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. April44

    This is why I am a deist.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:41 pm |
    • ybs

      May you bless these little man-made gods! 🙂

      August 30, 2010 at 9:49 pm |
  2. HistoryBuff a.k.a Patriarchic

    There is no god !
    its a male controled organization. History show us that women had a hard time being treated as equals so its no wonder this organization lead by males would keep women out of the prestige's jobs such as priest or pope ect. Christanity grew up in the male controlled Roman Empire along side much older cults and religions such as the pagen cult, jewdiasm and of course the forced worship of the Roman emporor as a living god know as the Roman Emperial Cult. many Christians were happy to worship the Emporor as they knew he provided for them unlike their other god.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:41 pm |
    • ybs

      Minor correction.... It's a "white" male controlled organization...

      August 30, 2010 at 10:00 pm |
    • Curt

      Actually, the truth is that it is a God controlled organization. Christianity was different from the culture of that time because they did treat women as equals. In fact, when Jesus spoke to the woman at the well it was considered quite radical at that time. Christianity was different because it honored and respected women. But it recognized that women also had a different role than men did.

      August 30, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
  3. jon

    You poor faithless beings that believe oblivion is your next step in life. Must be horrible having no faith in anything and no hope. I hope some of you see that all these "smart" answers aren't helping anyone and are made for you to feel better in your lonely dead world. May you find the light and the blessing of this world and see it through positive eyes.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:36 pm |
    • ybs

      Poor soul! Sheep are sheep! Beehheeee!!!! 🙂

      August 30, 2010 at 9:56 pm |
    • Terse


      You poor, gullible sucker, taken for everything. I hope you find out the truth before it's too late. Our worlds are not dead or cheerless, for we have each other. It is you who are walking into the black pit of heII. We're all trying to help you, but you just shake your empty head and scorn us from out of your empty heart.
      Be glad that your religion is suckering you down into the blackness of being cheated of all that you are and all that you'll ever have.
      That's what you want, isn't it? And we just want to help. Fine. Be that way.

      August 30, 2010 at 9:59 pm |
    • Curt

      You may be on this earth for up to maybe a hundred years if things go well. After that you will be someplace else for billions and billions of years. It might be worth considering how you want to spend that time. Living just for the hundred years on earth is a very poor decision.

      August 30, 2010 at 11:36 pm |
  4. Tom

    Many years ago I took a hike from the catholic church because I no longer believed in the way it was being run. I concluded that was the only way that church would ever change and still feel the same way.
    My advice to those remaining in that church is to do the same. If you want it to change, take a hike. When the last person leaves the building and turns out the light, that is when it might change.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:36 pm |
    • ybs

      Right! All religions are the subjugation of self AND others. 95% of us are sheep! It'll take longer than our lifetime but the CC will go the way of the ancient Egypt religions!

      August 30, 2010 at 9:57 pm |
  5. Terik Ororke

    this is not about child abuse –ordination of women. (Anyway, more teachers –thousands more have abused children than priests.) Everyone has all that they need to follow Christ for salvation.. Not everyone can nor should receive all seven of the church's sacraments.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
    • ybs

      Sounds more like excrement than sacraments!

      August 30, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
    • Curt


      I notice that you have left a lot of comments here and none of them have anything intelligent to say.

      August 30, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
  6. Alberto

    Hmmm, follow the whims of heretical minds or follow the very Church founded by Christ. No contest.

    God alone. Forever.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:33 pm |
    • ybs

      Right! Sheep are sheep. Beeehheeeeeee....

      August 30, 2010 at 9:36 pm |
  7. Steve Wehba

    The argument that women CANNOT be priests because Jesus did not have female apostles is the weakest argument I have ever heard. (A) It is debatable whether or not there were female apostles (e.g. Mary Magdalene). (B) Jesus also did not select Africans, Europeans, Italians, Irish, etc. Should they not be priests. In fact, Jesus only selected Jews! (C) Originally women could not vote in the US. Should we interpret that in the same way as Jesus not selecting female apostles? I could go on, but why bother. The Catholic Church is fundamental flawed because it is governed by a group of people who do not reflect its members.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:30 pm |
    • ybs

      Right! All religions are the subjugation of self AND others! No more; no less. Without it, religions can't exist. 🙂

      As the Vatican folks become more exposed, they are shaking their booties! It'll take longer than our lifetime but the CC will go the way of the ancient Egypt religions! 🙂

      August 30, 2010 at 9:35 pm |
  8. Alberto

    There are many people posting here who think they know better than Christ Jesus. Jesus chose twelve men to be his apostles for a reason. Nothing sexist about that. The Catholic Church, the only Church founded by God, cannot be changed by the whims of heretical minds. Some of the arguments posted here are just so ridiculous and not even worth commenting. If I had a choice, cater to the wishes of the masses or follow the ways of Christ...NO CONTEST.

    For those who jeer at Christianity, laughter stops at judgment. I dare you to laugh then. Case closed.

    God alone. Forever.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:24 pm |
  9. Recovering Catholic

    This is why I quit the Catholic Church and refer to myself as a recovering Catholic.....what a bunch of hogwash....women can't stand in the place of Jesus? When was the last time anyone was asked to stand in the place of Jesus anyway? Please....

    August 30, 2010 at 9:22 pm |
    • ybs

      Right! To sum up the sentiments here... all religions are one big pile of dung surrounded by sheep that pontificate about its virtue or lack thereof! Most are still trying to justify having eaten it! CC is no exception!

