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The Catholic Church has never ordained women to the priesthood and never will. However, with all the changes in the roles of women in the world, it is not surprising that some asked: Is the Church’s restriction of the priesthood to men ordained by God or merely an accommodation to culture?
In his letter on the dignity and vocation of women, John Paul II explained the reason for this practice:
“Since Christ, in instituting the Eucharist, linked it in such an explicit way to the priestly service of the Apostles, it is legitimate to conclude that he thereby wished to express the relationship between man and woman, between what is ‘feminine’ and what is ‘masculine.’ It is a relationship willed by God both in the mystery of creation and in the mystery of Redemption. It is the Eucharist above all that expresses the redemptive act of Christ the Bridegroom towards the Church the Bride. This is clear and unambiguous when the sacramental ministry of the Eucharist, in which the priest acts ‘in persona Christi,’ is performed by a man.”
The priesthood isn’t a job. The priest is a sign of Christ the bridegroom. The Church is the bride. This just doesn’t work if the priest is a woman. The Eucharist must be wheat bread and grape wine, not rice cakes and orange juice. The matter matters. So it is with ordination.
The question that should be asked is: Why do some women want to be the bridegroom when they are called to be the bride?
Some women view any social recognition of sex difference as unjust discrimination. They have been influenced by postmodernist/social deconstructionist professors who argue, in spite of the undeniable scientific evidence to the contrary, that the differences between men and women are not natural, but artificial social constructions that can and should be eliminated. While narrow or demeaning stereotypes, which limit women’s participation in society, should be eliminated, the natural differences between men and women are part of the goodness of creation and cannot be wished away. Church teaching is rooted in reality. She defends the rights and equality of women, but also appropriate recognition of differences between men and women.
Woman is called to be a sign of the Church no matter her state in life--as virgin waiting for the bridegroom, as bride a sign of the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven, or as mother nurturing new life. This is a wonderful vocation. Women can achieve their full dignity without imitating men.
In addition to the denial of the natural goodness of sex difference, those pushing for the ordination of women have a warped idea of power. They see the priesthood as a position of power and believe that if women were ordained that they would be able to change Church teaching on other issues. This shows their total lack of understanding of what it means to be Catholic. The leaders of the Church do not have the power to change the teachings handed down to them. To be Catholic is to believe that God reveals his will to his people and protects the Church from error.
Over the centuries, controversies have arisen. The debates have been heated, but in the end, the truth emerged and became part of the unchangeable treasury of the faith.
In his apostolic letter on reserving priestly ordination to men alone (May 1994), Pope John Paul II sought to eliminate any confusion over this issue:
“...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 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.”
John Paul II doesn’t say it is his opinion, but that he has “no authority’ to change what has been handed down to him.
In an age where everything is challenged, where rebellion is praised, where people build on the sand of opinion and ideology, it is good to belong to a Church that is built on a rock. It is good to know that God loves us so much that he has revealed the truth to us and will protect us no matter how far from truth our culture strays. Those women who have mocked God by pretending to be ordained have built on sand and what they have constructed will be washed away, like sand castles that crumble as the tide sweeps over the beach.
Dale O’Leary is the author of “The Gender Agenda” and “One Man, One Woman.”