Catholics for Women Priests – A Dissenting View

The Simple Catholic Snapshots:

  • Recently, in another infamous jetliner interview, Pope Francis affirmed that ordination of women in the Catholic Church is ‘not possible’. pope-francis
  • Seeking to understand the issue more completely, I decided to research the internet for Catholics in favor of women ordination. I sought out those that seemed knowledgeable in the Catholic faith and Tradition, who also seemed honestly to be seeking God’s truth, yet who held a position in opposition to the Pope’s.
  • I found in general, seven reasons being put forward in support of the ordination of women:

1. Both men and women belong to a single priesthood in Christ
2. Both men and women were empowered to preside as priests by Jesus at the Last Supper
3. Cultural bias
4. Women have been deacons in the past
5. The ability for women to be ordained has been present in the Church’s latent Tradition.
6. The wider Church accepts women priests
7. Women too are, in fact, called to be priests

In this post we’ll discuss each of these seven claims.

The Simple Catholic Truth:

Each of the seven positions for Catholics in favor of women priests (labeled “CFWP” – not a real organization) will be summarized below, followed by my commentary and rebuttal (SCT). Leave a comment at the end if you would like to agree, disagree or add something. As always, respond with Christian charity and respect.

1. Both men and women belong to a single priesthood in Christ

(CFWP):

Each woman who is baptized becomes another Christ, just as a man is.
Scripture tells us: “All who are baptized in Christ, have put on Christ. There is no longer any discrimination between Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female.” Galatians 3:28
Therefore, every baptized woman shares fully in Christ’s priesthood, kingship and prophetic mission. baby baptismBaptism implies a fundamental openness to all the sacraments, including the ministerial priesthood.

(SCT):

Here we have a fatal error in prooftexting. Whenever a few verses of the Holy Bible are used to defend a position, it is imperative that those verses are read in proper context. When Paul wrote about there being neither male nor female in Christ (Gal. 3:28), he is discussing our initial justification through faith, not our roles in the Church.


I would 100% agree that through the Sacrament of Baptism we (men and women equally) are once again adopted as children of God. In a manner of speaking all baptized believers belong to a common priesthood of the faithful. However, to extend this baptismal grace (“Baptism implies a fundamental openness to all the sacraments”) to that of the ministerial priesthood is non-Scriptural.
This claim demonstrates a failure to understand the significance and uniqueness of the two priesthoods. The common priesthood of the faithful is provided by the grace of Baptism whereby the ministerial priesthood is provided by the grace of Holy Orders.

2. Both men and women were empowered to preside as priests by Jesus at the Last Supper

(CFWP):

The Last Supper was a paschal meal. The Gospels mention the arrival of Jesus and the Twelve ‘in the evening’ (Mark 14:17), but other disciples who had done the preparation were already there. They included the women. So we can be sure Jesus’ mother and the women disciples were present at the Last Supper.last supper
Jesus words “Do this in commemoration of me!” were then addressed to all the disciples present, both men and women. Thus Jesus empowered all of them to receive Holy Orders and preside at the Eucharist.

(SCT):

This seems to be a classic case of reading into Scripture what a personal viewpoint wants to hear.
In the Gospel of Mark (Mk 14:13), Jesus sent “two of His disciples” to prepare for the Passover. Nowhere does Mark directly indicate the sex of these two disciples. They could have both been female, or both male, for all we know. However CFWP states that based on this Scripture, “other disciples who had done the preparation were already there. They included the women. So we can be sure Jesus’ mother and the women disciples were present at the Last Supper.” This claim is clearly not supported by Scripture.
In Mark 14:17, Jesus is described as arriving later in the evening “with the Twelve” clearly pointing to the Twelve male Apostles chosen by Jesus. Shortly thereafter in Mk 14:22 Jesus celebrates the Lords’ supper that took place “while they were eating.” This is another indirect but clear indication that the Last Supper was celebrated with and for the Twelve.

