Ask a Priest

Why can’t we have female priests?

May 23, 2008

Dear Father,

I know that the Catholic Church cannot ordain women as priests. It is a teaching I accept and have no problem with. But I often struggle to explain the “why” of it to people, especially to those with no supernatural outlook, who see it rather as a sexist discrimination. Could you please give me a nice summary of the teaching with the “why” included or point me in the direction of some good apologetics in this area?

Many thanks and God bless.

Asked at 01:05 am on May 23rd 2008

Dear Siubhan:

I think a good place to start is the apostolic letter by John Paul II where he set out the Church teaching on this subject.

Here are a couple of paragraphs

“Furthermore, the fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, received neither the mission proper to the Apostles nor the ministerial priesthood clearly shows that the non-admission of women to priestly ordination cannot mean that women are of lesser dignity, nor can it be construed as discrimination against them. Rather, it is to be seen as the faithful observance of a plan to be ascribed to the wisdom of the Lord of the universe.

The presence and the role of women in the life and mission of the Church, although not linked to the ministerial priesthood, remain absolutely necessary and irreplaceable. As the Declaration Inter Insigniores points out, “the Church desires that Christian women should become fully aware of the greatness of their mission: today their role is of capital importance both for the renewal and humanization of society and for the rediscovery by believers of the true face of the Church.”

On a more theological and complex level you can find some useful material in a letter by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the question of how men and women cooperate in the Church.

This material is rather dense and difficult to explain to others. Here are some articles that address the matter on a more apologetic basis that could help. Regarding this topic, it helps to keep in mind that the Church administers the sacraments that Christ instituted. Therefore, the Church does not have the authority to change the fundamentals of the sacraments, instituted by Christ himself.

Here is an article by Mark P. Shea and a good question and answer piece by Jason Evert.

Fr William Saunders also has a good article on the topic that summarizes Church teaching in non-technical language.

If you are interested in going more in-depth on the question I have read good reviews of a book.

BUTLER S., The Catholic Priesthood and Women: A Guide to the Teaching of the Church, Chicago, Hillenbrand Books, 2006, ISBN 978-1-59525-016-2.

I have only given it a rapid skimming a few months ago, but from the reviews and my brief look it seems a good book.

Replied at 05:47 am on May 23rd 2008

An update to this is a decree written by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and published in the May 30 edition of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, giving it immediate effect.

The decree states that both the women who purport to be ordained priests and the bishops who try to ordain them with incurr automatic excommunication.

No doubt there will be a number of articles in the press on this. For the moment you can read what Reuters has to say here.

Replied at 02:50 am on May 30th 2008

The teaching on Women priests seems to come from an ancient time when women were not empowered to do anything but act as housekeepers. isn’t is fair to say that we should be examining the teaching in the hisotrical/cultural context of 2000 years ago?

Women in the 21st century find this teaching very hard to stomach! Imagine being a young women in the Church today and being told that only Men are chosen to consecrate, your only option is to become an incubator for more Catholic children? It is a big turn off Fr John and my sisters and friends struggle with the hollow fundamentalist explanations the Church offers

Isn’t it fair to say that a change in this doctrine would cripple the Church and that may be the reason no one has the courage to change the status quo? The tens of thousands of nuns would be greatly disabled in their ability to attract vocations and it would only serve to devalue their role?

The Church appears to have lost the battle on this sexist stand point. Your final post here shows that the resorting to excommunication is clear evidence that the Church has ended discussion and is ready to damn those who continue to disagree with excommunication.

Sadly this issue will contribute to the erosion of the Church as it disenfranchises women who (worst case) will choose other options for their children (best case) will become part of the lapsed catholic demographic. Once their faith has lapsed they will not pass on the faith to their Children. The end result, less people hear the gospel, the Church in the west increases its insignificance, and the good teachings fall on deaf ears because everyone stops listening to Rome. It may be too late to change this!

Replied at 07:39 am on June 10th 2008

I think as a woman (girl, I’m not yet 18) my opinion holds some weight.
Doug, you say that the position of the Church on women is “sexist”. I disagree. In fact I think that to suggest otherwise in in fact more sexist. Let me explain: a woman is a woman, and should respected as a woman, in all her femininity, she should not strive to be what she is not, that is a man, because being a woman, and being respected as a woman is what equality is. For a woman to strive after a job which is a mans is to make less of the vocation of a woman, which is just ridiculous because the womens vocations are just as important, just different to a mans. (A womans vocation is not just either marriage or nun by the way, just because she is not a nun doesn’t mean she has to be an “incubator for more Catholic children”)
A man shouldn’t complain to God for not allowing him the vocation of a mother, God, in His wisdom, made only women mothers, as women are more suited to the vocation. In the same way as a man cannot bear children, a woman shouldn’t desire to receive a vocation which God, in His infinite wisdom, has allotted to men. This cannot and will not change

As a woman I don’t find this degrading but beautiful. A woman is called to something else, equally as important but VERY different. There are many vocations for women, the priesthood is just not one of them.

I conclude that the Pope, inspired by the Holy Spirit supports this, and in this matter he cannot go wrong. It will not change.

Replied at 09:08 am on June 10th 2008

This is not a direct response to Rebecca, but a contribution to the discussion as a whole.
Not sure this can be considered a discussion as it cannot really exist as a discussion as it is canon law and that is it.

There are no apologetics only what I call embarrassing academic papers, that skirt around the subject fill with platitudes, an embarrassment that none knows how to handle so we will hide behind the law. Remember their where similar arguments about why women should not get the vote, each sex had a role to play and voting was not for the woman. Rebecca, are you prepared to give up the vote because it was proven in many argument that men should do the leading and woman should be caring for the kids, I would also like to remind the group, that in the time of Jesus women did not vote, nor did Mary, so do I take it that now all women are sinner because they do not follow the example of Mary.

