All That I Have Written Is Straw. . .

Meanderings of a Catholic Devout

The priestly role of women and why we don’t need collars.

with 6 comments


A friend of mine and I— were having lunch yesterday and asked if I had given any thought to what I want to do when I finished my master’s degree program. I indicated some uncertainty though I want to write about theology, as I have done in the past. I don’t want to write analytical theology, as in research, because I don’t feel I want to change careers to do that (I love my current career); rather, I plan to write insightful, perhaps apologetic, theology.

One such topic that’s been on my mind lately is the stance on the ordination of women in the priesthood. Let me be very clear: I do NOT support women’s ordination. Surprisingly, I have never met a fellow female Roman Catholic theology student who supports it but I do seem to offend some men when I show my support for the Roman Catholic (RC) Church’s stance on the matter. So after a productive discourse on the matter with my friend and I— yesterday, neither of whom are Roman Catholic, I decided to jot my apologetic down so that I don’t forget this for my future endeavor.

The RC Church doesn’t “allow” women’s ordination because there is neither Scriptural nor Apostolic Tradition that supports it—not because it’s anti-women. Because the RC Church operates on the Scripture command given to Peter, every task it is consigned to carry out originates in Scripture: 12 men were called by Jesus to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15). They were also commanded to heal the sick and cast out demons in the name of Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit (Mk. 16: 15-20).

Objections

When the first apostles commissioned their successors, none were women, thus apostolic Tradition has no support for the ordination of women either.

The first and biggest objection is usually that, in the historical context, women could not have been ordained by Christ because during his earthly lifetime, women had no rights. Thus, it’s unfair to say that Jesus excluded women.

The problem from the historical perspective, however, is that it leads only to hypotheticals. The RC Church isn’t a church of hypotheticals, though. We could only speculate that if Jesus had lived his earthly life during a time when women did have rights, he would have done so. Perhaps he might have, but he didn’t choose to fulfill God’s revelation in the 1970s. He came when he did, at a time when women did not have rights and could not testify.

Jesus was very pro-women and not exclusive at all if we believe in Luke’s gospel. He surrounded himself by them, healed them and broke down social barriers surrounding them. Perhaps he didn’t call any women to be among his Twelve because he knew that barriers in society wouldn’t allow them to fulfill his order. It’s hypothetical. What isn’t hypothetical is that God can work a lot of miracles but, I’d argue, that he will never change the free will of men and women.

Apostolic succession included no women, either. We can only go on what we have in these two sources for ordination. Thus, the RC Church has no authority to ordain women.

My friend readily admitted that he felt offended by the RC stance because it seemed “unequal.” But that objection is fallacious at best because it assumes that the priesthood is somehow higher than a lay or religious apostolate.

In fact, it’s not about priest versus laity. The pontiff is a servant, not a king. He is an elected “official” to lead and guide the RC Church according to Scripture and the apostolic Traditions that were left to us. Although I know that the pope is the “face” of the Church, the Church herself is actually much bigger. There are priests, laity, and religious — with laity being the majority of the Church. We should ask, “To whom does a shepherd tend to if there is no flock?” How does the flock stay together without a shepherd?

The relationship between priest, religious and laity is an equal, circular, and co-dependent relationship. All priests and religious begin as part of the vocation of laity and from the laity; they change their vocation because they are called to do so. It has nothing to do with inequality of the sexes: priests from men, religious from men and women alike. Otherwise, it’s similar to saying that Peter is more important than Mary, which bring me to my next point.

The Priestly Role of Women

I’ve focused enough on objections, but I want to focus on a positive aspect to why women shouldn’t desire to become priests.

Women should aspire to be handmaids of the Lord. The ultimate model disciple is Mary herself. She was the first Christian. Her fiat! made it possible for God to change the world. In some arguments, she is the new Eve, undoing what the first woman did (St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho) in a parallel version.

Serving others is a role assigned to women even before the coming of Christ. All throughout the Gospels, however, it is men who are being called to break their traditional ideals of serving. They are being told by Jesus to serve their guests, to wash each other’s feet, etc. Women already had mastered this role. They tended to each other because there was no one else to do it.

As Jesus endured his Passion, women were present. They mourned the tragedy and though they stayed at a distance from the Crucifixion, they stayed while most of his trusted men fled and hid. In John’s Gospel, Mary and other women, are at the foot of his cross (Jn. 19:25), witnessing. When Jesus was raised, it was women who first found his tomb empty, women to whom he first appeared. It was these women who fled in either joy or fear to spread the Good News of the resurrection of Christ, though they met some resistance to their testimony.

Similarly, today, women still adhere to this priestly role. We still spread the Good News and do not need a collar to do so. Every lay person should be evangelizing. We don’t baptize with water, but we bring forth life in the world. Yet not all sacraments are granted by a priest. There is one sacrament — matrimony — in which the marrying couple become priests to each other. For the sacrament is conferred upon them by their own volition, not by the priest. The priest, in this one instance, becomes a witness, an officiator, but cannot grant the sacrament. The priest does not marry, he only officiates.

Men must change their appearance when called to their holy orders, but women need not do so. We have a vital and important role to play when we heed the call of God to fulfill the vocation of laity, wife, mother, sister, daughter. In my opinion, the priesthood isn’t a bar to my fulfillment of God’s plan. I can perfectly adore and praise my God and serve others without the collar and have just as much impact in an equal way. I love my priests for what they are but I have never seen their role as superior to my own. I trust in God. I trust in the successor of Peter to lead me because Tradition has not failed, not because I an inferior in any way as a woman, nor because I feel that the RC Church has barred me in any way.

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Written by Written Straw

July 23, 2012 at 9:44 am

6 Responses

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  1. thank you for such a clear and concise answer/argument for the woman\’s role in the Church.
    I do need to point a spelling error in the first sentence in the Objections paragraph… you wrote no MEN should be no WOMEN
    As for me, even tho im a man i do not wish to be a priest but am an aspiring Lay Dominican (3rd Order of St.Dominic). Just one way for us men or women that can serve our Church and God

    43brian

    July 23, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    • Ooof! Thanks for catching my typo! If only I could type as quickly as I think! And thank you for your service!

      Written Straw

      July 23, 2012 at 1:17 pm

  2. Meditation: On Sunday morning the women went to the tomb to pay their last tribute to a dead body. The disciples thought that everything had finished in tragedy. Neither were ready to see an empty tomb and hear the angel’s message, Why do you seek the living among the dead (Luke 24:5)? Is it any small wonder that it was the women, rather than the apostles, who first witnessed the empty tomb and the resurrected Lord? Isidore of Seville, a 7th century church father comments on this: “As a woman (Eve) was first to taste death, so a woman (Mary Magdalene) was first to taste life. As a woman was prescient in the fall, so a woman was prescient in beholding the dawning of redemption, thus reversing the curse upon Eve.” The first to testify to the risen Lord was a woman from whom Jesus had cast out seven demons.

    silver price

    July 26, 2012 at 2:44 pm

  3. You contradict yourself in every paragraph of this blog!!!! lol

    Michelle Craig

    January 11, 2013 at 9:34 am

    • I see no contradictions. And it was indeeed a nice “clear and concise answer/argument”.

      オ っくん

      January 11, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      • Michelle is just being a troll. Like most feminists/atheists/pro-death/pro-gay marriage/protestant people they can’t make an intelligent rebuttal to solid arguments so all they do is just put fingers in their ears and go “LaLaLa, you’re wrong and I can’t hear you, LaLaLa”

        Benedict James

        January 12, 2013 at 7:31 pm


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