Friday, July 29, 2005

Scenes from Along the Slippery Slope

Women's Ordination and the Roman Catholic Church
In a story dated July 26, 2005, nine women were supposedly "ordained" as priests and deacons in the Roman Catholic Church by three women who, in 2003, had supposedly been consecrated as bishops. None of the women involved are recognized by the Church of Rome; seven women who had been "ordained" in 2002 were excommunicated. The ceremony took place on a tour boat cruising the St. Lawrence River in what a participant described as "international waters" -- thus being outside the jurisdiction of any American or Canadian dioceses. The justification for their action was reported in a quote from one of the women who became a "deacon" in the ceremony. She said, "I believe it's valid even if it's against the law of the Church, because it is an unjust law."

Oh, so that's how it works! I think it's unjust/unfair/immoral, and so it can be set aside, 'cause I think that what I want is just and fair and moral, despite what anyone else may have taught or thought. This, of course, is a recipe for anarchy.

Those familiar with the history of the Episcopal Church USA will recall a similar step onto the slippery slope with the illegal -- oh, sorry, how judgmental of me -- "irregular" ordinations of eleven women as priests in 1974. This violation of their own Constitution and Canons was "resolved" in 1976 when the General Convention of the Episcopal Church "regularized" these ordinations by approving the ordination of women. After that came the consecration of a woman as a bishop; changes to the church's practices regarding the ordination of practicing homosexuals; a spread of the blessing (as marriages) of same-sex unions; and the consecration as bishop of a man who left his wife and children to enter into a relationship with another man. So far, Rome has avoided following the Anglicans down that part of the slippery slope; but watch out if any of these illegal/irregular ordinations are ever recognized...

Of course, the Orthodox Church is not immune; there are, in our midst, those who disagree with this or that teaching of the Church -- including those who think that the Church has been "wrong" for almost 2,000 years -- certainly, since the disappearance of the order of deaconesses from the life and ministry of the Church -- regarding the question of the ordination of women. How long will it be, one must wonder, before a similar ceremony takes place involving those who claim to be Orthodox Christians?

The Slave Trade in Europe
Sounds as if this is the title for an article on the Middle Ages, doesn't it? And yet it is of growing concern today. As this news report points out, the economic distresses of the former Eastern bloc of nations, and, in particular, among the states of the former Soviet Union, has led to an increasing trade in young women for the sex industry in western Europe. Things have gotten so bad in some areas that friends and even family members are luring young women with the prospect of jobs in the west; and, once these women have arrived, they find themselves working, not as waitresses or au pairs or in a massage parlor, but sold into a brothel. Some who manage to escape and make their way home are not taken seriously when they tell of their experiences; and so those responsible for selling them are usually able to continue their activities.

Reading this news report, I couldn't help but think of our Lord's teaching about the conditions as the end of time draws near, as found in the 24th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. He speaks about the "shortening of the days," without which no one would be saved. We think we've come so far; and in many ways, we have. Slavery in the United States was ended with the Civil War, in the mid-nineteenth century. Of course, slavery had been ended before that time in both Great Britain and Russia. Yet the depravity of human beings continues to be demonstrated, as evidenced by accounts such as the news story above. Are we getting better; or are we getting worse?

Canada Approves Same-Sex Unions
Last week, the Canadian legislature set Canada on the path to follow the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain by approving legislation to permit the recognition of same-sex unions as marriages. The measure needs the approval of the Governor-General to go into effect. In part, the measure was driven by a series of court decisions in seven different Canadian provinces, which found that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was violated by legislation in the provinces limiting marriage to the union of a man and a woman.

It seems that judicial activism isn't limited to the United States. It was a similar court decision which led to the requirement in Massachusetts that same-sex unions be permitted as marriages. The message of these situations is clear, at least for those in favor of this action: Don't give up. Keep pushing. Sooner or later, you will find a judge favorable to your situation. For those who oppose the recognition of homosexual marriages, and pin their hopes on legislation and constitutional amendments, be warned: no such "victory" is permanent. All of us who hold to the traditional view of marriage must not only teach our children what we believe and why; but do our very best to persuade others to our point of view. Otherwise, we will lose to those whose appeal to the questions of fairness, freedom, and equality -- all valued parts of our society -- to argue on behalf of such recognition. When morality becomes subject to what we think is right, rather than what God has revealed, we will find ourselves irretrievably down the slippery slope.

It is also worth noting that leaders of the Catholic Church in Canada have threatened that children of same-sex couples might not be baptized; as the unions are not recognized by the church as being valid marriages. The archbishop of Quebec, Cardinal Marc Oullet, is quoted as saying, "If I take the example of the ceremony of baptism, according to our canon law, we cannot accept the signatures of two fathers or two mothers as parents of an infant."

Again, we must wonder: How long will it be before our Orthodox bishops, and now, especially, those with jurisdiction in Canada, must face a similar challenge?