Women and the Priesthood

Is there such a thing as a “right” to priesthood? If so, is it by law, by nature, or by tradition?

“The hour is coming and in fact has already arrived, for the vocation of woman to be fulfilled in plenitude, the hour in which woman acquires an influence in the world, a weight and a power never before reached until now. Therefore, at this moment in history in which humanity is experiencing such a profound change, women filled with the spirit of the Gospel will be able to greatly help humanity from falling.” 1

I’ll never forget the day I encountered a man who assured me that women would soon be able to be priests. I was at a weekday Mass. A kind, elderly man in the pew in front of me turned to me after mass, said hello and exchanged a few words with me. Then he said, in an apologetic tone, that hopefully one day soon, the Church will change its stance so that I can become a priest. I smiled and responded that I didn’t really want to be a priest. It got me wondering why he thought I wanted to be a priest.

I also thought about the idea that women should be priests is so prevalent in society. Is it because women are considered more spiritually sensitive and active in Church affairs? Or is it to bring about greater equality between men and women? Maybe it’s actually because some consider the priesthood as the best way for women to gain influence and power? But how are we to understand this “right” to priesthood?  Is it by law, by nature, by tradition?

Does a woman have a just claim to the priesthood by law?
According to the Bible, mankind in his fallen nature needed laws so as not to turn away from God. God, who is Goodness and Truth, was quickly forgotten when his people were doing well. Even after Moses led the chosen people out of Egypt, freeing them from slavery, they began to worship golden calves.

Therefore, God entrusted the law to Moses on Mount Sinai. In addition to the Ten Commandments, many other laws were given to Moses concerning slaves, personal injury, property damage, and other social and religious laws (cf. Exodus 19-24).  The people said that they would do all that the Lord commanded. They made an altar, an ark for the covenant, and a dwelling tent in which to house these sacred objects.

Of the twelve tribes of Israel, the Levites were chosen as the priestly tribe. Each of the other tribes was permitted to learn trades, raise cattle, serve in the military and work with the exception of the Levites. Only men from this tribe would offer sacrifice on behalf of the people, making atonement for them, and only the Levites were to care for the dwelling tent, the sacred vestments, and the Ark of the Covenant. Through Moses, they were given other instructions regarding ritual purity, sacrifices, codes of legal holiness, the ceremony of ordination for priests, etc.  Moses was the representative of God’s will for the chosen people. Moses was the instrument through whom God manifested his desires.

God knows the hearts of each of his servants. As the first priests, God chose Aaron and his sons. When his chosen priests did not show themselves worthy, God punished them. The older two sons, Nadab and Abihu, were ordained with Aaron. Yet, their service was not pleasing in the sight of the Lord because they offered up profane fire, not authorized by the Lord. Therefore, they were struck dead. Aaron’s other two sons, Eleazor and Ithamor, were then chosen as priests to offer up sacrifice for the people.

In carrying out the law entrusted to Moses, the norm that only the Levites would function as the Priestly clan remained unchanged throughout the entire Old Testament. It is stated in Dt 10:8-9, “… the Lord set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to be in attendance before the Lord and to minister to him, and to give blessings in his name, as they have done to this day. For this reason, Levi has no share in the heritage with his brothers; the Lord himself is his heritage, as the Lord, your God, has told him.”

The law remained unchanged during the time of Christ. The apostles were chosen by Jesus, as stated in Mk 3:13,“He then went up the mountain and summoned the men he himself had decided on, who came and joined him.” These men were called by Christ, the Son of God, who is one with God. He sought them out. “As he was walking along the Sea of Galilee he watched two brothers, Simon now known as Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting their nets into the sea. They were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.’ They immediately abandoned their nets and followed him” (Mt 4:18-20).

Then, Jesus chose men to be present at the Last Supper, entrusting them with the celebration of the Eucharist, as shown in Lk 22:19. Jesus singled out some of the beautiful things women had done for him, such as the anointing at Bethany, when a woman entered the room where he was reclining at table, and proceeded to anoint Jesus with an expensive aromatic nard. He made sure that her kindness towards him would be recalled “wherever the good news is proclaimed throughout the world” (Mk 14:3-9). After the Resurrection, the first appearance was to Mary Magdalene, who faithfully stood by Christ at the foot of the cross. She was entrusted with the mission of announcing the news of the resurrection (Jn 20:17). These women were given an irreplaceable role, but they were not chosen to be present at the institution of the priesthood.

In the Code of Canon Law, specifically Canon §235, it stipulates that young men, who intend to enter the priesthood, are to be given suitable spiritual formation. In all the numbers that refer to clergy and the priesthood, the reference is to men, not women. In Pope John Paul II’s Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, he clarifies it by saying: “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.” 2 That said, it’s important that the matter of the male priesthood not be reduced to canon law. The richer meaning behind the all-male priesthood is the image of Christ giving his life for his Bride, the Church (cf. Eph 5:22-32). The priest acts in persona Christi, hence the maleness of the minister is appropriate.

