Ordination of women

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My own change of heart

1976-03-27 Women's Ordination Conf.jpg

I favored the ordination of women from the spring of 1971. I was praying with a group of Catholic Pentecostals in Boston whom I had met through the Cenacle; a very beautiful young woman said that she thought women should be ordained, and I accepted that idea as an inspiration from the Holy Spirit--"new wine needs new wineskins" (Mk 2:22).

I joined a group advocating the ordination of women and attended a conference organized by The Women's Coalition for the New York Area on March 27, 1976. I started the day in favor of ordaining women and ended it in opposition. Every argument made that day was based on the idea that the existence of the priesthood is an injustice to the rest of the Church.

If it were the case that priests receive more of God's love and are given "property rights" that unjustly deprive the unordained members of the Church of wealth and power, then simply allowing some women to join the men's club would not change the injustice by the smallest amount. If it is true that the priesthood confers rights to wealth and power, then those women who became priestesses would have wealth and power that others of the faithful do not have. The composition of the privileged class would change, but not the injustice.

The accusation that the existence of ordained sacramental ministers robs the other members of the Church of freedom, grace, wealth, dignity, and worth is an argument against having any kind of ordination whatsoever. There are Christian denominations that have, in fact, rejected the idea of Holy Orders and which operate on the same principles as any other human organization: equal voting rights, government by majority rule, and rejection of all gender-based roles in ministry.

Restriction of ordination to men

"Concerning the Teaching Contained in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: Responsum Ad Dubium.
October 28, 1995
Dubium: Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.
Responsum: In the affirmative.
This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.[1] Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith.
Carl Olson.
"If they can indeed 'reject' Magisterial authority, that same authority is, logically, powerless to ordain them in any real and meaningful way."

Arguments for the Ordination of Women

God has no genitals, so male-female differences make no difference

There are elements of masculinity and femininity in the Triune relationships.

GOD created male and female. GOD blessed the union of male and female, making married love the proper context for creating new children of God. Male and female are not interchangeable. Masculinity is one thing; femininity another. The way in which men represent God is, by nature, different from the way in which women represent God--by GOD's design. "The soul is the form of the body." The male body is produced by a male soul; the female body is produced by a female soul. We are equal in worth and dignity in the eyes of God and in the eyes of the law, but we are not identical. As a human being, I am the equal of Jordan Spieth, the new Master's champion. As a golfer, I am not fit to rake his sand traps. Women can do anything men can do, but they cannot BE male; men can do anything women can do, but they cannot BE female. We must not separate what God has joined, but we must not join what God has separated!

The male priesthood violates women's rights

Priesthood is not a piece of property that benefits the property holder at the expense of others. The powers that are given to priests to administer the sacraments and to rule as Vicars of Christ do not enrich them personally at the expense of the unordained. God does not love priests more than the laity, nor are priests exempt from any of the standards Jesus set for His disciples. The priesthood is a special gift, a charism, that, like other charisms, comes from "the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit" and builds the Body of Christ. Jesus intended that His Body would endure after His Ascension until His return in glory, and the gift of Holy Orders is part of His original design of the Church. The gift is given to the Body, not to the priests! Any priest who uses the sacraments to enrich himself and impoverish others sins against Jesus and His Body.

Mary Magdalene was an apostle

Mary Magdalene was definitely sent to announce the Good News to the disciples "early on the first day of the week," which we English speakers have come to call "Easter Sunday."

"Being sent" is definitely part of the meaning of the word "apostle," which is related to the root of the word, "epistle."

All believers are "sent" to preach the good news to the whole world.

We are all apostles in that sense.

Preaching Jesus is fundamental to our life as members of the Body of Christ.

"Pass it on."

"Give forward."

"Let your light shine!"

But Mary never held the office of an apostle.

Judas did.

When he removed himself from the Body, the other apostles chose a successor to "to take the place in this apostolic ministry [τὸν τόπον τῆς διακονίας ταύτης καὶ ἀποστολῆς] from which Judas turned away to go to his own place" (Acts 1:25-26).

Mary's apostleship was real, but it was the apostolate that we all share as members of the Body. She was not one of the Twelve nor was she ranked as an apostle like Paul or Barnabas (Acts 13:1-3, 14:14), or "James the brother of of the Lord" (Gal 1:19).

Mary Magdalene had a real gift of making the resurrection known, but it was not the same gift as that given to the Twelve and to subsequent apostles and their successors, the episkopoi ("bishops").

