Transcript of Robert Sungenis' Appearance on CNN International
R. Sungenis: Below is the transcript from the CNN International program of August 6, 2002. My opponent was Rea Howrath from the group called Catholic Speakout. To help understand some of the dialogue, I have put explanations in brackets.
I have also included the dialogue between Joseph Grieboski, president of the Institute of Religion and Public Policy and Dr. Gisela Forster, one of the seven women excommunicated for attempting to be ordained as a priest.
Here is the show:
CNN Announcer: And we're going to take a short break, but coming up next, opposing views on the role of women in the Roman Catholic church. A lively discussion ahead.
Stay with us.
JIM CLANCY: The issue of women priests has been debated, much, and it's been debated many times before, but the Roman Catholic church, already reeling from a child sexual abuse scandal that it tried to cover up for decades -- the scandals have hurt the church. So too hurting the church today, a lack of vocations, the men and the women willing to devote their lives, becoming priests and nuns and working for the church.
At this point, could it be that the Vatican could use a few good women?
Well, to discuss that, we're joined from Washington by Rea Howarth, co-director of the Catholic Speakout and also the Quixote Center, and Robert Sungenis. He's the president of the Catholic Apologetics International.
Rea, let's begin with you, and just ask you, when you look at the whole controversy over this, you've attended women's ordinations as priests, haven't you?
REA HOWARTH, CATHOLIC SPEAKOUT: Actually, I attended the one on the Danube, and thank you so much for inviting me here to talk about it.
CLANCY: What did you -- I mean, it's been called a spectacle of occult, that, you know, this is something, that, you know, it's on the fringe, it doesn't represent the Roman Catholic church, and unless it comes from the top, it doesn't count.
HOWARTH: Well, in practice, however, our church goes through many changes, and they generally well up from the ground, so to speak.
We started out not permitting women to serve on the altar, and over time we gradually introduced that, until the point of which the pope said, oh, sure, you can have girls on the altar. So, that's a very minor example of change.
But we do things sacramentally in practice, and often the teaching follows the actual implementation.
CLANCY: Robert Sungenis, in this case do you think that's even going to come close to applying?
ROBERT SUNGENIS, CATHOLIC APOLOGETICS INTERNATIONAL: No, not at all, because the difference is that the pope has said that this tradition is not going to change.
When it came time to talk about women being on the altar, there was no tradition that said they could not be on the altar, so the church, you know, allowed women to be on the altar. So we're talking about two different things here. [What I meant here was that the Church had never disseminated a magisterial prohibition against altar girls, but the Church had consistently barred women from entering the priesthood].
CLANCY: All right.
HOWARTH: Well, actually there were early traditions that forbad women from being on the altar. It generally was rooted in really horrible attitudes about the sinfulness of women, a projection of women as being responsible for bringing sin into the world through the old Adam and Even story. So that's the root of...
CLANCY: But that's not part of Roman Catholic doctrine at all.
HOWARTH: Not now, but it used to be. I'm just telling you things have changed.
CLANCY: All right. Robert -- things have changed. Robert Sungenis says they're not going to change that much. Robert Sungenis, why? Is there scriptural -- are there scriptural reasons not to have women priests?
SUNGENIS: Yes, there are. First Timothy Chapter II Verses 11 to 15 addresses this very topic that Rea is covering.
As a matter of fact, it says the reason women cannot have authority or teach is because Adam was first formed, and Eve was the one that was deceived. That is Catholic doctrine, taken right from scripture.
Paul also does the same thing in First Corinthians Chapter 14 when he tells women that they cannot have a vocal voice in the church. And this is even far from the altar.
So as far as the scripture is concerned, it's even more stringent than what the church is allowing for altar girls.
HOWARTH: We know very early on there were a lot of battles in the early church about what women can do. And, of course, the New Testament chronicles that debate.
But St. Paul also said that we're all one in Christ Jesus, there is neither male nor female once we are baptized.
So it's really -- it's something that, if you rely on scripture alone, and in fact the pontifical commission concluded in 1976 that it doesn't seem the New Testament by itself will allow us to settle the question of women's ordination, and...
CLANCY: All right. Well, you know, Paul sounds very much like now Barry Goldwater that, debating teams used to get a quote from him on either side of any issue that they wanted to find.
HOWARTH: There you go.
CLANCY: Let me ask you this, and go to one of the core questions we're asking. The Catholic church has a problem with vocations. There aren't enough priests to go around. In the United States of America, they have to get priests from Ireland to help maintain the parishes.
