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Top Reasons Why Women Can't Be Priests

Return to 'Religious Life for Women' | Priests & Vctns. | Printable Flier

St. John Vianney, the Curé D'Ars (patron saint of priests)

Top Reasons Why Women Can't Be Priests 

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There are numerous reasons women can't be priests. For example: 

Biblical:

  • In Old Testament, God called only Aaron's sons to be priests. Women were forbidden to assume such roles.

  • Christ chose only male apostles, even though he could have chosen his own Mother, the perfect model of virtue, to be a priest if he had so desired. Clearly, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the best role model for women and Scripture indicates that rather than take a leadership role, Mary kept things "in her heart" (see Lk. 2:19, 51). Although she was more excellent than the Apostles, Christ did not choose her for priestly ministry.

"['But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.' (Lk. 2:19)] For keeping the laws of virgin modesty, she who had known the secrets of Christ would divulge them to no one, but comparing what she had read in prophecy with what she now acknowledged to have taken place, she did not utter them with the mouth, but preserved them shut up in her heart." (St. Bede the Venerable, Doctor of the Church)

"Although the Blessed Virgin Mary surpassed in dignity and in excellence all the Apostles, nevertheless it was not to her but to them that the Lord entrusted the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven." (Pope Innocent III)

  • According to Scripture, women are in a state of subjection (emphasis added)

As stated in Gen. 3:16:

"To the woman [God] said: 'I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children [and thou shalt be under thy husband's power, and he shall have dominion over thee.' (DR trans.)]" 

This subjection of women to men was confirmed in the New Testament in various passages such as:

"But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and a husband the head of his wife." (St. Paul, 1 Cor. 11:3)

"Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything." (St. Paul, Eph. 5:22-24)

"Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord." (St. Paul, Col. 3:18)

"As for yourself, you must say what is consistent with sound doctrine, namely, that older men should be temperate, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, love, and endurance. Similarly, older women should be reverent in their behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to drink, teaching what is good, so that they may train younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good homemakers, under the control of their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited." (St. Paul, Ti. 2:1-5)

"Likewise, you wives should be subordinate to your husbands so that, even if some disobey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives' conduct when they observe your reverent and chaste behavior. Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes, but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God. For this is also how the holy women who hoped in God once used to adorn themselves and were subordinate to their husbands; thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him 'lord.' You are her children when you do what is good and fear no intimidation. Likewise, you husbands should live with your wives in understanding, showing honor to the weaker female sex, since we are joint heirs of the gift of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered." (St. Peter, 1 Pt. 3:1-7)

As St. Thomas Aquinas (Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church") states, "According to the Apostle (1 Timothy 2:11; Titus 2:5), woman is in a state of subjection (Gen. 3:16): wherefore she can have no spiritual jurisdiction" (emphasis added). 

  • Furthermore, women couldn't perform priestly duties without violating Scriptural precepts such as: 

"Indeed, the spirits of prophets are under the prophets' control, since he is not the God of disorder but of peace. As in all the churches of the holy ones, women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. But if they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a woman to speak in the church. Did the word of God go forth from you? Or has it come to you alone? If anyone thinks that he is a prophet or a spiritual person, he should recognize that what I am writing to you is a commandment of the Lord." (St. Paul, 1 Cor. 14:32-37)

"It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument. Similarly, (too,) women should adorn themselves with proper conduct, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hairstyles and gold ornaments, or pearls, or expensive clothes, but rather, as befits women who profess reverence for God, with good deeds. A woman must receive instruction silently and under complete control. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. Further, Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed. But she will be saved through motherhood, provided women persevere in faith and love and holiness, with self-control." (St. Paul, 1 Tm. 2:8-15)

Tradition / History / Church Teachings:

  • The constant, uninterrupted tradition of the Church - following the example of Christ and earlier Jewish tradition - excludes women from the priesthood. Women priests were not allowed by the apostles. The early Church didn't allow women priests - and, in fact, the idea of women priests was condemned by the Church Fathers.

