St Francis Q&A

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Why an all-male priesthood?

Lourdes pilgrimmage!! I'm off to Lourdes, France, for a week with a group from the Archdiocese. We are taking several malades (ill persons) to the Holy Water of Lourdes, with the hope of spiritual and/or physical healing. Should be great!! If I get a chance, I will make a post from Lourdes; otherwise, I'll resume posting in about a week or so.
We have had a very fruitful discussion on this site about the all-male priesthood. Let me first of all make the point of which many people are unaware: we are all priests because of our Baptism. "(B)ut you are a chosen race, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation..." (1 Pet 2:9). When we are baptized, we are all anointed Priest, Prophet, and King just as Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King. We all make up the "royal (or common) priesthood".

But "the members do not all have the same function" (Rom 12:4). St. Paul is making the point that we all make up the one Body of Christ, which is the Church, but we are all different members with different roles. If we use his analogy of the human body, we see that the hand and the foot are both parts of the body, but each performs different functions. They are equally important to the body, and the body wouldn't be complete without one of them.

So, when it comes to the Church, we see that Christ calls some members of His Body to serve the other members. We understand these members to make up the ministerial priesthood; the ministerial priesthood serves the royal priesthood. Christ's ministers serve the Church as Christ served the Church: teaching, sanctifying, and governing.

Why did our Lord establish an all-male ministerial priesthood? Why was it that after "he spent whole night in prayer" (Lk 6:13) to the Father, he came down from the mountain and chose twelve men? Why was it that he gave to these Twelve the special ministries of baptizing (Mt 28:19), celebrating the Eucharist (Lk 22;19-20), forgiving sins (Jn 20:20-23), celebrating Confirmation (Acts 8:14-17; 19:5-6), laying hands in Holy Orders (1 Tim 4:14), and anointing the sick (Mk 6:12-13; James 5:14-15)? (btw, the minister of Holy Matrimony is not the's each spouse)

Christ gave to these men a special ministry so that his ministry would continue. When they perform these sacred duties, it is really Christ performing them. In each of the sacraments, given the proper form and matter, the priest acts in persona Christi (in the person of Christ). Proper form is saying the correct words- "This is my body", for example. Proper matter is using the correct material or substance; part of the proper matter required in each Sacrament except Holy Matrimony is a male body for the priest. Since Christ was a male, it is necessary for the priest to be male to act sacramentally in the person of Christ.

Could we use potato chips to celebrate the Eucharist? Would it really be the Body of Christ? No. We have to use the same matter and form that Christ used when he performed the sacraments- water in baptism, unleavened bread in the Eucharist, etc. So, we have to use the same matter when it comes to the minister: a masculine body as Christ himself had a masculine body. Just as transubstantiation occurs in the bread and wine, so too does it occur in the priest. It truly is Christ in the person of the priest.

A couple of final points. Along the lines of what one blogger wrote, just as God has entrusted the task of giving natural birth to women only, so He has entrusted the task of giving supernatural birth to some men only. We have different roles, but we are all equally important to the Body of Christ. Ministerial priests are no better than common priests and vice versa; they are just different roles. God has created males and females to have different roles in His Church but we share the same dignity, made in His image and likeness.


  • It's Friday afternoon and was cruising the internet when I happened to bump into your blog.
    This is a hot topic for me.
    Your posting indicates that you will probably be a good sweet priest adhering to the principles taught by the Church.
    I can understand the Church needs to be unified but also know that change can come from only within. So I hope you are open to consider at least what is to follow.
    Please answer my questions honestly.
    Do all priests follow Godly principles? Do you consider all priests Godly men? Are all males smarter than all females? Are all males more pious than all females? Are all men physically stronger than all women? Would God have been wise to send us a daughter rather than a son considering the culture in which Jesus walked the earth? Was Judas a good apostle? Was Peter setting a good example to us all in denying Jesus 3 times? Does God really discriminate? Was Jesus afraid to challenge the teachings of the church?
    I have faith in God but only modest faith in the Church. I am not fed by some priests but am fed abundantly by others.
    I like what Mary told Gianna Sullivan in Emmitsburg. The gist of which concluded that God calls men to become priests but so does the devil. Another twist could be just let God do the calling.
    You might think if a female is to be called let her be a nun. Who have historically been treated as second class citizens in the Church. Really the true martyrs. Perhaps maybe do have the higher calling.
    I know some females will say the role of an all-male priesthood is perfectly fine with them. I only can imagine that those women have environments where fathers and husbands and brothers actively take on the leadership roles within the family. Lucky them.
    God has made me strong, I search for justice and the truth. The Church is not infallible. If there is to be an all male priesthood until judgement day, let them all step up to the plate to serve God in a Godly manner so that people do not have to question that perhaps there are others that could serve better.
    Best of luck to you at your ordination. May God be with you always.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:57 PM  

  • Awesome info there Greg...thanks.