Therefore, she was not a priest and did not have the gift of being placed in one of the "Holy Orders."

Men and women are equal

This is completely and totally true.

In the first story of creation, male and female are created at the same time and with the same blueprint. Together they constitute "the human being," and both are made "in the image and likeness of God" (1:26-27).

The both receive exactly the same sign of incorporation into the Body of Christ: men and women are baptized with the very same baptism. In the Old Covenant, only men bore the mark of circumcision as a sign of their incorporation into God's covenant with Israel; there was no corresponding rite of initiation for women.

This is the beautiful truth that Paul celebrated: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).

We are all equally children of God by His action in the moment of our creation, and we are all equally "born again of water and the Spirit" in our baptism.

But "equal" does not mean "identical."

We have different natural gifts as men and women, and we have different spiritual gifts given for building up the Body.

Two incompatible theses

- Men and women are so different from each other that men may not speak for or represent the feminine point of view. Women have their own voice. They must speak for themselves.
- Men and women are so much alike that casting a woman in the role of Jesus in the drama of the Liturgy would make no difference. There is no distinctive male voice. Women may speak for men just as well as men can speak for men.

Transitive Fallacies

In mathematics, the transitive property of equations means that two variables that are both equal to a third are equal to each other:

A = C
B = C
A = B

I endorse this wholeheartedly in the realm of mathematics. It is a purely logical deduction from the understanding of what "equality" means in the abstract.

We can be led astray by constructing a sequence of ideas that resemble the mathematical equations but do not work as reasonable arguments.

All humans are created in "image and likeness of God."
A = C -- Men are human beings.
B = C -- Women are human beings.
A = B -- Men and women are equal.
Therefore, whatever a man can do, a woman can do.
It is true that "men and women are equal" in their participation in human nature and in their resemblance to God."
It is not true that "Men are women" or that "Women are men."
A = C -- Black is a color.
B = C -- White is a color.
A = B -- Black and white are the same.
This is simply false. Black and white are opposite colors; you cannot substitute one for the other. It is true that both are colors, and both are members of the same category, but from that kind of sameness, it does not follow that they are the same in all other respects.

Women clerics could solve the priest shortage

If the Church were the author of the sacrament of Holy Orders, this would be a powerful argument in favor of changing the Church's rules to allow women to hold the office of apostles (the Order of Bishops) and to be placed in the two auxiliary orders of priest and deacon.

But it was Jesus, the Head of His Body, Who chose only men to hold the office of apostle and therefore to participate in the auxiliary orders.

The Church did not create the sacrament of Holy Orders.

Jesus did.

The Church cannot rewrite the Deposit of Faith.

She can only guard what was given.

Women clerics would heal the wounds caused by sinful priests

I believe that women tend to have a special gift of healing.

I believe that women have a very special role to play in healing the wounds caused by the crimes, sins, and stupidity of bishops, priests, deacons, and religious.

I hope and pray that they will use their special gifts to do so.

Obliterating the distinction between the roles of men and women in the Body is not the way to healing.

"We will serve as healers only when we are allowed to serve as priests" does not sound right to me.

We need women to use their authentic spiritual gifts now, exercising the common priesthood of the baptized and acting with faith, hope, and love to bring sinners and those who suffer from sin to the mercy of Jesus.

Lack of acceptance proves the practice is invalid

- If the male priesthood were from GOD, then all Catholics would agree with the teaching.
- Not all Catholics agree with the teaching.
- Therefore, the teaching is not from God.

Some of the disciples of Jesus rejected His teaching that His Body was real food and His Blood was real drink (Jn 6:54-56). The fact that not all of His disciples agreed with His teaching does not mean that His teaching was not from God; it meant that those disciples, like Judas, were unwilling to surrender to Jesus' teaching authority.

Laity cannot love God as much as priests can

God wants women to be priests

Women served in the early Church

Romans 16:1-2
I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is [also] a minister of the church at Cenchreae,
that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the holy ones, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a benefactor to many and to me as well.
Συνίστημι δὲ ὑμῖν Φοίβην τὴν ἀδελφὴν ἡμῶν, οὖσαν ‹καὶ› διάκονον τῆς ἐκκλησίας τῆς ἐν Κενχρεαῖς,
1 Timothy 3:8-13

8 Similarly, deacons must be dignified, not deceitful, not addicted to drink, not greedy for sordid gain,

9 holding fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.