  • Recent Canon Law (the law of the Church) limits the reception of Holy Orders to men, and in fact, indicates that it is a requirement for validity. Such has always been the law of the Church.

"Can. 1024 Only a baptized man can validly receive sacred ordination." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

As explained by St. Thomas Aquinas:

"Certain things are required in the recipient of a sacrament as being requisite for the validity of the sacrament, and if such things be lacking, one can receive neither the sacrament nor the reality of the sacrament. Other things, however, are required, not for the validity of the sacrament, but for its lawfulness, as being congruous to the sacrament; and without these one receives the sacrament, but not the reality of the sacrament. Accordingly we must say that the male sex is required for receiving Orders not only in the second, but also in the first way. Wherefore even though a woman were made the object of all that is done in conferring Orders, she would not receive Orders, for since a sacrament is a sign, not only the thing, but the signification of the thing, is required in all sacramental actions... Accordingly, since it is not possible in the female sex to signify eminence of degree, for a woman is in the state of subjection [cf. Gen. 3:16, Col. 3:18, etc.], it follows that she cannot receive the sacrament of Order." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church") 

  • Recent popes have confirmed that it is not in the Church's power to confer Holy Orders on women and that such is the intent of Christ. The ruling made by Pope John Paul II against women's ordination has been determined to be not disciplinary - it has characteristics of infallibility and is not subject to change or further debate. In fact, the ruling requires the assent of all the faithful. 

"Council of Carthage (iv): 'However learned and holy a woman may be, she must not presume to teach men in the church'" (As cited by St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"[I]n the fact of conferring priestly ordination only on men, it is a question of unbroken tradition throughout the history of the Church, universal in the East and in the West, and alert to repress abuses immediately. This norm, based on Christ's example, has been and is still observed because it is considered to conform to God's plan for his Church." (Pope Paul VI, emphasis added)

"Priestly ordination, which hands on the office entrusted by Christ to his Apostles of teaching, sanctifying and governing the faithful, has in the Catholic Church from the beginning always been reserved to men alone. This tradition has also been faithfully maintained by the Oriental Churches. When the question of the ['ordination' of Anglican women arose], Pope Paul VI, out of fidelity to his office of safeguarding the Apostolic Tradition, and also with a view to removing a new obstacle placed in the way of Christian unity, reminded Anglicans of the position of the Catholic Church: 'She holds that it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God's plan for his Church.' But since the question had also become the subject of debate among theologians and in certain Catholic circles, Paul VI directed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to set forth and expound the teaching of the Church on this matter. This was done through the Declaration Inter Insigniores, which the Supreme Pontiff approved and ordered to be published. The Declaration recalls and explains the fundamental reasons for this teaching, reasons expounded by Paul VI, and concludes that the Church 'does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination.' To these fundamental reasons the document adds other theological reasons which illustrate the appropriateness of the divine provision, and it also shows clearly that Christ's way of acting did not proceed from sociological or cultural motives peculiar to his time. As Paul VI later explained: 'The real reason is that, in giving the Church her fundamental constitution, her theological anthropology - thereafter always followed by the Church's Tradition - Christ established things in this way.' ... In fact the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles attest that this call was made in accordance with God's eternal plan; Christ chose those whom he willed (cf. Mk. 3:13-14, Jn. 6:70), and he did so in union with the Father, 'through the Holy Spirit' (Acts 1:2), after having spent the night in prayer (cf. Lk. 6:12). Therefore, in granting admission to the ministerial priesthood, the Church has always acknowledged as a perennial norm her Lord's way of acting in choosing the twelve men whom he made the foundation of his Church (cf. Rv. 21:14). These men did not in fact receive only a function which could thereafter be exercised by any member of the Church; rather they were specifically and intimately associated in the mission of the Incarnate Word himself (cf. Mt. 10:1, 7-8; 28:16-20; Mk. 3:13-16; 16:14-15). The Apostles did the same when they chose fellow workers who would succeed them in their ministry. Also included in this choice were those who, throughout the time of the Church, would carry on the Apostles' mission of representing Christ the Lord and Redeemer. 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... 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." (Pope John Paul II, 1994, emphasis added)

