See How They Love One Another

Two women priests miss their appointment with Archbishop Burke. You have to love the Catholic blogosphere’s reaction. I suppose most bloggers are just frustrated they can’t catch their bishop’s ear, and here these women get invited to a meeting. But they turn him down.

The nerve.

It’s probably a good indication that sexism and misogyny have infiltrated the so-called orthodox position when they can’t keep their typing fingers from lobbing crude insults:

the archdiocese failed to provide them with a large print edition of the (summons) … Weasels …  These women are stooopid … they should ordain some better looking girls … Two bitter old birds … these creeps … wacky old broads … how come all these broads look like my grandfather? …

You get the idea.

Let’s face it: this isn’t the Middle Ages. The Church has virtually no power over schismatics, heretics, and other sinners. Heck, it can’t even get its own bishops to toe the line on a sense of sin. Remember all the bellyachin’ about JPII’s mea culpa?

Archbishop Burke and any other bishop can issue demands, threats, and excommunications. It’s not going to change the behavior of these newly ordained women.

The blogotariat can call them all sorts of names–like it really helps their cause to be cracking jokes about how attractive women are or aren’t, or how old they are. Without addressing these hard(-core) Catholics directly, I think this ordination has once again shown how deeply rattled religious conservatism is. They can’t escape being crude, sexist, misogynist, or any other dark quality, it seems. They wonder why the secular press continues to turn this into news. They only have to look in the mirror. Anger sells almost as much as sex.

If this really were trivial in light of traditional Catholic teaching on ordination, why are the comment threads so long on something so obvious?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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37 Responses to See How They Love One Another

  1. L.T. says:

    Dude, you’re turning into the mirror image of this vocal minority of mean-spirited conservatives in the Catholic blogosphere which you so obviously hate. Chill out and then maybe we can take the substance of your contrarianism a little more seriously. Everyone’s got a point and you have to allow them to be a little pissed about it sometimes. So long as the vituperations don’t become a permanent pose, sometimes a little righteous anger is justified.

    Women priests is just a non-starter proposal. How do I know? It fails the Orthodox-control test: anytime the Catholics and Orthodox agree on anything, it’s bankable and demands high (not necessarily irrebutable) deference. The Orhtodox have preserved the apostolic ways far better than the Catholics or Protestants. The only thing that distinguishes us from the Protestants and modern gnostics is the fullness of apostolicity, which we have been squandering for, well, centuries. The womenpriest debate is 100% an Enlightenment Western product. A few examples of ambiguously defined deaconnesses in Scripture alone does not amount to rebuttable evidence. I don’t find it necessary to mock their femininity or their intentions, but the philosophical premises are a joke. Let’s be honest. Holy orders like all sacraments are not subject to the linear syllogistic rules of a worldview which from its beginnings is founded on contempt for all things Catholic and Orthodox.

    Your indignation over the “blogotariat” is also stinks of sanctimony and fear-mongering conspiracy mentality all too common on both ideological extremes. There is no blogotariat. We are of one Church. I might disagree with you strongly, but we all agree the Church is in crisis. I enjoy reading your more “moderate” views, but you’re swaying into ideology when you so blithely defend these womenpriests.

  2. John Heavrin says:

    “…newly ordained women…”

    This statement is a lie; he who says it is a liar.

  3. Liam says:


    To be simple: Of which church or temple are they ordained priests?

  4. Todd:

    Did I read you as finding fault with Archbishop Burke summoning them for a hearing? If so, i think you are missing the point.

    The Archbishop is absolutely correct to do that. After all, they are at risk of a serious penalty, so they have a right to respond and defend themselves. And you can’t very well say, on the one hand, “this is a REALLY BIG deal,” then say, “oh, well, how about y’all drop by for a chat, I mean, if it’s not too much trouble?”

    No, this is a grave, legal matter, and it has to be treated as such. Does it play well in the press? No, but that’s not the point.

  5. Mike says:

    “…newly ordained women…”

    This statement is a lie; he who says it is a liar.

    Um, no, they’ve been ordained, but not in the Roman Catholic Church. There’s no lie here, but you might want to consider taking a Valium.

  6. crystal says:

    I posted something about William Barry’s take on women’s ordination qa while ago. It is kind of unnerving how hostile some people are.

