I don’t know if I put this in the right place, but here goes…
I am a recent convert to Catholicism, so there are still a few things that I don’t understand. I don’t fully get apostolic succession. It is my understanding that this is an oral history passed down from bishop to new priest, but I don’t understand any more of it than that. If it is an oral succession, rather than a genetic succession, why can’t women be a part of it? Now, don’t get all worked up, I’m not arguing for women priests, I do trust in the 2000 year old wisdom of the church, but don’t completely get the argument. So, I assume that I’m missing something about apostolic succession. Can anyone fill me in?
I don’t know if I put this in the right place, but here goes…
Apostolic succession is the passing on, the continuation of church authority by the laying on of hands at ordination. Christ ordained the Apostles, and they, in turn, ordained their replacements. The successors to the Apostles are Cardinals and Bishops. They ordain Priests and the process repeats with the next generation of graduating seminarians.
Of interest is that each and every Catholic priest can trace his ordination, by the laying on of hands, clear back to one of the twelve Apostles. The only other church that can do that is the Eastern Orthodox.
Christ was male. He chose male apostles. He ordained only males. Thus, to remain faithful to the command of Christ, only males are ordained to the priesthood. Women have a unique role in the church, just as they do in life. Christ taught and practiced that, and so does His church. This cannot change. Ever.
The Episcopal church, in recent history, has ordained women priests, as has the Anglican. However, neither church has valid Apostolic succession. Some pseudo-ordinations have received news coverage, but only for their news value. They are not priests, and are not ordained, despite what they say.
I hope this helps.
Christ’s peace be with you.
But why can’t this change, ever? Surely male apostles were chosen at the time because of social custom there and then. Did Christ explicitly say that women cannot do priestly work?
Christ of all people who refused to be bound for societal conventions in his relationships with women would not be deterred by them in establishing the all male priesthood if in his wisdom it is ontologically correct and necessary. The same man who spoke to the Canaanite woman, the Samaritan woman, prostitutes and adulteresses with directness and kindness would not use that flimsy reason for establishing the foundation of his church. Yes Christ said it directly through the method in which he chose and formed his apostles, and in the bridal and marriage imagery he used for the relationship between himself, and by extension the apostles, and his Church.
Christ was not “Politically Correct”… He knew what we refuse to admit… Men and Women are different…
Can a woman be a father… In our society many women have to attempt to be a father to their children, but because they are women, they can never be truly a father… Same with men, they can play the motherly roll, but can never be a mother to their children…
Christ set the church up to be a big family… He wanted fathers for the church… They are our bishops and priest. …
Other denominations have reduced the priesthood to a job… If it were just a job anybody could do it, male or female… Being a priest is more then a job… It’s a calling by God to be the Father of a spiritual family.
In the USA women are doctors, lawyers, and many other professions that centuries ago were only held by men… These are jobs… Anybody, male or female, can acquire the skills and knowledge to become a professional…
Can anyone become a father? Can anyone become a mother? I know, no mater how much I love my children, I could never be a mother… At times I may have had to act like a mother, but be a mother… That is something I could never be.
Women may act like a priest, but can never be a priest.
Here’s the thing, though. There were female prophets at the time, and women did play a larger role than anyone gives them credit for in jewish religious life.
But let me get this straight. The entire argument of apostolic successtion is that since Christ did not have any female apostles, it is impossible to “lay hands on” a woman? I feel like there must be more to the argument than that, because it just feels flimsy to me.
It’s really more ontologically based than that. Yes, because Christ ordained only men, the Church ordains only men. But why did Christ ordain only men?
In the apostolic succession, the apostles (the original bishops) and their successors were to exercise the priestly function of Christ, acting in the person of Christ in conferring all the sacraments. When the sacraments are conferred, it is Christ conferring them, through the person of the priest.
The Eucharist in particular makes the one sacrifice of Christ present in all times and places. When the priest utters the words of consecration, it is Christ who uses his body and his person to make Himself present. Christ was male, and the priest images Christ.
The priest, as father, is a bridegroom to the Church, our mother.
It feels ‘flimsy’ because it defies our reasoning!
But we are people who believe in things that defies reasoning and understanding! In regards the gender of priests, we have to understand “why priests, at all!”
Our belief in God requires that we not only KNOW Him, but have some understanding of HOW to approach and ‘interact’ with Him during our pilgrimage on this earth. From ALL we know of Him, we look to The Church He started, and The Scriptures.
There are several instances where He interacts with humanity throughout Scriptures AND The Church. Through it all, at no time was a woman a priest. The Old Testament, from Adam to Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, to Jesus Christ, prophecy was not confined to men! Many Scriptures are also ‘penned’ by women! Yet, NOT ONE records an instant of a woman offerring the mandated Sacrificial Burnt Offering to THIS God.
Even when He ‘visited’ to correct us and make The Supreme Offerring, there is NO QUESTION left, of the gender! It’s not just that we have different roles, but that we CANNOT change what He Instituted, through the patriachs, to Himself!
We have searched for some indication; some evidence; some ‘chance’ that we can make this change. But there is NONE!
