Why Won’t the Church Ordain Women?

Women’s ordination has been in the news twice this week. The major story was that the Anglican Communion, which has allowed women to be ordained priests for some time now, has just announced that they will start ordaining female bishops. On this side of the Tiber, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley caused something of a stir when 60 Minutes aired an interview in which he said, “If I were founding a church, I’d love to have women priests.

So let’s talk about it. Why won’t the Catholic Church just ordain women already?

I. Why Won’t the Church Ordain Women?

François-André Vincent, The Greek Priest (1782)

One mistake that women’s ordination supporters tend to make is starting off with the wrong question. I mentioned the Cardinal O’Malley interview, but it’s important to give his fuller response to the question of women’s ordination: “If I were founding a church, I’d love to have women priests. But Christ founded it, and what he has given us is something different.

Some Catholics have chided him for this answer, viewing it as a sort of passing the buck, as if the Cardinal is saying, “Don’t blame me, blame Jesus!” I disagree. I think he’s making an important point: before we get to the question of whether the Church should ordain women, we need to first know if the Church can ordain women. O’Malley’s answer reminded me of something that I heard Cardinal Pell say recently about divorce and remarriage (the 2:03 mark here):

As Christians, we follow Jesus. And I could confess, I perhaps might have been tempted to hope that Jesus might have been a little bit softer on divorce. But He wasn’t, and I’m sticking with Him.

Both Pell and O’Malley are making the same point. It’s not a simple matter of what you or I would like. I might wish gluttony weren’t a sin, or that eating an entire box of doughnuts weren’t bad for my health, but my wishing it doesn’t change reality. If I’m contemplating pursuing my dreams, I should probably know at the outset whether or not my dream is even possible.

So, the better, more fundamental question is: can the Church ordain women? And the answer to that is clear. Pope John Paul II invoked his authority as the pope to clarify that  the Church’s teaching on the male-only priesthood is infallibly settled, and that the Church can’t ordain women:

Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force. 
Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.

So the Church won’t ordain women, today, tomorrow, or ever, because she can’t.  That answer is perfectly clear, but I imagine it’s not entirely satisfying. Why can’t the Church ordain women?

II. Why Can’t the Church Ordain Women?

Illustration of Jesus and the Apostles from the Siysky Gospel (1340).

A second mistake that women’s ordination supporters tend to make is treating the Church as all-powerful, as if she can simply change dogma. But she can’t, and Vatican II explicitly teaches that she can’t:

This teaching office [the Magisterium] is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.

There are certain things that are just manmade policies within the Church, and those can be changed, if the circumstances demand it. But there are other things that are given to us by God, and we can no more change those than we can throw out the Ten Commandments. These are instances in which our only choices are to listen to Jesus and obey Him, or ignore Him and disobey Him.

As St. John Paul II made clear, women’s ordination is one of those things that we don’t have the power to change. Jesus was intentional about creating a male-only clergy. Ironically, a good place to see this is in the open letter to Cardinal O’Malley that Erin Saiz Hanna and Kate McElwee of Women’s Ordination Conference recently issued, in which they said:

In all four gospels, Mary Magdalene was the primary witness to the central event of Christianity — Christ’s resurrection. In John’s Gospel, Jesus called on Mary Magdalene — a woman — to preach the good news of his resurrection to the other disciples. The Scriptures also mention eight women who led small house churches, including Phoebe, Priscilla, and Prisca. And, not least of all, Mary of Nazareth, who answered her vocational call from God and first brought Jesus, body and flesh, into our world.

Now, the details of these claims aren’t right. Mary Magdalene witnesses the first of Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances, but she doesn’t witness the Resurrection itself. Priscilla and Prisca are the same person, and while she and her husband Aquila let the Church meet in their home (1 Corinthians 16:19), neither she nor Phoebe are described as having “led small house churches.”

But those errors aside, Hanna and McElwee are pointing to something important: women play an important role in early Christianity. Jesus Christ is unafraid to interact with women, even ones with a bad reputation, like the Samaritan woman of John 4, who is initially shocked by Christ’s boldness in speaking to her (John 4:9). The New Testament authors are nonchalant about the fact that it was Mary Magdalene who first witnessed the Resurrection Nor does this stop on Easter morning: both Acts and the letters of Paul reveal that women played important roles in spreading the Gospel from the very beginning.

