Dear Editor, How unfortunate that the newly appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh should start his new ministry by high-ighting the Church’s failure with regard to the status of women in its ministry. When he said that the Church “has to follow the lead of its founder Jesus Christ” regarding women’s place in the hierarchy (IC 25/7/2019), he obviously had not researched the social history of the time.
When Jesus commis-sioned his disciples before his Ascension, his instructions were very clear. “You are witnesses to this”, he told them (Lk.24: 44-48). However, the prevailing customs and indeed the legislation of the time did not allow women to be witnesses. In fact, it was only 68 years ago that the State of Israel allowed female witnesses in civil court, when it passed the Equality of Women’s Rights Act of 1951. In the list of invalid witnesses, up to then were, in the first place, women, followed by slaves, minors, the blind, the deaf, etc.
So, Jesus – a man of his time – could not appoint women as his witnesses. And if he had, these female witnesses would, no doubt, have got the same treatment as Mary of Magdala, Joanna and Mary, the mother of James when they brought the news of the Resurrection to the eleven and to all the others: “But this story of theirs seemed pure nonsense, and they did not believe them.”
Pope Francis is keen that the Church would “emerge from the shoals which for years had kept her self-enclosed, and would set out again on her missionary journey”.
I think that if the Holy Spirit is telling us anything with regard to the status of women in the Church, it is to “read the signs of the times”.
Farranshone, Co. Limerick.
Wise words at the Castle
Dear Editor, A year ago I remember hearing a great deal about what Government officials had to say to Pope Francis during his visit to Ireland. Coming up to the anniversary of that visit, it may be worth recalling a significant statement (less publicised) that Pope Francis made during his meeting with the Government at Dublin Castle on August 25.
“Could it be that the growth of a materialistic ‘throwaway culture’ has, in fact, made us increasingly indifferent to the poor and to the most defenceless members of our human family, including the unborn, deprived of the very right to life?
“Each child is, in fact, a precious gift of God, to be cherished, encouraged to develop his or her gifts, and guided to spiritual maturity and human flourishing.”
Raheny, Dublin 5.
I remember their selflessness
Dear Editor, In your issue (IC 01/08/19) John McGuirk states “that in the days when the Church was the pre-eminent cultural power in the land, it attracted to the priesthood and to the religious life many of those who sought power and influence for themselves”.
As one who was around at that time, I never witnessed such an attitude in those pursuing vocations to the priesthood or the religious life.
Then as now they were remarkably idealistic, generous and selfless men and women, especially those who volunteered for the foreign missions.
Fr Anthony Gaughan,
Fear not, the Lord will provide
Dear Editor, The Church is ailing now with the scarcity of priests. This is nothing new – even in the time of Christ, Jesus said the harvest (of souls) is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the Harvest to send labourers to his harvest (Luke 10; 1-12).
God is dependent on our prayers for vocations. In the Gospel of St Matthew (28; 18-20) we see Christ before he ascended into Heaven commissioning his apostles to preach the Gospel to all people and promising he will be with them until the end of the world. We can be confident that Jesus will provide priests at all ages of the Church.
Fr Con McGillicuddy,
Raheny, Dublin 5.
More converts and vocations, less unreal aspiration
Dear Editor, Fintan Butler is stretching a point too far when he suggests that the Ordinariate provides a model for married clergy as “a regular feature of the church in the West” ( Letters, IC 18/7/2019).
First, the Ordinariate is confined geographically to those areas where there is a large Anglican presence; in practice this means parts of the United Kingdom (excluding Northern Ireland), Australia and North America. In most of Latin Christendom Ordinariate clergy are not to be found. (Mr Butler goes on to contradict himself by calling the Ordinariate in Great Britain an “abject failure” – a somewhat unfair remark when it is remembered that several hundred priests now belong to it.)
Second, the presence of married clergy within the Ordinariate is a temporary expedient, one which was designed to help those priests who wished to convert. The initial flow of married clerical converts has since slowed down; without a steady flow of converts the Ordinariate will, probably, wither away. I am not aware of any basis for Mr Butler’s speculation that Benedict XVI hoped that the Ordinariate would prepare the way for the ordination of married men as a general rule.
As a convert from Anglicanism I am always amazed that so many cradle Catholics want to dispense with clerical celibacy – something which, so it seems to me, should be regarded as a source of strength and a blessing to the Church.
It might be better if members of the Church thought and prayed harder about how to increase the number of genuine vocations to the priesthood rather than wondering about how married men might be ordained to the priesthood.
And the Ordinariate ought to prompt us to hope for more converts from Anglicanism instead of expecting an end to clerical celibacy.
Belfast, Co. Antrim.