Questions regarding "female ordination"


#1

Hello! I have been doing research in to the reasoning & theological underpinnings behind the Church’s opposition to female ordination. As such, I had a couple points that I hope I can get some additional information on.

  1. After reading *Ordinatio Sacerdotalis *and Inter Insigniores, it appears that the opposition to female ordination primarily stems from the fact that Jesus selected only men to serve as the Twelve Apostles, and the Church carries on this tradition under the assumption that Jesus had a reason for selecting only men. When applied to the modern hierarchy of the Church, one can understand why bishops are not allowed to be female (i.e. since bishops are the successors to the Twelve Apostles). The part that I’m confused on is why this applies to the other Holy Orders within the Church. I understand why females cannot be bishops, but why does this also apply to priests and deacons?

  2. In reading the available literature regarding the subject, I came across a pro-female ordination web site. While I dismissed most of the literature due to its self-serving bias, there was one point that I wasn’t able to refute: the Twelve Apostles were all Jewish. I’m paraphrasing here, but the web site goes on to question why the Church chooses to follow one of Jesus’ choices (male-only ordination) while ignoring the other (Jewish-only ordination). The tacit message, of course, here is that that the male-only hierarchy practices selective enforcement to serve its own purposes, presumably based on some type of deep-rooted sexism. While I don’t deny that sexism has existed in the Church and continues to exist (after all, human beings are flawed), I have a hard time accepting that argument. However, I am having a hard time formulating an explanation for why the Church enforces the “male-only” portion but not the “Jewish-only” portion. Can anyone help me explain this?

Thanks for any information you can provide! :slight_smile:

God bless,
Dean


#2

For priests, it is because they can one day become Bishops, and because in their own ministry, they are also in persona Christi. Deacons eventually become priests, so even though they aren’t in persona Christi, they still are traditionally male. At one point in history there were female deacons, but they had a very limited role in the Church.

  1. In reading the available literature regarding the subject, I came across a pro-female ordination web site. While I dismissed most of the literature due to its self-serving bias, there was one point that I wasn’t able to refute: the Twelve Apostles were all Jewish. I’m paraphrasing here, but the web site goes on to question why the Church chooses to follow one of Jesus’ choices (male-only ordination) while ignoring the other (Jewish-only ordination).

The Apostles themselves ordained gentiles - Cornelius, Luke, Titus, etc. But they didn’t ordain women - even though they had ample opportunity. St. Paul praises the good works of several women in their efforts of evangelism and their support of the Church - but he never ordains any of them to be Bishops.

The tacit message, of course, here is that that the male-only hierarchy practices selective enforcement to serve its own purposes, presumably based on some type of deep-rooted sexism.

:rolleyes:

While I don’t deny that sexism has existed in the Church and continues to exist (after all, human beings are flawed), I have a hard time accepting that argument. However, I am having a hard time formulating an explanation for why the Church enforces the “male-only” portion but not the “Jewish-only” portion. Can anyone help me explain this?

Jesus became the Second Adam, to undo what Adam did. Adam was the prototype for all male human beings. While Adam is also the prototype for all human beings, since he is both the father and the husband of Eve, it was in his role as her husband that he failed her and allowed the first sin to take place; not in his role as her father.

Therefore, it is the male who must make atonement for sin (this is the role of the priest) - the female is not required to do this - rather, it is on her behalf that the male does this.

We set aside a class of male priests to do this because it is a full time job - married men aren’t required to do it, either, because their role is to support their wives and children materially. (They also support their families spiritually, but they don’t make priestly sacrifices on their behalf - the priesthood does this.)

It was Mary who undid the sin of Eve, by saying “Yes” to God, that counterbalances Eve’s “Yes” to the Devil. (Which she could not have done, if Adam her husband had stepped in to defend her - you will notice in the story that he is sitting idly by during the whole conversation between Eve and the Devil.)


#3

A quick note-deaconesses, unlike today’s Deacons, were never an ordained ministry because only men can receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Deaconesses were normally the Deacon’s wives and assisted him in his role. They were not (and couldn’t be, since only men can be ordained), an ordained ministry like today’s sacramental Deacons.


