home
RSS
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. ozzie

    So if priests have to be male because they are psuedo Jesuses and since priests like having carnal knowledge of young boys that mean Jesus is a homo pedophile – so why are Catholics so opposed to gay marriage ?

    September 2, 2010 at 6:12 pm |
  2. sadie

    Yes, men have done SUCH a marvelous job of running the Catholic church! Why change now? Aburd!

    September 2, 2010 at 3:05 pm |
  3. Stuart McCullough

    God bless Fr Wang.

    September 2, 2010 at 11:59 am |
  4. Believenotmen

    I am anxuiosly awaiting the real CatholicMom's (RealOne)answer to Peter F

    Catholic Mom,

    So are you denouncing all other branches of Christianity as being unfit for God? We are a diverse community. The Lord made us diverse. There are aspects of many different denominations that reflect characteristics of God himself. You mentioned something along the lines of 'because Jesus was hated back then, His church is the one that is most hated today.' Correct me if I am mistranslating your thought. But it is also worth noting that Jesus went TO the people of the world. He humbled himself by being born into a world of sin and death, and then meeting, talking to and even TOUCHING prost-tutes, thieves, Samaritans. Today, the church is trying to meet people where they are... I am an evangelical. And I don't consider myself conforming to the ways of the world as not to be hated, but making myself a part of this world – which demonstrates how Jesus Christ and his Church are applicable and important for today's world. The traditions of the past are not what is important here, it is being the hands and feet of Christ where the work needs to be done.

    I also noticed not one Catholic responded to this:
    BrazenOne

    Who are you people praying to, when your praying to dead saints? Purgatory does not exist, so that lets out "prayers" for then to, as in praying them into Heaven Sin is Sin..no mortal and venials..too late for that! The bible says:

    Death is a Sleep
    Job 14:12 The dead “shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep” until “the heavens be no more.”

    Scroll back for more verses regarding the dead know nothing. Interesting!
    Stay tuned...

    September 2, 2010 at 7:30 am |
    • CatholicMom

      My answer will come later today hopefully but this morning I have errands to run....our new oven in the Church kitchen is installed and my friends and I will be testing it out soon....bread and jellies are our specialties.....

      September 2, 2010 at 9:40 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Believenotmen,

      Purgatory was given this name by Pope Innocent IV (1243-1254]……

      …. In the Gospel, the Truth declares that whoever speaks blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this world or in the world to come (see Matthew 12:32). By this it is to be understood that certain faults are pardoned in this life, and certain others in the life to come, and the Apostle says that “the fire will assay the quality of everyone’s work,” and “if his work burns he will lose his regard, but himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (I Cor. 3:13, 15)…..

      ….. [ Matthew 12:32] “And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” This age obviously refers to our time on earth now. The age to come refers to a time after death. It cannot refer to hell because hell is an eternal state and no sins are forgiven there. It cannot refer to heaven, because when we enter heaven we will already be cleansed of all sin.

      There is an implied temporal, third state after death where sins may be forgiven. In the “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus teaches that those who do not live according to the New Law in this life, even by being unduly angry, will be liable to judgment and imprisonment in the next. But in saying this, Jesus also implies that this punishment is not necessarily eternal: “Truly I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny” (Mt. 5:21-26).

      Both St. Peter and St. Paul write about a cleansing fire which tests a man and his works (1 Cor. 3:10-16; 1 Pet. 1:7). In 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, the gold refers to righteous works which will be purified and remain while the straw (sin and sin’s consequences) will be burned away. “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:15). This test man will undergo cannot be hell since it also states that the man who builds on the foundation of Christ will be saved. It cannot be heaven since there is no suffering in heaven (Rev. 21:4). St. Paul teaches us that “God is a consuming fire” and that through Him we are purified. As noted in the Catechism, the Catholic Church teaches that those who have not been completely purged of sin and its consequences here on earth can be purged of sin and its consequences after death.

      The Second Council of Lyons (1274), the Council of Vienna (1311-1312), the Council of Florence (1438-1445) and the Council of Trent (1545-1563) affirm this definition of doctrine.

      The tradition of praying for the dead is not practiced solely by Catholics. Jews offered such prayers since before Christ. As recorded in 2 Mac. 12:45, “It was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” They still offer prayers for the dead for one year after their death and on the anniversaries of their death. This prayer is known as the “kaddish.” The early Christians, including those living at the time of St. Paul, already had a well developed tradition of praying for the dead.

      The suffering and purification we go through while we are alive are meritorious. The pain and suffering we go through in purgatory are not. While alive, if we cooperate with God’s plan for us and “offer up” the pain we experience, we merit grace not only for ourselves but for the Church, both living and suffering in purgatory. After death, our suffering in purgatory can only be applied to ourselves. It would behoove us to follow the example of the saints and offer up our prayers and sacrifices to ease the pain and suffering of those who must go through the sanctifying fires of purgatory. Most important, as the Church teaches and Scripture affirms, God created us for Himself. He desires to share heaven’s glory with us. In His will, our goal must be God.

