An Amateur Opposition of a Female Priesthood II

In which Caitie Beardmore and I continue our brilliant discussion, and become more and more convinced that we are right, and that the idea of a female priest is (rushes to thesaurus.com to find a more polite word than ‘stupid’) simply puerile.

That’s not  becoming Jesus…
Marc – Don’t want you to think that I’m leaving ya in the dust.. Am out of town this weekend. Will be back and on the reply tomorrow! :)

Caitie, gosh darn it.
and i was getting all into this ‘male priesthood’ thing too…
 

Okay, okay, I’ll respond now!

Marc,

Still going with that “teenager” thing, huh? Look, when you’re ready to reveal your identity as a middle aged, published theologian, we’re all here for ya. :)

Man, oh man! Are you on it! You said, “If we are to argue that there should only be a male priesthood, then it must be on the basis of a characteristic that only men have.” You’re so right! And I love that you said, “While I agree that they are characteristics more “at home” in men, a woman can do them without too much difficulty, and often better.” I was a’totally a’missing the point!

So I guess the basic difference between men and women is how they give life. Naturally, only women can give physical life as mothers, through birth. And spiritually, only men can give spiritual life as priests, through the priesthood. If this wasn’t acceptable, those vying for the female priesthood should also then be supportive of male pregnancy. (Gag alert!)

In regards to your reflections.. Women can’t be an image of Christ, as He is the husband of the Church. Similarly, men can’t be the image of Mary, as she is the “God-bearer”. So, to answer your question, I guess I see woman as the bearer and grower of physical life, which might elude to a new cycle of bride/bridegroom kind of thang.. Would it?

I’m feeling less sure of this and oh-so-reflective of your last response so, instead of asking you a new question, I’ll ask that you just critique my lame attempts at an answer..

Still graciously mentioning,
Caitie

Caitie,

Now it’s my turn to apologize. I was at the beach, busy stroking my well-formed, greying beard, drinking martinis and writing an introduction to the newest edition of my published work, Summa Marcologica. Though I hate to do it, I disagree with your following statement. Or rather, I agree with it whole-heartedly, but disagree with our use of it as a viable argument.

“So I guess the basic difference between men and women is how they give life. Naturally, only women can give physical life as mothers, through birth. And spiritually, only men can give spiritual life as priests…”

The problem being that we are attempting to make the case that “only men can give spiritual life as priests” and I don’t believe we have yet. As such, we can’t use it as the basic difference between men and women (until we do). And I’m afraid “giving spiritual life” is too vague of a term for us to grapple with.

Interesting that you should mention Mary though. Because Mary would have been, without any shadow of doubt, the perfect priest. What better person to stand in the person of Christ then her without sin? What better person to offer the sacrifice of the Mass then she who had her heart pierced with a sword at the sacrifice of her son? Could we ask for a more perfect example of holiness, for better knowledge of Christ, for a greater disciple, a greater apostle? And, as we hear her messages from Fatima, from Lourdes and in our own hearts, could we really offer an example of a human being with more concern for her flock? With more of a priestly love for the Church? The answer is no. And yet Mary was not with the twelve when the priesthood was instituted, at the Last Supper. Mary was not a priest.

I am led to realize that the only thing those twelve men were better at than Mary was being men. That’s the only thing. And as Christians, we know that everything Christ did, he did for a reason. And so we are led to conclude that, in excluding the perfect disciple from being a priest, he was reserving the priesthood for men. For those with the characteristic of paternity that reflects God’s fatherly love for us. Because let’s be honest, Mary could kick Peter’s butt in all things but manliness.

But I guess all this leaves a question. Was Christ being a jerk to women? Hey, you’re one of those woman things! Do you feel unfairly treated? Do you grit your teeth and mumble “oh the patriarchy!” under your teeth at Mass?

Yours,
Marc

Marc,

Ah, you’re right! I jumped ahead didn’t I? See? This is why I need to talk this through with someone first. I end up jumping around more than a soccer mom at the Oprah show and everyone comes out confused. Thank goodness you’re here!

