Reflection by Fr. Ed Ondrako, OFM Conv.

A Fresh Start to a Culture of Life

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy on Us
Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pray for Us

June 24, 2022 will never be forgotten by anyone who believes in God as the origin, development, and final goal of all life. The Supreme Court of the United States of America made a decision that the Court overstepped its power on 22 January 1973. The Supreme Court has returned the power to the people in the fifty states. Citizens can echo: “we rule ourselves.” The truth about our Constitutional Republic is brought out by many minds exercising the power of the vote. The citizens of each State now have the power to make decisions about life. For forty-nine years, the Supreme Court was exercising a power they did not have deep down and strangled free action and free thinking about life.
Second, how many took note that this decision was handed down on the day that we Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Vigil of the Immaculate Heart of Mary? Does that have any consequence? Think about the prayers since the unstable Roe was decided in 1973. Think of Roe’s replacement by another unstable holding based on the burden that followed in Casey in 1992. Think about the many broken hearts upon recognition of their own grave error in failing to recognize God as the giver of life. Remember that Franciscans teach a beautiful Scotistic “condetermination” which means that the indescribable act of the generation of life as ordered by God has a man and woman along with the presence of God!  One sacrament is matrimony for a husband and wife to freely assume the rights and duties of marriage. We have rights because we have duties. Our Savior-Redeemer gave us the foundation for the Church’s seven sacraments.
Third, it is also no small coincidence that the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus coincides with the Church’s universal day of prayer for priests. Every priest has to deal with sympathy, gentleness, love and mercy for sinners, since he himself is one in every respect (Heb 5: 1-10). None of us doubts, or makes lame excuses, or worst of all gives free passes to priests whose sins and failures for a half century have driven good folks away from the Church and participation in the tremendous gift of the sacraments. Good folks have lost understanding that God gave the sacraments for our sanctification and justification.
There can never be enough prayers for priests. Judgments which priests have to make by the nature of their ordination, one of the seven sacraments, have become more difficult than ever. Priesthood is not for the weak. Priesthood requires teaching and preaching what Christ wants. Priesthood is not for one who lacks compassion but requires wise judgments. Priesthood is not to hide behind canon law, but knowledge of canon law. Priesthood requires intelligence and courage in applying the rule of faith to the sinner. The Letter to the Hebrews explains that no one takes the honor of the priesthood upon himself unless called by God. There are years of discernment. “Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by the one who sent him. Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard from his godly fear. He learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” As a priest gets older, this truth humbles him. Without the grace of God, a disaster is in the making.

            On the solemnity of Pentecost, 22 May 1994, Pope John Paul II wrote:[1]
Priestly ordination, which hands on the office entrusted by Christ to his apostles of teaching,
sanctifying, and governing the faithful, has in the Catholic Church
from the beginning always been reserved to men alone.
This tradition has also been faithfully maintained by the Oriental churches.

Since then, in conversations, more often heated than not, I turned searchers for truth to John Paul II. He answered the question of the ordination of women in the Anglican Communion by quoting Pope Paul VI who, “out of fidelity to his office of safeguarding the apostolic tradition, and with a view to removing a new obstacle placed in the way of Christian unity, reminded Anglicans of the position of the Catholic Church.”
Given the historic Supreme Court decision on the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, coinciding with the Universal Day of Prayer for Priests, painfully aware of the calamity of modernity, searching for a way to transcend a culture which evacuates Christianity, the antidote to living in fear and anxiety is at hand. Could any cure offer more complete healing for the Catholic living by faith and in hope of salvation than the seven sacraments and sound existential formation for exercising faith and reason? They serve as backdrop for free choice.
After thoughtful inquiry about the entire statement of Pope John Paul II, some understand. Not everyone has put out what he said with the trash. Others refuse to accept the Holy Father’s teaching. It is fitting to repeat: “in order that all doubt be removed regarding a matter of grave importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of the ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), I 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.”
No priest has a right to change or soften the teachings of the Church or he does real harm. When a thinking, praying person awakens to the altered truth, that person has every right to be angry. In truth, our hearts break to hear: “I could have been a grandmother.”  Regret for having been duped by the cultural backdrop of free choice is integral to the anatomy of a culture of vacuity. In reply, Franciscan teaching is on free action which means: voluntary action enjoys priority over natural, love over understanding. For free action, love is both necessary and free, as well as free and rational.

            eondrako @, University of Notre Dame, 24 June 2022

[1] John Paul II, De Sacerdotali Ordinatione Viris Tantum Reservanda (Apostolic Letter, 22 May 1994).


Fr. Edward J. Ondrako, OFM Conventual
Research Fellow Pontifical Faculty of St. Bonaventure, Rome
Visiting Scholar, McGrath Institute for Church Life
University of Notre Dame
June 24, 2022

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