"'The Priesthood is a special ministry entrusted to Church custody and control; its authentication by the Church is indispensable as it is an integral part of the vocation: 'Christ chose those he wanted...' For this reason, one cannot see how admission of women to the priesthood should be proposed on the basis of equal rights of the human person.' Canon 1024 of the Canon Law of 1983 clearly mandates, 'Only a baptized male validly receives sacred ordination.'...[In 1994,] His Holiness John Paul II spoke firmly and definitively on this matter: '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 confirm the brethren (cf. Lk. 22:32), I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgement is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.' Such clear teaching distinctly thwarts any feminist claims for full equality between men and women regarding the priesthood and the 'munus' of bishop." (Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, emphasis added)

"Question: 'Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.' Response: 'In the affirmative. This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium... Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith.'" (Responsum ad Dubium On Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Issued by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith With the Approval of Pope John Paul II, October 28, 1995, emphasis added)

"Recently the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reiterated the constant teaching of the Catholic Church that it does not have the authority to ordain women to the priesthood. In so doing the Church did not make a new statement. Rather, the Church was expressing anew her belief that in this matter, as in all others, she cannot go beyond the teaching and example of Christ. From the time of the apostles to our present day, the Catholic Church has taught without exception that in reserving the priesthood to men she is following the example and intent of Jesus. He chose by name the men he would call to follow him as apostles and priests, even as he granted to women other roles of incomparable value and significance in the history of salvation. This teaching was reaffirmed in 1994 by Pope John Paul II in an apostolic letter, 'Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.' This November the Doctrinal Congregation emphasized that the teaching is part of the 'deposit of the faith' and must be held by Catholics sincerely and firmly. Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, approved the Sacred Congregation's affirmation... The Church, faithful to Scripture and the constant oral, lived Tradition handed on by the apostles, guards the deposit of the faith and seeks always to be the servant of what has been given her. The Church has no authority to do otherwise. The reassertion of teaching on women and the priesthood presents again the Church's intention to pass on the deposit of the faith, as received from Christ and the apostles, to new generations in its fullness." (Archbishop Donoghue, 1995, emphasis added)

  • A priest acts "In Persona Christi" ("In the Person of Christ"). Since Christ is male, it would be impossible for a woman to assume such a role.

"The Church's constant teaching, repeated and clarified by the Second Vatican Council and again recalled by the 1971 Synod of Bishops and by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in its Declaration of 24th. June 1973, declares that the bishop or the priest in the exercise of his ministry, does not act in his own name, in persona propria: he represents Christ, who acts through him: 'the priest truly acts in the place of Christ', as St. Cyprian already wrote in the third century. It is this ability to represent Christ that St. Paul considered as characteristic of his apostolic function (2 Cor. 5:20; Gal. 4:14). The supreme expression of this representation is found in the altogether special form it assumes in the celebration of the Eucharist, which is the source and centre of the Church's unity...the priest, who alone has the power to perform it, then acts not only through the effective power conferred on him by Christ, but in persona Christi, taking the role of Christ, to the point of being his very image, when he pronounces the words of consecration. The Christian priesthood is therefore of a sacramental nature: the priest is a sign, the supernatural effectiveness of which comes from the ordination received, but a sign that must be perceptible and which the faithful must be able to recognize with ease. The whole sacramental economy is in fact based upon natural signs, on symbols imprinted on the human psychology: 'Sacramental signs,' says St. Thomas,' represent what they signify by natural resemblance.' The same natural resemblance is required for persons as for things: when Christ's role in the Eucharist is to be expressed sacramentally, there would not be this 'natural resemblance' which must exist between Christ and his minister if the role of Christ were not taken by a man: in such a case it would be difficult to see in the minister the image of Christ. For Christ himself was and remains a man." (Pope Paul VI, emphasis added)

Other Considerations:

Although the above should be enough to convince a faithful Catholic that ordination of women is contrary to Divine Law, there are still other reasons that women are ill-suited to priestly ministry. For example:

  • Allowing "women priests" may entice men to lust, as St. Thomas Aquinas indicates:

"Speech may be employed in two ways: in one way privately, to one or a few, in familiar conversation, and in this respect the grace of the word may be becoming to women; in another way, publicly, addressing oneself to the whole church, and this is not permitted to women. First and chiefly, on account of the condition attaching to the female sex, whereby woman should be subject to man, as appears from Genesis 3:16. Now teaching and persuading publicly in the church belong not to subjects but to the prelates (although men who are subjects may do these things if they be so commissioned, because their subjection is not a result of their natural sex, as it is with women, but of some thing supervening by accident). Secondly, lest men's minds be enticed to lust, for it is written (Ecclesiasticus 9:8): 'Her conversation burneth as fire.'" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

  • Allowing "women priests" would not be fitting and would confuse the proper God-given role of the sexes. The priesthood is a fatherly role, not a motherly role. When people want to go to their father, they do not want to go to a woman!

  • "Women priests" may not be taken seriously by the congregation.

  • Allowing "women priests" may be distracting/offensive to men (and women).  

  • Allowing "women priests" would put women over men (which is contrary to Scripture, as indicated above).

  • Men in a congregation might "hit on" female "priests".

  • Since men don't like to be commanded by women, they might leave the parish, possibly leading to an "all female" parish.

  • Women in a congregation led by a "woman priest" may be distracted by her hair, dress, appearance, etc. They may also become jealous if they see her talking with their husbands.

  • A female "priest" could become pregnant. Not only would this offend God and cause scandal, but what would become of the child?

  • Allowing "women priests" would be irreparably scandalous, since it would tell the world that the scriptural precepts, constant tradition, and rulings of the Church mean nothing. (Not to mention that it would be impossible for the Church to go against teachings marked with infallibility.)

Furthermore, on a practical level, many things about a woman's nature may be problematic with regard to priestly ministry. For example:

  • Women generally have less powerful, less commanding voices than men (so necessary for preaching hard truths).

  • Women tend to be more emotional than men. 

  • Women may not have as much physical stamina as men and may handle physically taxing duties less graciously.

  • Women may tend to be "too compassionate" regarding sins - leading to the loss of souls!

  • Women may be moodier due to feminine hormonal changes which tend to affect behavior.

  • Women may be far more likely to allow emotions to get in the way of reason/logic.

  • Women may be more gossipy / talkative, and may be more prone to discuss the secrets of the confessional.

  • Women may be more concerned about appearance (both hers and yours).

  • Women may be more influenced by flattery.

  • Women may be weaker, making her safety an issue. She may often be alone with men who are stronger than she is.

Refuting Objections

Although the above should be enough for any honest Catholic, there is - unfortunately - still a movement to push for "women's ordination". Those promoting this agenda bring forth various arguments such as those below. Knowledgeable Catholics should be able to easily refute such arguments.

  • Deaconesses: Although those who served as 'deaconesses' in times past may have assisted in certain delicate matters (e.g. to protect women's modesty), they did not receive Holy Orders. As stated by the First Council of Nicaea, they are ranked among the laity. There is no historical precept whatsoever for women receiving Holy Orders.

"Similarly with regard to deaconesses and all in general whose names have been included in the roll, the same form shall be observed. We refer to deaconesses who have been granted this status, for they do not receive any imposition of hands, so that they are in all respects to be numbered among the laity." (First Council of Nicaea)

"The Catholic Church has never felt that priestly or episcopal ordination can be validly conferred on women. A few heretical sects in the first centuries, especially Gnostic ones, entrusted the exercise of the priestly ministry to women: This innovation was immediately noted and condemned by the Fathers, who considered it as unacceptable in the Church... in the writings of the Fathers...one finds expressed - especially in the canonical documents of the Antiochan and Egyptian traditions - this essential reason, namely, that by calling only men to the priestly Order and ministry in its true sense, the Church intends to remain faithful to the type of ordained ministry willed by the Lord Jesus Christ and carefully maintained by the Apostles... The same conviction animates medieval theology... The Church's tradition in the matter has thus been so firm in the course of the centuries that the Magisterium has not felt the need to intervene in order to formulate a principle which was not attacked, or to defend a law which was not challenged. But each time that this tradition had the occasion to manifest itself, it witnessed to the Church's desire to conform to the model left her by the Lord. The same tradition has been faithfully safeguarded by the Churches of the East. Their unanimity on this point is all the more remarkable since in many other questions their discipline admits of a great diversity. At present time these same Churches refuse to associate themselves with requests directed towards securing the accession of women to priestly ordination." (Pope Paul VI, emphasis added)