According to both Canon Law and Old Testament law, given by God, who is Goodness and Truth, the ordained priesthood is a service carried out by men. The service of the priesthood depends on election. Men can be ordained priests, yet, it is God who chooses those men to be His priests. In the Old Testament, it was God who chose the tribe of Levi, and it was God who chose the particular men from that tribe. In the New Testament, it was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who called certain men to become fishers of men. It is God who, today, chooses and calls his priests.

Does a woman have a just claim to the priesthood by nature?
Having seen that the law reserves the right of the priesthood to men, we can move on to the next source from which one can derive a right: from nature.

The nature of the priesthood lends itself to be carried out by someone of a masculine psychology and masculine traits. Peter Kreeft puts it very well when he writes, “Why is Christ’s maleness essential? Because he is the revelation of the Father, and the Father’s masculinity is essential.” 3 Simply by the use of the word “essential”—meaning of, or constituting, the intrinsic, fundamental nature of something—one can see that masculinity and the priesthood are inseparable. Why is this? The role of the priest reveals to us the love of God the Father.

In the Old Testament, God is most often referred to in the masculine form. The only God for the Jews was “he,” never “she,” nor “it.” God makes it clear for the Israelites that they are to worship him alone, and place no other gods or idols before him (cf. Dt 13:5). He offers his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to ransom us from sin. The Son is the one who offers his body and blood as a sacrifice for the Redemption of all mankind. A woman, Mary was chosen to be the mother of the Son, to carry the son in her womb, thus becoming the first tabernacle of the Lord.

Women have a special call to motherhood, physical and spiritual, just as a man is called to fatherhood. Motherhood and fatherhood complement the physical and psychological traits of each sex. Physically, a woman’s body is made to carry a child. A mother receives the gift of life given by the father. A man could not claim the right to get pregnant. It simply would not work. His body would not support carrying a child to term. Men are called to be fathers, with the role of the priest created to draw others to God, the Father. This is best accomplished through a physical father-figure.

Furthermore, it would be psychologically difficult for a woman to carry out the mission of the ordained priest, who is called to offer atonement for sinners, to hear confessions, and to live a life that in many cases is rather solitary. A woman’s psychology experiences stronger emotions and passions, and is more sensitive. Her tendency is toward dialogue and communication; she needs to be understood. Masculine psychology is oriented toward efficacy, achieving goals, protection and providing. Rather than discussing problems, men need silence and isolation to sort through them. Let’s apply this to one aspect of the priesthood, that of hearing confessions. In this sacrament the priest bears the weight of others’ sins and burdens. The silence required on the part of the priest could prove very taxing on feminine psychology. This is just one element that points to the fact that the psychological make-up of a man lends itself to carrying out certain functions of the priesthood, whereas feminine psychology lends itself to other types of service in the Church.

The Catholic Church does not discriminate against women because their nature is different than men’s. Rather, the Church exalts woman in her femininity, in her role as mother, called to instill spiritual values in the family, and in children. She is the teacher of the domestic Church.  Her sensitivity lends itself to observe and respond to the needs of her family. Her capacity for communication, observing needs and responding to them with a delicate touch, are indispensable in the home, in the workplace, and in the Church!

Finally, we can look to the Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought, where it states that, “…the maleness of Jesus’ sacred humanity is inseparable from the entire mystery of his incarnation, and Jesus is the icon of the priesthood and the individual priest, the sexuality of the priest is likewise indissolubly linked to the mystery of the priesthood, for in fact the priest acts in the name and person of the God-Man in such a way so as to represent him as the Bridegroom espoused to his Bride, the Church.” 4 The mystery of the Incarnation is the revelation of God the Father, becoming man for us, in the form of the second person of the Blessed Trinity. God did not become a woman. God was carried in the womb of a woman. God the Son was offered up as a sacrifice for our sake. The male priest offers up the sacrifice of Christ in his place to perpetuate the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. He becomes an icon of Christ, the priest. By nature, women cannot claim a right to the priesthood, which belongs to the Son. Men cannot claim the right to the priesthood either, as God chooses and calls his priests. But, by nature, they have been bestowed with this service.

Does a woman have a just claim to the priesthood by tradition?
One day in January of 2004, as I attended an audience with Pope John Paul II, in the hall dedicated to Paul VI, I engaged in conversation with a woman sitting beside me. She noted a large group of about 400-500 seminarians entering and taking their seats toward the front of the auditorium. “I can’t believe this! It’s terrible!” she said, “Look at all those priests. I can’t wait for the day when women will be ordained to the priesthood.” I must admit that when I heard this, I was rather surprised and took an interest in her perspective. We spoke about this topic for quite  awhile. She listed off names of women bishops, unfamiliar to me, who had been ordained in the early Church. I had studied theology and Church history, but I couldn’t recall any of those names.

I took the liberty of looking more deeply into the matter, discussing it with people who have thoroughly studied the Church’s tradition. I have not found a single reference to a woman bishop. There have been deaconesses in the early Church. This was a common practice due to the fact that baptism was first performed in the manner of full immersion, in which those to be baptized would disrobe.  For the sake of modesty, female deaconesses would administer this sacrament to women. That was the extent of their sacramental participation.