Furthermore, the Gospel of Matthew also describes the preparation and the actual Passover meal. It is true that in Mt 26:17, Jesus tells the “disciples” (no sex mentioned) to go and make preparations. However, Mt 26:20 says “When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples.” Here Matthew is clearly saying that THE twelve disciples, i.e. the Twelve male Apostles hand picked by Jesus, were those disciples that shared the Passover meal at table. It doesn’t matter how many and of what sex prepared the meal, Jesus shared the meal with the Twelve.

Finally, the Gospel of Luke provides more evidence refuting the CFWP claims. In Luke 22:8, it says specifically that Jesus sent two disciples, Peter and John to make the Passover meal preparation. The Gospel of Mark mentions generally that disciples were sent out but here in Luke, two of the male Apostles were specified. Also, in Luke 22:14 it says that “When the hour came, He took His place at table with the apostles.”
There were have a specific reference that Jesus celebrated the final Passover meal, at table, with His Twelve male Apostles.

It is possible, maybe even likely, that other disciples including women were present at the Last Supper. However, even if Scripture showed this to be true, the claim that Jesus intended the empowerment of the Eucharist to all in attendance is simply wishful Scriptural eisegesis.

3. Cultural bias

(CFWP):

In the ancient world, women are considered less than men in every respect: physically, intellectually and emotionally. In short, women were considered inferior. When Jesus selected His twelve male apostles, He did so only conforming to the repressive patristic social norms of the day.
The modern Church constantly needs to liberate itself from the social and cultural prejudices that contaminate its doctrine and practice. Women today deserve to be liberated from the doctrinal prejudice that stills bans them from the share in the ministries that is theirs in God’s true plan.

(SCT):

Some say that Christ was bound by the cultural norms of his era to suppress the roles of women. This is easy to say especially fueled by the modern notion of gender egalitarianism (sameness). But, to hold this position accuses Jesus of spineless sexism.
woman-at-well
To hold this position also ignores Scriptural history. The Bible tells us that Jesus had no qualms about shattering the cultural norms including interaction with women for the purpose of spreading the Gospel message (Matt. 9:20-22; Luke 7:36-50; John 4:4-42).
Jesus knew of religious priestesses –  it was a common practice in religions of his time and culture, though not Judaism. If Jesus had wanted women as priestesses in order to conform to social norms, he would have had the ideal candidate in Mary. Here was a woman who could have spoken the words of consecration literally: “This is my body. This is my blood.”

No, the only cultural bias that I see is the modern notion that men and women are identical in all respects. The Bible tells us all men and women are indeed created equal in the image of God. But Jesus Christ tells us specifically that He intends different roles in His Church for His sons and daughters. Not one better or worse, not one above or below the other, just different.

4. Women have been deacons

(CFWP):

Women were given the full ordination to the diaconate in the Early Church. The practice has been documented extensively for the first nine centuries in especially the Eastern part of the Church. If women received holy orders then, they surely can receive them now.

(SCT):

Some early Christian women belonged to orders of virgins, widows, and deaconesses, which are all forerunners of modern nuns. However, none of these orders were ordained to the priesthood.
Notice the logical non-sequitur in the CFWP claim: 1) Women were once ordained into the diaconate, therefore, 2) Women should be ordained into the priesthood. Sure deacons are ordained and priests are ordained but that does not mean that deacons are priests.

I can find no credible evidence of women being ordained into the priesthood in the early history of the Church.

5. The ability for women to be ordained has been present in the Church’s latent Tradition.

(CFWP):

The treasure of revealed doctrine is carried in the faith of all the believers. The true tradition of the Church is, at times, not what is expressed publicly but Latent Tradition, the tradition that lies deep in the hearts of the faithful.