  • "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:28): As is clear from the whole of Scripture, this passage does not take away the distinction between the sexes or abrogate the various commands indicating that women are in a state of subjection (see above), but refers to the faithful being children of God and "clothed with Christ" (Gal. 3:27). Although the promise of salvation is open to all, regardless of one's nationality or sex, priestly ministry is not. 

"[U]se is sometimes made of the text quoted above, from the Letter to the Galatians (3:28) [to propose the admission of women to the priesthood], which says that in Christ there is no longer any distinction between men and women. But this passage does not concern ministries: it only affirms the universal calling to divine filiation, which is the same for all." (Pope Paul VI, emphasis added)

  • Equal rights for women / social advancement of women: The priesthood is a calling by God, not a right or entitlement. Furthermore, it is wrong to use the priesthood, established by Christ, as a tool to "advance women's rights". 

"Moreover, and above all, to consider the ministerial priesthood as a human right would be to misjudge its nature completely: baptism does not confer any personal title to public ministry within the Church. The priesthood is not conferred for the honor or advantage of the recipient, but for the service of God and the Church; it is the object of a specific and totally gratuitous vocation: 'You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you...' (Jn.15:16; Heb.5:4)... But it must not be forgotten that the priesthood does not form part of the rights of the individual, but stems from the economy of the mystery of Christ and the Church. The priestly office cannot become the goal of social advancement: no merely human progress of society or of the individual can of itself give access to it: it is of another order." (Pope Paul VI, emphasis added) 

  • "Discrimination": Not allowing women to be priests is in no way a wrongful discrimination, but rather accords with God's divine plan for the Church. The Church's teaching on the Blessed Virgin Mary is singular proof that the Church does not discriminate against women.

"Today in some quarters the fact that women cannot be ordained priests is being interpreted as a form of discrimination. But is this really the case? Certainly, the question could be put in these terms if the hierarchical priesthood granted a social position of privilege characterized by the exercise of 'power'. But this is not the case: the ministerial priesthood, in Christ's plan, is an expression not of domination but of service! Anyone who interpreted it as 'domination' would certainly be far from the intention of Christ, who in the Upper Room began the Last Supper by washing the feet of the Apostles. In this way he strongly emphasized the 'ministerial' character of the priesthood which he instituted that very evening. 'For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many' (Mk 10:45)." (Pope John Paul II)

"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." (Pope John Paul II, 1994)

  • "Jesus didn't choose women apostles simply due to cultural reasons": It seems blasphemous to imply that Jesus - that is, the omnipotent God - was restrained by human customs in the establishing of the priesthood and could not do has he would have done had the culture been different. Furthermore, Scripture is clear that Jesus "deliberately and courageously broke with the prejudices of his time, by widely contravening the discriminations practiced with regard to women", as did the apostles.

"It has been claimed in particular that the attitude of Jesus and the Apostles is explained by the influence of their milieu and their times. It is said that, if Jesus did not entrust to women and not even to his Mother a ministry assimilating them to the Twelve, this was because historical circumstances did not permit him to do so. No one however has ever proved - and it is clearly impossible to prove - that this attitude is inspired only by social and cultural reasons. As we have seen, and examination of the Gospels shows on the contrary that Jesus broke with the prejudices of his time, by widely contravening the discriminations practiced with regard to women. One therefore cannot maintain that, by not calling women to enter the group of the Apostles, Jesus was simply letting himself be guided by reasons of expediency. For all the more reason, social and cultural conditioning did not hold back the Apostles working in the Greek milieu, where the same forms of discrimination did not exist." (Pope Paul VI, emphasis added)