Guernico, Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well (1641)

But in pointing this out, Hanna and McElwee show the impossibility of their own case. For Scripture is equally clear that none of these prominent women, not even the Virgin Mary, were ever considered Apostles or priests. Consider how the Women’s Ordination Conference (that Hanna and McElwee represent) attempts to address that difficulty:

The decision not to include women among his twelve apostles says nothing about women as priests except that Jesus, as a Jewish male of his time, knew that the custom and tradition of his day did not allow women to assume leadership roles. By following the prevailing custom Jesus was not precluding a time when women, along with men, could be ordained. 

In other words, WOC’s position is that Jesus didn’t ordain women because He felt constrained by social norms that kept women out of leadership roles. But this excuse doesn’t work, for three reasons:

  1. It’s contradicted by everything about Jesus: His claim to be God was surely more upsetting to the social order than female leadership. Jesus regularly fraternizes with Gentiles, with women, with tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:10), even with lepers (Luke 7:22, 17:11-19). Christ is unafraid to embrace those on the margins of society, even when it outrages the Pharisees (Mt. 9:11). Where do we ever see Him sell out to appease the custom and tradition of his day”?
  2. There are several important women in the New Testament: Remember that Hanna and McElwee just finished telling us about several important women in the early Church. So Christ isn’t afraid to give a voice to women. After all, it’s the witness of Mary Magdalene who leads Peter and John to the Tomb (John 20), in an age in which women’s testimony wasn’t even admissible in court. And there are several other instances in which Christ bucked the sexist views of His culture.
  3. Women already had leadership roles in Roman and Jewish society. The final problem is that the WOC’s position assumes that Romans and Jews would have been scandalized by female leaders. But the Romans had plenty of priestesses during this time period, and the Jews had prophetesses (cf. Luke 2:36), and the Gnostics (who tried to present themselves as Christians) had priestesses. So Christian priestesses wouldn’t have been a scandalous or unheard of innovation. What would shock pious Jews would be for Jesus to open the doors of salvation to the uncircumcised Gentiles… but He does that.

So we’re supposed to believe that Romans and Jews wouldn’t accept women as religious leaders (even though they both did), and so Jesus basically sold women out? Is that even a plausible explanation of the Gospel?

The WOC has a second answer to Jesus’ male-only priesthood: “For if women were to be permanently excluded then why not Gentiles?” But the difference here seems to be obvious. Each of the Twelve Apostles is Jewish because they represent the fulfillment of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28) and, as Jesus says to the Samaritan woman, “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). In other words, there’s a theological basis for the Twelve being all-Jewish, to show the continuity between the Old and New Covenants. But the Apostles are also instructed to bring in the Gentiles, fulfilling the role prophesied of them in the Old Covenant, and so we quickly see Gentile clergy, but not female clergy.

There’s a second reason to consider, as well. There likely weren’t a lot of Gentiles in the pool to draw from: the earliest believers appear to have been all (or almost all) Jewish. Given that, it’s unsurprising that the Apostles and earliest clergy were Jewish. But as Hanna and McElwee point out, there were a number of believing women who faithfully followed Christ from early on in His public ministry (Luke 8:1-2, Matthew 27:55, Luke 24:10, Acts 5:14, Acts 8:12, etc.). We must therefore treat Christ’s creation of a male-only priesthood as an intentional act, and one that can’t be written off a mere concession to culture.

So the Church won’t ordain women, because she can’t. And she can’t, because Jesus deliberately chose a male-only priesthood. But that still leaves an important question: why would Jesus do this?

III. Why Would Jesus Choose a Male-Only Ordained Priesthood?

This brings us to the third (and in my view, the largest) mistake commonly made by women’s ordination advocates: treating the priesthood as an occupation, rather than a vocation.

Cristóbal Rojas, The First and Last Communion (1888).

