The Catholic Church is not against women priests. The Church is not for men priests. The Catholic Church is for Jesus and follows His prerogative on the priesthood. Jesus set the standard on Church leadership when He chose His disciples, the eventual Apostles. These same Apostles then appointed their successors, and their successors appointed their successors, and so on…
Simply put, the Church lacks the authoritative prerogative to overrule the second person of the divine Trinity.
In this post, I will address the opinion piece, Opinion: Catholic church would rather die than accept women as equals, by Patricia Garry. This piece, shared on Yahoo.com on December 30th, 2021, reflects the view that the issue at hand (men-only priesthood) concerns POWER and POWER only. Contrary to the view of Ms. Garry, the Church only seeks to follow the direction of her Lord.
A Shrinking Church
The opinion piece starts with a fact: shrinking clergy. The clergy in the West is smaller. In response, parishes face closure or consolidation. The reason for the shrinkage? According to Ms. Garry, the Church hates women…
“What is really bringing about this drastic change is quite simple – it is the Catholic Church’s misogyny; its hatred and fear of women – that has created this need.”
The Catholic Church has no fear or hatred of women. The Church honors and respects women. We honor a woman as Theotokos, the mother of God incarnate. Women possess the greatest ability of all—the ability to create life within themselves. Such an ability demonstrates true power. The clergy (and Church) is shrinking, but not due to a lack of women priest and bishops.
An Underclass of Women
“Even though women have served the church and kept it going for years – always as an underclass, as maidservants, propping up the men who are very busy with aimless and unneeded administrative tasks – the church will not admit women’s equality, that women and men are equal. It is women who do and have done the work of this rich church.”
Such claims smack of polemics and does not reflect the reality of the massive contribution of women throughout the history of the Church. Ms. Garry lessens the contribution of women throughout history by relegating them to merely an underclass of maidservants. What of women Doctors of the Church? What of Hildegard of Bingen (1200s), Catherine of Siena (1400s), Teresa of Ávila (1600s), and Thérèse of Lisieux (1900s)? The contributions of each of these Doctors stand in stark opposition to Garry’s claim of insignificance. Not to mention the first two witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection were women (Mary and Martha) in the Gospel John, chapter 20.
Women in the Early Church
“Historically, Christ was not afraid of women. He had women friends, women supporters, women he consoled and woman who consoled him. There were women among the Apostles, especially Mary Magdalene. There were women bishops in the early centuries of the church. Lots of this information is available, but not widely known.”
Jesus did associate closely with women, true. However, no credible historical evidence exists of Jesus’ appointing of women Apostles, nor evidence of women bishops. If such credible evidence exists, and Jesus’ prerogative included women Apostles that in turn appointed successors through apostolic succession, the Church will honor this evidence and women priests and bishops would exist to this day. No such evidence exists, so the Church lacks the authority to overrule her Lord on the matter. There exist gnostic texts of late and non-apostolic origin that show a greater role of Mary Magdalene, but such evidence is dubious at best. This is the “evidence” Ms. Garry refers to. For more information on gnostic sources, see this article.
Pope Clement I
“Through countryside and city [the apostles] preached, and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty, for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier. . . . Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry” (Letter to the Corinthians 42:4–5, 44:1–3 [A.D. 80]).
Clement, who wrote in A.D. 80, shows the true intent of the Apostles. John the Beloved died twenty years after Clement wrote the above.
Celibacy and Power
“Christ did not cut off half of those working to grow the church in the early days and neither did the early church leaders, many of whom were women. Celibacy was not mandated by the church until the 12th century – and that was because the sons of priests wanted their inheritances, and threatened the growing financial and political power of the European church in the middle ages. And the popes needed their money to build those enormous edifices across that continent, and to support their often decadent lifestyles. Many were as wealthy and as powerful as kings. (The Knights Templar were destroyed because their wealth was coveted by those kings and popes.)”
Sadly, those in the Church sin… We have 2000 years of historical evidence that the Church fails. The Church survives despite her failures because of God’s faithfulness. As stated previously, women participated in the Church since its very beginning (and still do). Of the many rites within the Catholic Church, only one requires celibacy, the Latin Rite. The reason for this disciple varies and the Pope can allow married priests at any time. Ms. Garry’s last few statements about wealth and power only shows her interest in power, not in women or the growth of the Church.
A Church of God?
“To me, it is as though the Catholic Church has realized that it is in trouble, and has joined the fight to destroy itself. Foolishness, man-splaining are everywhere.”
The Church belongs to God and therefore remains. Acts 5:38-39 says:
38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”
All About Political and Cultural Power
But Ms. Garry continues:
“All because of their fear of emasculation (at the deepest level), fear of losing political and religious power (at the median level), and simple fear of losing status as important men in the community. Where is God in all this? Nowhere to be found.”
The crux of Patricia Garry’s argument concerns power. She believes the Church withholds power from women to keep women down. Open the priestly ranks up to women, give women “power” in the Church, and watch the Church flourish! Sorry, but the evidence for such an outcome does not exist. One only need to turn to denominations with women priests to see a total lack of growth and dying churches. A Catholic Church with women priests will not grow as Ms. Garry predicts. Regardless, as stated above, the Church lacks the authoritative prerogative to make this change. She cannot overrule Jesus and two-thousand years of apostolic succession to satisfy a group’s desire for political or cultural power.
The Church Has Spoken
The Church in our modern time is not silent on this issue and the reasons many bring to allow women priest.
“Women who express a desire for the ministerial priesthood are doubtless motivated by the desire to serve Christ and the Church. And it is not surprising that, at a time when they are becoming more aware of the discriminations to which they have been subjected, they should desire the ministerial priesthood itself. But it must not be forgotten that the priesthood does not form part of the rights of the individual, but stems from the economy of the mystery of Christ and the Church. The priestly office cannot become the goal of social advancement: no merely human progress of society or of the individual can of itself give access to it: it is of another order.” [INTER INSIGNIORES, SACRED CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, 1976].
“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 SACERDOTALIS, Pope John Paul II, 1994].
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