope John Paul II explicitly mentioned the most difficult case - those who are "subjectively certain" in conscience that their previous marriage was not valid. [164] He said that "the Church reaffirms her practice, based on Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected in the Eucharist". [165] Basing itself on the words of Jesus in the Gospel, the Church teaches that marriage according to the design of the Creator is of its nature indissoluble so that no human power can dissolve it. Consequently, the Church teaches that attempts to "remarry" after a divorce are not efficacious and therefore sexual relations of divorced persons who have attempted remarriage are not marital but rather are adulterous. [166]

In 1994, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued with the approval of Pope John Paul II a Letter to the Bishops of the world calling on them to defend and explain the teaching of the Church on marriage. [167] In this Magisterial statement we read: "In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ, the Church affirms that a new union cannot be recognised as valid if the preceding marriage was valid. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God's law. Consequently, they cannot receive Holy Communion as long as this situation persists" (n. 4). Then, after recalling the teaching quoted above of Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio, the CDF Letter went on to say: "Members of the faithful who live together as husband and wife with persons other than their legitimate spouses may not receive Holy Communion. Should they judge it possible to do so, pastors and confessors, given the gravity of the matter and the spiritual good of these persons, as well as the common good of the Church, have a serious duty to admonish them that such a judgement of conscience openly contradicts the Church's teaching. Pastors in their teaching must also remind the faithful entrusted to their care of this doctrine" (n. 6).

One error in the belief that the divorced and remarried can themselves decide whether or not their first marriage was valid is that it is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of the sacraments in that it reduces them to a purely private reality. Taking up this point, the CDF Letter said:

The mistaken conviction of a divorced and remarried person that he may receive Holy Communion normally presupposes that personal conscience is considered in the final analysis to be able, on the basis of one's own convictions, to come to a decision about the existence or absence of a previous marriage and the value of the new union. However, such a position is inadmissible. Marriage, in fact, both because it is the image of the spousal relationship between Christ and his Church as well as the fundamental core and an important factor in the life of civil society, is essentially a public reality . . . Thus the judgement of conscience of one's own marital situation does not regard only the immediate relationship between man and God, as if one could prescind from the Church's mediation that also includes canonical laws binding in conscience. Not to recognise this essential aspect would mean in fact to deny that marriage is a reality of the Church, that is to say, a sacrament (nn. 7, and 8).

The treatment of conscience in the Decision Making Unit is very inadequate. In defining conscience it says: "Conscience can be said to be 'a general sense of values, an awareness of personal responsibility, which is utterly characteristic of the human person" (p. 17). This definition of conscience is taken from the 1976 edition of Timothy O'Connell's book on moral principles. In 1990, O'Connel published a revised edition of this book in which he repudiated the proportionalism of the earlier edition referred to here in the Support Unit. [168] On page 3 of the Decision Making Unit we read: "Conscience provides the main focus in any discussion of morality. Conscience is the capacity to make responsible decisions for oneself in relation to others and in relation to one's environment". In Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II gives a proper definition of conscience where he says it is not a "creative" decision but rather a "judgement" drawn from moral truths, including the negative precepts of the Decalogue which oblige in every case. [169] It is interesting to note that while Veritatis Splendor is listed once in a resource section of the 1995 Support Units, there is no mention of it however anywhere else in the materials.

In view of the confused way in which the nature of conscience is presented, and in light of the fact that the moral doctrine of the Church has been reduced to mere "ideals", there is a strong case to be made that the Ten Step Model For Decision Making (p. 1) is Proportionalist and Consequentialist. [170] According to Proportionalism, an act which would otherwise be immoral can be justified morally if the overall good or evil involved in doing the action is deemed to outweigh the overall good or evil which available alternatives would bring about. The Ten-Step Model for evaluating alternative moral options that is given in the Decision Making Unit involves an "evaluation of risks and benefits involved and a consideration of the chances of their occurrence". In the same context the model speaks of "establishing the desired goal". If by the desired goal the authors mean the ultimate end of the human person which is true happiness which is only found in God, then the statement is false because that is already given by nature. If however the statement refers to the multiple intermediary goals whereby the virtuous life leads to the possession of God, then it can be accepted. When this section is read in light of the other shortcomings of the Support Units, then the most that can be said for it is that it is dangerously ambiguous.

The authors of the Decision Making Unit do not indicate the objective to be realised in applying the Ten-Step Model for moral decision making to a value clarification exercise entitled Heinz' Dilemma. The students have to decide whether or not Heinz acted morally in stealing a drug for his dying wife from a pharmacist who had just developed it at great cost. In presenting the dilemma, the authors of the Support Units omit to give the principles laid down in the Church's teaching for dealing with such a situation. After the challenge of the Heinz Dilemma, eight pages on Kohlberg's moral development theory are provided (cf. pp. 24-31). Kohlbergian moral development theory is now generally rejected by both educators and moral philosophers alike. [171] Kohlberg divided moral development into six stages. When one finally arrived at the famous stage six, moral development was said to have peaked. Kohlberg called this the stage of Universal Principle Orientation wherein he defined right as a decision of conscience which accorded with self-chosen ethical principles. Kohlbergian theory is inherently relativistic and exposure to educational techniques based upon it tend to leave people with the false impression that morality is only a question of personal opinion rather than right reason and Divine Law. Due to the relativistic nature of his moral development theory, Kohlberg could not offer any reproach to his feminist colleague Carol Gilligan when she ranked the decision to abort as a Stage 6 choice. Kohlberg committed suicide by drowning himself in Boston Harbour in 1987. Before his death he admitted that there were serious defects in his moral development theory.

The Support Units invite the students to apply what they have learned about the nature of conscience and decision making to the solution of a moral dilemma involving an IVF-Donor case (cf. pp. 31-45). In presenting this IVF dilemma, the Support Units give only a brief and secondary reference to the Church's teaching on the subject, while at the same time they present a copious amount of material from the opposite point of view. For example, the Support Units make no reference in the student materials to Donum Vitae but they provide plenty of material on the report of the Warnock Committee and on an Anglican Response to the question (pp. 42-44). [172] Regarding the status of the embryo, the material in the Support Unit is generally punctuated with deceptive ambiguities. For example, it says that an argument against IVF is that "there is no ascertainable point of time when the embryo changes to human form". To this it adds that "it is possible that as a result of the procedure human life is wantonly destroyed because there is uncertainty about the human status of the fertilised egg" (p. 38). Contrary to such equivocation, Donum Vitae states: "From the time that the ovum is fertilised, a new life is begun which is neither that of the father or the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with its own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already. To this perpetual evidence . . . modern genetic science brings valuable confirmation. It has demonstrated that, from the first instant, the programme is fixed as to what this living being will be: a man, this individual - a man with his characteristic aspects already well determined". [173] It adds that "the conclusions of science regarding the human embryo provide a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at the moment of this first appearance of a human life: how could a human individual not be a human person?" (ibid. ).


Before leaving the discussion of Religious Education, I wish to draw attention to the fact that many schools have now replaced school based religious education programs in years 11 and 12 with a Board of Studies HSC course entitled Studies of Religion. The Studies of Religion Course is divided into three sections: Foundational Studies (35%), Depth Studies (50%) and Interest Studies (15%). According to the Board of Studies Syllabus document: "Foundation Studies introduces students to the essential concepts of the courses. It seeks to provide an understanding of the nature of religion and the expression of religious thought and practice in various belief systems". [174] The Syllabus document adds that in this initial study students are: "required to achieve outcomes that are about the general nature of religion, rather than those specific to particular religious traditions". [175] Foundation Studies are expected to make substantial references to Christianity and Aboriginal Spirituality as formative and enduring influences on Australia. The Foundation Studies serve as an introduction to the five religious traditions of the depth studies. In the Depth Studies section, students have to pick one topic from each of two groups. Group 1 is called Religious Traditions and is comprised of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. Group 2 is called Cross Religion Studies and is comprised of Rites of Passage, Sacred Writings and Stories, Teachers and Interpreters, Ways of Holiness, Women in Religion. In the Interest Studies section of the course there is a wide range of options that can be studied such as Religious Biography, Religion and Literature, Religion and Ecology, Confucianism, Sikhism, Taoism etc.

This Studies of Religion course is often taught from a non- confessional perspective, and while I have no doubt that a knowledgeable and committed Catholic teacher could use it to strengthen in some way the Catholic faith of his students, I am convinced however that the decision to introduce it to the Catholic school system was ill-conceived. The new orientation which the course gives to religious education in Catholic schools has profound implications for the long-run role of Catholic schools in evangelisation. I recall one teacher telling me how ridiculous he thought it was for him to have to teach a unit on the Hindu Scriptures to students who after 10 years of Catholic schooling could not be relied on to write a coherent sentence on the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament or between Catholicism and Protestantism.

The Studies of Religion course looks at religion from a comparative and sociological perspective. In doing so, I believe it promotes a syncretistic view of religion which is willing to accommodate many different spiritual traditions on an equal level with Catholic faith and practice. In the Studies of Religion Course, the foundational writings of different religions are all put on the same level by being labelled "sacred". Similarly, different deities are subsumed under the general category of the Transcendent, and various rituals are all considered to serve the same function of contacting and establishing unity with the Transcendent. In this setting, Christ and Krishna are presented as merely two different ways of breaking through to the divine. This however contradicts Catholic doctrine since Jesus is not just one of several names for the divine drawn from human experience of the transcendent. For Catholics Jesus Christ is "the Word Made Flesh", i. e. the Second Person of the Holy Trinity who has taken on our human nature so as to lead us to share eternally in the Trinitarian life. Our Lord did not say that he was one of the ways, instead he said "I am the Way". Consequently, young Catholics should not be encouraged to subscribe to the proposition that the experience of Christ and of Krishna are equally valid experiences of the divine. In this syncretistic perspective, Christianity becomes only one amongst several ways to God and is no longer the definitive way through which God has made contact with and come to save his people. [176]

An interesting thing about the way in which this Studies of Religion course was foisted on Catholic Schools was the part played in facilitating its adoption by members of the Religious Education Department at the ACU in Sydney. They conducted many of the inservice courses that accompanied the introduction of the course to Catholic schools. In many respects, the Studies of Religion course is a perfect realisation of Br Rossiter's call for "a creative divorce between catechesis and religious education". Sr Patricia Malone, Head of the Religious Education Department at the ACU in Sydney, was the chairperson of the syllabus committee that developed the course for the Board of Studies. On the basis of survey work she has done, Sr Malone is of the opinion that: "Studies of Religion in religiously affiliated schools has improved the status of this subject area and has encouraged students to seriously look at their own religious tradition as well as the broad area of religion". [177] The question Sr Malone needs to address however is to what depth does it encourage Catholic students to look at Christianity and from what perspective? Even if Christianity is the chosen option for the Depth Study section of the course, what guarantee can Sr Malone give that this will necessarily involve the students in a serious study of Catholic doctrine?

Some Catholic high schools have made the Studies of Religion course compulsory. Coupled with this, just recently I was reading through the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) Year 10 Booklet for Tertiary Entrance Requirements 1999. This book is essential reading for teachers involved in advising students on courses to take in Years 11 and 12 that will give them a pathway into any course they may wish to take at university. The booklet lists all Prerequisites, Assumed Knowledge and Recommended Studies for courses available at all universities in NSW and the ACT. It is interesting to note that in the entry for the B. Teaching / B Arts - Humanities, Religious Education at the ACU, the only recommended studies for HSC is Studies of Religion. This in itself may amount to a recommendation to all Catholic High Schools to adopt Studies of Religion as the only form of Religious Education they should provide at the Senior High School level.

Already there is evidence that some Catholic youth who take the Studies of Religion course are adopting a syncretistic mentality. In 1993, Gideon Goosen of the Australian Catholic University conducted a survey of 300 students who had completed the course in that year. He found that "the students were more inclined to agree that what people believe is not important as long as they believe something and that all religions are equally good or bad". In saying that the students "were more relativistic about religions", Dr Goosen said that the students' increased openness to Aboriginal spirituality is "very gratifying". In expressing his desire "to stress the positive things", Dr Goosen said that "the relativism is just one negative thing that's got to be investigated further". Describing the educational process upon which the course rests, Dr Goosen said: "You stand back from your own faith commitment" he said. That, he added: "leads to people saying they [religions] are all much the same. They've all got a prophet. They've all got sacred writings. They've all got ritual". [178]

I think that Dr Goosen's ideas on high school religious education are somewhat coloured by his views on Ecumenism. In a recent article entitled Ecumenism Is A Christmas Cake which he authored, Dr Goosen introduced himself by saying: "My perspective is that of a Roman Catholic having been born and bred in that denomination". [179] Having said this, Dr Goosen then went on to say:

Sometimes I wonder about the future of ecumenism. There seems to be a number of current problems that lead into culs-de-sac. One such factor would have to be the discouraging comments that the Administration of the Roman Catholic Church makes from time to time about the efforts put into agreed statements between Churches. I am thinking particularly of the recent comments about ARCIC-I (Anglican and Roman Catholic International Commission) over which they brooded for ten years. But then again I console myself with the thought that a church's administration is not the whole Church and at the time of Vatican II it was ultimately the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church that had their way, not the Roman Curia . . . Another worry is the persistence among Catholics of the 'return-to-Rome' theology of ecumenism . . . I suppose sociologically speaking it is not surprising that in a Church which since the Reformation has been teaching that it is all right and others all wrong, this attitude should continue to prevail. [180]

Division between Christians "openly contradicts the will of Christ, provides a stumbling block to the world, and inflicts damage on the most holy cause of proclaiming the Good News to every creature". [181] At the Second Vatican Council, "the Catholic Church committed herself irrevocably to following the path of the ecumenical venture". [182] Stressing the importance of the Ecumenical movement, the Council stated: "This sacred Synod exhorts all the Catholic faithful to recognise the signs of the times and to participate actively in the work of ecumenism". [183] To this the Council added: "Concern for restoring unity pertains to the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike. It extends to everyone, according to the ability of each, whether it be exercised in daily Christian living or in theological and historical studies". [184]

The ability to dialogue is essential to the ecumenical process. True ecumenism however requires that those who engage in it have a clear understanding of their own faith in order to be of service to those with whom they are called to dialogue. Participants in dialogue from different denominations should seek to explain the teaching of his or her Communion "in greater depth" in order to bring out clearly "its distinctive features". [185] By engaging "in frank dialogue, Communities help one another to look at themselves together in the light of the Apostolic tradition. This leads them to ask themselves whether they truly express in an adequate way all that the Holy Spirit has transmitted through the Apostles". [186] The dialogue process must not mean a watering down of truth. There must be no question "of altering the deposit of faith, changing the meaning of dogmas, eliminating essential words from them, accommodating truth to the preferences of a particular age, or suppressing certain articles of the Creed under the false pretext that they are no longer understood today. The unity willed by God can be attained only by the adherence of all to the content of revealed faith in its entirety. In matters of faith, compromise is in contradiction with God who is Truth". [187]

Dr Goosen is wrong in asserting that documents produced by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission represent agreed statements "between Churches". They are simply reports of discussions between commission members and as such they have no official Church status. Goosen is trivialising the whole meaning of ecumenism when he asserts that the Catholic Church has, since the Reformation, been teaching that "it is all right" and that other ecclesial communities are "all wrong". For example, Vatican II's Decree on Ecumenism acknowledges that in regard to the lack of unity among Christians - "people of both sides were to blame" - and that consequently responsibility cannot be attributed only to the "other side". [188] Coupled with this, Vatican II also teaches that while the Church of Christ "subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him", it also acknowledges that "many elements of sanctification and of truth can be found outside her visible structure". [189]

Goosen's statement about the Holy See's response to ARCIC-I is superficial. The Holy See's response gave "a warm welcome" to the Final Report of ARCIC-I and it expressed "gratitude" to the members of the International Commission responsible for drawing it up. [190] It congratulated the members of the Commission on "the points of convergence and even of agreement" which they were able to arrive at. In the spirit of authentic ecumenism however, the Holy See drew attention to sections in ARCIC-I that while appearing to be in harmony with Catholic doctrine would need to be further clarified so as to ensure that this was in fact the case. Most importantly, the Holy See's response drew attention to areas of difference between Catholics and Anglicans which had been inadequately treated in ARCIC-I. These areas included: Papal Infallibility, the Marian Dogmas, the scope of Magisterial authority, the nature and composition of the Church, the mode of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist following the substantial change in the elements of the bread and wine, the reservation and adoration of the Eucharist, the ordination of women and the interpretation of Scripture.

