Ontology and Sacraments

I’ve been continuing to ponder things sacramental, which is always likely to get me into trouble.  I realised recently that I have been teaching the Orthodox view of ordination all wrong, mixing it in with the Catholic view. In this discovery, I realised that opposition to the ordination of women has a different basis on either side of the Great Schism. From this I realised that there are significantly differing views on the ontology of (at least some of) the sacraments.

No doubt there will be theologians, professional and amateur, most of who would never bother to visit this blog, who would say (if they were to visit it), “Well, duh.” Those would of course be Valley Girl theologians, but there would be other theologians who would have a similar, if less blonde, response, incredulous that I have not already explored this in some depth and embarrassed for me that I even feel the need to write about it and demonstrate my ignorance.

I already knew that Orthodoxy did not subscribe to the Catholic idea of the indelible priestly character. However, I hadn’t thought about the implication of this being that in Orthodoxy a woman may not be a priest, whereas in Catholicism a woman cannot be a priest.

I suppose this is why the idea of deaconesses is considered seriously in some Orthodox circles. If it were demonstated (as some attempt to do) that deaconesses were the female equivalent of deacons at some time in the ancient past, then the precedent has been established in Holy Tradition that could eventually lead to such an equivalency being re-introduced. It seems to follow from this that the only thing preventing women priests in Orthodoxy is that it has never been done that way. Admittedly, this is a pretty high wall when it comes to Orthodoxy.  It does however, remove the ontological impossiblity. (While I have been writing and editing this, there has been a related discussion on Deacon Steve Hayes’ Khanya blog.)

One thing I don’t get is how the Catholic Church only sees three of the sacraments as unrepeatable, viz., Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders. I seems to me that Marriage should fit in this category as well. After all, Catholic theology does not recognise remarriage after divorce. Does this not make the sacrament of marriage unrepeatable? It also seems like there should be an indelible married character, that there is an ontological (as opposed to a merely economic) aspect to becoming one flesh.

I don’t know if Orthodoxy considered ordination, not being indelible, to be unrepeatable. Can a laicised Orthodox cleric be re-clericised? I’m sure there is a textbook answer to such a question.

The Divorced Patriarch

How am I the last to find out that Patriarch Alexei was divorced?

I was reading his obituary in The Daily Telegraph and it says at the very end: “He married, in 1950, Vera Alekseeva, the daughter of a priest from Tallinn, but the marriage was dissolved within a year.” But somehow I missed this in the Wikipedia article about him and various other sources.

He got married on Tuesday, deaconed on Friday, and priested on Sunday, all in the same week.

Now I used to know a man who was an Orthodox priest (though admittedly not a Russian), whose wife ran off with someone else and divorced him and he was defrocked as a result. I understood this to be the more normative response to the divorce of clergy. Yet not only did this not prevent Alexei from continuing as a priest, but it was also not a bar to the episcopate and further elevation within that.

How does this work, exactly?

Forcing Sex Education on Five-Year-Olds

I ignored this story when I first saw it in the Daily Mail, but it is all over the news now. The Government plans to teach compulsory sex education in England from the age of 5. Ministers may not even allow for parents to withdraw their children. In other words, unless parents can afford a private school or opt to homeschool, their very young children will be subjected to a combination of the National Curriculum requirements and the bias of their particular school teacher.

Schools Minister Jim Knight thinks sex and relationships education from age five is needed to combat the ‘earlier sexualisation’ of youngsters. It is the usual sex education policy of fighting fire with fire. So if small children are going to see sexual imagery in every exposre to the media, the best thing is to explain it all to them. Even at Key Stage 1 (ages 5-7) teachers will be told not to duck discussions about ‘explicit sexual matters’ if they are raised by pupils. They don’t actually have to teach about sexual intercourse until Key Stage 2 (ages 7-11).

State schools that are faith-based will be allowed to include their own guidance and values in the curriculum. For Catholic schools, that is rather clearly defined. I’m not sure what it means for Church of England schools, since the C of E’s own values about sexuality seem in quite a state of flux. But in nondenominational non-faith state schools, there will only be guidance from the government. As Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice, was quoted in The Independent, this is a Government that wants to see “a whole generation fornicating”, something I’ve been saying for a long time.

The other guidance will be form the lifestyles of the teachers themselves. I can’t see how fornicating teachers will be teaching about sex as appropriate only with the context of marriage. If they were to do so, their hypocrisy would undermine what they are saying. As much as teachers may try to keep their private lives private, pupils eventually know whether a teacher is married or living with a “partner”.  Children observing and under the influence of hedonistic teachers can hardly be expected to follow a different path.

Fatwa Rules Paedophilia Preferable to Christianity

Following up on the the previous story, I was looking to see what other WordPress bloggers might have said about the kidnapping, forced conversion and forced marriage of the Younis sisters. That’s where I found Blogging for a free world referring to information from Minorities Concern of Pakistan.

Even though the legal marriage age in Pakistan is 16 for females, this was negated by a fatwa – a decree issued by religious leaders – which justified it. It was worth it to them that the girls be kidnapped, sold as property, and then sexually abused in order to effect their conversion to Islam.