Totally agree on the Mary thang.. I mean, talk about the perfect Keys to Heaven caretaker! Mary seems like the kind of gal who’d always hang them up when she came in the house too.. I’m sure Peter had a couple “Keys.. keys.. where did I — ” moments. ;) So, why Peter? You, as always, summed it up perfectly: “I am led to realize that the only thing those twelve men were better at than Mary was being men.”

Think of all the stories of Jesus with women; the woman at the well, Mary Magdalene, and even Mary and Martha! I mean, c’mon! Talk about a guy who doesn’t confine women to the kitchen! His interactions with women show that not only does He have a love for us, He has a deep respect for us, and that doesn’t stop when He picks only-male Apostles. He saw each person as His Father’s child, so saying that there should have been women Apostles is saying, not only that Jesus was wrong (which is ballsy in itself) but that He is guilty of sexism. Plus, there were plenty of pagan religions that had priestesses at the time.. It wasn’t THAT crazy an idea. If Jesus had wanted women priests, He would have had them.

I don’t feel unfairly treated at all and I’ll give you three reasons why: first, because I am so in awe that God would create us to be able to do such things as humans alone! What a miracle the priesthood is! The fact that any human being can stand in for Jesus is enough to leave me faint in the pew. Second, I don’t feel excluded because I trust Jesus. I know that, should women have been meant to be priests, He would have made it so. I believe in His power and the power of the Holy Spirit. I am sure that it would have been something that Jesus would have instituted specifically. And finally, I see it as a trade off.. We ladies get to grow babies and men get to administer the Sacraments. I’m cool with that! :) Though I wish the stretchmarks were a bit more evenly distributed..
How about you? What do you say to those who claim there were female deaconesses back in the day?

Caitie


Caitie,

I don’t know much about the female deaconess argument, but I have seen it mentioned on several comboxes throughout the vast expanse of internet-land.


What’s great is that I know enough about it to know that it’s a stupid argument. Because a deacon, though alike in collar, black dress and mood, is not a priest. The fact that there were female deaconesses only heightens the more blindingly obvious fact, that there weren’t female priests. It’s an alright emotional argument, I suppose, but doesn’t hold water logically. Would I point to the small number of apples that look like pears to argue that apples should really be pears after all? No. People would laugh at me, and I have a delicate ego. 

I don’t know if there really were female deaconesses, as the evidence seems shaky. But if there were, they were not priests. And as our understanding evolves, and the deaconate is realized as something that does not simply ‘stand on its own’, as a task within the Church, but also points and leads to the priesthood, then we begin to understand why women are not deaconesses.

Marc

More to come!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01658116461483425280 Brandon Vogt

    "Women can't be an image of Christ, as He is the husband of the Church." Bingo.I think sexual symbolism is the strongest argument for the male priesthood.Priests represent Christ and Christ is masculine. His Bride, the Church, is feminine. Therefore ordaining female priests would be akin to promoting spiritual lesbianism.Men impregnate women with their seed and act as givers. Women welcome the gift and are receivers. So it works spiritually through the priesthood. The Priest gives spiritual life through the sacraments to the Body of Christ. We receive them.Our sexuality is an image of the Divine, not the other way around.Therefore claims that the Church is chauvinistic are not only wrong, they're completely backwards.Spiritually, we all must become more feminine to embrace the symbolism of Divine Love.One more point. A major problem with women wanting to be priests is the distorted belief that priestly ordination is somehow "better" than other charisms and offices–that it brings more power, more notoriety, and more control and therefore women should have the chance to move into these "higher" positions.But those are all the wrong reasons to be a priest. Priesthood is the "lowest" office in the church, with the Pope at the bottom of it (servant of the servants of God.)Clamoring for the "right" to become a priest is like fighting for the right to scrub toilets or dress wounds. It's an office of service that is not "better" and should never be grasped at but freely given.