At times Goosen seems to be advocating some kind of new Church that would subsume existing Churches by pretending that differences between them are of no significance. He says: "Ecumenism is bringing the Churches together to form one united Church. That means existing Churches 'die' in some way to be resurrected in the form of a united Church, not unlike mergers and amalgamations in society at large. To my knowledge no institution readily agrees to its own demise even with the promise of a resurrection! Understandably, therefore, ministers who are the visible and official signs of their institutions, recoil from movement which ultimately aims at their dying and transformation". [191] Goosen does not appear to view the question of women's ordination as representing an insurmountable obstacle to the evolution of this new Church of his. He says:

The question of women's ordination I see as the context of the very complex interweaving of ideology, culture, and belief. People like Leonardo Boff and Hans Kung have tried to show where these hold us back. I think the ordination of women could be one of these areas. When one is defending an ideology (assuming for the moment it is an ideology), one has to be exceptionally clever at looking for arguments because, in fact, there may not really be any substantial ones. Again, looking at those Churches not in favour of ordaining women, one has to ask oneself why this is so. Is it a threat to a celibate, male control of power structures within that institution, or simply a very human and rigid conservatism afraid of change? I suspect that we often look at theological reasons in these cases when sociology, cultural anthropology and ideology hold the answers. I think, too, that Church members are increasingly beginning to debunk the line that religious matters like these are somehow above sociological and ideological factors. If we take culture and pluralism seriously, is it not possible that solutions to these problems might mean some local Churches having ordained women and others not? Behind every honest search for a solution is the threat of the millstone of uniformity. [192]

From what he has written above, Goosen does not seem to understand that unity in Christ's Church has to be constituted by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments and hierarchical communion. [193] Also, he does not seem to understand that any "local Church" with "ordained women" could never be in communion with the Catholic Church. The syncretistic views expressed by Goosen above may explain why he is an apologist for the adoption by Catholic schools of the Board of Studies Course Studies of Religion. Earlier we noted that one of the problems with this course is that it seems to serve as a vehicle for indoctrinating our youth into a new religious syncretism!


1 Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 7

2 Pope John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae, n. 1.

3 Ibid. n. 5

4 Ibid. Cf. n. 6

5 Pope John Paul II, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, n. 32

6 Fr Marcial Maciel, Inside the Vatican, May 1995, p. 47

7 Marcellin Flynn, FMS. The Culture of Catholic Schools: A Study of Catholic Schools: 1972-93, St. Pauls, Sydney, 1993, p. 297

8 Ibid. p. 413

9 Ibid. p. 313

10 Ibid. p. 414.

11 Ibid.

12 Ibid. p. 430.

13 Br Graham Rossiter, "The Need for a 'Creative Divorce' Between Catechesis and Religious Education in Catholic Schools," Religious Education 77:1 (January/February 1982). See also Catechesis and Religious Education by Thomas H. Groome in The Living Light, Fall 1992.

14 Cf. Pope John Paul II, Catechesis Tradendae, n. 55.

15 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 22/4/85.

16 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 11/1/95.

17 A report on the Wagga Diocese syllabus appeared in the Irish Family, Friday, 26 April, 1996. The report was headed New RE Syllabus Based On Catechism.

18 Cardinal Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, II, cited by Archbishop Eric D'Arcy in The New Catechism and Cardinal Newman, Communio 20, Fall 1993, p. 499.

19 Cardinal Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons II, cited by Archbishop Eric D'Arcy, op. cit. p. 496.

20 Cf. Pope John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae, n. 55.

21 Cardinal Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, op.cit. p. 25.

22 Ibid. p. 61.

23 Cardinal Newman, Grammar of Assent, cited by Archbishop Eric D'Arcy, op. cit. p. 499.

24 Pope John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae, n. 30.

25 Ibid.

26 Ibid. n. 22.

27 Ibid.

28 Peter Ritzer, Living Light, Summer 1994, pp. 52-53.

29 Archbishop Eric D'Arcy, Australasian Catholic Record, October 1988, pp. 392-393.

30 Archbishop Eric D'Arcy, Communio, Fall 1993, p. 492.

31 Pope Paul VI, Evangeli Nuntiandi, n. 41.

32 Ibid. n. 76.

33 For a penetrating review of Kosnik's work see On Understanding Human Sexuality by William May and John Harvey O.S.F.S., Synthesis Series.

34 Cf. Support Units Years 11 and 12, Parramatta CEO, 1993, Suggested Activity 2.22, Human Relationships, pp. 47-49.

35 Catholic Schools Update, Parramatta CEO, Vol. 5 No 4, June 1996, p. 6.

36 Aristotle, On the Heavens, 271b 9-10.

37 The Catholic Institute of Sydney was formerly Manly Seminary. It is now located in Strathfield.

38 The New Catechism: Analysis and Commentary, edited by Andrew Murray, Catholic Institute of Sydney, 1994.

39 I will have more to say about Original Sin in the next Chapter when we look at what is being said about it at the Australian Catholic University in Sydney.

40 The terms "exegesis" and "hermeneutics" refer to scientific methods which have been developed for the interpretation of Scripture.

41 Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1986, p. 9.

42 Ibid.

43 Ibid. p. 30.

44 Ibid.

45 Ibid.

46 Fr Avery Dulles, S.J., The Challenge of the Catechism. Published in First Things, New York, January 1995, p. 46.

47 Ibid. p. 49.

48 Ibid. pp. 49 and 52.

49 Ibid. p. 53.

50 Fr James V. Schall, S.J., The Church explains itself: The New Catechism, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, June 1993, p.11.

51 Cf. CCC. n. 232.

52 CCC. n. 234.

53 Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church, op. cit. p. 15.

54 Ibid. p. 76. Cf. St Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles, 4, 76.

55 Cf. Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church, op. cit. p. 75.

56 Oscar Cullmann, Petrus: Junger-Apostel-Martyrer, Zurich: Zwingliverlag, 1952, 238f., 240. Cited by Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church, op. cit. p. 75.

57 Bishop Christoph Schonborn with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1994, p. 91.

58 Cf. Vatican II, Dei Verbum, nn. 9-10.

59 The Interpretation of the Bible In the Church. Pontifical Biblical Commission (April 1993): St. Paul Book and Media, Boston. Pope John Paul II's Address is given in the first part of the Biblical Commission's document.

60 Ibid. p. 19 (n. 9).

61 Ibid. p. 20 (n.10).

62 Ibid. pp. 37-38.

63 Cf. Ibid. p. 38.

64 Cf. ibid. p. 36.

65 Ibid. p.38.

66 Ibid. p. 35.

67 Cf. Fr Brendan Byrne, S.J., The New Vatican Document on the Bible, Australasian Catholic Record, July 1994, p. 326.

68 The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, Pontifical Biblical Commission, op. cit. p. 82.

69 Ibid.

70 Ibid. p. 85.

71 Ibid. p. 84.

72 Ibid.

73 Ibid. p. 85.

74 Ibid. p. 85.

75 Ibid. p. 87.

76 Ibid.

77 Ibid.

78 Ibid.

79 Ibid.

80 Cf. CCC. 109-119.

81 Fr Joseph Jensen, OSB, Living Light, Summer 1993, p. 50.

82 Ibid. p. 52.

83 Ibid. p. 54.

84 Mons William Smith, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, April 1995, p. 69.

85 Fr Giuseppe Segalla, L'Osservatore Romano, 9/6/93.

86 Hans Urs von Balthasar, A Short Primer For Unsettled Laymen, op. cit. p. 34.

87 Ibid.

88 Gideon Goosen and Margaret Tomlinson, Jesus Mystery and Surprise: An Introduction to the Study of the Gospels, E. J. Dwyer, Sydney, 1989. Goosen is Associate Professor of Theology and Tomlinson a lecturer in Culture and Creation Spirituality at the Australian Catholic University in Sydney.

89 On this see: Pope Vigilius, Constitutum, 14. 5. 553, DS 419; Pope Gregory the Great, Letter to Eulogius, DS 475-476; Decree of the Holy Office of 1907 and 1918, DS 3432, 3424, 3435, 3645-3647; Pope Pius X, Misserentissimus Redemptor, 8.5.1928, AAS 20, 174; Pope Pius XII, Mysticii Corporis, 2. 6. 1947; idem. Sempiternus Rex, 8. 9. 1951; idem. Haurietis Aquas, 15 . 8. 1956; CDF 24. 7. 1966, AAS 58(1966) 650 660; CCC. n.474.

90 Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, n. 23.

91 Fr. William G. Most. The Consciousness of Christ, Christendom College Press, 1980, p. 144. This book contains a very useful exegetical section which resolves, according to the Tradition of the Church, passages in the Gospels which on the surface appear contradictory. I will have more to say on this question of Christ's knowledge in Chapter 8 when I look at what Laurie Woods is saying about Christ's awareness of his Divine nature.

92 CCC. n. 473.

93 Ibid.

94 CCC. n.474.

95 What I say about the Resurrection in this Chapter should be read in conjuction with what I say about it in chapter 8 where I respond to what Laurie Woods is saying about the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus.

96 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 6/2/89.

97 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 6/3/89.

98 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 30/1/89.

99 Ibid.

100 Ibid.

101 CCC. n. 639.

102 CCC. n. 643.

103 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 6/3/89.

104 Ibid.

105 Ibid.

106 The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church. Pontifical Biblical Commission 1993, op.cit. p. 93.

107 Cf. Review of The Mystery of God's Word, by Kenneth Baker S.J. , Homiletic and Pastoral Review, May 1995.

108 Fr. Thomas McGovern, The Gospels as History, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, November 1992, p. 10.

109 Michael Sheehan, Apologetics and Doctrine, M. H. Gill and Son, Dublin, 1962, Part 1, P. 87.

110 St. Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism, cited in William A. Jurgens' The Faith of the Early Fathers, op. cit. Vol. 2. p. 48.

111 CCC. n. 1507.

112 CCC. n. 548.

113 Pope John Paul II, General Audiences, 7 & 14 December 1987.

114 Taguchi, Cardinal Paul. The Study of Sacred Scripture, L'Osservatore Romano, 15/5/75.

115 The Historicity of the Gospels, Instruction of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, April 21, 1964, n.2.

116 Ibid.

117 Ibid.

118 ibid.

119 Vatican II, Dei Verbum, n. 11.

120 See Dei Verbum, n. 11, footnote no. 5. See also Fr. William Most, op.cit. pp. 10-11.

121 CCC. n 550.

122 Fr. William Most, op.cit. p.17.

123 Quadratus, quoted by Fr William Most, op. cit. p. 18.

124 D. R de Lacey and M. M. B Turner, Jesus and the Gospels, Hulton Educational, London, 1983, p. 29.

125 Cf. D. R de Lacey and M. B. Turner, op.cit. p. 83.

126 Cf. Scripture Scholars Losing Scepticism, AD2000, October 1990, p. 5.

127 Ibid.

128 Cf. Acts 9:20; Jn 20:31; Mt 16:18; CCC. 441-445.

129 CCC. n. 446. Cf. 1 Cor 2:8.

130 CCC. n. 449.

131 Fr. Terry J. Tekeppe. A Note on Roger Haight's Spirit Christology, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, July 1993, p. 55.

132 Instruction On Certain Aspects Of The Theology Of Liberation (CDF), 1984, St. Paul Publication, Sydney, pp. 7-8.

133 Ibid.

134 Ibid. p.9.

135 Ibid. n.15, pp. 22-23.

136 Ibid. n. 8. p. 26.

137 Ibid.

138 Ibid. n. 2, p. 41. The explanation in brackets in this quotation has been inserted by this author.

139 Ibid. n. 13, p.45.

140 Boff Brothers, cited by Rev. Professor J. H. Gillis in Liberation Theology: A Debate, Challenge Magazine, Canada, May 1990, p. 24.

141 Rev. G.H. Duggan S.M. quoting Boff, The Priest, Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, Winter 1989, p. 9.

142 Bishop Christoph Schonborn, O.P. From Death To Life: The Christian Journey, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1995. Cf. Book Review by Edith Myers, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, January 1996, p. 77.

143 Hans Urs von Balthasar. Test Everything: Hold Fast To What Is Good. Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1989, pp. 41-42).

144 Pope John Paul II, Enc. Centesimus Annus, n. 14.

145 Ibid. n. 4.

146 Ibid. n. 13.

147 Michael Bezzina, Exercising a Preferential Option: A Reflection for Catholic Schools, in Catholic School Studies: A Journal of Education for Australian and New Zealand Catholic Schools, May 1996, p. 31.

148 Ibid.

149 Ibid. p. 33.

150 Ibid. pp. 32-33.

151 CDF Instruction On Certain Aspects of the Theology of Liberation, op. cit. n. 6, p. 29.

152 Support Units, Who Is Jesus, p. 61.

153 Ibid. pp. 61-62.

154 Ibid. p. 62.

155 Ibid.

156 Ibid.

157 Cf. Vatican Instruction On Liberation Theology, 1984, op. cit. nn. 3-5, pp. 41-42.

158 Ibid. p. 63.

159 Support Units, Search For Meaning Unit, Section, p. 64.

160 Lumen Gentium, n. 8. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 771.

161 Cf. Historical Approach to Contemporary Expressions of Church Unit, p. 28.

162 Fr Paul Collins, Mixed Blessings, Penguin Books, Australia, 1986, p. 159.

163 Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, n. 103.

164 Pope John Paul II. Familiaris Consortio, n. 84.

165 Ibid.

166 Cf. Mk 10:11-12; Mt 5:32; 19:9; Lk 16:18; Council of Trent, Session XXIV, 11 Nov. 1563, canon 7; Pius XI, Enc. Castii Connubii.

167 Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). Letter To The Bishops Of The Catholic Church Concerning The Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful.

168 The 1990 edition of O'Connell's book still had problems of ambiguity and confusion.

169 Cf. Pope John Paul II. Veritatis Splendor, nn. 56 and 59. I will be saying more about conscience in Chapter 8.

170 Both Consequentialism and Proportionalism were condemned by Pope John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor: cf. n. 71-83.

171 Cf. Dr. Bernadette Tobin, Australasian Catholic Record, Oct. 1994, p. 412.

172 Donum Vitae is listed in the general reference section of the Support Unit. At the time the Support Units were published, Evangelium Vitae had not yet been published.

173 CDF, Donum Vitae, St. Paul Publications, pp. 20-21.

174 Board of Studies, Studies of Religion 1/2 Unit Syllabus, 1991, p. 13.

175 Ibid.

176 The descriptions of religious syncretism which I have used here have been adopted from an excellent article on the subject written by Fr Bernard Green which was published in the April 1994 edition of The New Oxford Review.

177 Sr Patricia Malone, Word In Life, February 1996, p. 14.

178 Gideon Goosen, Catholic Weekly, 8/12/93.

179 Gideon Goosen, Ecumenism Is A Christmas Cake, Compass: A Review Of Topical Theology, Autumn 1996, p. 4.

180 Ibid. pp. 4-5.

181 Vatican II, Unitatis Redintegratio (Decree on Ecumenism), n. 1.

182 Pope John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint (That They May Be One), n. 3.

183 Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism, n. 4.

184 Ibid. n. 5.

185 Ibid. n. 4.

186 Pope John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint, n. 16.

187 Ibid. n. 18.

188 Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism, n. 3; Cf. Pope John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint, n. 11.

189 Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n. 8.

190 For the complete text of the Catholic Church's response to ARCIC-I, see L'Osservatore Romano 16/12/91.

191 Gideon Goosen, Ecumenism Is A Christmas Cake, op. cit. pp. 6- 7.

192 Ibid. p. 5.

193 Cf. Pope John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint, n. 9; Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n. 14.