I also looked at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches. Number 1577 of the Catechism is a response to the question, “Who can receive the sacrament of Holy Orders?”

“‘Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination.’ The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. (cfr. Mk 3:14-19, Lk 6:12-16, 1Tim 3:1-13, 2 Tim 1:6) The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the 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.”

Finally, I looked into some of the fathers of the Church, such as Basil, Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch. Clement of Rome, the third successor of St. Peter as the bishop of Rome from approximately 90-99 A.D., writes about the origins of the Roman primacy. He wrote a letter to the community of Corinth in Greece which contains “…an authoritative intervention by the Church of Rome in the internal affairs of the Church of Corinth where the presbyters, i.e., the elders of the community, had been deposed by a rebellion of some unidentified young upstarts.” 5 Here, he manifests an awareness of Roman primacy, based on the authority of the founding apostles, Peter and Paul. This directly points to the fact that the mention of presbyters refers to men who acted in succession to the apostles. In chapter three of St. Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he expounds on the qualifications of various ministers. There is consistent use of the masculine pronoun in reference to bishops: “He should be a good teacher. He must not be addicted to drink. He ought not to be contentious, but, rather gentle, a man of peace…” (1 Tim 3:2-3).

Another Church Father, Ignatius of Antioch, who was bishop of Antioch in the early years of the second century, developed the doctrine concerning the role of the bishop in the Christian community. In the writings of Beatrice, it is noted that: “Ignatius vigorously and repeatedly reaffirms the fundamental and irreplaceable role of the bishop, the sign of the unity of the local church and the one who fosters the holiness of its members.” 6 At that time, all the bishops were men. He does not mention women as bishops in any of his writings. Throughout the development of the Church, the bishops who are in communion with the Holy Father have unanimously maintained the unity of the Church’s traditional teaching on the fact that men were called by Christ; they are the ones to be ordained to the ministerial priesthood. This teaching has been reiterated by all of our Roman Pontiffs.

The privilege of the priesthood
These ideas move us to note that women, though highly appreciated and valued by the Church, cannot claim the “right” to the priesthood. They also show that men, though they can be priests who offer sacrifice to the Father, cannot claim the “right” to the priesthood.

The priesthood is a privilege, bestowed by God alone. He chooses and calls his priests.  Pope Benedict XVI recently affirmed the importance of the ministerial priesthood during an audience with participants of the Congregation for the Clergy’s general assembly on March 16, 2009. He said, “God is the only treasure that, definitively, mankind wishes to find in a priest.”

The Pope urged those present at the assembly to discover the centrality of Jesus Christ who gives meaning and value to the ministerial priesthood. He added, “As Church, and as priests, we announce Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ, crucified and risen, Sovereign of time and history, in the joyful certainty that this truth coincides with the deepest hopes of the human heart..” 7 The priest announces Christ to us. As such, the priesthood is a gift to be highly treasured by all members of the Christian faithful, men and women alike.

The privilege of being a woman
There are many great advantages to being a woman, with many qualities that a woman can add to society. The feminine heart has been delicately formed to love deeply, perceiving human values. A woman is fulfilled in her gift of self to a spouse, a child, a vocation, a career. Her personal touch makes the world more human, less cold, and unfriendly.

First and foremost, a woman can transmit love to her family. She can make a tremendous impact in her own home by raising and educating her children, and spending quality time with them.

In addition, this self-giving can be manifested to those with whom she works. There are a variety of contributions a woman can make in the business world. She has a capacity to motivate and stimulate others for an ideal, nurture teamwork, be observant, intuitive, communicative, and enterprising. She is capable of tactfully dealing with situations, building human relations using refinement, cordiality, and good manners. All in all, a woman is capable of making the working environment more human.

These qualities carry over to the world of medicine, where the feminine touch shines, due to her capacity to recognize the sick as people, communicate in a human way, defend and promote life, be open to transcendent values, and attend and sustain the sick.

Additionally, worthy of mention are the values that women can add to the industry of mass media. A woman is most beautiful when she transmits God’s love by giving herself. She can produce and inspire music and art, which can be used to direct the spirit to beauty.

In today’s modern world, society needs the feminine to complement the masculine, not to supplant it. These words, from a recent address of Pope Benedict XVI to Angolan women, attest to the dignity of women and the valuable contribution they can make to society.

