Friday, July 16


There has been a good deal of writing lately about the ordination of women and same-sex marriage. As, no doubt you're aware, the RC Church has put out in their latest polemic that the 'attempted' ordination of women is equal to paedophilia. Reading Bill Linsdey's brilliant article about ordination rang a bell with me and started me thinking about the sacraments in general and the word 'attempted'.

In the first, one must examine terms. St. Augustine refers to a sacrament as "a visible sign of an invisible reality." and the Anglican Book of Common Prayer says that they are "an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible Grace". Further, we should note that these sacraments are effectual independent of the priest, that is to say that they function due to the benefice of the Divine and not due to the innate holiness or value of the officiant. What is required is that the intent of all involved in the rite be pure, the forms of the rite followed and the appropriate materials be on hand. Though I have certain issues with the last, we should leave that for now. In short, a sacrament is a rite by which corporeal actions, words and things are used to signify the conferral of Sanctifying Grace by the invisible Divine.

Given these thoughts as a base from which to work, let us consider the sacraments more specifically. If the sacraments function due to the presence and action of the Divine, and not due to the officiant, then the officiant is naught more (if such can be said) than a conduit for the Divine to work through them to affect the Grace which is delivered from the Divine into the willing recipient. This brings us to the matter of intent and the action of the Divine in the sacraments.

In all of the sacraments, the disposition of Grace and the state of the recipients heart is a matter between them and the Divine. It is not a matter for a priest to question if a penitent is truly contrite, that is between the penitent and the Divine. Likewise, the dying man who receives Extreme Unction is not in judgment by the priest, but is freed from sin and raised up by the power of God. The Eucharist is another point where, assuming that the recipient is of pure intent (which can only be known to them and the Divine) then what mortal man may stand between those who seek salvation and the Bread of Life and Saving Cup My thoughts about matrimony lie along the same lines, but it is a far more complex topic which I intend to cover at a different time. Suffice to say that it is God, not man, which joins together.

There are those who say that both baptism and confirmation create an ontological change in the recipient, with baptism being the initiation into the body of Christ just as it's cognate, conformation, is the fulfillment of the educational promise set forth in the baptism. If that is true, then the ontological character of the recipient can only be altered by the Divine and the officiant or any other temporal body has no weight in this matter. As such, the sacraments of baptism and confirmation are public recognition of what the Divine has wrought more than anything else. Which leads us, ere so circuitously, to the original point.

Ordination is the third sacrament which is purported to create an ontological change in the recipient - a fundamental alteration in the relationship between the recipient and the Divine. If one holds that the action of the sacrament does indeed affect that change, then it is imperative to recognize that it is the Divine which has "set his seal of ownership upon us" and it is the imprimatur of God which is upon the recipient, not that of a bishop or church. If God has called a person, any person, to fulfill the function of the presbyterate (or any other function) within His church and the person has heeded that call, then no mortal man may rightfully bar them from doing so any more than a bishop saying it is so makes it so. The ontological change has happened and either the Church may acknowledge and affirm the existence of this mystery by the sacrament or they can choose to deny and ignore it's existence. Either way does not change one whit the reality of matter.

Upon reading the above it occurs to me at least some of the disconnect. It is the Divine which calls us to work in Her Church. It doesn't belong to a pope or primate or prelate, but to God. If we, in a fit of populist fervor, wish to say that we are all children of God and as such the church belongs to us, then so be it. Some are called to lead and minister, some to serve in other ways, but all honour and glory is to God.

There's probably quite a bit more here to mine, but I'll leave it for another time.

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