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August 30th, 2010
10:58 AM ET

Catholic Church defends male-only priesthood

Barring women from being Catholic priests is not the result of sexism 2,000 years ago, it's because women cannot fulfill a basic function of the priesthood, "standing in the place of Jesus," a leading British Catholic thinker argued Monday.

"This teaching is not at all a judgment on women's abilities or rights. It says something about the specific role of the priest in Catholic understanding - which is to represent Jesus, to stand in his place," argued Father Stephen Wang in a statement sent out by the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales.

It's rare for the Catholic Church to defend its fundamental positions in this way.

Wang was responding to the announcement that campaigners for female priests will plaster posters on London buses next month during the pope's visit to London.

The ads read "Pope Benedict - Ordain Women Now!" and will be on 15 double-decker buses running in some of London's main tourist areas, including Parliament and Oxford Street, said Pat Brown, a spokeswoman for Catholic Women's Ordination (CWO).

The group spent "in excess of 10,000 pounds" ($15,500) on the ads and is hoping donations will help make up at least part of that cost, Brown told CNN Friday.

Wang rejected both the tone and the content of the ads, saying that while an atheist ad campaign last year was "hesitant and ended with gentle exhortations," this one ends "with a shout."

And it's based on a fundamental misunderstanding, said Wang, the dean of studies at London's main seminary for Catholic priests, Allen Hall.

Pope John Paul II declared in 1994 that the church has no authority to ordain women, a position confirmed a year later by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI. At the time, Ratzinger was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the arbiter of Catholic Church dogma.

Wang called the late pope's position "surprising," saying John Paul had meant he did not have the power to change "something that has been such a fundamental part of Christian identity from the beginning."

The bottom line is that Jesus chose 12 men - and no women - to be his apostles, Wang argues.

The choice was "deliberate and significant, not just for that first period of history, but for every age," Wang says.

Men and women are equal in Christianity, he continues, but "this does not mean that our sexual identity as men and women is interchangeable. Gender is not just an accident."

He compared the role of a priest to that of an actor playing King Arthur or British soccer star Wayne Rooney in a movie.

"No one would be surprised if I said I wanted a male actor to play the lead," he said, admitting the analogy was "weak."

But, he said, "it shouldn't surprise us if we expect a man to stand 'in the person of Christ' as a priest, to represent Jesus in his humanity - a humanity that is not sexually neutral."

The Catholic women's group says that in addition to its bus campaign, it plans to hold a vigil September 15, the day before the pope's visit, outside Westminster Cathedral.

The group also plans to demonstrate at Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury - the head of the Church of England - during his meeting with the pope.

And members plan to hold a banner along the route of the popemobile, the secure vehicle which carries the pope, in London.

Pope Benedict plans to visit England and Scotland September 16-19. It will be the first state visit to the United Kingdom by a pope, according to the British Foreign Office. John Paul's trip in 1982 was officially a pastoral visit.

CNN's Richard Allen Greene and Melissa Gray contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Anglican • Catholic Church • Leaders • Pope Benedict XVI • United Kingdom

soundoff (1,334 Responses)
  1. frank thomas

    Since the Jesus person and all his followers were arabs, perhaps all so-called christians should only be arrabic,slince man has created all gods, we need a women god os is the goddess of amazons a women. At least as people become more educated religions become less relevant and the kings clothes become transparent.

    August 30, 2010 at 8:43 pm |
  2. boydanb203

    The problem of the world is organized religion, all our wars and conflits are in the name of the man made god, He must be mad about speaking for Him. Organized religion will kill all of us and it will take us back to the dark age.

    August 30, 2010 at 8:42 pm |
  3. Chuck

    So why does the Church allow women to give Holy Communion and say "body of Christ", isn't this representing Christ?? Kind of a double standard!!!!!!!

    Were there really only 12 appostles? Were they really all men??? I don't believe anyone knows the true answers...

    August 30, 2010 at 8:37 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Chuck,
      Eucharistic Ministers are presenting the 'Body of Christ' to the Communicant at which time the Communicant says, 'Amen' which mean 'Yes, I believe it us the Body of Christ'.....which was consecrated by the Priest before handing it to the Eucharistic Minister to distribute.

      August 31, 2010 at 12:42 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Chuck,
      Sorry for my errors, it is getting late.....'Amen' means, 'Yes', I believe it is the Body of Christ.'

