Far be it for the National Catholic Distorter to let a good crisis go to waste. Presumably in honor of Our Lord’s Passion and Death on Good Friday, their readers were treated to one of the worst articles in their decades of promoting heresy and schism with Mary Hunt’s “Catholic Progress in extremis”. The piece is all at once hateful, blasphemous, and sacrilegious. One might be forgiven for not recognizing the author’s name, for she has little claim to fame, except as the spawn of two other radical “theologians,” Rosemary Radford Reuther and Juan Luis Segundo. Hunt is the foundress of Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) in Silver Spring, Maryland, and “an advisor to the Women’s Ordination Conference.” She was also a signatory to the scandalous “A Catholic Statement on Pluralism and Abortion,” justifying dissent from the Church’s teaching on that topic.
The difficulty in responding to her lunacy is knowing where to begin.
Hunt latches onto the Church’s perennial teaching and practice of allowing anyone with the right intention to baptize in extremis. Yes, we all learned that in second or third grade in Catholic grammar school. My Sisters, however, did not have such an inclusive understanding of that doctrine as Ms. Hunt, for whom it is the lynchpin to open the Church up to priestless Eucharists and a bottom-up structure for the Church herself.
Our “theologian” begins with the powerful visual of Pope Francis’ extraordinary Urbi et Orbi blessing on March 27. She dubs the event “surreal” and “a clear swan song to a bygone era” and mocks the notion of indulgences. She goes on:
The sight of the pontiff carrying a monstrance in an empty St. Peter’s Square was a stark reminder that the last one out should turn off the lights. While it is likely that he and his Vatican advisors had the best of intentions, the visual was abysmal, more morbid — or, as one television commentator described it, “ghostly” — than hopeful.
Now, regular readers of CWR know that I cannot be accused of being a cheerleader for this pontificate. But I happen to believe that that blessing was the best thing this Pope has done in seven years. Interestingly, most secular media types likewise found the gesture deeply moving.
Hunt is undeterred in her assessment as she uses that event to call for “structural change”: “The top-down model fell that night in the Vatican when the hierarchy was once again, and in a profound way, inadequate to the pastoral needs of its people who needed comfort that the 13th-century ritual just did not provide.” The snideness is breath-taking, a relic of the anti-Catholic rhetoric of folks such as Loraine Boettner, Jimmy Swaggart, or Tim LaHaye.
As she goes further into her vision of a “re-formed” Church, Hunt praises communities of women Religious who have been burying their dead without the presence of a “male priest” and, she adds, “no one seems to miss them [sic].” She looks into her crystal ball and divines:
Whether they will ever be called again is an open question. I think I know the answer in many cases. This is change, progress. If and when it becomes more widespread, the whole community can move beyond the gender of sacramental leaders to the focus on pastoral needs.
She calls for “a wholesale rethinking of Eucharist” and “all sorts of creative eucharistic options,” meaning the attempted celebrations of the Holy Eucharist without a validly ordained priest. Very condescendingly, she notes that “it will take time to educate people to assume their rightful place as promoters of their own spirituality.” In case her readers are slow to grasp her drift, she spells it out more clearly:
. . . what I favor, is the do-it-yourself approach that women-church groups and other intentional eucharistic communities have long engaged in with satisfying results. The community engages in the Eucharist, sometimes in the context of or followed by a meal, much as the early Christian communities are thought to have operated. . . . But the Eucharist is an act of thanksgiving engaged in “when two or three are gathered” (Matthew 18:20). These groups have decades of experience, much to teach, and more than a willingness to share.
With all the flourish of a biblical prophet, she concludes:
The hierarchical structure and many of its narrow, power-conserving, people-excluding ways will never be acceptable again, nor do they need to be. If these early days of the pandemic teach us anything, it is to look carefully and speak boldly about what really counts. In extremis, as in God, all things are possible now.