HOWARTH: And Africa.
CLANCY: And from Africa. Could women fill a vital role here -- Robert.
SUNGENIS: No. Because they're just not allowed to. I mean, the solution to the problem is not making women priests. It's trying to educate the men to be better priests and to have an influx of these men into the seminaries.
And while we do have our problems in the seminaries right now, as we've heard in the news, but the problem is not going to be solved by putting women into the priesthood.
CLANCY: Do you think that it would drive people away from the church if women became priests -- Rea.
HOWARTH: I don't think so. In fact, the evidence shows that here in the United States, roughly 67 percent of all Catholics, and that's from a relatively old survey -- I believe the numbers are bumping up now to match those of Europe -- but 67 percent support the ordination of women.
In Europe, fully 3/4 of all Catholics would like to see women become priests. They disagree very much with the leadership on this.
SUNGENIS: Well, I have to say, this is not something new. In ancient Israel, when the priests were having their authority usurped by women, this was at the height of their apostasy.
In Isaiah Chapter 3 Verse 12, Isaiah -- one of his main complaints against what the priests had done is allowed women to rule and to function as priests in ancient Israel.
So this stems way back in our history. The Catholic church is not inventing something new. Jesus suggests, when he gives the order that only 12 apostles, who are men, are to be priests, this is stemming...
HOWARTH: Jesus never ordained anyone, and he never told the 12 apostles, who were selected, by the way, to represent the 12 tribes of Israel. That's nonsense.
SUNGENIS: Well, if he never ordained anyone, then you can't be a priest either. [What I was trying to do here was use her logic against her, not suggest that Jesus would have ordained women as priests!]
HOWARTH: He certainly never ordained anyone.
SUNGENIS: If he never ordained anyone...
HOWARTH: Ordination, as we know it, only came around in about the year 200...
SUNGENIS: No, that's false.
HOWARTH: And women themselves were ordained, Presbyra (ph) and deaconesses, in the early church, and it lasted quite late.
SUNGENIS: No. Deaconesses were not ordained. They were allowed to have a ministry.
HOWARTH: They were. We have copies of the actual rights that were enacted.
SUNGENIS: The Council of Nicea, 325 A.D., said that women could not be ordained as deaconesses. [It was only a funtionary role, not an authoritative position. Women deaconesses generally took care of the women of the church. Here is what the Council of Nicea said in Canon 19: "Likewise in the case of their deaconesses, and generally in the case of those who have been enrolled among their clergy, let the same form be observed. And we mean by deaconesses such as have assumed the habit, but who, since they have no imposition of hands, are to be numbered only among the laity....Deaconesses who have been led astray, since they are not sharers of ordination, are to be reckoned among the laity"].
HOWARTH: And they were ordained, nonetheless.
CLANCY: All right. Well, we've gone a long way back in history and I guess...
HOWARTH: And they will be ordained.
CLANCY: All right. Rea, you know you've taken that point of view.
I want to thank you both for being with us, because obviously there could be a lot more debate about it. Obviously, much of it, as we have heard on our program today, rests with the pope. Maybe there's going to be a change in the future. We don't know that for sure.
Rea Howarth and Robert Sungenis, our thanks to both of you.
HOWARTH: Thank you so much.
SUNGENIS: Thank you. Nice to be here.
CLANCY: That's Q&A for this day. I'm Jim Clancy. Stay tuned, the news is next here on CNN.
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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM CLANCY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): After apologizing for the behavior of some of its priests, the Roman Catholic church counterattacks against activist women who would take on that clerical role.
The Vatican excommunicates seven women ordained as priests after church officials blast their ordination as occult spectacle. Women have long argued it's got nothing to do with scripture and everything to do with a male dominated church hierarchy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was very difficult to go against the patriarchy, to go against the very institution that we loved.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just wrong. Women have to be ordained. They know it. They know it. You watch the next pope.
CLANCY: In the midst of a crisis in vocations, could the Vatican use a few good women?
On this edition of Q&A, challenges to the church and the Vatican response.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(on camera): Welcome to Q&A. I'm Jim Clancy.
Tonight, more controversy in the Roman Catholic church; seven women excommunicated by the Vatican after being ordained as priests in a breakaway church. They were given time to renounce, but when they refused, the church refused them. The women call their act of defiance a prophecy, the beginning of a fundamental leap within the church, a leap for women's rights.
But is it a leap from faith?
