I read that is no hope of women ever becoming priests in the Catholic Church because it is considered a sacred tradition for only men to be priests. I am not really understanding priesthood should be a male-only club. Can someone please clarify the reasons for this? Or point me to some valid readings?
The only explanation that I can offer is that because Jesus elected 12 men to follow Him, this is why it became a tradition. But, I have read historical accounts of the selection of the 12 Apostles, and how it simply wasn’t customary to put women in authoritative positions, during Jesus’ time period. Not that men are better–they were just chosen back then, and this tradition stuck. I would have to say that Jesus however, wasn’t pigeon holed…he didn’t have to follow the culture. But, He still chose 12 men. So, if Jesus did this, then there must have been a reason.
I am doubtful that this helped, lol…but I hope so.:o
I really think yours is the best response to the issue; it’s the one I always use with my feminist mates.
Men and women have clearly defined roles within society. If God had wanted men and women to have equal capabilities, rights and obligations he would have made us all asexual. Women have inherent capabilities that men do not possess (child baring for one), why is it so hard to believe that men have inherent capabilities that women don’t?
This audio by theologian Peter Kreeft has been one that I have respected a lot. peterkreeft.com/audio/09_priestesses.htm
He explains it very well and delves deep into sexual symbolism. He is an academic however, and can be a little too detailed for some tastes. I am not an academic, yet I found it to be well researched and presented with some good humor. There is also a written section under “featured writing” where some of it is in print.
I discovered him after I had changed my view on priestesses, however, so it might not be what you need if you are really struggling with this issue. I have yet to get another poster here who is very pro women’s ordination, to listen to it. I’m still working on her.
Bless you in your search for Truth.
Jesus had no problem breaking all sorts of social barriers - when he talked to the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, when he permitted the hemmhoraging (unclean) woman to touch him, when he touched lepers who were unclean, in order to heal them.
I find it hard to believe that he would have problems making, for example, Mary Magdalene a priest if he wanted women to be priests. She was obviously very special to him, being at the cross and the first to see him on Easter morning. So was his mother Mary.
And let’s just accept, for a moment, your hypothesis that this was because of social taboos in Jewish society. Those DEFINITELY did not apply in the world outside Israel - both Greeks and Romans had plenty of highly-respected priestesses, Rome had the Vestal Virgins and such.
So if the Apostles were all men, it doesn’t follow that they in turn would appoint only men as priests, given the small size of the communities they couldn’t waste talented women for sure!
And if by chance THEY were too set in their ways to choose women priestesses, then their followers wouldn’t have been - we would’ve seen Christian priestesses at SOME point if it was at all permitted by Apostolic teaching.
What perecent of the early converts were roman? My my understadning for at least the first century the majority were jews compaired to genitles, theri decision far outweighed anyone elses.
I always find it funny when catholics go back to, ‘well jesus said so’ arguement. When this sort of argument, sadly to say, has been used to support horrible institutions, like slavery (if you don’t believe me go read 18th century writings who aruged on the same logic you are using!). It is so problematic to go back to well Jesus didn’t ordain it, so we don’t follow it mentality. Why can all other traditions and even sacraments (liek the sacrament of reconciliaton) evolve yet nothing else can? PATRIARCHIAL undertones, in both ancient and modern society!
The Church is Christ’s Bride. A priest is a representative of Christ. Therefore, a priest is married to the Church, Christ’s Bride. A woman who is a priest would be married to Christ’s Bride. That would be a same sex union, which the Church is against. That is why only men can be priests.
that is one of the most ‘modern’ interpretations i have ever heard… and falls way out of line with the above ancient, Jesus didn’t ordain it, mentality. Interesting how theology can always spin the ball to land the way it wants to
Kreeft’s discussion delves very deeply into this. In fact he uses quotes from C.S. Lewis often as he is explaining how sexual symbolism crosses all cultures and time. He explains how it wasn’t something bound by the times of Christ, but is instead, something God bound to us. Our sexual roles are something written on our very bodies and souls, not something arbitrarily defined by a changing society.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the re-presentation of the consummation of the spousal relationship between Christ and the Church. During the Mass, the priest acts in the person of Christ. If the priest were a female, then we would have too feminine elements instead of a masculine and feminine.
Or in other words, the priest stands i*n persona Christi *not in persona Christy
If anyone “deserved” to be a priest it was the Blessed Virgin Mary. Not only did she stick with Jesus to the end, but she was sinless, unlike the apostles.
Nevertheless, Christ did not make her a priest for reasons explained elsewhere.
The human race has advanced so much (physcially and mentally) that I think the notion of women and men having separate roles to play in life is not accurate anymore. True, biology holds that the woman must carry the baby (for now at least–I could see some technological advance coming along to allow men’s bodies to harbor babies). But really, what does biology have to do with women becoming priests?
I never really questioned this aspect of Catholicism before, being a cradle Catholic. But lately I’ve been trying to figure out a logical way to tell my daughter (if she ever asks) why she isn’t allowed to become a priest. It breaks my heart to think that she might get the impression that women are somehow less capable than men because the Catholic Church deems it so. What else will she start thinking she shouldn’t do in life? I don’t want to raise my daughter in a faith that tolerates such pettiness. And why, for what? Just because it’s tradition and that’s how it’s always been?
