Women’s ordination has raised its head at the Synod on Synodality. It’s time to stop, says Sr. Helena Burns. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Stop Synod talk about women’s ordination

  • October 26, 2023

Have you been hearing news from the ongoing Synod on Synodality in Rome about proposals such as women deacons and ordaining women to the priesthood? As a former radical feminist who believed that women could and should be ordained to the priesthood, allow me to respond.

Let’s deal with the ordination of women first. No. Why ever not? The bare bones answer is: “Because Jesus and the Apostles didn’t do it.” The “deposit” of the Catholic faith was sealed with the death of the last Apostle. No innovations to the core tenets laid out by Christ and the Twelve may be introduced, especially regarding the sacraments.

The Catholic faith does not change. The Catholic faith is not something that “evolves,” “progresses,” etc. It is a gift, Divine Revelation, to be faithfully defended and passed from generation to generation in its entirety. But what about the changing times? Exactly. They’re constantly changing. God and His perfect action in our world are eternal.

The arguments for the ordination of women have all been answered many times over, but each pro-women’s ordination spokesperson often believes (as I did) they are the first person to discover air-tight, “gotcha” reasonings. Here are a few prominent ones:

1) “Jesus didn’t ordain women because He was restrained by the culture of His age.” Answer: Jesus was not restrained by His times. He is God. Had He ordained women, it would have been a boon for the Apostles in evangelizing pagan nations that already had priestesses.

2) “Men and women have ‘equal’ baptism, therefore nothing impeded the ordination of women.” Answer: Baptism is a gateway to the other sacraments, not an automatic “right” to any other sacrament. There is matter and form for each sacrament, and conditions must be met, particular to each sacrament, for one to be eligible. Without proper matter and form and other necessary conditions, the sacrament is invalid and doesn’t “take.” The matter for ordination is a baptized male. There have been attempted ordinations of women — which, by the way, incur automatic excommunication — as in 2005 on a boat in the St. Lawrence Seaway.

3) “Women need to be ordained to fully participate in the Church.” Answer: For women or men to fully participate in the Church, baptism is more than sufficient because the goal of the Christian life is to be configured with and transformed into Christ, in short: holiness. The Christian life is not an earthly striving for recognition, titles and positions. Women have their own power, authority, influence and mission in the Church and the world. There is no need to hanker after their male instantiation.

Have the Synod attendees forgotten that Pope John Paul II issued a definitive Apostolic Letter on the matter of women’s ordination in 1994 (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis)? In it, he reaffirms 2,000 years of Magisterial teaching and Sacred Tradition, using the strongest “ex cathedra”-type language: “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

The document makes clear this teaching isn’t simply disciplinary (e.g., not eating meat on Friday — a penance that can be altered), but doctrinal.

What is the deeper meaning behind this teaching and practice? The male (priest) becomes a sacrificial victim for the female (Church). Jesus-Bridegroom and Church-Mary-Bride are mirrored in men and women fulfilling their organic roles. On Earth as it is in Heaven. A “role” is a privilege, a responsibility and a glory, not a trap or glass ceiling. The nature of masculine love is sacrifice. The nature of feminine love is receptivity.

Pope Francis, who is a great foe of “clericalism” (putting the ordained on a pedestal, while everyone else is below, as if of lesser dignity), once said: “We don’t need to clericalize women, we need to appreciate women’s gifts.”

Please stop trying to ordain women. It’s embarrassing. It’s an ontological impossibility and settled dogma. Well, what about the diaconate? The Bible says there were women deacons. That, ma chérie, is the subject for another column.

(Sr. Burns, fsp, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She holds a Masters in Media Literacy Education and studied screenwriting at UCLA. Hellburns.com Twitter: @srhelenaburns.)

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