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 Post subject: Question about Female Clergy
PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2020 5:21 pm 
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Hello,

I am an Episcopalian who lately has been reading about Catholicism. However, there are certain matters of doctrine I don't understand, particularly the ban of female priests. I'm not trying to troll, I would just really like a reasoned explanation why women cannot be priests in the Catholic Church, because for the following reasons, I believe there should be no barrier to female clergy:

1. I have heard Catholics say that because Jesus only selected men as His disciples, only men can be priests. However, there were many female disciples, including, of course, Mary Magdalene, who was considered an "apostle to the apostles," as well as others. Not only this, but women were the first to see the risen Jesus, and He sent them to tell the rest of the disciples--which is, in a sense, a form of preaching. While there were no women among the twelve disciples, one could also say that because every one of these disciples was Jewish, Jesus only wanted priests to be of Jewish descent--but we don't say that, because we recognize that Christ came for all people. Why is the distinction made when it comes to gender?

2. Furthermore, I don't believe the early church actually did make this distinction. Though the documentation of the time is scant, there is enough evidence to be nearly certain that women served as deacons and to strongly suggest they were ordained as priests. To begin with, at the beginning of Romans 16 Paul writes "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon (diakonos) of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor [prostatis] of many people, including me." Additionally, The Apostolic Tradition, a very early church document, forbade the ordination of widows, which clearly implies that widows were being ordained and that the ordination of non-widowed women was acceptable. The Testamentum Domini, from the 4th or 5th century, permits the ordination of widows. Finally, Clement of Alexandria wrote in the second century that women travelled with the apostles as their "fellowministers." There is also a fairly significant amount of art depicted women in ecclesiastical positions.

3. Lastly, I don't see, theologically, how banning women from the priesthood could be justified. Jesus did not make such distinctions between the sexes, at least not that I am aware of. And in Galatians 3:28-29, Paul writes "In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." We are on board when it comes to the first two claims, so why does the distinction continue to be made on the basis of sex?

Again, I am really not trying to cause discord or to annoy anyone. I just truly would like to understand the ban on female clergy given the above points.

Thank you so much.


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 Post subject: Re: Question about Female Clergy
PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2020 8:42 pm 
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Here's a thread on a recent discussion: https://forums.avemariaradio.net/viewto ... 1&t=171095


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 Post subject: Re: Question about Female Clergy
PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2020 8:59 pm 
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Signum Crucis wrote:
Here's a thread on a recent discussion: https://forums.avemariaradio.net/viewto ... 1&t=171095


Thank you!

I have to say I don't find the answer that it hasn't been done for a long time compelling without actual theological reasoning behind it, especially since there is evidence to suggest that women did serve as at least deaconesses in the early church.

I don't quite understand the sententia fidei proxima point; could somebody explain that?

Sorry, I'm sure you've gotten this question many times before. I just would like to fully understand the reasoning here.


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 Post subject: Re: Question about Female Clergy
PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2020 9:57 pm 
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Hopefully someone will come along to answer your questions. Sunday is a slow day here. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Question about Female Clergy
PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2020 10:07 pm 
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Signum Crucis wrote:
Hopefully someone will come along to answer your questions. Sunday is a slow day here. :)


No worries! :) Thanks so much for your help!


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 Post subject: Re: Question about Female Clergy
PostPosted: Mon Jan 06, 2020 10:58 am 
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1) You're mixing "disciples" with "apostles." Of course there were women among the disciples. But "apostle," particularly in the sense relevant to priestly ordination, means the eleven (twelve minus Judas) in the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday. The ministry into which they were admitted at the Last Supper was later extended to others, and down into the present day.

Though Mary Magdalene is often termed the "apostle to the Apostles," the word "apostle" is meant in two senses here. With reference to MM, it means "someone who is sent." With reference to the eleven, it means the ones whom Jesus was sending into the world to continue His work of reconciliation.

The distinction is made because the history of the Church does have a voice. I'll talk about deaconesses in a bit, but the point here is that, in all the various approaches to Christianity that arose in the First and Second Centuries, none of them thought that women could be ordained priests, despite being in societies where priestesses of pagan religions were common. They all thought that being a man mattered and that being a Jew didn't.

2) I am not well-versed enough in the history here to make a post on my own, though I will go look for a helpful article. I can say that "deaconesses" did exist, but they were distinct from the Apostolic ministry. In particular, since baptism as practiced at the time could have been a challenge to modesty, deaconesses assisted with the baptism of women.