…the dignity of women is equal to that of men, no one today should doubt that women have “a full right to become actively involved in all areas of public life, and this right must be affirmed and guaranteed, also, where necessary, through appropriate legislation. This acknowledgment of the public role of women should not however detract from their unique role within the family. Here their contribution to the welfare and progress of society, even if its importance is not sufficiently appreciated, is truly incalculable” (Message for the 1995 World Day of Peace, 9). Moreover, a woman’s personal sense of dignity is not primarily the result of juridically defined rights, but rather the direct consequence of the material and spiritual care she receives in the bosom of the family. The presence of a mother within the family is so important for the stability and growth of this fundamental cell of society, that it should be recognized, commended and supported in every possible way. For the same reason, society must hold husbands and fathers accountable for their responsibilities towards their families.8

Conclusion
Looking at God’s action in history, I observe that he entrusted the priestly ministry to men, who have faithfully carried out this ministry over time. God has been the protagonist in calling priests, investing them with the qualities needed to fulfill their function. It seems clear to me that, as a woman, I can’t claim the “right” to become a priest. But, I can influence society in a number of ways, serving God and the Church, in the way that God has planned for me. For equality to exist between men and women, there is no need that women become priests. Equality demands that both men and women be treated with dignity and respect. In the Mass, both are present in the congregation. The ideal man and woman are presented to us in Christ, the man, who sacrifices himself on the altar; and, in Mary, the woman, who accompanies and sustains him with her prayer.
Attending Mass is an act of faith and humility in receiving Christ’s love, learning from him how to give of oneself. It is Christ himself who best models the priestly vocation: not a master, but a servant; the sacrificial victim, who gives his life so that others may live. When I attend Mass, I do so in order that I can grow closer to God, allowing his will to be done in my life. It is not in the hope that one day I can become a priest.
  1. Gloria Conde, New Woman (A message of Council to Women, Dec. 8, 1965) 137.
  2. www.vatican.va…
  3. Alice Von Hildebrand and Peter Kreeft, Women and the Priesthood (Steubenville: Franciscan University Press, 1994) 27.
  4. Coulter, Krason, Myers, Varacalli. Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought, “Social Science, and Social Policy” (Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2007) 876.
  5. Pier Franco Beatrice. Introduction to the Fathers of the Church (Vicenza: Edizioni Istituto San Gaetano, 1983) 20.
  6. Beatrice, ibid., 25.
  7. “Pope Cautions Against Dilution of Priestly Ministry Encourages Solid Doctrinal Education Among Clergy”; Mar 16, 2009.
  8. “Pope’s Address to Movements on Promotion of Women”, Mar 22, 2009.
Bookmark and Share
avatar About Renee Pomarico

Renee Pomarico, who is from Philadelphia, has been consecrated in Regnum Christi since 2000. She has a bachelor’s degree in education and development from Anahuac University, Mexico, and a licentiate in religious sciences from Regina Apostolorum in Rome. Pomarico currently teaches apologetics to high school students at Immaculate Conception Academy, Rhode Island, and is working towards an M.A. degree in Communication at Spring Arbor University, Michigan.

Comments

  1. avatar cowalker says:

    “[Christ] is the revelation of the Father, and the Father’s masculinity is essential.” Errrm, how could the ground of being possess any more masculinity than femininity in its nature? I mean, Paul said that even with humans, in heaven there is no male or female. This is a retreat into the old stereotypes where women are told how beautiful they look when they’re being self-sacrificing, and admiring male leadership.

    • avatar Anzlyne says:

      I don’t think so cowalker. Masculine is creative power– feminine is nurturing power.
      In heaven we don’t need to be pro-creators, thus don’t need to be sexual beings, male and female. This essay is no kind of a retreat into the stereotype you mentioned that only recognizes women who sacrifice themselves to admiring males… But I do say that there are some stereotypes that exist because they are based in reality.
      God the Father is called the Father not the Mother because He generates, He creates. Jesus is called the Bridegroom because His sacrifice (despite all appearance) is life-giving– and His bride the Church (called She, called Mother) receives Him and the Life He brings. The feminine part is to receive and to nurture.
      My only question about this fine essay has to do with the feminine Wisdom. I would like a little catechesis on that, if the author can point me that way.

      • avatar Renee Pomarico says:

        Hello Anzlyne
        There is a great deal of material on feminine wisdom. One of the most easily accessible sites is Endow, which has 15 study guides available on the specific traits and gifts of women, including The Pope’s letter to women, and the encyclical “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women”. http://endowgroups.org/
        Also, Celestial magazine has been developed recently to manifest the true dignity of women http://celestialmag.com/.
        I would also recommend the writing of Alice Von Hildebrand, a gifted philosopher and speaker on the unique traits of women. I attended a conference of hers at Providence College, where she masterfully crafted her message to engage men and women alike.
        Thank you for your feedback. Renee

  2. avatar Don R. says:

    You can use all the arguments you want, but excluding 50% of the population, and the feminine side from the priesthood doesn’t make any sense to me. Oh, I fortgot the church is a patriarchial society. Silly me.

    Oh yes, God is a male. What nonsense; God is neither male or female.

    • avatar Catholic Law Student says:

      The last two sentences do not necessarily follow from the author’s argument. The author alleges that God has a masculine nature. I readily concede that God is described with feminine pronouns, too. However, this does not mean that God is not male or female, but rather that God is both male and female. Hence, this is why God created man and woman in his image. My heart loves and my lips speak. So, too, does God require of us to be in his image. That is to say, we are different and complimentary. You need not make sense about why The Church exclude 50% of the population from the priesthood because the Church affirms those same people 100% in their individual capacity.