      August 31, 2010 at 12:45 am |
  4. LCSWquilter

    No woman with any sense of self-esteem would remain in this hypocritical church. I quit several years back when Ratzinger strong-armed his way to the papacy This church is too far gone in its rigid ideology to be salvaged for the modern world. Only after it collapses can it rise again to embody the spirit of peace & love that Jesus intended.

    August 30, 2010 at 8:36 pm |
  5. Pat

    If women were not supposed to be priests, why was the Virgin Mary present in the Upper Room at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended and anointed those present?

    The Pope has not discussed that historical point.

    August 30, 2010 at 8:35 pm |
    • SandyD

      We are all baptised into the Holy Spirit when we are dipped into the water but that doesn't automatically make us all priests!

      August 30, 2010 at 9:36 pm |
  6. Danny Lee Shaw II

    NO ONE can stand in PLACE of Jesus. Anyone can aim to emulate his kindness and compassion. Quit all gender inferiority discrimination!

    August 30, 2010 at 8:33 pm |
  7. Dave

    They couldn't do any worse than the pedophile male priests currently running lose in the church.

    August 30, 2010 at 8:27 pm |
  8. May

    ybs, Albert, Petel2 .... all of you, may God have Mercy on your souls.
    Tomight, by the Grace of God, may you all come to know him.

    August 30, 2010 at 8:22 pm |
    • Kevin

      Is that a death threat? Nice show of compassion, May! Here's a little test. Think about every political and social stance the Christian right stands for, and everything they say, and ask yourself, "Is that what Jesus would do?" I think I come closer to living a Jesus-approved life than the EvanJellyHeads. Homer Simpson certainly does. Remember, Jesus helped the prostitutes and criminals find their goodness, and challenged the religious leaders of the day. That's why they killed him, because he threatened the power structure by preaching that everyone is good. Modern Christianity is pretty far removed from Jesus. Think about it, and set yourself free from religion. Stop being afraid, and just do good in the world without god.

      August 30, 2010 at 8:31 pm |
    • Patty

      May, the "Warning" can't come soon enough. (wink)....

      August 30, 2010 at 8:34 pm |
    • HistoryBuff a.k.a Patriarchic

      Give it up dude. you can belive in it all you want just dont share your need to force it upon others.
      read a book other than that bible. Its brain washing you into believing we care what you think.

      August 30, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
    • ybs

      Who gives a fak about your fakking god? Yours might as well suck mine, or bend over! 🙂

      September 11, 2010 at 7:25 am |
  9. Benjamin

    The Catholic Church - founded by Jesus of Nazareth - takes Jesus' actions very seriously (unlike many other churches). Jesus spent the night in prayer before he chose the 12 Apostles. This was a very serious decision, one not made with social customs taken into account (Jesus was willing to die for his teachings).

    The Catholic Church upholds the dignity of women, but does not confuse the different duties that come from a differentiation of sex. If you don't like the Church's teaching, study and pray about it. Most people who reject this teaching normally reject the authority of the Pope and many of the Church's teachings on morals.

    August 30, 2010 at 8:20 pm |
  10. Kevin

    I grew up in the RC church, but this is the first time I ever heard this new "standing in for Jesus" nonsense. Why would god need a gender, anyway? What does he think about when he play s with himself? I have come to understand that all organized religions are either fairy-tales or power-grabs, but none of them have anything to do with divinity. Help people. Help nature. Avoid god.

    August 30, 2010 at 8:17 pm |
    • ybs

      Right! Let sheep take it up theirs! 🙂

      August 30, 2010 at 8:20 pm |
    • May

      Kevin,
      May God have Mercy on your soul.

      August 30, 2010 at 8:20 pm |
    • ybs

      They enjoy it. Why tell them? 🙂

      August 30, 2010 at 8:20 pm |
    • Kevin

      ...and may the Flying Spaghetti Monster bless you with Extra Holy Parmeasn!

      August 30, 2010 at 8:23 pm |
  11. May

    May God richly Bless every single person who thought enough to question and post here today. In Jesus name. Amen

    August 30, 2010 at 8:16 pm |
    • Patty

      Amen.

      August 30, 2010 at 8:32 pm |
    • ybs

      your god, jesus, religion are one big pile of dung! I'm glad you ate it! 🙂

      August 30, 2010 at 9:27 pm |
    • HistoryBuff a.k.a Patriarchic

      Keep the CRAZY vodoo in the name of Jeshuah to yourself
      this is a great example of your religions un-dieing need to force its self upon you no matter what you want or know is right.
      all I have to say is read a real book that tells history not a story book that is up for interpretation by corupt popes that bought their position or were corrupt representative of your god in the church (gregory VII) (urban II) (becket) Heck their was two popes that duked it out for control I'm guessing that was gods plan ?