That’s an important distinction. If being a priest is like being a surgeon, then it’s inexcusable for qualified women to be excluded. And this occupational view of the priesthood can be seen in several of the rationales favoring women’s ordination: for example, in treating the priesthood like a position of power (thereby “empowering” women), or as an individual’s birthright. But, as Simcha Fischer has explained, if you think you’re worthy of the priesthood, you’re wrong. Cardinal Ratzinger said it best:

Furthermore, to understand that this teaching implies no injustice or discrimination against women, one has to consider the nature of the ministerial priesthood itself, which is a service and not a position of privilege or human power over others. Whoever, man or woman, conceives of the priesthood in terms of personal affirmation, as a goal or point of departure in a career of human success, is profoundly mistaken, for the true meaning of Christian priesthood, whether it be the common priesthood of the faithful or, in a most special way, the ministerial priesthood, can only be found in the sacrifice of one’s own being in union with Christ, in service of the brethren. Priestly ministry constitutes neither the universal ideal nor, even less, the goal of Christian life. In this connection, it is helpful to recall once again that “the only higher gift, which can and must be desired, is charity” (cf. 1 Cor. 12:13; Inter Insigniores).

That’s because being a priest isn’t like being a surgeon. It’s like being a father. In fact, that’s the exact image that St. Paul uses to describe his priesthood several times (1 Corinthians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:10-12; Philemon 1:10). It’s also closely tied to the servant-leadership model to which the Jesus calls the Apostles in Luke 22:25-27. And being a father isn’t something that you earn, or are due.

A woman can no more be called to be, or qualified to be, a priest than she can be called to be, or qualified to be, a husband and father. Likewise, a man is not called to be (or qualified to be) a wife, or a mother, or the Mother Superior of a religious order. Men and women are different, and fatherhood is uniquely masculine. This point is sometimes overlooked, sometimes denied, in modern society. So let’s re-establish some basic facts. Men and women are different. Even our brains are different, differences that begin before we’re born. Fathers and mothers are different, and at least some of these parenting differences are genetic in origin, not the result of simple social norms.

Scripture recognizes these complementary differences from the very first chapter. Genesis 1:27 says that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” So both men and women are made in the image of God, but they’re not the same. Sexual equality, but not sexual interchangeability.

And Christ uses our unique gifts and talents in special ways, and He calls upon the sexes for different things. Women alone are given the power to grow new life within their wombs. Men alone are given the ability to turn bread and wine into Jesus Christ. He established a Church in which the Church herself is described as feminine, and has an essentially-feminine (and essentially-Marian) spirituality and relationship to God (cf. Ephesians 5), but has exclusively-male clergy.

Conclusion

There’s much more that could be said, particularly on this point, which I think is worthy of a deeper examination. For now, however, we’ve arrived at what I hope is a satisfactory three-part answer: (1) the Church won’t ordain women, because she can’t; (2) she can’t, because Jesus deliberately chose a male-only priesthood; (3) Jesus deliberately chose a male-only priesthood because He created the sexes to be distinct, each with their own unique gifts.

Having said this, perhaps it’s worth adding an important caveat. Over the last few decades, the hierarchy of the Church has been more intentional about listening to the views of women, and I think that this is an important development. Women often offer a unique perspective that men, including clergymen, lack. But this contribution is key precisely because men and women aren’t the same. So for the same reason that it’s heartening to see things like the Synod on Marriage inviting laymen and women to come speak, it’s worth rejecting any push to treat men and women as basically interchangeable.

31 Comments

  1. Bravo! Thank you for another great apologetics blog entry!

    Since I returned to the Church I’ve come to appreciate diversity more, and not in the sense that is often advocated these days. I mean complementary, inter-dependent diversity–the kind of diversity that we really need in order to be a social species. Take that away and we’re all interchangeable, therefore replaceable, and therefore unworthy of respect–only worth considering quantitatively, not qualitatively.

    I’ve come to believe in a personal motto (though it’s probably going to take years before I learn to live up to it): “If you know and accept your place, you never have to worry about being re-placed.” I believe that is the good that comes out of non-egalitarian hierarchy that limits us as individuals. But it doesn’t limit us 100% because we’re not just individuals–we’re part of something bigger. This way we unite with other people–with egalitarianism other people are our rivals (or else our tools, or otherwise just scenery to ignore).

