So, opening up my NZ Catholic the other day for a quiet, post-Mass Sunday read, I was overjoyed to see that a local lay Catholic has called for a new Ecumenical Council. How wonderful to see the flowering of well-formed, theologically literate lay people in our midst.
And the forum for this conciliar call, I hear you ask? Not in a private letter to the bishop, no – nor in a parish bulletin even – but at the graduation ceremony for Good Shepherd College, our local theological institute (the one of some repute) in Auckland, on 3 June. Mrs (Ms?) Nadja Tollemache (an ombudsman – our first female one, apparently) was the guest speaker.
So the article says, she began by speaking about the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, as the result of which women got to have a bigger role in society. Disappointingly for Nadja, this has not been reflected in the liturgy (which of course does not reflect society, but I digress). You see, they don’t get to do enough, it seems. This is, of course, silly. In the brave new church of the 21st century, where women can be anything from servers to EMOHCs, with everything in between (literally – lectors, ushers, sacristans, cleaners, porters, flute-tooters, representatives of the apostles on Holy Thursday even), this complaint sounds hollow. One wonders whether she believes it herself. But, naturally, this leads into the tired old chestnut:
She read out the first conclusion of the theological reflection group convened by Bishop John Mackey in 1990, which requested the New Zealand bishops keep alive the reflection on the ordination of women.
Of course. What an excellent moment to bring this one up. A captive audience, the bishop there, a number of monsignori – an excellent opportunity to rail against chauvinism and misogyny to your heart’s content. It isn’t that women don’t get to do enough, they don’t get to be the circus ringleaders of the parish liturgies (unless they’re lucky enough to be in the Wellington, Palmerston North, or remoter parts of the Auckland, dioceses).
But it didn’t end there. The article tells us:
But an elephant in the room, that the Church has shied away from, is the issue of population, especially with increasing costs of fuel threatening modern methods of food production and distribution, she said.
An elephant? Does she mean there are others? How many has she identified? How big is this room, and if there are that many elephants how comfortable can they be? What are the other elephants concerned with? Maybe Catholic schooling, although she didn’t get onto that. Maybe liturgical abuse, and it seems she got onto that in her own way. But population was mentioned…looks like HV is in the firing line then.
But what I like best is the beautifully vague and senseless conclusion:
We probably need a new Vatican II-type council to take a fresh look at all the ethical issues that have arisen in the last half century and that is where I hope some brilliant theologians will reassess the old answers that no longer answer the new, different questions. After all, the Church has managed to do this before.
Why would old answers answer new questions? For goodness’ sake, the questions are probably different. I’d love to know what these new questions are, I really would. Holy Mother has already answered the women’s ordination one, and the birth control one – are they simply being asked in a different way? Is that what she means? Perhaps she just wants to change the answers, although the questions remain the same.
And why a Vatican II-type council? What was wrong with Vatican I – you know, that one about the primacy of the pope. Or Trent, or Ephesus, or Nicaea? What’s really meant here is the ol’ spirit of Vatican II stuff – do what you like, primacy of conscience and subsidiarity, destruction of traditional Catholic culture, modernism rampant…brilliant, sounds like a heterodox dream.
Well, at least we can applaud the ‘courage’ it took to do this. The bishop and clergy said nothing in response (nothing new there, although it could have been a good opportunity to reaffirm Church teaching in a few areas).