The Feminist Case Against Womenpriests

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To some in the Church, “Father knows best” is seen as fundamental to Catholicism. I’m not referring to our biological fathers, but to our religious fathers who lead us in the Sacraments every day. This belief endows these men of God absolute authority in everything, especially anything related to the Church. In this mentality, we are not allowed to question and we are not allowed to engage in dialogue. This idea is bought hook-line-and-sinker by those who argue that women should be allowed into the priesthood.

The view that priests and bishops have autocratic power over all things Catholic is, at best, an incomplete look at the dealings of the Church. While the Church is not a democracy, it is not a dictatorship either. The order of the Church was made by God and God isn’t a heart-less ruler, He is Love itself.

When I was in an Ecclesiology class years ago, a classmate of mine made an apt analogy. “The Church,” he said, “is like a pyramid.” If you are looking at it from the ground, it appears to be a strict hierarchy with the many laity at the bottom, the few leaders at the top, and the pope at the very top. But if you look at it from above, from God’s view, it’s a square and all appear to be equal. We’re told in Matthew 5:48 that we are to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. As He does not discriminate, neither should we. We should look at the Church as a square, too.

The answer to clericalism isn’t more clerics. We need to challenge and support our Church to do better, to become truly the Body of Christ. This means more involvement by the laity. To use yet another analogy for the Church, the Church is supposed to be a huge family. Families are built on trust, love, and communication. When a problem comes up, somebody eventually has to have the last word (usually mom or dad). If that leader is to be just, however, they must listen to everyone else and respond appropriately.

As another blogger recently noted: “Are there abusive husbands, bad fathers, tyrannical priests and overbearing prelates? Of course. But the solution is not to get rid of patriarchy, but to get rid of bad patriarachs. Neither does ordaining women to the priesthood rid the world of overbearing and tyrannical priests and prelates.”

The priesthood isn’t about power. Jesus told the apostles to serve as he does. As another blogger recently said: “The priesthood, then, is a radical rejection of the world of power with its earning and owing. The priesthood is not an institution of power, but of weakness, for it is neither a creation of man, nor an achievement, nor a reward, nor anything that can be said to come from some power of man — it is received.” Women are not missing out on power by not being priests. They are only missing out on one of a myriad of ways to serve.

Bethanie Ryan

Bethanie Ryan

Bethanie Ryan is a housewife, mother and writer. She recently graduated with a MA in Pastoral Studies from Aquinas Institute of Theology. Originally from Missouri, she currently calls upstate New York home. She writes for several websites including her own, True Dignity of Women.

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18 Responses

  1. um, yeah…they’re “only” missing out in the one way to serve that makes decisions about a few trivial things such as dogma, disciplines, morality, etc. gee. how much more “feminist” can you get?

    1. Priests do not (or at least should not) make these decisions in a vacuum.

      Let’s take for example Humanae Vitae and the Church’s teachings on contraceptives. A group, including lay women, was called together to discuss the issue. While the Pope did ultimately side with the minority opinion (which was the ancient teaching of the Church), he did read to and respond to the majority opinion.

      Dogma such as the Immaculate Conception wasn’t just made up one day by a bunch of celibate men, but was a long-held view of the Church, clergy and laity, and was finally spelled out by the Pope.

      I would call for a greater women’s presence at the discussion of these issues. The presence of women has been slowly (too slowly) getting better as Pope Francis recently invited a record number of women theologians to the International Theological Commission.

      1. How can you say women’s contributions are important when the hierarchy — all male — can simply ignore them, as happened in the only example you provide? Women in your church are always going to be begin males for attention and the males have the option of listening or ignoring women. Women don’t have the option of ignoring men.

      2. In the example I provide, the pope didn’t ignore the majority opinion. He prudently decided to uphold the Church’s long standing teaching in the area of contraception and responded to their critique. I highly recommend reading Humanae Vitae.

        Women shouldn’t need to beg for anything and priests shouldn’t have the option of ignoring them.

      3. You’re not answering my argument. The ONLY way women influence your church is by asking men to agree with us. The makes have the option of accepting or rejecting our arguments and then we (at least female Catholics) have to obey the dictates of the males. No matter how much she herself knows that she needs contraception, no female Catholic can use it because a man said so. There is no time ever that make Cathlicos have to ask women for permission and wait for them women to approve.

  2. So how do you even begin to suggest that keeping patriarchy – a system in which makes have absolutely power by virtue of having a penis and which entirely excludes women for power or agency — is FEMINISTS? You propose nothing more than that we solve the abuses of tyranny by getting better tyrants. You still accept that women are inferior at least in our reasoning capacity and that we should be excluded from social roles that have public power and authority. That isn’t going to to do any good at all. If we want women to have a decent life, then women have to have a precisely equal share of authority with men in every single realm of life. Without that, then women are still worthless chattel.

    1. Where do I say that women are inferior in their reasoning capacity? I say no such thing in the article.

      It shuts down dialogue to call priests who listen to women “better tyrants.” Who would want to listen to your point of view if you call them a tyrant? Priests are people, too.

      You are demonstrating precisely what I argue about in the article, the view that the priesthood is all about raw power and authority. It isn’t (or at least it shouldn’t be). Our Lord Himself said that whoever wants to lead must serve (Matthew 20:26-28). Women are not worthless chattel and we’re certainly not worthless chattel simply for being unable to become priests.

      1. You approve of patriarchy, a system which imposes a permanent inferior status on women. That is not and can never be feminist.

      2. The priesthood isn’t a patriarchy, however. To call it a patriarchy is once again to equate the priesthood with raw, unadulterated power. That was never what the priesthood was meant to be.

      3. @Bethanie Ryan

        Patriarchy = someone exercising raw, unadulterated power? Where are you getting your definitions from?

      4. So how do you define patriarchy? The word means “rule by fathers” and in practice means a world where women are mindless, voiceless chattel.

      5. So how do you define patriarchy? The word means “rule by fathers”…

        This is how I define it also.

        …and in practice means a world where women are mindless, voiceless chattel.


        With this comment, however, you’ve closed the door on any conversation that might be had between us on the topic. Once again, good day, ma’am.

  3. We go to a woman priest mass once a month. I didn’t think I would like it but I was wrong. You should go at least once.

    1. Thank you for the suggestion, but it’s not a matter of personal preference. It’s a matter of church teaching, the Church has said it cannot ordain women.

      Now, all of that said, while I couldn’t take communion at such a service, the religion nerd in me would like to go to one sometime just to see it.

  4. God is a patriarch, the priesthood is a patriarchy, and His natural design for human society and the family, is patriarchy. Therefore we can immediately come to the conclusion that patriarchy is fundamentally good.

    As a Catholic, and also a simple human being defending natural law, it then becomes necessary to promote, respect, embrace and love this patriarchal design. Any lack of realization, respect, and promotion of this is therefore is a fundamental and serious problem that is quite destructive to the family and society.

    For example the virtue and design of family obedience requires obedience to the husband and father, under pain of sin. If this is forgotten the family does not
    and cannot function fully as it is meant to. And it is an act of virtue, this obedience, and so a good, which sanctifies the father, the wife, and the children, so not simply a negative. The father exercises virtue in his authority, and the wife and the children gain their holiness by the virtue of obedience.

    It is natural society and government reflect the family.

    Why not ordain women? Answer the good of patriarchy.

    1. the error that is preventing communication is the idea that men and women were created by God for the same purpose(s). that is not true.
      also, it is not true that men and women were gifted with equal attributes and qualities.
      what is true, however, is that mankind is only complete when both the female and the male are represented.

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