    • avatar Bob says:

      Don, You’ve obviously decided to it ignore all the clear and cogent scriptural, theological, and Traditional reasons presented why women can’t be priests. When will Christians look to the Truth of Christ and His teachings in the Catholic Church and change their will and lives towards that Truth instead of trying to bend and change Christ’s will to one’s personal narcissism? Great article, Renee! I really like the explanation on the Leviite Tribe, very interesting and informative.

    • avatar Renee Pomarico says:

      In response to cowalker and Don, I’d like to point out that even though “Paul said that even with humans, in heaven there is not male or female” we are not in heaven yet. We are still here on earth and while we are here, there is male and female.
      If God can exclude 50% of the population from motherhood and the other 50% of the population from fatherhood, can he not confer 50% of the population with the possibility of priesthood?
      We, as human beings have to remember that God’s power and wisdom are beyond ours. We don’t always understand his ways. As #140 of the YouCat mentions “Christ entrusted the entire faith to a group of twelve apostles, whose successors govern the Church, with the Pope, the Petrine ministry presiding.”
      When we choose to be Catholics, we choose to follow the Church Christ established and this is it!

  3. avatar Ed says:

    Thanks for the most concise and persuasive exposition I have had the opportunity to read on the Catholic Church’s rationale for excluding women from the priesthood. It’s really well-written !

    But the following stereotypical assertions, presented without qualification or nuance, betray a breathtaking naivite of the author that regrettably will contribute to her article not being taken seriously by any but a narrow, and already convinced, audience:
    “A woman’s psychology experiences stronger emotions and passions, and is more sensitive. Her tendency is toward dialogue and communication; she needs to be understood. Masculine psychology is oriented toward efficacy, achieving goals, protection and providing. Rather than discussing problems, men need silence and isolation to sort through them.”

    One or two more edits and “Women and Priesthood” may become of interest to a broader audience.

    • avatar Renee Pomarico says:

      Ed, thanks for your kind comments and constructive criticism. I must say that I should’ve given qualification for my comments regarding the psychological differences between men and women.
      The sources I’ d refer to are Gloria Conde’s book, New Woman, cited as a reference for another quote, and Deborah Tannen’s work on Genderlect Styles. Tannen has done numerous studies on communicative differences between men and women.
      I also referred to notes from psychology classes I took. One source is W.A. Kelly writing on Educational Psychology.

  4. avatar Patrick J. Sheahan says:

    Greetings from Canada on this 2nd day of March.
    “God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27.
    In writing about Women and the Priesthood perhaps Renee Pomarico missed this passage in the scriptures. She didn’t seem to give much weight to the culture of the Old Testament age and the period when Christ lived here on earth. She may not even feel that mankind has evolved since those days thousands of years ago when God spoke to Moses or Christ taught his disciples.
    I’m 60 years old and I have lived through many changes in our Church and I have always felt that God’s word has to make sense because God is all knowing and the source of all knowledge. Renee uses various passages from scripture to support her argument but do we ignore the first disciples of Christ to suit our purposes? How about the woman at the well who after meeting with Jesus went to her village to spread the good news? What about Mary Magdellan’s role as the first disciple to proclaim the news of Christ’s resurrection? This was at a time when Christ’s followers were shocked that he would be alone and even speaking to the woman at the well. Women were considered property and compared to men had few rights.
    In the 1900s women couldn’t vote, couldn’t work in many cases and of course couldn’t hold public office and the Catholic Church supported these ideas. People could be executed for what we now consider minor offenses. And slavery was still an acceptable practice in North America and again the Church was in agreement.
    But things changed and now we would be outraged if women were subjected to any treatment that was considered discriminatory or demeaning.
    I remember many things we use to hold as the teachings of the Church like Limbo but the Church changed many of our practices and well it should have.
    We are taught as Catholics that a vocation is a calling from God. We are called to be teachers, doctors, lawyers, tradespeople, parents, singles etc When women are called by God to be priests who is listening to their voice? When a woman approaches her pastor or the bishop and shares this calling how can she be rejected by the Church? Does it make sense that God calls but the Church rejects this calling? We see in many parishes that the bishop would rather close a church and deny the sacraments to his flock rather than ordain a woman who has been called by God.
    The Church teaches us about a celibate priesthood but we know from our Church history that the apostles were married men and even today the Church will accept married Anglican priests who convert to Catholicism.
    Renee quotes Pope John Paul ll in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis that the church has “no authority to confer priestly ordination on women and this judgment is to be definitively held.” But we know the Church can and has changed its teachings on matters in the past and can ordain women as well but won’t. I think the sad part about the Pope’s declaration was that he said it during the height of the clerical sexual abuse crisis which seem to say to Catholics that the Church was willing to accept these predators who disgraced the church but women were not worthy of this sacred calling now tarnished by male priests.
    It is also quite ironic that when President Obama in his reaction to the backlash to his healthcare plan and contraception coverage declared that the matter was closed and Catholic institutions would have to comply there was loud and outrageous responses from bishops and cardinals. How dare the President not allow us to negotiate and hear us and yet we as Catholics recall John Paul ll telling us that women’s ordination was not open for discussion.
    I don’t even know how many women would want to be priests and be a part of the Church patriarchy. But I do know that it makes sense and is long overdue for the Church to open the door to all women and invite them to answer the call to a priestly vocation.
    Regards,
    Patrick Sheahan
    Hamilton, Ontario.

