Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Ordination of Women

One of the questions my wife asked me when the discussion of me becoming a deacon came about was if a deacon could preside and funerals, witness marriages and baptize why couldn't nuns. I admit--I kind of blew her off because I didn't want to start a debate. So yesterday, she posed this question on her Facebook wall, "Why is it that an institution that sets itself out as the guardian of social justice not allow women to serve in all capacities?" Her questions basically boil down to why doesn't the catholic church ordain women?

I'm afraid my words aren't going to do me justice here but it basically comes down to the fact of the matter that priests are more than just ministers. The priest sits in persona Christi-or in the person of Christ. That is why the priest is able to transform the bread and wine into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. This is why the priest is able to hear our confession and to absolve us of our sins. He signifies Christ present in front of us so it is only fitting, since Jesus was a man, that man be the symbol of the Bridegroom and a woman is not.

You have to remember that Jesus, himself, picked twelve men to be his apostles. Our bishops today can trace their lineage back to the twelve apostles. For whatever reason, Jesus chose twelve men and the Catholic Church has chosen to follow Christ's example. Some might say that Jesus was only following the social norms of the time. If you think about it though--that argument does not hold water. Jesus did anything but follow social norms. He ate with the tax collector, sat with the Samartian woman, allowed his apostles to do work on the Sabbath and forgave the woman for committing adultery. He had women as his followers--women who stuck with him through it all. He did not pick any women to be his apostles though.

While it is a difficult teaching, you have to remember that the the church does allow women to be in other types of ministerial roles. In fact, the same roles that many protestant churches allows women to minister in the Catholic Church does too. But those protestant churches also don't have anyone perform the rolls that priests perform such as the consecration or absolution. The Catholic Church does not demean woman at all. She has many many female saints. Many of the doctor's of the church are female. The Catholic Church, in fact, places Mary, a female, in very high regard. Catholics are even accused of worshipping Mary (which of course we don't.)

It is also very possible for the Church to practice social justice and still not allow women to be priests. You see, as Michael Tortalani explains in his article titled, "Why No Woman's Ordination" in This Rock magazine, "Justice and equality are not identical. Justice is "giving a person his due" and can be taken either negatively (punishment) or positively (reward). While all persons must be treated "justly," they need not be treated "equally"-if for no other reason than because each has different potential and capabilities. " Mr. Tortalani explains that a student will get a grade that he deserves (justice) but not the same grade as a classmate (equality) Men and women are different and the sacraments aren't a right--they are a gift. Sometimes we have to accept the role that God gives us and not demand it from him.

Finally, one of the easiest ways that I began to understand why women cannot be ordained is this. The sacraments require certain things to make them valid. Baptism requires water and the words, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." If you don't use water or those words then the baptism is not valid. The Eucharist requires unleavened bread and grape wine. If you use Cheese-it's and Welch's then it's not valid. Marriage requires a man and a woman otherwise it's not a valid marriage. Likewise, one of the requirements for Holy Orders is a male.

Male ordination is a hard teaching to understand. The Catholic Church has many difficult teachings but at some point you need to pray for understanding.


  1. As a fellow Catholic I am disgusted. Clearly I am a woman, who has no interest in being ordained, but I know many woman who have taken all of the courses to become a deacon but are unable to become one simply because of the way God made them. God makes every single human being, everything is God's creation so why should we as human beings not accept a part of it? I agree that a priest signifies Christ's presence in front of us but doesn't God show himself in all shapes and forms? Yes, Jesus was a man but that does not imply that God is a man. God is not a specific thing that we can grasp. God is usually shown as a good looking, caucasian man but he could be any race, any gender, he could be anything. Men and women are different yes, and I also agree that the sacraments are a gift, not a right. But as a woman I have the right, legally, morally and ethicially to do anything a man can do. Including being ordained as a priest. With the statement "Sometimes we have to accept the role that God gives us and not demand it from him." you are implying that women play an inferior role to men. You also stated that one of the requirements for Holy Orders is to be male. The Holy Orders are something created by God, as are men and women. God does not make requirements for anything. God loves everyone as God has created them. God loves every single person no matter what, no requirements are needed for God's love. Why should requirements be necessary to move closer to God? These requirements are not set up by God but set up by the Church. As stated in your "About Me" you have been a cop for 14 years. You should know that women play an equal role in society today as men do. Why are they unable to expand that role into the Catholic church? I am a Catholic, and I believe in the Church in every aspect except for this one. This aspect of the Church is as ancient as it is. The church needs to be modernized in this one aspect. I'm sure your wife thinks the same.

  2. This morning I read in my local paper a story about the issue of women's ordination. It seems that anytime the mainstream media covers the Catholic Church, it does so in order to chastise Her. I am in the process of converting to the Catholic faith, and it saddens me how many Catholic's are willing to abandon their obedience to God, for their own authority.

    Yes, everything is God's creation, and if God has willed that only men are the priests, then who are we to argue? I know, I say these requirements weren't set-up by God, but by the Church. Well, do you believe that it was Christ who founded the Church? Do you believe that it was Christ who established the priesthood? Do you believe in the authority that the Pope has and our duty to the allegiance to him.

    God's kingdom is not a democracy. His laws and commands are not open for debate. I don't think the original post in any way, shape, or form suggested that women were somehow inferior because they can't be preist. I think that you are reading your own personal, poitical ideaology into it. I feel that your problem comes down to an issue of obedience. You may disgusted by the lack of women priests, but I am disgusted by the lack of obedience to God, His Mother, and our Pope.

  3. How come the Orthodox never get asked this question?

  4. I agree with Nathaniel Pope John Paul II said you can't take a vote on truth.

  5. unless you become as a little child, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.
    Jesus never gave us the Church. He gave the keys to Peter but the Church does not belong to us. problem appears to be that as americans we feel we have a voice and/or vote on how the Church is run. have you ever heard a child tell his/her parents that they're doing it wrong and have the parents change it or the child leave.
    Jesus runs the Church through our Pope. who are we to tell Him He's wrong?
    we will all get to ask Him either on this side or His side of the Great Gates.
    a humble and contrite heart O Lord, you will not spurn