Friday, December 17, 2010

If barring female ordinations fails the test of thinking with heart and mind, why does this practice continue?

Church leaders tell the faithful to think with hearts not minds.  Many faithful indicate their hearts say excluding women from the priesthood is unjust and un-Christ-like.  At that point, church leaders turn to reason, trying to construct a logical argument to defend their practices.  However, their argument commits at least twelve fallacies of formal logic.  Here are church leaders’ assertions with logic flaws noted:

·       1. "The church lacks authority to ordain women because Jesus never intended it” commits the logic fallacy of circulus in demonstrandi or “circular logic”.  This logic fallacy uses that which is trying to be proven in the proof.  Church leaders’ logic flows thusly, “We say we interpret scripture correctly, Jesus never said to ordain only men but we inferred it, we say we inferred correctly and can’t alter our inference, therefore we are correct and can’t change”.  More simply stated, “We make the rules, we made a rule that we are correct and can’t change, therefore we are correct and can’t change”.  

·         2.  "The church’s tradition has never acknowledged female apostles and therefore we can’t have any now” commits the logic error of argumentum ad antiquitatem or “the argument to antiquity/tradition”, saying something is "right" because we've always thought it was right.  Though incorrect, for 17 centuries the church said it was heresy to believe Earth orbited the Sun.  Historic error does not make something correct or justify its continuation.

·         3. Doctrinal writings Mulieris Dignitatem and Inter Insigniores commit the logic flaw of dicto simpliciter, “over simplification or sweeping generalities”.  These documents say sacramental validity requires symbols used in the sacrament carry a “natural resemblance” to what the sacrament recalls.  Since church leaders say priests act in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) sacrificing the Mass, priests must carry a natural resemblance to Jesus and that resemblance must be in gender.  It is dicto simpliciter to say only men remind people of Jesus.  A poll of just my family refutes that assertion; they readily see Jesus in numerous women.

·         4. “Tradition contains no evidence of female apostles therefore there weren’t any” commits the logic errors of circular logic and argumentum ad ignorantiam, “arguing to ignorance”.  Argumentum ad ignorantiam says if something hasn’t been proven false, it must be true.  Another example of that logic fallacy would be, “Since scripture doesn’t say Jesus went to the bathroom, he never did.”    

      Church leaders assert tradition does not refer to female apostles.  Yet, Jesus himself sent Mary Magdalene (the definition of "apostle"), the New Testament refers to female apostles (Romans 16:1, 3, 7) and archeological evidence indicates female priests and bishops.  Therefore, this also uses circular logic.  Church leaders say, “We decide what credible evidence is, we reject the evidence presented that proves us false, we choose to see no evidence ourselves, and therefore there is no evidence.”

·          5. Closely related to the previous example, church leaders assert that because Luke’s gospel indicates Jesus prayed the night before naming the original twelve apostles, they are correct inferring that God explicitly directed Jesus on apostolic gender.  In addition to using other flawed logic, this argument uses a sprinkling of the flawed logic post hoc ergo propter hoc, “after this, therefore because of this.  This asserts that because “B” happened after “A”, “A” caused “B”.  Because Jesus talked to God the night before naming twelve men, they must have discussed apostolic gender.  
·          6. Church leaders use the flawed logic appealing to “nature” constructing the following analogy: "Christ marries the church; the Church says the nature of marriage requires one male and one female, so a male must act as Christ to wed the female church lest nature be violated."  An “appeal to nature” argument says straying from something’s intended nature or use is wrong.  For example, “appeal to nature” logic would say a shoe's nature is to protect the foot; therefore pounding nails with a shoe is wrong because it violates nature.  

      Please note that church leaders violate their own “appeal to nature” logic because multiple male priests marry the one female church, making the church a polygamist with thousands of husbands.  Furthermore, male priests marry the “female” church whose only official voice is the Magisterium, an all male-body. This could be construed as placing the church in a homosexual polygamist union.

