Women in the Catholic Church – The Great Debate – Affirmative
SHOULD WOMEN BE ORDAINED IN THE PRIESTHOOD?
The question of the ordination of women to the priesthood has moved to the forefront of theological controversy in recent years, prompting a swamping of books, and religious opinions. This controversial issue stems not only from the renewed interest of the Catholic Church in the nature of its priesthood, but also, and perhaps predominantly, from the efforts of women to achieve a new and deeper understanding of their religion. The question, should women be ordained as ministers in the church immediately implies many questions. What difference could female priests make to the church? Did Jesus allow for women to be priests? What has been the result of many centuries of male priesthood?
However the first question you always have to ask when one has a controversial issue like this is what was Jesus’ view on the topic? Jesus, nowhere in the bible stated anything about women being subservient or lesser people to men. As a matter of fact from the beginning women were part of his disciples and according to the bible Luke stated that a lot of women supported his ministry. When religious based questions are asked the greatest source of information is the Bible. The Bible itself states on many occasions that women held religion as one of the highest priorities in their lives. To add to this, women participated in some of the most important roles in the church community such as Eucharistic ministers etc.
The Catholic Church in the past centuries has been very male dominated. Male priests, male archbishops, male deacons, male popes. In fact in the Catholic Church most women have never held a higher perspective than a Eucharistic minister. This seems very odd, since these days women have exactly the same rights as any man. Why then, if a woman can get any job that a man can get, can manage a large company and can fight in a war, are they not allowed to become ordained in the priesthood? There is ample evidence in Scripture for women’s leadership in the early church. Such leadership became increasingly prohibited as the church became a public institution, as it was not considered proper for women to hold leadership positions in public places. As the world has come to see the equality of women holding leadership positions in the civil public world; so it would be right for them to be church leaders today. This would signal the church’s real belief in the equality of women and men.
The Old Testament states on many occasions that women are not allowed to be priests. These statements are based on the fact that men were born first therefore they are automatically capable of doing a better job. The Old Testament tends to hold a very biased opinion in that they did not even state that women participated in church life.
The New Testament does, however, give a precedent for the ordination of deaconesses (I Tim. 3:8-11, Rom. 16:1). The Bible states that Aquila and Priscilla, who served under Paul’s administration, were deacon and deaconess. It also goes on to explain the importance of the role of women in the church and the fact that they were major contributors to the church community and in the way that the church was run. Why then, in certain parts of the Bible, does it state that women held no importance in the church when obviously they were contributors. It is from this that we can say that it is mainly the church that can not accept this change for Jesus called both women and men to be his disciples. Surely the life of Jesus should be the model for ministry and decisions in the church.
The Bible is the most respected religious book in the world, with over 85 million people holding the Bible as their most sacrificial book. It also is known to contradict itself with modern society. Such examples are, (Timothy 2: 3-18) , the scripture states among other things, that priests are allowed be married, are not allowed to drink of un-sacrificial alcohol and that mass only occurs on Sundays. However all these laws have been broken to meet the requirements of the modern day? Priests can not be married, are allowed to drink alcohol and have sermons on Saturdays, and during the week. In the same passage it states that women, whoever they are, may not become ordained or serve in the church. Firstly, already women have been playing a very large role in the Catholic Church, and in the Anglican and Uniting Church women have already been ordained. Secondly, every other law in this passage has been broken. Why then, the only law in this passage not to be broken is the law on female priests? This is why this topic is such a controversial one in that if we do enforce the law that women may be ordained, we are questioning the importance of turning to the Bible for help and guidance as we are going against it.
As gender discrimination becomes as abhorrent to the public as racism, denominations will be under increased pressure to conform to the non-sexist secular standard, by judging candidates for ordination on the basis of knowledge, personality, commitment, ability, etc, not on their gender. Unfortunately and predominately people hold the thought that this argument is strictly a one-sided and biased way to say that women are not capable of being ordained. The fact is, and it is stated in the Bible, that the argument is very biased in that the Bible did not even allow for women to prove themselves worthy of the Catholic Church, instead making a generalistic and stereotypical view that women are not capable. The Bible states that “For it were Adam that was made first and Eve next”. This stresses the fact that perhaps women were not even allowed to have their say on what goes on in the church because of what order they were made in. Therefore judgments should only be made on fair and sincere bases. Not based on the fact that they are male or female.
However when searching official religious internet sites, certain ones caught my eye. These sites were entitled, who will cook now? What about the washing?, and what is she doing out of the kitchen. This highlights the fact that this is not a moral judgment; in that the Old Testament stated that women should not be priests therefore it is not to be done, but a gender judgment, in that because she is a woman she is not able to fulfill the requirements to be ordained. Religious writer of best-selling book, My Path to God, Paul Collins stated “The ordination of women into the Catholic church will have to happen despite the fact that John Paul II has made opposition to women’s ordination a litmus test of loyalty”. Many reasons have been given for the in-ability for women to be ordained. Some sources say that the Pope has declared that the Church cannot ordain women to the priesthood now or at any time in the future. However he later explained that he said it is not that the church is unwilling to ordain women; but that the church does not currently have the authority to do so. If so when is this authority going to be over-written?
It is obvious that this debate is a very controversial one, in that it sparks many arguments to what is the proper solution. In the past years much has been done by religious groups to release this law from the Catholic Church. However I believe in an age where we are given such freedom, it is only fair that we allow women to become ordained in the Catholic Church. Jesus once stated in the Bible “do not judge a person on the decisions that they make but rather praise them for the glory that they portray”. I agree with this statement in that I believe that instead of focusing all our power on this topic we should be more interested in understanding our God instead of questioning God whether the right decision was made. The fact is, women should not be denied the opportunity to be ordained in the Catholic Church. In my opinion, ordination of female priests to the Catholic Church will happen; the question is when? As the famous religious poet, Thomas Merton once said, “before God we are all feminine.”
Steven, Case. Catholicism. New Day Publishing: New York, 1990.
Women in the Catholic Church – The Great Debate – Affirmative