One day I came across a post on Facebook from a man who, for the life of him, couldn’t reason why women aren’t ordained priests. Still quite young, he reminded me very much of myself at that age, and he was quick to argue that the Church is sexist in its methods. Many years ago, I too had the argument that since the Church was in dire need of priests, then women should be ordained and given all the privileges of men.
How naive could I have been? Now, many years later, I see the wisdom of the Church, and I’m grateful youngsters such as I was had no authority in the matter.
So what is the role of woman in the Church if she cannot be ordained? Indeed, women hold the highest role! Yes, you read that correctly–the highest role. This is not my opinion. It is the teaching of the Church herself, one which has been underscored by Pope John Paul II.
If you don’t believe this, consider:
Mary, Mother of God, is the highest of all saints–including all the men–and the Queen of Heaven, crowned solely for her singular and perfect role as a mother. In all her perfection, her own Son did not choose her to be a priest. She remained his mother, who raised and nurtured Him, who prayed for Him during His ministry and while He was absent from her. It was Mary who also gave comfort to the Apostles, who suffered at the foot of the cross, and whose divine agony became divine mercy, making God’s grace evident on Earth.
It was a mother–a woman–through which God made Himself present among His Creation. Remember, God could have manifested Himself in any form and under any circumstance. If He so desired, He could have come to us from the sky a mighty warrior and claimed Israel in one strike. Yet He came to us through the womb of a lowly and simple, yet perfect, woman. If this does not clearly define the power of motherhood and God’s elevation of the woman, then nothing will convince you.
And don’t forget this:
Among the saints are Doctors of the Church. These are saints who are considered the most edified among the holy, and they are named such by the Pope himself. Two of my favorites are St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Avila. Their gender has nothing to do with their ultimate status!
Now how can anyone call the Catholic Church sexist? But, no, the young man on Facebook wouldn’t give up. His final question: “Just where does it say in Scripture that only men can be priests?” Margie Prox Sindelar, a wonderful lady on my friends list, wanted to help him out. Here’s what she had to say, reprinted with her permission. Make yourself comfortable; this is a long list that will make you think…and think…and think.
Just because women and men have different roles, does not make us unequal in dignity…. men can not bear children…. So was God sexist when he created us that way? and Yes, there are many places in Scripture that support a male only priesthood, so the church has no authority to change what God has commanded:
Gen. 3:15; Luke 1:26-55– Mary is God’s greatest creation, was the closest person to Jesus, and yet Jesus did not choose her to become a priest. God chose only men to be priests to reflect the complimentarity of the sexes. Just as the man (the royal priest) gives natural life to the woman in the marital covenant, the ministerial priest gives supernatural life in the New Covenant sacraments.
Judges 17:10; 18:19 – fatherhood and priesthood are synonymous terms. Micah says, “Stay with me, and be to me a father and a priest.” Fathers/priests give life, and mothers receive and nurture life. This reflects God our Father who gives the life of grace through the Priesthood of His Divine Son, and Mother Church who receives the life of grace and nourishes her children. In summary, women cannot be priests because women cannot be fathers.
Mark 16:9; Luke 7: 37-50; John 8:3-11 – Jesus allowed women to uniquely join in His mission, exalting them above cultural norms. His decision not to ordain women had nothing to do with culture. The Gospel writers are also clear that women participated in Jesus’ ministry and, unlike men, never betrayed Jesus. Women have always been held with the highest regard in the Church (e.g., the Church’s greatest saint and model of faith is a woman; the Church’s constant teaching on the dignity of motherhood; the Church’s understanding of humanity as being the Bride united to Christ, etc.).
Mark 14:17,20; Luke 22:14 – the language “the twelve” and “apostles” shows Jesus commissioned the Eucharistic priesthood by giving holy orders only to men.
Gen. 14:10; Heb. 5:6,10; 6:20; 7:15,17 – Jesus, the Son of God, is both priest and King after the priest-king Melchizedek. Jesus’ priesthood embodies both Kingship and Sonship.
Gen. 22:9-13 – as foreshadowed, God chose our redemption to be secured by the sacrificial love that the Son gives to the Father.
Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19 – because the priest acts in persona Christi in the offering to the Father, the priest cannot be a woman.
Mark 3:13 – Jesus selected the apostles “as He desired,” according to His will, and not according to the demands of His culture. Because Jesus acted according to His will, which was perfectly united to that of the Father, one cannot criticize Jesus’ selection of men to be His priests without criticizing God.
John 20:22 – Jesus only breathed on the male apostles, the first bishops, giving them the authority to forgive and retain sins. In fact, the male priesthood of Christianity was a distinction from the priestesses of paganism that existed during these times. A female priesthood would be a reversion to non-Christian practices. The sacred tradition of a male priesthood has existed uncompromised in the Church for 2,000 years.
1 Cor. 14:34-35 – Paul says a woman is not permitted to preach the word of God in the Church. It has always been the tradition of the Church for the priest or deacon alone (an ordained male) to read and preach the Gospel.
1 Tim. 2:12 – Paul also says that a woman is not permitted to hold teaching authority in the Church. Can you imagine how much Mary, the Mother of God, would have been able to teach Christians about Jesus her Son in the Church? Yet, she was not permitted to hold such teaching authority in the Church. (A note from Kathleen: Note that this is not referring to religious education teachers and mothers. This is referring to the teaching authority we now call the Vatican, the pope, who provides us with the infallible teachings of the Church, which is protected by Our God from error.)
Rom. 16:1-2 – while many Protestants point to this verse denounce the Church’s tradition of a male priesthood, deaconesses, like Phoebe, were helpers to the priests (for example, preparing women for naked baptism so as to prevent scandal). But these helpers were never ordained.
Luke 2:36-37 – prophetesses, like Anna, were women who consecrated themselves to religious life, but were not ordained.
Isaiah 3:12 – Isaiah complains that the priests of ancient Israel were having their authority usurped by women, and this was at the height of Israel’s covenant apostasy.
I’ll bet you never thought there was this much available in Scripture. To all Catholic women, I’d like to say:
If you are a mother, you know that your tasks are endless and can seem overwhelming. Indeed, we have a habit of using the word “mundane.” But the truth is, motherhood can seem to be too much not because it is mundane but because it is so huge! Embrace the task Our Lord has granted you. You are the moral gatekeeper of your home, and it is your most urgent task to raise the next generation in a way Moses instructed his people. That is, teach your children while you are at home and away, at work and at rest. Teach your children so they can teach their children and all the generations will know Him.