Maybe this group should be called “Ask the Church” rather than “Ask the Priest” because it is very unfair to ask a priest question that could get him reprimanded and his “Career” jeopardised, at least Father John would have had a good excuse for having written such structured academic response that lacked a human touch.

Siubhan, turn to the Gospels they are full of the love of God and understand that we are a church of broken humans, always falling back on the law to save our souls. In our parishes we have power struggles, we fight over how flowers need to be arrange, how the seating should set up, where the altar should be, where the tabernacle should be. If we worry about such little things how we as mere “person” are going to deal with such cultural issue such as women priest, so we hide behind the law and we hide behind the name of God. Rejoice that we are broken as it shows how much we are in the need of God’s saving love and that we are all on a journey.

Doug you came in fist and all and let everyone have it, you remind me of my younger days, but really I think it reflects a response to Jesus. Jesus came and gave the disenfranchised; the rejected, back their self respect and the right to live in this world as loved children of God, never stop asking and never stop questioning and listening. It is a tough thing that Jesus asks of us, to walk with him and not count the cost even unto death, and the challenge I put the church, is it prepared to die so that Christ may live, or does Christ calling only apply to the individual and the Church is above such a calling. So Doug the worst the Church can do today is excommunicate you and someone in the Church will be held responsible for that decision when they reach the pearly gates, but they can never ever ever and ever never take the love that God has for you away.

Rebecca I found your response wonderful it smacked a little of what Jesus was calling us to, and that is to recognise our special gifts and set us free from the encumbrances of the world and sin. Jesus wanted us to be fully ourselves to be able to recognise him thru the gifts and talent God has given us and that we bring to our work, our relationships, our life. One of those gifts is our gender he made us male and female, I will not be able to experience everything that you will be able to experience as a woman and you will not be able to experience everything I experience as a man and each of the genders have a role to play and being proud of your gender and recognising the specialises of the gift associated with that gender and so I believe the Church would benefit from that balance. Remember the home/family is held up by the Church as an example and that balance that my mother and father brought to that family is a gift that is irreplaceable so to can that be in the Church.

I am a practising Catholic and have been so all my life, I have been challenged by other Christian and non-Christian groups and the answer has always been in the Gospel never in the law, I recognise the law is there to maintain a level of coherence and framework in which we practise otherwise we would have chaos and as many sects in the church as there are people, because each of us is walking a personal journey that is unique to us, and sharing that with other, we encourage them to continue on their personal journal, but we cannot impose that experience on others.

I do not believe that there is a better structure or example out there that can replace what we have in the church, but I have to remind myself it is being managed by flawed (by original sin in whatever way you want to describe it) people just like you and I walking, and sometimes not, their own spiritual journey.

Woman Priest, yes it will happen and in a hundred years time people will look back is amazement not quite understanding who and why we accepted otherwise, but change is hard and we all scared to let a little die so that something currently somewhat unknown live, give the Holy Spirit a chance to work in us and in the Church.

If this looks purely lie a commentary on others input, it was not meant to be so, but your courage to share your thoughts enabled me to reflect what it meant to me so the reflection is more on what your contributions meant to me and the thought it stirred with n me and I am not trying to impose my journey on you, but thanks for sharing yours.

Replied at 01:19 pm on June 10th 2008

To both Paul and Doug I would like to say that while you both seem to consider that the Church does not ordain women because of outmoded cultural attitudes, this argument does not really hold water.

You only have to look at the Gospels to see how Jesus was not afraid to challenge the cultural and religious norms and practices of his time. He frequently caused scandal to others. Just consider the gospel we read at last Sunday’s mass, when Jesus called a tax collector to follow him and later ate with Matthew and other tax collectors and sinners. Or when it comes to women, Jesus scandalized his followers by talking to the Samaritan woman at the well. The customs prevalent at the time prohibited public conversation between men and women, between Jews and Samaritans, and especially between strangers. We can also recall how Jesus spoke with the woman who was a prostitute, another contravention of the cultural norms of the time.

We also know that there were women in the group that followed Jesus around in his travels. Therefore, if he had wanted to include women at the Last Supper when the priesthood was instituted there is no reason to think that any supposed cultural inhiibtions were the cause of this decision.

Women have made very important and vital contributions to the Church in the past and continue to do so today.

The call for them to be priests is based on an impoverished view of equality and so-called liberation that thinks women have to become some sort of carbon copy of men. Men and women do indeed have the same dignity and fundamental rights, but the difference between being male and female brings with it a complementary exercise of roles and functions – each one of which is valuable and should be recognized. Reducing the life and role of women to being a mere imitator of what men can do is not liberating them, but applying a reductive vision of what the vocation of men and women really is.

Replied at 11:34 pm on June 10th 2008

I think some people here are missing the point.

To put it as simply as possible the fact of the matter is that the issue of women priests is not a cultural issue at all. It is an issue that the church has to deal with because of the culture of today, but it is not a cultural issue because it has nothing to do with culture and everything to do with God. The simple fact is that the priest is Christ representative on earth, and a woman cannot stand in place of a man. The man when he is ordained weds the Church (his bride), because the Church is the Bride of Christ (and they become his representatives). Therefore a woman cannot be a priest for this reason too, that it would be like a homosexual relationship which the Church also does not allow. And yes Doug, the teaching on women priests does come from an ancient time, because it was Jesus himself who instituted the priesthood and the only people present were the Apostles (all men), not even Mary was there. Just because women in the 21st century (and men for that matter) think the Church is being sexist doesn’t change the fact that God himself wanted it to be this way. Like Rebecca said, women have a different vocation, a vocation that God gave us, that is different but no less equal to that of men. Allowing women priests would not be liberation or freedom; it would be license. Likewise it is said that we are to be ‘in’ the world, not ‘of’ the world. So it doesn’t matter what the women and men of the world think. What matters is what God says. So women priest will never happen because it is not the way God ordained it to be.

