Get the facts right
Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, February 10, 2009
In his Feb. 9 Letter to the Editor “Ordain females,” Patrick Bears states, “I have never heard a valid reason why women can’t be priests. Ever.” I hope to take him up on this challenge. Bears claims that the Church uses the word “tradition” as an “excuse to exclude a group of individuals from having authority.” This claim is unfounded as there are plenty of woman with positions of authority in the history of the Church (abbesses, theologians, and doctors of the Church come to mind). The entire Christian faith is dependent on Mary’s “yes” to God’s will; accordingly, we hold her in the highest esteem as “Queen of Heaven and Earth.”
The late Pope John Paul II honored women when he spoke of a “feminine genius” and described woman as “God’s masterpiece.” Although the Church has not been without discriminatory and misguided people, “blatant discrimination upon the grounds of sex” has never been a part of official Church teaching. The argument from tradition notes that Jesus did not choose any women for the priestly office; he chose 12 men to forgive sins, heal the sick, and consecrate the Eucharist. Since the Church cannot alter what Christ instituted, we may say that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination upon women” (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis). Some claim that the cultural norms of the time forced Christ to suppress the roles of women. However, Scripture demonstrates that Christ had no reservations shattering all sorts of norms (e.g. interaction with prostitutes, tax collectors, and lepers). If Christ was willing to be crucified for his actions and teachings, something tells me he would not have been afraid to ordain women if he so desired. So why did Christ choose men and not women for the ordained priesthood?
To answer this question we must look at the nature of the Sacraments. The Sacraments are where we encounter the eternal God in the temporal world. To be an efficacious sign of this union between Creator and creation, the Sacraments must truly communicate what they symbolize. For example, in baptism we are “drowned” in Christ’s death and reemerge cleansed as sons of God and members of Christ. Water is the obvious choice to symbolize this drowning and cleansing in baptism. Similarly, the Eucharist is the Sacrament of the Bride (Church) and the Bridegroom (Christ). It is where Christ gives up his body to the Church so she can conceive new life in the Holy Spirit. The ordained priest acts “in persona Christi” at the altar, re-presenting Christ’s sacrifice for all humanity. The imagery, symbolism, and efficaciousness of the Eucharist are only fully maintained when a man performs the Sacrament. The Church maintains that all men and women are equal in dignity. However, “equality of dignity” does not imply “sameness of roles.” God has given men and women unique abilities to bring about the kingdom of God. While some of these roles overlap, others are reserved to men and women (e.g. priesthood and motherhood, respectively). It is by embracing the differences between men and women that we will find union in Christ.