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Charles Coughlin wrote:

Hi, guys —

What is the reasoning that prevents the Catholic Church from having women priests?

Charles

  { What is the reasoning behind preventing women priests? }

Paul replied:

Hi, Charles —

Great question.

It's two-fold. First, every sacrament Christ left us has what is called a form and a matter.

Matter is the stuff of which to work with, like bread for the Eucharist, water for baptism, the priest in Confession, etc. Form is the way or the formula by which the stuff is performed, such as:

  • the words in Consecration (This is my body...),
  • the Trinitarian formula in baptism ("I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"), etc.

The Church can not change the proper form or matter that Christ gave us to administer the sacraments. If that happens they are not valid. We continue His mission, we don't create our own.

When it comes to the sacrament of Holy Orders, or the ordination of priests, the matter that Christ chose for priesthood was maleness or Men. He had no problem "bucking the system" with many other things during His mission and could have made females priests if it was the right thing to do, but He didn't. Christ ordained only males to follow Him in this particular priestly ministry, and when He does something there is a perfect reason. So we can not change it; if we did it would be like the Church deciding it's okay to consecrate steak or french fries into Christ's body at Mass because it has become a popular food.

A more philosophical approach to the question can be found in the difference in maleness and femaleness. Although our culture today, because of various reasons caused by sin, tends to play down the differences, masculinity and femininity are essentially different and complementary. They have their Source in God as Trinity and in humans; it is reflected in the dichotomy of male and female. St. Paul in Ephesians points out beginning in chapter five verse 21 that the male is head and woman the body in the mystical person that is marriage, which is a reflection of the ultimate marriage which is Christ and Church. Pope Pius XI in Casti Conubii offers the angle of man being head and woman being heart. This can be said to reflect the eternal Lover/Beloved relationship between the Father and the Son, imaged in man as Eve begotten from the side of (one could say the heart of) Adam. As Pius XI states, he has primacy of authority while she has primacy in love; two sides of God, if you will.

The priest when performing the sacraments takes the place of Christ. The Church calls him another Christ when doing so. We, as Church, are Christ's bride in this love relationship. At Mass then, you have the priest and his bride in the interplay of {Lover and beloved relationship}.

If a woman were to act as priest you would have a priestess and her bride. Such a dynamic would:

  • contradict truth and nature
  • not reflect the Trinity as life-giving love, and
  • would literally lead to a fruitless experience.

There's a lot here that flies in the face of modern culture, so feel free to follow up.

Peace,

Paul

Eric replied:

Hi, Charles —

To underscore what my colleague Paul said, the family — the husband who gives his life,
the woman who receives the husband's life, and the children who are the natural fruit of that
life-giving love — are an icon of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5). Christ is the bridegroom.
He gives his life to the Church, his Bride, who bears fruit in eternal life. The priest is the icon of Christ, and is, in a sense, married to the Church. Through the priest, Christ gives his divine life to His bride in the Eucharist, where we become one flesh, one blood with Christ in his Body and Blood. Thus, only a man can be a priest (otherwise it would do violence to the sign).

Moreover, despite, as Paul said, Jesus's penchant for challenging tradition and doing shocking things, he only chose twelve men to be his Apostles. Throughout the years until now no one in the Church even thought of ordaining women — ordaining men has been the constant practice.
That very fact bears witness to the infallible character of this teaching.

Another source of information is Inter Insigniores and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis which are the documents the Holy See issued to explain the subject.

This posting from our knowledge base may help as well:

Eric

John replied:

Hi, Charles —

I'd like to briefly add to what has been said; and like Eric, I'd underscore a point that Paul made:

The Church doesn't just make stuff up as it goes along.

She can only do what Christ has given Her the authority to do. Since Christ only ordained men,
the Church can only ordain men in the Sacrament of Holy Orders. When Holy Orders is conferred, the man's soul is configured to Christ in a particular way. Were a bishop to attempt to confer Orders on a woman, nothing would happen because the bishop and the Church doesn't have the authority to do so.

