The Crux of the Matter 5
Topic: Priestly Ordination Reserved to Men Alone
By Fr. Wade Menezes, CPM
The Fathers of Mercy
If there’s one doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church that stands out particularly strong in this modern day and age – a teaching that everyone seems to know (both Catholics and non-Catholics alike) whether they agree with it or not – it’s the teaching that priestly ordination is reserved to men alone.
But this time-honored doctrine held by the Church since the time of Christ and his Apostles in no way militates against the dignity of women, their natural gifts or vocation. Nor is the fact that women are ineligible to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders to be viewed as a reflection against their universal call to holiness, to which all persons are called.
In modern times, the Church has repeatedly and definitively reiterated the reasons why the Sacrament of Holy Orders can be received only by men. Pope John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter On Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis) quotes Pope Paul VI in stating some of these reasons, including “the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for his Church” (OS, 1)
In actual fact, then, the Church concludes that she herself is not authorized to admit women to priestly ordination (cf. OS, 2). In other words, the Church herself cannot change this teaching; she has not the authority to do so. This is because the Church recognizes herself to be bound, as it were, by this choice made by the Lord himself — her Bridegroom — a choice, mind you, which Our Lord made freely, since he shows himself time and time again in the Gospels to not have been subject to the prevailing customs or social conditions of his time.