Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Loftus on women

The Catholic Times rejoices in the contributions of Mgr Basil Loftus, whose columns I find painful to read. I forced myself to do the other week, however, as he was addressing both the ordination of women and altar girls. With jaw-dropping logic, he admitted that having altar girls was part and parcel of the women's ordination agenda, and simultaneously claimed that, since the ordination of women was off the menu for the moment, having altar girls, including at the Traditional Mass, was all the more important. Any old stick is good enough to beat the tradition, and if it breaks, then you have two!

I sent in a letter, which they didn't print. They never print my letters. It is interesting that The Tablet allows me a right of reply, but Kevin Flaherty of that esteemed organ, The Catholic Times, which must be read by about twenty people, does not. Here it is.

Mgr Loftus ('Tackling anti-feminist prejudice', 9th December) makes a number of questionable claims. Most importantly, the claim that that impossibility of ordaining women is not taught infallibly by the Church is simply false. As the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith explained back in 1995, it is a matter of the 'ordinary' magisterium: it has always been taught, it is reiterated today, it cannot be false.

He is disingenuous when he says that the permission for female servers took the form of a decision that the existing rule did not exclude females. The rule in question was the 1983 Code of Canon Law: the 1917 Code was quite unambiguous, as has been nearly two millennia of legislation, since at least the Council of Laodiciea in the 4th Century, and the Roman Missal of 1962 which governs what is allowed in the Extraordinary Form. The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei has made it abundantly clear that females may not serve in the EF.

Most fundamentally, Mgr Loftus suggests that there are no arguments against the ordination of women to the priesthood, other than the example of Our Lord's choice of Apostles. Blessed Pope John Paul II made an extended argument in Mulieris Dignitatem (1988), and it applies to servers as well as the clergy whom they assist so closely. Allowing female servers obscures this argument, and it is natural therefore that they only be allowed for serious reasons and at the discretion of both bishop and celebrant.

The argument takes its start from the naturally (not just culturally) 'spousal' character of women, who can represent the Church as bride more perfectly than men. Men can better represent the Bridegroom, especially in His priestly role. This complementarity is reflected in human marital relations (Eph 5.23).

2011 04 09_8861
Mass at the SCT Family Retreat 2011
Bl John Paul II quotes Lumen Gentium in reminding us that Our Lady is the 'figure' of the Church. I see no prejudice in his offering them this example.

Loftus is a frustrating person to critique because he makes so many preposterous claims in quick succession (and he has a long column to play with) that it is hard to know where to start, or when to stop. Maybe the best approach is ridicule, as practiced on him by Eccles and Bosco. He shot to fame in 2010 for threatening an elderly priest, Fr Michael Clifton, into shutting down his blog, and shouting down the phone at Fr Ray Blake, for the crime of calling Loftus a heretic. (In Fr Blake's case, the crime was committed by a commenter on his blog.) You'd think Loftus wouldn't mind that particular accusation. But to be on the safe side, all I'm going to say about Loftus' orthodoxy is that, while I'm not his superior and so unable formally to pronounce judgement, the prima facie case against him appears powerful.

Actually there's no need to worry about legal threats from this relic, the courts refuse to make the judgement about whether accusations of heresy are 'fair comment' or not. A point I suspect Loftus knew perfectly well when he tried his bully tactics.

A rare photograph of Mgr Basil Loftus
Well, Monsignor, you can't scare me.

Postscript: It is a strange fact that Google Image searches can find no pictures of the great man from the search term  'Basil Loftus' or the obvious variants. Instead, puzzlingly, you get images like this one, on the left. Basil? Is it you?


  1. He is the main reason I cancelled my CT subscription some years ago.

  2. You know, I think John Cleese has a good case to sue "Eccles" for defamation of character.

  3. Well done Dr Shaw - as a Catholic priest Mgr Loftus should teach the Catholic faith and not try and change the Church to suite his own views. I too stopped buying the CT many years ago. These people should understand that Catholic lay people are not stupid, we know more about our faith than the CT and Mgr Loftus give us credit for.