With us from Washington is Joseph Grieboski. He is the president of the Institute of Religion and Public Policy. He supports the Vatican in this.
But first, let's go to Dr. Gisela Forster in Budapest. She's one of the women who was excommunicated.
Thanks for being with us, Gisela. Can you hear me?
GISELA FORSTER, EXCOMMUNICATED BY CATHOLIC CHURCH: Yes, I'm here.
CLANCY: All right.
FORSTER: I'm here, Gisela Forster.
CLANCY: Let's begin here, and I want to ask you, the Roman Catholic church gave you notice. They said think about this, renounce this ordination, and come back to the church. You didn't take up that offer. Why?
FORSTER: The Roman Catholic church, that is Cardinal Ratzinger, he's the chief of the Roman Catholic church, I think, and he gave us the excommunication and he said you must be now a woman who don't make so many trouble at the church and you must be very, very comfort, perhaps. We must -- we don't do the things what we do every day, that we are protesting against the Roman Catholic church.
And we think, we seven women, we think we are of the right way. We know that women will be priests in the Roman Catholic church, and we took the first step on the 29th of June, with the bishop which ordained us, and now we will go that way again, longer again.
CLANCY: Gisela Forster, are you saying that you will now knowingly lead other Catholics away from the church? Is that your plan?
FORSTER: No. We make no (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We won't go away from the church. We will stay in the church. We will fight in the church (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the church, and we will never go out of the church.
We think that the Vatican will ordain women, perhaps in 2 years or in 30 years or in 100 years, we don't know, but every woman of the world must fight for -- against discrimination of women worldwide. And we will -- we are the firsts now, but I think other women will follow us...
CLANCY: Gisela Forster...
FORSTER: ... and another from Mexico, and I think in perhaps (UNINTELLIGIBLE) years the Vatican, or Cardinal Ratzinger, will be clever and intelligent and he will like us.
CLANCY: Gisela Forester, then you do not recognize your excommunication. You don't understand it. You don't accept it. You don't recognize the Vatican authority? How can you be a part of the church?
FORSTER: Yes, we don't accept it, and we will go to the justice, and we will ask the canon, you know, the CIC, that's the law of the church. It is not a very good law, but it is enough, I think. I think it is enough to fight, with that law.
And the excommunication is the deepest thing they could do with us. After the discrimination there would be the increased (UNINTELLIGIBLE) when women (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
CLANCY: All right. No, that doesn't seem likely.
And to get more the Vatican view now, let's bring in our other guest for this segment, Joseph Grieboski, president of the Institute of Religion and Public Policy. Thank you for joining us.
You heard there from Gisela Forster, her view of things. Obviously, Cardinal Ratzinger and the Holy Father, other people within the Vatican, a very different view of this.
JOSEPH GRIEBOSKI, INST. OF RELIGIOUS AND PUBLIC POLICY: Absolutely. Jim, the reality is that, with all due respect to Dr. Forster, her actions did remove her from the church.
The reality is that, quote/unquote, Bishop Braschi is not a Roman Catholic bishop. He himself was excommunicated from the church in...
FORSTER: No, no. That's not true. That's not true.
GRIEBOSKI: It certainly is. Bishop...
CLANCY: When was he ever ordained as a bishop? He was never ordained as a bishop.
GRIEBOSKI: He was never ordained. CLANCY: I mean, that's a fact.
GRIEBOSKI: He was never ordained. He was never ordained as a bishop by the Roman Catholic church. He has no authority.
FORSTER: No, the problem is another. He is, he was a priest for 40 years, and then he -- at that time, he was ordained by two bishops, and one of the bishops was a Roman Catholic bishop.
But it doesn't matter if it was Roman Catholic. The matter is if he has apostolic succession, and...
GRIEBOSKI: Absolutely, but Dr. Forster...
CLANCY: All right. Gisela -- Gisela, I think that you're into bending the rules. I want to hear a little about what the rules are.
FORSTER: That is the rule, yes.
CLANCY: All right, we know that's what this is all about, bending the rules...
CLANCY: And you say it's prophecy, that this is the future, but let's hear from our other guest now. Go ahead, Mr. Grieboski.
GRIEBOSKI: Jim, the reality is that if Dr. Forster wishes to be a member of the clergy of the Roman Catholic church, first she must be ordained...
FORSTER: Yes, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he could be a member if he wants...
GRIEBOSKI: But he's not. But he is not. He was never ordained.
FORSTER: He never went away from the Roman Catholic.