    • avatar Bob says:

      So, Patrick, Pope John Paul II is just flat out wrong on this subject? You obviously know more theologically concerning the priesthood than JP II did??? Christ obviously gave you the ability to personally “bind and loose?” I tire of the arrogance of the “I am a lifelong Catholic, therefore I know more about what’s right for the Church than the 2000 year Magisterial Teaching” crowd. Renee gave a great education in to the reasons why women can’t be priests, and it makes total sense. Follow-it, or go become pope of your own church.

    • avatar Renee Pomarico says:

      Greetings Patrick.
      Thank you for your interest in my article and your well-developed message. I can see that you put a lot of thought into it. I’d like to respond to some of your questions:
      1. You stated: “Renee uses various passages from scripture to support her argument but do we ignore the first disciples of Christ to suit our purposes? How about the woman at the well who after meeting with Jesus went to her village to spread the good news? What about Mary Magdalene’s role as the first disciple to proclaim the news of Christ’s resurrection?”

      In response, I’d like to say that I definitely do not ignore the first disciples. Actually in looking at them more closely I see how Christ valued both the men and women who followed him. He graced the woman at the well, Mary Magdalene, and many others with special privileges, not including that of the priesthood. Jesus had the authority and the possibility to do so, but he chose not to. Mary Magdalene was graced with being the first to announce the news of the resurrection and how often in history God continues to grace women with his messages- St. Bernadette, St. Therese of Lisieux, Mother Teresa, Sister Lucia, Edith Stein, St. Catherine of Sienna- just to name a few. The question might rather be- do we ignore the teachings of Jesus Christ to suit our modern, politically correct purposes?

      2. “We are taught as Catholics that a vocation is a calling from God. We are called to be teachers, doctors, lawyers, tradespeople, parents, singles etc . When women are called by God to be priests who is listening to their voice? When a woman approaches her pastor or the bishop and shares this calling how can she be rejected by the Church? Does it make sense that God calls but the Church rejects this calling?”

      The best answer to your question may come from this short 3 minute video clip, from the woman who felt called to found Celestial Magazine, found at this link: http://www.catholic-tube.com/celestial-magazine

      The Church has responded to many women who have felt God’s call in numerous ways. But, does it make sense that God calls to something he has not established?” God would not call someone to something that is contrary to his ordained purposes. In teaching Faith and Revelation, it is clear to me that:
      - Jesus established the Church and gave authority to the apostles. In doing so, Jesus guarantees that Revelation will reach us in pure and accurate form.
      - The apostles’ divine authority was revealed through words and signs at Pentecost. Jesus gave assistance to apostles through the Holy Spirit and continues to give it to the bishops.
      - What the Church teaches comes from a deposit of faith- entrusted by Jesus Christ to the Church, faithfully preserved and passed down in Tradition and Sacred Scripture.

      The Magisterium of the Church has divine authority entrusted to it by God. In following the teachings of Christ, the Church is not failing to listen to the voice of women, it is manifesting to men and women the message that God revealed to us. Everyone has a voice which should be heard. God speaks to hearts and he calls according to his plan for each one. Then Christ confirms the call, and today he does that through his representatives- priests and bishops. The Gerasene Demoniac felt called to follow Christ, but Christ showed him that he was needed in Gerasa. Authentic calls are confirmed by the authority of the Church, established by Christ himself. If a woman felt an authentic call to the priesthood, it would be confirmed, but since it is not part of the established Church Jesus founded, it cannot be confirmed in the Catholic Church.

      #138 of the YouCat states, “God walks a special path with each person… Some he sends as laymen, so that they might build up the kingdom of God by their family and occupation in the midst of the world… Others he entrusts with the pastoral ministry; they are to govern, teach, and sanctify his people. No one can take this duty upon himself; the Lord himself must send him on his way through Holy Orders, so he can act in the place of Christ and administer the sacraments.”

      I appreciate your feedback.
      Kind regards, Renee

      Hahn, S., Cole, J., Socias, J., Armenio, P.V., & Korson, G. (2009) Faith and Revelation: Knowing God through Sacred Scripture. Midwest Theological Forum.

  5. avatar Gary says:

    I think women could be as good as priests as men are. I don’t understand the need for an all-male priesthood. I looked into becoming a priest. I decided not to because I knew I could not do eight more years of school, and that I had a C average grade point. Sometimes, I imagine a woman saying or praying mass. I think it would be interisting to hear a woman priest give a homily.

    • avatar Renee Pomarico says:

      Hi Gary,

      Thanks! I think it very generous of you to consider becoming a priest. I agree that women have a lot to offer and some say that a woman’s spiritually sensitive nature gives her great insights, which is true. Many women share these through conferences, courses and other means without necessarily having to give a homily.

