Female ordination advocates ignore theological truth, focus on power

Those who insist that women ought to be ordained as Catholic priests do not simply want to serve the Church—they want to change the Church.

On Holy Saturday, The New York Times published an article by Nicholas Kristof with the provocative title “God and Her (Female) Clergy”. The article focuses on the increasing numbers of women entering the clergy, particularly in Christian denominations, claiming a “right” they had previously been denied. More than that, the article claimed that a further consequence of this shift: an increase in perception of a feminine vision of God.

Dr. Serene Jones, first female president of the Union Theological Seminary, was quoted as saying: “We’re seeing a new day of understanding of who God is,” Dr. Jones added. “When the people who are representing God, making God present, have female bodies, that inevitably changes the way you think about how God is.”

She predicts this shift “will powerfully reshape Americans’ understanding of God from stern father to more of a maternal healer and nurturer.”

Set aside for a moment some of the articles more tendentious claims. (Are fathers not nurturing? Can mother’s not be stern? Is Christ not routinely portrayed as a healer?) Though it mentions in passing a few times that the Catholic Church is “behind” in this movement because it only ordains men, the arguments of Dr. Jones only help to confirm the Church’s teaching—because the Church agrees with her argument, but says that her premise is wrong.

There can be no doubt that the characteristics of God’s representatives have always affected people’s perceptions of God, for good and ill. Holy priests and ministers have long inspired people, and immoral clergy have been a perennial stumbling block to the faith of the laity—“How can I believe in God if this is the best He can give us?” But this argument gets at something deeper, that the most fundamental aspects of a person can be representative of God.

Proponents of female clergy often argue, as Dr. Jones does above, that women are needed in ministerial roles in order to bring out an aspect of God that is absent in the symbolism of a male cleric.

Of course, God in His essence is neither male or female, neither essentially masculine or feminine. However, God, in His relation to His creation, does have a masculine aspect. This is clear in the way God has revealed Himself, and is fundamental to the Church’s understanding of the priesthood.

The priest represents God who reveals Himself as “Father” (Scripture never uses a female pronoun to refer to God). The priest acts in the person of Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, who became human as a man. The liturgy is our participation in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb to His Bride the Church, with the priest representing the Bridegroom. For all these reasons, in order to be a fitting sign of God, the priest must be a man. And since the Sacrament of Holy Orders is one sacrament with three orders within it, the same applies to all three orders.

The priest not only represents God ex officio, by virtue of his appointment as a minister. In the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the priest is conformed to the character of Christ the priest at the very level of his being—an ontological change, leaving an indelible mark. The priest is made permanently into a living symbol of God. Thus, who he is matters.

Curiously, then, both sides agree that the minister provides a “sign value” for God and communicates to us something of who God is. It is just who God is, and how God relates to us, that is the point of disagreement.

While those who favor women as ministers often speak of terms in equality and fairness, we see, especially in the Catholic context, that those who agitate for women’s ordination often have further agenda items.

Very often proponents of female ordination discuss the issue not only in terms like equality, but also “representation,” in a political sense, that women need to be represented in “decision-making.” Dig deeper, and you find that they want women to become clergy in order to change other teachings.

Those who say women ought to be ordained as Catholic priests are saying that the Church’s teaching on the Sacrament of Holy Orders is wrong, and we should not be surprised when we find that this is not the only area in which they believe the Church has erred. Female ordination advocates also routinely promote abortion, contraception, same-sex relationships, and any other of a number of the “usual suspects” of dissenters. They do not simply want to serve the Church; they want to change the Church.

Two ironies suggest themselves. First, the proponents of female clergy often vociferously denounce clericalism, yet their position implies that the clergy are the “real Christians,” or the important ones—that one cannot participate meaningfully in the Church unless one is ordained. They see ordination as a form of power than a call to service. It is the error of Simon Magus, dressed up in new clothes.

Second, the idea of female clergy and “the feminine divine” are being lauded precisely at the same moment in which we are being told that gender is fluid and a construct and both essentially meaningless and deeply meaningful to one’s identity. What does it mean to be a female priest when we no longer seem certain what it means to be female?