I say this too as a young woman. And if it happens as Doug has said that people will leave the Church because of it, then so be it. Pope Benedict has said that he would rather a Church with a smaller number of people who are true and faithful to the Church, than have one full of people trying to destroy it by not believing in all that it teachers. I whole heartedly agree with him. And yes I also agree with you too Doug that allowing women priests would cripple the Church, but not because of your reasoning. It would cripple the Church because it would be disobeying God.

In response to Paul’s message to Doug. I would just like to clarify that the Church cannot and will not ever die. We have those words of promise from God himself. Yes, Jesus was talking to only to Man when He called us to “walk with him and not count the cost even unto death”. The Church cannot do this because it is perfect in and of itself. It has no need to do this. Christ lives through the Church and therefore it cannot die. Also, you talked rather flippantly about excommunication. This is a very serious matter which is carefully considered by the Church, and if it is warranted it means that the person/people involved have done/said something very serious, so it should not be taken lightly. You separate yourself from the Body of Christ which means you are in grave (mortal) sin, therefore you will more than likely be the one to not see the pearly gates if you were to die in such a state and be unrepentant.

Paul, you also disregard Canon Law. We should all be very grateful to have it because without we would not have our own current civil law/justice system because it was based off Canon Law. Like the civil law we know that there is sense in following and adhering to the law. It is there mostly for our own wellbeing, and that of others. Likewise Canon Law is there for the members of the Church on ecclesial matters. These laws come directly from God and cannot and should not be dismissed so lightly.

This is in no way meant to be an attack on anyone, but hopefully will clarify some of the problems in peoples understanding of the Church and its teachings. God bless you all. You especially Fr John.

Replied at 04:00 am on June 11th 2008

I do want to apologise to you Fr. John for being so tough on you and your earlier comments, but we have to understand that if a decision has been made to go out on the web it is going to broaden the discussion and some of the things we hear we may not like.

Your response was rather clinical and it did not really invite me into wanting to know more, it cut off the discussion, it cut off a relationship and that is why I decided to challenge it. Also because I do believe woman will become priest sometime, by the way, my wife disagrees with me.

If this site does grow, this will be considered a mild discussion, so I wish you well on this enterprise.

It is a risky thing to share your faith and even amongst some of the most well meaning posting, I have read, there is some dangerous theology out there and I believe debating on whether there should be Woman priest is probably the least risky

When people look into the church what do they see
– a Church of Piety
– of Church Dogma
– a Church of Enthusiasts
– a church of Law
– a liturgical church
– Liberalism
– Revolutionary
– Fundamentalism
– Conservatism
– Superstition
– Mythology
– Theology
– Social Justice.

I feel sorry for the Bishops, the Pope and Parish Priests who are trying to keep the church together and try guiding us along a similar journey faith, theirs is one of the toughest jobs there is but then it is also very easy to fall into the legalistic trap, use the law to control and bind the people of God.

This is what Jesus rebelled against, when he saw how people were bound up by the law, (hanging millstones around people necks) making it a lose-lose situation, taking away hope, taking people away from a relationship with God to a dependant relationship on law and church to see them to heaven. Our church fell into the same trap and we had to have the protestant revolution to wake up look to see what we had done, and we are still winding back the clock from the very things Christ tried to save his people from. When it becomes so complex, people give up hope and they turn to an easy way out and there is some great quick fix choices out there for people out there today

W have to reach out for that personal relationship with God, we have to challenge and discern so we can put aside those things that matter is our building that relationship, Jesus stated that he was not here to change one word of the law, but he came to change peoples altitude to the law so that it would not prevent them from having a personal relationship with God.

So that is how I get thru dealing with what hits me when I face (part list above) the things that hit me when I participate in my Church, I could easily find myself hiding in Piety, in Law, in conservatism or liberalism maybe even fundamentalism etc but I would be I am limiting my relationship with Jesus.

How do we welcome people into the Church, into a relationship with Jesus, thru laws (do and don’t) from level of perfection, in both people and church, probably not. We show they are welcome because we are also broken but God loves us dearly, this includes the church. We cannot lead from perfection but only from a shared journey.

Alyssa, I have to disagree on your statement that the church is perfect because it is the Body of Christ. We the members, people and clergy are the Church are the “Body of Christ”. If therefore the church is perfect then we are perfect and then we would not need God.

I do not disagree that the law is necessary, it is the framework but it is not the means to the end, Jesus was so clear about it, and when time get really tough, it is easy to fall back and depend on the law to save us rather than our relationship with Jesus and thru the gift of the Holy Spirit. Every thing is there to support us on the journey, not to be the journey.

So therefore the question, does the issue of woman priests hinder or enhance our a ability to invite people into a relationship with God within our framework. My answer is no because where I live it is the woman running the catechesis, the RCIA, the adult education, they are reaching more people, they are evangelising. You might respond with a great so see it works well with woman dding what they do and priest doing what they do, the pristhood will become failry meaningless (as shepard of the flock) if all they end up doing in flying into a parish do mass and confession and fly out again.

The Church needs to be more careful about those it accepts in the role of priest whether are men or woman, rather than out of desperation taking same real bad eggs.