  6. avatar Patrick says:

    Excellent article, thanks for sharing :)

  7. avatar Patrick J. Sheahan says:

    Bob, Pope John Paul ll was a great pope and a wonderful man. And why when Catholics dialogue must it always come down to “if you don’t like something about the Church then leave.” I have always questioned everything and sooner or later God leads me to the truth and His wisdom. That’s the beauty of our faith.
    SInce the revelations of the clerical sexual abuse scandal and the way the Magesterium handled it I won’t ever again just accept Church teaching without questioning. I’m sure if you asked the Catholics of Boston they would probably feel the same way. The absence of trust can do that to people.
    It doesn’t make me any less of a Catholic than you are or anybody else is. And to me at this point in my journey it makes sense.
    Regards,
    Patrick J. Sheahan.

  8. avatar Patrick J. Sheahan says:

    Renee.
    Thanks for your feedback and the references you provided.
    Patrick.

  9. avatar Chris says:

    HI Renee,

    That was the most well researched and logical article on this topic that I’ve read. Great work!
    God Bless

  10. avatar SegoLily says:

    Thank you for a wonderful article covering a vast array of rationale. And bully for you citing those references to psychology about woman thinking, learning and being in the world differently than men. It seems a pat response of dissenters to claim that women are psychologically no different than men.

    Years ago I was told by a Catholic friend that “of course a woman cannot be a priest, because during the consecration the priest says, “This is My Body” and since he stands “in persona” of Christ it would not be rational for a woman to uphold the bread and say “This is My Body”. Made sense then, and does now.

    I’m feeling especially lonely and isolated in my Faith today, and have prayed for a reversal of the HHS mandate and for our bishops. So many within the Church (ie: publishers of America) are trying to weaken her authority with, for now, devastating results (ie: the Obama administration clinging to those “useful idiots” and telling the bishops to get with the program, so to speak). It’s refreshing to know there are thousands out there who respect her teachings and know the freedom of obedience. Is it a sin to pray “Come Lord Jesus” and mean it literally?

    • avatar Renee Pomarico says:

      It’s true SegoLily,
      There are thousands, if not millions out there who love and respect the Church’s teachings. There are also many who wish to share the richness and true meaning of those teachings with many others. Be encouraged by the support of so many in the mystical body who share your faith. You are not alone!!! Count on my prayers for you:)

  11. avatar James Harris says:

    The Church teaches us that no human being, whether male or female, has any “right” to be ordained. For that matter, no human being has a “right” to be baptized into His Church.

    Rather, baptism and ordination are free gifts from an incredibly generous God. We really should be grateful for His gift, whether one or both.

    Anyone who speaks of a woman’s right to be ordained simply shows their tragic ignorance of the most elementary teaching of the Catholic Church.

    That some choose to claim that the absence of ordained woman is contrary to God’s will simply shows an astonishing arrogance that is unfitting in any follower of Christ.

    That some did honestly ask whether and hope that woman could be ordained before Pope John Paul ll’s definition in “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis”, that the Church has “no authority to confer priestly ordination on women and this judgment is to be definitively held”, was reasonable. But not afterwards. That statement in context is a definitive judgment for all faithful Catholics. By all means, carefully read it for yourselves along with the Original Vatican Council’s definition, and test that issue for yourself.

    After all, that is why God gave an infallible charism to the Church through a Papal definition, so that each of us might unambiguously know when an issue of faith or morals has been settled by God through His visible Vicar on earth, the Pope.

    That someone pretending to be a Catholic would equate the human authority of President Obama in its binding power to the God given binding power of the Pope is astounding! That Obama’s contempt for the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion and thus of individual conscience would be accepted by an American citizen is almost as shocking.

    • avatar Renee Pomarico says:

      Hi James, I agree with your logic and appreciate your comments. Thank you! Renee

  12. avatar Patrick J. Sheahan says:

    James Harris.
    Let’s talk tragic ignorance and astonishing arrogance for a Catholic moment.
    I presume you are aware of the findings of the Catholic Church in Ireland published during the last 2 years concerning the sexual abuse scandal. Archbishop Martin Diarmuid of Dublin stated…”efforts made to protect the Church and to avoid scandal have had the ironic result of bringing this horrendous scandal on the Church today.” Further he says that five bishops were named in the reports and “were aware for many years of complaints and/or suspicions of clerical child sexual abuse in the archdiocese.”
    James, the Church shamed Irish Catholics into submission for years and arrogantly upbraided them from the pulpits for questioning the authority and teaching of the Church.
    But is it only Catholic lay people who question the teaching about women priests and married clergy? In June 2011, Cardinal Jose da Cruz Policarpo of Lisbon Portugal, considered a moderate by any standards and a Cardinal since 1988 stated, “Theologically there is no fundamental obstacle. We could say there is a tradition, because it’s never been done.”
    In July 2011 300 priests in Austria presented a document to Cardinal Schoenborn of Austria entitled a “Call to Disobedience.” These overworked priests, their words not mine, outlined a seven point pledge that includes actively promoting priesthood for women and married men.
    In Australia in 2011 the National Council of Priests of Australia, which represents 40% of the priests in that country, denounced the dismissal of Bishop William Morris by the Vatican. in their statement the priests claim, “Bishop Morris was endeavouring to face honestly, significant problems in his rural diocese, particularly with the shortage of priests, which meant some communities were deprived of the Eucharist on a regular basis.”
    It’s not easy to question the Church but like the messy world we now live in it’s a messy institution and the faithful need to ask questions and not be blind to its troubles. Somehow I can’t imagine Irish Catholics accepting Church authority meekly ever again.
    Regards,
    Patrick Sheahan.

