Dr Lavinia Byrne

Over at First Things George Weigel comments on the opinion of Dr Lavinia Byrne. Byrne is an ex Catholic nun who is still hopping mad that the Catholic Church did not follow the Anglican lead in ordaining women in the 1990s. Weigel quotes Lav:

If in the 1990s, the [Catholic] Church had followed the example of the Anglican communion and had accepted the ordination of women, it would look very different nowadays. . . . Had there been ordination of women we would not have had parishes that are starved of the sacraments because there simply aren’t enough young men coming forward who are prepared to be celibate and prepared to labor on their own.

Weigel agrees that the Catholic Church today would be very different: it would be empty like the Anglican Churches are. At the end of his article George observes,

Christian communities that know and defend their doctrinal and moral boundaries (while extending the compassion of Christ when we fail to live within those boundaries, as we all do) survive in modernity; some actually flourish and become robustly evangelical. Conversely, Christian communities whose doctrinal and moral boundaries are eroded by the new orthodoxy of political correctness, and become so porous that it becomes impossible to know if one is “in” or “out,” wither and die.

That is the sad state of Anglicanism in the North Atlantic world today: Even splendid liturgical smells-and-bells can’t save an Anglicanism hollowed out by the shibboleths of secular modernity. Why British Catholics like Lavinia Byrne can’t see this is one of the mysteries of the 21st-century Church.

Being a refugee from the Church of England perhaps I can explain the mystery somewhat. Lavinia Byrne and the other progressives in the church do not understand the correlation between the radical liberal agenda and empty churches because they are deluded ideologues. The deluded ideologue is so convinced that his particular plan to make the world a better place is right that everything else is viewed through this lens. What kind of a lens is it? It’s one of those fish eye lenses in which a central image looms large and everything else seems to be subject to it and turn toward it. It is a kind of mono-vision.

Mono vision ideologues believe that the problem with the world is that their particular plan hasn’t been implemented, and if it is implemented and the problems continue, then it hasn’t been implemented enough. This is where force comes in. Since their plan hasn’t been implemented enough they have to force it on other people for their own good. If it is then implemented further, and the problems still continue, then that is because it still hasn’t been implemented enough so there will be another round of force until it becomes implemented and accepted even more. This cycle of insanity will continue because there will always be another group, another church, another nation who need to have their magic cure implemented.

Because the mono vision ideologue is so convinced of their particular plan they cannot understand–they really cannot understand why anyone else could not see what they see and want to implement their plan which (to them) is completely obvious and plain. So, to use women’s ordination as an example, these obsessed individuals were totally and utterly convinced that having women ordained would be the salvation of the Church of England–indeed of the whole of Christianity. They went on their long campaign to implement this innovation.

Then when the Catholic Church demurred, when we said, “It ain’t gonna happen because it can’t happen.” they were flustered, bewildered and flabbergasted. In 1994 when Pope St John Paul II issued Ordinatio Sacerdotalis saying, We declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful. Archbishop George Carey (who had engineered the Church of England’s acceptance of women priests) spluttered, “We need to seek further clarification…” That was exactly the truth. He didn’t get it. He didn’t understand that the Pope could not see and accept what was, for him, totally obvious. In the last three weeks I have had two Anglicans say to me with a straight face, “Probably within the next five years or so the Roman Catholic Church will have women priests.” They need to seek further clarification. But they will not be able to see it no matter how long we explain because they are mono vision ideologues.

They really believe the solution to the church’s problems is women priests, and if the church continues to have problems, then it is because there are not enough women priests or because women are not bishops yet. And if the church continues to have problems, indeed if the church continues to decline and fall into nothing it will never be the fault of those with the modernist agenda. It will be the fault of all the old fashioned, hide bound, patriarchal conservatives who resisted the innovations and caused division.

This is what it’s like: A man puts orange juice in the gas tank of his car and when the car won’t run he concludes that he did not put enough orange juice in the tank, so he adds more and when that doesn’t work he decides that he still didn’t put enough orange juice in the car, so he opens the trunk and fills that with orange juice. You see what I mean.

This skewed perception of reality applies not just in the issue of women’s ordination, but any form of ideology. Is socialism the magic answer? Let’s force socialism on everyone everywhere and when societies collapse and economies crumble and people are reduced to unemployment and misery it is because we did not have enough socialism. Is abortion the answer? Let’s force abortion on everyone everywhere and when families collapse, women’s lives are ruined millions of babies are slaughtered, populations collapse for lack of children and economies crumble and great cultures commit long term corporate suicide we conclude not that abortion caused the problem, but that we did not have enough abortion.

This explains why Lavinia Byrne and others don’t get it and why “dialogue” with such people (I’m thinking of Lavinia’s colleagues in the LCWR) is pointless.