If one was to take a step back and look at our society as a
whole one would see that women's rights have changed
dramatically over the last century. Women are no longer
expected to get married, have children, and stay at home to
take care of their family. Women have left the home and
entered the work force. There have been many laws passed to prevent the discrimination of women and to make sure that
they are treated equally.
Certainly, one can say that there is still a struggle
between the sexes over the organization of modern society.
Society has indeed embraced a gender war of sorts through
the ages which has culminated in a outcome that declares the male the victor. One example of this is that women are not
allowed to be ordained as priests in the Catholic Church.
As a child, I attended Catholic schools until high
school. I was instructed by mostly nuns. I can remember
that when the priest came into the room we would have to
stand up as a sign of respect towards our faith. As I got
older, I began to think that nuns are part of the religious
life but we don't have to treat them with this same respect. During my catholic education, I was taught that God created
us in his image and likeness. If this is true, and as
Christians we believe that Christ is the fullest
manifestation of God, how can they say that only men image
God? Are women incapable of revealing God?
A hundred years ago, women had little standing in the
Catholic Church, like in society in general. Women were not allowed to: receive communion during their monthly periods
and after giving birth to a child they needed to be purified before re-entering a church building. Women were strictly
forbidden to touch sacred items such as the chalice, the
paten, or the alter linen. They certainly could not
distribute holy communion. While in church, women need to
have their heads veiled at all times. Women were also
barred from entering the sanctuary except for cleaning
purposes, reading Sacred Scripture from the pulpit,
preaching, singing in a church choir, being alter servers,
becoming full members of confraternities and organizations
of the laity, and most importantly women were barred from
receiving Holy Orders.
In our time today with the new awareness of human
rights and the need to secure equal opportunities to all the attitude towards women has begun to change in the Catholic
Church. Women may now be lectors, alter servers, cantors,
preachers, leaders of prayer services, ministers of baptism
and of holy communion. But the ban on ordination remains in place.
In the first centuries after Christ, women held
responsible ministries in the Church, including the role of
deacon. Historical evidence shows that in the eastern parts of the Catholic Church women served as deacons until the
ninth century.(Ruether p.121) Since they became deacons
through full sacramental ordination, identical to that of
male deacons, women did receive Holy Orders which implies
they can also receive the priesthood.
The Cannon Law 1024 states that only a baptized man can
validly receive sacred ordination.(Sweeney p.114) In 1977
the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote the "Declaration on the Question of Admission of Women to
the Ministerial Priesthood" stating several reasons why the
church does not admit women to priestly ordination.(Swidler
p.37) Some of these justifications included:
1. The priest, when he pronounces the words of
consecration, acts in the person of Christ, taking the
role of Christ, to the point of being his very image.
2. When Christ's role in the Eucharist is to be
expressed sacramentally; there would not be this
natural resemblance if his minister were a women - for
Christ was a man and remains a man.(Swidler p.37)
3. Sacramental signs require a natural resemblance to
what they signify.
Basically a male priest images Christ, but a female...
Bibliography: of delinquency." Social Forces (1996).
Greeley, A. (1984). Angry Catholic Women. Illinois: The
Thomas More Press.
Ruether, R. (1985). Women-Church, Theology and Practice.
New York: Harper & Row Publishers.
Sweeney, T. (1992). A Church Divided. NewYork:
Swidler, L. (1977). Women Priest; A Catholic Commentary on
the Vatican Declaration
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