In response to the Holy Father's recent call for more contemplation on the theology of woman in the Church, I submit the following:
Mary is the Church in person: Mother of God and Bride of the Holy Spirit.
Mary, at the wedding of Cana, makes known the needs of the bride and groom to Our Lord. He seems to suggest that Providence hadn't necessarily ordered a miracle at this point, but bows to her suggestion that it should (He demonstrates the correctness of the Scotian idea of 'befittingness' as opposed to 'necessity'). He works His first miracle in obedience to Her.
The Church, like Mary, is given the power to bind and to loosen. She makes known the needs of mankind to God. She asks Him to apply His justice mercifully. She does not, as proverbs says, spare the rod and spoil the child, but she applies the rod first to herself, her heart pierced seven times.
It has been wisely said, if with tongue in cheek, that the husband as head of the home makes all the decisions; the wife makes known her needs, and the needs of the children, and the husband decides to do it.
This is true, and I think what Our Lady does, and what the Church does with God.
A major problem in our generation has been, however, the notion that the Church must adopt a 'searching' attitude, a 'dialogical' attitude in speaking to her children. Many in the Church say that the Church as our Mother is merciful and gentle because she is alongside us in searching for the truth, for the answers of Our Lord.
This is nonsense, as we all know, because the mercy of the Church is that she binds and loosens according to God's mercy, not in ignorance. She binds as one does a wound, not as a jailer. She loosens like water breaking, like the overflow of baptism, like Peter and Paul escaping from prison. She frees men to make vows. She heals men so that they can work and undergo the passion.
Mary, the Queen of us all, our Mother at the hospital bedside of Fatima and Lourdes, like Moses through the Red Sea of Purgatory: this is the revelation of what the Church must be.
And what the "role" of women is, in the Church.
Queenship is not being a lector, nor an "EMHC", nor an altar server. Mary was not an Apostle. She is the Domina, and dominates the world as a Mother does her home. Not overbearingly, not stridently, not from the 'front', but from the heart. She embues her home. She animates it. She dominates you in the way your heart dominates you, not in the way your mind does.
Which is why women do not serve in the liturgy. Men serve women, men are at the service of women who are the heart of the home. The priest is at the service of the Church, The Woman at Mass. The Woman is to be assisted, not to assist, for She is about to give birth. The men hurry to build her a home, even if only a stable. Rush to her side to be of service as she labors to bear Her Son.
To "solve the "problem" of the "role" of women in the Church by making them altar servers, EMHCs, and lectors, is to trivialize their queenship. Mary is already Queen of the apostles. Altar serving would be a demotion.
The Eucharist is the most important thing. All the culture, laws, institutions, and offices of the Church are to provide the sacraments, and protect their nature, preserve them intact so that they can be given to the people.
The Blessed Sacrament is the most important and the center of all the other sacraments. It's the worship of the Incarnate Christ, here on earth, and the center of the Gospel.
In the Gospel, Christ gives us baptism, which makes divine life in us possible. Confirmation is the fruition of baptism.
Baptism cleans the house so that Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament can live in us. The Blessed Sacrament is the point of baptism. "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you."
So: I'd say if you are baptised, you are baptised into the Church, you are made ready for Divine Life. You are made receptive to the Divine Life of Holy Communion. If you remain oriented towards Our Lord, you retain your baptismal grace. If you sin, you require absolution in the sacrament of Penance. This returns you to the proper orientation. So the orientation to, the preparedness for Jesus is the essence of baptism. But the purpose of that orientation, that preparation is Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, in the full presence of Him, body, blood, soul and divinity.
Just as when Our Lord exorcised the young man and said that if you drive out seven demons, but do not replace them with anything, with Life, evil spirits with the Holy Spirit, demons will return worse than before. Supernature abhors a vacuum. Just so, we are baptised so that God can make a home in us. And God is present in the flesh in the Blessed Sacrament.