#4

Excellent points. :slight_smile:


#5

You can say as much as you want about the 12 apostles being men but in this day and age it is sexist that women aren’t allowed to be ordained, Catholics venerate the virgin mary more than any other denominations yet they won’t have women priests/bishops is ridiculous in my opinion quite frankly.


#6

Jmcrae,

Thanks for the **excellent **post! Just a couple follow-up questions:

This makes sense. How (or why) does this also apply to permanent deacons, considering the fact that they will never become priests or bishops?

The last few paragraphs contains some pretty deep theological discussion, and I’d like to read more on the subject. If you don’t mind, could you provide source(s) so that I can do some “independent study”? :o

Thanks again,
Dean


#7

Excellent points. :slight_smile:
[/quote]

Actually, I don’t find this particular argument to be very helpful. Basically it’s a circular argument:

[INDENT]Women can’t be priests or deacons.
Why not?
Because they never were.
But I’ve heard of deaconesses in the Bible.
Those weren’t really ordained people like priests or deacons.
How do you know that?
Because women can’t be priests or deacons.[/INDENT]
The Church has made her decision, and she has articulated her reasons. Using other, lesser arguments detracts from the Church’s teaching and makes it harder to explain.


#8

Let’s remember to-the Priesthood is the continuation of the Priesthood of the Levites, just under Christ.

Christ opened up the Church to the gentiles, which is why it’s okay for gentiles to be Priests.

But the role of women in regards to the Priesthood was never altered. As jmcrae pointed out, men are to be responsible for the Priesthood because we have the responsibility of making up for the sin of Adam, who did nothing when the Serpent who tempted Eve and who, unlike Eve, was tempted by a human being and not a supernatural entity.

Thus, men have the responsibility of caring for the flock and making reparations for Adam’s sin.

And the reason men were Priests in the Old Testament is the same the reason men are Priests now-because they have the responsibility of making reparations for Adam’s sin.

So although Christ opened the door to let gentiles into the fold the spiritual role of men was never changed by Christ.


#9

Earl,

For what it’s worth, I shared your line of thinking, which is what sent me down the path of trying to understand why the Church opposes female ordination over the past few months. Speaking as a person raised with the idea that women are equal and that there aren’t any fundamental differences male & female, I have had a VERY hard time with the female ordination issue – it goes against my ingrained sensibilities and just doesn’t “feel” right. I realize you don’t share the Catholic faith, but you might want to check out the writings I mentioned in my OP (especially Inter Insigniores) to at least understand the position of the Church.

God bless,
Dean


#10

That’s not my argument. Here’s what I said:

  1. Women can’t be Priests or Deacons

  2. Why not-they never were

  3. Deaconesses are found in the Bible

  4. But Deaconesses were never ordained

  5. How do we know that? It’s a historical fact :shrug: It’s just something I’ve heard from theology class (and trust me, I have a theology teacher who has a Masters in three Catholic-related subjects and is going for a fourth, he is fantastic). It’s not “because the Church said so”, it’s because it is true. I never used that as an argument.


#11

In other words-what I said wasn’t a circular argument because it wasn’t an argument at all.


#12

You seem to be under the misapprehension that Catholics ‘create’ the teachings of their Church, rather than proclaim the eternal truths God gave us. . .


#13

I’m a woman and a cradle Catholic. You gave a wonderful explanation. Thank you. I too don’t “feel” right about female ordination. I’m not even keen on women being Extraordinary
Ministers of the Eucharist but that’s me.


#14

I would think that a lot of people who find the male only priesthood to be unfair would be appeased by this answer.

Earl Simpson, I’m curious, what are your thoughts to this post by Marc Anthony?


#15

The Church has never definitively said that women cannot be (permanent) Deacons.

Ordinatio Sacerdotalis refers only to priestly ordination (“sacerdotal” means priestly). You will not find the word “ordination” used without the adjective “priestly” (except once, when the word is used twice in the same sentence, and the second occurrence is not qualified but obviously refers to the first (and qualified) occurrence).

Of course, Bishops must also be priests, so this applies to Episcopal Orders as well. But John Paul the Great was very careful not to make any mention of deaconate Orders, or to refer to Orders in a general sense.


