For Men (and Heterosexuals) Only: A MEMO To Catholic Theologians and Educators

MEMO

 

TO: Catholic theologians and educators

FROM: Mary E. Hunt

7/1/2015

RE: Curriculum update

 

In light of various global changes, I note the need to update teaching about Catholic sacramental theology in two simple but important ways. I urge us to implement these changes ahead of official reworkings that may be some decades away. Catholic theology is done by a variety of laborers in the vineyards: some who are part of the institutional church and others in the larger Catholic community. These observations come from the latter with the hope that the former might also implement them.

First, official Catholic teachings on “The Sacrament of Matrimony” require a change in title (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part II, Section 2, Chapter 3, Article 7). Given that marriage is now increasingly available to all, I respectfully suggest that the term “heterosexual” be added for clarity. Thus, the Catholic “Sacrament of Heterosexual Matrimony” will properly represent a narrow, limited, parochial understanding, and not be confused with the wider expression of marriage as we now know it in many cultures, including in the United States.

This new way of talking about marriage in Catholic circles will acknowledge that marriage is a contract between committed persons who may or may not choose to celebrate their love in a religious setting. More importantly, it is a covenant that some Catholics are permitted to celebrate sacramentally and others are not. It is only fair that our teaching and preaching reflect this reality, whether we like it or not. For Catholic teachers to persist in using the word “matrimony” or “marriage,” when what is intended is heterosexual marriage is incorrect and easily fixed.

Second, the same principles apply to the question of the “Sacrament of Holy Orders” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part II, Section 2, Chapter 3, Article 6). As long as we are revising, let’s fix this error as well. Since ordination in the Roman Catholic Church is for men only, excluding all women, the new designation is properly “Sacrament of Men’s Holy Orders” or “Sacrament of Holy Orders for Men.” This nomenclature will clarify that the sacrament is available to half of the membership of the community, not to the whole community as are the Sacraments of Baptism, Penance and Reconciliation, and the rest.

Other Christian denominations, notably the Lutherans and Anglicans whose sacramental approaches are closely aligned with Catholic theology, can legitimately teach about Holy Orders in the generic sense because they include women in ordained leadership. But for Catholics, it is accurate and important to modify the name to be clear about for whom it is intended. That way, when children are taught about the sacraments, they will be given a realistic picture. For girls, there are six sacraments, whereas for boys there are seven; for heterosexual people, there is one more than for LGBTIQ people. While some may wonder why it is necessary to belabor the obvious, my view is that it simply is not obvious enough to many who continue to teach Catholic theology incorrectly.

Surely these are neuralgic issues. Discussion needs to happen but it is not my point here. Rather, I suggest that our role as theologians and educators is to be clear and consistent in our teaching. This change in vocabulary is a move in that direction: Catholic marriage is for heterosexuals and Catholic ordination is for men only. Using the terms generically as if they apply to people to whom they do not apply is simply erroneous. Of course there are ways to fix them so that they do apply to everyone. But failing that, it is only honest to clarify the terms so that people understand what is at stake. Only then can full, honest debate commence.

  • DKeane123

    Smile.

  • joeyj1220

    Love this as I do all of Mary’s work… but one small caveat; given yesterday’s decision by the Episcopalian Church, the correct wording should be “Sacrament of Catholic Heterosexual Matrimony”

  • apotropoxy

    Sacramental Dispatch for Women:
    As agonizing as it may be for a woman to undergo the psychological trauma of abortion, it does serve a higher moral purpose. The fetus soul is dispatched to heaven and never finds itself in jeopardy of perdition. Amen

    (As snark laden as this post is, it raises a legitimate issue of comparative claims.)

  • wit_chaplain

    I appreciated this commentary as well and the way it names some important realities. But as an ordained protestant clergy person I want to add another reality that no one seems to still want to talk about. The reality is that the Sacrament of Eucharist is a Catholics only sacrament. The table is only open to those “inside the circle”, those with correct belief. Just needed to name that while we’re updating the catechism. How about calling it “Sacrament of Eucharist for Catholics”. Thanks for letting me vent.

  • Judith Maxfield

    May I add one more. Ordination in the Episcopal Church was quietly amended to include all – and I mean all of GLBTI who qualify by the canons. Generic identity is no longer an issue. Scholarly theology, love of God’s people, personal mental health, legal background checks, and consent of the congregation are.

  • nmgirl

    Great Post

  • Hugh O’Regan

    we don’t know that do we? we might like to think that is the case. but it is not part of the revelation it is just hopeful thinking. I think it is a shame that we dropped Limbo as a theological construct. It served a serious purpose. The concept of limbo got us out of many difficulties such as unbaptized babies,the just men or women who never accepted Christ or had a chance to accept Christ etc. Etc. Are we now forced to walk hand in hand with our fundamentalist brothers who teach that if you are not born again you cannot be saved. No I don’t think so. A Theological construct is just that. It still helps us Catholics to get out of many tight theological corners.