GRIEBOSKI: He most certainly did. As a matter of fact, he joined a schismatic group that had left the Roman Catholic church in 1945. He himself is not a bishop of the Roman Catholic church. He does not have the authority nor the carism (ph) to perform the laying on of hands.
He, himself, was never ordained by the Roman Catholic church. He was never ordained as a Roman Catholic bishop.
CLANCY: All right. I want to hear more from Joseph and get his side of the story in this.
Cardinal Ratzinger there, obviously, you know, not speaking (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but that's his role, within the church. He's head of, what, the Congregation of the Faithful?
GRIEBOSKI: For the Doctrine of the Faith.
CLANCY: Right. And -- but he had this role. He excommunicated them. What does that mean?
GRIEBOSKI: What that means essentially is that Dr. Forster and the six others who were illicitly ordained, so to speak, by Rev. Braschi do not have any authority within the church. They do not even have the authority to receive the sacraments of the church, let alone perform them.
As Cardinal Ratzinger's statement pointed out, there was -- what occurred on June 29th was a simulation of a sacrament, not the actual performance of a sacrament, on these seven women.
CLANCY: Now, Dr. Forster was making the point, and I want to ask you about this, that it's not based in scripture that women can't be priests. It's really based on the male dominated hierarchy, isn't it?
GRIEBOSKI: Well, actually, according to both a letter that Pope Paul VI had written in the 70's to the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, when their church had decided to look toward the ordination of women, it is based both in scripture as well as in the social customs of the church at the time, as well as in church teaching since.
And one of the differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, for instance, Jim, is the difference between the role of tradition and scripture. The Roman Catholics base just as much on tradition as we do on scripture.
That being the case...
CLANCY: Well, could the tradition change?
GRIEBOSKI: Of course it could change, but let's face the facts, even looking at it scripturally, Jim, that Christ himself was a revolutionary. He broke with social custom many times in his ministry and in his teaching.
If Christ himself had chosen that it was the role in society and of the church for women to have this particular ministry, he could very well have made that the case.
It's not as if the church is saying that women do not have a special role. It's not even saying that women are -- aren't -- are less of a person or less of a human. We are equal, but different. That is the church's position...
CLANCY: All right, well let's bring in...
GRIEBOSKI: The quality of the difference.
CLANCY: Dr. Forster, you believe that scripture in no way bars women from the role of the priesthood.
FORSTER: We were ordained from two bishops, and the one, the first bishop, was Romulo Braschi and the second bishop was a bishop who is in the Roman Catholic church and has true apostolic succession. And perhaps we will be ordained from other bishops.
We wait, but other bishops from the whole world, perhaps, will ordain us if they think the first ordainment was not current. And these things said...
GRIEBOSKI: It doesn't matter.
FORSTER: ... Romulo Braschi was correct, and the second was correct, and the other will be correct. That isn't the matter.
We think the matter is that Roman Catholics should do this step to like women.
CLANCY: Dr. Forster...
FORSTER: And the bishop, we will fight (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
CLANCY: You're appealing -- you're appealing this within the church. You're following what you can do in all of it. If you lose that appeal, if the church says you are excommunicated, no longer a Roman Catholic, will that change your mind?
FORSTER: Yes, we make an appeal. That's correct. We will make it in the next week. And we will say that the excommunication is wrong because we didn't anything that would be right for excommunication. Excommunication is only if you will murder the pope or if you...
GRIEBOSKI: That's not true.
FORSTER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). That is for the excommunication. But we didn't that. We will help the church. We will not stay in the sex and crime. When all is said, we will go forward and we will help people and we are not bad women. We are intelligent.
FORSTER: We have doctors of theology and we...
CLANCY: All right. Dr. Gisela Forster, in Budapest, our thanks to you. Let me ask Joseph Grieboski this, obviously it's very -- another high profile case for the Roman Catholic church in the media. But it -- is it really posing any risk that people are going to follow these seven women?
GRIEBOSKI: It's not necessarily what these seven women did and whether or not anyone follows them, Jim, that's the problem.
The problem is, is that they're not respecting the very church that they say that they belong to and that they say they wish to serve.
The reality is, is that they were excommunicated, that their actions did break doctrine and dogma, that they did go against the very faith that they claimed that they wanted to support and defend.
CLANCY: All right. We're going to leave it right there. Our thanks to Joseph Grieboski for being with us, again, Dr. Gisela Forster.
Catholic Apologetics International
August 6, 2002