    • Mary H

      Lots of good arguments, but the one that speaks to me the most is what Caitie says about the fact that only women can give birth and Marc’s comment that “I am led to realize that the only thing those twelve men were better at than Mary was being men. That’s the only thing.”

      The only significant physical thing that one gender can do that the other cannot is give birth. Sorry, Marc, lifting big rocks isn’t significant enough :) And in a religion that stresses the importance of every human being as an image of God, that’s a pretty significant difference. Honestly, what *could* men do, other than administer the sacraments, that could match that?

      In the modern world, we’re left in the really weird position of having to affirm that having babies is not only not bad, but actually pretty amazing. Our whole society has become structured around the view that having babies is something like a “hobby” that some people indulge in if their tastes run that way. So it doesn’t actually build in any accommodation to having babies (and more childcare in and of itself isn’t necessarily the answer – it can just be one more way to keep mothers away from their children).

      I’m just talking right now of the importance of a male-only priesthood to the current age. If women were made priests, we’d be making the statement that no, there is no significant difference in matter between men and women, which would be saying there is no significance in the one main difference in physical capability between women and men: that women can give birth and men can’t.

      As usual, the Catholic Church has this annoying tendency not to discount our physical natures as being mere containers for our souls.

    • Sonia

      I realize this is quite late to comment on but I wanted to contribute a thought since this same topic was debated recently on our Church Youth Group forum. In it, a seminarian brought up a point, similar to the sentiment of Brandon, that often times we concern ourselves with position/titles etc when really as Catholics, the thing we must strive towards is holiness/sainthood. We belong to an Eastern rite called Syro Malabar, which was instituted (is that the right word?) by St. Thomas the Apostle. The seminarian was commenting on how from the bringing of our faith by St. Thomas, so many bishops, priests and men have held positions in our Church. But who was the only person thus far who attained the goal of holiness and sainthood? A woman, St. Alphonsa.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12679230722483582032 Marc

    I hope everyone reads your comments Mr. Vogt. Far more insightful than the posts… ( :

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05185433444648099531 beez

    Mr. Vogt:I would like to re-iterate your comment about the ordained ministry being about service, not about power. Yes, I know that the reason that many who are clamoring for priestesses are doing so because they suffer from a sad, mistaken belief that after the lights go off in the Church on Sunday, the priests all get together on some sort of high-tech video uplink and decide how to oppress the world. This isn't happening. (Or, if it is, I'm really upset, because I am a transitional deacon and I want to attend!)Seriously, I recently had an interaction with a seminarian brother. He invited me to go to the movies with him on his night off. However, I had a Holy Hour to lead at the parish that night. He pressed me to "find someone to take it for me."What I couldn't explain to him was that, ignoring the fact that I do have a day off, and it simply wasn't the day in question, I wanted to be there and serve the people of my parish. It's not that I was simply avoiding being selfish, there was something inside of me that, frankly, wasn't there two months ago – configuration to Christ.When I lead the Holy Hour, or bring communion to the shut ins or do one of the few things I can actually do as a deacon, I realize that, were I not here, something wouldn't get done because the priests would have to forego either marriage prep or anointing or confessions to do exposition and benediction. I look at the people whom I serve and I realize that, without the ordained clergy, they really would be sheep without a shepherd.And before anyone accuses me of being really full of myself (I am, but not in this way) I want to make it clear that what makes a priest a shepherd is that radical configuration to Christ. When a man is ordained, he is given a father's heart for the people of his parish. If he stays faithful to the good shepherd, then as a friend of the bridegroom, he serves the bride.So, I am here to tell you that the priests don't slip off to secret meetings about consolidating, maintaining and increasing their power. Why? They don't have time. They're much too busy as it is comforting the sorrowful, visiting the sick and imprisoned, feeding the sheep with the Word and Sacrament and a million acts of prayer and service for the glory and honor of God.God has all the power. He doesn't need us to increase it, and He certainly doesn't give it to us. He exercises it at our request in accord with the systems He established in His wisdom. For 2,000 years, it has worked just fine. We'd all be better off if we just started obeying His Church and His commandments instead of trying to find ways to pretend that we know better than Him. Ever since the first human beings did that, well, it's been downhill!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12679230722483582032 Marc