Christ will do with his Church what he likes despite the plans we have for it, lets pray that we are always discerning and listening for the voice of God.

Best to you all on your journey.

Replied at 12:34 pm on June 11th 2008

Paul I think you might find it interesting to read the Pope’s words from his Angelus
message last Sunday.

Benedict XVI refers to the Sunday gospel, which was about the call of Matthew and how Jesus rebuked the Pharisees. The Pope comments:

“God’s words have come down to us, through the Gospels, as a synthesis of the entire Christian message: true religion consists in love of God and neighbour. This is what gives value to worship and to the practice of the precepts.”

So Paul you are right in saying that we should not adopt a legalistic attitude to our faith.

The Pope’s first encyclical on charity goes into this deeper when he says:

“The love-story between God and man consists in the very fact that this communion of will increases in a communion of thought and sentiment, and thus our will and God’s will increasingly coincide: God’s will is no longer for me an alien will, something imposed on me from without by the commandments, but it is now my own will, based on the realization that God is in fact more deeply present to me than I am to myself.” (No. 17)

This also needs to be read and considered in relation to what the Catechism says.

“85 “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.”47 This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.”

So it is not a question of each one of us deciding what Church teaching is, and they way our faith is lived is not determined by public opinion or outside pressure. This obedience to Church teaching is not some kind of authoritarian domination, as the Catechism goes on to say.

86 “Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith.”48

So we need love, but this love needs to be guided by God’s teaching and the Pope and the body of Church teaching that has developed over time shows us how do this. This is what Christ wanted when he entrusted authority to Peter and established the Church. Clearly in following Church teaching we need to live it in a spirit of love.

Replied at 11:45 pm on June 11th 2008

Joe, my replies were made to the original question which requested: “Could you please give me a nice summary of the teaching,” so naturally I was trying to do this and to set out what the Church teaches on this subject. Of course people have differing opinions on this, but at the same time I think it helps when discussing any topic to have a clear idea of what Church teaching is, whether or not we agree with it.

Replied at 01:04 am on June 13th 2008

To quote Pope John Paul II:

“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. Luke 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” (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis 4)

Replied at 03:00 am on June 13th 2008

Ultimately, it actually comes down to this: if you love God, you will obey Him, and he has set the Church in authority over us. To rebel against the authority of the Church is to rebel against the authority of God. The Church shall not shrink into a club for hard core uber trads, nor does, I think, the pope want this. I believe that he wants the church to shrink, if it is to shrink, into a hard core group of saints.

Replied at 09:34 pm on June 13th 2008

I believe it would be more likely if the Church shrunk if female priests were introduced. Let me explain: the thing that filled me with confidence that the Catholic Church was the true Church was that in 2000 years it had not changed, it was protected by Christ and did not change. If the Church did change on something so big as female priests I would be less able to confidently follow her.
I know it wont happen because Christ is guiding His Church and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”.

Replied at 10:37 pm on June 13th 2008

i agree with Rebecca. the Church hasn’t changed because it cannot. not through fundamentalism, but because of where it comes from.

people seem to be talking about Church Law as if it’s something created by the Pope, Bishops and Priests and held over the heads of the faithful like a sword. it is a colection of guidelines for people to follow that is based on the Bible. everything that the Church teaches has its roots in the Bible, and in the Church’s understanding of Christs teachings. and this isn’t the Church consisting of my parish priest and some brothers, but some 2000 years of history.

my understanding of contentious issues may be different from the teaching of the Church. but mine is an opinion whereas Church teaching is informed by the Bible and all that history, which i as a Catholic believe has been and is still guided by the Holy Spirit. i need to acknowledge that i don’t know everything and that my theological training is limited.

there is good reason to trust the authority of the Church. i don’t follow the Law ‘because they said so’ but because it’s a source i know i can trust.

and back to the topic, why can’t men be nuns?
i guess we all have our own ways to serve the Lord, and in the end it is His divine will that we must follow.

God Bless.

Replied at 12:51 pm on June 16th 2008

Is it the fault of the Church that few adhere to the oft-repeated ever-merciful call of God?

Joe, have you perchance read the most famous sermon of St. Leonard of Port Maurice on the subject of Hell and damnation?

Replied at 11:33 pm on June 16th 2008

What about Mary Magdalene, she had a gospel, which the early church rejected. But the Gnostics had women who would teach the gospels.
But the Catholic Church made its decision a long time ago to exclude women and they haven’t caught up with the feminist movement of the 60’s.
But the church is an organization and has a right to choose its way of doing things. So I don’t see a necessity for women priests as long as there are men around.

Replied at 12:49 am on June 17th 2008

that still reduces it to the elite few though. essentially ‘turn or burn’


Priesthood is a vocation sent from Heaven, not a political election. So essentially, yes it is reserved for a few- but they are chosen by God, not by any of us.

Motherhood and giving birth are also vocations reserved for some (and only women). In fact any profession is also a vocation that few have been chosen for- I have always wanted to be a doctor, but its clearly not where I’m meant to be. I think we can get too political about this- forgetting that God is the one that chooses priests.

Replied at 12:02 am on June 17th 2008

Joe, you are right that some things change, but we need to keep in mind what can change and what cannot. There are fundamental aspects of our faith, and the basic structure of the sacraments is one of those, that the Church cannot change because they were revealed directly by God.

I dealt with this in the first post in this debate, so I suggest you go back and read it.

Replied at 01:38 am on June 17th 2008

“No and I don’t see why I would bother to be honest. I doubt it will say something I haven’t already heard before”

If you close your mind, it is not that it will say nothing new to you, but you will not hear it at all. If you expect to learn nothing from a Saint, then perhaps you shouldn’t read it after all.

