Last week I began exploring the subject of priestly ordination and the question of ordaining women and married men. As I mentioned in regards to women’s ordination, Pope John Paul II in 1994 wrote a very brief letter to all the world’s bishops entitled Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. In this letter, the Holy Father explained how the exclusion of women from Holy Orders was not merely a matter of Church “discipline” that could be changed at any time, but was rather the will of Jesus Christ revealed to us in Sacred Scripture and reaffirmed constantly in the lived Tradition of our faith.
Specifically, Pope John Paul stated that Jesus, in choosing twelve men as His Apostles, and these Apostles likewise choosing only men for the ministerial priesthood, revealed to the Church something unique and vital to the life of the Church, which is the male-only priesthood.
Many people find this reasoning less than compelling. Many say, “Well, at that time in history and in that culture, women were minimized and seen as second-class citizens. Jesus was just following what was normal for that time.” To this argument, the Holy Father reminded His brother bishops that Jesus constantly did things that were not culturally accepted and historically conditioned. In this instance, Pope John Paul reiterated to the bishops that Jesus acted
“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 the twelve men whom he made the foundation of his Church (cf. Rv 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. Mt 10:1, 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.” (OS #2)
In light of this, one can see that Christ did not act arbitrarily and haphazardly regarding those whom He chose for Holy Orders, nor was He simply beholden to the cultural or historical norms of His time. Rather, He made His choices after much prayer and reflection, motivated by the will of God the Father and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Again, many people, men and women alike, find this explanation insufficient. In a country like the United States where equality between the genders is vigorously worked for, this teaching seems discriminatory. However, it is important to remember that equal does not always mean the same. Simply because women cannot be priests does not mean they are less important to the life of the Church. On the contrary, without the presence and ministry of women in our Church (and specifically here at St. Josephs), the Body of Christ would be horribly incomplete.
Next week I will examine the ordination of married men, so stay tuned!
- Fr. John
(Even though Fr. John writes a good article, we want the Dawgs to lose tonight anyway. GO REBS!)