    @ beezgood stuff. thank you so much for your ministry.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01609481957296510873 Amanda

    Alright, I've been reading this amateur opposition to female priests and while I (as a Catholic) agree with many of the points you guys are making, my husband (a Lutheran pastor) disagrees. Of course, that's what they do ;) Anyway, I was wondering what anyone would have to say regarding Romans 16:1-5 which lists a woman as a deacon and implies priesthood for many other women (Lydia and Junia in particular). My argument of course would be that 'implies' is not nearly strong enough to overrun Church Tradition, but my husband asserts that at the time there was no difference between a deacon and priest. He has no basis for this assertion, pure conjecture so I told him it has no credit but he's still adamant about this passage in particular being a good argument for women as priests/pastors. Here's the verse:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon[a][b] of the church in Cenchreae. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me. 3 Greet Priscilla[c] and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. 5 Greet also the church that meets at their house. …7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among[d] the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01658116461483425280 Brandon Vogt

    Amanda: I would say that it doesn't imply she is a priest at all, though it does hint she was a deaconess.A priest is primarily a priest because he offers the sacrifice of the Eucharist. Plenty of women can preach better than most priests, plenty can serve the poor better, plenty can administer better, and plenty can live and die more heroically.But for many reasons, including the sexual symbolism I wrote about earlier, only men can consecrate the Eucharist, and therefore only men can be priests.The Bible never comes close to suggesting that any woman led a celebration of the Eucharist.In terms of your husband's assertion that deacons and priests were basically the same thing in the early church, there is plenty of evidence otherwise.The first place I would start is a book by Ignatius called "Deaconesses: A Historical Study" (http://tinyurl.com/5vlljlj). I'm skimmed it, and while I haven't given it a thorough read, it provides great evidence that there were deaconesses in the early church, but that they were clearly different than priests.Also, as for woman priests, I'll mention again what I think it the best explanation, defense, and argument for an all-male priesthood–Dr. Peter Kreeft's one-hour talk, "Women and the Priesthood":http://www.peterkreeft.com/audio/09_priestesses.htm

  • http://catholicunveiled.wordpress.com/ catholicunveiled

    A very timely discussion! I just returned home from a (Catholic, mind you)mission trip where one of my dear friends and brother in Christ asked me this question:"So Michelle, have you ever thought about becoming a priest? I mean I know right now you can't with how thing are but…"I cut him off there with an abrupt and somewhat bewildered, "No. No I have not."I always knew there were people in the Church who wanted women to be ordained, but I always likened them to sasquatch or unicorns; the stuff of legends and fairy tales. Apparently they are more prevalent than I thought. Here's some arguments given by another girl at camp in favor of female ordination:- Christ was male because no one would have listened to a woman. It was purely cultural; now that society is more "advanced" it would be perfectly acceptable for a woman to be the image of Christ, because in our day and age Christ could just as easily have been born a woman as a man.- The Church's stand on female ordination is changing; it isn't officially part of the deposit of faith, and therefore we are not bound to embrace it, and it can be changed at any time without any sort of violation of revealed Truth. And another that I've heard before:- Due to the shortage of priests and the ever-increasing population of the world, especially in underdeveloped countries, will soon force the Church to change her position on the priesthood. We will either have to allow married priests, female priests, or both if we wish to sustain the Sacramental needs of the Church. It isn't fair that people should go without the Eucharist when there are plenty of married men and women who would love to serve at the altar.Clearly, these are all pretty leaky arguments, but I'd love to hear everyone's reflections :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14475083179730519554 ajcastro

