In what is undoubtedly a milestone in the history of the Anglican Church, the very first woman Anglican bishop was ordained this past weekend. Many applaud this move as a triumph for equal rights; others decry it noting that Christ particularly chose men as His apostles. As Catholics, however, you might be wondering, will we be the next to ordain women?
The short answer is no.
The longer answer is also no, but a bit more nuanced. The reasons are fairly straightforward.
Christ established an all male priesthood. While some of Jesus’s closest friends on earth were women, He chose only men to be priests, making them his apostles and giving them the power to forgive sins.
The Catholic Church will never depart from what Christ taught us during His life. The Catechism tells us “The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible (CCC 1577).”
In the authoritative document on this subject, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, St. John Paul II said, “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.”
The Priesthood isn’t a “right”. Christ and the Catholic Church have always held women in the highest regards. After all, what Church honors Mary more than the Catholic one? Not only that, but there are a number of woman Doctors of the Church, legions of women saints and entire encyclicals dedicated to the subject of the dignity of women. None of us have the right to be priests, it is a vocation God asks of some men, but each of us has a vocation equal in dignity with an equal capacity for holiness. It’s not like priesthood is the ticket into eternal life!
I should add that it is important to realize that this decision is different for the Anglican Church than it is for the Catholic Church. Back in the time of Henry VIII they made a similarly significant decision that separated them from the Catholic Church—they rejected the authority of the Pope. It is not surprising, then, that the Anglican Church would go on to make a number of decisions based on the will of the people. Women ordination and women bishops are two of them.
Look, I’m a woman and I’m all about equality. I grew up being told that I could achieve any number of things—from being a professor to a chemist to the President. But it would have been dishonest of my parents to teach me that I could (or should) become something I will never be. Ultimately, human beings don’t decide who priests are, God does.
I’ll admit to not knowing all of the ins and outs of why men can’t bear children and women can’t be priests. But I know that it is so. And I trust God who created both men and women, but asked men to be His priests.