In Chapter 2 of this book I noted how the Church's doctrine on the ministerial priesthood was being undermined in the Graduate Diploma in Religious Education course at the ACU in Sydney. In this course the Church's moral doctrine also appears to be under attack. The Christian Ethics Unit of this Graduate Diploma course commenced in February 1996 and from what I have seen of its content I am convinced that students who complete it may be left with the impression that dissenting viewpoints are compatible with the doctrine of the Church. In this Chapter, I want to focus not only on this Christian Ethics Unit, but also on an undergraduate course being conducted at the ACU as well as on some aspects of the Christology that Laurie Woods is teaching to students there. Before turning directly to the Christian Ethics Unit, I will first outline some principles which should guide the running of a Catholic University. In particular, I will discuss the notion of academic freedom and how this should be understood and applied within Catholic tertiary institutions.


The secularism which permeates Western culture treats everything from economics to medical ethics without any reference to transcendent values which alone can give the human person a unified vision of reality. In this regard, it is worth recalling the words of Pope Paul VI who said:

A humanism closed in on itself, and not open to the values of the spirit and to God who is their source, could achieve apparent success. True, man can organise the world apart from God, but 'without God he can organise it in the end only against man. An exclusive humanism is an inhuman humanism' (Henri de Lubac, Le drame de l'humanisme athee, p.10). There is no true humanism but that which is open to the Absolute and is conscious of a vocation which gives human life its true meaning. Far from being the ultimate measure of all things, man can only realise himself by reaching beyond himself. [1]

The "inhuman humanism" which Pope Paul VI referred to above is deeply rooted in Western consumerist and secularist culture and it presents universities with a challenge to act as a critical conscience for society by placing themselves at the service of truth. At the University of Atma Jaya in Jakarta in 1989, Pope John Paul II while speaking of the important part universities have to play in shaping the future of society said: "Universities form . . .an important part of the great network of persons, institutions and traditions from which ideas arise, are tested and are proposed to the wider community. Academic research, debate and teaching have a profound influence upon men and women far beyond the university campus. This enormous yet often hidden influence of the universities makes them a powerful force within society". [2] By seeking to be centres where truth in its manifold dimensions is respected and sought after, universities can help to create a culture which is more respectful of the integral dignity of the human person. Such a culture can be built only on the foundations of a common heritage of values accepted by all such as "respect for the dignity of the human person, a willingness to welcome life, the defence of human rights and openness to transcendence and the realm of the spirit". [3] In 1990, Pope John Paul II issued an Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities entitled Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Here the Holy Father said that the Catholic University has "always been recognised as an incomparable centre of creativity and dissemination of knowledge for the good of humanity". [4] However, since Catholic institutions exist to serve the Gospel of Christ who came into the world "to bear witness to the truth" (Jn 18:37), Pope John Paul II added that a Catholic University serves the human person and society by seeking "to unite existentially by intellectual effort two orders of reality that too frequently tend to be placed in opposition as though they were antithetical: the search for truth, and the certainty of already knowing the fount of truth". [5] In developing this point further, the Holy Father went on to say:

Without in any way neglecting the acquisition of useful knowledge, a Catholic University is distinguished by its free search for the whole truth about nature, man and God. The present age is in urgent need of this kind of disinterested service, namely of proclaiming the meaning of truth, that fundamental value without which freedom, justice and human dignity are extinguished. By means of a kind of universal humanism a Catholic University is completely dedicated to the research of all aspects of truth in their essential connection with the supreme Truth, who is God . . .Through the encounter which it establishes between the unfathomable richness of the salvific message of the Gospel and the variety and immensity of the fields of knowledge in which that richness is incarnated by it, a Catholic University enables the Church to institute an incomparably fertile dialogue with people of every culture. [6]

In effect, what Pope John Paul II has said above is that Catholic universities are called to serve the new evangelisation. In pursuing this new evangelisation, the Church looks to her educational institutions as an important means by which she can strive to permeate the whole of culture with the liberating truth of the Gospel. Catholic universities will contribute to this new evangelisation to the extent that they can prepare a new generation of Catholic intellectuals who are competent in their chosen academic and professional areas and who are also deeply convinced Catholics. In pursuing these integral objectives, a Catholic university must ensure that "Catholic ideals, attitudes and principles penetrate and inform university activities in accordance with the proper nature and autonomy of these activities". [7] Applying this principle of operation to scientific research and technological development for example, we can say that research in a Catholic University should "always be carried out with a concern for the ethical and moral implications both of its methods and its discoveries". [8] It is essential then that all who teach and study at a Catholic University be convinced "of the priority of the ethical over the technical, of the primacy of the person over things, of the superiority of the spirit over matter". In other words, men and women of culture and science "will truly aid humanity only if they preserve the sense of the transcendence of the human person over the world and of God over the human person". [9] A Catholic University has to be more than simply a generic university with a religious studies or theology course thrown in as is the case with universities run by the state. The Catholic University must enable its students to acquire a critical consciousness with all that pertains to the world of culture, science and religion. The pursuit of this critical consciousness however must always be undertaken with regard to the fact that, in the doctrine of the Church, Catholics already have "the certainty of already knowing the fount of truth" to use again the words of Pope John Paul II quoted earlier. Consequently, while the Catholic university must seek to enable its students acquire a critical capacity and equip them with the necessary competencies that will enable them to successfully take their place in the various professions, all of this however must be grounded in a Catholic vision of life. At a minimum, this requires that students be taught to distinguish the doctrine of the Church from the opinions and speculations of theologians and others. Coupled with this, the Church's doctrine should be presented in such a way that it contains an apologetical dimension that will enable the students to see that there can be no conflict between faith and reason. The pursuit of such an educational objective will require that the process involved be global in its scope. In pursuing this objective, care needs to be taken to avoid any undue emphasis on pluralism lest there arise a "pluralism of fundamentally opposed positions and hence a loss of identity". [10] Consequently, when contradictions of the Church's teaching are put forward and examined in courses at Catholic universities, this should be done only to acquaint students with the operative ideas in the prevailing culture which are an obstacle to evangelisation. In other words, Catholic universities must prepare students for the world while at the same time preventing them from succumbing to those values and ideas present in it which are opposed to the faith.


The overriding objective of a Catholic University is that it exists to foster the growth in holiness of all who are associated with it. As I intimated above, in pursuing this objective the Catholic university has a particular responsibility to help its students train and purify their reason in order to accept, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, all that the Church teaches on faith and morals. In pursuing this objective, the Catholic university will help its students forge a synthesis of faith, culture and life. If the students enter the world of work without having begun to develop such a synthesis, then their ability to serve the new evangelisation will be very limited. Consequently, it is only by basing itself firmly on the Gospel, as it is guarded and handed on by the Magisterium, that a Catholic university will be able to instil in its students a passion for truth and justice that will render them capable of bringing the light of faith to bear on the great problems of today. In view of this overriding objective, an essential requirement therefore for a Catholic University is that it be known for its fidelity to the teaching of the Magisterium. The Magisterium serves the People of God by protecting them "from deviations and defections" and by guaranteeing them "the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error". [11] Thus the pastoral duty of the Magisterium "is aimed at seeing to it that the people of God abides in the truth that liberates". [12] For a Catholic university therefore, adherence to the teaching of the Magisterium requires that Catholic faculty members be noted for their "personal fidelity" to the teaching authority of the Church and that non-Catholic members be "required to respect the character of the University, while the University in turn respects their religious liberty". [13] Adherence to the teaching of the Magisterium is especially required of those who teach subjects such as theology and related disciplines. Through prayer, study and obedience to the teaching of the Church, the theology teacher should seek to penetrate the doctrine of the faith more deeply. While doing so, he or she will attempt to remove linguistic or conceptual barriers to the effective communication of the Church's doctrine in order that its hearers will better understand it and be able to apply it more effectively to life. In carrying out this task, the theologian is not confined to any particular pedagogical mode or stage of theological formulation. However, he or she has a grave responsibility to bear disciplined academic witness to the doctrine of the Church in continuity of understanding of doctrine as found in the constant teaching of the Magisterium. Therefore, in order to develop a truly Catholic ethos, tertiary institutions run by the Church should:

• Recruit committed Catholic faculty members who will inspire their students and help them develop an integral Catholic vision of life;

• Terminate the employment of personnel not committed to supporting the teaching of the Magisterium;

• Develop a curriculum where all subjects are researched and taught in the light of Catholic doctrine. [14]

Given the three conditions listed above as essential to the creation of a Catholic ethos, we can now examine the question of whether or not those who teach in educational institutions run by the Church should have a right to dissent from the teaching of the Magisterium. Those who do in fact dissent often claim a right to do so on the basis of a perceived conflict between their obligation to adhere to the teaching of the Church and their right to academic freedom - a conflict which they assert should be resolved in favour of the latter. This argument however is quite specious. All academic disciplines have laws internal to them to which obedience is a pre-condition for further development. For example, when I am teaching mathematics, I can only achieve my overall objectives if I adhere strictly to the laws of number and to other fundamental mathematical principles. In similar fashion, the academic freedom of the Catholic theologian is not an engagement with no frontiers, it too has a limiting principle in that it rests on Divine Revelation whose authentic interpretation has been entrusted exclusively to the Magisterium of the Church whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. [15] Consequently, teachers of theology and related disciplines in Catholic tertiary institutions must regard fidelity to the teaching of the Magisterium as part of their stock-in-trade to which they are obliged to bear disciplined academic witness as does a mathematics teacher to the laws of number. In the current struggle between orthodoxy and heresy going on in Catholic tertiary institutions, there are two incompatible definitions of academic freedom vying for acceptance. The first, which I will call the secular definition, posits that professors and teachers of theology and related disciplines should have no fear of dismissal if they teach and write in accordance with procedures that are generally acceptable in their academic discipline even if this leads them to teach and promote ideas that are at variance with the teaching of the Church. The second definition, which I will call the religious one, posits that teachers of theology based subjects must be thoroughly professional and scientific in their research and teaching, but if this leads them to contradict the doctrine of the Catholic Church which their institution was founded to uphold, then they are no longer suitable for teaching Catholic theology and should be dismissed. The religious definition of academic freedom is the only one that is rational. It is based on the consideration that not only is the teacher entitled to academic freedom, but so too must the Catholic educational institution itself be free to do what it was founded to do which is to educate students in the Catholic faith. If it were obliged to allow professors and lecturers to openly teach against the doctrine of the Church, then the institution could not carry out the purpose for which it was established. Since one who accepts a job at a Catholic institution thereby commits himself or herself to support the purpose for which the institution exists, then it is only logical that the freedom of a Catholic university to safeguard its particular ethos takes precedence over a particular teacher's perceived right to academic freedom when it is a question of that teacher wanting to use his or her position to launch an attack against the doctrine of the Church. Viewing this question from a slightly different perspective, it is clear that the freedom of the University and of the lecturers, are both ordered to the freedom of the students to obtain a Catholic education and to the freedom of the Church to supply it. The principle of fundamental justice involved here is so simple that civil law can accommodate it quite easily as the history of the Fr Charles Curran case in the United States indicates. Dissenters favour the secular definition of academic freedom as it allows them to peddle their dissenting views in the Church's educational institutions without fear of being dismissed. In effect what the dissenters are seeking is a right to use Catholic facilities to teach Catholics to repudiate the teaching of the Church and to be paid a good salary for doing it.


In an Address to participants at a Congress on Catholic Universities, Pope John Paul II noted that the "crisis of the University" is more a crisis of identity, ends and values than it is of means. [16] Commenting on the loss of identity by Catholic universities in the United States, Fr James V. Schall, S.J. says that "a young student in a Catholic university can usually get in his courses a more objective account of Buddhism or liberation theology than of Catholicism". [17] He adds that in courses on Catholicism there is little thorough or adequate presentation of Catholic doctrines as the Church proclaims them. He states also that in many Catholic universities, Catholicism comes to mean whatever those who hold academic positions say it means and he points out that these institutions can be so caught up in political correctness that "even when prominent faculty and administration members support or tolerate abortion, homosexuality, feminism, versions of Marxism, paganism, or whatever, it remains dangerous to say in public that the school itself is not Catholic". [18] In Veritatis Splendor (VS), Pope John Paul II noted that a crisis had arisen in the area of moral theology. [19] A characteristic of this crisis is the frequency with which individuals who hold teaching positions in Catholic tertiary institutions promote dissent from the Church's doctrine. When error is allowed free rein in the teaching of moral theology and Christian Ethics courses in Catholic institutions, there inevitably follows dire consequences for individuals, for the Church and for society. In an Address to Australian Bishops in 1993, Pope John Paul II said: "One of the principal services which the Church can offer to humanity at this time is to teach the true nature of conscience, to defend the universality and permanent validity of moral norms, and to foster a genuine sense of human freedom. The precise purpose of the new Encyclical [Veritatis Splendor] is to present the Church's teaching on these fundamental matters which are at the heart of the moral crisis affecting contemporary society". [20] Returning now to the Christian Ethics Unit of the Graduate Diploma in Religious Education course at the ACU in Sydney. [21] The prescribed text for the Unit is a book entitled Freedom and Purpose: An Introduction To Christian Ethics. This book, which in several places contradicts the teaching of the Church, is authored by Robert Gascoigne who is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Theology and Philosophy at the ACU in Sydney. In referring to mortal sin, Gascoigne says: "The traditional understanding of mortal sin defined it in terms of full knowledge, full intent and grave matter. The defect of this understanding lay in its tendency to equate the degree of subjective sinfulness with objective gravity of matter, coupled with an understanding of sin in terms of individual actions" (p. 86). To highlight this perceived "defect" in the Church's teaching on mortal sin, Gascoigne cites the example of a husband who he suggests may not have committed mortal sin by freely and knowingly engaging in an act of adultery. The reason Gascoigne gives as to why this might be so is that this man was "normally faithful to his wife" (p. 83). After citing this example, Gascoigne claims that "what is highly implausible" about the Church's teaching on mortal sin is its insistence that "one action can totally reverse the character of someone's life" (ibid.). In order to overcome what he calls this "crucial flaw" in the Church's teaching (p. 85), Gascoigne argues that mortal sin should be understood in terms of a "fundamental option" which he says "is a state of personal being which rejects the love of God and neighbour at the deepest and freest core of the person" (p. 84). Explaining how the fundamental option would operate to determine the moral nature of a person's life, Gascoigne says: "Usually, the nature of our selves can only be judged by the long-term pattern of our actions. We express our fundamental option for goodness in a pattern of good actions, but this does not mean that we are totally consistent in this goodness. We can sin by freely doing wrong in individual actions, without these individual actions necessarily reversing the whole thrust and meaning of our lives" (p. 83). A component of the assessment for the Christian Ethics unit involves the students developing a moral norm for an ethical question they have chosen and presenting this to the class. For the specific details on the assignment the students are referred to page 181 of Gascoigne's book. Here Gascoigne advises the students that in doing their assignment, "a careful reading of Chapter Eight is important as preparation for using Church documents on moral issues". Chapter 8 of Gascoigne's book is entitled Christian Ethics and the teaching authority of the Church. In this chapter Gascoigne says that "the Church's magisterium has never issued an infallible teaching on a moral question . . .There is a very good reason why such an infallible teaching has never been made: it would be so general, without any clear application to any specific issue, that it would contribute little to the solution of any particular moral problem" (p. 189). Gascoigne argues that the Magisterium could not infallibly teach specific moral norms. He says: "Teaching on specific norms would be too specific to be able to make a direct claim for the authority of divine revelation, the authority of the Gospel. This is because the development of a specific norm involves a process of moral reasoning, and this process includes elements which cannot directly claim the authority of the Gospel" (p. 190). Gascoigne even argues that the Church has no unique authority to teach moral truth. He says: "Although it has a very considerable body of knowledge at its disposal, the magisterium has no unique competence or authority in the detailed knowledge required for developing specific moral norms" (p. 190). In reference to the level of magisterial authority he believes is associated with the moral teaching of the Church, Gascoigne says: "The magisterium's moral teaching, then, is an exercise of its ordinary, non-infallible, teaching authority" (p. 192). On the basis of this assertion, he then offers the following advise to his readers: "The moral teaching of the magisterium calls for respect and serious reflection by members of the Church, and should only be departed from after conscientious and self-critical consideration of the relevant question" (p. 196). Finally, he states: "Public dissent from the magisterium's moral teaching can assist the Church in developing this teaching, but should be engaged in only in the appropriate manner and forum" (ibid.). A surprising thing about this Christian Ethics course at the ACU is that when we look at the bibliography for supplementary reading that is given in the Unit outline, not one single Church document is listed. However, well known dissenters from the Church's teaching such as R. M. Gula, B. Haring, R. McCormick and T. O'Connell are included. Given this line-up, it is not surprising that we even find one of Peter Singer's most recent books listed. Singer is one of the driving forces of the pro-euthanasia campaign in Australia and he is also an advocate for the legalisation of infanticide. The problem with the prescribed text and the supplementary reading list is not that they contain material opposed to the Church's doctrine, rather it is their lack of balance. [22] College students are particularly vulnerable to relativistic indoctrination. However, a good purpose can be served by introducing them to erroneous ideas with a view to critiquing them. If the students are not helped to understand the jargon in which dissenters package their erroneous ideas, then they will be more easily seduced by them. However, when introducing students to such material, it is essential that they simultaneously be introduced to the very best material from the alternative side which reinforces the Church's teaching. Consequently, apart from making a study of Veritatis Splendor and the morality section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church part of the prescribed reading for this Christian Ethics Unit, good pedagogy would have ensured that Gascoigne's book as a prescribed text was balanced by another prescribed text by an author such as William May for example who has distinguished himself as a defender of the Church's teaching. The fact that the prescribed text and reading list is prejudiced towards dissent is in itself a recommendation in this direction by those who put the Unit together. The problems with the Christian Ethics course do not end with the prescribed text or with the supplementary reading list. At the first lecture of the course, the students were given a handout of nine pages for Preliminary Reading to which the name of the author was not appended. In reference to the influence of St Augustine on the development of Christian Ethics, this Preliminary Reading Material states:

Augustine's influence on Christian Ethics is profound because of his interpretation of Greek philosophy as pertaining to a more personal dimension of ethics . . .Until this time most Christian Ethics centred only on social ethics or public ethics. Sin until the time of Augustine had two streams (if you want, you can think in terms of mortal and venial), serious sin, which was by definition public and required public confession and conversion; the second was more like imperfection, that is, Christians were encouraged to constantly strive to become more perfect, more worthy, etc, etc. This later type was considered to be a personal matter between the individual and God or at most including one's 'spiritual director'. On the other hand, serious sins were limited to four: Adultery, Murder, Heresy and Apostasy. Given that we are talking about small communities (even in larger cities Christians probably lived within smaller communities), each of these is public and result in a major breach between the sinner and the rest of the community which all would be aware of. Augustine and his writings, over time, had the effect of focusing Christian attention about sin on what had been previously thought of as small imperfections. We still have the legacy today of his pre- occupation with matters sexual. [23]

Under another section of this Preliminary Reading Material headed Covenant Theology we read:

One of the reasons why, at first glance, Scripture appears to have limited application in Ethics today is that many of the ethical situations that we find ourselves in were not envisaged by the Biblical authors: transplantation, IVF, environmental degradation. However, it may not be correct to use Scripture only when it gives set answers to set questions. More likely Scripture needs to be read against the background of a developing tradition. Rather than seeking specifics, we should seek the flavour or the story theme. For example Jesus does not anywhere condemn sexual immorality; however, that does not mean that it is valid to claim that he would condone pornography, or sexual abuse. There is plenty of evidence that he opposed exploitation and always sought to heal and nurture. It would be just as wrong to assume that because Jesus was a Jew he would have opposed homosexuality per se. There is a good deal of evidence to suggest that he challenged the adherence to the Law which placed the statute above the people; he affirmed interpersonal relationships. [24]

In another section of this Preliminary Reading Material on St Thomas Aquinas and the Natural Law we read:

The central dimension of Aquinas' thought that we need to consider is that of Natural Law. This theory is not purely ethical but has been applied by Roman Catholic Moralists to Christian Ethics. Importantly, most Church teaching in personal ethics, derives from this theory. In this capacity, it has been misused and abused. Aquinas does not claim that Natural Law, on the level of first principles, does apply equally to everyone, everywhere, everywhen. However, in regard to second principles, the level of application, time and circumstances may affect the application of Natural Law . . .Natural Law is dependant on what we know and understand about our world and how human beings work. Since, today, we have a more developed understanding of the human person than it was possible for Aquinas, it follows that our understanding of Natural Law will be somewhat different. Aquinas permitted abortion up until around the end of the first trimester on the grounds that one could not detect any movement of the foetus until this time (movement was one of the things that set humans and animals apart from plants, in humans it was thought to be the work of the soul), if it did not display movement then it obviously was not human yet. Obviously with our superior medical knowledge we could not contend that the being in the process of being formed is not human. Aquinas was not alone in this view, it was the commonly held view of the time. [25]

The target audience for this Graduate Diploma in Religious Education course at the ACU is primarily teachers in Catholic Schools. Many of those who complete the course will end up as R.E coordinators in primary or secondary schools. Given the structure of this Christian Ethics Unit - the prescribed text, exclusion of Church documents from the supplementary reading list, the Preliminary Reading Material - we should not be surprised to find that further down the educational ladder the Catholic school system is having difficulties passing on a knowledge of Catholic doctrine to the younger generation.


In Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II focused on the foundations of morality and on the meaning and nature of conscience. While not minimising the role of motives and circumstances in morality, [26] the Holy Father stressed however that "the morality of the human act depends primarily and fundamentally on the 'object' rationally chosen by the deliberate will". [27] The object of an act refers to its matter - whether or not it is good or evil in itself. Intrinsically evil acts are those which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are by virtue of their object (e.g. adultery) always objectively and gravely sinful. The Holy Father stated the central theme of Veritatis Splendor to be "the reaffirmation of the universality and immutability of the moral commandments, particularly those which prohibit always and without exception intrinsically evil acts". [28] The Pope stressed that he was restating this theme "with the authority of the successor of Peter" and that he was setting forth "the principles of a moral teaching based upon Sacred Scripture and the living Apostolic Tradition". [29] The doctrine of "intrinsically evil" acts teaches that there are actions which in themselves are opposed to love of God. Their 'object' is evil in itself and as such they cannot be ordered to God and they radically contradict the good of the human person who is made in His image. [30] Some examples of intrinsically evil acts cited by the Pope John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor are: premarital sex, contraception, direct sterilisation, abortion, IVF, euthanasia, homosexual acts, masturbation, exploitation of workers, mental and physical torture. [31] We do not create the distinction between good and evil. That distinction has already been drawn by God who is the Supreme Good and the author of the objective moral order. Reaffirming this truth, Pope John Paul II, in reference to the words of Genesis whereby God forbade man to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil said: "The power to decide what is good and what is evil, does not belong to man, but to God alone". [32] The Holy Father rejects the view that love and respect for God and neighbour is compatible with exceptions to specific moral norms. He does so on the grounds that in teaching "the existence of intrinsically evil acts, the Church accepts the teaching of Sacred Scripture". [33] In teaching this, the Holy Father draws on St. Paul who teaches that "your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you" (1 Cor.6:19) and who declares that several forms of sinners including "the immoral, idolaters, adulterers, sexual perverts, thieves, the greedy, drunkards . . ." are excluded from the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6: 9). Pope John Paul II cites the Council of Trent which repeats Paul's warning in its solemn teaching that one sins mortally whenever he or she deliberately and knowingly engages in certain specific kinds of behaviour. [34] Moreover, the Holy Father points out that in the Gospel account of the Rich Young Man, Jesus himself reaffirms that there are moral prohibitions which allow no exceptions. In response to the Rich Young Man's question about the way to eternal life, Jesus answered: "If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments . . .You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness" (Mt 19: 17-18). [35] In view of what has been said above, it is clear that a good intention can never make behaviour which is intrinsically evil good or just. For example, the murder of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving an entire nation. One may not do evil so that good can result from it. [36] In other words, circumstances or intention cannot of themselves change the moral quality of acts themselves: "they can make neither good nor right an action that is in itself evil". [37] On the other hand, a bad intention, such as the pursuit of public acclaim, makes an act evil that in itself is good such as almsgiving. [38] Therefore, "a morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together". [39] Moreover, this doctrine of the 'object' as a source of morality represents "an authentic explication of the Biblical morality of the Covenant and of the commandments". [40] Possessed of a rational nature, man has been created by God so that he can initiate and control his own actions: "God willed that man should be 'left in the hand of his own counsel,' so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him". [41] Freedom is the power "rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility". [42] By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom "is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God our beatitude". [43] There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The "more one does what is good, the freer one becomes". The choice to disobey and do evil "is an abuse of freedom and leads to the slavery of sin". [44] The human person "is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons", and he "is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead". [45] The Natural Law "expresses the original moral sense implanted by God in every person at Creation which enables him to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie". [46] It is called "Natural" because reason which decrees it belongs to human nature. It shows the human person the path to follow so as to practice the good and thus attain the end for which he or she was created. Quoting St. Thomas Aquinas, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: "The natural law is nothing other than the light of understanding placed in us by God; through it we know what we must do and what we must avoid. God has given us this light or law at creation". [47] It states the first and essential precepts of the moral life. It is "present in the heart of each man" and "is universal in its precepts". Its authority extends to everyone and it "expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis of his fundamental rights and duties". [48] The Natural Law is immutable meaning that its principles are always true and binding. Even when its principles are rejected, it cannot be destroyed or removed from the heart of man. [49] By his reason, man "recognises the voice of God which urges him to do what is good and avoid what is evil. Everyone is obliged to follow this law, which makes itself heard in the conscience and is fulfilled in the love of God and of neighbour". [50] As well as providing the solid foundation upon which the human person can build the structure of moral rules to guide his choices, the Natural Law also provides the indispensable moral foundation for building the human community and it thereby represents a necessary basis for civil law which should draw principles and conclusions from it. [51] The Decalogue (Ten Commandments) has been revealed to us by God and it expresses the principal precepts of the Natural Law which due to sin are not perceived by everyone clearly and immediately. The Ten Commandments lay the foundations for the vocation of the human person fashioned in the image of God. They prohibit what is contrary to the love of God and neighbour and prescribe what is essential to it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the Decalogue is "a light offered to the conscience of every man to make God's call and ways known to him and to protect him against evil". Then quoting St. Augustine, the Catechism adds: "God wrote on the tables of the law what men did not read in their hearts". [52] [] The human person "is alive and free only to the extent that he observes God's commandments". [53] Properly understood, the commandments "do not consist merely in a series of prohibitions, but rather express the basic values, closely connected with the truth and dignity of the human person". [54] By observing the commandments, man "acts in conformity with his being and his profound calling, and journeys towards that full life that finds in Jesus its paradigm, its source, its fulfilment: If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments". [55] In Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the object of intrinsically evil acts is at odds with "the goods safeguarded in the commandments". [56] These moral commandments "safeguard the good of the human person" and they "express with particular force the ever urgent need to protect human life, the communion of persons in marriage and so on". [57] The moral law finds its fullness and its unity in Jesus Christ who in person is the way of perfection. Speaking of this Vatican II said: "The fact is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word is light shed on the mystery of man . . .Christ who is the New Adam, by revealing the mystery of the Father and his love, also fully reveals man to man himself and makes his exalted vocation known to him". [58]Consequently, Jesus' words and deeds are the ultimate criteria for the discernment of ethical norms. In terms of his conduct, Jesus teaches that the vocation of the human person is to love and worship God through unconditional obedience to the Divine will. From the first moment of the Incarnation, Jesus embraced the Father's will: "You have fashioned a body for me . . .Lo, I have come to do your will, O God" (Heb. 10:6-7). Throughout his life on earth he never veered from this objective: "My food is to do the will of the one who sent me . . .I do always what pleases him" (Jn 4:34; 8:29). Jesus' obedience was of such an unconditional nature that, "although he was Son, he learned to obey through suffering . . .even unto death on a Cross" (Heb 5:8; Phil 2:8). The obedience of Jesus contrasts with the disobedience of the first man Adam. Sin, which is the opposite of love, is disobedience to the Divine Law. Speaking of this St. John says: "We can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments . . .Let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God . . .We can be sure we love God's children if we love God himself and do what he has commanded us; this is what loving God is - keeping his commandments and his commandments are not difficult" (1 Jn 2:3; 4:7; 5:2-4). There is no separation or opposition between the Beatitudes and the commandments: "both refer to the good, to eternal life". [59] The Beatitudes are "above all promises, from which there also directly flow normative indications for the moral life . . .they are a sort of self- portrait of Christ . . .and . . .invitations to discipleship and to communion of life with Christ". [60] Consequently, the moral life ultimately means the following of Christ who became a servant even to the point of giving himself up to death on the Cross. It is possible for us to be conformed to Jesus "only because of God's grace". [61] Pope John Paul II notes that "those who live 'by the flesh' experience God's law as a burden," while those "who are impelled by love and 'walk in the Spirit' (Gal 5:16) . . .find in God's law the fundamental and necessary way in which to practice love as something freely chosen and freely lived out". [62] With God's grace, men and women can "abide" in love, but they can do so "only by keeping the commandments". As Jesus says: "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love' (Jn 15:10)". [63] Sin, on the other hand, has been defined by Pope John Paul II as: "the disobedience of a person who, by a free act, does not acknowledge God's sovereignty over his or her life, at least at that particular moment when he or she transgresses God's Law". [64] From the story of the Fall in Genesis, we see that sin stems from inattention to the Word of God expressed through the rejection of a truth contained in it. The essential characteristic of the first sin in human history was that Adam and Eve transgressed a prohibition laid on them by God.


The theory of the fundamental option as it is presented in Gascoigne's book was rejected by Pope John Paul II in Reconciliatio et Paenitentia and again in Veritatis Splendor. [65] That the Gospel is not solely a promise without any tie to the commandments was defined by the Council of Trent. [66] In Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II affirms that the only fundamental option with which the Christian is confronted is "the decision of faith, of the obedience of faith (cf. Rom 16:26) 'by which man makes a total and free self-commitment to God, offering the full submission of intellect and will to God as he reveals". [67] Faith is called to bear fruit in love which as we saw earlier requires the fulfilment of the specific requirements of the Decalogue. [68] In other words, Catholic moral doctrine has to be understood in harmony with the words of Jesus: "It is not he who says: Lord, Lord, who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 7:21). In Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II rejects the interpretation of the fundamental option as it is articulated by Gascoigne. The Holy Father here teaches that we cannot dissociate the fundamental option from particular choices in given acts on the grounds that it is "contrary to the teaching of Scripture itself, which sees the fundamental option as a genuine choice of freedom and links that choice profoundly to particular acts". [69] In rejecting the fundamental option theory as it has been proposed by Gascoigne, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed the permanent validity of the distinction between mortal and venial sin. He said that mortal sin exists "when a person knowingly and willingly, for whatever reason, chooses something gravely disordered". [70] In rejecting the theory of the fundamental option, the Pope recalled the doctrine solemnly defined by the Council of Trent that "the grace of justification once received is lost not only by apostasy, by which faith itself is lost, but also by any other mortal sin". [71] In Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II concludes his discussion of the fundamental option by saying: "The separation of fundamental option from deliberate choices of particular kinds of behaviour, disordered in themselves or in their circumstances, which would not engage that option, thus involves a denial of Catholic doctrine on mortal sin". [72] Then, after saying this, the Holy Father comprehensively defined mortal sin as follows: With the whole tradition of the Church, we call mortal sin an act by which man freely and consciously rejects God, his law, the covenant of love that God offers, preferring to turn in on himself or to some created and finite reality, something contrary to the divine will (conversio ad creaturam). This can occur in a direct and formal way, in the sins of idolatry, apostasy and atheism; or in an equivalent way, as in every act of disobedience to God's commandments in a grave matter. [73]