    Up to Amanda:The role of a Deaconess in those days was to help in roles where women would need to be present such as Baptisms. In those times, Baptism was adult, naked, and submersion. A deaconess was used to keep the dignity of the woman and the sanctity of the priest. Roles that are similar today would be a female catechist, youth minister or director of religious education, or a Sister or Nun. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12679230722483582032 Marc

    ^like

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05185433444648099531 beez

    Catholicunvieled: I'll take a stab at them:1) Christ came at a particular time and place in history. This claim doesn't hold water because, had the second person of the Trinity wished to be a woman, the Second Person of the Trinity would have been a woman. Had the culture been so opposed to women, the God who had been revealing himself to that culture for three thousand years before the coming of Jesus Christ as man would have revealed a role for women consistent with the High Priestly role of Christ Jesus. In fact, it would not have been the Sons of Levi to whom the Temple priesthood was given, but the daughters.God in his wisdom deemed, from the foundation of the world, to lay priesthood in the hands of men for the salvation of souls.2) A no brainer:Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church's judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.Wherefore, 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 (cf. Lk 22:32) 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. – Ordinatio SacerdotalisIn other words: it IS part of the deposit of faith as defined by the Vicar of Christ on Earth, Pope John Paul II. It is not "evolving."3) The Lord calls sufficient men to serve as priests, but men are free to ignore the call. Without prayer, not only of those called but of all the faith to the Lord of the Harvest that he will send more workers into his harvest, men will not respond. Muddying the waters about the Church's disciplines solves nothing and merely confuses those who may be called to think that either 1) they should wait until the Church allows them to be both priests and married, or 2) Not respond because of a false sense of justice wherein they hope that diminishing numbers of priests will "force" the Vatican to change. FYI: married men can be ordained, but from the beginning the Church has NEVER allowed ordained men to marry!Hope that helps.Deacon Beez

  • http://catholicunveiled.wordpress.com/ catholicunveiled

    Deacon Beez,Thank you for your insights :) I especially appreciate that passage from Ordinacio Sacerdotalis. I always suspected that there was some such statement, but have just never take the initiative to find it. I think the key there is, "this judgement is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful." We trust Jesus, so we are bound to trust Him working through the Church – for me, that's usually enough to change my mind on just about anything, but apparently not everyone is so easily convinced…Also, on married priests – my diocese recently ordained a former protestant minister who is married (thank you for your sacrifice, Father Jeff!). Just out of curiosity, do you happen to know if the provision that allowed him to be ordained extends to all married men? Or is it only for those who were part of a protestant community when they were married? Not that it's a big deal for me to know all the details…but seminarians tend to know these things, so I thought I'd ask :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05185433444648099531 beez

    catholicunveiled:The Church's stance on celibacy in the priesthood is, to an extent, merely disciplinary. That is, it's not seen as strictly revealed as essential to the priesthood. Therefore, under certain circumstances, a married man can be ordained a Catholic priest. However a Catholic priest may never marry. Holy Orders is an impediment to sacramental marriage. Even a permanent deacon who, at the time of his ordination is married, is barred from ever marrying again.In the Eastern Catholic Churches (as well as in the Orthodox Churches), married men are regularly ordained. Unlike the Latin Rite, no special dispensation is required. However, no Easter Catholic (or Orthodox, to my knowledge) men who are married are made bishops.So, while celibacy is not essential to the priesthood, it is considered a good because it is an eschatological sign of the Kingdom where we are "neither married nor given in marriage" (Mt. 22:30) Hope that helps.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04718422439668825519 aimee

    I went on a journey to Rome once, and met up with a dear priest friend of mine there, who is very knowledgeable in all things Catholic.We went to one church (of probably 20 in just a short 3 hours) that had a tomb in it, listing the name on the outside esentially as "Ladyperson Deaconess" or "Deaconess Ladyperson". I was confused — and while I knew about the passages in scripture, i still gave him a very befuddled look. He responded that the title does not indicate that the Ladyperson was a deacon, but that her son was a deacon. It makes me wonder if how scripture was written would indicate the same thing?