[To support this notion of Latent Tradition, CFWP explains that the Blessed Virgin Mary has been venerated in history as a priest. I won’t get deeper into this here for the sake of time. But, if you want to learn more visit the womenpriest.org site listed above.  The CFWP continues…]

The devotion to Mary Priest has been present throughout the history of the Church. If Mary could be a priest, so can any other baptized woman. This is a true case of Latent Tradition. Believers have always known in their heart of hearts that women too can be priests.

(SCT):

I’m not sure how to respond to this other than to point out this is another example of someone claiming that truth is relative. The CFWP people claim the truth of women’s role in God’s plan of salvation can be found in the “hearts of the faithful.” They further claim that the existence of those that believed Mary was a ministerial priest was proof that Mary was in fact a ministerial priest. If that were true then I guess the hearts of the Arians proved that Christ was a created being, or the hearts of the Nestorians proved that Christ was a man and a God, and I guess the hearts of the Pelagians proved that mankind could save himself.

I know my heart, and what I believe, is sometimes misguided so I think I’ll just continue to rely on the Holy Scripture and the Tradition (not Latent) of the One Holy Apostolic Church that Jesus founded.

6. The wider Church accepts women priests

(CFWP):

In other Christian Churches women are now being given access to all the ordained ministries. Admitting women to the ministries is the outcome of a long process of prayer and study by our Christian brothers and sisters.
Their truly Christian motivation and their genuine search for establishing what Jesus really wanted can be read in the publication of many classic works. woman-priestThe example of the other Christian Churches does not prove the correctness of ordaining women in an absolute fashion. But it is a serious indication that this is the path the Holy Spirit urges also on the Catholic Church.

(SCT):

Wow, because other churches are wrong, then the Catholic church should be wrong also? Other churches don’t believe in the true presence of the Eucharist. Other churches don’t believe that Baptism regenerates the soul. Other churches don’t believe that abortion is intrinsically evil. Why in the world then is this claim regarding women’s ordination credible?

When I was trying to justify some juvenile offense, my dad would say, “If Jimmy jumped off a cliff, would you jump also?” Thank God, I never jumped.

7. Women too are, in fact, called to be priests

(CFWP):

As to priestly vocations, there has always been a conviction within the Church that genuine vocations come from God, and that it would be criminal to block such vocations. Women are called to holy orders! The fact is that many Catholic women, all over the world, feel called to the priestly ministry.holy-spirit
Through the sense of vocation of Catholic women the Holy Spirit herself is urging the Church to review the existing ban against women. As long as the Church continues to ignore the promptings of the Spirit, the valuable charisms and gifts of women will be lost to the ministry.

(SCT):

I think it is wonderful that women (and men for that matter) feel called to serve God. The CFWP people claim emphatically that some women are called to holy orders. That may be true or it may be a misunderstanding or it may be a feeling motivated by the need for gender equality. I won’t engage in that debate here because it is essentially tangential to the real issue. Jesus instituted the priesthood and for His reasons limited that ministerial priesthood to men. Even the earthly Church he left behind with the keys of the kingdom does not have the authority to change that divine fact.
If women feel genuinely called and unfairly excluded, I empathize for their resultant sorrow. However, perhaps that is just one example of the cross they bear as Christians.

I disagree with the all or nothing sentiment in the last sentence of their position statement above. Just because women may not serve in the role of ministerial priest, does not mean that their unique charism and gifts to God’s ministry will be lost. St. Paul makes it clear that we all are provided unique gifts in order to serve the Lord (1Cor 12:5-7):

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;  and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

It’s not a tragedy that God’s plan restricted the ministerial priesthood to one sex. That is His plan, even if we don’t understand it fully, or if we want it a different way. The real tragedy however is if women became so distracted by this quest for sameness, that their unique charisms and gifts are actually lost to God’s ministry.

 

[Note: I extracted much of the material contained in this blog post for the opposing position from two sources: http://womensordinationworldwide.org/  and  http://www.womenpriests.org/.   I encourage all SCT readers to visit those sites as a verification of my fairness.]

 

 

 

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