  13. avatar Patrick Brandon says:

    Dear Renee,

    Thank you very much for this well-written article. Especially do I commend its charitable and humble characteristics. I do sincerely hope many persons read it, and do so without taking a knife to it first! I say this especially noting several of the comments above.

    In the meantime, please let us pray that all Catholics recognize the great difference there is between “blind obedience” and the “virtue of obedience,” if we cannot all understand why it is the Church teaches what she teaches. This latter sort of obedience to Church teaching, and its preservers (i.e. the bishops), should help us to fathom in humility why it is tradition and doctrine must be “preserved” from error. Many are wounded by the Church, and unfortunately for good reason–but these wounds, however deep, cannot alter how Catholics must understand the Truth to which the Church is eternally wed. Let us pray for humility, which is (as the Angelic Doctor somewhere says) the only authentic tool for understanding.

    In Domino,
    P. B. McCaffery, Jr.

    • avatar Renee Pomarico says:

      Patrick Brandon,
      I’m so grateful for your encouragement and kind comments. I agree that we all need to pray for humility and the virtue of obedience, so that we may all be enlightened to the truth of the gospel message.
      Blessings, Renee

  14. avatar Mike says:

    Renee,

    Very well written, the LC’s have formed you well! I especially liked your insights at the natural level regarding the differences between male and female psychology/relationality in regard to the hearing of confessions. While the occasional dissenter is thoughtful in her/his argumentation, most of the dissenting points I read are rooted in emotion, anger, entitlement, and fail to really engage the cogent argument you put forth. When the Vicar of Christ, aka. Peter, makes definitive that the visible Church has NO DIVINE MANDATE to ordain women, it is simply a done deal. i’m glad you are articulating the teaching in an accessible manner that reasonable and prayerful people can comprehend. Great work! God bless you.

    • avatar Renee Pomarico says:

      Thank you, Mike! Truly I have been blessed with wonderful formation imparted by the Legionaries, consecrated and many others in the Church, the IHM sisters and countless diocesan and Franciscan priests. I’m so grateful! May God bless you, too. Sincerely in Christ, Renee

  15. avatar Fr James Gibson CR says:

    Renee– Thank you for a strong perspective, as a Catholic women, on an issue which unfortunately remains too often mired in discussions on “political correctness”. As you have well pointed out, the question of a “right” to be chosen for the priesthood never enters into the discussion, whether one is male or female.
    I do want to add one theological perspective on the priesthood as a participation in the ministry of the Apostles. The late theologian (named a cardinal by Bl. John Paul II) Hans urs Von Balthasar pointed out that between the Marian (female) position vis-a-vis the faith and the Church, and the Petrine (male) position, the Marian has prominence for the believer. That is, the first stance for any Christian before God is that of receiving, as Mary received the Word first by announcement and then physically in her womb. The Petrine-Apostolic position in the Church is at the service of the Marian. Von Balthasar reminds us that in John’s gospel, the Beloved disciple (John who receives Mary as a mother at the foot of the cross) is the first to reach the empty tomb when he and Peter receive the news of resurrection from Mary Magdalene. He gives precedence to Peter, however, as we would to the Pope (not as masculine, but as chosen by Jesus), and Peter enters the tomb first. John, however, is the one who “sees and believes”.
    There is no Christian, man or woman, who can exercise any service whatsoever in the Church without first receiving (female position) the faith as unmerited gift. The male ministry is at the service of this “female” position of every believer. Here there can be no question of power whether of man or woman. That political question simply does not belong in the theology of priesthood and ministry.
    One historical note, however, for “liberated America”: a very strong argument can be made that the strongest force the Church in America has ever seen was the flourishing of Catholic education at the hands of women. Women religious who taught in schools formed generations of Catholic Americans in a way that homilies and Bishops’ decisions probably never did. That is real power.
    Thank you again for your insights.
    Sincerely,
    Fr. James Gibson CR
    Rome, Italy

  16. avatar Renee Pomarico says:

    Fr. James, what a rich perspective you have added to this important issue about women in the Church. I must say that meditating on Mary’s receptiveness in receiving the divine Word has truly inspired me to note ways which women can experience and transmit the love of God in a very particular way. I am grateful for your dedication and ministry in the Church and I assure you of my prayers. Thank you for your comment. Peace in Christ, Renee

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Women and the Priesthood – Renee Pomarico, Homiletic & Pastoral Review [...]

NeverWinter Astral Diamonds