  • apotropoxy

    The same maneuvers the Church fathers made to infer Limbo can now apply to this situation. Those that believe the god is loving and merciful will be unable to imagine it consigning the immaculate fetus soul to Gehenna.

  • David Bergman

    I would most certainly think it necessary in light of the increasing transgender movement that each of these changes to include only those who are born to the specific gender identified as male or female. E.g.: “holy orders of heterosexuals who are male at birth and can provide genetic markers to corroborate their gender” the same general wording can be used for marriage. “The sacrament of heterosexual marriage to those who continue to maintain the gender identity they were born into”.

  • Lee Ann Scherman Fralick

    Truth

  • David Bergman

    I also think that henceforth the only items regarding theology that should be made publicly should be made only by those born as male and continue to maintain that gender identity. After all..women aren’t supposed to publicly discuss theology

  • Hugh O’Regan

    Limbo, of course does not exist and never existed it just stands for and did stand for “We do not know but we trust in the goodness of God to in some way lead the soul to salvation”. That was And remains the theological cconstruct. Apotrophy, sorry I already realize that you knew this. I am new here and just felt a need to respond The problem of Evil and injustice in our world cannot be answered by Biblical literal interpretation. For thinking people such an approach leads to a rejection of Christianity or perhaps Atheism. For a smaller group of thinking people Call failure of such an approach might lead them to Catholicism, Orthodoxy, or some of the original churches of the Reformation.

  • BDS3151

    No need to change or clarify anything. Been clear for thousands of years that only men can be Priests and marriage is defined as “between a man and woman”. The purpose of this article is obvious, to start the change of church doctrine. For those that want change, I suggest they change religion as there are many that confirm these beliefs.

  • Eowyn of Rohan

    Our Lord Jesus Christ did not call women to the priesthood. So for all of you people out there who think you’re smarter then God, I suggest you work very hard on developing the virtue of humility. Do you think Our Blessed Mother complained about her position in the Church?

  • Kevin Lowe

    Yes, since today all ordained priests must be identical to the twelve apostles in every way, it is a good thing that the Catholic Church has a strict policy of only ordaining Palestinian Jews.

    Oh wait.

    Actually, it took nearly a century for the priesthood to develop. It took decades for Christians to even be called as such, and to be differentiated from Jews. Jesus did not call anyone to the priesthood because he was a Jew, and his followers were Jews, and Mary was a Jew, and none of them had any intention of being anything other than Jews. We need to be careful about projecting too much of the historical development of the church backward into Jesus’s lifetime.

  • Cersack

    “To whom much is given, much will be required”. I hope you are sure of your position, as an intelligent, educated person you will be held to a higher standard at your personal and final judgment.

  • Dbom

    Haha- I have an even better one…”Sacramental Catholic Heterosexual Monopolistic Sexist Homophobic Absolutist Triumphalistic blah blah blah fill-in-the-blank-with-the-latest-academic-weak-minded-slop Marriage”- boom! Fixed for all time.

    Boy is the catechism gonna need a lot of rewrites!

    Yeah, when people say womyn priests in the Church would be a real boon to our religion, I’ll point to this as exhibit A for my rebuttal.

    Have a great day.

  • Eowyn of Rohan

    He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell, you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:15-18.

    Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they held steadfastly to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Acts of the Apostles 1:5, 38, 41-42

  • Michael B Kelly

    Thanks Mary. I quite agree. Let’s be clear. I would only add, after Benedict’s two proclamations, neither of which has been repealed or contradicted by the Vatican, that Holy Orders is for heterosexual cisgender men, and closeted homosexual men who reject their sexual orientation and convince themselves they will somehow grow out of it.

  • CitizenWhy

    As long as the Catholic church makes procreation the obssessively primary purpose of “natural” marriage, it can’t even consider how it might change its position. Of course its position on the Sacrament of Matrimony (as distinguished from natural marriage) is that its primary purpose is to unite the couple in the love of Christ, their marriage now being transfigured by the Sacrament from the natural to the supernatural, their marriage having as its primary purpose to reflect the union in mutual love between Christ and his followers.

    The RC church raises its voice against extending natural marriage, a universal institution in the realm of the secular and governed by the state or the local community or tribe, based on its theory of Natural Law. According to the church doctrine of natural law the Pope is the final and sole judge of how this strictly philosophical law applies to human affairs since the Pope is ruling on human nature, not on Christian doctrine or tradition. Thus the pope’s rulings are binding on all people, from all societies, and on all governments.