    I think that’s an important message to teach. We shouldn’t be afraid to believe in, and support, hierarchy, patriarchy, monarchy. Those are Christian, and always have been. Yes, that will alienate many, but Jesus alienated many by saying we must eat His flesh and drink His Blood to live forever, surely a far more outrageous claim.

    I’m going to stop myself there because I tend to ramble and I don’t want to turn my comment on your blog into my own blog entry. Thanks again, and God bless you!

  2. I think Jesus knew the nature of men and women far better than we do. Look what happens when society says men don’t have a leadership role, particularly in the family…that their role is interchangeable with womens’. Men don’t want to be women. Men want the challenge and need to understand that it is their challenge and RESPONSIBILITY or else they’ll tend to walk away and look for something else they think is “manly”. It’s important for a man to take a man’s role and it’s important for sons to see men being responsible men. Daughters need to see it too. When men forsake their true roles for a false idea of what it means to me a man, everyone suffers…men and women alike. I think Jesus knew this applies to the Church too. When men no longer see themselves as leaders and responsible with the women taking their place, you’ll see them start to disappear at Mass and in other parish roles…Lectors, Eucharistic Ministers, Catechists etc. Maybe it’s just me, but my observations are that where women have moved in, their numbers are disproportionate. It’s a good thing that women step up, but a VERY bad thing to see men back off. Women, take the challenge of humble accepting what Jesus set up. Men, don’t drop the ball and take the challenge of accepting the responsibilities that Jesus has assigned to you. It’s what’s best for all of us. If an all male clergy results across history in saving just one more soul, it’s worth it!

  3. I don’t disagree, but I wanted to offer some commentary that either has different emphasis or brings up some new points.

    First, Christian women already are priests.

    Catechism of the Catholic Church Paragraph 1546: Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church “a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.” The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly [Tota credentium communitas, qua talis, est sacerdotalis]. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are “consecrated to be… a holy priesthood.” [sacerdotium sanctum]

    We all do the liturgy (Greek leitourgia from from leito- “public” and ergos “that works”…the work the people do in common.

    That’s why it’s so common in Catholic history for the priest to have his back to the people–he is leading all of us in our priestly ministry by praying the mass. That’s why mass is so participatory (we stand, we kneel, we read, we cross ourselves, we pray, and give consent with our ‘Amen’–it’s not a spectator sport.)

    And what is so special about the elder that we call a priest? (Old English preost probably shortened from the older Germanic form represented by Old Saxon and Old High German prestar, Old Frisian prestere, all from Vulgar Latin *prester “priest,” from Late Latin presbyter “presbyter, elder,” from Greek presbyteros)

    John Chrysostom says, ” But why speak I of priests? Neither Angel nor Archangel can do anything with regard to what is given from God; but the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, dispenses all, while the priest lends his tongue and affords his hand.”

    There isn’t anything magical about being a presbyter. It’s only that bishops and their vicars ie presbyters are the only ones authorized to preside at the liturgy, are the only ones designated with the binding/loosening faculty, and they are the ones that image or icon-ize God in the most maximum way, and the ones designated to interact with the Spirit in a special way.

    Why do we call presbyters Father? Because they participate in the fatherhood of the Father. Even if there was a ‘female presbyter’ we would have to call her Father! How unseemly!

    The relationship among men and women is a pedagogical example to teach us the relationship between Christ and His Church. Christ is Head of the Church, but while being Lord, He nevertheless takes the role of a servant. Likewise, while the man is the ‘head’ of the wife, he isn’t to lord over the wife but rather lead the family by being a good and faithful servant.

    ‘Female presbyters’ break this natural and purposeful pedagogical analogy for our interaction with God, and that’s an affront to the divine order of things.

  4. “Whoever, man or woman, conceives of the priesthood in terms of personal affirmation, as a goal or point of departure in a career of human success, is profoundly mistaken . . .”
    A reasonable mistake, right? Being a Priest (or, to be a fair, a protestant Pastor) looks like a nice job in all the most obvious ways.

  5. So, are women as intelligent as men are? Are we, as Thomas Aquinas asserted, deficient in reason? I have asked many times and never gotten an answer: is there any difference other than the simply physical between men and women that makes men suitable for running countries and women only suitable for scrubbing floors and changing diapers?

