... dissenting, self-identified "Catholics" with doctorates, theology chairs, and—like, wow!—books and stuff. I'll show you how so in a moment.
First, frankly, I think Fr. McBrien should consider firing whatever eighteen-year-old college freshman is apparently writing his columns for him (I say "apparently because she could, in fact, be a sophomore in high school). I know that sounds harsh, but surely it would benefit her in the long run. But, seriously, how else to explain this sort of laughable, embarrassing nonsense, freshly flung up on the National "Catholic" Reporter website:
One of the most perplexing aspects of the sacking of William Morris, bishop of the Australian diocese of Toowoomba, Queensland, is Pope Benedict XVI’s claim that the Catholic Church’s prohibition of the ordination of women to the priesthood is the product of an infallible teaching. ...
However, if it were not for the constant drumbeat of criticism on the part of ultraconservative Catholics -- most or all of whom have had no formal education in theology, Scripture, liturgy, or canon law -- and the appointment of another ultraconservative as Apostolic Visitor -- Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Denver -- Morris would not have been removed from his diocese.
My interest here is not really the ins-and-outs of how and why Morris was removed from office (see pieces by Dr. Jeffrey Mirus and Fr. Z for background and details) but on this bizarre claim by McBrien:
Ratzinger noted that the teaching on women’s ordination “has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium,” as well as by the 1998 apostolic letter of Pope John Paul II, Ad Tuendam Fidem (“For the defense of the faith”), accompanied by a commentary written by Ratzinger, who said essentially the same thing as he is now saying as pope.
But canon 749.3 stipulates that if there is any doubt about the infallible nature of a teaching, it is not infallible. The canon reads: “No doctrine is understood to be infallibly defined unless it is clearly established as such.”
Therefore, even if then-Cardinal Ratzinger concluded that Pope John Paul II’s teaching on women priests in Ordinatio sacerdotalis was infallible, it could not be considered infallible because it was not “clearly established as such.”
And even if a pope, such as Benedict XVI, wished to argue that a specific teaching of one of his predecessors was infallible, canon 749.3 would also seem to preclude such an argument.
Actually, McBrien's "argument" is not so much "bizarre" as blatantly silly. And even disingenuous. Here's why (see if you illiterate ultraconservative Catholics can follow!):
1. Pope John Paul II wrote the following in his 1994 apostolic letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis ("To the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone"):
Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church's judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.
Wherefore, 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 judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful. (par. 4; emphasis added)
2. In 1995, then-Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote a "Respondum ad Propositum Dubium Concerning the Teaching Contained in 'Ordinatio Sacerdotalis":
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 to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.
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 this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith.
3. McBrien, in his June 13, 2011, column, writes: "But canon 749.3 stipulates that if there is any doubt about the infallible nature of a teaching, it is not infallible. The canon reads: 'No doctrine is understood to be infallibly defined unless it is clearly established as such.'"
4. But—surprise!—his quote is selective and misleading as the entire canon 749 states the following (emphasis added):
Can. 749 §1. By virtue of his office, the Supreme Pontiff possesses infallibility in teaching when as the supreme pastor and teacher of all the Christian faithful, who strengthens his brothers and sisters in the faith, he proclaims by definitive act that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held.
§2. The college of bishops also possesses infallibility in teaching when the bishops gathered together in an ecumenical council exercise the magisterium as teachers and judges of faith and morals who declare for the universal Church that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held definitively; or when dispersed throughout the world but preserving the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter and teaching authentically together with the Roman Pontiff matters of faith or morals, they agree that a particular proposition is to be held definitively.
§3. No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident.
5. Return to point #1 above. What did John Paul II write? "I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."
Did you follow that? Was it incredibly complex? Does your head hurt? Do you need a bottle of smart water?
Naaaaaw, of course not, because you, unlike the immensely learned Fr. McBrien, are able to understand that the phrase, "this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful", actually fulfills the clear criteria that the Holy Father is making an infallible declaration when, "as the supreme pastor and teacher of all the Christian faithful", he "proclaims by definitive act that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held." Anyone who can read and think with any sort of objectivity and integrity knows this is "manifestly evident."
The only way someone could doubt that John Paul II meant this to be an infallible declaration is if he:
1. Can't read English.
2. Rejects the authority of the Catholic Church.
3. Rejects the doctrine of papal infallibility.
4. Refuses to acknowledge that they are simply wrong—dead wrong, with sprinkles and fairy dust on top—about what John Paul II said, what Cardinal Ratzinger reiterated, and what the ordinary Magisterium and the Church's Tradition has always taught and held.
5. Is a dissenting theology professor who writes for the National "Catholic" Reporter, which is so shameless it makes Lady Ga Ga blush.
A few days ago I wrote about how McBrien's half-hearted attempt to defend the Church's teaching about the Resurrection was shoddy, ineffective, and third-rate theologically and philosophically. Now we see that McBrien's whole-hearted attempt to deny clear Church teaching about the ordination of women is shoddy, ineffective, and third-rate theologically and philosophically. His "arguments"/rants consist of some mixture of the following:
1. Insults and personal attacks ("most or all of whom have had no formal education in theology, Scripture, liturgy, or canon law")
2. Emotive grandstanding ("However, if it were not for the constant drumbeat of criticism...")
3. Misuse or misrepresentation of the facts.
4. Partial or incorrect reading of key texts.
5. Drawing false conclusions from #3 and #4 ("canon 749.3 would also seem to preclude such an argument...")
6. Appeal to fallible and very limited authority over against infallible and definitive Magisterial authority ("Moreover, individual Catholic theologians, major Catholic theological organizations in the United States, and the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland have expressed serious doubts...")
You know what? Forget firing the ghost writer. Ask Fr. McBrien to retire. And replace him with Lady Ga Ga—at least she doesn't try to hide behind a veneer of intellectual elitism (come to think of it, she doesn't hide behind much at all. Nevermind.)
Related Ignatius Insight Articles and Book Excerpts:
• On the Papacy, John Paul II, and the Nature of the Church | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
• Good Shepherd: Living Christ's Own Pastoral Authority | Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila, Bishop of Fargo
• What Is the Magisterium? | Thomas Storck
• St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome | Stephen K. Ray
• Church Authority and the Petrine Element | Hans Urs von Balthasar
• Authority and Dissent in the Catholic Church | Dr. William E. May