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Mark Donovan wrote:


I am a Catholic youth strongly considering entering a religious calling when I complete college.
I have been discerning between the priesthood and brotherhood and was very grateful when I stumbled upon your site. It seems that I now have another calling to consider when I pray about the various callings the Church offers: apologetics.

I was asked a question by a friend the other day:

  • Why does the Church allow only men to be priests, bishops, cardinals, etc.?

My response was that it is mostly based upon tradition. Jesus was a man who had only selected male disciples, who in turn, selected only male disciples, and so on. Being that Christ manifested himself as a man, it stands to reason that a man would better represent Him at the celebration of the Eucharist or the Mass.

I was wondering if my answer addressed every aspect of his question. There is most definitely an import placed upon men in the Bible as opposed to women.

  • How does this relate to the Church today?

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question.

Mark Donovan

  { Why does the Church only allow men to be priests, bishops, cardinals, etc.? }

John replied:


It's not a matter of allowing or not allowing men or woman to become priests. The Church can only do what She is allowed to do by Divine Revelation. The Church does not just make things up out of thin air. Holy Orders is a Sacrament. As such, it can only be valid if three things are present:

  1. Form: The right prayer, including the specific language which the person performing the Sacrament has the authority to do.

  2. Intention: The person performing the Sacrament intends to do what the Church intends to do.

  3. Matter: The part of a sacrament with which or to which something is done in order to confer grace. For instance, a priest could not turn a potato chip and some coke into the Body and Blood of Our Lord. No, indeed it must be unleavened wheat bread and grape wine. Note: There are some exceptions based on physiological issues of specific people. e.g. gluten free hosts are safe and available for people with celiac disease.

For the sacrament of Holy Orders:

  1. The form is the bishop's prayer of consecration asking God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and for His gifts proper to the diaconate, presbyterate, or episcopate, as appropriate.

  2. The matter is the bishop's imposition of hands on the head of the ordinand, or man to be ordained.

In the case of Holy Orders, a bishop cannot ordain a woman, because the woman cannot receive this sacrament. This has nothing to do with any ability, or lack of, she might have. It has to do with who she is. Christ was man; hence, a priest who stands in the place of Christ and offers Christ's Sacrifice, must also be a man.

If a bishop did attempt to ordain a woman:

  • she would not be priest
  • the Holy Spirit would not act, and
  • she could not [consecrate|confect] the Eucharist, forgive sins, etc.

It is as impossible for a woman to be real priest as it is impossible for a man to get pregnant and give birth.

Hope this helps,

John DiMascio

Mary Ann replied:

Hi Mark,

I would like to add to what John said.

A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace. So a sacrament is dependent on the Will of Christ. Part of a sacrament's nature is that it is willed by Christ. He willed to choose men for the priestly role. There are many reasons why it should be so, but in the end, since a sacrament is an act of Christ, it is His Will that determines what each sacrament consists of.

A woman cannot manifest the Fatherhood of God, as Christ does. She can manifest other aspects of God, but not this. God chose to reveal Himself as Father, so we should respect that and honor the mystery. She cannot manifest the masculine role of Christ, the Man, the role of Bridegroom. She can manifest other aspects of Christ's nature, and perhaps others more interior to Him, but not aspects of His role and His functioning.

As to any right to be ordained: No one has a right to be ordained, not even any man. It is a calling from God through the Church. It is a gift.

I hope you discover your vocation, whatever it is. Don't think, like the T.V. show God or the Girl, that you have to know everything absolutely ahead of time.

There is always time for discernment, and the ultimate decision belongs to the Church. So if you think you may have a vocation to the priesthood, go ahead and begin the process.

May God bless you!

Mary Ann

Eric replied:

Hi, Mark —

To expand on what John said:

Christ is the Bridegroom (husband) of the Church (cf. Ephesians 5:22-33, Psalm 45:9, Isaiah 62:5, Jeremiah 2:2, Matthew 9:15, Matthew 25:1-10, Mark 2:19-20 and Luke 5:34-5, John 3:29, Revelation 21:2-17).

As a husband unites himself to his wife and imparts his life to her, to make her fruitful, so Christ unites himself to His Bride, the Church (through the Eucharist), to impart to Her His divine life and make her fruitful. He does so through His representative, the priest. The priest acts
in persona Christi
, in the person of Christ — in other words, in a mystical and symbolic way
he takes on the role of Christ.

Because Christ is the Bridegroom of the Church, and because the priest participates so intimately in the Eucharist, which is the consummation of the relationship between the Bridegroom and the Bride, it is necessary for the priest to be male. Otherwise, the symbolism breaks down.

Hope this helps,

Eric Ewanco

Mike replied:

Hi Mark,

I just wanted to comment on your calling. This will vary from individual to individual. Prayer and living the sacramental life of the Church is the best way to discern the calling Our Lord has for you. Over time you will know whether the priesthood or religious life is your calling.

If you find it is not your calling and that you are called either to the married life or single life, Catholic Apologetics is a great area to work in. I believe it is sorely needed at the Catholic parish CCD level; I can't think of one CCD class that has ever taught on Catholic Apologetics.

It does require a regular prayer life and study, not only of the Holy Scriptures, but of the Teachings of the Church. (The Catechism is a great source for this purpose.) It also requires that you develop a prayerful Catholic support team that is also loyal to the Holy See and one that also strives to live a similar prayerful life.

The reason why a prayer life is particularly important in this area is because it will aid you in not taking what others say about our Faith personally, but mold you to strive to understand where they are coming from first instead of holding on to the old, stereotypical character of the religious person typified by the phrase, "If you don't do this, then, you are going here."

Once you understand their faith journey, you can aid them in seeing your Catholic view. If they understand the Catholic view and are not interested in following it, you have to respect their free will while still keeping friendships strong.

Work in this area also requires patience and being able to take constructive criticism from prayerful colleagues, colleagues who can sometime correct an erroneous opinion of the Church you may have.

Take a look at my starting your own CPATS group page.

I would also recommend you seek out a holy, faithful Catholic priest who is loyal to the Holy See. He would be able to guide you on your discernment process.

Take care,


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