I do see where you are coming from. I really do! My own mother, a devout Catholic, held a similar belief that women should be ordained, for many years. It wasn’t until she saw the damage to my femininity that she is starting to look further into her previous belief. Do question it! Look at it from all angles. Shine a light on it, and don’t just accept, “Because the Church says so,” as an explanation.
The phrase by Fr. Corapi is a good place to start, “Men and women are equal in dignity, but not the same.” What does equality really mean if it is just interchanged with “the same?” Why are we made as male and female? What is the real meaning of masculine and feminine? Is the ability to impregnate and be impregnated really that variable or random? Is there really a difference between men and women in our very souls? Is your daughter’s very soul feminine? If so what does that mean to every part of how she interacts with her world?
One of the things at the very heart of this question is really about our sexuality. No matter what I do, I am a woman doing it. I am a human doing it. None of those two things ever change. I can roll around on the floor and wrestle with my son, yet I am still his mother. Nothing I do or say will change that. My husband can nurture him all he can, but he is still his father. No one would deny that. But how a woman wrestles and how a man nurtures are not the same. We may nurture equally, but no matter what it will never be the same.
What I found, in my own life, is that having a mom who believed women could be priests played a part in misunderstanding my own femininity. It made me fight to be the same as men, instead of just making sure we were always equal. Since beginning my very long study into “Theology of the Body” around 1993 my self respect has improved. Not only do I appreciate who God made me, but I have a deeper appreciation for men too. I no longer attempt to compete with them. Instead I am able to appreciate their strengths as men. My appreciation for other women has grown too. I am not as catty as a was, and I find I have deeper friendships than I used to.
Most importantly, I have found that my relationship with God is better. As I have understood more deeply what it means that He is Father, not mother, has helped me to be more receptive in what He is giving me.
I hope that helps.
I’m not talking about early converts - I’m talking after 250-odd years when plenty of Romans had converted, the Roman state religion was still around with emperor worship, pagan priestesses and persecution of Christians and all the rest of it. No excuse to still be having an all-male priesthood by then unless it was Apostolic teaching.
I don’t believe the human race has advanced so much mentally and physically at all. I would also say that the notion of men and women having separate roles to play in life is very accurate.
It is understandable that your daughter may ask one day why she cannot become a priest. It is no different than if she asks why she cannot become a father or if you had a son who asks why he cannot become a mother. You ask “what else will she start thinking she shouldn’t do in life?” Is that necessarily wrong for her to ask? I don’t believe so. In fact it is something to be encouraged in searching for truth.
In Christ - J.M.J.
OF JOHN PAUL II
TO THE BISHOPS
OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
ON RESERVING PRIESTLY ORDINATION
TO MEN ALONE
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
- 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.
When the question of the ordination of women arose in the Anglican Communion, Pope Paul VI, out of fidelity to his office of safeguarding the Apostolic Tradition, and also with a view to removing a new obstacle placed in the way of Christian unity, reminded Anglicans of the position of the Catholic Church: “She holds that it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for his Church.”(1)
But since the question had also become the subject of debate among theologians and in certain Catholic circles, Paul VI directed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to set forth and expound the teaching of the Church on this matter. This was done through the Declaration Inter Insigniores, which the Supreme Pontiff approved and ordered to be published.(2)
(long section omitted to fit within 5,000 character limit)
The New Testament and the whole history of the Church give ample evidence of the presence in the Church of women, true disciples, witnesses to Christ in the family and in society, as well as in total consecration to the service of God and of the Gospel. “By defending the dignity of women and their vocation, the Church has shown honor and gratitude for those women who-faithful to the Gospel-have shared in every age in the apostolic mission of the whole People of God. They are the holy martyrs, virgins and mothers of families, who bravely bore witness to their faith and passed on the Church’s faith and tradition by bringing up their children in the spirit of the Gospel.”(11)
Moreover, it is to the holiness of the faithful that the hierarchical structure of the Church is totally ordered. For this reason, the Declaration Inter Insigniores recalls: “the only better gift, which can and must be desired, is love (cf. 1 Cor 12 and 13). The greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven are not the ministers but the saints.”(12)
- Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.
Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my 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.
Invoking an abundance of divine assistance upon you, venerable brothers, and upon all the faithful, I impart my apostolic blessing.
From the Vatican, on May 22, the Solemnity of Pentecost, in the year 1994, the sixteenth of my Pontificate.
“Rome has spoken, the matter is closed.”
The priest becomes an alter Christus (another Christ) when he consecrates the elements and thus it is actually Christ (in all his maleness) working through the priest to offer His own body to His Bride, the Church. It would be impossible for a woman to fit that role, not because she’s less worthy or less competent but because of the necessary iconographic representation. It would be just as absurd to think that a man can get pregnant than to think that a women can be a priest.
The reason can be found in 1 Timothy 2:12-14: “I give no permission for a woman to teach or have authority over a man. A woman ought to be quiet, because Adam was formed first and Eve afterwards, and it was not Adam who was led astray but the woman was led astray and fell into sin.” In the same book of Timothy, it gives requirements of men who can be priests or deacons. Women aren’t mentioned.
LittleDeb, you have a beautiful, insightful way of explaining tough issues. Thank you for your reply. However, I still have my doubts. What can I say? Must be human nature.