Many women are Catholic saints, and one in particular, has proven above all that a woman is The Highest Creature EVER created!
We are Catholics, which in itself, differentiates us from the rest of the world! We trust in a Being that Knows all things and their time. Perhaps, some day, He may reveal HOW we can ordain female priests. All we know, in our temporal existence, is WHY we cannot!
I like this explanation the best.
The Church is the Bride of Christ. The priest shares in Christ’s nuptial relationship with the Church, and thus becomes a Groom. A woman can’t be a groom.
The relationship between the priest and the Church is important, because it gives us spiritual life (and in God’s plan, for life to be produced you need a male and a female).
During Christ’s time paganism was all around. There were women priestesses all around. It would have been perfectly normal for Him to ordain women. He could have ordained His mother as a great example. Christ purposely did not ordain women. The Church has no authority to change His teachings or examples.
Here is an article from First Things magazine.
It is a reflection by two women pastors of the lutheran church. One had entered full communion with the catholic church.
So the Lutheran one argues why women priests are valid. The Catholic argues why not.
The responses to the article are published in firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=514
From the FT article linked above:“In other words, a Roman Catholic priest is not simply a father figure; he is a father. To state what has ceased to be obvious in a society governed in large measure by the principle of androgyny, fathers and mothers are not interchangeable. Women are not men and, therefore, cannot be priests any more than they can be fathers in the physical sense. If women can step into the role of priest, then it is no longer one of fatherhood.”
I agree and that’s how I’ve always explained the male priesthood. But how does one explain that while a woman can’t be a groom (ie. a priest,) a man can be a bride (of Christ)? This was asked of me recently on a protestant forum and I wasn’t sure how to answer.
The young non-Catholic lady I was in discussion with said she understood my point about a priest acting *in persona Christi *and thus being a bridegroom, but she thought that if the bridegroom had to literally be a male, then it would seem as if the bride must be literally female (ie. all women in the Church-- no men) I though she asked a good question and didn’t really know how to respond.
Can anyone help me with this?
I don’t know of any official answer… I’ll just give you my thoughts…
Unto ourselves, we are not the Church. We are the Church because we are a community. I think 1 Corinthians 12 mentions that we when are together we are the Church. A head is not a body. An arm is not a body. We each have our own part and we become the body when we are together. We are feminine because we receive our spiritual life from the Groom Jesus, just like Eve who recieved her physical life from Adam.
But a priest is a Groom… whether he is on his own or with his fellow priests. The priesthood is a special ministry created by God so Jesus can i) become real in the Eucharist and ii) say “I absolve you of your sins” in confession.
Just some thoughts from a pretend-apologetic. :o
This is how I understand it. The grace for Holy Orders is an objective spiritual reality. In other words this grace it is very real stuff. The men recieved this grace at Pentecost and from then to now it has been passed on down to other men under certain restrictions… Like the grace of baptism is really only available to human beings and the Church has no authority to include other species. The Church says she has no authority to pass this grace on to women and women do not really have the ability to recieve it. This only makes sense when one reflects on the Mystical nature of the Church and not on past or current Temporal ideas. For this teaching I say AMEN for I know that to listen to Magesterium is part of My Divine and Catholic faith
The number one argument by the woman priest movement is that women are being left out of power in the church.
Well, the thing to remember is that POWER is not something to be grasped at.
I would ask the people who support women priests - why? And, please don’t use the words discrimination and patriarchal.
It wasn’t social customs: the Gentiles had all sorts of priestesses. And as for Judaism, Christ spoke with the Samaritan women, a taboo on several levels among the Hebrews of the time.
And this idea of female priests and bishops is not new: the gnostics had them, and the Catholic Church fought them then as they do now.
Myself, I am not fully convinced that the male priesthood is dogma. But the case for women priests had better be than it’s not PC.
Charlie, thank you for that. I’d forgotten the conversation we (the girl and I) were having, and then when I revisited it, it’s like I was having some sort of strange mental block all of a sudden. Weird. Your comments helped me get over the hump. I told her that that the Church as the Bride must be composed of male and female members to maintain the consistency of the nuptial relationship:
33AD…Christ = male = bridegroom
2008…Priest (in persona Christi) = male = bridegroom
33AD…Church (men and women composing the Body of Christ) = female = bride
2008…Church (men and women composing the Body of Christ) = female = bride
Christ Himself “designed” the priesthood by choosing 12 males (no females). No one (not even the Pope) has the authority to change the “design” of a sacrament. All designs were set by Christ. No one can change them.
The Church is Christ’s bride. Christ is the bridegroom. If the Church is a bride, the priest to whom she is married cannot be a woman, since the sacrament of matrimony is designed for one man and one woman.
Lastly, you indicate that Christ chose men because of the social custom of the times. Maybe it was customary to look down on women back in Christ’s time, but Christ did not. Nor did he look down on sinners. Christ is God, so He is obviously beyond such behavior and looked at all human beings with equal dignity and as equally created in God’s image. After all, our Blessed Mother was chosen to be conceived without sin and to remain sinless her entire life. If any woman was worthy of the priesthood, it was Mary. But she was not a priest or apostle.