10 Moreover, they should be tested first; then, if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

11 Women, similarly, should be dignified, not slanderers, but temperate and faithful in everything.

12 Deacons [must be husbands ("men") of one wife-- μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρες] and must manage their children and their households well.

13 Thus those who serve well as deacons gain good standing and much confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.

The first seven deacons were all male

Acts 6

Presbytides and prokathemenai

The term Presbytide, Greek: πρεσβύτιδε, is a term that was used in the earlier Church for which the meaning has been lost, but may have been related to the functions performed by a deaconess.
Presbytides appear as the subject of Canon XI issued by the Synod of Laodicea in Phrygia Pacatiana of c. 365 that reads, Presbytides, as they are called, or female presidents, are not to be appointed in the Church. As a description for the functions of Presbytides has not survived the era of the synod, the meaning and intent of the canon have been the subject of many interpretations and controversy ever since. Such theologians as Theodore Balsamon and John Zonaras (twelfth century) and Karl Josef von Hefele and Johann August Wilhelm Neander (eighteenth century) have explored the issue without reaching definitives answers including any relationship of the function to a clergy position.
While some have read the canon to refer to deaconesses, others have interpreted it to refer to aged women, female presidents (Greek: προκαθήμεναι) who had been given the task of supervision of women in the ancient church but had misused their office, leading to its suppression.

CDF study 2002

From the Diakonia of Christ to the Diakonia of the Apostles.
First, the document says that deaconesses in the ancient Christian church “cannot purely and simply be compared to the sacramental diaconate” that exists today, since there is no clarity about the rite of institution that was used or what functions they exercised.
Second, the document asserts that “the unity of the sacrament of orders” is “strongly imprinted by ecclesiastical tradition, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and the post-councilor magisterium,” despite clear differences between the episcopacy and priesthood on the one hand and the diaconate on the other.

Jimmy Akin

Jimmy Akin: "Pope Francis’s Commission on Women Deacons: 12 things to know and share"
If the sacrament of holy orders can be validly received only by a baptized man and if the diaconate is a grade of holy orders then only a baptized man can be validly ordained a deacon.
Thus women could not be ordained to the diaconate, understood in its sacramental sense. ...
And all Christians are called to play this role, for “he who is greatest among you shall be your servant (diakonos)” (Matt. 23:11). ...
Thus the canons of the First Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) refer to deaconesses that have not been ordained:
And we mean by deaconesses such as have assumed the habit, but who, since they have no imposition of hands, are to be numbered only among the laity (canon 19).
In other words, these deaconesses were servants or ministers in the Church but did not exercise ordained ministry. ...
As we saw under (3), above, one can deduce that women cannot receive diaconal ordination from the fact that the Church teaches only a baptized man can be ordained and that the diaconate is a grade of holy orders, but the Church has not yet confirmed this inference as an infallible teaching. ...

Different qualities, different gifts

Mother Teresa ordination.jpg

I'm not sure how I obtained this quotation. It does not seem to be on the internet in this form at present. I may well have done the typing myself, but, if so, I don't know whether I was copying a transcript or working from a tape.

I have edited the transcript very slightly to make what I think are reasonable corrections.

Mother Teresa, speaking on the TV program, "A Conversation with Mother Teresa of Calcutta" (NBC, 1976).
The Little Flower has given a very beautiful answer as to what a woman is. She said, "I will be the heart in the mother church." And so every woman is the heart of the family. The power that she has to love and be compassionate and serve, no man can ever have. We, as women, can be equal to men if we have money, if we have brains; but I don't think a man can be equal to women in love and compassion. And so the role that we have to play in the world today as women is to spread love and compassion, first in our own home and then around the whole world.
And as religious, we are expected just to be another Mary. The Church expects us to be the handmaid of the Lord. And as for women to become priests--I don't think in the whole world there was or is or will or could be a better person to become a priest than Our Lady. Because she, she could have easily without any doubt been able to say, "This is my body." And yet Jesus didn't give her the power of being, of becoming a priest. She remained a handmaid of the Lord. And as such on the day of her First Communion, that is at the Annunciation, when she surrendered herself as the handmaid of the Lord, her first action was to go in haste and serve. And that is our role, that we, the moment we receive Jesus in our lives, that we too go in haste and serve others.


  1. Ratzinger's footnote reads: "Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 25, 2." The first paragraph of #25 says: "This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking" (LG 25). The second paragraph says: "Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ's doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held" (emphasis added).