The theological support for the exclusively male presbyterate, however, is rooted in the continuous, unbroken tradition of the Church, east and west, which in turn is founded on the example of Christ in establishing the apostolic priesthood. Christ, who was so radical in breaking traditional Jewish customs, especially where women were concerned, yet chose only men for his apostles. Andit was not as if priestesses were unknown in the Roman World. Can we really say that he would stop short here and be bound by cultural conventions if he really thought that the dignity of women was implicated?
As John Paul II put it in Mulieris Dignitatem, "In calling only men as his Apostles, Christ acted in a completely free and sovereign manner. In doing so, he exercised the same freedom with which, in all his behavior, he emphasized the dignity and the vocation of women, without conforming to the prevailing customs and to the traditions sanctioned by the legislation of the time." This point was reaffirmed in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which treated the question as settled and part of the deposit of the faith.
The mistake, I think is in understanding the Church in purely material terms: and in material institutions, we are accustomed to the complete equality of men and women now. It must be said, in fairness, that many priests and bishops may be to blame to some extent by behaving in ways that make the priesthood look like a power institution rather than one of service - and ontological re-ordering.
2) Then there is the practical argument you seem to be making: We are short of priests. The Church is dying.
In this regard, however, I would affirm the point made by others: traditional, orthodox orders and dioceses which hold firm to doctrine and traditional charisms and practices are not having problems attracting vocations (male or female). The traditionalist orders FSSP and ICKSP literally have waiting lists because their seminaries are filled to capacity. In St. Louis, Kenrick Glennon seminary has doubled its seminarians (to well over 100) since Archbishop Burke was installed in 2005.
And it must be observed as well that mainline Protestant Churches (Episcopalians, Presbyterians, some Lutherans, some Methodists, etc.) which have ordained women are all losing membership, and often have vocational shortages. Clearly having ordained women has not solved their problems.
But I do agree that a significant number of American Catholics are open to women's ordination. If so, however, I would suggest that this is a measure of the degree to which they think as Americans, rather than as Catholics.
To paraphrase C.S. Lewis from above, what is striking about U.S. Catholic parishes today is that - priest notwithstanding - they are dominated by women. Too few men are involved. To make the Church even more feminine seems an unlikely way to bring them back in.
What a thoughtful and well-reasoned response. Thank you.
There are people who argue that there were, in fact, female apostles. I won’t make that argument, but I do think it’s interesting to consider how skillfully Jesus presented his radicalism. How would a group of female apostles have been received by the Jewish people 2000 years ago? Can you imagine?
I asked a question earlier, but no one responded. Why do Catholics ignore the Corinthians verse prescribing that women keep silent in the churches? Why have we taken such liberties with that, and do you believe it’s right that we do?
Ordaining women may not solve the priest shortage, you’re right. It’s quite possible nothing will.
It’s interesting that you seem to tie the decline of the Church membership to the increased involvement of women. I think it’s more likely women have been the glue holding the Church together for quite some time. I know far more women who encourage (drag?) their husbands and children to Mass every week than men. And if you really believe reducing the influence of women in the church will attract more men to the church, I ask you this: what kind of men, realistically, do you think you’d be attracting? And would you want to be part of a Church full of those men? I can think of at least one prominent religion where men enjoy all the power, and the results are often devastating.