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The Sacrament Of Holy Orders… Women Priests — Why Not?

November 4, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 3

Here we enter a specifically controversial issue, which has become the topic of conversation, argument, and heated debate in some trendy Church circles: the ordination of women to the priesthood. Since shortly after Vatican II, some say that, guided by the “Spirit of the Council” — whatever that may mean — it is unjust that a sacrament be denied to women, who compose more than half of Catholic congregations in general. Therefore, some ask for, and some others demand, the ordaining of women.
Some feel that it is “machismo,” a discrimination against women, that does not allow to be ordained to the priesthood. Some Protestant denominations have their women “priests” and “bishops,” and it is only the Roman Catholic Church that remains attached to the male-dominated culture of the past, they claim.
If you argue that, according to the Gospels, our Lord did not call women to the altar, they have an immediate response: Jesus was influenced by the male-dominated cultured of Judaism!
Was He really? Can we really believe that the God-Man, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, omniscient, omnipotent, Creator, Redeemer, and Judge of Mankind, would be such a weakling as to submit to the demands of the surrounding culture? It is not only blasphemous to suggest such a thing, it is an idiocy!
Being the divine Son of God, Christ was not bound by His culture and times in His decision to choose only men for the Apostolic College. In fact, this was a countercultural decision, since the ancient pagan religions regularly had their priestesses. Even the great Mother of God, the perfect embodiment of the Church, was not invested with the powers and dignity of the priesthood.
Where trendy modernists get it totally wrong is the simple historical — and biblical — fact that the male-only priesthood is not a regulation imposed by the Catholic Church: It was established by her divine Founder, Jesus Christ.
The attitude of Christ to women is easy to realize, as a simple reading of the Gospel will suffice to prove how His attitude to women differed markedly from that of other Jews. For instance, He let the legally impure woman touch His cloak to be cured; He let the woman who was a public sinner wash and dry His feet in the house of the Pharisee; He publicly pardoned the adulteress; He forbade men to divorce their wives and upheld the marriage bond as applying equally to men and women; He was accompanied by women followers; He appeared first to women when risen from the dead and even commissioned them to inform the apostles.
See these examples in Matt. 9:20-22; Luke 7:37ff; John 8:11; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 8:1-3.
In the Via Dolorosa, it was women whom He consoled in the way to Calvary, while the apostles had run away (that being their first act of episcopal collegiality, by the way); moreover, the greatest person in the whole History of Salvation is a woman, our Lady — but He did not call her to the priesthood!
Jesus continued the Jewish custom of having only men at the altar, as the Hebrews had only men performing the services at the Temple and in the synagogues, in continuity with the Hebrew Tradition.
The apostles and their successors continued in this tradition of only ordaining men, but in the early Church women played an important role in evangelization, instruction, and works of charity. Several of them are mentioned in the New Testament, such as Phoebe, Priscilla, and Lydia.
By the same token, there was never any question, of making them presbyters or official preachers of the Word.
Actually, quite the opposite, as the Holy Spirit, speaking through St. Paul, has something to say about women preachers: “the women should keep silence in the churches….For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church…what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord.” “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men.”
Women are excluded from the teaching and governing mandate of Holy Orders by reason of “a command of the Lord.” It is ridiculous to suggest that St. Paul was writing out of mere prejudice; it is he who authors one of the most vigorous texts in the New Testament on the equality of men and women as children of God.
The Church founded by Christ and propagated by the apostles followed His ways and determined that “Only a baptized man receives sacred Ordination validly.” Canon 1024: “solus vir” — male only. As a consequence, a woman cannot be validly ordained to the Catholic priesthood.
The witness of the Early Church is unanimous on this subject, that is, that she regards herself as bound by her Founder’s will to ordain only men to the priesthood. Otherwise, we would have to accept the idea that Christ did not protect His Church from error.

The Old Heresy

Of course: If the exclusive male priesthood were an abuse, an injustice, even a heresy, then Jesus would have failed in His promise that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church, that He would protect His Church! He said that He would be with His apostles till the end of time; He would send the Holy Spirit to be with them and within them. He made all of those promises but would have allowed a gross injustice to be committed against women, who were so faithful to Him in His Passion.
No, we cannot have it both ways: Either He was faithful to His promise or He was not. If He was, then the exclusive male priesthood is according to His will; if He was not faithful to His promises, then He failed, He was not the Son of God and the whole of Christianity is just a fraud. Period.
But the early fathers of the Church were unanimous regarding the male priesthood: St. John Chrysostom, in his classic work on the priesthood written around AD 387, says simply, “Divine law has excluded women from the ministry.”
A few heretical sects in the first centuries entrusted priestly functions to women, or had priestesses, and were condemned by the Early Church fathers for this innovation. Church fathers like Tertullian, St. Cyprian, Origen, and St. Epiphanius to name a few, strongly opposed and refuted the trendy innovation of those days. Funny how the feminists in the Church today are trying to resuscitate the old heresy.
Next article: More on Women Priests — Why Not?

+ + +

(Raymond de Souza, KM, is a Knight of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta; a delegate for International Missions for Human Life International [HLI]; and an EWTN program host. Website: www. RaymonddeSouza.com.)

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