      August 30, 2010 at 10:10 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Patty and May: Thank you for your blessings. It's not often that you see the religious being thankful for those who question. As a matter of fact, I don't truly feel like you are being sincere, but I thank you anyway.

      August 31, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
  12. Kent Allard

    The reasoning expressed in this article is perhaps the most dishonest load of misogynist BS I have ever heard in my life. Using the logic that Jesus chose only men is so filled with self serving logical fallacies as to insult our intelligence on a fundamental level. Jesus chose only men? He chose men that were married and spoke Aramaic, were Jewish, lived in what we today call Israel, and so on. So all priests must be married, speak Aramaic, must be Jewish, must be from Israel, etc.. You say that only sex is important when considering who can be a priest? Exactly.

    August 30, 2010 at 8:15 pm |
  13. Patty

    For the sake of his sorriful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world...

    August 30, 2010 at 8:14 pm |
    • May

      Yes.
      For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us, and on the whole world.....

      August 30, 2010 at 8:19 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Yes,
      For the sake of his sorriful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world...

      August 31, 2010 at 12:34 am |
    • Nina

      Yes
      For the sake of his giant member, have mercy on us and give us some more...

      August 31, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
  14. SimpleReally

    A Catholic thinker believes that Priests are "standing in the place of Jesus,". How can this be?

    Isn't this a massive misrepresentation of a priests role?

    Jesus said Matthew 24:5 "For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many.

    Whilst this priest isn't saying this exactly, isn't he getting mighty close with the line – "it shouldn't surprise us if we expect a man to stand 'in the person of Christ'.....?

    Does this mean that clergy who have committed all the horrendous crimes were "standing in the person of Christ" at the time?

    Why do women stay Catholic if this man represents Catholic belief?

    August 30, 2010 at 8:14 pm |
    • ybs

      "Why do women stay Catholic if this man represents Catholic belief?"

      Because sheep are sheep! 95% of us work for others but most act like we run the business!

      August 30, 2010 at 9:31 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      'Jesus said Matthew 24:5 "For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many'.

      Priests do not say they are Christ.

      August 31, 2010 at 12:31 am |
    • SimpleReally

      CatholicMom,

      And I didn't say that they did...

      Your man allegedly said "it shouldn't surprise us if we expect a man to stand 'in the person of Christ' as a priest, to represent Jesus in his humanity

      Why would anyone say this?

      This article also alleges he said

      Barring women from being Catholic priests is not the result of sexism 2,000 years ago, it's because women cannot fulfill a basic function of the priesthood, "standing in the place of Jesus," a leading British Catholic thinker argued Monday.

      How can any human stand in the place of Jesus?

      August 31, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
  15. SandyD

    I also do not believe in female pastors or priests. The book of 1 Timothy 2:12 " And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence." These were Paul's Spirit directed instructions to the church. If you believe one line, you believe them all. You can't pick and choose.

    August 30, 2010 at 8:13 pm |
    • Kevin

      So by logical extension, a woman should never be a manager in the workplace, or indeed work in any job where they might be required to say anything to a man at all. Wow. Good luck with that god stuff – doesn't sound very practical to me.

      August 30, 2010 at 8:21 pm |
    • SimpleReally

      Sandy – Those were Paul's words and Paul is ONLY a man.

      He also said 1 Timothy 2:11-12 "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent."

      In quoting the Bible here aren't you teaching and haven't you just broken the "silence rule"?

      I am pleased to hear your views and find Paul's teachings on women objectionable... but you stated "You can't pick and choose"!

      August 30, 2010 at 8:27 pm |
    • Kevin

      Sandy can also be a man's name, JSYK.

      August 30, 2010 at 8:37 pm |
    • SandyD

      Kevin, how is it logical to jump from what the bible says about behavior in church to behavior in the work place. I am to suppose that you work in a church? Paul is speaking directly about the heirarchy and establishing rules for the church.

      SimplyReal, you must not be a reader because the bible was not written by men, but by the Holy Spirit. Men were the inspired writers only.

      I am a female, thanks though Kevin. Don't mind saying that I am. It's just sad to see commentary from people who don't know the book they are commenting on. Need to move on to Earl, lots of warm air moving across the earth there too!

