You may have read columnist Dianne Williamson’s statements about the Catholic Church’s stance on women priests (T&G, 7/18, p. B1); …let me explain/defend the Church’s teaching.
First, there is no such thing as a woman priest. Such a person would be called a priestess – not priest. In his book, Catholic Christianity, popular Catholic apologist (and professor of philosophy at Boston College) Peter Kreeft states, “A religion with priestesses would be a different religion and would implicitly signify a different God” (italics are that of Kreeft). He continues, “…It is…a fact that Jews, alone of ancient peoples, had no priestesses. For priestesses represent goddesses and priests represent gods. God chose to incarnate himself in a man.” (p. 367)
From there, when a man is ordained a priest, he spiritually/mystically “marries” the Church in a very real way, in imitation of Jesus (cf. 2 Cor. 11:2) who shed his Blood for his Bride, the Church. Just as God implants life into all human beings (spouses contribute flesh, blood & DNA whereas God provides the soul), so priests mystically infuse life into the Church (the Church as a whole and in particular the parish in which he serves). Women by nature cannot infuse (or implant) life but rather they receive that life, nurture it and bring it forth – a very high calling indeed because “every mother brings a new image of God into this world” (Kreeft, p 368; see Gen 1:26); thus it is a “different kind of priesthood that a woman has…The two sexes therefore are equal in value, different in nature, complimentary in function”. (p. 368) The Church, too, as Bride, receives life from God through the priest, nurtures it and brings it forth to others. And because all souls are feminine – according to the great saints – men and women receive that spiritual life from God.
Second, because a (validly ordained) priest does stand “In Persona Christi” (In the Person of Christ), he can truly say “this is my Body…this is my Blood”. A woman could only say, “this is his/Jesus’ Body, this is his/Jesus’ Blood”.
As I said, in order to confect the Eucharist, the priest must be validly ordained – not “done in secret” by bishops who “secretly support their cause”. All Sacraments are gifts of God to the Church and therefore cannot be performed in secret. The great exception to this is in areas where there is grave danger of persecution of the Church in some countries.
It must be pointed out that no woman has the “right” to ordination. Neither do men for that matter. Vocations are a gift of God to the Church – no one has a right to such a gift…otherwise it is not a gift.
Thus, the ordination of women as priests is indeed a grave matter against the Sacrament of Ordination and, from there, against the other sacraments as well because priests administer all. God becomes incarnate in today’s world through two means: the birth of a new child (see again Gen 1:26) and through the Holy Eucharist (see JN 6). Violating the Holy Eucharist with false priests, then, IS grave matter.
Ms. Williamson also makes the claim that “except for the Eastern Orthodox Church (which by the way is more than 100 million strong), the Catholic Church is virtually alone in its insistence on an all-male priesthood”. However, Protestants do not have priesthood. They have ordained ministers – not priests — and that is a huge difference. Their ordained ministers are roughly equivalent to the permanent deacons in the Catholic Church. They may proclaim the Gospel, administer the sacrament of baptism and assist in other ways but they may not confect the Eucharist. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia “The deacon is an attendant of the priest, with no priestly powers”. (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12409a.htm). Anglicans believe in all-male priesthood, too:
“A Protestant minister is a minister. A Catholic priest is both a minister and a priest. The difference is both subtle and great. A “minister” is a preacher, pastor, teacher, counselor (and, of course, administrator). But he does not serve at the altar, he does not administer the Sacraments, and he does not stand in the unbroken line of descent from Christ’s Apostles.” http://www.christchurchanglican.org/ang_topix/male_priests.html
Other mainline Protestant faiths are split over the issue of women priests. Many of today’s “newer” denominations do not allow women as clergy either.
Offering the Mass/Liturgy belongs to bishops alone and to the priests. Priesthood is male and from an unbroken line from the apostles and priests are “ordained for sacrifice” according to the Rite of Ordination itself. Protestants took this wording out of their rite centuries ago. Any so-called women “priests” in the Catholic Church automatically ex-communicate themselves. Any functions they perform under such conditions are invalid. Thus the bread and wine they claim to consecrate remain as bread and wine and as such is abuse and mockery of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
Vatican teaching against women priests, therefore, is not an “out-of-touch missive” as Ms. Williamson proclaims. The Church must remain faithful to what she has received from Christ her Lord…the very same Lord who willingly chose to become incarnate in the only religion that had no female priests. As a very active female in today’s Church, I accept the Church’s teaching. Not because I have to toe any so-called Vatican line, but because I choose to. I do personify Christ when I reach out in mercy and compassion and when I teach the faith to children and adults but I do not feel slighted at all in not being a woman priest. Allowing him to reach out to others through me is not on the same level as standing in the Person of Christ. It is the secular feminist movement (alive and well in only a few parts of the English-speaking world and only very recently at that) that is unaccepting of this Church teaching.
I have studied many other faiths but I have never considered them. My love is with the Roman Catholic Church.
Update: The Telegram & Gazette (Worcester Mass.) was kind enough to publish my article as an opinion piece.