So, even though Baptism brings us into the Church, the fullness of communion is to be at one with the Body of Christ, the Church, by receiving the literal Body of Christ in the Mass. To be in communion with Our Lord, you have to bring Him into the home he has prepared through Baptism. He is brought into you in Holy Communion.
In order to have the Blessed Sacrament, of course, our Eucharistic Liturgy must be apostolic, and we know it is apostolic through the succession of the apostles.
So the office of Apostle, made present in the successors to the Apostles, the bishops, exists to serve the Eucharist. It exists to preserve and keep present to those who need it (namely everyone), the nature of the sacraments, above all the Blessed Sacrament. The world cannot be saved without the sacraments, so their nature must be safeguarded by the apostolic office. The bishop exists to protect and provide the Eucharist.
So, since we need baptism in order to receive the Eucharist, we get baptised. And because we need the apostles to preserve and safeguard the Eucharist, we make sure to stay in communion with the apostolic office, namely the bishop.
Now, the Roman bishop has always had the supreme office of safeguarding the sacraments. As all bishops exist to safeguard the sacraments (the culture of which is the liturgy and the faith/doctrine---"the law of praying is the law of believing"), the Roman bishop as the successor to Peter has always held a unique office, to keep present the work of Peter as head and anchor of the Apostles. As Peter "strengthened the brethren" and "fed my sheep" and was "the rock upon which I will build my Church", he not only maintained and preserved and made available the sacraments, but maintained and preserved and spread the apostolic brotherhood, the order of the apostles and their successors. His final See was Rome, and his successors always, in all the ancient Christian teaching and correspondence from the beginning, were believed by the other bishops to keep present in the world the work of St. Peter: maintaining the unity of the bishops, and in that the unity of their flocks by preserving the nature of the sacraments (and in that the liturgy and doctrine) so that means of salvation would never be extinguished (faith is the means of salvation, but saving faith is always incarnate, that is what a sacrament is: incarnate faith).
Bishops exist to preserve pure and provide readily the means of salvation, the sacraments. The Roman Bishop exists to preserve pure and intact the episcopal office. The bishops protect and provide the sacraments. The Roman Pontiff protects and provides the purity of the episcopal office. Without the bishop, no sacraments. Without the Roman Pontiff, no episcopal purity, no unity, ultimately no episcopacy.
Without Peter, only a vaporized church of warring, pharisaical clerics, as history has always shown. Clerics who always immediately abandon the sacraments (definition of clericalism: sacerdos without sacer, a bishop or priest who neglects sacraments, becomes a cleric, a clerk, a philosopher, a desk-jockey, a podium-jockey, substituting conference tables for sacred altars).
John was a mystic, sure, but why was Peter made the Pope? Because he was the elder brother, he was the father of the Apostles, he was deepest penitent, he was the confessor who could not hold back both his confession of sins, and his confession of faith. John was the first of those "strengthened" by Peter, to see this
powerful, able leader of men, confess his faith and later his love for Jesus. Peter was the pope because he knew within himself that the confession of faith was the confession of sins, the confession that he who says "arise, walk, your sins are forgiven you" is the King, not he who judges, but He who heals. That one must not just confess one's inability to live the law ("the law is a curse") but that one must confess that failure with still the love of Job, Moses, David, blessing the name of the Lawgiver, and confessing one's faith that He will, has healed you. Diagnosis is the work of the priest, not judgement. Diagnosis always followed by medicine, so that he does not "lay on burdens he does not help to carry", the medicine of his own penance, humiliation, and martyrdom, because the medicine the bishop can give is his blood poured out, Christ's blood vicarious.
The faith of St. Peter is to know one's sins, and to confess Sin, one's own sins, and also to confess faith that love for Christ triumphs, that Christ is God and has the power and authority to love you and forgive you. And it is a realization that we can never make up for the evils we have committed against others, and can never take it back, and even if Christ forgives, those whom we have hurt may not. And it is a realization that the only way we can atone for these sins is to forgive those who sin against us, and to repay them with a life of penance for them, and to love our neighbor not as we love ourselves, but as Christ loves him. So the faith of Peter is the determination to "be bound by others and led where you do not want to go", to be crucified with and by his brothers, and as his Lord was, on Vatican hill. To be crucified by a sinner to save his soul and his own together.
