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Why Can’t the Church Ordain Women Priests?

Source: Brian Holdsworth via YouTube

Our ancestors understood that men and women have distinct qualities so they tried to define roles and conventions that were best suited to the strengths of each.

So, it might be true to say that traditional gender roles are societal conventions, but what’s being left out of that is that they are conventions that are an attempt, admittedly imperfect, to reflect objective, biological, and maybe even, spiritual, realities.

So how well suited those roles fit that reality is something that we should be routinely improving so that they better reflect what is true. But instead, what we’ve done is identified one side of that equation, specifically men’s, as being far more desirable then the role of women in society and that if women want to be equal, they should simply expect all the same privileges and responsibilities of men.

It’s a strange idea that the only way to truly respect and honor women is to expect them to be more like men. That seems like your just honoring men and masculinity to me.

I think it’s a really juvenile thing to say that two distinct things, or people, in this case, cannot be equal unless they are the same in every way. I think a better solution would be to recognize and celebrate the qualities that make women distinct from men.

So let’s bring this back to the conversation around the Catholic priesthood. The first thing I’d say is that I think this conversation has fallen prey to many of the same things I described earlier. Because the Catholic Priesthood is something that has always been exclusively performed by men, we’ve surrendered to this idea that it’s a desirable and glamorous role that women should be allowed to do as well.

All the while, we’re forgetting that it is a role of tremendous sacrifice.

Not surprisingly, the factions campaigning for women priests are also campaigning for the abolition of celibacy because they want all the honor and not the sacrifice.

When Pope Francis was asked about this, he responded by saying that this was symptomatic of a kind of clericalism and I think he’s right. It’s a clericalism that puts priests on a pedestal and then creates an unhealthy appetite for wanting to be on that pedestal yourself… and for the wrong reasons.

There’s also the question of what God or Christ wants for his Church. Jesus, in establishing his Church chose 12 men, exclusively, to be apostles. That doesn’t mean that women didn’t have spiritual roles but it did mean that, whatever it meant to be an apostle, was a role for men.

But the factions who want the Church to ordain women do have their rationalizations for why Jesus did what he did.

They say that Jesus chose men because he was succumbing to societal conventions. There’s nothing about the character of Jesus that suggests he would be motivated by fear of upsetting the customs and traditions of men. He routinely affiliated with outcasts, lepers, and he relentlessly criticized the religious elders of his day. So much so that they eventually conspired to have him executed.

The second problem with that line of reasoning is that it includes the belief that restricting certain roles to men is sexist and sexism is wrong.

If that’s how you define sexism and if, according to that definition, it’s a moral wrong, then you, necessarily have to admit that it’s a sin and Jesus committed it.

And if Jesus committed a sin, then he could not have been God incarnate, God who is goodness itself, and if Jesus wasn’t God incarnate, then there’s no point in having a Church or priests… or any of it.

Lastly I want to address the point that we keep hearing that if women can’t be priests, then we need to make sure that we give them more prominence and influence in the Church – and by that, we mean that they should be sitting on more theological commissions, or governance boards, or committees, etc.

If there are women who want to have those roles and are qualified and ready, then great.

But when we talk about the Church, as in women need more influence in the Church, what do we mean by, the Church? Well, the Church means God’s people. So, influence over the Church is synonymous with influence over God’s people.

Well, the thing I’d say to that, is that traditionally, women already had the MOST influential role in the Church. Nothing is more influential than motherhood. To have the most exclusive access to children at their most critical stages of development is more influence than you can ask for. There are no theological papers, encyclicals, or magisterial exhortations that compare to the mentoring of a child by their mother.


Header image: Brian Holdsworth via YouTube