      August 30, 2010 at 9:25 pm |
  10. Lalalala

    The thing is... We really have to read the Bible to see what it says. Just like anything we do. The Bible has all the answers we need for any problem we have. But first we have to know that the Bible is true. It is either true or not and we have to either follow it all the way or... not. It is our choice.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:19 pm |
    • ybs

      It's not atheists' choice to be forced into saying "so help me god" "under one god" crap! Just like beating off, keep your god/religion to yourself! 🙂

      Religious subjugation has no bounds.

      August 30, 2010 at 9:23 pm |
  11. SRG

    Jesus did not treat women with inferiority. He let them be part of His journey, however, what is KEY is the fact that he picked 12 men! Why did He pick 12 men, and not 6 men and 6 women? That was His call and it is our job to respect that, the institution that He left for us here on Earth.

    I truly believe that this article is a misrepresentation of what is the main reason why only men should be priest. There are no quotes here from St. Paul, who also explained clearly in his Letters why only men should be Priest. In the Catholic Church, we are all called to live our lives filled with God's love, each with our respective roles as male and female.

    -Written by a Catholic Woman who loves her Church

    August 30, 2010 at 9:18 pm |
  12. Not buying it

    I just find it to be a subtle way to say the church doesn't think women are as good as men. I find it difficult to embrace religion because it's so male-centered. A MALE god created the universe and then sent a MALE child to save MANkind. It bothers me, them saying that our leaders have to be male because that's the way a higher power intended it. I think it's more because that's what's convenient for the church's male leadership.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:16 pm |
    • ybs

      Right! All religions are the subjugation of self AND others! It's the subjugation of others that is the problem. You must be sheep or real dumb not to see that!

      And you can't ask rraappiissttss whether it were a rraappee!

      August 30, 2010 at 9:20 pm |
  13. Sean

    So important for people to realize that you DON"T vote for the church, if you have problem with it, then don't get involved. No one forces you to go to the church.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:05 pm |
    • streetcar01

      I wonder how the non-believers during the inquisition would respond to your statement.

      August 30, 2010 at 9:07 pm |
    • ybs

      So, when will the church & its sheep stop subjugating non-believers with "under one god," "in god we trust," or "so help me god" crap?

      Religious subjugation has no bounds!

      August 30, 2010 at 9:17 pm |
  14. Jose

    I call BS on the church policy regarding women being unable to stand in the role of Jesus and be ordained as priests. I also call BS on Ratzinger. Of course he can change the policy, he's the man in charge. What's amazing is that someday there will be a woman pope and they"ll look back on all of this and wonder what it was like living in the "dark ages" of the 21st century.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:00 pm |
    • CatholicMom


      Truth will never change not matter what century.

      August 31, 2010 at 12:48 am |
  15. JT

    I always find it amusing, bazaar and disturbing when I read arguments between believers in mythology as if it were true. It's like having an argument about the details of if Humpty Dumpty fell of the wall or did he not?

    August 30, 2010 at 9:00 pm |
    • streetcar01

      My apologies for hitting report abuse when I meant reply (and my fingers aren't fat :-). Anyway, you hit the nail on the head.

      August 30, 2010 at 9:05 pm |
  16. Ronno

    The Catholic Church is determined to roll its followers (and the rest of us) back to the Middle Ages. Here's another one for ya: let's be anti-abortion (hmm, understandable, whether you agree or not) AND AT THE SAME TIME be anti-contraceptive (hmm, INSANELY ILLOGICAL!). Forget teenage pregnancy, AIDS, overpopulation, and the stated goal of wanting to "save babies." We're gonna deny humankind THE most effective way of "saving babies" (and stopping the spread of disease) yet devised. Sing it: "Every sperm is sacred!" – Monty Python – from The Meaning Of Life

    August 30, 2010 at 8:58 pm |
    • Me

      I'm Catholic and also don't agree with the contraception thing. Yes. I don't. I said it. The funny part of their "natural family planning" argument via the rhythm method is that it goes in the face of the rule of "doing it" ONLY for pro-creation. If God wants it to happen it will. BUT with the rhythm method you AVOID pregnancy by doing it or not during certain times. So that's AGAINST the rule in the first place!!!! duh.
      Me, I'm Pro Condom and think that they should be air dropped all over the planet for FREE.

      August 31, 2010 at 1:55 pm |
  17. Theresa

    Same old sorry claptrap I've been hearing since I was a kid. Didn't buy it then, don't buy it now.

    August 30, 2010 at 8:57 pm |
  18. streetcar01

    So only a man can be a priest because 12 men were chosen at the beginning huh? Well, I bet there were no blue-eyed, blond headed men in that group of 12. Does that mean that all existing blond headed, blue eyed men must now step down from the priesthood? Don't they see the holes in every aspect of every argument they make?

    August 30, 2010 at 8:56 pm |
  19. bobby

    "God", religion is so dumb

    August 30, 2010 at 8:54 pm |
    • ybs

      sheep are too! 🙂

      August 30, 2010 at 9:15 pm |
  20. Ed

    Hipocritical misogynists one and all, from top to bottom, running around the Vatican in their skirts. They conveniently sidelined the female "Apostle of the Apostles", one of several well-off women who supported Jesus' ministry, and made her into a prostitute...Mary Magdalene/Mary of Bethany. Very "Christian" behavior indeed, but then so is protecting pedophiles. And BTW, the "Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith" is their new name for an old Catholic institution: The Inquisition.

    August 30, 2010 at 8:48 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.