Gascoigne's assertion that the Magisterium has not taught infallibly on specific moral issues because it has no authority to do so is wrong. He ignores the fact that the Church's position on the indissolubility of sacramental and consummated marriage was in fact defined by the Council of Trent and so belongs to the patrimony of the Faith. Gascoigne likewise gives insufficient weight to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council which condemned abortion as "an unspeakable crime". [74] Indeed, Gascoigne's whole treatment of infallibility is inadequate and confusing. He makes no reference whatsoever to the teaching of the Ordinary Universal Magisterium, which as we saw in Chapter 4, is the normal means by which the infallible teaching of the Church finds expression. In view of this critical omission, it is not surprising to find that Gascoigne equates "infallibly taught" with "solemnly defined". According to Vatican II, the Magisterium teaches with the authority of Christ himself not only the truths of faith, but also "everything that serves to make the People of God live their lives in holiness". [75] By way of the Ordinary Universal Magisterium, the core of Catholic moral teaching in respect to the specific precepts of the Decalogue has been taught by the Church in a way which meets her criteria for proposing teachings infallibly without solemnly defining them. Two of the most distinguished moral theologians in the world today are Germain Grisez and William May. In relation to the question of infallible teaching and specific moral norms, Professor Grisez says: "Having been proposed with one voice by Catholic bishops as a requirement for eternal salvation, the whole body of common Catholic moral teaching concerning acts which constitute grave matter meets the requirements articulated by Vatican II for teaching proposed infallibly by the ordinary magisterium". [76] In relation to the same question, Professor May says: "The core of Catholic moral teaching, as summarised by the precepts of the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments), precisely as these precepts have been traditionally understood within the Church, has been taught infallibly by the magisterium in the day-to-day ordinary exercise of the authority divinely invested in it. We are not deliberately to kill innocent human beings; we are not to fornicate, commit adultery, engage in sodomy; we are not to steal; we are not to perjure ourselves". [77] To cite an example of Episcopal support for the position of Grisez and May, we can take the 1986 statement by the Puerto Rican Episcopal Conference who in relation to the Vatican's declaration on Fr Charles Curran's unsuitability to teach Catholic theology said:

Fr Curran has for many years publicly expressed his dissent from the ordinary Magisterium of the Church in regard to matters such as the indissolubility of consummated sacramental marriage, abortion, euthanasia, masturbation, premarital sexual relations, contraception and homosexual acts. Thus, one can readily imagine his popularity in many sectors of contemporary society . . .Before Fr. Curran and his sympathisers arrived on the theological scene, the Successor of Peter and all the bishops of the entire world in all ages, in communion with him taught definitively the immorality of acts contrary to the proper use of sex, against life, and against the indissolubility of consummated sacramental marriage - as listed above. We regard it as an inescapable conclusion that the immorality of the said acts has been proposed infallibly as the teaching of Christ". [78]

Most significantly, in the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II invoked the formula that the Second Vatican Council used to identify the infallible teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium. [79] In first declaring the general moral principle regarding the respect that is due to innocent human life, the Holy Father said: "Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium". [80] Then, in a text incorporating all the elements laid down by Vatican II for an infallible teaching of the ordinary Magisterium, Pope John Paul II said: "Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops - who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine - I declare that direct abortion, that is abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium". [81] Finally, in the third text of Evangelium Vitae to concern us here we read: "Taking into account these distinctions, in harmony with the Magisterium of my Predecessors and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium". [82] According to Evangelium Vitae therefore, the Church has taught infallibly the specific moral norms that direct abortion and euthanasia are always gravely immoral. The encyclical was issued with the intention of arousing the conscience of society which seems to have lost its "sense of sin". In the Encyclical, the Pope confirmed a universally held doctrine taught and defended by the Church. They are unalterable pronouncements and their acceptance is a condition for communion in the Catholic Church. [83] One final point I would like to stress is that Evangelium Vitae did not teach what some commentators have referred to as "a new doctrine". In fact the Church has never taught anything 'new', she simply "confines herself to repeating, stressing, safeguarding and defining with ever greater clarity the doctrine transmitted to her by her Lord". [84]


Gascoigne's claim that public dissent from the moral teaching of the Magisterium "can assist the Church" and that it should only be engaged in "in the appropriate manner and forum" is wrong. While there is no explicit mention of a so-called right of dissent in the documents of Vatican II, Professor William May points out however that the question was dealt with by the Council's Theological Commission. In response to a question on dissent from only three bishops during the Council's proceedings, the Theological Commission referred them to approved theological manuals which in no way supported a right to public dissent from magisterial teaching. [85] In the 1990 Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian (Donum Veritatis), issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with the approval of Pope John Paul II, the Magisterium devoted nearly one-third of the document to "The Problem of Dissent". The document listed some reasons which are regarded as justifying dissent such as appeals to "the opinion of a large number of Christians" which is then mistakenly identified with the sensus fidei. [86] Describing some of the different ways in which dissent expresses itself, the Instruction stated:

Dissent has different aspects. In its most radical form, it aims at changing the Church following a model of protest which takes its inspiration from political society. More frequently, it is asserted that the theologian is not bound to adhere to any Magisterial teaching unless it is infallible. Thus a kind of theological positivism is adopted, according to which, doctrines proposed without exercise of the charism of infallibility are said to have no obligatory character about them, leaving the individual completely at liberty to adhere to them or not. The theologian would accordingly be totally free to raise doubts or reject the non-infallible teaching of the Magisterium particularly in the case of specific moral norms. With such critical opposition, he would even be making a contribution to the development of doctrine. [87]

While acknowledging and giving honour to the high calling of the theologian - who seeks "the reasons of faith" and offers these reasons as a response to those seeking them - Donum Veritatis disallowed the claim of certain theologians to be a "parallel magisterium" in the Church. [88] Since the teaching of the Church enjoys divine assistance, the document pointed out that the modern tendency of placing the teaching of the Magisterium on an equal footing with mere theological opinion served only to call the integrity of the faith into question. [89] The Instruction pointed out that the role of the theologian is to pursue a deeper understanding of the doctrine of the Church, a role which he or she must carry out "in communion with the Magisterium which has been charged with the responsibility of preserving the deposit of faith". [90] In harmony with this fundamental aspect of the role of the theologian, the Instruction stated that arguments of theologians appealing to the right of private conscience in order to legitimate dissent had no validity. It said:

Conscience is not an independent and infallible faculty. It is an act of moral judgement regarding a responsible choice. A right conscience is one duly illumined by faith and by the objective moral law and it presupposes, as well, the uprightness of the will in the pursuit of the true good. The right conscience of the Catholic theologian presumes not only faith in the Word of God whose riches he must explore, but also love for the Church from whom he receives his mission, and respect for her divinely assisted Magisterium. Setting up a supreme Magisterium of conscience in opposition to the Magisterium of the Church means adopting a principle of free examination incompatible with the economy of Revelation and its transmission in the Church and thus also with a correct understanding of theology and the role of the theologian. The propositions of faith are not the product of mere individual research and free criticism of the Word of God but constitute an ecclesial heritage. If there occur a separation from the Bishops who watch over and keep the Apostolic Tradition alive, it is the bond with Christ which is irreparably compromised". [91]

Therefore, Catholic theologians and others who are employed to teach in the name of the Church have no right to undermine the doctrine of the Church by publicly dissenting from it. Instead they have a grave duty to teach authentic Church doctrine. Put simply, their job is to instruct the faithful about "all those commandments and practical norms authoritatively declared by the Church". [92] In thus setting forth the teaching of the Magisterium, moral theologians "are called to develop a deeper understanding of the reasons underlying its teachings and to expound the validity and obligatory nature of the precepts it proposes, demonstrating their connection with one another and their relation with man's ultimate end". [93] In fulfilling their duty in this way, moral theologians "are to set forth the Church's teaching and give, in the exercise of their ministry, the example of loyal assent, both internal and external, to the Magisterium's teaching in the areas of both dogma and morality". [94] Cardinal Edward Clancy, in commenting on Donum Veritatis, summed up well the case against dissent when he said: "It makes no sense for theologians to voluntarily accept the task of teaching the doctrine of the Church in the name of the Church if, at the same time, they do not find themselves in agreement with that doctrine". [95] It is clear then that when a teacher in a Catholic institution publicly dissents from the teaching of the Magisterium, "the Church's Pastors have the duty to act in conformity with their apostolic mission, insisting that the right of the faithful to receive Catholic doctrine in its purity and integrity must always be respected". [96] Consequently, those who work in institutions run by the Church and who feel entitled to teach or publish dissenting opinions must be prepared to face "serious measures" such as firing. [97] Those teachers in Catholic institutions who act as though they have a right to dissent publicly from the Church's moral doctrine are in effect a source of scandal. Speaking of this aspect of dissent in the context of the moral norm of Humanae Vitae which teaches that contraceptive acts are intrinsically evil, Pope John Paul II said: "Those who place themselves in open conflict with the law of God, authentically taught by the Church, guide spouses along a false path. The Church's teaching on contraception does not belong to the category of matter open to free discussion among theologians. Teaching the contrary amounts to leading the moral consciences of spouses into error". [98] Our Lord was unequivocal in his warning to those who lead the consciences of others into error: "Woe to him by whom temptations to sin come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin" (Lk 17:1-2). In advising his readers that "the moral teaching of the magisterium . . .should only be departed from after conscientious and self-critical consideration of the relevant question" (p. 196), Gascoigne is thereby contradicting the teaching of the Church. Conscience can be viewed as that "secret and decisive place where the bridge between faith and concrete living is built". [99] Speaking of the relationship between faith and observance of the moral law, Livio Melina said: "To detach the witness of faith from the observance of determinate precepts is to place oneself in contradiction to the dynamics of the Incarnation, which brings salvation not only to the spirit, but to the whole man in the concreteness of his own choices". [100] Since the Magisterium proclaims moral doctrine with the authority of God Himself - "Teach them to obey all that I have commanded" (Mt 28:20) - then the moral doctrine of the Church binds the consciences of Catholics. In this regard the Second Vatican Council emphatically reminded the faithful that "in matters of faith and morals the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent of soul. This religious submission of will and mind must be shown in a special way to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra. That is it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgements made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will". [101] Gascoigne's assertion that Catholics are free to depart from the Church's moral doctrine once they have given it serious consideration, is expressive of a distorted concept of subjectivity and is in effect a prescription for anarchy in society. Describing how this is so, Fr Georges Cottier, O.P. says: "Indeed, freedom negates and destroys itself, and leads to the destruction of others when it no longer recognises and respects 'its essential link with truth'. Social life is at the mercy of the arbitrary; everything is negotiable, even the first right, the right to life". [102] Gascoigne's proposal implies that a choice by Catholics to exploit workers, to torture political opponents, to engage in homosexual acts or in sexual relations with children would be subjectively defensible if, in having considered and reflected upon the Church's teaching, the consciences of these Catholics nonetheless told them that in their particular situation it is right for them to engage in these actions. To accept Gascoigne's line of reasoning is equivalent to saying that the human person is a totally autonomous creator of his or her own moral truth. The First Vatican Council said: "Every created intellect is subject to the uncreated Truth, and owes to it a perfect obedience both of reason and will". [103] In his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, Cardinal Newman stressed that "conscience has rights because it has duties". [104] The first duty of conscience is "to listen to the truth and prescribe it for man". [105] Freedom of conscience does not mean the right to follow one's preferences. Speaking of this, Pope John Paul II said: "Freedom does not mean the right to whatever one wants. Freedom is not licence. Whoever turns freedom into licence has already dealt it a mortal blow. The free man is bound to the truth; otherwise his freedom has no more permanence than a lovely dream that vanishes on waking. Man does not owe his existence to himself, but is a creature of God". [106] Speaking of the erroneous understanding of conscience whereby Catholics ascribe to themselves an exaggerated moral autonomy, Bishop Kevin Manning said: "The acceptance of a certain concept of autonomy questions the connection between faith and morality. Faith is not merely the intellectual assent to certain abstract truths; it also possesses a moral content which entails the keeping of the commandments. 'Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in Heaven' (Mt 7:21), i.e., faith in Jesus means assent to what he taught. Today, consequentialism, proportionalism and the fundamental option, while retaining a faith in Christ, separate faith from the morality in his teachings". [107] Bishop James T. McHugh made a similar point when he said: "To be a Catholic means to adhere to the Church's faith and moral reasoning. It means unity with the Successors of Peter and the Apostles and the constant building of communion within the Church. Those who reject unity and/or fidelity to the Church cannot claim the title Catholic, and Bishops must make this clear to the faithful, to organisations calling themselves Catholic and to overall society. In some cases, pastoral vigilance may require withdrawing the title Catholic from certain groups or institutions". [108] In Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II said that the Magisterium had the task of "discerning by means of judgements normative for the consciences of believers, those acts which in themselves conform to the demands of faith and foster their expression in life and those which, on the contrary, because intrinsically evil, are incompatible with such demands". [109] Having said this, the Holy Father then added: "In proclaiming the commandments of God and the charity of Christ, the Church's Magisterium also teaches the faithful specific particular precepts and requires that they consider them in conscience as morally binding". [110] Gascoigne's assertion that Catholics are free to depart from the moral teaching of the Church after a "conscientious and self-critical consideration of the relevant question" is not reconcilable with this magisterial. This is made even more clear in Veritatis Splendor where Pope John Paul II says: "Circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act 'subjectively' good or defensible as a choice". [111] In speaking of the relationship between the moral life and the unity of the Church in Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II said : "No damage must be done to the harmony between faith and life: the unity of the Church is damaged not only by Christians who reject or distort the truths of faith but also by those who disregard the moral obligations to which they are called by the Gospel". [112] Then, in order to highlight the attitude we should have towards the law of God, the Holy Father went on to recall the example of the martyrs who chose death rather than violate the absoluteness of the moral order and they thereby bore witness to their faith in God. [113] From the Old Testament the Holy Father cited the example of Susanna who was prepared to die rather than commit adultery. From the New Testament he cited the example of John the Baptist - who in "rejecting any compromise with evil" - laid down his life in witnessing to Herod "the Law of the Lord" regarding marriage. Most significantly, the Holy Father cited the countless martyrs who accepted death rather than perform the idolatrous act of burning incense before the statue of the Emperor (cf. Rev 13:7- 10). In doing so, these martyrs "even refused to feign such worship, thereby giving an example of the duty to refrain from performing even a single concrete act contrary to God's love and the witness of faith". Pope John Paul II pointed out that like Christ himself, these martyrs "obediently trusted and handed over their lives to the Father, the one who could free them from death" (cf. Heb 5:7). [114] In concluding his discussion of the witness of the martyrs in Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II said: "The Church proposes the example of numerous Saints who bore witness to and defended moral truth even to the point of enduring martyrdom, or who preferred death to a single mortal sin. In raising them to the honour of the altars, the Church has canonised their witness and declared the truth of their judgement, according to which the love of God entails the obligation to respect his commandments, even in the most dire circumstances, and the refusal to betray those commandments, even for the sake of saving one's own life". [115] More recent examples of this type of faithful witness to the inviolability the moral law include St. Maria Goretti who died rather than fornicate and the Ugandan Martyrs who choose death rather than be forced into committing homosexual acts. Gascoigne's work fails to treat adequately of the way in which faith and morality compenetrate in the spiritual life and of how this relates to conscience. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that conscience is "a judgement of reason whereby the human person recognises the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed". [116] In Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II explained that conscience is not a "creative" decision but rather is a judgement drawn from moral truths, including the negative precepts of the Decalogue which oblige in every case. [117] He cites Romans 2:15 which "clarifies the precise nature of conscience: it is a moral judgement about man and his actions, a judgement either of acquittal or of condemnation, according as human acts are in conformity or not with the law of God written on the heart". [118] Speaking of the obligatory nature of the Ten Commandments, the Catechism says: "Since they express man's fundamental duties towards God and towards his neighbour, the Ten Commandments reveal, in their primordial content, grave obligations. They are fundamentally immutable, and they oblige always and everywhere. No one can dispense from them. The Ten Commandments are engraved by God in the human heart". [119] It is in light of this truth that we should understand teaching of Vatican II which says: "Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment . . .For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God . . .His conscience is man's most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths". [120] If freedom is not based on truth, the human person becomes a slave to sin. The dignity of the human person requires that conscience be properly educated. A well-formed conscience "is upright and truthful". It formulates its judgements "according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator". [121] Therefore, conscience "depends on the moral law which it does not create but which it must receive as an imperative". [122] When conscience becomes detached from its safe mooring in the Divine Law, it ends up sanctioning behaviour which is both sinful and destructive of the fundamental rights of others. For example, a decision to abort results in a murdered baby irrespective of the subjective disposition accompanying the decision. Consequently, the education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are "subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgement and to reject authoritative teachings". [123] Speaking of the link between the development of an informed conscience and the moral law, Pope John Paul II said: "When God's truth is obscured, human consciences are also deformed, if sin is denied, God is also denied . . .Human conscience goes astray if it is neglected and deprived of the truth . . .Conscience has an inalienable right to the truth and it is most intimately related to human dignity . . .Therefore human dignity requires that a person orient his conscience in accordance with the lawful order established by the Creator". [124] It can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgements about acts to be performed or already committed. If the ignorance is invincible, or if the person is not responsible for his erroneous judgement, then the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to him, even though it remains an evil, a privation, a disorder. [125] Speaking of this, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: "Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors". [126] Consequently, it is necessary to always keep in mind that there is a distinction to be drawn between the objective sinfulness of an act and subjective culpability. In the moral life there are also "laws of growth" and of maturation. [127] Such growth towards maturation requires the help of grace and needs to be fostered by the community through the provision of a suitable formation and education. [128] While unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove responsibility for an objectively grave sin, [129] Vatican II however reminded us that this cannot be said about the person "who takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin". In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits. [130] One must therefore work to correct any error of moral conscience by seeking the truth. For Catholics this job is made easier because the Church is itself the "pillar of truth" (1 Tim 3:15). The Pope, and the bishops in communion with him, are the authoritative teachers of this truth. They are endowed by Christ himself with his very own authority to "preach the faith to the people entrusted to them, the faith to be believed and put into practice". [131] The teaching authority of the Magisterium "extends also to the specific precepts of the natural law, because their observance, demanded by the Creator, is necessary for salvation". [132] In recalling the prescriptions of the natural law, the Magisterium of the Church "exercises an essential part of its prophetic office of proclaiming to men what they truly are and reminding them of what they should be before God". [133] Jesus tells us that only the truth will set us free and that all who are on the side of truth listen to his voice (cf. Jn 8:32; 18:37-38). Part of the joy in being a Catholic is the certainty of knowing that when we listen to the teaching of the Magisterium we are in fact listening to Christ himself: "Anyone who listens to you listens to me" (Lk 10:16). Speaking of how the teaching of the Magisterium serves Catholics in the correct formation of their consciences, Professor William May says: "The moral teachings of the Magisterium are to be looked upon not as legalistic rules but as precious truths intended to enable the faithful to come to know who they are and what they are to do if they are to be fully the beings God wants them to be: his faithful children, ready to walk worthily in the vocation to which they have been called, ready to follow the call to participate in Christ's redemptive work". [134] In view of this, it is clear that a certain connaturality should exist between the conscience of the individual Catholic and the teaching of the Magisterium. In speaking of this, Pope John Paul II said: "It follows that the authority of the Church, when it pronounces on moral questions, in no way undermines the freedom of conscience of Christians. This is so not only because freedom of conscience is never freedom 'from' the truth but always and only freedom 'in' the truth, but also because the Magisterium does not bring to the Christian conscience truths which are extraneous to it; rather it brings to light the truths which it ought already to possess . . .". [135] Consequently, the teaching of the Magisterium challenges Catholics to choose between two freedoms which St Augustine described as a conflict between two loves: the love of God to the point of disregarding self, and the love of self to the point of disregarding God. [136]