  7. Todd says:

    Thanks for the commentary, folks. I caution all to read my posts carefully. Those who visit here know my position on women’s ordination. They also know I’m not shy about taking on self-styled orthodox Catholics when they stray away from the straight and narrow.

    I know it’s tough when conservatives have been conditioned to think of progressives and liberals as having no morals and it stings when one of us admonishes in a merciful sort of way. “Sanctimony” can mean “I don’t take you seriously enough to accept your correction.” So be it.

    Two last reminders: it is possible to be right yet be wrong in how one expresses it. It is also possible to oppose critics, yet not ally oneself with what they criticize.

  8. Tony says:

    Archbishop Burke and any other bishop can issue demands, threats, and excommunications. It’s not going to change the behavior of these newly ordained women.

    Todd, this only peripherally about the women. It is more about the faithful being scandalized by their behavior and the publicity by the willing ordinary ministers of the media.

    All this action deserves is ridicule. What charity should we offer women who dress up in red ponchos and pretend to be priests? How about saving some of that concern of yours for a Catholic who might be led astray by these theatrics and whose souls are placed in danger. How about someone who goes to “confession” from one of these “priests” and whose sins are not forgiven. How about someone who take “communion” from one of the red poncho ladies and instead of Jesus, receives a cracker. And most importantly, what about someone who is in a bad accident or is gravely ill and is given last rites (not really) by one of these phony “priests”.

    People should understand one very simple fact. If your priest has a vagina, her sacraments are not valid.

  9. John Heavrin says:

    “Those who visit here know my position on women’s ordination.”

    That you’re all for it, apparently? Enough to refer to the women who’ve undergone this defiant pantomime as “priests.”

    This post is odd, even for you, Todd. As for being “rattled,” speaking for myself, this doesn’t even come close. You’re probably projecting. Because you’re probably hoping that enough defiance and disobedience will lead, as it has in the past (for example, the “altar girl” situation), to acceptance. I don’t think that’s going to work anymore.

    Archbishop Burke has a duty to seek to leave the lost sheep and to protect the others. That’s what he’s trying to do by giving these women a hearing.

  10. Liam says:

    A take from a rhetorical perspective):

    I don’t think all the ridicule is misogynistic (though I have witnessed some of that in my time). Actually, I think more of it has to so with a reaction to a subjectivized epistemology. The term “ordained” here and in journalistic accounts is used in a way like “minister” for those who get their credentials by mail order – that it, it is not bereft of meaning, but the meaning is so altered from its usual objective context as to make it mean much less than it usually does. And that makes for poor communication – the ridicule is, in part, a sign of that reduced quality in communication. This is why a few feminist friends of mine in the past would have been wary of calling these women ordained – doing so would have undermined their goal.

  11. Todd says:

    A few issues:

    It would be interesting to poll spiritual directors as to the place of ridicule in the spectrum of grace. The Scriptural witness is rather heavily tilted to ridicule and mockery of the just by people who purport themselves as righteous. (Wisdom 2, Psalm 22:8ff, etc.)

    This post is far from being odd or out of character. I’ve often criticized some of the knee-jerk reactions of the Catholic blogosphere, and I plan to continue to point out the faults of those who strike me as being extreme.

    The post is only peripherally about Archbishop Burke. It’s a reality (sad, or however otherwise it is viewed) that bishops have no power to summon or send lay people in this situation. I find myself curious as to why a canonical nicety like inviting the women to a meeting before excommunicating them would be a published affair.

    I think Liam’s take on communication is accurate. The piling on I’ve seen in comboxes is more reminiscent of a lynch mob–which is itself a setting for a poverty of communication.

  12. Anne says:

    I see you mentioned what I was about to question. Just where in canon law does it say a bishop can order someone to appear in his presence? How can he be taken seriously at all in this day and age?

  13. Liam says:


    English translations (which, btw, are not what is dispositive – it is the Latin text and canonical interpretation of which that is dispositive) of the 1983 Code of Canon Law is available online in more than one website (formatting varies). If you access it, you can see the myriad procedures for issuing decrees and what not. The summons by the ordinary is part and parcel of this process – there are different for provisions for when the summoned appear and when they do not, et cet. It’s not just one provision – its threaded through various parts of the Code. I am not a canonist – but Abp Burke is on of the more notable in North America…. The technical understandings of how Church canons are intended to work with each other in procedure have developed over many more centuries than the USA has existed, even if canon law was only fully codified in 1917 and revised in 1983.