What becomes clear is that her misandry drives her whole train. This hatred is pathological and causes her to reject the male priesthood, the very meaning of the Eucharist, and the hierarchical structure of the Church. These positions would make even Martin Luther blanch. Luther, however, at least had the intellectual honesty and courage of his convictions to bolt from the institution he had come to loathe. Not so, this reformer. She has the temerity to claim to remain within or the insanity to believe it to be the case. One does not have to go back to “the 13thcentury” to find answers to her challenges (although that is not a bad thing to do, either!). One need only consult relevant documents of the Second Vatican Council like: Sacrosanctum Concilium, Lumen Gentium, Christus Dominus, and Presbyterorum Ordinis. If 55-year-old documents are too dated, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a bit “younger.”
Lest anyone be confused about the teachings of the Church called into question – or outright contradicted – by this dissenting theologian, the following excerpts from the Catechism should resolve all such questions.
The Hierarchical Structure of the Church
811 “This is the sole Church of Christ, which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic.”These four characteristics, inseparably linked with each other, indicate essential features of the Church and her mission. the Church does not possess them of herself; it is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes his Church one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, and it is he who calls her to realize each of these qualities.
857 The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles, in three ways:
– she was and remains built on “the foundation of the Apostles,”the witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself;
– with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching, the “good deposit,” the salutary words she has heard from the apostles;
– she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ’s return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, “assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church’s supreme pastor.”
Ordination necessary for confecting the Eucharist
1369 The whole Church is united with the offering and intercession of Christ. Since he has the ministry of Peter in the Church, the Pope is associated with every celebration of the Eucharist, wherein he is named as the sign and servant of the unity of the universal Church. the bishop of the place is always responsible for the Eucharist, even when a priest presides; the bishop’s name is mentioned to signify his presidency over the particular Church, in the midst of his presbyterium and with the assistance of deacons. the community intercedes also for all ministers who, for it and with it, offer the Eucharistic sacrifice: Let only that Eucharist be regarded as legitimate, which is celebrated under [the presidency of] the bishop or him to whom he has entrusted it.
Through the ministry of priests the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful is completed in union with the sacrifice of Christ the only Mediator, which in the Eucharist is offered through the priests’ hands in the name of the whole Church in an unbloody and sacramental manner until the Lord himself comes.
1566 “It is in the Eucharistic cult or in the Eucharistic assembly of the faithful (synaxis) that they [priests] exercise in a supreme degree their sacred office; there, acting in the person of Christ and proclaiming his mystery, they unite the votive offerings of the faithful to the sacrifice of Christ their head, and in the sacrifice of the Mass they make present again and apply, until the coming of the Lord, the unique sacrifice of the New Testament, that namely of Christ offering himself once for all a spotless victim to the Father.” From this unique sacrifice their whole priestly ministry draws its strength.
Worship of the Eucharist
1378 In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. “The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession.”
What comes across, loud and clear, from Mary Hunt (a “cradle Catholic”) is a most unsettled nature—unsettled in herself and unsettled in her understanding of the meaning of the Church. St. John Henry Cardinal Newman, a convert, had the exact opposite experience of himself and of the Church. In his spiritual autobiography, Apologia pro Vita Sua, he offers this stirring witness:
From the time that I became a Catholic, of course I have no further history of my religious opinions to narrate. In saying this, I do not mean to say that my mind has been idle, or that I have given up thinking on theological subjects; but that I have had no variations to record, and have had no anxiety of heart whatever. I have been in perfect peace and contentment; I never have had one doubt. I was not conscious to myself, on my conversion, of any change, intellectual or moral, wrought in my mind. I was not conscious of firmer faith in the fundamental truths of Revelation, or of more self-command; I had not more fervour; but it was like coming into port after a rough sea; and my happiness on that score remains to this day without interruption.
Ms. Hunt is confused and thus confuses others. National Catholic Reporter, since its founding in 1964, has made their mission one of sowing confusion. We should recall that the Greek word for causing confusion or dissent is the verb diaballo which, in turn, yields the noun diabolos, coming into English as “diabolical.” Confusion twice confounded.