"Jesus Christ did not call any women to become part of the Twelve. If he acted in this way, it was not in order to conform to the customs of his time, for his attitude towards women was quite different from that of his milieu, and he deliberately and courageously broke with it. For example, to the great astonishment of his own disciples Jesus converses publicly with the Samaritan woman (Jn. 4:27); he takes no notice of the state of legal impurity of the woman who had suffered from hemorrhages (Mt. 9:20); he allows a sinful woman to approach him in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Lk. 7:37); and by pardoning the woman taken in adultery, he means to show that one must not be more severe towards the fault of a woman than towards that of a man (Jn. 8:11). He does not hesitate to depart from the Mosaic Law in order to affirm the equality of the rights and duties of men and women with regard to the marriage bond (Mk. 10:2, Mt. 19:3). In his itinerant ministry Jesus was accompanied not only by the Twelve but also by a group of women (Lk. 8:2). Contrary to the Jewish mentality, which did not accord great value to the testimony of women, as Jewish law attests, it was nevertheless women who were the first to have the privilege of seeing the risen Lord, and it was they who were charged by Jesus to take the first paschal message to the Apostles themselves (Mt. 28:7, Lk, 24:9, Jn. 20:11), in order to prepare the latter to become the official witnesses to the Resurrection. It is true that these facts do not make the matter immediately obvious. This is no surprise, for the questions that the Word of God brings before us go beyond the obvious. In order to reach the ultimate meaning of the mission of Jesus and the ultimate meaning of Scripture, a purely historical exegesis of the texts cannot suffice. But it must be recognized that we have here a number of convergent indications that make all the more remarkable that Jesus did not entrust the apostolic charge to women. Even his Mother, who was so closely associated with the mystery of her Son, and whose incomparable role is emphasized by the Gospels of Luke and John, was not invested with the apostolic ministry. This fact was to lead the Fathers to present her as an example of Christ's will in this domain; as Pope Innocent III repeated later, at the beginning of the thirteenth century, 'Although the Blessed Virgin Mary surpassed in dignity and in excellence all the Apostles, nevertheless it was not to her but to them that the Lord entrusted the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.'" (Pope Paul VI, emphasis added)

"The apostolic community remained faithful to the attitude of Jesus towards women. Although Mary occupied a privileged place in the little circle of those gathered in the Upper Room after the Lord's Ascension (Acts 1:14), it was not she who was called to enter the College of the Twelve at the time of the election that resulted in the choice of Matthias: those who were put forward were two disciples whom the Gospels do not even mention. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled them all, men and women (Acts 2:1, 1:14), yet the proclamation of the fulfillment of the prophecies in Jesus was made only by 'Peter and the Eleven' (Acts 2:14). When they and Paul went beyond the confines of the Jewish world, the preaching of the Gospel and the Christian life in the Greco-Roman civilization impelled them to break with Mosaic practices, sometimes regretfully. They could therefore have envisaged conferring ordination on women, if they had not been convinced of their duty of fidelity to the Lord on this point. In fact the Greeks did not share the ideas of the Jews: although their philosophers taught the inferiority of women, historians nevertheless emphasize the existence of a certain movement for the advancement of women during the Imperial period. In fact we know from the book of Acts and from the letter of St. Paul, that certain women worked with the Apostle for the Gospel (Rom. 16:3-12, Phil. 4:3). Saint Paul lists their names with gratitude in the final salutations of the Letters. Some of them often exercised an important influence on conversions: Priscilla, Lydia and others; especially Priscilla, who took it on herself to complete the instruction of Apollos (Acts 18:26); Phoebe, in the service of the Church of Cenchreae (Rom. 16:1). All these facts manifest within the Apostolic Church a considerable [development] vis-a-vis the customs of Judaism. Nevertheless at no time was there a question of conferring ordination on these women. In the Pauline letters, exegetes of authority have noted a difference between two formulas used by the Apostle: he writes indiscriminately 'My fellow workers' (Rom. 16:3, Phil 4:2-3) when referring to men and women helping him in his apostolate in one way or another; but he reserves the title of 'God's fellow workers' (1 Cor. 3-9, 1 Thes. 3:2) to Apollos, Timothy and himself, thus designated because they are directly set apart for the apostolic ministry and the preaching of the Word of God. In spite of the so important role played by women on the day of the Resurrection, their collaboration was not extended by St. Paul to the official and public proclamation of the message, since this proclamation belongs exclusively to the apostolic mission." (Pope Paul VI, emphasis added)