Turning now to the contents of the Preliminary Reading Material which was provided for students during the Christian Ethics course at the ACU. It is nonsense to say that "Jesus does not anywhere condemn sexual immorality". It is equally absurd to suggest that Jesus would not "have opposed homosexuality per se" - especially if the term 'homosexuality' is intended to include homosexual acts. [137] In the Sermon on the Mount, which in Veritatis Splendor Pope John Paul II refers to as "the magna charta of Christian morality", Jesus himself confirmed the precepts of the Decalogue. [138] Speaking of this, the Holy Father says: "Jesus brings the commandments to fulfilment . . .by interiorising their demands and by bringing out their fullest meaning . . .Thus the commandment 'You shall not murder' becomes a call to an attentive love which protects and promotes the life of one's neighbour. The precept prohibiting adultery becomes an invitation to a pure way of looking at others, capable of respecting the spousal meaning of the body". [139] Speaking of the Biblical teaching on sexual immorality, the Irish Bishops' Pastoral Love is for Life says: "Any separation of physical, sexual union from the fullness of its meaning, which is found only in marriage, is a disruption of God's plan. It is a betrayal of love. All acts of sexual intercourse before or outside of marriage are acts of fornication or adultery and these are, in themselves, always gravely sinful. This is the clear law of God, proclaimed in both the Old Testament and the New Testament". [140] As we saw earlier, Jesus repeated the Ten Commandments to the Rich Young Man who asked him about the way to eternal life (cf. Lk 7:21-23). He listed the type of actions that make a person 'unclean' such as "fornication, theft, murder, adultery . . ." (Mt 7:21-23). Though this list is not complete, it spells out the type of actions that are incompatible with love of God and love of neighbour. As St. John and St. Paul both teach, these are the kinds of actions that are so sinful in themselves (intrinsically evil), that if knowingly and freely engaged in, and if not repented of, they will exclude one from the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Eph 5:5; 1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:9-21; Rev 21:8). In the teaching of Jesus, the moral duty to do good and avoid evil is summed up in the commandment to love (cf. Mk 12:30-31). The commandment to love is intended however to sum up the whole of the Divine Law. The Gospels bear witness to the fact that truth and mercy unite to form a single and undivided attitude of the Lord Jesus. This attitude is revealed for example in the words Our Lord addressed to the woman who was caught committing adultery: "Has no one condemned you? . . .Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again" (Jn 8:10-11). Jesus does not equivocate when it comes to naming evil. He calls adultery by its proper name when he tells this woman not to "sin" again. By so doing, Jesus teaches us that an essential aspect of pastoral care is the duty to tell the truth about sin. Jesus does not falsify moral truth, but "bears witness to it in an unmistakable way; and in offering his merciful love to the woman who had sinned and repented, he leads her back to the truth and to salvation". [141] The assertion in the Preliminary Reading Material that St Thomas Aquinas "permitted abortion up until around the end of the first trimester" is bizarre. While it is true that St Thomas laboured under the limitations imposed by the biological knowledge available in his time, he would never however have permitted abortion at any stage. Following Aristotle's philosophy, St Thomas held that ensoulment did not occur at conception but at a later time, at forty days for the male and ninety for the female. [142] Despite this however, St Thomas still taught that it was a "grave sin against the natural law" to kill the foetus at any stage, and a graver sin of homicide to do so after ensoulment. [143] Besides, it would have been illogical for St Thomas to have permitted abortion at any stage since he was so opposed to contraception in regards to which he said: "Next to murder, by which an actually existent human being is destroyed, we rank this sin by which the generation of a human being is prevented". [144]


A university has no right to call itself Catholic if it cannot affirm in all its courses that Jesus was aware of his divinity. Neither should a university call itself Catholic if some of its staff teach a version of the Resurrection that does not necessarily involve the raising up of the remains of Jesus which were placed in the tomb after his crucifixion. In regard to the Graduate Diploma Course in Religious Education being run at the ACU in Sydney, I made reference in Chapter 2 to erroneous assertions about the origin of the ordained priesthood contained in a Book of Readings entitled The Christian Story which was authored by Dr Laurie Woods. This book was published by the ACU in 1995 and in the publishing details we read: "Material contained in this book has been especially developed for teaching the Unit The Christian Story". Like so much other material written by members of the Religious Education Department at the ACU, this Book of Readings by Woods contains correct doctrinal statements jumbled up with others that are often dangerously ambiguous and in some cases even erroneous. Here are some examples:

"It was only after reflecting on the fact that he was with God in heaven that Christians began using messianic language to describe him as . . . God's agent, who would come to judge all people at the end of time . . ." (p. 73);

"Paul declares to the Corinthians that he proclaims 'Christ Jesus as Lord' (2 Cor 2:5). The title Lord certainly indicates the early Christian belief that Jesus was more than human even though it is not an explicit statement of belief in the divinity of Christ" (p. 82);

"The divinity of Jesus is stressed far more in the fourth Gospel than in the other three . . .There is paradox in the fourth Gospel when Jesus speaks of being 'sent by God' (3:34) and also declares that he and "the Father are one" (10:30; 17:21). But it has to be remembered that the writer was trying to express the deeply felt conviction in the Johannine community that commitment to Jesus was commitment to God.." (p. 103);

"The language and the theology of the 'I am' statements uttered by Jesus are unique to the Gospel of John. The question is, did the unpretentious teacher of the Synoptics call himself 'the bread of life' (6:35), 'the resurrection and the life' (11;25), the one who was before Abraham (8:58) . . .The probability is that Jesus never used such language . . .The best way to approach this question is to see that these statements say more about the faith of the Johannine community than about the actual words of Jesus . . .The bottom line is that, while Jesus may not have said these words during his historical life, no one would doubt their truth, particularly in view of later theological reflection"(p. 105);

"In the Jewish culture a faithful observer of the law was referred to as a son of God . . .while further back in Hebrew history the kings were looked upon as sons of God . . .However, in the Gospels, which reflect the faith of Christians in the second half of the first century, Jesus speaks of God as his father a number of times . . .This illustrates the growing conviction that Jesus was the son of God in a unique way . . . We can safely say that Jesus began the process of regarding himself as the son of God. Later on, when Christians gave the title a very specific definition as the divine son of God and finally as the Second Person of the Trinity, the title took on a more developed meaning. The term 'Son of God' now implied that Jesus was divine. Whether Jesus saw himself as divine is a question of debate. The Gospels do not solve the problem because they reflect the faith of the Gospel writers and do not give us undiluted insights into the very mind of Jesus" (p. 115);

" . . .many of the expressions used to describe the person and mission of Jesus had been borrowed from the Jewish Wisdom theology. It must be kept in mind, though, that just as Wisdom was regarded as being one with God and yet was never called God or Yahweh, so Jesus Christ was seen as being one with God without being regarded as Yahweh, the God of Hebrew history" (p. 116).

Woods is wrong when he says that the use of the word "Lord" by the early Christians to address Jesus "is not an explicit statement of belief in the divinity of Christ". The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: "The title 'Lord' indicates divine sovereignty. To confess or invoke Jesus as Lord is to believe in his divinity. 'No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit' (1 Cor 12:3)". [145] Coupled with this, I find it incredible that once it is accepted that Jesus is a Divine Person, it can subsequently be asserted that he may not have understood himself as such. By asserting that it is debateable whether or not Jesus saw himself as divine, Woods has again raised the question of Our Lord's self- consciousness and knowledge. I have already touched on this question in Chapter 7 when responding to Goosen/Tomlinson's erroneous assertion that Jesus was possibly not aware of the salvific meaning of his crucifixion. Jesus referred to himself as the "only Son of God" (Jn 3: 16; cf. 10: 36). The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that by giving himself this title, Jesus "affirms his eternal preexistence". [146] The Catechism also says that "Peter could recognise the transcendent character of the Messiah's divine sonship because Jesus had clearly allowed it to be so understood". [147] Since any deficiency of knowledge is incompatible with the Divine nature, then how could a Divine Person not see himself as divine? To answer this question by asserting that Jesus was divine without him necessarily seeing himself as such, is to engage in an act of Orwellian "Doublethink". Explaining the nature of 'Doublethink' in his novel 1984, Orwell wrote: "Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The party intellectual knows he is playing tricks with reality, but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated". [148] If one asserts that Jesus did not know himself to be Divine, then one is left with no other rational alternative than to also assert that Jesus was not a Divine Person! The "truly human knowledge of God's Son expressed the divine life of his person". [149] Consequently "the human nature of God's Son, not by itself but by its union with the Word, knew and showed forth in itself everything that pertains to God". When I read Woods' assertion that it was debateable whether or not Jesus saw himself as divine, it brought to mind the declaration issued by the Jesus Seminar in Toronto in October 1989 which stated that "Christ did not regard himself as divine". A Jesus who does not know himself to be divine is an "Arian" Christ. Arius (c.256-336) was an Alexandrian priest who denied the divinity of Christ by reducing him to the level of a mere creature who was son of God only by "grace". Arius was extremely bright and consequently few bishops felt themselves capable of questioning his theological learning. Arianism had the Church struggling for its very survival in the fourth century. Philip Hughes, the famous historian, has noted that at one stage during the 4th century the Church found her membership to be 80-per-cent Arian. The classic account of the Church's struggle with Arianism is told by Cardinal Newman in Arians of the Fourth Century. The great champion of orthodoxy in the struggle against Arianism was St Athanasius. He recommended that theologians spend more time in prayer and in mortifications before putting their ideas down on paper. With great skill he rallied the truly Catholic Bishops with the result that Arianism was condemned by the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325 which also gave us the Nicene Creed. After the Council of Nicea, the strategy of the Arians was to adopt its terminology while interpreting it in a way which denied Christ's divinity. Using this strategy, they were able to have such an impact that they nearly destroyed the Eastern Church. Speaking of the problems in the Church at the time, St Basil the Great wrote: "The dogmas of the Fathers are despised; apostolic traditions are set at naught; the discoveries of innovators hold sway in the Churches. Men have learned to be speculatists instead of theologians. The wisdom of the world has the place of honour, having dispossessed the glory of the Cross . . .the aged sorrow comparing what is with what was; more pitiable the young, as not knowing what they are deprived of." [150] Today we need to be aware of more subtle forms of Arianism which while not directly attacking the divinity of Christ, instead undermine this truth by attacking doctrines which support it such as Christ's knowledge of the salvific meaning of his crucifixion and his awareness of the fact that he was a Divine Person.


In his Book of Readings entitled The Christian Story, Laurie Woods not only casts doubt on Jesus' awareness of his divinity but he also casts doubt on the Bodily nature of the Resurrection. Speaking of the Resurrection he says:

In his letter to the Corinthian community . . .Paul discusses the issue of the resurrection, that is Jesus' resurrection and the resurrection of the individual Christian. He says explicitly that belief in the resurrection of Jesus is the very foundation of Christian discipleship . . .In discussing the resurrection of Jesus Paul has nothing at all to say about the tomb of Jesus being empty and this is probably because he does not consider it essential to his argument at that particular time. In 1 Cor 15:35 he asks the question that the Corinthians have been asking, namely, what sort of body will the resurrected person have? Paul dismisses this as a stupid question (1 Cor 15:35-36) and emphasises that the body that is raised will be a spiritual body. We can sense that Paul is searching here for words to express the inexpressible because a spiritual body is a contradiction. In general speech the word "body" usually means a physical body, but Paul is carefully trying to say that the resurrected body will not be physical, and therefore will not possess the properties of a physical body (15:42-44). He affirms that a physical body cannot enter into the glory of heaven so our bodies will have to be changed in some way and this will happen through the process of death. Paul says quite explicitly that the resurrected body will be transformed into an imperishable, immortal and non-physical reality.

By obvious implication the body of the risen Christ is also non- physical, immortal and imperishable. Confirmation of this view is present in the resurrection narratives of all four Gospels. Jesus appears in an instant to his disciples through locked doors (Jn 20:19) and then disappears just as suddenly. This terrified the disciples who thought they were seeing a ghost. (Lk 24:36-37). But Jesus showed the wounds in his side and his hands and feet to show that it was really him. In Luke's Gospel he even asks for food, not because he needed it, but to demonstrate that he was not a ghost or a figment of their imagination (Lk 24:41-43) . . .In all the Gospel descriptions the writers are not describing a resuscitated corpse. Jesus is not bleeding all over the floor from his wounds and he shows no signs of weakness from his ordeal. In fact, the writers are trying to express the Christian belief that . . .his body is transformed and does not possess physical qualities . . .

Paul argues in his Corinthian letter that all Christians will be instantly transformed after death in order to enter into the glory of heaven (1 Cor 15:50-54). It is of no consequence to him what happens to a person's mortal remains; after all they are physical and physical things cannot inherit the kingdom of God ( 1 Cor 15:50). By implication we could argue that Paul is not concerned whether a person's tomb contains their bones or not, it still will not affect their resurrection and transformation after death. To believe, as some pious Christians have done, that our resurrection bodies will be reconstituted from our mortal remains is definitely not what Paul or the Gospel writers are saying . . .