Being a priest is not just a matter of having the right "qualifications." It's not a job;
it's a vocation and calling. When a man becomes a priest, he is called to a particular sacrifice and service. In a sense, he becomes Christ in "persona capo" — that is Christ the head — where the rest of us are Christ in the Body.

Finally, don't forget that each Christian, man or woman, shares in the Priesthood of Christ through their baptism so you (assuming you're baptized) and I are also priests but not as the Head, rather as the Body.

Many times, when women contemplate the priesthood, because it is denied to them, they perceive it as a position of honor, power, privilege, and authority.  What they don't see is that it's really about service and sacrifice.

John

Eric replied:

A point I like to make is that only a woman can be a mother.

No one complains about or says that it is "unfair" that men can't be mothers. They have their pride of place in the economy of salvation.

It's only fair that men have the sole right to be spiritual Fathers.

Eric

John replied:

I see your point Eric and I'd say your right, however, I don't even go down that path because then we begin to twist the Gospel. Jesus came to save us from sin and death, He calls us into a covenant relationship with the Holy Trinity and offers us His Divine Life. He did not come to empower this group or the other.

He didn't come to make things fair or to make us feel good about our place in the economy of salvation. We should be elated at whatever role He asks us to play. Heck, we were on our way to hell and He died in order that we could be saved! If we could only keep that perspective all this other gobbledegook and feel good "mumbo jumbo" wouldn't even come into the picture.

As Christians, our focus should be bringing people to Jesus Christ. If a woman really believes she's called to be a priest, let her spend all her free time evangelizing the lost.

She'll either fall in love with her personal apostolate or she'll soon get sick of it and lose any interest in the priesthood. Either way, she'd realize she's not called to be a priest.

John

Paul replied:

Actually Eric stated a point I meant to include but forgot. Priesthood is a spiritual fatherhood. That's why we call a priest "Father". The masculine nature of priesthood includes the role of father as well as the role of groom.

While we seem to acknowledge the difference in father and mother on the level of nature,
many today have a difficult time seeing that difference in the order of grace.

Paul

Charles replied:

I am humbled and grateful at the excellent and informed discussion my question inspired. I am not yet sure that I can convince my female relatives who are outraged at the punitive language of the Vatican's recent "norms".

Although I would like to see women priests, I will submit the Vatican, of course. But my opinion is they do have the authority to "loose on earth" this stricture. In the a similar instance, the Pope created the stricture of unmarried priests around 1000 AD. The image of the Church as bride and Christ as bridegroom is surpassingly lovely and convincing in the essential way parables are convincing. The details of the parable of the Good Samaritan parable are not binding, the principals it illustrates are. In Vatican II, the Church altered the text of the Sacrament of the Mass. (which had a poor effect in my estimation.) The substance of the Mass was unaffected.

Truthfully, these rationales seem rather academic to me. I understand Christ's wisdom in creating a patriarchical Church in a patriarchical zeitgeist. Since then, the Church has done more for the status of women than any other force in history. Why not take this step?

God bless you.

Charles

John replied:

Hi, Charles —

First of all, the Vatican used no punitive language. Secondly, your opinion is heresy albeit material. The issue of ordaining married men has always been understood to be a matter of practice. The issues of a male priesthood is not a practice; it has to do with SACRAMENTAL Theology and is a matter of faith and morals. It comes under the category of Teaching.

Therefore, every Catholic must assent to it with divine faith, because the Pope has stated that this is a DEFINATIVE Teaching. The Church has no authority to ordain women. Period — end of story — exclamation point! That cannot change because it is an infallible and therefore immutable and irreformable matter of faith and morals. Catholics are not free to hold a contrary opinion without falling into heresy.

This nonsense about a Patriarchal society, is just that. It's heretical gibberish spewed by people who don't understand the nature of Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium. Instead, it is the language adopted by those who think the Church and the Gospel are meant to empower groups.

John

Paul replied:

Chuck,

Thanks for the positive comments. I also would like to comment on your presumption that the subject of women priests is simply a matter of Church authority.