    The problem is that the church uses an outdated biology to decide what is “natural ” in sex. It ignores the evolution of human sex beyond estrus, beyond the compulsion to copulate for procreation. It also ignores the need for a healthy family to be able to properly nurture the children that a couple – or a single parent – already has. Thus the church is mired in inescapable error, even though it claims to be infallible on this point. In this case infallible even for non-Catholics.

    In reality the secular institution of marriage can be legitimately framed as as having for its primary purpose sealing a pledge of companionable love between the marrying couple. Homosexuals getting married could fulfill this purpose.

    The secular institution of marriage could be further framed as having its primary purpose being generative love, loving foresight and nurturing care for the next generation and the generations that follow. Procreation followed by nurturing would be only one way to full the purpose of generative love. The concept itself suggests many ways that generative love can be expressed even by those without biological children.

    The secular institution of marriage can also be framed as a pledge by the cuple to be repsonible citiizens of their communities and as a pledge by their families (biological or otherwise) and friends to be supportive of the couple as they make a life together.

    Those Sacramental Christian groups that allow for gay marriage are far more advanced in their theology and their practice of building Christian community than the Catholic church. I do not know why the author even remains in the Catholic church.

    BTW, the popes of the 19800’s thundered out encyclicals condemning democracy as against the natural hierarchy embedded in Natural Law as ordained by God to be eternal and unchanging. Some time in the mid 1900’s the pope quietly rescinded these encyclicals – even though they were infallible and eternal. This was done quietly to avoid the embarrassment of having been so completely wrong about what they had to say about Natural Law. They pope did not want to undermine the right of himself, of future popes, to be infallible when speaking about their interpretations of Natural Law.

    A further BTW. This condemnation of democracy was why the then pope hated Abraham Lincoln and glorified Jefferson Davis as embodying the true order of society. His letter to Davis is an example of how overblown metaphors can lead to or reinforce intellectual errors. You can see a copy of the pope’s letter in the Museum of the Confederacy in New Orleans.

  • CitizenWhy

    One of the qualifications for the office bishop as laid out in the Bible is that a bishop be a married man. How come the RC church ignores this?

    How come women were present at Penetecost, when Holy Spirit enetered toose present and ordained them as priests?

    The only reason women are not ordained is tradition. The Bible is neutral or supportive. Current philosophic and theological knowledge of the dignity and equality of women has put aside the erroneous belief that women by nature are inferior to men. One of the aspects of this alleged inferiority in barring women form the priesthood has been that they are not “integer/whole” in their bodies because they have no penis. Really, you need to get beyond the superstitions of the Catholic church. Eunuchs were therefore also barrred from the priesthood.

  • CitizenWhy

    St. Maximus – a saint in both the Eastern and Western churches – taught that no one is saved until all humans are saved, thus opening the idea that even evil people have a chance to repent in the afterlife. His teachings were endorsed by the then pope, whom the emperor had beheaded for endorsing this teaching,. the emperor being the head of the church.. St. Maximus, however, was put on trail, condemned by the bishops who tried him, exiled. Later the bishops approved his his teachings as legitimate, allowable but not binding.

  • Dr. D

    I think every Catholic looking to better understand the traditions of the Church should read The History of the Catholic Church by James Hitchcock. You will see it is this new age of progressivism, not heterosexuals or men, that has a simplistic, narrow minded, backwards view of sexuality and gender. The Church has formulated its theology for 2,000+ years. It was not done overnight.

    If any Catholic (or non-Catholic) truly hold this view that the Church discriminates against homosexuals and women (which it doesn’t), then what stops you from believing God is not sexist? “Sexist” because Jesus, through the Incarnation, was born as a man. He spoke as an authority figure, a rabbi. He instructed his Apostles, which he personally chose were 12 men. He gave Peter the command to lead his flock and to begin a Church, telling him Matthew 16:18-19 “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

    There’s the view that God doesn’t care about (homo)sexuality because there aren’t any direct quotes in the New Testament from Jesus. Yet, there are multiple quotes from Jesus commanding us to not commit adultery or in Luke 18:16 “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

    Mary, why didn’t you mention anything about how the Church venerates the Blessed Mother, we have the most popular formal prayer in the Rosary which came from our Blessed Mother, and countless Saints that happen to be female?

    Also, a person called to the single vocation through chastity has 5 Sacraments; A person called to Holy Matrimony receives up to 6 Sacraments; a person called to the priesthood has 6 Sacraments. The point of the Sacraments is that there are 7, which signifies perfection, and also visible signs given to all of us as the body of Christ. 1 Cor 12:12 “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” So it is with the Sacraments!

