Why Women Shouldn't Be Catholic Priests
Just as bread and wine are the essential "matter" of the Eucharist, so are men the "matter" of the priesthood.
Reprinted with permission of This Rock magazine.
"But everyone agrees that the Catholic Church will one day ordain women. Surely it's just this pope who is holding things back? The next one is bound to change the rule!"
The point is made frequently and always with the same confidence. There is a general assumption, at least in Europe and North America, that the Catholic Church's insistence on a male priesthood is an obscure anomaly, which endures only because a Polish pope has, in the 1990s, refused to move with the times.
Yet the times have often favored a female priesthood and never more so than when Christ ordained His first priests, nearly 2,000 years ago. Virtually all the pagan religions of His day had priestesses, and it would have been entirely normal and natural for Him to choose women for this task. He had, moreover, a number of excellent potential candidates, from His own Mother, who accompanied Him at His first miracle and stood with Him as He suffered on the cross, to Mary Magdalene or the women of Bethany. Instead, He chose only men, and He remained immovable on this, continuing right to the end to exhort and train them all, leaving thus a Church which turned out to be safely founded on a rock. From those twelve men a direct line of apostolic succession has given the Catholic Church the bishops and priests it has today.
In the Church's latest statement on this matter, Pope John Paul II, using his full authority as the successor of Peter, states categorically that the Church cannot - not will not, but cannot - ordain women, now or in the future. The Catechism of the Catholic Church sets it out clearly, quoting the decree Inter insigniores:
Only a baptized man (vir) receives sacred ordination. The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ's return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord Himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.