This morning, as my wife and I were getting ready for church, I noticed that someone had posted this article on Facebook, regarding a 70-year-old Kentucky woman who was recently ordained as a priest by the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. This ordination obviously took place against the authority of the Vatican (as well as their archbishop, who referred to the ceremony as a “‘simulated ordination’ in opposition to Catholic teaching.”)
The following conversation (names have been changed) ensued in the comments section beneath the posted link:
“Tracy”: A woman can no more be a priest than red can be blue.
Me: Tracy, that’s ridiculous.
“Tracy”: Well, Joshua, it’s not. But I think being out of communion with the Church that Christ himself founded is ridiculous. You can’t follow the groom and reject his bride… But in any case, Protestants are free to call animals priests if they want to, but the Catholic priesthood is defined by the High Priest himself through the Church He founded, the Church, which is His mystical body, and his bride. This is a great, concise synopsis of why women cannot be priests. [She provided this link as evidence of why women cannot/should not be priests].
“James”: The reason appears to be simply that Jesus didn’t ordain any women, which to me doesn’t seem to warrant such an extreme response. I would also appreciate it if you didn’t compare women to animals.
“Tracy”: It goes deeper than that, James, but yes if Christ had wanted women as priests he could have ordained them. Didn’t equate women to animals, sorry. What I am saying is you can call anything or anyone you want a priest, but that doesn’t make it so. Some things cannot happen. She can have hands laid on her by a bishop and call herself a priest but she isn’t one. It’s impossible. She can pronounce the words of consecration but she cannot consecrate. I can call that plank of wood over there yarn but I cannot knit with it, because it is not yarn. [In response to an earlier comment about exegesis/hermeneutics vs. eisegesis]: I am familiar with the concepts of exegesis and hermeneutics, yes. The church goes back to Jesus himself, not the Middle Ages. His Truth never changes, and nor does it need to. All the baptized are members of the priesthood of all believers. All the baptized are priests, prophets and kings, but this priesthood is not the ordained priesthood, which is reserved for those men who are called to it by Jesus Christ, and is only conferred upon those men who are ordained by bishops who are direct successors of the apostles. Every Orthodox and Catholic bishop can trace his line of ordination back to one of the original apostles. But a valid bishop cannot ordain a woman, because women cannot be priests. I’ll give birth to a yak sooner than this truth will cease to be, but it is nothing to balk at or feel offended by. Women have their own indispensable and irreplaceable roles in the Church. The actions of those in this article are sad, for they harm their own souls in the process and create scandal and confusion among those less formed in their faith. Having different roles does not make one group better than another, just different. Just because Jesus regards all men ad women with equal dignity doesn’t mean He intends all roles for men and women.
I felt like this was a pretty bizarre exchange, and was left with a few questions/observations:
1) How prominent is Tracy’s view among those who are members of the Roman Church? I had always assumed that the sort of comments she posted were caricatures of outdated RC beliefs, and that few—if any—actually believed that Protestants are outside the Communion of the Saints and have “rejected the bride of the groom.”
2) Is this really the best argument against female priests? “Jesus never ordained women, so obviously they were never meant to be in that role”? That seems to me like an argument from silence.
3) How serious and how prevalent among RCs is the belief that priestly succession actually can be traced back to the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth? Isn’t this about as debatable as those silly Baptist folks who would claim their denominational lineage goes all the way back to John the Baptizer? And isn’t the premise of the argument kind of like painting a historical bulls-eye around a religious practice that was put in place long after the fact?
I understand that these questions reveal my ignorance of the Roman tradition. But the vast majority of RCs I’ve encountered have not been as radically fundamentalist (and, frankly, obnoxious) as Tracy. Feel free to post your thoughts on this RC/Protestant divide, as well as whether or not women should be permitted in the priesthood. Please keep it respectful.