THE ANSWER BELOW IS THE GREATEST THING TO HAVE EVER SHOWN UP IN MY DASHBOARD. Catholic theology is so beautiful and so awesome; yet so few realize it. Researching stuff like this is what led to my conversion less than a year ago. You may not agree, but understanding others’ convictions on such matters releases prejudice and hatred. So, go on—educate yourself!
“because the role isn’t about functionality. It isn’t about who can do it ‘better’.
You are absolutely right, one cannot confine God to a gender, but Jesus was unquestionably undeniably male.
Jesus selected particular apostles who were unquestionably undeniably male.
There were pagan priestesses at the time. Having priestesses was not taboo in that sense. I mean, even liberal Judaism ordains female rabbis.
The most common argument put forth against female priests contends that, since God became incarnate in the male sex, only men can represent Christ and so only men can become priests. Though not untrue, this argument is incomplete and open to misunderstanding. It may give the impression that women are not Christlike, and are thus ‘second-class Christians’.
Nothing could be further from the heart and mind of Mother Church! The witness of countless female saints in Scripture and Church history refute this notion, as does the modern example of such Christlike souls as Mother Teresa. In fact, the one saint who is most like Jesus is His holy Mother, Mary. The Blessed Virgin is even more Christlike that Saint Francis of Assisi, for she is the sinless New Eve whose entire life mirrors perfectly that of the New Adam. So this argument obviously needs further clarification to prevent any false conclusions.
The Church, too, has a ‘worldview’, as does any religion. Hers is rooted in the Bible and Sacred Tradition, which she believes to be Divine Revelation. If we examine the Church’s worldview, perhaps we will understand why she does not consider herself able to ordain women.
(I recognize that many readers are not Catholic, and therefore will not agree with the Church’s worldview and the conclusions drawn from it. But please recognize that this a legitimate religious worldview, cherished and developed over the centuries, not a modern excuse fabricated to ‘disempower’ women. If you do not accept our worldview, I ask you to at least try to understand and respect it.)
Scripture tells us that, in the beginning, God created man and woman (Genesis 1:27; Matthew 19:4). The Church believes and officially teaches that the human race originated with this human couple, whom Scripture calls ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’.
God created two sexes because His Plan for the human race requires that male and female cooperate in the transmission of life. The Creator originally intended for our first parents to transmit to all their descendants both physical life and the supernatural life of grace. After the Fall, however, they could pass on only physical life doomed to die and spiritual death-that is, original sin, the lack of sanctifying grace in the soul.
So that the new creation might correspond to the original, God ordained that in the order of grace a New Adam and a New Eve should together restore supernatural life to the human race. Scripture tells us that Jesus is the New Adam (Romans 5:12-19). By restoring to us the grace forfeited by the first Adam, He has become the Head of a new, redeemed humanity (even as Adam is the father of all humanity).
This is why Jesus assumed male flesh in His Incarnation. His Resurrection did not abolish His physical sex, so Christ is still male and masculine in His Sacred Humanity. Jesus ‘was and remains a man’ (5), He is still the New Adam. But according to the Divine Plan, He must transmit new life to us with the help of a female ‘counterpart’, a New Eve (being God, He could certainly do it all by Himself, but He has willed to do otherwise).
This ‘New Eve’ is the Holy Mother Church, the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:24-31; CCC 796). She is His suitable helper in the work of redemption as Eve was the suitable partner of Adam (Genesis 2:18). Scripture never portrays her in masculine terms, only feminine, for she is mystically ‘feminine’: our spiritual Mother (Galatians 4:16; CCC 757) who gives birth to us in the Sacrament of Baptism (John 3:5; CCC 694, 1238).
The Catechism tells us that the priest acts ‘in persona Christi Capitis’; in the person of Christ, the Head of the Church (CCC 1548). Though a mere man by nature, by the Sacrament of Holy Orders he represents the New Adam in the midst of His Mystical Body and Bride (II Corinthians 5:20; CCC 1152-1153). Thus the priest has traditionally been called an alter christus - another Christ!
The Sacrament of Orders bestows on the priest a mysterious participation in Christ’s role as Bridegroom. This is expressed in the saying that priests and bishops are ‘married to the Church’. This statement conveys a deep truth of which few are aware: a priest or bishop actually has a mysterious ‘spousal’ relationship to the Bride of Christ! (Bishops even wear a ring to symbolize their “marriage” to their diocese, which is a microcosm of the universal Church.)