It is the humility to ask Jesus to bring him before his brother, John, who saw him run away, and to take up the responsibility to lead, without pride or confidence in his own competence. That is why Peter asks Our Lord on the beach about John. Because John did not run away from Calvary, like Peter did. He is humiliated before John. And that is why he is pope.
So does one have to submit to the governance of the successor of Peter in order to be saved? It seems clear that the Christian faith, the faith of the Gospels, tells us that to be saved one needs the sacraments. That is, one needs the faith of Peter "you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Moreover, the faith of the one who confesses not just his own sinfulness, but confesses the power of Jesus to forgive what he has done. Confesses the power and will of Christ that the brotherhood be strengthened and fed. That they may all be one. That the Advocate is more powerful than the Adversary.
To be saved, you must have the faith that the Roman Pontiff offers you, the confession of Peter that the pope keeps present in the world through his office. Yes, absolutely. You must believe in the Incarnate Son of God, and love Him and keep fidelity to Him as far as you are instructed. You must pursue Him, like Peter, leaping naked into the sea and swimming ashore to confess your sins, confess your belief in His power to forgive you, to forgive your enemies, to make you love your enemies, and to heal you, and then eat the food He has prepared on the fire ( of the Holy Ghost), His flesh, His Sacred Heart, Himself, His very friendship, His Person.
Does that mean you must be ecclesially governed by the Roman Pontiff? It seems to me that if you arrive at the conclusion of the logic, but "go away sad" for "this is a hard saying, who can bear it?" then there is a problem. The New Law must arise in our hearts with joy and be taken up as a joyful cross "for my yoke is easy." It is not meant to be imposed. But it is a cross.
You must share the faith of the Roman bishop. I don't know if you have to be governed by him to be saved. But it does seem that when we see that his office was instituted by Christ to maintain the unity of His family, to safeguard the nature of the means of salvation, so that the means by which we are saved, namely the sacraments, will never be snuffed out, then it seems necessary, in the sense that it seems natural, that we must be ruled by the Roman bishop, too.
I don't know if we have to be ruled by him in order to be saved. It does seem that we mustn't rebel against him, knowing what his office is.
The Eucharist is the center of the universal Christian faith. Everything serves that. And since the Roman bishop is the always-and-everywhere protector and provider of the sacraments, it seems natural to be in communion with him not only in spirit but in living as well.
In Scripture, all waters are manifestations of, and forebears and children of the primordial and apocalyptic waters of Baptism. The chaotic abysses of Genesis reappear in the Red Sea, and again rebel against God in the Sea of Galilee. Christ subdues them there through the faith of Peter. Peter alone walks across the chaotic, diseased waters, allowing his faith to place the waters under the Redeemer's dominion. The faith of Peter transforms fallen waves into the salt and water of Baptism. He submerges but is raised up. To be baptised, you are by necessity with Peter because there is no one else out there on the waves but you, Christ, and Peter.
To be saved you must have the faith and confession of St. Peter. It seems only just to have Peter also.
No, he is not a rad trad, unfortunately (radical coming from radix, meaning 'back to the root, makes 'rad trad' a redundancy). His de-emphasis, so far, on worship precludes that.
However in his ideas, even the ones that strike many of us as modernist, he might actually be a shrewd cutting edge presentation of the traditional faith.
When he says we mustn't focus on abortion, sodomy, and contraception, to the exclusion of focusing on unemployment, poverty, the bereft elderly, etc., he is in fact teaching from the Catechism OF TRENT.
There are 4 sins that, according to Trent, cry to heaven for vengeance. See this post by Taylor Marshall.