About Nicholas Senz 13 Articles
Nicholas Senz is is Director of Children's and Adult Faith Formation at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Arlington, TX. He holds Master's degrees in philosophy and theology from the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, CA. Nicholas lives with his wife and three children. Visit him online at www.nicholassenz.com.

39 Comments

  1. Rather than changing “our understanding of who God is,” a female priesthood merely echoes our growing misunderstanding of who man and woman are–we are to genuflect before a hermaphrodite/androgynous “priesthood,” in step with a hermaphrodite/androgynous wider culture.

    In his Salt of the Earth (Ignatius, 1997, p. 210) Cardinal Ratzinger (remember him?)cited a German feminist ex-nun (Elisabeth Schussler)who remarked that the endgame was not really female ordination, but the end of all sub-ordination, that is, the extinction of ordination altogether (to be replaced by musical-chairs “leadership”).

    But not to worry, we now have a ghost-writer theologian in Argentina who is said to excel in the “synthesis” of opposites(bordering on double-speak?), and another well-placed cardinal in Rome (not Pope Francis) who tutors us that the Church now is to be guided by “anthropological cultural change” rather than, say, a clear “moral theology” as guarded by all the magisterium.

  2. ASDF is exactly correct. The “lust” for power, and its multiple other appetites, is indeed at the root of all heresy.
    As a former employee of the noted Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, I can vouch for the fact that it is a cesspool of post-Christian atheism masquerading as an ecumenical think tank. It sustains itself upon fraudulence. Its “Catholic” inhabitants appeal to the long tenure of Raymond Brown as justifying participation in its theatre of the absurd, but vacuously. The institution and those around the world like it, including those claiming to be Catholic, are nothing more than dope dealers doling out the real opium of the people — secular materialism decked out as “religion.”
    Its poison.

  3. I saw this in my former denomination. As soon as women were ordained they immediately began to change all of the other doctrines. Soon they began to exclude and expel anyone who disagreed with them. Numbers fell dramatically and it is now a wasteland doomed to extinction. This has happened repeatedly. In fact it happens every time.

    • As it should. Jesus said apart from me you can do nothing. Without Him you cannot bear fruit.

      Ergo, it is only to be expected that the denominations that embrace anti-Christian doctrines will implode. Destruction is in its DNA.

  4. I’ve always thought of Aaron and the Tribe of Levi when this topic comes up ….Seldom do I hear people comment as to the ‘efficacy’ of a female priest ..What’s the point if the sacraments have no impact when they are performed by a woman ?

    In the earliest era of the Hebrews, post Moses, only the Levites (1st born sons)were eligible to be priests …ordained by God as such …So we have a precedent ….if you have no ‘spiritual powers’ (or juice in today’s vernacular) what good are you as it relates ot the job you are supposed to perfom??

    For more info in Aaron and the Tribe of Levi …go here ..

    https://www.gotquestions.org/Levitical-priesthood.html

  5. God ordained that the geniology of Christ ,from the Adam through to David ,through to Jesus ,went in an unbroken male line from father to son. This truth ,in itself ,is an extraordinary statement. This cannot be ignored. God therefore wants to be known as Father; and we call Him Father through His son Jesus. What the Protestants and sects are doing is a great sacrilege. A branch that removes itself from the vine, withers,dies, and is racked up and put on the fire.

  6. I am against giving up a manmade rule to allow women to enter the Priesthood.
    Men are the masters, why did Adam live to over 900 years, anyway? When I was a young altar boy my mother would ask me to retrieve the altar linen so that she could wash them. At that time women were restricted from entering the sanctuary. Our kneeling benches were made of raw knotty pine with plenty of knots. There was no consideration for the elderly women.

    Where is this gotten from? “Routinely”?
    “Female ordination advocates also routinely promote abortion, contraception, same-sex relationships, and any other of a number of the “usual suspects” of dissenters.”

    • As an altar boy, you were performing the functions of an acolyte and therefore were permitted into the sanctuary, which your mother, a lay woman, was not.

    • Also: It’s not a manmade rule, except in the sense that God the Son, who was made man, established it. If He had wanted priestesses, He would have said so.

