Dear Ms. Walker: You Are Not a Priest

Dear Ms. Walker: You Are Not a Priest January 5, 2015

On Saturday, January 3 in Kansas City, Georgia Walker attempted to do what no woman had done before:  She tried to become a Roman Catholic priest.

And she’s got the pictures to prove it:  Georgia smiling, arms raised in triumph, vested in red and white, processing down the aisle at St. Mark Hope and Peace Lutheran Church.  Her friend, “Bishop” Bridget Mary Meehan, smiles proudly at her side.  Attending the ceremony were members of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, a group of similarly deluded women who imagine themselves to be ordained.

Here’s the thing, though:  WOMEN CAN’T BE PRIESTS.

No, really!  Women can’t be priests.

So now Ms. Walker’s gotten herself into quite a pickle.  Catholic canon law stipulates that only baptized men may be ordained as priests in the Catholic Church; and the penalty for attempting ordination, without permission of the bishop and without meeting the necessary criteria, is excommunication.  So not only is Ms. Walker NOT a Catholic priest, she is no longer a member in good standing of the Catholic Church.

The Kansas City Star reports that Walker understands the situation.  She has said she’s been informed by church officials that she would be excommunicated if she went through with the ceremony.  But Walker reiterated Saturday that she does not accept that ruling.

That doesn’t really matter though, because as I said, Ms. Walker, you are not a priest.

The pride and chutzpah required for a woman to deliberately disobey a key teaching of the Catholic Church, then demand to be placed in a role to lead others…. Well, it’s a fearsome rejection of God’s teaching.

Bridget Mary Meehan, who imagines herself to be a bishop, used the opportunity during her homily to scold Pope Francis.  “In my view,” she said, “our beloved pope needs some strong feminist friends to help him transform his chauvinistic view.”  Meehan was happy, though, that the pope “recognizes inequality as the root of social sin” and has taken positive steps to increase the number of women theologians.  

I wonder whether Meehan knows that in September 2013, Pope Francis took the drastic step of excommunicating an Australian priest, Fr. Greg Reynolds, for supporting the ordination of women.  I wonder whether she knows that in November 2013, writing in his apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis said that the Catholic Church is not going to change its position on the inadmissibility of women priests, but that it does have to stop linking all decision making to ordination and allow women to have a voice in deliberations.

Catholic News Service reported on the text of Evangelii Gaudium, specifically as it referred to the all-male priesthood:

 “The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion,” the pope said, “but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general.”

The idea that ordination equals power not only robs the church of valuable contributions from women

, he said, it presents a misguided view of the priesthood and the sacraments.

“The configuration of the priest to Christ the head — namely, as the principal source of grace — does not imply an exaltation which would set him above others,” Pope Francis wrote. “In the church, functions ‘do not favor the superiority of some vis-a-vis the others.'”

Even when considering the priest’s role within the hierarchical structure of the church, he said, “it must be remembered that ‘it is totally ordered to the holiness of Christ’s members.’ Its key and axis is not power understood as domination, but the power to administer the sacrament of the Eucharist; this is the origin of its authority, which is always a service to God’s people.”

On the Feast of Pentecost, May 22, 1994, Pope John Paul II promulgated Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, his Apostolic Letter on Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone.  In it, he looked back at the earlier writings of Pope Paul VI.  He had explained to the Anglican Church the Catholic reasoning which negates the possibility of women’s ordination:

“She [the Catholic Church] holds that it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for his Church.”

Since there was confusion among theologians at the time, Paul VI directed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to set forth and expound the teaching of the Church on the reasons why women could not be ordained to the priesthood.  The Congregation responded by publishing the Declaration Inter Insigniores, which Pope Paul VI approved and ordered to be published.

Pope John Paul also reiterated his own reasoning, as published in the Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatum.   He said,

I myself wrote in this regard: “In calling only men as his Apostles, Christ acted in a completely free and sovereign manner. In doing so, he exercised the same freedom with which, in all his behaviour, he emphasized the dignity and the vocation of women, without conforming to the prevailing customs and to the traditions sanctioned by the legislation of the time.”

In fact, the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles attest that this call was made in accordance with God’s eternal plan: Christ chose those whom he willed (cf. Mk 3:13-14; Jn 6:70), and he did so in union with the Father, “through the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:2), after having spent the night in prayer (cf. Lk 6:12). Therefore, in granting admission to the ministerial priesthood, the Church has always acknowledged as a perennial norm her Lord’s way of acting in choosing twelve men whom he made the foundation of his Church (cf. Rev 21:14). These men did not in fact receive only a function which could thereafter be exercised by any member of the Church; rather they were specifically and intimately associated in the mission of the Incarnate Word himself (cf. Mt10:1, 7-8; 28:16-20; Mk 3:13- 16; 16:14-15). The Apostles did the same when they chose fellow workers who would succeed them in their ministry. Also included in this choice were those who, throughout the time of the Church, would carry on the Apostles’ mission of representing Christ the Lord and Redeemer.

Furthermore, the fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, received neither the mission proper to the Apostles nor the ministerial priesthood clearly shows that the non-admission of women to priestly ordination cannot mean that women are of lesser dignity, nor can it be construed as discrimination against them. Rather, it is to be seen as the faithful observance of a plan to be ascribed to the wisdom of the Lord of the universe.

And with great patience toward those who still did not understand the papal decree, Pope John Paul concluded:

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.

The following year, on October 28, 1995, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released its Responsum ad Dubium, a letter Concerning the Teaching Contained in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.  The Responsum ad Dubium addressed questions which had arisen regarding the 1994 document, and clarified its applicability as doctrine.  According to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then-prefect of the CDF:

The publication in May 1994 of the apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was followed by a number of problematic and negative statements by certain theologians, organizations of priests and religious, as well as some associations of lay people. These reactions attempted to cast doubt on the definitive character of the letter’s teaching on the inadmissibility of women to the ministerial priesthood and also questioned whether this teaching belonged to the deposit of the faith.

This congregation therefore has judged it necessary to dispel the doubts and reservations that have arisen by issuing a responsum ad dubium, which the Holy Father has approved and ordered to be published.

The statement itself reads, in part:

Dubium: Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic LetterOrdinatio 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 (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium25, 2). 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.

Read the rest of the CDF’s Responsum ad Dubium here.

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