The Gospel resurrection narratives are saying that the risen Christ is a complete person and not just a spirit. His resurrection appearance in bodily form demonstrates that he can be recognised as the person whom the disciples had followed from Galilee and who underwent the pain of death by crucifixion. They are not saying that his resurrection body is a physical one, much less the exact same body, in every respect, that was buried a few days before. It follows from this that it was not necessary for the tomb of Jesus to be empty in order for the disciples to believe that he had been raised from the dead. Paul's idea of the transformation of the resurrection body , does not require a person's physical corpse or mortal remains as necessary ingredients" (pp. 137-139. Words in bold print and italics have been inserted by Woods).

The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus from the tomb is the linchpin of Christian hope for it validates all that he said and is a proof that he was both God and man. Consequently, the message of the New Testament leaves no scope for a profession of faith that would allow the bodily remains of Jesus to remain in the tomb after his Resurrection. What Woods asserts about the resurrected body of Jesus being non-physical is not compatible with the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which is that "Christ's Resurrection cannot be interpreted as something outside the physical order" (CCC. n. 643). Therefore, there is something seriously wrong with Woods' interpretation of St Paul since the Apostle would not contradict the received doctrine: "I taught you what I had been taught myself" (1 Cor 15: 3). Woods' problems with the Resurrection of the body are possibly due to his piecemeal approach to Divine Revelation. His interpretation of St. Paul's statement in 1 Cor 15:50 to mean that - "It is of no consequence to him [St. Paul] what happens to a person's mortal remains; after all they are physical and physical things cannot inherit the kingdom of God" - is faulty. In 1 Cor 15:50, St. Paul is speaking of our natural incapacity for the new life which God will bestow on us in the resurrection. [151] That St. Paul does not mean what Woods says he means is made clear from the Apostle's Letter to the Romans where in reassuring believers about the resurrection he says: "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you" (Rom 8:11). By suggesting that Jesus' Resurrection did not necessarily involve the lifting up of his physical remains which had been placed in the tomb after his death, Lauri Woods seems to be repeating an error which was propagated by Fr David Coffey in the early 1980s. [152] At that time, Fr Coffey argued that the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus "does not require or even allow the re- involvement of a corpse". [153] In critiquing Fr Coffey's theology of the Resurrection, Bishop John Cullinane said: "I submit that Dr Coffey has made a glaring mistake in a matter of fundamental and wide ranging importance". [154] Fr Coffey was eventually corrected by Church authorities. Cardinal Clancy, in a public statement he issued on the matter said:

It is widely known that some of the theological views of the Reverend Dr. David Coffey, of the Catholic Institute of Sydney, have been subject to study by Church authorities. These authorities include the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Dr. Coffey has himself taken part in the discussions. The views in question concern the nature of the bodily resurrection of Christ . . .The issues being now sufficiently clarified, I have advised Dr. Coffey to align his teaching with that of the Magisterium of the Church, which is that the physical remains of Jesus, placed in the tomb after his death, were raised in his Resurrection. Hence, the empty tomb. This, Dr Coffey has readily undertaken to do. [155]

In regard to the Resurrection of the Lord, the first fact recorded by the Gospels is that of the Empty Tomb. While it is true that "this in itself is not a direct proof of Resurrection", nevertheless "its discovery by the disciples was the first step towards recognising the very fact of the Resurrection". [156] Christ's Resurrection is the "strength" and "secret" of Christianity. [157] Since it involved the raising up of Christ's physical remains that were placed in the Tomb after his Crucifixion, then it can only be regarded as a real "concrete event". [158] When faith in the Resurrection of the Lord is based on belief in such a real, historical and concrete reality, then the Empty Tomb becomes a sign of Christian hope and joy. As I noted earlier, a characteristic of many of the courses in religious education conducted at the ACU in Sydney is that they contain only scant references to the teaching of the Magisterium and fewer even still to the works of the Church Fathers. This is very poor methodology. One reason why the Church Fathers are so important in the study of theology is because of the clarity of their exposition of the contents of the Deposit of Faith. St Augustine, in defending the physical resurrection of Jesus against the pagan philosophers of his time wrote: "Here then we have these incredibilities; yet they happened. It is incredible that Christ rose in the flesh and with his flesh ascended into heaven. It is incredible that the world believed so incredible an event; and it is incredible that men of no birth, no standing, no learning, and so few of them, should have been able to persuade so effectively, the whole world, including the learned men". [159] With marked realism, St Ignatius of Antioch stressed again and again the concreteness of the Christological mystery. In reference to the Death and Resurrection of Jesus he said:

He underwent all these sufferings for us, so that we might be saved: and He truly suffered, just as He truly raised Himself, not as some unbelievers contend, when they say that his passion was merely in appearance. It is they who exist only in appearance; and as their notion, so shall it happen to them: they will be bodiless and ghost-like shapes. I know and believe that He was in the flesh even after the Resurrection. And when he came to those with Peter He said to them: 'Here, now, touch Me, and see that I am not a bodiless ghost'. Immediately they touched Him and, because of the merging of His flesh and spirit, they believed. For the same reason they despised death and in fact were proven superior to death. After His Resurrection He ate and drank with them as a being of flesh, although He was united in spirit to the Father. I warn you, beloved, although I know that you are of one mind with me. Yet, I would guard you in advance against beasts in the shape of men, whom not only must you not receive, but if it is possible, do not even meet them. Only pray for them so that they might repent, difficult though that be: yet, Jesus Christ, our true life, has the power to do even this. If it was merely in appearance that these things were done by our Lord, then it is merely in appearance that I am a prisoner. [160]

Those who shy away from the Resurrection of the body need to ask themselves what is it that is so "contemptible" about the flesh as to make it unacceptable to God? Did not God look upon it at the beginning of creation and note that it was indeed "good" (cf. Gen 1:31). Even though it fell under the power of sin and death does this mean it will not partake of the fruits of Christ's Paschal victory? Are we to believe that our bodies are incapable of being recreated according to their original potentiality? Those who want to banish the body to eternal death are in fact promoting Gnostic ideas which as we saw in Chapter 3 asserted that salvation necessitated the soul's shedding of all contact with the flesh which was deemed to be evil. Against the heresy of Gnosticism, the cause of orthodoxy was championed by St. Irenaeus. He taught that the entire person - body and soul - would participate in eternal life as "it is the mingling and union of all these things which constitute the perfect man". In writing of the Holy Eucharist he said: "Utterly foolish are those who despise the divine scheme for man; who deny the salvation of the flesh and scorn the notion of re-birth, alleging the flesh incapable of immortality. If the flesh is not to be saved then the Lord did not redeem us by his blood, nor is the bread we break the partaking of his body". [161] Of the corporal Resurrection, St. Irenaeus wrote:

If men think only of the weakness of the flesh, and do not consider the power of him who raises it from the dead, they ignore the might of God . . .For God fails in power if he does not give life to mortality and bring corruptibility to incorruption. But we ought to infer God's power in all these things from consideration of our beginning; God took clay from the earth, and fashioned man. Now to bring man to being, to make a living and rational creature, of bones, muscles, veins and all the rest of man's economy, which as yet did not exist; this was a task far harder, far more incredible, than to restore this creature when it had been created and then re-dissolved into the earth, having returned to these elements out of which man was first created. If God gave existence, when he so willed, to those who did not exist, much more will he restore those who have come into being to the life which he gave them, if he so wills. The flesh which at the beginning was the subject of God's art will be found capable of receiving and assimilating God's power. [162]

In speaking to a group of French theologians on the contemporary importance of St Irenaeus, Pope John Paul II warned them of the need to be wary of wrong uses of Revelation which, in attempting to accommodate themselves to the rationalist spirit of the age and to other fashionable intellectual tendencies, often tended to try to explain the how of the divine actions by having recourse to the "familiar formulae of the Christian Creed in order to justify a doctrine contrary to the faith". [] [163] In this sense said the Holy Father, "the Gnostic temptation is always an obstacle for the Church". [164] The idea of the resurrection of the body is really not such an extraordinary idea. There are signs of death and resurrection all around us in nature. A seed which falls to the earth and dies in winter, in spring sprouts into a living plant. The same with our risen bodies. Though they will have different qualities to the bodies which are buried or cremated, they will still be the same bodies we had on earth. St. Justin Martyr described this well when he said: "We expect to receive our own bodies again, even though they be dead and buried in the earth . . .Because you have never seen a dead person rise, you disbelieve. But just as in the beginning you would not have believed that from a little drop such persons might be produced, and yet you see them so produced, so now in the same way realise that it is not impossible for human bodies, after they have been resolved and, like seeds, dissolved into earth, to rise again in God's appointed time and put on incorruption". [165] St Hilary of Poitiers also described the same truth well when he said:

[God] will repair what has been shattered, but not by mending it with something else. Rather, out of the old and very same material of its origin He will impart to it an appearance of beauty pleasing to Himself; and the resurrection of corruptible bodies in the glory of incorruption will not take away their nature by the utter destruction thereof, but will work only a qualitative change of condition. For it is not another body that will be resurrected, but the same body in another condition, as the Apostle says: "It is sown in corruption, it will rise in incorruption; it is sown in ignominy, it will rise in glory; it is sown in weakness, it will rise in strength; it is sown an animal body, it will rise a spiritual one" (1 Cor 15: 42-44). There will, therefore, be a change, but this does not mean an annihilation. And if that which was, rises up as that which it was not, it has not lost its original material (non amisit originem) but has perfected it unto glory. [166]

Not only does the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus confirm that he is truly God, but paradoxically it also confirms that he is truly man. Speaking of the Resurrection in this perspective, Pope John Paul II said:

The Resurrection confirms in a new way that Jesus is truly man. The Word was born in time 'by becoming flesh', and in the Resurrection he returned to life in his own human body. Only a true man could suffer and die on the cross, and only a true man could rise from the dead. To rise again means to return to life in the body. The risen Christ makes contact with the Apostles; they see him, look at him, touch the wounds which remained after the crucifixion. He not only speaks to them and stays with them, but he also accepts some of their food. He is true God and true man, not a man merely in appearance, not a phantasm, but a true man. This is how the Apostles and the group of believers of the early Church knew him. This is the testimony that they passed on to us. [167]

The Holy Trinity was involved in all the events of our creation and redemption. Everything that is involved in our redemption, including the resurrection of our bodies, occurs because what is impossible to man is possible to God (cf. Lk 1:38). In raising Jesus Bodily from the tomb, God the Father thus "perfectly introduced his humanity - even his body - into the communion of the Trinity". [168] We too are destined to enter with the fullness and perfection of our humanity into the Beatific Vision. The Resurrection of Jesus in the same body as the one that was placed in the tomb is the pattern for the resurrection of our bodies on the last day (cf. Jn 5: 28-29; 6: 54; 1 Cor 15: 12-14). The Mother of God has already preceded us into this glorified state of blessedness. When her earthly life was finished, Mary "was taken body and soul into heavenly glory" so that "she might be more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death". [169] The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary "is a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians". [170] Mary, the Mother of the Church, who is now in heaven in body and soul, anticipates the resurrection of all members of Christ's Body. [171] Belief in the Resurrection is an article of the Christian Creed. It is a profession of faith in the Holy Trinity and thus in the power of God's creative, saving and sanctifying action. [172] Speaking of the resurrection of the dead on the last day, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: "The term 'flesh' refers to man in his state of weakness and mortality. The 'resurrection of the flesh' (the literal formulation of the Apostles' Creed) means not only that the immortal soul will live on after death, but that even our 'mortal body' will come to life again". [173] Hope in the bodily resurrection of the dead "established itself as a consequence intrinsic to faith in God as creator of the whole man, soul and body". [174] On no point does the Christian faith encounter more opposition "than on the resurrection of the body". [175] It is very commonly accepted that the life "of the human person continues in a spiritual fashion after death. But how could we believe that this body, so clearly mortal, could rise to everlasting life?". [176] In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body "decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus' Resurrection". [177] Indeed, "the flesh is the hinge of salvation". [178] We believe in God "who is the creator of the flesh; we believe in the Word made flesh in order to redeem the flesh; we believe in the resurrection of the flesh, the fulfilment of both the creation and the redemption of the flesh". [179] This "how" exceeds our imagination and understanding - "it is accessible only to faith". [180] Denial of the "resurrection of the flesh" can also stem from the heresy of Deism which asserts that while God is indeed the creator of the Universe, he does not however exert providential or sovereign control over it. In opposition to Deism, belief in the bodily resurrection is an expression of confidence and trust in the almighty power of God and in his fidelity to his creation. Speaking of this, St. Augustine said: "Perish the thought that the omnipotence of the Creator were unable, for the raising of our bodies and for the restoring of them to life, to recall all parts, which were consumed by beasts or by fire, or which disintegrated into dust or ashes, or were melted away into fluid, or were evaporated away in vapors". [181] Cardinal Ratzinger has said that belief in the Bodily Resurrection is a "profession of the real existence of God and a profession of his creation, the unconditional 'Yes' with which God stands before Creation, before matter. The word of God truly penetrates to the heart of the body. His power does not end at the confines of matter. It embraces everything . . .The power of God is hope and joy . . .this is the liberation revealed at Easter. In the Pasch, God reveals himself, his power - superior to the power of death - the power of the love of the Trinity. So the paschal revelation gives us the right to sing 'Alleluia' in a world overcast with a cloud of death". [182]


The problems in the Religious Studies Department at the ACU is not confined to its Graduate Diploma in Religious Education Course. The Studies in Religion and Philosophy Unit which is taken as part of a first year Bachelor of Teaching / Bachelor of Education course has some problems as well. The aim of the Unit is to explore "ways in which religion and philosophy have sought to help people find meaning and purpose in life as they face contemporary issues and human dilemmas". The course examines "the motivations and manifestations of different religions, with a more detailed treatment of Christianity" (Unit Outline). The course was run over 12 weeks in 1996 and its official Code is PH 114/121. Of the twelve lectures that were set down for the course, five were to be given by Robert Gascoigne. The prescribed text for the course is a Book of Readings which is compilation of articles on different themes drawn from various sources. For example, there is a one page article taken from St Augustine's Confessions, a 15 page article taken from the 1980 edition of Richard McBrien's Catholicism, an entire chapter from Gascoigne's Freedom and Purpose: An Introduction to Christian Ethics, various articles on Hinduism, Buddhism and Human Rights etc. [183] A striking thing about this Book of Readings is that while even the works of Hans Kung appears in the lists for further reading, not a single Magisterial document of the Church is included. One article in the Book of Readings is entitled A History of God. It is an extract taken from a book written by Karen Armstrong who presents herself in the article as an ex-nun who has outgrown Catholicism. In this article we read: "Did the New Testament really teach the elaborate - and highly contradictory - doctrine of the Trinity or was this, like so many other articles of faith, a fabrication by theologians centuries after the death of Christ in Jerusalem". [184] To this Armstrong adds: "The Gospels tell us that God had given Jesus certain divine 'powers' (dunamis), however, which enabled him, mere mortal though he was, to perform the God-like tasks of healing the sick and forgiving sins". [185] In speaking of St Paul, Armstrong says:

Paul never called Jesus 'God'. He called him 'the Son of God' in its Jewish sense: he certainly did not believe that Jesus had been the incarnation of God himself: he had simply possessed God's 'powers' and 'Spirit', which manifested God's activity on earth and were not to be identified with the inaccessible divine essence. Not surprisingly, in the Gentile world the new Christians did not always retain the sense of these subtle distinctions so that eventually a man who had stressed his weak, mortal humanity was believed to have been divine. [186]