  • "Some women feel a 'calling' to the priesthood": Those women who feel a 'calling' to the priesthood are certainly mistaken. God - who is unchanging - would not call women to the priesthood contrary to the laws of and constant traditions of His Church, called Christ's "Body" (Col. 1:24).

"[An attraction to the priesthood] does not suffice for a genuine vocation. In fact a vocation cannot be reduced to a mere personal attraction, which can remain purely subjective. Since the priesthood is a particular ministry of which the Church has received the charge and the control, authentication by the Church is indispensable here and is a constitutive part of the vocation: Christ chose 'those he wanted' (Mk.3:13). On the other hand, there is a universal vocation of all the baptized to the exercise of the royal priesthood by offering their lives to God and by giving witness for his praise... But it must not be forgotten that the priesthood does not form part of the rights of the individual, but stems from the economy of the mystery of Christ and the Church. The priestly office cannot become the goal of social advancement: no merely human progress of society or of the individual can of itself give access to it: it is of another order." (Pope Paul VI, emphasis added)

Conclusion

When the push for "women's ordination" is looked at carefully, it seems clear that the desire for such ordination is not truly directed towards the good of the Church, but is instead a selfish attempt to advance a militant feminist cause. Women who want to become "priests" are not exercising the humility so praised in Scripture, or the subservience they are called upon to practice, but are rather trying to usurp men. They may be rebelling against the divinely established order of things and rejecting God's design for the sexes. Remember, it was not man who created the sexes differently, but the omnipotent God, who does nothing by accident. 

Those who condemn the Church's policy forbidding the ordination of women are not only condemning 2,000 years of tradition and Church history, as well as earlier Jewish history, but are also condemning the practices and teachings of the Apostles and of Jesus himself.

Furthermore, such militant women who seek glory seem to forget that Our Lord said, "[W]hoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave." (Mt. 20:26-27). They also seem to forget that the Church has the divinely ordered duty to protect her teachings & traditions - not to create new ones to please a certain group of people. As papal writings indicate, it is not within the Church's ability to change her teaching concerning women not being admitted to holy orders. In fact, this teaching is to be "definitively held by all the Church's faithful" (Pope John Paul II). Those who reject or resist Church teachings may put their souls in grave danger.

Finally, although women do not belong in the sanctuary, it may still be said that women do "make the best priests" - that is, they make all the men that will be priests!

7/10 Update: New Vatican norms treat the attempted 'ordination' of women' as a 'graviora delicta', or 'serious crime' ("attempted" because it is impossible to actually ordain women, as indicated above)

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Also See:

Proper Role & Behavior of Women (Priests & Vocations Reflections)

Women / Womanhood (Catholic Life Reflections)

Primacy of Husband / Obedience of Wife (Catholic Life Reflections)

Against Human 'Progress' in Religion (Coming Home Reflections)

More Reflections

The Religious Life For Women  

Woman (Topical Scripture)

More Topical Scripture

Can Catholic Dogma Ever Change?

"The greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven are not the ministers but the saints." (Pope Paul VI)

"When [the Church] judges she cannot accept certain changes, it is because she knows she is bound by Christ's manner of acting. Her attitude, despite appearances, is therefore not one of archaism but of fidelity" (Pope Paul VI)

"How much are they to be pitied who know thee [O Church], and still live enjoying what thou givest thy children, and who yet take side with thine enemies in insulting and betraying thee! They are men whose character is shallowness of mind; they speak their opinions as though they were oracles; they have contracted the flippant effrontery of our age: and to hear them speak of thee, one would suppose that they look on thee as a human institution, which they may approve or blame according to their humor." (Dom Gueranger)

  


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