    1. Karen,

      You’re presenting a false choice between two extremes: that there’s either (1) no “difference other than the simply physical between men and women,” or (2) that there is some difference, making “men suitable for running countries and women only suitable for scrubbing floors and changing diapers.”

      There’s no reason that we have to embrace either of these extremes. And in fact, there’s a wealth of scientific evidence that’s disproved both of the possibilities that you present.You asked about intelligence, so I’ll address that. While IQ tests aren’t perfect, they’re of at least some use. And on IQ tests, men and women do about equally well (women tend to score higher on the verbal section, while men tend to score higher on mathematics and cognitive sections). But even though there’s an almost-identical mean, there are serious differences in standard deviation. The bell curve for women is much steeper than for men. In plain English, women are much more likely to be average than men. More men score at both the highest and lowest levels of IQ.

      Interestingly, this is also true in a number of other areas, as well: for example, there’s a far greater diversity in men’s heights, while women are more likely to be of average height. There’s a theory that this is because men have both X and Y chromosomes, creating more variability.

      So, as regards intelligence, both of your alternatives are demonstrably false. Women aren’t inherently inferior to men, but nor are they interchangeable with men. So both of the options that you’re offering are wrong.

    2. Apart from the reproductive system, the most sex-specific organ in the body is the brain. There are all sorts of differences between men’s and women’s brains, differences present from well before we’re born. Christina Hoff Sommers, summarizes the science in Time Magazine this way:

      “In 2009, David Geary, a University of Missouri psychologist, published the second edition of Male, Female: The Evolution of Human Sex Differences. This thorough, fair-minded, and comprehensive survey of the literature includes more than 50 pages of footnotes citing studies by neuroscientists, endocrinologists, geneticists, anthropologists, and psychologists showing a strong biological basis for many gender differences. And, as Geary recently told me, “One of the largest and most persistent differences between the sexes is children’s play preferences.” The female preference for nurturing play and the male propensity for rough-and-tumble hold cross-culturally and even cross-species. Researchers have found, for example, that female vervet monkeys play with dolls much more than their brothers, who prefer balls and toy cars. Nor can human reality be tossed aside. In all known societies, women tend to be the nurturers and men the warriors. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker points to the absurdity of ascribing these universal differences to socialization: “It would be an amazing coincidence that in every society the coin flip that assigns each sex to one set of roles would land the same way.””

      Now, intelligence is just one part of the puzzle, and human dignity shouldn’t be founded on how smart we are. You mentioned Aquinas: even though he viewed women as inferior to men in reason, he recognized them as equal in dignity before God.

      But without needing to endorse Medieval theories about the differences between the sexes, let’s at least acknowledge what both common sense, human observation, and contemporary science tell us: men and women really are different. That doesn’t make one better or worse. But it does mean, for example, that fathers and mothers aren’t interchangeable. So you can rationally hold that only men can be spiritual fathers without holding that women are second-class trash.

      I.X.,

      Joe

    3. Oh snap! If your question about Thomas Aquinas is rooted in fact and not answered, then this is a very challenging question you have posed. I would even dare Joe to try to answer it because I know he loves ol’ Timmy “Dumb Ox” Aquinas.

      I would like to offer you some hope, which was sadly missing in the comments. St. Paul was comforting the church and challenging them to rise above social views when he wrote Galatians. You, Karen, may find Galatians 3:26-29 especially encouraging. I used to believe that women could not take a leadership role in the church because of the faith tradition I grew up in (LCMS Lutheran), but Paul’s writings challenged me to hear women of faith and support them in their calling. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” ~Galatians 3:28

  6. Greetings from Canada, As it is, very few men come to Mass at my inner city cathedral. If women completely took over, there would be far less of a male presence. I would go back to the Eastern orthodox. Yours in Christ, Ronald Kershaw.