In reading through this Book of Readings, which is the compulsory part of the course upon which assessment tasks are based, one gets the impression that it was cobbled together with insufficient forethought as to content and process. For example, the introductory note accompanying Armstrong's History of God says: "This reading provides for merely a preliminary introduction to Hinduism and Buddhism". [187] When we examine the entire article however, we find that Armstrong spends approximately 7 pages bemoaning her Catholic upbringing and developing her "theology" of Christian origins, while she spends only approximately 3 pages describing the experiences of Hindus and Buddhists. The direction of this First Year undergraduate course becomes all the more questionable when we read the article in the Book of Readings entitled Evil and Suffering from a Religious Perspective by Dr Laurie Woods. Speaking of the presence of the Devil in the story of the Fall in the Book of Genesis, Woods says: "It is important to realise that the presence of the snake implies that there is mystery and complexity in the story. The snake in Genesis is not presented as Satan or a devil figure, but it is evidence that the biblical writer is coming from a tradition that recognises that there is a mysterious force for evil that pushes humans into actions that will bring pain on themselves and others". [188] Explaining how Satan came to occupy a place in the Old Testament, Woods says: "It is during this period after the Babylonian exile that the figure of Satan first appears in Jewish thinking. Some scholars would see this as the result of the influence of Persian ideas. In any case, it is evidence of a growing opinion that a demonic force was responsible for causing trouble by enticing humans to do evil and cause suffering to themselves and others. What is more, the later books of the Hebrew Scriptures make it clear that the problem remains unsolved and that people are more content to live with unanswered questions". [189] As far as the Catechism of the Catholic Church is concerned, there is no doubt regarding the identity of the Tempter in the Book of Genesis. It says: "Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. Scripture and the Church's Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called 'Satan' or the 'devil'. The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God". [190] Further to this, the Catechism adds: "Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls 'a murderer from the beginning,' who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from his Father. 'The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil' (1 Jn 3:8). In its consequences the gravest of these works was the mendacious seduction that led man to disobey God". [191] Dr Woods has trouble also with the Church's teaching on Original Sin. Speaking of this he says: "The whole idea of original sin in Christianity is an expression of the firm belief that all humans are born with human weakness and imperfection. The best way to understand this doctrine is to regard human beings as inheriting not somebody's sin, because no one can bear the responsibility of another person's sin, but rather the weakness and tendency to sin that is part of being human". [192] Speaking of Original Sin, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: "Following St Paul, the Church has always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination toward evil and death, cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adam's sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a sin which is 'the death of the soul' (Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1512). Because of this certainty of faith, the Church Baptises for the remission of sins even tiny infants who have not committed personal sin". [193] In teaching about the mode of transmission of Original Sin, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: "We therefore hold, with the Council of Trent, that original sin is transmitted with human nature, 'by propagation, not by imitation' and that it is . . . 'proper to each'". [194] Finally, the Catechism warns us that "we cannot tamper with the revelation of original sin without undermining the mystery of Christ". [195] As I have already noted in this Chapter, the problem in presenting this type of material to students in Catholic tertiary institutions lies not so much in the fact that it contradicts the Church's teaching, but rather in the fact that it is not balanced by an equal amount of material which convincingly shows the reasonableness and superiority of the Church's doctrine. A defender of the way these courses are being run might argue that unless one actually attended the lectures one is not in a position to criticise them. In response I would say that on the basis of what has been published by some members of the Religious Education Department at the University, the concern that the courses are prejudiced against the Church's doctrine is well justified. If the materials from the various RE units we have looked at so far in this book are an indication of the material being presented in the rest of the courses conducted by the Religious Education Department at the ACU, then one might legitimately raise questions of concern about the general direction of the University itself. On the basis of the structure and orientation of the Christian Ethics course for example, one could hardly claim that Catholic academic standards are even remotely being complied with. If there is no scrutiny of the required reading as set down by lecturers and upon which student assessment is based, does this mean that the teaching of Religious Education at the ACU has no one supervising it?



• 1 Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, n. 42.

• 2 Pope John Paul II, Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XII, 2 [1989] p.867, cited by Cardinal Pio Laghi, L'Osservatore Romano, 24/8/94).

• 3 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 26/8/92

• 4 Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Ex Corde Ecclesiae, n. 1

• 5 Ibid.

• 6 Ibid. nn. 4 and 6

• 7 Ibid. n. 14.

• 8 Ibid. n. 18

• 9 Ibid.

• 10 Cf. Pope John Paul II, Address to group of Bishops from India, September 12, 1989

• 11 CCC. n. 890.

• 12 Ibid.

• 13 Pope John Paul II, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, n. 27.

• 14 See Canons 808-813 of the Code of Canon Law for endorsement by the Magisterium of the conditions I have here listed as essential to the creation of a genuine Catholic ethos in universities controlled by the Church.

• 15 Cf. Vatican II, Dei Verbum, n. 10.

• 16 Cf. Pope John Paul II, Address to Catholic Educators at a Congress on Catholic Universities, April 25, 1989.

• 17 James V. Schall, S.J., Does Catholicism Still Exist? Alba House, New York, 1994, p. 9. Fr Schall is very well qualified to comment on the state of Catholic university life in the Western world. He is a Professor in the Department of Government at Georgetown University and is a former member of the Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace in Rome. He has also taught at the Gregorian University and in the Department of Government at the University of San Francisco.

• 18 Ibid.

• 19 Cf. Veritatis Splendor, n. 5

• 20 Pope John Paul II, Address to Australian Bishops, L'Osservatore Romano, 20/10/93.

• 21 The official Code for this Christian Ethics Unit is TP 400.

• 22 While the reading list does include a book by William May who has distinguished himself as a defender of Church teaching, overall the list is skewed towards dissent. The greatest anomaly however is the total absence of any reference whatsoever to Magisterial documents of the Church.

• 23 Christian Ethics Unit, Graduate Diploma in Religious Studies, ACU, Sydney (Strathfield Campus), Preliminary Reading Material.

• 24 Ibid.

• 25 Ibid.

• 26 Cf. VS, n. 80

• 27 VS, n. 78

• 28 VS, n. 115

• 29 VS, nn. 5, 115

• 30 Cf. VS, n. 80

• 31 Cf. VS 47 and 80

• 32 VS, n. 35

• 33 VS, n. 81

• 34 Cf. VS, n. 49

• 35 Cf. VS, n. 52

• 36 Cf. CCC, n. 1756

• 37 CCC. n. 1754

• 38 Cf. CCC, n. 1753

• 39 CCC, n. 1755

• 40 VS, n. 82

• 41 CCC, nn. 1733 and 1740

• 42 CCC, n. 1731

• 43 Ibid.

• 44 CCC, nn. 1733 and 1740

• 45 CCC, n. 357

• 46 CCC. n. 1954

• 47 Ibid.

• 48 CCC. n. 1956

• 49 Cf. CCC. n. 1958

• 50 CCC. n. 1706

• 51 Cf. CCC. n. 1959

• 52 CCC, n. 1962

• 53 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 3/11/93

• 54 Ibid.

• 55 Ibid.

• 56 VS, n. 79

• 57 VS, n. 13

• 58 Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, n. 22

• 59 VS, n. 16

• 60 Ibid.

• 61 Cf. VS, n. 22

• 62 VS, n. 18

• 63 Cf. VS, n. 24

• 64 Pope John Paul II, Reconciliatio Paenitentia, n. 14

• 65 Cf. Pope John Paul II, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, n. 17, Veritatis Splendor, nn. 65-71

• 66 Council of Trent, DS 1570, 1501. Cf. Moral Conscience and 'Communio': Toward a Response To The Challenge of Ethical Pluralism, by Livio Melina, Communio, Winter 1993, p. 675.

• 67 VS, n. 66

• 68 Cf. VS. nn. 24, 66,

• 69 VS, n. 67

• 70 VS, n. 70, Cf. Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, n. 17

• 71 VS. n. 68

• 72 VS. n. 70

• 73 Ibid.

• 74 Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, n. 51. The points made here in relation the degree of authority pertaining to the Church's teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and abortion were made by Cardinal Ratzinger in his Final Reply to Fr Charles Curran regarding his dissent from the moral doctrine of the Church. This Reply was published in the Summer 1986 edition of The Priest.

• 75 Vatican II, Dei Verbum, n. 8

• 76 Professor Germain Grisez, The Way of the Lord Jesus, Vol 1, Christian Moral Principles, Franciscan Herald Press, 1983, p. 847

• 77 Professor William May, An Introduction to Moral Theology, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Indiana, 1994, p. 231.

• 78 Declaration of the Puerto Rican Episcopal Conference, Fr. Charles Curran, Ex-professor of Catholic Theology, 1986. This Declaration was originally published in Spanish with an English translation appearing in the Summer 1986 edition of The Priest which is a publication of the Australian Association of Catholic Clergy.

• 79 Cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n. 25

• 80 Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, n. 57

• 81 Ibid. n. 62

• 82 Ibid. n. 65. The reference in this text to "distinctions" refers to the complex problem of using "extraordinary or disproportionate" means to support the life functions of a terminally ill patient, as well as to the use of "methods of palliative care" in the final stages of certain illnesses (cf. n. 64).

• 83 Cf. Bishop Jorge Medina Estevez, L'Osservatore Romano, 7/6/95

• 84 Fr Domingo Basso, O.P., L'Osservatore Romano, 6/9/95

• 85 Cf. Professor William May, op. cit. pp. 236-240

• 86 The Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, (Donum Veritatis), CDF 1990, nn. 34, 35

• 87 Ibid. n. 33

• 88 Ibid. nn. 6 and 34

• 89 Ibid. nn. 34 and 38

• 90 Ibid. n. 6

• 91 Ibid. n. 38

• 92 Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, n. 110

• 93 Ibid.

• 94 Veritatis Splendor, n. 110; Cf. Humanae Vitae, n. 28

• 95 Cardinal Edward Clancy, Catholic Weekly, 27/6/90

• 96 Veritatis Splendor, n. 113.

• 97 Donum Veritatis, nn. 31 and 37.

• 98 Pope John Paul II, Address to participants at a Study Conference on Responsible Parenthood, 5 June 1987.

• 99 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 5/9/88.

• 100 Livio Melina, Moral Conscience and Communio, Winter 1993 edition of Communio, p. 675.

• 101 Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, n. 25.

• 102 Fr. Georges Cottier, O.P., L'Osservatore Romano, 25/10/95.

• 103 Vatican Council I, Constitution on Catholic Faith, Chapter 3.

• 104 Cardinal Newman, Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, cited by Pope John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor, n. 34.

• 105 Cf. Archbishop Tettamanzi, L'Osservatore Romano, 27/10/93.

• 106 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 10/7/96.

• 107 Bishop Kevin Manning, AD 2000, April 1994, p. 12

• 108 Bishop James T. McHugh, L'Osservatore Romano, 27/4/94

• 109 Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, n. 110; Cf. Donum Veritatis, n. 16

• 110 Ibid.

• 111 Ibid. n. 81

• 112 Ibid.. n. 26

• 113 Cf. VS. n. 91

• 114 VS, n. 91

• 115 Ibid.

• 116 CCC, n. 1778

• 117 Cf. VS, n. 56

• 118 VS, n. 59

• 119 CCC. n. 2072

• 120 Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, n. 16

• 121 CCC. n. 1783

• 122 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 10/11/93

• 123 Ibid.

• 124 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 5/9/88

• 125 Cf. CCC. n. 1792

• 126 CCC. n. 1735

• 127 Cf. CCC. n. 2343

• 128 Cf. CCC. n. 2344.

• 129 Cf. CC. n.1860.

• 130 Cf. Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, n. 16; CCC. n. 1791.

• 131 Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 25.

• 132 Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, n. 4.

• 133 CCC. n. 2036.

• 134 William May, op. cit. p. 244.

• 135 VS, n. 64.

• 136 Cf. St Augustine, De Civitate Dei, XIV, 28, cited by Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio, n. 6.

• 137 The fact that I have here narrowed down the focus on 'homosexuality' to homosexual acts should not be understood as though I am suggesting that a homosexual tendency or orientation is in itself a neutral reality. The 1986 CDF Letter to Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons said: "Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency towards an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder" (n. 3).

• 138 VS, n. 15

• 139 Ibid.

• 140 Irish Bishops' Pastoral Love is for Life, L'Osservatore Romano, 20/5/85.

• 141 Cf. L'Osservatore Romano, 27/2/89, p.7. The article from which I have quoted here was an official Church response to expressions of public dissent from the teaching of Humanae Vitae by Fr Bernard Haring.

• 142 St Thomas's views on this question are expressed in his Commentary on Book 3 of the Sentences of Peter Lombard.

• 143 For St Thomas Aquinas' teaching on this question, see entry under Abortion by Robert M. Friday in New Dictionary of Theology: Editors Joseph A. Komonchak, Mary Collins, Dermot A. Lane, Gill and Macmillan, Dublin, 1987, p. 3

• 144 St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 3, Chapter 122

• 145 CCC. n. 455.

• 146 CCC. n. 444.

• 147 CCC. n. 443.

• 148 George Orwell, 1984, Penquin, p. 220.

• 149 CCC. n. 473.

• 150 St Basil the Great, cited by John Henry Newman in Historical Sketches, Vol II, "The Church of the Fathers", Westminister, 1970, p. 43.

• 151 Cf. Pope John Paul II, L'osservatore Romano, 20/3/89.

• 152 Fr Coffey's ideas on the Resurrection gave rise to considerable controversy in the early 1980s. The following literature is relevant to this controversy: The Resurrection of Jesus and Catholic Orthodoxy, Studies in Faith and Culture No 4, Catholic Institute of Sydney, 1980; the review of Fr Coffey's article by Bishop John Cullinane in the Australasian Catholic Record (ACR), January 1981; Fr Coffey's Reply to Bishop Cullinane, ACR, April 1981; observations by Fr Francis J. Maloney, Resurrection and Accepted Exegetical Opinion, ACR, April 1981; Bishop Cullinane's final Reply to Fr Coffey, ACR, July 1981.

• 153 Fr David Coffey, The Resurrection of Jesus and Catholic Orthodoxy, Studies in Faith and Culture No 4, 1980, p. 114.

• 154 Bishop John Cullinane, Resurrection and Orthodoxy, ACR, July 1981, p. 299.

• 155 Cardinal Edward Clancy, Catholic Weekly, 28/9/88.

• 156 CCC. n. 640; cf. Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 1/4/96.

• 157 Cf. Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 24/4/96.

• 158 Ibid.

• 159 St. Augustine, City of God, Bk. XXII, ch. 6.

• 160 St.Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans [ca. AD 115] , cited in William Jurgens' The Faith of the Early Church Fathers, op. cit. Vol. 1, pp. 24-25.

• 161 St. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, v. ii. 2.

• 162 Ibid. v. iii. 2.

• 163 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 9/2/87.

• 164 Ibid.

• 165 St. Justyn Martyr, First Apology, cited in William A. Jurgens' Faith of the Early Fathers, op. cit. Vol. 1, p. 52.

• 166 St. Hilary of Poitiers, Commentaries on the Psalms, cited in William A. Jurgens' The Faith of the Early Fathers, op. cit. Vol. 1, p. 384. St. Hilary has been called the Athanasius of the West because of his staunch support for the Nicene doctrine against the Arians.

• 167 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 1/2/88.

• 168 Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 6/3/89.

• 169 CCC. n. 966.

• 170 Ibid.

• 171 Ibid. n. 974.

• 172 Ibid. n. 988.

• 173 Ibid. n. 990.

• 174 Ibid. n. 992.

• 175 Ibid. n. 996.

• 176 Ibid.

• 177 Ibid. n. 997.

• 178 Ibid. n. 1015

• 179 Ibid.

• 180 Ibid. n. 1000.

• 181 St. Augustine, The City of God, cited in William A. Jurgens' The Faith of the Early Fathers, op. cit. Vol. 3. p. 107.

• 182 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Journey Towards Easter, Ignatius Press, San Farancisco, 1988, p. 117.

• 183 Cf. Studies in Religion and Philosophy, Book of Readings, Australian Catholic University Printery, North Sydney, 1996

• 184 Ibid. p. 71

• 185 Ibid. p. 73

• 186 Ibid. p. 74

• 187 Ibid. p. 70

• 188 Laurie Woods, ibid. p. 124

• 189 Laurie Woods, ibid. p. 125

• 190 CCC. n. 391

• 191 CCC. n. 394

• 192 Laurie Woods, Studies in Religion and Philosophy, Book of Readings, op. cit. p. 126

• 193 CCC. n. 403

• 194 CCC. n. 419

• 195 CCC. n. 389

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