Replied at 01:58 am on June 17th 2008

Hi Joe,

You wrote:

[color=red]”ironically this argument has been bandied about a lot.
Church -> supported by bible
Bible -> supported by Church
Its a circular proof. Ultimately the church chose what books were in the bible at differnt councils and what not. Its like saying ‘read the book I wrote it proves what i say’ its a cycle.” [/color]

Sure this “circular proof” would be pretty meaningless to, say an atheist, but then again so would this whole question. If Christianity is false, who cares about the priesthood one way or another? When we’re talking about the priesthood, we’re talking from within the Christian worldview. So the real question is, logically, assuming Christianity is true, what is the truly Christian understanding of the priesthood?

The first authority for all Christians is the Scriptures. It then becomes a question of interpretation – the Catholic interpretation versus others. And obviously, not all Christians accept either that the Church’s authority is supported by the bible, or the bible’s dependence on the Church. If they did, they’d ultimately accept the Church’s interpretation in this matter, too. So there are two ways to defend the Church’s interpretation: one is directly quoting the Scriptures relevant to the question of priesthood. Another is to point out the Scriptural evidence for the Church’s interpretative authority itself.

As it happens, you seem to agree that the bible is dependent on the Church, and that the Church is supported by the bible. In which case, I’m not sure on what basis you reject the Church’s interpretation of those Scriptures in this matter? If we ignore the authority of both the Scriptures and the Church then we’ve pretty much ruled out all the relevant data for the question at hand, haven’t we? Natural reason alone can’t arrive at conclusions regarding proper Sacramental practice.

Please let me know if I’ve misunderstood your point.

Replied at 12:45 pm on June 17th 2008

The authority of the Church does not come from the Bible. I’m getting tired of reading people writing that. The authority of the Church is taught by the Bible, but it does not come from it.

Replied at 09:58 pm on June 17th 2008

This thread has strayed in all sorts of directions, so lets keep it focussed on the point – ordination of women.

First of all- Church teachings are divinly inspired. That is why we are in th Church- because we love God and have faith in the teachings he gives to His Church. Its very easy to get caught up in complaints at level of understanding that is limited compared to the 2000 years of theology that has preceeded us. True various schools of thought have influenced our reactions to certain teachings of the Church, we see this on a day to day basis, and indeed its vital to consider all points of view.

I am a strong advocator of woman’s rights. I think society has a lot to do to improve in this regard. Equality in its truest form does not mean, however, that there is no difference between the sexes. On the contrary, true equality would allow men to be men, and women to be women. True equality in dignity, also does not mean that both men and women should be priests. God created both man and woman in His image, and He created them unique to each other. He created women with the ability to give birth for example.

What can be missed is the awesome balance that we have in the Church as a result of respecting the unique dignity and roles of men and women. JPII explained this in his Apostolic letter:

The fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, received neither the mission proper to the Apostles nor the ministerial priesthood clearly shows that the non-admission of women to priestly ordination cannot mean that women are of lesser dignity, nor can it be construed as discrimination against them. Rather, it is to be seen as the faithful observance of a plan to be ascribed to the wisdom of the Lord of the universe.

The presence and the role of women in the life and mission of the Church, although not linked to the ministerial priesthood, remain absolutely necessary and irreplaceable. As the Declaration Inter Insigniores points out, “the Church desires that Christian women should become fully aware of the greatness of their mission: today their role is of capital importance both for the renewal and humanization of society and for the rediscovery by believers of the true face of the Church.

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.

Its not about power, politics… in fact more then anything its about dignity!

Replied at 12:16 am on June 18th 2008

Dear Michael: I am really sorry to see you in your posts on this topic and others a mentality that views the Church and doctrine through a reductive and politicized perspective. You treat the Church’s teachings as if it were just the process of a political institution, similar to any other political body. I think this sort of horizontal and sociological approach to religion and the Church impoverishes God’s revelation and seeks to reduce our faith to the level of political activism. That’s not what the Church is about.

Replied at 06:01 am on June 19th 2008

I just want to point out: most of those on this discussion who are saying the Churchs’ teaching on women priests is wrong are men.
Most of the women in this discussion are fine with the fact that the Church teaches that women cannot be priests.
Mate do you believe in the Church? The Church as the Mystical Body of Christ the spouse of Christ? I highly doubt Christ will let His Church go astray, He inspires the Pope to ensure she doesn’t go astray.
“You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” He will not let the teachings of the Church loose their truth.

And as I said previously, it is not discrimination against women to not allow them to be priests, it is in fact in my opinion THE OTHER WAY AROUND. If you can’t see this, please see my last post on this question.

God loved His Church protects it and stops it from going astray, and I, as a human, aknknowledge His better judgement on the issues of women priests, after all He is God 🙂

Replied at 07:59 am on June 19th 2008

Because Christ said so “The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it”

Replied at 07:43 am on June 19th 2008

Acts 17:11 Now the soon-to-be-Catholics were of more noble character than the Protestants, for they received the message the the Bishop had given them with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what he said was true.

It works both ways.

Replied at 09:07 pm on June 19th 2008

I think that people are essentially trying to judge the Church by secular standards, in which equality has become homogeneity rather than complementarity, and in which the world is about power and conflict, rather than servitude and harmony. The priesthood is a service, all the way up to the Pope. Marriage is a service, all vocations are a service. Secular people tend to project onto these issues secular preoccupations of power: “The Pope tells people what to do! Why can’t a woman be telling people what to do?”, without understanding that he’s a servant in the same way as anyone else is.