      August 30, 2010 at 9:32 pm |
    • SimpleReally

      Sandy you said "SimplyReal, you must not be a reader because the bible was not written by men, but by the Holy Spirit. Men were the inspired writers only"

      Just in this line alone you contradict yourself. If it was inspired by the Holy Spirit and written by men it IS written by men..lol

      Did you just fail Bible 101?

      1 Timothy 4:1-4 includes Verse 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.

      Verse 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,

      Isn't marriage created by God and doesn't Paul contradict himself here?

      Oh that's right it is the Holy Spirit getting it wrong. Why do you keep attempting to teach when Paul forbids it?...lol

      August 30, 2010 at 11:03 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      SandyD,
      The Bible was written by men inspired by the Holy Spirit. Men were used to write in their own words but by the Holy Spirit the Words had Truth breathed into them so they became the Word of God.

      August 31, 2010 at 12:26 am |
    • Kate

      @CatholicMom

      Then why is the Vatican having to rewrite it, again? And why are they the ones again who get to decide which of the "new" material will be included?

      Just sayin'

      August 31, 2010 at 12:30 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Kate,
      Your question puzzles me.....the Catholic Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, compiled the Bible almost 400 years after Jesus Christ's resurrection. If they need to publish more copies they do not change the wording. Others have done so since the 1500's however.

      August 31, 2010 at 10:11 am |
    • Kate

      @CatholicMom (the real one)

      It might have been buried news, since it was first reported at the same time as 9/11, but it seemed pretty unequivocal.

      Gianluigi Boschi, a Dominican priest and Vatican biblical scholar, told yesterday's La Stampa, a Turin daily newspaper, that an international commission of scholars had been given the green light to update the Bible by culling material from the [Dead Sea] scrolls.

      It's worth noting that the Dead Sea Scrolls that the proposed revisions will be based on are under the control of the Vatican.

      August 31, 2010 at 11:04 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Kate,
      I have heard nothing of it.

      August 31, 2010 at 12:41 pm |
  16. Smash

    The Catholic church is not alone in this matter. The Eastern Orthodox church rich in upholding the historic word of the bible also does not allow female priest. You can't change the bible and it's writings to suit modern day changes in values.

    August 30, 2010 at 8:12 pm |
    • ybs

      Right! If you are dumb enough to be sheep, you obey! 🙂

      Kinda like the military!

      August 30, 2010 at 8:18 pm |
    • ybs

      Is today's bible the original one? Are there differences between the old & new testaments?

      What a dimwit!

      August 30, 2010 at 9:13 pm |
  17. inforodeo

    I am not catholic, but I respect their choice to not bend over to public opinion. If a church is indeed following God (that creator which is the same yesterday, today and forever), there should be no need for change. Churches are not made and designed by man, and those who insist they be are not following God, but instead "heaping unto themselves teachers" who will follow the congregations whim, not God's.
    Men and women are indeed equal, and men and women are indeed different. There are different roles for both in the church as there are in life, and no amount of outcry, protest or legal muscle can change those inherent differences or their appropriate roles in nature. No righteous man believes a woman to be less than him, but he also cannot deny that women are biologically equipped to carry children and men are more likely to go bald.
    God made us different for whatever His reasons are, and it is foolish to demand these gender roles be interchangeable.

    August 30, 2010 at 8:11 pm |
    • ybs

      "Churches are not made and designed by man"

      What planet are you from?

      August 30, 2010 at 9:08 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      ybs,
      All ecclesial communities were started by men/women. Only the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus. Other types of religions were started by men also.

      August 31, 2010 at 12:20 am |
  18. FatBecky

    Geez. They can be as gay as they want to be and molest as many kids as they want to, but no way can a woman declare the blood of Jesus just like a sinful man?

    August 30, 2010 at 8:10 pm |
  19. Mick

    To the women of the CWO: The Bible tells us that a woman should remain silent in church; if she has any questions, she should ask her husband when they get home. You are trying to fight an ancient tradition that remains clueless about gender equality. They sit there in their dark, stuffy world and refuse to let in the light of day. You have every right to fight them tooth and nail, but why bother? Better solution: Realize that this festering institution can't possibly be inspired by a higher power, and reject it! IF YOUR RELIGION DOESN'T WORK FOR YOU, FIRE IT!

    August 30, 2010 at 8:08 pm |
  20. GMAN7111

    the Priesthood is nothing but NAMBLA for false prophets and masquerading pedophiles...

    August 30, 2010 at 8:08 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.