With married priests you have a point; that is a Church discipline which by its very nature can change at the discretion of the authority that Christ gave His Church.

However, women priestesses is a radically different question. John Paul II used the authority Christ gave the papacy to authoritatively proclaim that women can never be priests — not because he doesn't want them to be, — but because it is not possible. Again, it's like saying women can be fathers. It makes no sense. Jesus instituted an all-male priesthood because spiritual fathers, like physical fathers, must be male.

Women can act like fathers to a certain degree, but they can never BE fathers. Priesthood as a vocation, is essentially a being, not a doing. God can not contradict Himself; even He can not make a square circle or a married bachelor. Nor could He make a female father or a woman priest but don't trust us on this, trust the divine authority Christ gave John Paul II in his proclaiming this truth in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

Peace,

Paul

Charles replied:

I now understand that the Vatican simply does not have the authority to change the matter in question.

I should have given my citation of the “punitive” Vatican language, that is, language concerning punishment. This is the text to which my relatives objected. The following is a cut and pasted from the referenced Substantive Norm, Article 5:

Article 5

The more grave delict of the attempted sacred ordination of a woman is also reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

1° With due regard for canon 1378 of the Code of Canon Law, both the one who attempts to confer sacred ordination on a woman, and she who attempts to receive sacred ordination, incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.
2° If the one attempting to confer sacred ordination, or the woman who attempts to receive sacred ordination, is a member of the Christian faithful subject to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, with due regard for canon 1443 of that Code,
he or she is to be punished by major excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.
3° If the guilty party is a cleric he may be punished by dismissal or deposition[31].

You can see that it is punitive language. I think, justly so. You may link to it here.

Thank you for the attention you have given my question.

CRC

John replied:

Hi, Charles —

As for the language, your relatives can object all they want. A person attempting to ordain a woman is committing an act of heresy, which ultimately leads to a false ministry which deceives the faithful.

Therefore it is an attack on the Church and what She Teaches. Hence, excommunication is required to protect faithful Catholics from following this error. This is not some incidental or material heresy. It is formal heresy and crime under Canon Law.

Excommunication is also for the benefit of the heretic, in the hopes that the sinner, once separated from the community will repent. While it seems extreme, it is required, given the gravity of this heresy and crime.

John

Charles replied:

I quite agree that someone actually ordaining a woman should be excommunicated. Like legal statutes that sound severe, out of context the language of the above norms sound severe out of context. It is obviously directed at some past or threatened action. This text is being widely distributed by feminists to defame the Church. They see it as arbitrary.

We need to break through the present huge anti-Catholic campaign with graceful but hard-hitting diplomacy. Oh, for another Bishop Sheen!

On the side, I don't think "Patriarchy" is a pejorative term. It is the default organizational structure throughout history and had achieved much good. In some organizations, we are experimenting with variants in a noble attempt to be equitable.

Any conclusions and results? Not yet.

Have a blessed Sunday.

CRC

Mary Ann replied:

Charles —

Sacraments are the deeds of Christ made present. It is Him acting upon us through the minister. They are extensions of His will. Woman cannot (not "may not") be priests for two reasons:

  1. First, Christ's will was to ordain men, and act through men. He did not give all the disciples, male and female, the power to be priests, but only the Twelve. Since a sacrament is literally constituted by the will of Christ, it is impossible to prescind from His will.
  2. Second, the priest is conformed to Christ as Spouse, Bridegroom, of the Church. As such, He must be male.

Mary Ann

John replied:

Hi, Charles —

Again, the purpose of the Church is not worry about what feminists want. The Church exists to preach the Gospel and to be the Sacrament of Salvation to the world. It does not exist to preach liberation of any kind aside from the liberation from sin and death which comes to us, in and, through the Incarnation and which we access by grace through faith.

We preach Jesus, not anything else. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son, so that whosoever would believe in Him will have Eternal Life." (John 3:16) That's the point of the Gospel. No where in the Gospels do I see Our Lord satisfying the whims of feminists or any other special interest groups. That "Identity politics" is not part of the mission of the Church.

John

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