  7. I don’t think this a game of who’s dumb and who’s smart or about comparing capabilities of individuals, rather whether the sexes are interchangeable or complimentary. It seems to me that there are more general differences between men and women than cosmetic physical characteristics. If there wasn’t, a whole genre of comedy would simply not exist. I think there are measurable consequences that cannot be ignored and wishing it weren’t so is just sticking head in the sand. Just as a man can never have a baby and so be a mother in all that implies, so a women can never truly be a father in all the ways it implies for a man.

    1. We can define and distinguish some of these differences between men and women by a review of 5000 years of world history, and this also extending throughout probably every village, or nation, on earth. One difference is found in a study of the history of warfare, and the necessary masculine virtues necessary to survive such warfare. Has it ever been witnessed throughout history that an army of 150,000 women stood face to face with another army of150,000 women for a fight to the death with bow, dagger, hammer and sword? And, moreover, to do so with JOY and contentment in their hearts? Has it ever been seen that while these same brave wives are fighting and dying for the territory that they live in, and the orchards that sustain them, that the men are at home cooking for and changing the diapers of the many children running around, weaving clothes and blankets by night and day and tending the wounds of their victorious wives when they return injured, or maimed, from the fighting? And, this also with smiles on the faces of these caring husbands while performing these essential, and caring, tasks? Did the women throughout history ever enjoy putting heavy 1000 lb. beams on houses, or moving 500 lb. stones all day long to finish a castle wall, or enjoy digging deep into rock mines for gold, iron and other essential materials? Or enjoy forging steel implements with 1000 degree fire and hammer, or find joy in killing a charging bear with a sword or bow, or enjoy climbing a 120 ft.mast to get sight of land on an ancient ship? Or, are all of these historical occupations, and life necessities, things that primarily men ENJOY performing when needed, due to a gift given to them by God called, commonly known as the “masculine virtues”: Virtues such as courage, fortitude and loyalty to others when performing difficult jobs, or when fighting at war?

      Maybe because we have so many robots doing these masculine occupations in modern times, that we are starting to think that there is really no real difference between men and women (or ever has been)? We now have guns instead of swords to fight with, SUV’s instead of horses to travel with, hydraulic cranes instead of hemp rope pulleys to build with, stray chihuahua street dogs instead of wolves to defend against… and so the masculine virtues seem as if they’re not so prominent, or necessary, in our modern world.

      However, that Jesus portrayed Himself as a “Good Shepherd” who protects his sheep against wolves and lions, even to the point of death, reveals that these same ‘masculine virtues’ found in Himself …are also essential for his future disciples, priests and missionaries in their labors to convert the world. This is why he chose only men to be priests, because the masculine virtues have been, and always will be (even as it was for the Good Shepherd), necessary for defending against and conquering, all of the enemies and dangers that will attack and threaten His Body, the Church, even until the end of the world.

      This is a huge subject. But God in His divine providence has provided men and women to be complimentary to each other, both for general survival purposes, as well as for enjoyment and satisfaction in the life that He gives us.

    2. Have you ever noticed that in general men communicate differently than women, see things differently than women, are interested in different things than women and understand other men better than they understand women? My wife once remarked that my son and I communicate with few words. I said it was telepathy. She said it was telepathetic. Nevertheless, although there’s lots of exceptions, it’s the general rule that’s important. If men see other men doing something, they naturally attribute some importance to it. I don’t think seeing women do it or say it registers the same way. The modern world says everyone has a right to do whatever they think they are capable of doing, regardless of whether they actually are capable or effective. When it comes to the salvation of souls, what’s most effective is what’s most important. A women priest may be able to exercise the rubrics or preach better than a man, but if the men bail out because they’re not paying attention or because service to God is perceived as women’s work, then she’s ineffective. I see this reaction in men as evidenced by what I see in participation where women have stepped in. On the other hand, I’ve not noticed women ditching Sunday Mass to sleep in or watch football because there’s an all male clergy. In a way, an all male clergy is a tribute to women in that Jesus enacted the rule because men need it to perform and women don’t. Everyone suffers when men don’t perform.

    3. Let’s do a thought experiment…suppose things were the other way around and only women could be ordained? Do you think the ratio of church participation between men and women would be anywhere near 50/50 or a lot closer to 0/100? I expect the later; not because of any fault in women, but because of the way men think, perceive and behave.

