Women Clergy in the Roman Catholic Church Term Paper

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J.W (1996) Reported that the Roman Catholics and Orthodox, continued to ban priestesses as they have for almost 2,000 years, the fate of many evangelical congregations continue to shift back and forth. "Scripture does not support the ordination of women, God created men and women [morally] equal but with different roles" (W, 1996).

The practical argument for opening the priesthood to women and to married men is that there are not enough priests. These steps would provide the church with a wider pool of candidates. However, Woodward (2002) stated that he thought that a married clergy, while possibly solving one problem, would create others in its place. Pastoring a congregation is stress-ridden work. The pay is low and the hours rough on spouses and children. There is no reason to believe that many married men -- or their wives -- would be attracted to the priestly ministry. Moreover, Catholics typically give less on Sunday to the church than Protestants. Are they willing to treble their donations to provide a living wage for families? In addition, how would the church handle divorced and remarried priests and bishops?

Woodward (2002) believed that ordaining women presented an even greater problems in the Catholic Church than having married priests. He asked the question of whether or not married women with children would be included. If not, once the novelty of female priests wore off, would many single women choose the low-status job of parish priest in lieu of high-status careers? Alternatively, would they all aim for the job of bishop? Woodward's main concern was that ordaining women would fatally feminize a religion that already appeals far more to women than to men. On any given Sunday, in Protestant as well as Catholic churches, there are always more women than men. More women than men study for the ministry in the major divinity schools. Most Christians do not get their formation in the faith from men but from women: Mom, the Sunday-school teacher, or the nun who prepares kids for their first communion. As he saw it, the last bastion of male presence in the church is the altar and the pulpit. In all of these issues, the question is what arrangement would best serve the mission of the church.

(Williams, 1996) documented that in document of Oct. 28, 1995, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith gave an affirmative answer to the question, "whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women belongs to the deposit of faith." In explaining its affirmative response, the congregation asserted that this teaching was infallibly set forth by the ordinary and universal magisterium of the church as a teaching "founded on the written Word of God" and "from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church."

One of the tasks of the theologian in the effort to understand the congregation's statement is to explore the "tradition of the church" to which the congregation refers. What did Aquinas teach about the ordination of women, and where do we find that teaching? It is well-known that he never finished the Summa Theologiae. When he stopped writing, he had not completed the section on the sacraments. For this reason the material on holy orders is found, not in the Summa itself, but in its Supplement, written by followers of Aquinas, who borrowed from his earlier writings. We can be confident that these followers knew the master's thought and therefore were able to write what Aquinas himself would have written, had he been able to complete the work. Hence, to simplify matters, reference is made to Aquinas as the author of the Supplement, even though it did not come directly from his pen (Williams, 1996).

Question 39 of the Supplement discusses impediments that might debar a person from being ordained. It consists of six articles, expressed as follows; 1) whether the female sex is an impediment to receiving orders; 2) whether boys and those who lack the use of reason can receive orders; 3) whether the state of slavery is an impediment to receiving orders; 4) whether a man should be debarred from orders on account of homicide; 5) whether those of illegitimate birth should be debarred from receiving orders; 6) whether lack of [bodily] members should be an impediment.

In all of these envisioned situations except one, the Supplement argues that if a person who fit one or other of these categories were ordained, the ordination would be valid but not licit. In other words, it should not be done; but if it is, the ordination would "take." The person would be a priest.

The one exception is the case of a person of the female sex. If a woman were ordained, the Supplement teaches clearly, her ordination would be invalid as well as illicit. The author argues that the male sex is required for both the lawfulness and the validity of the sacrament of orders. To clarify this point the Supplement draws an interesting parallel. "A healthy man," it asserts, "cannot receive extreme unction. For to receive extreme unction requires a sick person, in order to signify the need of healing. Accordingly," the text continues, "since it is not possible in the female sex to signify eminence of degree, for a woman is in the state of subjection, it follows that she cannot receive the sacrament of orders" [italics added]. The heart of this argument, has been the church's constant tradition, is the belief that women are in a "state of subjection" (Williams, 1996).

Statements expressing the subjection of women to men abound in the Summa Theologica. To take but one example: Commenting on the Genesis text that says woman was made to be a help to man, Aquinas makes clear that "she was not fitted to help man except in generation, because another man would have proved a more effective help in anything else"(Williams, 1996).

Reflecting on this presentation of St. Thomas as representative of tradition, one begins to realize that the fundamental argument of the tradition is ontological. That is, it is based on the nature of women. Bishop Austin Vaughan, auxiliary bishop of New York, when he said at the U.S. bishops' meeting in November 1992 that a woman could no more be a priest than he could give birth to a child, was closer to the tradition than are many of the arguments given today for the non-ordain-ability of women. By his very nature, a man cannot bear a child. Therefore, the bishop was saying that by her very nature a woman cannot be a priest. While one might find it difficult to warm to the argument he fashions, his analogy does indeed represent quite clearly the tradition that has been handed down to us.

Please note carefully: In the tradition, as represented by St. Thomas, what is at stake is not the maleness of Jesus (as is true of so many contemporary arguments), but maleness itself. Maleness itself, rather than the ability to represent the maleness of Jesus, is what the tradition presents as essential for ordination. That is why a male slave could be validly ordained, because, while it is true that he is in a state of subjection, it is a subjection that comes not from nature itself, but from circumstances. A woman, however, cannot be ordained because she is in a state of subjection by her very nature. Circumstances can change; nature cannot.

The magisterial documents asserting that the church has no authority to confer ordination on women nowhere state that this teaching is based on the fact that women are by nature in a state of subjection. Quite the contrary. These documents are clearly most anxious to proclaim the equal dignity and worth of women and men. This seems to be curiously at odds with the tradition in the teachings of St. Thomas, as outlined above (Williams, 1996).

In fact, it appears that in the documents there is a movement from saying that there is something about the nature of women that bars them from ordination to the affirmation that there is something about the nature of orders that prevents the ordination of women. The reasoning may be expressed in this way. The ordained person represents Christ. However, Christ was male. Therefore, the only eligible candidates for orders are those who are male. Moreover, the ordained priest represents Christ, who is spouse, in union with his bride the church. The bridal symbolism requires that the priest be a male, for a woman cannot represent one who is husband.

This way of arriving at the belief that women cannot be ordained centers around the very nature of orders and the symbolism the sacrament of orders involves. Put in simplest terms, ordination demands that the one ordained represent the maleness of Jesus. However, a woman cannot do this. Hence, there is something about the nature of orders that prevents even the possibility of a woman being ordained.

There is also the…[continue]

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