We can see by looking at the Anglican church what happens when man tries to make God and the Church in his image, rather than the other way round. It takes on all kinds of unpleasant and dishonest characteristics, as it becomes about control, not service. We must always be careful to analyse any change with the first question “why are we doing this?”. Is it our will or the will of God?

Replied at 10:21 pm on June 19th 2008

Well Joe, if you prefer the Anglican Church you are free to join them.

Replied at 02:36 am on June 23rd 2008

Rebecca, thats one awesome response…its good to see there are people with this view out there amongst this ‘modern’ world where it seems guys want to be girls and vice versa. As a side note, is it just me or does it seem that the more we try to embrace these modern cultures..the more we lose the core reasoning behind why certain things were created the way they were and we become centred on our own satisfaction.

Replied at 09:58 am on June 23rd 2008

I wasn’t saying it is only men who have a problem with this issue, just pointing out the very interesting fact 🙂

I would go as afar to say that I do not fear my God, as you advise me against, and I strive to Love Him as He deserves as He is all-good, and for His sake I strive to love my neighbour. I don’t always succeed but I do try.

I also believe in “the Holy Catholic Church” which is professed in the apostles creed, which dates back to the first Christians, according to some historians the apostles. I believe in this Church and trust it, according to Christs promise. I get great consolation from the fact that the Church will not be abandoned.

You say the Church “justified slavery”. Listen to this written by a protestant:
“To the credit of Roman Catholics, it must be said [despite being in the midst of a pro-slavery nation, the U.S.A.], that they maintain no arrangements of caste founded in color, in their Churches,” said Rev. William Goodell, Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A History of the Great Struggle In Both Hemispheres; With A View of The Slavery Question In The United States (New York: William Harned Pub, 1852), p 201.

The Catholics in fact were the first to condemn slavery and were much more reponcive to the issue then the Protestants. There is evidence of the Chruch’ attempt to stop slavery as early as 441 AD. Read up on your history mate!

Also even if some people in the Church did condone slavery it doesn’t at all dter from the Churchs’ authority. As humans we are bound to make mistakes, but Christ will not let His Church loose the way to tuth.
Hear Christ talking about his apostles, His Church, He will not abanon her and will not let hergo wrong. I trust Him, and Him through her. From Johns gospel:

” I have given them your word… I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one…The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Replied at 09:19 am on June 23rd 2008

Another side note here:
(Correct me if i’m wrong here)
The catholic church has certain dogma that as a ‘church’ we agree with and follow.
There are other churches formed because they dont agree with such dogma
So if someone is not happy or doesnt agree with what is set out by the Catholic church then i dont understand why they start protesting about it and not just join a protestant group- like the Anglican.
I’m a Catholic and I think that Jesus built His church on rock (rather than say mud or sand) because She shouldnt change with the times.. and personally I don’t want the Church’s stance on female priests to change.

Thats my five cents.

(p.s. Father I’m not as learned in the teachings of the Church so if i have said something wrong please correct me)

Replied at 10:04 am on June 23rd 2008

Dear Micheal, Recall what Jesus said to His disciples:

“But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

If certain priests see it as a position of mere power, then I agree with you that it is wrong, but seeing this passage from the Bible should alert us to the fact that the priesthood is all about service to God and to His people. Jesus positively denounces the idea of power, and the church that Jesus started would not ‘ban’ women from priesthood just to hold on to power. If that were true, then the gates of hell have prevailed over the church, which we know cannot happen, as Jesus promised St. Peter, Our first Pope.

Many people talk about power being the issue, but don’t bring up the awesome and (if I may) awful responsibility that a priest has to bear. They are responsible for the souls under their charge.

I accept the teachings of the church with regards to this issue and I am grateful for all the priests out there that continually live out the above passage of scripture.

May the Blessed Mother inspire them for a greater love of Our Lord and His Church. Amen

Replied at 02:44 pm on June 24th 2008

“The teaching on Women priests seems to come from an ancient time when women were not empowered to do anything but act as housekeepers. isn’t is fair to say that we should be examining the teaching in the hisotrical/cultural context of 2000 years ago?”

Wrong. Widows and divorced women were totally emancipated in Ancient Rome. As a consequence, one sect, the Montanists, had women ordained bishops. They could not carry public office due to military implications. There were priestesses in some pagan cults. If there were not in Ancient Israel, that was God’s choice, quite as well as it later on was His choice to have only men for apostles.

Deaconesses were even a necessity, due to social limits on what decent women could accept from the Church.

Replied at 02:25 pm on June 24th 2008

so is there just one clear paragraph or sentence on why?? i read this whole thing and am pretty confused now.

Replied at 06:19 am on June 29th 2008

yes Roz, the very first post by Fr John is the direct answer to the question- the other posts are rather the thoughts of some others who wanted to comment on this issue so if its causing confusion i suggest you just look for Fr John’s post before any of the others.

Replied at 08:32 am on June 29th 2008

i would love to become a priest too but I am married now so I understand this is impossible, Jesus bestowed the priesthood only to men, if he wanted woman priests then surely he would of allowed his own Mother to recieve this grace yet he did notaloow this all though I believ our Lady was there, take a look at da vinci painting there is a gap between John and Jesus, , so we must repect Jesus’s own will, what more how can other religions accept women and openly gay men is unbelievable and must cause Jesus so much pain ?