3) The verse from St. Paul has to be read in context. It is not denying the existence of real distinctions. It is saying that none of those distinctions matters with respect to salvation. And as for Jesus making such distinctions ... There were no women among the Twelve, were there? And there were certainly women who could have been.


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 Post subject: Re: Question about Female Clergy
PostPosted: Mon Jan 06, 2020 11:05 am 
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Pope John Paul II stated that the Catholic Church has no authority to ordain women.

http://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul ... talis.html


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 Post subject: Re: Question about Female Clergy
PostPosted: Mon Jan 06, 2020 11:24 am 
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You might also find this document helpful: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congr ... es_en.html


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 Post subject: Re: Question about Female Clergy
PostPosted: Mon Jan 06, 2020 12:00 pm 
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Thanks for your detailed reply!

You're right that I was probably unduly conflating disciples with apostles. However, I'm not sure where it says that Jesus wanted the entire body of priests to be solely based on the characteristics of the original twelve apostles (particularly since one of them was Judas). He chooses them to go forth preaching and baptizing, but (correct me if I'm wrong) I don't think He says anything about modelling the entire priesthood after them. So why is it assumed that one of their traits (gender) must be represented by the priesthood and not any of their other traits, since their job was to expand the kingdom of Christ and welcome more and more people into it?

While there is much more evidence of women as deacons (they weren't called "deaconesses" for several centuries), there is some evidence that women did practice as priests, such as art depicting women in priestly attire and showing a man and a woman standing at an altar, both raising chalices.


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 Post subject: Re: Question about Female Clergy
PostPosted: Mon Jan 06, 2020 12:17 pm 
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Thanks so much for the link; it looks very interesting! I'll definitely read it throuagh when I get a chance.


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 Post subject: Re: Question about Female Clergy
PostPosted: Mon Jan 06, 2020 12:19 pm 
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That evidence is much more obscure than you've been told, but I don't have references at hand right now, so I will just have to register disagreement and move on for now.

Not everything Jesus did or taught is in the Bible. Some of His teachings are preserved in the way the Church does things.

Are you a book-reader? If so, I'd recommend Tyler Blanski's An Immovable Feast. He works through, in much detail, most of the questions that an Episcopalian will face on the way into Catholicism. (I'm an Episcopal convert myself, BTW.) There's a lot of narrative too--it's not at all a dry book.


Last edited by Obi-Wan Kenobi on Mon Jan 06, 2020 10:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Question about Female Clergy
PostPosted: Mon Jan 06, 2020 12:49 pm 
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I am very much a book reader, and that sounds quite interesting! I'll be sure to check it out.

Thanks so much for all your input!


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 Post subject: Re: Question about Female Clergy
PostPosted: Mon Jan 06, 2020 4:49 pm 
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From the above Apostolic Letter by Pope John Paul II.

"4. Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church's judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.

"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 (cf. Lk 22:32) 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.

"Invoking an abundance of divine assistance upon you, venerable brothers, and upon all the faithful, I impart my apostolic blessing.

"From the Vatican, on May 22, the Solemnity of Pentecost, in the year 1994, the sixteenth of my Pontificate."


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 Post subject: Re: Question about Female Clergy
PostPosted: Mon Jan 06, 2020 7:59 pm 
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You have twice, at least, used the word "ban" in asserting that the Church, somehow, has prohibited or proscribed women from the Sacrament of Holy Orders. I would point out, as others have, that the Church has no ability to ordain women -- so it has not banned them. It could only ban them if it had the ability to ordain them and then decided not to.

An analogy might be that physicists have pointed out that normal gravity at the surface of the earth attracts objects, but, since women don't float off into space, physicists have banned women from floating off into space. However, physicists have no ability to control gravity. To prevent others pointing it out, the analogy doesn't address floating men.

I, too, was Episcopalian. And am now happier and more grounded my faith. And regret becoming Catholic not one whit.


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 Post subject: Re: Question about Female Clergy
PostPosted: Mon Jan 06, 2020 8:38 pm 
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Thank you all for your interesting perspectives! You have definitely given me a lot to read and consider. I appreciate it!


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 Post subject: Re: Question about Female Clergy
PostPosted: Mon Jan 06, 2020 9:42 pm 
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You are welcome.


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