  14. Liam says:


    I don’t think progressives serve ourselves well when we diss this kind of process. To the extent that progressives are process- rather than results-oriented folks, having the ordinary invoke the Church’s processes is something progressives would normally cheer.

    What’s lacking is not the invocation of processes for these putative priest-wannabes, but for fellow miscreant prelates. And there’s a reason for that – and it’s not just temperment – it has to do with the fact that delicts relating to *sacraments* are governed by relatively black-and-white law (partly in reaction to the memories of the horrors that Donatism begat in the Church) – while other delicts not necessarily so. This is something American Catholics often get muddled, and badly.

  15. Todd says:

    “I don’t think progressives serve ourselves well when we diss this kind of process.”

    Aside from questioning the public nature of the summons, I wasn’t being critical of Archbishop Burke. He seems to be setting himself up for a PR battle he cannot hope to win, with very little upside to the “moral” victory, and lots to cheer from people who want to see episcopal noses rubbed in stuff.

    To comply with canon law, send the summons, or a personal letter, or whatever seems to be the most hopeful. As long as the archbishop is clear (and he has been) on Church teaching, I’d say if there are any confused Catholics out there, they won’t be helped to know he’s been stood up.

    Given the bile erupting online about this, I’d say there are no winners, only yellers.

  16. Liam says:


    I wasn’t directing that so much to you as to others (esp elsewhere). I suspect Abp Burke is unconcerned with a PR victory. If anything, perhaps he’s too eager to show his unconcern or to redefine what “victory” would look like from his perspective (which, I suspect, is merely to demonstrate “episcopal spine” publicly*).

    * With the ability to demonstrate such spine comes a burden – to avoid being seen as arbitrary or capricious about the occasions for stiffening it. He’s shown it re (1) facing down a rebel parish, (2) communion and certain issues involving politicians, and (3) this. He has no jurisdicition over fellow prelates (other than his auxiliaries) but stiffening can occur outside matters of jurisdicition….

  17. Anne says:

    “I don’t think progressives serve ourselves well when we diss this kind of process.”

    Well, I would rather say that I “question” this kind of process. I just can’t believe that publically ordering someone to appear does any good. Talk about
    being “led astray by theatrics”! Off with their heads!!!

  18. John Heavrin says:

    I think Archbishop Burke knows that these women could care less what he thinks or what he wants. How much more obvious could that be. He knows he can’t “control” them. He also probably knew that they would dodge him. I’m a little surprised, though; they seem to love publicity, so the chance for a public circus and a chance to spin the whole thing as a public inquisition and themselves as Galileos would have been something they would have jumped at, I would have thought.

    I think Burke has chosen a public route has nothing to do with “PR,” and it’s a cynical assumption you make that is about PR, Todd. He’s the shepherd of his flock. Thus, he has an obligation to correct those in error, such as these women. Just as importantly, he has an obligation to make it loud and clear that these women are not priests, are acting outside the Church, and to follow them is to imperil your soul and to engage in schismatic behavior. He has to do that, for the good of the souls in his care. That message has to be a public one, as the problem is a public one, and if it brings Burke ridicule or criticism, well, that’s the cross of the shepherd. I’m sure some of Our Lord’s disciples often thought he was constantly making big “PR” mistakes.

    As for ridiculing these women personally, I see no reason for it. Their age, their appearance, etc., is of no significance. Their defiance of church authority and the attempt to lead others astray is the issue, and it has to be called out for what it is, bluntly.

  19. Liam says:


    I wonder if you think it doesn’t do any good for courts to order people to be questioned (they needn’t even be respondents or defendants – a subpoena is court order to appear under penalty). If it does no good here, it would only be matching the actions of the actors here in that regard.

    And no Catholic prelate has the power to inflict capital or corporal punishment. Rather, penalties range up to excommunication – which is not irreversible, the key not being entirely out of the hands of those excommunicated, as it were.

    Public actions are typically matched by public process; that would seem to be what the actors requested by their actions. It certainly wasn’t “dialogue” of the debating kind. The actors asserted authority themselves here, so they cannot object when anyone else asserts at least equal authority…

  20. Liam, Anne:

    As Liam addressed indirectly in post #19, the Church is a true, organic society, constituted by Christ himself; he established her government in the Apostles. And the Church, as a true society, has laws, and her laws have sanctions. This has been true from the time of the Apostles, you can see it in Acts 15, and you can see it in what Our Lord himself said, about resolving disputes.

