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Monday, April 18, 2005


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Very nice explanation - you have a far clearer head for this stuff than I do, not to mention having studied this much more (would you believe I only read Humanae Vitae for the first time last month? And for the first time it occurred to me that the conclave of celibate old priests might be well qualified to speak on fertility issues precisely *because* they know what it's like to give up the prospect of children, albeit voluntarily. Yes, I'm slow that way).

What I find puzzling about the speculation is the fact that in the various silly polls they decided to ask non-Catholics the contraception/women priests/etc. questions. I mean, I love all my non-Catholic friends (which is 99% of them) but it would never occur to me to ask them questions like that. I mean, what's celibacy to them, or they to celibacy? I'll admit to also having a wicked thought about how outraged people would be if they were running polls asking non-Muslims "Should female Imams be allowed?" but that's just me :).

One thing I've noticed is how the American media really protrays the American ideals and attitudes as being legitimate enogh reason for the Universal Church to change. And they wonder why the world thinks we are so arrogant? Just because Americans say yes to ordination of women, birth control, divorce, and abortion, it doesn't mean the whole world, much less the religions of the world, should follow suit. Have they conducted polls on what the Church in Africa says on these issues? Or Mexico? Or Russia? American Catholics don't even make up the majority of the Church, so even if we did impose our democratic process upon the heirarchy, we probably still wouldn't win out. It's just frustrating to see how many misunderstandings there are about Catholicism and the way the Church works.

Hi Elizabeth,
Thanks for all the info! I have a quick question for you about this quote:
"Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful."
In all your researching, would you say or have you seen anything that says that this is an example of an ex cathedra statement?

Wow! Seriously, all I can say is wow. You have certainly done your research. And, you are a most eloquent and educated writer. I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts with us. While I don't always fall directly in line with church doctrine (namely, birth control) those are MY choices and I would never try to impose them on another individual, let alone the church as a whole. The beauty is your ultimate faith. Maybe, some of that will rub off on me. :-)

I really cannot express how much I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. It takes a lot of courage to publicly state your beliefs. I'm proud of you. I thank you.

Great post, Elizabeth. Have you considered teaching theology in high school as your career choice? I'm serious here -- you seem to explain things quite well.

lurker here- I'm not a Catholic (I'm Presbyterian- but keep reading anyway!) but I have studied the Catholic faith and have a lot of respect for it. Bravo to you for standing up for orthodoxy. I too have been angered by recent news coverage; just this morning I heard a story on NPR about several priests who had been asked to step down, one because he rejected the divinity of Christ. The reported characterized this as "intolerance." Aaaaaagh.

Although I'm not up in arms about it, I do not agree with the church on the ordination of women. I understand the reasoning, but I think it does not take into account the fact that women were not allowed to hold positions of authority in Jesus' time and that this resulted from an oppressive culture, not from any transcendental understanding of the difference between male and female. I believe Jesus did not call any women apostles because women did not have the freedom and respect to take up this calling in his time. They were confined to home and families and I may be mistaken but I think there may actually have been punishments for women speaking in public or behaving like a rabbi. I believe it's a tautology to say that the holy spirit is guiding the church and that therefore every single little thing the church does must be correct. The church says it does not have the authority to ordain women priests. By what means could that authority be granted? God may be calling a lot of women to the priesthood, but it's no good if the doors aren't open. I do know one woman who is struggling because she feels called to the catholic church, but also feels called to the priesthood. This is very difficult and painful for her. Who can tell her the call is not genuine? Not me. Jesus also did not call any black men to be apostles, nor did he call any asian people. In fact, he never called any white, anglo saxon men to be apostles, either.

The Catholic church changes slowly, and I can accept that they do not ordain women currently, but I do think there's room for change on this issue in the future. It will probably not happen very soon. Catholic teaching has changed over time. It's a work in progress. As are we all.


I think Jesus' treatment of women was radical enough for its time that it is ridiculous to suggest that he felt constrained by social realities of the time not to choose any for apostles. If He had wanted to, He could have. God knows that the women around (Mary, Mary Magdalene, Martha and Mary) showed more clear faith and recognition of His divinity than did the apostles. But he didn't choose them, even though many neighboring societies of the time had priestesses.

I won't claim to know why He chose for it to be this way, though the behaviour of many women who claim to be 'called' to the priesthood has me thanking God that we are not ordaining them. We don't need priestesses who are obsessed with power, heirarchy, and the ability to change things and be in a 'position of influence'. We need humble priests who want to serve wherever God puts them.


Glad to have you around. You're a fine representative of vibrant, young and happy Catholicism. :-)

Jesus claimed to be GOD and scathingly condemed the Pharisees publicly, as well as did many numerous radical things. He healed people on the Sabbath and spoke about the dignity of marriage in the territory of king Herod. Elevating women to the role of priest would not have phased Him at all, if it was in His will to do so.

