Today is the first day since Saturday my head has felt reasonably sound, though my throat is swollen, making breathing at night quite difficult. When the brethren share, they really share, colds included. And when I get a cold in this sceptred isle, I really get it. Something to offer up at least.
So when I turned on my computer yesterday afternoon I was not in the mood for one email awaiting me. So I ignored it. This evening, feeling somewhat less fractious, I re-read it. It’s lack of salutation or any normal civility made me think it was meant to be a comment to the post it was referring to, namely my recent one on women’s ordination. It was in response to a particular event, which revealed a foundation not in Catholic theology but in feminist ideology. So if it was meant as a comment, it seems right to post it so that all can read an opposing point of view. However, it could also be taken as a threat and an attempt to bully. You can decide. I quote the email in its entirety, though I have camouflaged the author’s name to spare her the embarrassment she brings on herself:
As the National Coordinating Group of Catholic Women’s Ordination, which campaigns and prays for ordained women’s ministry in a reformed Roman Catholic Church in the UK, we are deeply concerned about the tone of your blog. After much prayer and experience, and despite ridicule from some members of the RC Church, some of us feel called to priesthood, and believe we are required to continue listening to that calling, though we are unable to test it out because we are not currently permitted to do so. We wonder why you feel compelled publicly to direspect (sic) women who believe they have been called by the Holy Spirit to this work. We would hope that any priest who disagrees that women can become priests would pray about it. We would like you to consult your Abbot, withdraw these postings and reflect on why you feel the need to write these kinds of postings which might be seen by children as well as adults, priests and religious. We pray that you will find some God-given work to do with your time.
We have also agreed we will contact your Abbot.
P***a B****r on behalf of the National Coordinating Group
Note some features. The clear and irreformable teaching of the Church on the impossibility of ordaining women is caricatured as “ridicule from some members of the RC Church”. As an aside, what Catholic ever refers to the “RC Church”? Is the complainant Catholic?
The argumentation is based not on theology or scripture, but on feeling called. To expound the Church’s teaching is labelled with the emotive and ridiculous accusation that it is to “direspect (sic) women”. Any priest who upholds Church teaching (which he is ordained to uphold and expound) is now described as “any priest who disagrees that women can become priests”, and we are told we should “pray about it”. What is there to pray about: to obey or disobey Church teaching? Our Lord’s direction is already clear on that one, as you will see in Matthew 16:18-19.
My particular favourites are Ms B****r’s concern that my argument may be “seen by children” – really?! – and that I should find some “God-given work to do” – because defending and professing Church teaching is somehow not God-given, naturally.
Then there is the last bit – they will contact my abbot. That is nothing but a threat, which is of course why it was made in an email and not in a public comment. They seem to think my abbot is liable to take umbrage at one of his monks defending Church teaching. It is conceivably possible I suppose. But really there is little to threaten me with: I have no parish, no grand ministry, no status at all – I am pretty much as low as you can get in my monastery. Some priests have more to lose from malicious complainants and opponents of Church teaching, as the recent attack on Fr Blake affirms. The aim, I suspect, is to get him removed from his parish. That said, I doubt that threat will scare him much.
It is said that some feminists, secularists and militant atheists feel unable to meet an argument with a counter-argument, but resort to emotional blackmail and thinly-veiled threats to silence those whom they oppose. All it does, in the eyes at least of the thoughtful onlooker, is to undermine whatever foundation their position might have had. Did the post in question disrespect women? The women who commented did not express any sense of being disrespected, not least because they knew no disrespect was either intended or expressed.
There is one clear result of this email: I am more convinced than ever that the Church’s teaching is 100% right, both now and for eternity. Let us pray for those who do not have such conviction, and that wer might all pray, with Christ, to the Father, “not my will, but yours be done”.