  21. crystal says:

    For a different viewpoint, Ben Witherington had a post about these women a while ago, with quite a few comments – link. But of course, he’s not Catholic.

    Do those against women’s ordination believe that God calls only men to be priests?

  22. Liam says:


    There would be many who might describe themselves as “against women’s ordination” in that way, but that’s hardly covering the range of people who would be troubled by the putative ordinations here. Even staunch feminists might.

    I recall a situation in a fomer intentional community of mine where a priest-chaplain offered to ordain one of the women chaplains – she demurred, and said that would be even more wrong (because it arose neither from below or above in the ordered society of the Church), and her goal would be for the Catholic church to evolve how priests are called – up from the congregation with recognition from the bishop, et cet. Her view was that engaging in these sort of swat-ordinations was the worst way to go. Et cet.

    Anyway, the Catholic Church does not view the call to ordination as primarily subjectively felt but rather objectively made through the order of the Body of Christ on earth to whom Christ gave the power of the keys. If one doesn’t start with that understanding, one won’t understand much else about it. That does not mean there are no Catholics who don’t have as-yet unanswered questions about the explanations about the teachings given thus far on the topic. It just means that we recognize that, if we were to posit the possibility of error here, we would also have to posit *at least* a possibility of error on our part (that is, those of us who have no ordered charism of teaching).

    Bottom line: it’s a lot more complex than your question suggests.

  23. talmida says:

    I consider myself a feminist, and I pray that someday women will be admitted to all 7 of the Church’s sacraments.

    I do not support the actions of these women and I think Abp. Burke’s summons was actually kind of cool, and a good idea – both for the women and the observing community. The women should know how serious their choices are.

    What disturbs me is the attitude behind the insults thrown at these people by the Church. Don’t like a woman’s beliefs? Call her ugly — it’s her looks that make a woman respectable. Don’t agree with her behaviour? Call her old, for we all know that only young women have value in our society.

    The Catholic Church HAS marginalized women over the centuries, and despite the apologies of John Paul II — and more recently, Cardinal Ouellet — still has work to do.

    Insults that deride a woman’s physical appearance show the world exactly what the Church thinks of women.

  24. Todd says:

    An interesting take, talmida. Thanks for posting. It did not occur to me that the self-styled orthodox have bought into the cultural sexism regarding a woman’s looks and age. I think you have the measure of this brand of criticism. Even in an attempt to be a society set apart, they are infused with the non-Christian culture, especially the worship of youth and beauty.

    I would also consider myself a feminist, and despite what John would have others believe, I agree this ordination is a bad idea. The call of a community is essential to a valid priesthood. Orders is a ministry of service to a particular church, and secondarily a state of life with the trappings of dress, power, academic achievement, etc..

  25. crystal says:

    Talmida says much more lucidly what I wished to say :-)

  26. Liam says:

    Yes, appearance-based ridicule is a particularly traditional form of marginalization of women that Christians should not only not do but actively reject.

  27. Liam says:

    Then again, you see, I see ridicule as something that can only be done by Christians with the deftest and narrowest of touches – pointed entirely at poor or failed arguments, ideally the sole point being to shed light on what would be obvious but for such light.

  28. Liam says:

    At St Blog’s, what usually happens when an orgy of personalized ridicule erupts is that it tends to reveal an almost entirely male group acting like adolescent boys – showing off how tough an unconcerned with self-awareness they can be. At times, it seems almost obsessive-compulsive. *That* is what is ugly.

  29. Tony says:

    Appearance based ridicule does not indicate “what the Church thinks of women” it indicates what a small minority of those who call themselves Catholic think of women.

    The age issue is germaine in my opinion. Not as a point of ridicule, but to underline the generation who classicly play these games. Almost to a woman they are products of the 60’s and 70’s. The Kumbaya, free love “renewal” of the Church brought about by the “spirit” of Vatican II.

    The 60’s and 70’s were about not what we were called to do, but what we wanted to do, like willful children wanting to have their own way.