John Paul II writes in Mulieris Dignitatem, that the Eucharist, ‘expresses the redemptive act of Christ the Bridegroom towards the Church, the Bride’ (6). The priest, therefore, in celebrating this Sacrament, acts in persona Christi in a ‘spousal’ role toward Holy Mother Church! As Christ, the New Adam, is married to the Church, so each alter Christus mysteriously shares in His nuptial relationship to the New Eve.
As the spouse of Mother Church, the priest is the spiritual father of all her children. In Baptism he confers on us the life of grace and then nourishes that life in our souls by the other Sacraments, particularly Holy Eucharist. He also blesses and counsels us, prays for and admonishes us. In all these things he displays his fatherhood toward the faithful, which is a participation in Christ’s own Fatherhood of Grace.
So we Catholics call our priests “Father” not merely as a clerical honorific like ‘Reverend’, but because the ministerial priesthood is a true fatherhood, and each member of the priesthood a true spiritual father!
If the priesthood is essentially a spiritual fatherhood toward believers and a mystical espousal to Mother Church, we can see why women cannot become priests. A woman cannot be a father, nor can she validly marry another female (despite what any human court may decide!). Since marriage is the union of male and female, and Mother Church is ‘female/feminine’, her ‘spouse’ can only be male/masculine! Hence only men can be priests.
A woman can, of course, be a mother, but the ministerial priesthood is not a spiritual motherhood. She can represent Mother Church, she can be a ‘bride of Christ’, but she cannot represent Christ the Bridegroom, she cannot spiritually ‘father’ us nor metaphysically ‘marry’ the New Eve.
So this is what the statement ‘Christ is male so only males can represent Him’ actually means. Not that women cannot be Christlike (they can in many ways not related to sex or gender), but only men can represent Jesus specifically in His role as the New Adam, Father of the New Humanity and Husband of Mother Church.
So the exclusion of women from the priesthood in no way implies any ‘inferiority’ of women. A mother and wife is clearly not inferior to a father and husband, just different. Nor are women inferior to men because they cannot be spiritual fathers or husbands. All Christians are equal though they have different roles in the Body (I Corinthians 12:14-30). All cannot be priests; the laity are necessary too. And the laity, female or male, are certainly not ‘second-class Christians’.
Feminists often argue that women should become priests in order to gain ‘power’ in the Church. There are a number of problems with this attitude.
First, the average parish priest does not have much ‘power’ in the Church. He himself is under obedience to the bishop and is not part of the Magesterium. He also has only partial Holy Orders; the bishop has full orders. (In fact, Jesus actually made His Apostles bishops, not mere presbyters (priests). Since Holy Orders actually began with the episcopate, the idea that women could start as priests and ‘work their way up’ is clearly backwards!)
Second, many Catholic women throughout the centuries have enjoyed positions of power and influence without being clergy. Medieval abbesses often exercised tremendous authority; in the early Middle Ages they sat in on synods with the bishops and answered to the pope directly, with no one above them. Though they did not have Orders, their temporal power often equalled that of the bishops. Those in charge of double monasteries had both nuns and monks under obedience to them, so some abbesses even had authority over men!
Female saints such as Hildegard of Bingen and Catherine of Siena wrote prophetic letters to popes, cardinals, bishops, priests and kings admonishing them to do God’s will, and Saint Birgitta of Sweden once instructed a group of male theologians in Naples (8). These women all had some influence or authority in the Church without Holy Orders-in fact, they even opposed the ‘ordination’ of women!
Last, the feminist quest for ‘power’ is most problematic because it violates the spirit of the Gospel. Jesus said that whoever would be great in the kingdom of God must become the least and the servant of all (Matthew 20:26-27). Leadership in the Church is actually servitude. Anyone, man or woman, who seeks a leadership position in the Church in hopes of acquiring ‘power’ should not receive that position, for that desire conflicts with that of Christ, Who came ‘not to be ministered to, but to minister’ (v. 28)
The church does not operate like a political government. It isn’t about who has power over whom. The laity are just as important as the clergy— Clergy members are not politicians by another name.
How can I call myself a feminist and think this is okay?
Because the Church does not repress me. My Church tells me that it is okay for me to be single, to be married, or to be a religious sister.
My Church tells me that I am strong and smart and just as holy as any man, and can be more so.
My Church tells me that women are of equal dignity to men.
My Church tells me that women have just as much power and dominion in the home and in public life as men.
This is how I am a Catholic feminist.”
^This thousands of times over.