Women Priesthood

The teaching of an all-male priesthood is the one doctrine that draws the most ire from modern-day feminists.  Feminists argue that an all-male priesthood is an example of a domineering, chauvinist Church hierarchy who wish to keep women in their place by denying them leadership roles in the Church.  However, this is absolutely false: the Church recognizes the value and dignity of every human being and respects the fundamental rights of women:

Man and woman are both with one and the same dignity in the image of God.  In their “being-man” and “being-woman” they reflect the Creator’s wisdom and goodness. (CCC 369)

The problem with the desire for women priesthood is that proponents do not understand the difference between a career choice and a vocation.  Some falsely believe that the Sacrament of Holy Orders is a God-given right to all who desire it.  The Church clarifies the matter in the Catechism:

No one has a right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders.  Indeed no on claims this office for himself; he is called to it by God.  Anyone who thinks he recognizes the signs of God’s call to the ordained ministry must humbly submit his desire to the authority of the Church, who has the responsibility and right to call someone to receive orders.  Like every grace this sacrament can be received only as an unmerited gift. (CCC 1578)

The Church has always realized that it does not have the authority to ordain priestesses.  Such a doctrinal teaching is not found in Scripture or Church Tradition.  None of the Fathers of the Church ever advocated or ordained woman to the episcopate or presbyteriate.  Despite numerous women disciples including Christ’s mother and St. Mary of Magdalene, Jesus Christ never elevated a woman to the role of apostle.  Christ was never one to conform to cultural expectations and he often corrected the Jewish High Priests and Pharisees when they did something wrong, yet he never called his women disciples to the apostolate.  Hence, the Church has no authority to ordain women to the priesthood.  Because this debate has become so heated in modern times, Pope John Paul II put the issue to rest by declaring an ex cathedra proclamation of the faith on the matter:

Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force. Wherefore, 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. Luke 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.” (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis 4)

Since the issue of women priesthood is a matter that touches the scope of Holy Orders it is a matter of dogma.  After the pope’s solemn pronouncement, there can be no doubt on the matter.  Rome has spoken; the case is closed.

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