    Now we see the fruits of this willfulness, this “non serviam!” attitude on the part of these women who if they can’t be priests, will separate from the Mother Church, putting their souls in danger of eternal hell. This is more a following of Satan (who was the first to utter “non serviam!”) than the following of Christ who emptied Himself on the cross as the ultimate servant and lover of his Church here on earth.

    When you look at young female religious, most often you see postulants in dresses and novices in habits. Not a polyester business suit (or priestly vestments) among them.

  30. John Heavrin says:

    “Two women priests miss their appointment with Archbishop Burke.”

    That’s the first line of your post, Todd. You also use the phrase “newly ordained women.” It certainly seemed to me that you consider these women to be priests, which they are not. I’m glad to hear that you think what they did is a “bad idea.” But even in stating that, you describe the event as an “ordination,” which of course it was not. Either you’re sloppy with your terms, which is entirely possible, or on some level, you do consider these women actually to have been “ordained.” I wonder if you do think that.

  31. Todd says:

    Tony, I think you fall victim to your own biases.

    To the extent that the post-WWII West looked to women’s issues, and women since have felt called and empowered for ministry leadership, I think you can say that many women today in their sixties and younger make up the quantity of those called to serve.

    “The 60’s and 70’s were about not what we were called to do, but what we wanted to do, like willful children wanting to have their own way.”

    Again, the post-WWII West in every generation has seen this. We had business boomers in the 80’s, and we have torture advocates and warmongers among the conservatives today. Narcissism know no single decade or ideology.

    For its faults, the 60’s produced a great deal of selflessness, and the Church boomed in many ministries that permitted people to give selflessly for significant portions of their life.

    I think the linking of the 60’s, immorality, feminism, and silliness is a too-convenient argument, not to mention an outright fallacy. If not just a plain lie.

    “When you look at young female religious, most often you see postulants in dresses and novices in habits.”

    We’re talking two entirely different vocations: religious life and leadership in a parish as a priest. While bishops and religious orders sometimes get it confused, the two really are different ways to serve.

    “Not a polyester business suit (or priestly vestments) among them.”

    Personally, I’m allergic, but polyester is cheaper than many natural fabrics. Most liberal women religious would opt for natural fibers today. To find polyester, you’d have to visit a neo-con’s socks or tie today.

  32. John Heavrin says:

    As I stated before, I believe ridicule of these women for their age or appearance, etc., is wrong and should not be done. However, some personal criticism is appropriate. Calling attention to the remarkable level of personal arrogance and pride on their part to defy the church in this way is certainly fair. Also, I think it’s okay, and unavoidable really, to point out the irrationality of the position “I don’t care what the Church says or does, I’m a priest of the Church whether the Church likes it or not” taken by these women and those who support them.

    If the Church says you can’t be a priest, that’s the end of it. After that is only pride.

  33. Todd says:

    John, of course they’re priests. They were ordained in a religious ceremony designating them as such. Clearly they’re not Roman Catholics anymore, but that doesn’t affect their status as clergy, even if they don’t have a congregation, diocese, or bishop. The Roman view is that their ordination is not a valid sacrament.

    But there are priests outside of Catholicism, and even outside of Christianity. It does us no good to plug our ears and yell, “We have all the priests and you don’t!” That’s just silly.

  34. John Heavrin says:

    “They were ordained in a religious ceremony designating them as such.”

    Nonsense. Of what “church” are they “priests”?
    They would say they are Catholic priests, wouldn’t they? They remain laywomen.

  35. In re the personal insults point: I seem to recall that a while back the comments on a progressive blog (indeed, it may well have been this one) spent some time poking at the appearances of the aging priests currently on ICEL.

    Generally, proking fun at people’s appearence is usually simply a symptom (though certainly not an admirable one) of general dislike.

  36. Jimmy Mac says:

    The day will come when “the church” will finally realize that the availability of Eucharist is more important than an outlived DISCIPLINE of male celibate priests.

    The the word will go forth from On High in Rome to wit: “As Holy Mother the Church has always taught ….” and we will once again have more priests than we know what to do with.

  37. John Heavrin says:

    “The day will come when ‘the church’ will finally realize that the availability of Eucharist is more important than an outlived DISCIPLINE of male celibate priests.”

    Perhaps that day will come, perhaps it won’t. But what would that have to do with the ordination of women?

    As to your last paragraph, your cynicism is nauseating.

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