  • Nobody

    Pure modernist nonsense.

  • Nobody

    There are seven and only seven sacraments, instituted by Christ and unchangeable in substance, to which man and woman in the case of marriage, and spiritual fatherhood – and thus manhood – in the case of orders, are essential. It is you, dear, who ought to rename the invalid rites of heretics – which is what you are by definition – and apostates to what they really are: sacraments of the Devil.

  • Dr. D

    Homosexual sex and contraceptive sex among heterosexuals is against natural law. There is nothing fruitful about sterile sex. Also, non-Catholic churches doing marriages are not “sacramental.” They are not much more advanced in their theology. Jesus instituted one Church as his bride; yet there are 42,000 in the US alone that claim to have that title. But Christ is not an adulterer. There is only one true Church. It is the only church that has withstood for the last 2,000 years.

    You’re right, it doesn’t make sense to stick with a church that someone wants to undermine. Jesus tells us his teachings aren’t easy to digest (John 6:50-70). I’d rather live my life according to my human desires too, but I do my best living for Christ because I know sin is real. And I feel horrible when I sin.

    Jesus tells us many times to not hinder children, or lead them astray for it would be better if that person (who led them astray) tie a millstone around their neck and drown in the depths of the sea. Does Jesus not come across as love or charitable there? Truth and Love are complementary, not in contradiction. And sometimes love hurts. “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” – Blessed Mother Theresa

    I hope people do come to the Church, not to undermine it, but to be freed by it. If there are genuine concerns regarding the Church and how to make it better, people shouldn’t leave. They should be active in their parish groups.

  • phatkhat

    Here’s the rub. YOU believe in YOUR church 100%. It’s the ONLY correct and infallible one. Well, there are, for example, Pentecostals who feel the same way about THEIR church, and they view YOU as not even Christian at all!

    This is how religious wars get started. Fighting over gods is stupid and unproductive. You have a right to believe as you do. Mary has a right to believe as she does. And I have a right to be an atheist. See how simple it is to live and let live?

  • phatkhat

    It amazes me, as an atheist, to view the incredibly medieval views and dogma of hardcore Roman Catholics. Wow. Should Ms. Hunt be burned at the stake, do you think?

  • Jason

    A very simple and logical point that few seem to comprehend when it comes to religious absolutism. Well said.

  • Jason

    It amazes me how seriously in-depth people will delve into interpretations of bronze-age myths, and scriptures that have no relevance as to how we should base our moral code and social/ethical standards as human beings in the modern age. Who cares what these ancient man-made texts (evidence otherwise, please??) have to say about anything related to ethics, morality, and law, at all?! We have Science, Logic, Philosophy, Reason….Free your minds people!!

  • Craptacular

    ” I’d rather live my life according to my human desires too, but I do my best living for Christ because I know sin is real. And I feel horrible when I sin.” – Dr. D

    The last part doesn’t seem to fit with your first sentence…you’d rather live your life according to your human desires, even though you feel horrible when you do?

  • Dr. D

    Well, the difference is the Catholic Church was the only church for 1500 years. So anyone that broke off and thinks they are the correct church is on the wrong side of history and tradition. You speak live and let live, yet you took the energy and time to tell me how you feel about this topic. So you didn’t live and let live.

  • Dr. D

    What I’m trying to say is: without the grace of God, I would be blind to my own sins and think that desires of the flesh are good for me. But because I pray for God’s guidance and grace, and have tried to read the Bible, I am aware of sin and its effect on me and others. So when I do sin, I feel horrible because it makes me feel unclean.

  • phatkhat

    The Pentecostals – and, yes, I used to be one – feel that Christianity survived for those 1500 years IN SPITE OF the RC church, not because of it. Their belief is as valid as yours, like it or not. Religious beliefs are just that, beliefs, and have no factual foundation. You must take it on faith. And what you believe is, well, pretty unbelievable.

    You do know the story of Constantine, do you not? HE founded the church out of a motley bunch of believers. Jesus was a Jew. A rabbi. He wasn’t trying to start a new religion at all. His followers deified him later, and blended his life story with the life stories of other god-men. Jesus as a god is not unique. As a teacher/rabbi, much more so.

    I certainly believe in live and let live. You, sir, do not. So I MUST speak, if I wish to maintain my own freedom. There are a lot of conservative Christians who would love the sort of theocratic state that existed in medieval times. You know, when they burnt heretics at the stake. Ironically, most of them are NOT Catholic, but fundy protestants. It would be most unpleasant to live in a theocracy, and even worse to live in a state of warfare between Christian sects vying for supremacy.