Why can’t women be priests? My 10 year old daughter asked me this. Many of my reasonings on Catholic beliefs are simply “because the church says it is so”. Unfortunately, for my daughter (and my wife who is currently in RCIA), that answer does not cut it. Praise God! This is exactly why I write this blog, to keep me honest in my catechetical knowledge.
I will start with the Church’s official reason from the Catechism # 1577:
“Only a baptized man validly receives sacred ordination. The Lord chose men to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed in their ministry. The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of twelve an ever present and ever active reality until Christ’s return. The church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.”
Simply put, Jesus chose men. He could have chosen a woman as he had the perfect candidate in his mother (Our Blessed Mother, Mary). As the Queen of Angels, born without sin, Mary most certainly had the qualifications; but Jesus chose men. As so did the apostles moving forward in time. Jason Everet of Catholic Answers (www.catholic.com/thisrock/2002/0201sbs.asp) has written on this subject. He states a popular argument that Jesus was bound by cultural norms of his era to suppress the roles of women---of course there is no real evidence to suggest this. This actually would imply that first, Jesus was sexist, and second, that Jesus actually cared about cultural norms. That is absurd. Many instance in the Gospels we see Jesus going against cultural norms:
“Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And he said to them, ‘it is written: My house shall be a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves’”. Mathew 21:12-13. I often think of this scene as the definition of righteous anger. This is only an example, as Jesus’ entire ministry really went against many norms of the time.
Scripture shows us that Jesus had roles for men and women alike. Everett’s article further points out scriptural sources. Note that the first verse of First Corinthians is: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ”. St Paul (as the author) points out his authority from Christ. That same chapter (1 Corinthians: 11: 1-16) is referenced to point to the fact Jesus specifically allowed women to pray in church but could not assume the role of teaching (which is as a priest). 1 Timothy 2: 12 specifically addressed this: I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be quiet.
Another argument that makes sense is that of tradition. 2000+ years have must not have been wrong. That, in a world such as ours is a challenge, because one could argue that 100+ years of slavery could not have been wrong…or some other absurd argument…but wait just a minute…That argument would be absurd. Jesus did not teach on slavery. 1 Corinthians 11:2 states “ I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold fast to the traditions, just as I handed them on to you. This, of course is not an article on the authority of the Church, but the church has authority—given directly from Christ to rule on these matters. Just as the church must not change forms (such as the bread and wine) it cannot change ordained priests from men only to both. The priest acts “in persona Christi” or in the person of Christ. Christ was a man, and well, a man represents him…in fact, he becomes him: “this is MY body…this is MY Blood”.
With this all being said, we must keep in mind, that although we are living today (at least at the time of writing this article), we are not the center of time and the universe(God is). So many people think that NOW is the time. I hear things like “things are different today”, “the church is stuck in the dark ages”, “We know more today”. Can we honestly say that this is a more “moral” age than years past. In certain ways, yes. In so many other ways, no. Who are we to say that because we have technology and scientific knowledge, that we should change the church and Christ’s teachings? If the Church were to change simply based on “political correctness”, then we would be in trouble. When all is said and done, God is above “political correctness” and earthly urges to be “progressive”. For more on my feelings on “progressiveness”, see my article titled “ The Cafeteria is Closed”. I say to you, who are YOU (Me included) to question my Master and Lord.? Any time someone says that the Church is sexist, just Google “Marian Devotions”…that accusation is hardly worth heresy…God Love You.