    4. Leveraging off of Awlms’s comment on warfare, the truth is the Church on Earth isn’t called the Church Militant for nothing. We’ve been engaged with warfare against the world, the flesh and devil since Adam and Eve. The battle rages more every day through subtle lies and deceptions. Men need to know that they have to lead that fight, that the virtues and sacraments are their weapons and armor, that the vices are the weapons of the enemy and must be disarmed and that those whose care has been entrusted to them must also be ably defended in this field of battle between good and evil. Women need to support their knights battling on their behalf providing their unique insights and advice to compensate for their men’s weaknesses and blind spots, and they need to provide rest and refreshment from the battle so their men don’t tire and falter. They need to cover the important things that their men can’t or don’t get to while focused on the battle. Mary is the perfect exemplar of such a woman. Proverbs 31 has a beautiful description of what a good wife/woman is all about.

  8. Male-only priesthood is rooted in the fact only men can be fathers. Priesthood is an extension of fatherhood. Priesthood is the mediator role the father has as the natural head of household. As father, he mediates for his family to God.

    This is not in any way degrading to women, but simply the natural order of things. Power struggle is not natural, it’s from the devil. Proof that natural subordination doesn’t diminish one’s dignity is seen in 1 Cor 11:2,

    “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”

    Notice that just as the husband is the head of his wife, so God the Father is head of His Son. So really, the wife models Jesus’ relationship to the Father! How beautiful!

  9. This article is so well spoken by Joe Heschmeyer and presents compelling arguments without in any way denigrating women or the ministries that they may legitimately have. I might point out that I, as a Catholic with SSA (same-sex attraction), am not, at least under current rules and disciplines, allowed to become a priest either. Even though I have been celibate for 15 years and my marriage was declared nullified in 2006–and that I was a licensed minister in another Christian communion for 12 years too, with 7 years of theological training. And if you ever read my story you will note that the priesthood would have been my first choice if I had a chance to do my earthly life over again. But I cannot do so, and if I wish to remain Catholic I have to accept that and do Some might see that as unjust. I very honestly see it as opportunity. And if I can pray for and support young men such as Joe and a host of others who are theologically and morally sound, then, like King David who wanted to build the Temple, but who God gently told him that it would be his son’s work, not his, due to his forgiven past, we sometimes must bear the marks of our pasts too and that is more than okay. I can be a priest through them. Not such a bad thing after all. I think that is true for many who might never be “priests” but are part of the priesthood of believers. One calling is not less than the other. And my point is, many others besides women cannot be part of the ministerial priesthood. It is a specific calling and even more specific responsibility. We need to be willing to say “Here am I Lord” and mean it. And that means wherever we are.

    1. A holy, charitable, and just life is what is necessary, and can be found in every vocation, regardless of gender. I don’t think anyone who has ever read the life of St. Francis of Assisi, who was not a priest, will find that this lessened in any way his sanctity before God. Being a loving and faithful servant of God in any circumstance of life, as the Lord teaches over and over again in the Gospel, is what is essential for our lives. May all of us just keep moving forward on the Lord’s path, in whatever situation, even as St. Paul did, and so finish the race like he did in eternal life. May we also help everyone around us to do the same.

  10. I think O’Malley’s comment was ridiculous. God in the flesh founds a Church and sees fit to have it headed up only by men, it lasts 2,000 years and counting. BUT if O’Malley had founded it, he would do it differently than God in the flesh. Maybe because O’Malley thinks himself wiser than God? It’s ridiculous. He was just sucking up to feminists for some reason. Which is counterproductive. Women don’t respect supplicating sycophants. Neither do men. To me that’s what it sounds like when people refer to the Church as “she.” Sounds like pandering. Jesus called His Church “it.”

    1. Weouro,

      We call the Church “she,” because she’s the Bride of Christ.

      Ephesians 5:25-27: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

  11. Most central as I see it i.e. a priest is ‘In persona Christi’ and ‘Another Christ’. Jesus wasn’t a woman so it makes no sense from the paternal symbolism or role. This is the ‘I want’ mentality. We’ve had enough priests who entered the priesthood for their own selfish or distorted motives in the past, that’s even if such an ordination was possible but it isn’t.

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