Replied at 01:50 pm on July 14th 2008

I realise that many people think that to be a Priest is just to consecrate the sacrament, but what it really entails is spiritual fatherhood- women CANNOT be fathers simply because they are women. We need to look beyond this relativist thinking and reevaluate our roles in society as a clear breakdown is occuring- women think that to be equal we need to be men, which is not TRUE feminism but disguised misogyny. We need to embrace our inherent roles, roles that God gave us and reaffirmed with his Son. Because if God wanted female priests, there would have been a female in the 12 Apostles. We need to remember that a group of women always followed Jesus and his apostles, yet the Priestly ministry remained with men. Besides- we are all called to the Priesthood and live out that calling in the daily sacrifices we make, namely offering ourselves to God as a LIVING sacrifice. The Ministry is just a specific way of living that calling. Jesus knew what he was doing, and I don’t think we should question our Saviour, just because of a change of circumstance. By the way, I am a woman….

Replied at 08:07 am on July 16th 2008

ok, so we’ve established that women cannot become priests.  Why can they not become deacons? I personally can’t see the problem with this, just as deacons can be married!

Replied at 12:06 pm on July 29th 2008

if woman cannot be priests, then the same applies to deacons in my view, i have seen woman acoytles though and my local priest told me that woman acoyltes are ok, , if you start being deacons then woman will say why not priests,  bishops and  the pope,  its clear Gods will is that men can be priests and woman cannot, if Jesus wanted woman priests he would of bestoweed that honour on his own Mother first but he did not, woman have a great model to follow in our Lady , 

Replied at 10:02 pm on July 29th 2008

Dear Geetaniali: The reason women cannot be deacons is that it is part of what the Church calls the sacrament of Holy Orders. In fact, the sacrament of ordination as it is more commonly referred to has three degrees: diaconate; presbyterate; and episcopate. You can see this in the Catechism, no. 1536.

So being ordained a deacon is sharing in the sacrament of Holy Orders, which for reasons already explained previously in this thread, is reserved for men.

Replied at 11:20 pm on July 29th 2008

I agree with Henry, if our Lord wanted women to be priest, He would have chosen His own Mother, His first and best disciple, but He didn’t.

I think we women question the reason why we can’t be priest because we want to do more for our Lord. St. Therese of Lisieux is a good example of a great  saint who desired to be a man so she could be a priest. It is normal for women to love Christ so much that they want to be closer to Him- but Ordination is not the answer. 
 The best way to find a resolution to this idea of women ordination is for us women to discern what our Lord wish to do with us. I myself thought that our Lord only drew closer to priest and I was so wrong.
A great model to read on is St. Catherine of Sienna, also the Little Flower, and of course St. Teresa of Avila, all of them Doctors of the Church.

I would strongly recommend ‘The Mystical City of God’  by Venerable Mother Mary of Agreda.  She explains in extremely good details the life of our Blessed Mother. Our Mother becomes the ultimate model for women to live a life in Christ and with Christ. It sounds so obvious- but this book describes all that our Blessed Mother used to do in her daily life- **Her Ministry ** and interaction with the Apostles. What she became for them and how.

This is a great topic. We should start a topic on what are our Lord’s plans for women.
 In his peace,

Replied at 02:24 pm on July 30th 2008

Is there any truth to the early church having priestesses..if so what were their suposed roles?
When the apostles set out to make disciples such as paul etc did they ever make women disciples too. God gave mother mary a huge role, she became the mother of the church not to mention the mother of God/Jesus.
Why then would mary, Jesus and God need to ever be ordained into priests. The argument that God didnt do these things makes it clear that God wouldnt want us to also? Or could God have just been slightly sensative to the times i.e like he was with moses and the jews on marriage and spouses.

Replied at 01:21 am on July 31st 2008

Dear Michael: No, there were not priestesses in the early Church.

On the other points you raise, please go back and look at my answers earlier in the thread, as they are covered in my previous replies, and the contributions by some others who participated in the discussion. 

Replied at 02:25 am on July 31st 2008

thanks for that, but then why is it that deacons can be married? I understand the women not being priests, and deacons now, and do not question it, just am curious as to why, if “deaconhood” is part of the holy orders, men can be married and deacons too.

Replied at 10:17 am on July 31st 2008

Dear Geetanjali: There is a a very complete article explaining the role of deacons and how it was reintroduced into the Church in recent times. Towards the end it also deals with what you ask.

You can read it here and it should answer your questions. 

Replied at 11:37 am on July 31st 2008

Dear Fr.

                     I do agree perfectly with Slubhan. I often found it difficult to explain Why not women?  My usual answer is that we can serve the Lord better by even not being a priest. Women are more relational (comparitivly) due to their natural vocation to motherhood. So the work of a relational nature need not need the authority of priesthood. I think Nun’s (sisters ) have served the church better by being what they r now. Authority could corrupt them.(as it has corrupted many priests who were not spiritual enough.) 

       But I dont think that this is a good answer to the Q. Jesus didnt ordain an Indian (non Jew). But we now allow Indians and Africans  to be ordained. Why only this argument turned to women. Is it due to Gender insensitivity?

              I dont have a clear cut answer any way. But Doubts are dangerous  as I prepare for priesthood. 

Replied at 10:15 am on September 22nd 2008

Dear Br. Rubil: Well, I really would recommend you go back over the posts and read all the arguments dealt with, as there is a lot of information already posted about why the Church does not ordain women. You should also carefully study and meditate on the Church documents on this subject as part of your preparation for the priesthood.

Replied at 10:57 am on September 22nd 2008

Hello Father,

I’m just responding to one of your posts in the Why can’t women be priests? thread.