Yes, women were opressed at that time, but Jesus Himself broke those bonds. He actually spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, which was unheard of at the time. Mary, His mother, went up to Him in public at the wwedding of cana and spoke to Him, which was highly frowned upon. When Jesus says, "Let the children come to me", if we understand the culture of the time, we understand that He is also calling upon women to hear His message. The children would enter the space where the men were discussing and conversing, and then go back and tell their mothers what was happening. The men would try and shoo the children away, but Jesus allowed them to come, which was a sign that His messages were for everyone. Jesus even elevated the importance of marriage when He told men that divorce was not what God intended in the beginning, because it was the MEN who divorced their wives. He honored women in many ways. But we must face facts: women were not present at the Last Supper, which was where He instituted the priesthood. It's plain and clear. Jesus did not bow pr bend to the social contraints of His time, and the thought that He did so as reasoning for Him not choosing women to be priests is absurd. If Jesus was afraid to make radical changes, He would never have been crucified.

Now, see, I think these arguments go far beyond the Church's position. The Church says that they don't know why Jesus didn't name any female apostles, and thus they don't feel they have the authority to ordain women. Jesus did challenge authority in many ways, but if he had sent forth women as apostles they would probably have been killed pretty fast, and even if not, then widely ignored. And as I said, the very same argument could be used to deny ordination to other races. Certainly Jesus could have found some black people and some Asians to include. Palestine was at the crossroads for a lot of intercontinental trade. But he didn't. Why?

I think it's very sad to make assumptions about women who feel called to the priesthood. What hurtful things to say about a woman who loves god, who wants to serve humbly, and whom you have never met.

Um, Catherine...the apostles, by and large, were killed pretty fast. I don't think Christ was afraid to send forth those who would become martyrs.

As for blacks and asians....are you going to claim that the difference between a man and a woman is somehow no more substantive than the difference between a black man and a white man? You're missing the point, which is that Christ could have called women, and He didn't. So we don't ordain women, because we know that God has different plans for men and women (as is evident in being created different) and trust that He has good reason for that.

The argument doesn't extend to other races...that's really a straw man you're holding up. It's obvious that one man is pretty much substantially, physiologically and in his general makeup, much like another, no matter the race. To suggest otherwise, as you apparently are, strikes me as rather shallow. To suggest that women are as much like men as men are like men (which is where I think your argument is going) is not just shallow, it is unperceptive and delusional.

Women have served to spread Christianity since its inception. There are women mentioned in the Acts of the APostles and the letters of St. Paul. They weren't ignored, and many were martyred. Yet they were never apostles or priests, and the only reason seems to be that they never have been and weren't meant to be.

Your arguments ring a little hollow, if you are trying to say that Christ was afraid to entrust his Church to the weak and socially unempowered. Who is the Church for, if not the weak? By your reasoning, shouldn't Christ have called Romans and not Jews, since Jews were widely despised in the Roman Empire?

As for my 'hurtful' comments about the women pushing for ordination: what else am I to think when organizations like the Women's Ordination Conference stage their own mock conclave (with pink smoke no less) and demand that the Church abandon 2000 years of teaching on sexual morality, contraception and abortion? God forbid a woman like Frances Kissling ever gets her hands on the sacraments!

Elizabeth, thanks for this fabulous post. I've been getting a lot of questions about my faith this week, and I've pointed some people here because you say things much more eloquently than I ever could. ;)

Wow, you rock. I really wish I had a blog so I could add you to a links list... I'm always so interested to hear educated but theologically sound views on Christianity, and I wasn't raised (nor am I currently) Catholic, and I have a hard time finding sources that adhere to church doctrines.

I really appreciate the time and thought that you put into your posts, especially one of this nature. I would love to study the reformation and separatist churches, but since I'm not religious I really feel uncomfortable joining in a lot of discussion or learning alongside people who are deeply faithful. Not because everyone who is involved in their faith is mean or hypersensitive, I just approach it from a non-spiritual angle, because I am curious and because it makes me sad and angry that so many people don't understand their religious roots and the beliefs they ought to be claiming along when they wave their Bibles around angrily at others. I have a LOT of respect for religious academics. Thank you!

Thanks for a wonderful post. It's nice to read some of the Church's reasoning on the ordination of women, though it seems to me the arguments presented here only deal with the negative; i.e. why women CAN'T be priests. What about the positive; what does it mean to be a Catholic priest and why does any human being have that power in the first place?

We don't know exactly why, but God reveals Himself to us as a FATHER and sends his SON to redeem us all. Patriarchy is a fundamental characteristic of the Christian Godhead. Jesus passed on His authority, the authority of His Father, to priests who act in His stead. The fact that they are men just reflects the patriarchal nature of authority inherent in God Himself.

The Church teaches that man and woman are meant to complement each other, but 99% of these dicussions focus only on the role/rights of women. We need to present and understand the proper responsibilities of men as well. Otherwise, our apologetics are just breathing with one lung, so to speak.

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