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Understanding Priestly Ordination

September 1, 2014

Christ the High Priest

Within the Catholic Church, priestly ordination continues to be reserved for males only. This is predominantly because of the fundamental reasons described by Saint Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.   “These reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for his Church.” 1

Many would counter this reasoning with the fact that in the time of Christ, women were considered second class citizens.  Therefore, for Christ to be taken seriously, and for His first Apostles to be listened to, He would need to select only men given the culture of the time.

Let’s be realistic here. It states in Matthew 19:26, with God all things are possible. On that statement I think we can all agree. So, if it is true that all things are possible with God, if Jesus had wanted women to be priests, wouldn’t they have been just as successful at bringing souls to Christ as Peter and the other Apostles? If it had been God’s plan to ordain women then wouldn’t God have ensured their success, as He did for the twelve that He did appoint? Nobody messes with God’s plan. He is going to get what He wants. Therefore, if Jesus had really wanted women to be priests, wouldn’t He have appointed some at the time that the Apostles were named? For some reason, only known to Jesus, He elected to choose only men to lead the Church.

Saint Pope John Paul II points out that “Christ’s way of acting did not proceed from sociological or cultural motives peculiar to his time.” 2 Christ was known to have associated with women such as Mary Magdalene, the Samaritan woman at the well and others, especially His own mother, Mary.  He highly revered these women. It’s not that Mary Magdalene, or Jesus’ own mother were not qualified or priestly ordination– especially His Mother, ever virgin and sinless. It just comes down to the fact that for some reason, only known to Jesus, He elected to choose only men to lead His Church.

During the liturgy, the priest acts in persona Christi (in the person of Christ). The priest through his male gender represents Christ, who had elected to be incarnated as a male. Christ is the Head of the Church and we are the body. Christ is the Bridegroom and we, the Church, are His bride. Therefore, Saint Pope John Paul II’s statement gives credence to a conscious and deliberate decision upon Jesus’ part that His priestly class should only be of men in accordance with God’s plan. With that said, no Pope has “authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women.” 3

This interpretation of Christ’s Revelation does not give license to treat women secondarily to men. On the contrary, women bring strong contributions to the Faith, in ways that men cannot. Take the Blessed Virgin Mary as the #1 example. Her “yes” to conceiving the Incarnate Word set the plan for salvation of all mankind into play. No man could give that “yes.”

We all have our own part to play, our purpose on earth, to bring souls to Christ. As a woman, I don’t need to be a priest to have a positive impact on other people and be an inspiration for connecting people to Christ. I am perfectly capable, as a member of the female gender, and a living example of Christ’s love, to fulfill my purpose in God’s plan.

With understanding, we gain in wisdom. We’ll begin to discuss the gift and virtue of Wisdom in our next reflection. Don’t miss it!

Footnotes:

1 John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Holy See: Vaticano, 1994, Print; par 1.

2 John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Holy See: Vaticano, 1994, Print; par 2.

3 John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Holy See: Vaticano, 1994, Print; par 4.

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