  7. It is not good for man to be alone.

    Except clearly in church leadership. Then it’s only men. Neither male nor female was for the parishioners. You get your manhood back when you become a priest. Except you don’t because you shouldn’t be alone. But just, no women, cause you know the Bible is very clear. If you ignore Huldah. And Deborah. And Priscilla. And Phoebe. And Junia. And Mary Magdalene. And Mary mother of Jesus. And Mary of Bethany. And Tabitha. And Timothy’s mother. And Ruth. And Rahab. Etc.

    But clearly. No women. Ever.

    • Good point, but the people at this site are deeply invested in the idea the women are an inferior species and that everything should remind us that we are inferior. Jesus = God, Male = Jesus. Women = Church, Goc > Church therefore, Male > Female.

      • You’re overlooking the fact that the only perfect human who was only human and not also God was a woman, Mary.

        People who comment as you do are deeply invested in the idea of power, power, power, power, power, and not particularly interested in salvation or in obedience to God.

        • Hear, hear. Point of the article- it’s truly not about “equality” or privilege, it’s about power and pride.

    • Hmmmmm, pour yourself a drink.
      I won’t ignore the great saints who happened to be female. I won’t ignore the beautiful nuns who taught me most everything fundamental to my life. And I won’t ignore their humility and lack of demands for power.
      Power, of course, as is defined by the political/Catholic Left.
      Power to those who write like you, never means the power of prayer or the power to bring souls to Christ.
      It is simply the power of position, which you so desperately desire.

      • Power in real life is important, especially to groups that lack it. So long as only men make the decisions in the Catholic church, women are powerless and useless within in it.

        • So, your opinion is that leading a quiet life of prayer is useless and “powerless.”

          I would far rather have “only men” making decisions than having anyone with your attitude doing it.

      • Ranger01, as a woman, I apologize on behalf of all women for those power-hungry, arrogant, authority-grubbing women who are in a real snit because God doesn’t want priestesses.

  8. An ordained priest is so much more than symbol, so much more than representative; he, and he alone at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, acts IN PERSONA CHRISTI. Even VAt II said this.
    A ‘person’ is an embodied soul and ensouled body. To say a female can act is persona Christi ignores the humanity of Jesus, ignores His person in its fullness, it ignores His maleness; as some heresies, this reduces Jesus to a spirit only.
    And there is that historical, biblical, and theological elephant in the room for those who want the Church to attempt to exercise power Jesus never gave it, and that is the COMMAND OF THE LORD -it’s in the Bible-that only males be ordained to the ministerial priesthood. Good discussion of this: WOMEN IN THE PRIESTHOOD? by Fr Manfred Hauke. This Command is not a man-made rule. Guy McClung, Texas

  9. There is only one priesthood in Christianity; and all Christians participate in it. Holy Orders does not confer another tier of priesthood; it confers another function within the one priesthood of Christ.

    Two participations in the one priesthood of Christ
    CCC 1546: Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church “a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.”[20] The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are “consecrated to be . . . a holy priesthood.”[21]
    CCC 1547: The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood of bishops and priests, and the common priesthood of all the faithful participate, “each in its own proper way, in the one priesthood of Christ.” While being “ordered one to another,” they differ essentially.[22] In what sense? While the common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace-a life of faith, hope, and charity, a life according to the Spirit-, the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood. It is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians. The ministerial priesthood is a means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads his Church. For this reason it is transmitted by its own sacrament, the sacrament of Holy Orders.

  10. Perhaps those who are power hungry are those male priests who feel threatened by the thought of working with priests and bishops who are women. And it’s striking that the same author who hypothetically asks if men can’t be “nurturing” and women can’t be “strict” seems to not grasp that there are many male priests who support the doctrinal changes he cites and many potential women priests who would not.

  11. Women act In Persona Christi as ministers of Baptism and (necessarily so in heterosexual) Marriage.

    Holy Orders/ministerial Priesthood is said to be different because in the Eucharist, the Bridegroom must be represented by a male, therefore only males can be priests and confect the Eucharist. If so, then the Bride must be represented by a female, therefore only females can be members of the Church and receive the Eucharist!

    This is the bit of argument which seems absurd to me.

  12. I am a woman and I agree with this article. I would add there is already a “religion” with priestesses and it is called witchcraft.

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