·         7. The marriage analogy also uses the flawed logic,“Slippery Slope”, trying to inject fear rather than address ideas: if we adopt “A”, this dreadful thing will happen.  Though God is untiring in forgiveness, church leaders say ordaining women unravels salvation history because it would severely violate the nature of marriage.

·         8. “The Magisterium says women can’t be ordained; the Magisterium is the authority; therefore it is correct that women can’t be ordained” commits the logic error of argumentum verecundium, arguing to authority.  This flawed logic says that if entity “A” makes statement “b” and “A” is an authority, “b” must be true.  The church uses this logic fallacy a lot.

·         9. Like a broken record, church leaders repeat their same flawed logic committing yet another logic flaw of argumentum ad nauseum, arguing repeatedly.  Repetition doesn’t make something correct.

·         10. Groups like the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter use the flawed logic cum hoc ergo propter hoc, (with this therefore because of this) which draws causation from correlation.  I recently received a mailing from this organization that seems to suggest, due to coincidental timing, society’s ills stem from church changes such as more inclusiveness of women and departure from Latin liturgies.  Thus, this priestly society reasons we need to return to the tradition of marginalizing women and Latin Mass to countermand things like divorce, abortion, loss of virtue and disillusionment with the church. However, there is no demonstrated cause and effect.

·         11.  Church leaders’ justification for barring female ordinations uses many “Red Herrings”, a logic fallacy of injecting irrelevant pieces of information.  For example, they say that because Jesus never appointed his mom as an apostle, he didn’t want any female apostles.  One might ask, “Why would Mary’s status have a bearing for all women?”  Church leaders reason that if Jesus wanted any female apostles, he would have chosen his mom because she was the most virtuous woman in history.  Since he didn't, he must not want any female apostles.  Accepting that Red Herring as relevant information requires forgetting that Jesus appointed males who were despised, denied him, disobeyed him and betrayed him, hardly pinnacles of virtue.

·         12. Those who defend the church’s stance often commit the logic fallacy of argumentum ad hominem, attacking the character of the opposition versus addressing the ideas the person stated.  I have endured that from some people for writing this blog. The grave delict against ordaining women is an institutional example of this logic flaw. 

If barring female ordinations fails the test of thinking with heart and mind, why does this practice continue?


  1. Me and an auxiliary bishop --whom I had known years before he got that job. Three years ago I started --and kept on-- questioning the all-male hierarchy. His logic failed with me, which he should have known if he meant his repeated remarks over the years that I was so incedibly intelligent. Anyways, when his flawed logic failed with me, he resorted to thinking with his heart and told me that he felt that female bishops, such as (back then) in the Episcopal church, were "so mousy and ordinary", and that "he felt that men are so much more elevated." Needless to say that this was the end of our two-decade ehm, "friendship". I learned a lot about the way males operate, not only from hierarchy members, but just through living. And I am angry. Very very angry.

  2. I want to add something which, I think, is very significant when it comes to discussing sex and gender with patriarchist men (almost all men, sadly). The aforementioned priest did not even give the discussion with me a fair chance before he resorted to "thinking with his heart". They just don't want to go there. They very badly don't want to go there.

    In my entire life I've met only one man who was up to a full, and fully rational discussion about gender. Afterwards, he told me that he had been raised in a family consisting of only women (mother and sisters), who were diehard feminists at that. He admitted he was not happy at all with my viewpoint, but that it was his utter commitment to rationality that gave him no other choice than to "go there" and face the full truth of logic. Ironic, how he had to defend the validity of my (and now also his) viewpoints to other women. Most women don't want to go there either. It hurts way too much.

  3. The state of a woman having multiple husbands is 'polyandry', where polygamy is a man having multiple wives.that said, I fully concur with what you're saying here. Wish I could have found your blog at the beginning, rather than come to it now. I am aware that the church is a human institution - Jesus may have been both God and man, but everyone else through the centuries has been human, with all the potential for making mistakes and misunderstanding that we see in the Twelve- but too many of the claims relegating the female half of the world to subservience are too self-serving to be credible.