The St. Bede, Williamsburg Affair

[written 1/16/20]


God made us male and female. God became a baby boy, who grew up to be a man. The Scriptures conclude with the wedding banquet of the Lamb.

Lord Jesus made the marriage of a man and a woman a sacrament of the New Covenant. The celebration of Mass involves a nuptial mystery. A priest does not preside at the altar in order to attain some kind of personal primacy or honor for himself; he celebrates in the person of Christ the Bridegroom of the Church.

Men are not “better” than women. Man and woman, coming together, give life. In the nuptial mystery that gives life, man and woman must co-operate. They are not interchangeable in their distinctive roles.

Same goes for the priesthood and the celebration of Holy Mass. God became a man in order to save and sanctify the entire human race by His so coming. It’s not like the heavenly Father just flipped a coin to decide if His eternal Word would become a man or a woman. No: the maleness of the Christ comes from the great divine design. The maleness of the ministerial priests of the New Covenant does also.

Being a man doesn’t make anyone better than anyone else. Being a priest doesn’t make anyone better than anyone else. But to be a priest, you have to be a man. Because Christ celebrates the Holy Mass as the Bridegroom of His Church, in the person of His ministerial priests.

All this is essential Catholic doctrine. We say it pertains to the essence of the religion of Christ. We rely on the authority of the popes in this matter. As well we should, since the divine mysteries involved transcend our human reason.

Meanwhile, Anglican and Episcopalian Christians disagree. (Or at least many of them do.) They do not accord the authority of the pope the deference that we do. Indeed, our doing so offends their Articles of Religion, as does our veneration of holy images. They have women priests and bishops.

Susan HaynesThe Episcopalians of Virginia are our friends. We Catholics owe them a debt of gratitude. Even though certain aspects of our religion offend theirs, they let us use their church buildings for years, when many of our nascent parishes had no property.

We had a controversy in Williamsburg. The pastor of the parish of St. Bede, with the approval of our bishop, had offered the use of our church to the Episcopalians of the Diocese of Southern Virginia. So that they could have the consecration of their new bishop in a suitably large church building. (They have no cathedral, and St. Bede seats more people than any of their churches.)

Their new bishop is a woman. To us, this seems impossibly strange. To them, it is normal.

We do not call Episcopalians heretics or schismatics. We do not charge the spiritual descendants of those who separated from the Church with the act of separating. We seek the fellowship of all brother and sister Christians.

Friends can and do disagree on the gravest matters, but nonetheless remain friends.

It appears that the new Episcopalian bishop learned that her coming to St. Bede would distress some Catholics, so she found another place to use for her consecration.

We lost a chance to re-pay our friends some of the debt of gratitude we owe them, for their hospitality to us in the past. The pastor of St. Bede, and our bishop, missed a chance to explain clearly why the Catholic Church doesn’t believe in the ordination of women.

Sad situation all around, in my book.

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