Francis is simply reminding us that we will be damned not ONLY because we murder our innocents and sterilize ourselves, but because we steal from the worker and ignore the widow, dishonor our parents, and fail the fatherless.
And honestly these are the sins in which everyone indulges, not just the non-Catholics. The latter two sins are the real danger within the Church.
Thank God the Church has finally begun to purify herself of the ambiguity towards abortion, contraception, and sodomy that we saw in the 70's, 80's, and 90's.
We haven't begun (except for Dorothy Day and other un-heeded thinkers) to purge our laxity in economics, however.
While most Catholics know that we mustn't abort, sterilize, and sodomize (even if the majority still do so), practically NO Catholics know that they are responsible for ending the latter two sins that cry to heaven for vengeance in their own lives.
Our economy has sucked us in, our personal and collective choices as a people have sucked us into a usurious 'free' market to which we can blithely pass the buck of responsibility for our neighbors. We use the laws of the market to justify sins that the bible clearly condemns, such as taking interest from our neighbor, inflating the currency in which the worker is paid, and the savings of the elderly.
And we 'conservatives' have the nerve to be outraged by CRS and CCHD scandals? Have we offered a traditional alternative?
We have not had the courage to consider radical alternatives to the American, Enlightenment way of economy.
When, we the Church, do wipe the sleep out of our eyes, and consider the need for charity, we too often deputize systems, big-government and big-economy systems. We rarely care for our neighbors, assuming systems will provide care. We too often donate to, and support causes or projects, rather than being with, eating with, living and working with our neighbors.
We need to return to a Biblical economy, one that has at it's purpose not individualism, but the communal worship of God. Cardinal Ratzinger has a good chapter on this in "The Spirit of The Liturgy". The land was given to the people so that they would have a place to worship God. Instead all to often Israel used the land as the place in which to pursue their interests, their livings. The Temple was the shrunken space left for God's rights and interests. The other 99% of the land was for natural and, eventually, unnatural pursuits.
God must reign everywhere, temple and land alike. The church is his throne, the land his home, his footstool, where he puts up his feet at the end of a long, hard day, and rests in the company of his children and sings a love song to his wife.
We must be in solidarity with every brother and sister, not just our family and friends. We have to love our enemies, not just as ourselves, but as Our Lord loves them, in penance, suffering, making their good our good. Willing the good for them, at the cost of our own penance and care.
We 'conservatives' have been complacent about the sins that cry to heaven for vengeance. That we have erected our own culture of vengeance--wars against terrorism, punishments against criminals-- is a hypocrisy God can overlook only because of His great mercy and care for us.
Pope Francis is right. The great evil of our time is the abuse of the widow and the fatherless. And our collective fraud against the laborer. We must purge interest-taking from our lives. We must visit the widows, the single mothers, the victims of divorce, the fatherless children. We must protect children from abuse. We must honor our parents and care for them, and be humble to them.
Fr. Vincent McNabb had several chapters in his book on social teaching saying much the same as Francis: that the Church must proclaim the necessity of the natural law, the goodness of family life and matrimony, but that she must likewise proclaim her social teaching.
He said it is alot to ask of people living in city apartments, on small wages, working long hours, and most inhuman of all, bereft-- because of our individualistic, mobile, rootless, career-centered, option intoxicated economy-- of community support.
Francis is saying much the same. To convert youth away from temptations of abortion, contraception, fornication, etc. (and to heal the temptations of married people to adultery, divorce, contraception, etc.) we must live rooted, Christian communities, supporting one another, building each other homes, helping each other in times of need, employing one another, godparenting, etc., sharing, welcoming the stranger and sojourner as Christ. To 'restore tradition' we must honor our father and mother, not 'retire' them from family life and governance, not consign them to the system.
Our homes and parishes must restore the tradition of hospitality. As Francis said, the Church is a 'field hospital' for the walking wounded. The domestic Church is where those wounded souls are sent to convalesce.