Pope Benedict XVI once again denounced the ordination of women and the abolition of priestly celibacy in the Roman Catholic Church during a stern Holy Thursday address.
Delivering his homily this past Thursday in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Benedict said the ban on female priests was a “divine constitution,” as Jesus chose only men to be his apostles during the Last Supper.
Surrounded by more than 1,600 priests, bishops and cardinals, the Pope stressed that he would not tolerate disobedience about these issues.
With all due respect, Pope Benedict is blind to the realities of the early Apostolic Church. And far too many highly-placed contemporary Church leaders spend more time reading L’Osservatore Romano than they do reading the signs of the times.
Very early in the history of our Church, there was a conviction that what Jesus taught and did should be faithfully remembered but not necessarily repeated in all the forms in which the first disciples received it.
Apostolic imagination and institutional creativity in the post-Resurrection Church.
Things the historic Jesus never directed, became normative in the Apostolic Church:
(1) By Baptism, in the Christian community, Gentiles were accepted as equal to Jews.
(2) A New Testament was written.
(3) Four different Gospels interpret Jesus Christ in four different theologies.
(4) A sacramental system is created with great fluidity and a variety of rituals.
(5) A plurality of ministries emerges based on individual charisms and community approval.
(6) Paul, who never met the historic Jesus is considered an apostle.
(7) Women are given the title “apostle.”
The processes of theological and structural creativity continued into the post-Apostolic Church.
(1) The Council of Nicea described Jesus in ways that the historic Jesus (along with Paul and other apostolic witnesses) would have never ever used: the Son as “consubstantial with the Father.”
(2) The Council at Ephesus described Mary in terminology the early Apostolic Church would have rejected: “Mother of God.”
(3) The Roman Papacy became an authoritarian power structure.
And the process continued…….and continues…..and must continue. Long ago I learned the old principle of Catholic life: “Ecclesia est semper ipse sed numquam idem.” (“The Church is always itself but never the same.” That should be emblazoned on every bishop’s coat of arms!
Resurrection is about on-going new life. On-going Apostolic Imagination.