Reports indicate exactly what has happened to Saba Younis, the elder sister. After Muhammad Arif Bajwa kidnapped the girls at gunpoint, he sold them to Falak Sher Gill. Gill then gave Saba to his son, Muhammad Amjid. To whom Anila has been given seems to be unknown at this point.

In contravention of the statutory law, a Pakistani court has previously approved of the marriage of a 12-year-old because it ruled that Islam allows a female to marry if she has reached puberty. However, in that case it appears that the girl wanted to marry. Of course in that case, both parties were Muslim.

It now appears that special rules apply if the girl is a Christian and doesn’t consent. Puberty need not be an issue.

Remember to file this under “All religions and cultures are equal.”

Pre-teen Christian Girls Forced to Convert and Marry

Another one for the all religions and all cultures are equal file . . .

Saba and Anila Younis, sisters from a Christian family. They are 12 and 10 years old respectively. They were kidnapped on June 26 on their way to their uncle’s house in the Punjab province of Pakistan. When their father went to the police to complain about the kidnapping, he was threatened. By the 28th, their kidnappers had married them and filed with the police for custody of them. Their husbands declared that the girls had converted to Islam.

Apparently in Pakistan if a man finds a 10-year-old that he just can’t resist, he kidnaps her. If she’s not Muslim, he wants her converted, because even though it is legal for a Muslim man to marry a non-Muslim woman, there’s no reason he should have to have a kafir as one of his wives. I’m not sure if a man has to file for custody of any of his wives in Pakistan, or if it is just for those under 13.

As reported by Ecumenical News International, a court has agreed that the forced conversion was pefectly legal. There appears to have been to no challenge to the legality of the forced marriage.

This is by no means a unique situation. In a blog describing the hundreds of forced conversions to Islam in Pakistan, there is a quote from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telling President Musharraf at a 2005 meeting that Pakistan is “a model country for the Muslim world”.

Indescriminate Baptism

I like Charlotte Church. I bear her no personal animosity in any way. I just thought I ought to say that before I continue.

Charlotte and her boyfriend Gavin Henson had their daughter Ruby baptised today. Their other child was present in utero. When I first saw the headline in the news, I assumed that the baptism was in a building belonging to the Church in Wales – the Welsh component of the Anglican Communion. After all, Anglicans take a wide range of views on the propriety of certain types of relationships. If they are willing to marry gay couples in London, it does not seems unreasonable to suppose they might baptise the child born out of wedlock to two people living very openly (as celebrities do) in fornication.

But no, it was a Roman Catholic church with, one must presume, a Roman Catholic priest, using, again one must presume, a Roman Catholic rite of baptism. In 1980, Pope John Paul II approved of the “Instruction on Infant Baptism” promulgated by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It specifically addresses the Dialogue Between Pastors and Families With Little Faith or Non-Christian Families:

In fact the Church can only accede to the desire of these parents if they give an assurance that, once the child is baptized, it will be given the benefit of the Christian upbringing required by the sacrament. The Church must have a well-founded hope that the Baptism will bear fruit.

How can the Church have assurance that the child will have a Christian upbringing when the parents have no regard for the sacrament of marriage? I have no problem with the baptism of children born out of wedlock, if their parents have subsequently gotten married. Otherwise, how can the parents acknowledge at the font their duty to raise the child to keep God’s commandments?

Charlotte wants to have six children by the time she is 32. She has not indicated when, along the way, she plans to enter into the sacrament of marriage. But like I said, my problem isn’t with Charlotte. She is living in perfect harmony with the spirit of the age and that is the life she has chosen.

My problem is with a church possessing valid sacraments demonstrating a very unguarded approach to their administration and sending a message that the church has given up on the exclusivity of marriage as the valid relationships within which to engage in sexual relationship and raise children.

No Place for Conscience

A registrar in the champagne socialist London borough of Islington wants to opt out of officiating at gay weddings. It’s not like there aren’t plenty of registrars in the borough who are willing to do the deed.

Lillian Ladele has the distinct disadvantage of being a Christian whose beliefs and conscience are violated in performing such ceremonies. She’s having to sue to try to keep her conscience and her job. Until this year, registrars had a conscience opt-out.

But as with so many of the moral boundary changes enacted by the Labour Government, conscience matters for nothing in this area. After all, if they are going to force all the Catholic adoption agencies to shut down rather than actively provide services to gay couples, what chance do individuals of conscience stand?

Ben Summerskill, of Stonewall, the homosexual rights group, said: “Doctors and nurses can’t choose who they treat, and nor should a registrar be allowed to discriminate.” Too bad he’s wrong. Doctors and nurses can choose not to do procedures which violate their conscience. That’s why there’s a shortage of abortionists in this county, even though we have the some of the most liberal abortion laws in Europe.

Of course the local council is not prevented from accommodating individual registrars, as long as the council’s registry office does not deny the opportunity for the state to officially such unions. But we are talking about Islington. It’s either give in to the spirit of the age or hit the road. A council spokesman said: “Islington council will be robustly defending its position at the employment tribunal.”