THE HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
A lapsed-Catholic friend of mine (a writer who sees himself as kind of a broadcast standards guy for St. Blogs), commented to me the other day that he thought John Paul II missed an opportunity "to drag the Catholic Church into the 21st Century."
Barb: [repressing a groan and thinking, "We already have the Catholic Church married to the current age. It's called mainline Protestantism," but saying] "The 21st is just one more century. The Church doesn't get dragged anywhere. She's the polestar."
I cite this here because I have little doubt that the MSM coverage of the Papal Enclave is going to shift out of respect and into this mode very soon. There will be many teachable moments to explain to people the teachings that are rooted in the nature of things, and so cannot change (birth-control), and those that are rooted in discipline/administration and may change (the process of canonization).
A good line I read recently from some theologian whose name I forget (someone let me know if you know who said it, and also to correct my paraphrasing): "If the Church weds herself to the currents of any age, she will become a widow in the future."
P.S. And in the name of full-disclosure, I have always had trouble with placing the ordination of women in the category of "things proceeding from nature." It seems to me that the case repeatedly cited against women priests is one that comes from convention/tradition not from theology/philosophy. (Once I heard a story from a theologian who had just come from a theologian's breakfast with the Holy Father. This would have been back in the mid '90's. And the Pope said to the theologians, "Get me a theological argument against women's ordination."....Just so.) The argument gets heat from what seems to be prudential concerns. (That is, a lot of us in the Church have a dark vision of a pregnant priest at the elevation, and it feels frighteningly icky.)
Now, granted, as the Sacred Tradition people, I am aware that some things don't need a theological reason to be unchangeable - like, for example, that we use bread and wine for Communion. But the question remains, did Jesus die for us as a male (vir), or as a man(homo)?....
In the end, I'm a good daughter of the Church, and I am not, in any sense, part of a movement for women's ordination. (But I know that saying that will not stop some of you from gnashing heresy charges at me. Or trying to convince me by stating over-simplified arguments. I have pursued this with some rigor. It isn't an easy comment-box answer...) What needs to happen is a definition of "maleness" as part of the matter of the sacrament of ordination. And this is a huge problem because it is un-sanctifying grace-ish to be gender exclusive.
So the point in this moment is, it isn't clear that ordination exclusively for men does proceed from the nature of things, but we've been told over and over that it does. And we can try and tell the secular world over and over and they are goiong to keep hearing us as not being honest, because there is a difference in this issue. (ie. There is nothing about maleness that is connected theologically to the ability to offer sacrifice. The priest stands in persona Christi in Christ's humanity. Otherwise, women need another mediator who would be fully man and fully woman?) This is hard ground to hold in the modern age, but it seems to me we have to stop pretending like there is some gnostic complex theological case against women's ordination, and just shrug, and say it's like using bread for Communion. Something we just do, that in fact defines us, without really having a reason.
Okay. Hit me....