    As for the anonymous poster, perhaps you will answer some of my questions to your questions:

    Are all females smarter than males?
    Are all females more pious than males?
    Are all women physically stronger than men?
    Are you saying that history and scripture should have unfolded differently?
    Are you saying that Jesus made a mistake in chosing Judas to be His apostle?
    Are you implying that Peter was proud of denying Jesus 3 times?

    ...some suggested reading - JPII's theology of the body.


    By Blogger Ty Roach, at 3:24 PM  

  • I come from a big Catholic family and this whole women-in-the-priesthood thing is often a topic of discussion with us. One of my sisters (an ex-nun) often laments that she was born 500 years too soon, as she is sure that in the future women will be allowed to be priests.
    I certainly do understand her feelings, and I think (sorry, Deacon Greg) that the "two different (common and ministerial)types of priesthood" arguement is weak. Seperate but equal is inherently unequal, remember?? At least to legally-minded Americans. The "all different parts of the same body" model from St Paul is better, but not perfect. Some parts of the body are obviously more crucial than others. I live perfectly well without my appendix.
    And the "women bring about natural life, priests bring about supernatural life, so therefore both are equal" arguement doesn't prove anything to me. Come on, be honest, isn't supernatural better? Just look at the word!
    BUT I don't think women should be priests, and this is why: I know myself and my failings.
    I find that receiving the Eucharist is truly being in Jesus' presence; it best moment of my life, and I am so fortunate to have a daily opportunity to receive Him. But I am not perfect, and so my fallen (i.e. greedy, worldly, self-centered, possibly vain, wants-to-be-the-boss) personality takes this great gift that God is giving me and says, "This is wonderful! I want even more of this! I wish I could be a priest so that I could participate in this sacrament even more intimately! My desire to be a priest is rooted in the wrong things, and so in humility I don't trust my own personal emotions on this issue. God's mind and perspective is infinitly bigger than mine, and He chose 12 men as His apostles. I just try be grateful for the gift that I have been given, the sacraments, and I repent for wanting more that what is already the perfectly complete Gift.
    And even if I was a better person, and I wished to be a priest purely because I wanted to give of myself constantly and be that model of Christ for the world, well, even that role is small compared to the glorious role that God has for all of us just a few years up the road, in heaven. I am very sure that whether we like the role we had on this earth or not, it will no longer matter to us AT ALL when we attain the complete freedom of the Sons and Daughters of God. And that state of peace and happiness will make whatever we experienced in this life seem like the mere blink of an eye.

    By Anonymous anonymous of St. Francis parish, at 2:47 PM  

  • For Ty,

    I'd say "no" to all your questions except for the one about history and scripture. But that is another issue I don't want to elaborate on at the moment.

    I think you may have missed my point. Some, regardless of gender, can serve better than others. My thoughts are Judas was not a good role model as a disciple of Jesus but necessary in fulfilling God's will, Peter was not a good role model in denying Jesus 3 times and neither was Thomas in doubting the resurrection. Other denominations have female ministers that serve quite well. I do give Deacon Greg credit because he obviously has learned Church doctrine quite well at the seminary and I am sure is well prepared for the priesthood.
    If the Church wants the issue whether or not to maintain an all-male priesthood to die out, another approach needs to be taken. I haven't thought it out but a few suggestions would be to (1) Accept a temporary reduction in the number of priests by weeding out priests that are not exemplary role models ( I never became a nun because of poor role models) (2) if the Church wants to maintain mediocre priests please don't refer to them as "alter Christus" or offer an explanation something like "ya we have priests that are big time sinners but that only proves that we're only human servants and not God".

    Have a nice day. I've got to split for lunch. :)

    PS. I don't have time right now to read JPII's theology of the body. I have some of his other books that I found quite dry. When and if God thinks I'm ready to read the theology of the body, I'm sure he will lead me to it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:15 AM  

  • If I may make a suggestion regarding JPII's Theology of the Body, if you don't have time to read it, I highly recommend Christopher West's "Naked Without Shame" - a 10 CD Set that covers the Theology of the Body.

    It is EXCELLENT. I've listened to the 1st five CDs (each a little over 1 hour long).

    Here's a link to find out more:

    God Bless.


    By Blogger Ty Roach, at 2:19 PM  

  • I agree with what anonymous said. The Church needs to change either by weeding out or confronting and changing their failures. Enough with the excuses.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:45 PM  

  • not only JPII's Theology of the Body but also read his Apostolic Letters:

    Mulieris Dignitaem -

    and Odenactio Sacertolis -

    By Blogger carl, at 1:58 PM  

  • In response to the first comment, the Church has made a ruling that the alleged apparitions to Gianna Sullivan in Emmitsburg, MD are not supernatural. Cardinal Ratzinger (now His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI) commended the commission in which Cardinal Keeler investigated this matter. Be advised that there are some people that still follow this group and will say that this ruling is in error. In all matters we must be loyal to Holy Mother Church.

    By Blogger SJ Grenchik, at 11:53 AM  

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