I totally agree with what you say on women in the Church. There traditional roles as housewives are equally important as doctors, businessman, heads of state and of course Priests. Feminists complain that they are inferior or slaves to men and that women must be behaive and live like men to be human. Well they totally misunderstand the whole picture. Of course abuse against wives/women is unaccaptable and thats parlty what pushed the feminist revolutions into affect. There is a verse in the Bible that commands husbands to respect there wives so the Christian faith does not condone it in anyway. Men and Women are equal in dignity and worth not sameness and biological nature.

What you explained in the post is the official position of the Catholic Church right? I’ve read the Mulierias Dignitatem and other Apostolic letters and official facts on it but they kind of diverge because they pretty much say that women should work double roles as mothers and workers aswel. Well most working Mums agree that that is suffocating, tiresome and even not feasible in many circumstances especially in large families. The children usually require the full attention of the mother and not be raised in day care centers or day orphanages as I like to call them at times but time at day care in moderation is good.

However this is probably not my area to be getting involved in as I am a man not a woman otherwise I’m still concerned for it however.

 Otherwise talk to you again soon.

Yours Sincerely;
and God Bless.

Replied at 11:38 am on October 20th 2008

Dear Michael: It might be better to start this off in a new thread, as the topic of women and their roles in the family and the workplace is really very different from this thread on women priests.

If you want to read about this topic I suggest a look at John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation on the family, particularly nos. 22 and following.

If you have further questions, or others wish to discuss this matter please start a new thread by asking a new question – this will also make it easier for others to see the topic instead of burying it at the end of this already very long thread.

Replied at 10:10 pm on October 20th 2008

Dear Michael: It’s good to hear from you after a bit of a gap, I hope all is going well with you.

Reflecting on your post I think that what you say reveals a very different understanding of what the nature of the Church is. It is certainly true that we must be open to listening the voice of God within us and that the Holy Spirit is without doubt active in our lives, inspiring and leading us.

On the other hand the Catholic Church is not just an agglomeration of individuals who each hear and interpret that voice of the Holy Spirit within them and act accordingly, in an individualistic way.

It’s not that easy to discern if what we feel inspired to do comes from God, our own ego and preferences, the influence of other people, etc. To help us determine if something comes from God we have to check it against the revealed truth. We also know that Jesus entrusted to Peter and the apostles a teaching authority to guide us and safeguard the integrity of revelation.

If we say we feel inspired to do something that is against defined Church teaching, then it is a good sign that it is not a true inspiration from God, as God would not lead us to do something against what he has revealed.

All of us probably find some teachings of the Church hard to accept, but if we allow our desire to change some teachings to then undermine our very concept of what the Church is and to weaken our belief in the teaching authority of the Pope and the bishops then we start down a very dangerous path.

Replied at 04:52 am on November 09th 2008

Dear Michael,

And I too respect your opinion, but youth is not a barrier to understanding truth – especially when it is accompanied by continuous thought, study and prayer…

… and to use the words of St Augustine that Pope Benedict XVI shared in his message to all Australians:

There is a saying attributed to Saint Augustine: “If you wish to remain young, seek Christ”. In him we find the answers that we are seeking, we find the goals that are truly worth living for, we find the strength to pursue the path that will bring about a better world. Our hearts find no rest until they rest in the Lord, as Saint Augustine says at the beginning of the Confessions, the famous account of his own youth.

Replied at 12:57 am on November 10th 2008

Dear Michael: I am not quite sure in your previous post to this what you meant by the question regarding becoming an Anglican, as this seems to be something new that I had not mentioned. It is possible for a Catholic to leave the Church and join the Anglican Church.

Regarding your second post, of course the Church is made up of humans and Jesus was human. Jesus was, however, also God and the Church was promised the assistance of the Holy Spirit and Jesus promised that Hell would not prevail against it.

When you assert you are on the same level as Jesus or the Church because we are all human then I would like to recommend a little more humility. If you, or anyone else, says that we so sure of our own authority and that we are better placed to interpret what God’s will is than 2,000 years of Church teaching and the authority of the Pope – well it makes me wonder a bit if pride and own ego and personal passions could not be distorting our judgment.

I don’t say this as an attack upon you personally, and I don’t doubt your sincere desire to follow Christ, but all of us are limited and we need the guidance of the Church and of the countless theologians who over the centuries have helped to develop Church teaching.

And on the issue of women priests, this is not an area where there is the slightest amibiguity or doubt. It is clearly defined Catholic doctrine, taught as such by the Popes and bishops for centuries.

Replied at 10:48 pm on November 10th 2008

Dear Michael: The reference to the Anglican church was quite a few posts previously and not in any relation to yourself – hence my query to you as to what this meant in relation to your own post.

Regarding any previous mistakes in Church doctrine there have not been any on fundamental questions regarding our faith – perhaps it is you who should provide examples of such mistakes, if they exist.

Yes, Jesus is fully human, a true man, but is also fully divine and God. To concentrate on just one of the two natures of Jesus to the exculsion of others was the source of a variety of heresies in the first centuries of the Church. These tendencies to overly emphasize either the humanity or the divinity of Jesus – thus not giving proper weight to the other nature – come up from time to time again, but just repeat the same mistakes from centuries ago.

I really am rather puzzled as to your insistence on continuing with this matter of women priests. It is simply not even something that has been an issue for so many centuries – the teaching of the Church is just so clear on this and has been for so many centuries that there is no doubt on this doctrine – apart from those unduly influenced by distorted form of feminism that reduces the Church to a mere sociological analysis.

Replied at 10:33 pm on November 11th 2008

Thank you all for your input…

At the request of the person who started this thread, this thread is now closed as it has strayed from the original question.

For those who want further reading on the vocation of the Priesthood for men, here is JPII’s apostolic letter on this issue.

Replied at 10:51 pm on November 11th 2008