#16

Worship of YAWAH by our Hebrew bretheren/ancestors is well over 5,000 years old. At no time, until the mid 20th century was their worship led by women…and then it was only by the American Reform Jewish sect, which is barely recognized in Israel and is considered heretical by many orthodox Jews around the world.
The Catholic and Orthodox Churches are the direct successors of the Jewish religion through Christ. Their religious beliefs follows in the traditions of the Jews. In fact, many of the prayers in the Mass and Orthodox Devine Liturgy are from the Old Testament and are still said in Synagogues around the world.
Yes there were female disciples of Christ during His lifetime, but He appointed none of them as His apostles.
Catering to contemporary fashion has never been the forte of Holy Mother The Church. I guess that is why you are Anglican/Episcopal and we are Catholic.


#17

Christ came to this world as a MAN.

Priests are in persona christi because Christ works through a man because Christ WAS a man. He cannot work as a Man through a woman it just can’t.

Also, God gave men special callings and women special callings… that’s all one needs to know to understand this issue.


#18

It is not “just because” Christ didn’t do it. A Sacrament must be instituted by Christ (review your catechism for a definition of Sacraments). Since Jesus didn’t institute an order or priestesses, the Church has no authority to do so.
This has been defined infallibly. It is to be held by the Fathful always and everywhere. It is not open to debate.


#19

No, I just looked it up. I found a very well-cited article on why Deacons (and it’s about Deacons) must be male.

ncregister.com/site/article/only_men_can_be_deacons/

Some extremely relevant quotes:

The same theological arguments used to defend the all-male priesthood apply to the diaconate. Christ did not institute three kinds of ordination, but one sacrament of holy orders comprising three degrees: bishop, priest and deacon. Despite some initial uncertainty in terminology, this is plainly taught in the New Testament and the post-Apostolic age. “Let everyone revere the deacons as Jesus Christ, the bishop as the image of the Father, and the presbyters as the senate of God and the assembly of the apostles. For without them one cannot speak of the Church” (Ignatius of Antioch, Trallians 2:3–3:1).”

"Historical Honesty

Proponents of ordaining women deacons argue that this would be a return to early Church practice. German women students, scouring the libraries for dissertation material, have marshaled evidence. In a list of greetings (Romans 16:1 ff.), St. Paul first mentions Phoebe, calling her a diakonos, “servant.” The feminine form, diakonissa, is a specifically Christian development. Many third- and fourth-century patristic documents mention deaconesses; a few contain prayers for their consecration…Objective inquiries into the duties of a “deaconess” are bound to disappoint feminists. Often it was an honorific title for the deacon’s wife. (Similarly, a woman married to a German Ph.D. is addressed as “Frau Doktor So-und-so,” regardless of her credentials.) In this restricted sense, there were also “priestesses” and “episcopesses.” A prerequisite, though, was a vow of celibacy as their husbands embarked on a second career in ministry.

The other modest function of early Christian deaconesses resembled that of an RCIA sponsor for women catechu-mens (toweling them down after baptism by immersion, etc.). By the end of the fourth century the office had disappeared in both East and West."

I suggest the full article, it’s excellent. Most of the information in the article is from a Professor of Dogmatic Theology at the University of Munich, Professor Muller.

[So in regards to earlier: Deaconesses were not ordained no “because the Church said so”, they were not ordained because they simply weren’t ordained. Deaconesses were never an ordained ministry.]

I think the reason that Blessed Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical Ordinatio Sacerdotalis only addressed ordination to the Priesthood is because that was the specific issue it was dealing with, not diaconate ordination. Notice that it only declares that the Church has no authority to confer Priestly ordination on women ;Bishop ordination is not mentioned either, and yet none of us would argue that Bishops can be ordained as women! The same argument applies for all three degrees of Holy Orders.


#20

Cheers Dean but those strict rules like no condoms and the whole no women priests thing is exactly whats putting people of the catholic church, my best friend for example he was Roman Catholic all his life though as soon as he started his catholic secondary school (middle and high school as 1 big school) and had his first R.E lesson he said he was disgusted at how old fashioned the church was on it’s views that he gave up on religion entirely. He was particularly appalled at the churches stance on homosexuality because he said he had a friend whos gay (me) and straight away his teacher said i’d go to hell if i didnt repent.


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