      The communion of saints is the intimate union that exists among all the disciples of Christ. This communion is known as the Mystical Body of Christ: the Family of God consisting of the faithful on earth (the Church Militant or pilgrim Church), the holy souls in purgatory undergoing spiritual cleansing (the Church Suffering), and the saints in heaven (the Church Triumphant). This union of believers joins us in Christ, our source of grace and life, and calls us to love and pray for one another as members of His body. Therefore, we can ask for the prayers of the saints in heaven, and we can also pray for people on earth and those in purgatory.

      The doctrine of the communion of saints was taught by the apostles, both in the Scriptures and the Tradition they handed down in words and practice. It is explicitly contained in the Apostles’ Creed. The Church reaffirmed this teaching at the Second Council of Nicea (787) and further addressed it at the Councils of Florence (1438-45), Trent (1545-63), and Vatican II (1962-65).

      In John 15:1-5, Jesus tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches. As branches are connected to a vine, participating in a single life, we are connected to Jesus and to one another in His Mystical Body. Saint Paul speaks many times about the importance of this unity in one body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:4-16). As members of the same family, we are able to pray for one another and to ask others—including the saints in heaven—to pray for us. Nothing, not even death, can break that union between Christ and His body and the members with one another (Rom. 8:35-39). Everyone who is “in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17) participates in His life not only on earth, but even more fully in the glory of heaven.

      So why do you think death has a hold on you and somehow you are severed from the Body of Christ at your death? Does not Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection have any meaning for you? If you can ask your family here on earth to pray for you, to mediate for you, why do you think your saintly members of your family cannot do the same? They have not been severed from the Body of Christ….they are closer to Jesus Christ than we are! They are more alive than we are! Jesus Christ is still our mediator to God our Father, but we can have many mediators to Jesus Christ.

      There are various degrees of sin. 1John 5:16.

      September 2, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
  5. Peter F

    Catholic Mom,

    So are you denouncing all other branches of Christianity as being unfit for God? We are a diverse community. The Lord made us diverse. There are aspects of many different denominations that reflect characteristics of God himself. You mentioned something along the lines of 'because Jesus was hated back then, His church is the one that is most hated today.' Correct me if I am mistranslating your thought. But it is also worth noting that Jesus went TO the people of the world. He humbled himself by being born into a world of sin and death, and then meeting, talking to and even TOUCHING prost-tutes, thieves, Samaritans. Today, the church is trying to meet people where they are... I am an evangelical. And I don't consider myself conforming to the ways of the world as not to be hated, but making myself a part of this world – which demonstrates how Jesus Christ and his Church are applicable and important for today's world. The traditions of the past are not what is important here, it is being the hands and feet of Christ where the work needs to be done.

    September 2, 2010 at 12:29 am |
    • Peter F

      Sorry, meant as a reply to Mary Indy and Catholic Mom's discussion.

      September 2, 2010 at 12:30 am |
    • CatholicMom

      I just came across your post. It is late; I will try to answer tomorrow.

      September 2, 2010 at 1:07 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Peter F,
      Please don’t try to put words in my mouth…. ‘unfit’ for God?

      Jesus Christ founded His Church, the Catholic Church, and then there were heresies and some people left. They do that yet today. They go to man-founded ecclesial communities or start new ones of their own. Whether they are fit or unfit for God doesn’t seem like the appropriate question…perhaps a better question would be….is there any Truth found in these man-founded communities?

      I believe that there is, however not to the fullest. I know that Baptism and Matrimony are Sacraments which are considered valid in some of them. Since I am not a member of any of these communities I do not know what else of Truth they may embody…I hope there is more….

      Jesus Christ is meeting people where they are but is telling them very specific things, telling them that where they are is NOT where they should be….drop everything and follow Me, pick up your Cross and follow Me for I have a very specific path for you to follow. Yes, He chose you, but you have to choose Him back.

      The Traditions of the Church which Jesus Christ passed to the Apostles is utterly important today just as they were on the days the Apostles received them. The Church grew from this Sacred Tradition without the NT for hundreds of years…When the Bible was put together, Sacred Tradition wasn’t thrown out the window but was verified by the Bible.

      The Church will not conform to the world. God said He founded His “Church,” not “churches” (Mt. 16:18-19) on Peter the “Rock,” to whom He gave special powers as the earthly head of His restored Davidic house. The Bible refers to the Church as Christ’s Bride. And Christ, as a faithful Groom, is the Husband of only one Bride or Church, for whom He gave His life (Eph. 5:21-33).

      St. Paul affirms elsewhere that Christ’s Church has “one faith” and “one baptism” (Eph. 4:5, emphases added), providing further biblical evidence that Our Lord founded one clearly recognizable Church, not many with conflicting doctrines. Jesus did not leave His people vulnerable to the doctrinal whims of competing leaders. Rather, He built the Church on the solid foundation of the Apostles (Eph. 2:19-20). He gave the Church His Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, to enable her to be "the pillar and bulwark of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15).

      Despite the cultural winds that have blown through the ages, the faithful have always had a visible, easily identifiable magisterial "rock" on which they could safely stand in all seasons. The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living, teaching office of the Church alone. As Jesus said, "He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me" (Luke. 10:16).

      Catholics assent to the Church's teachings out of faith in God, who has invested the Magisterium, the servant of His Word, with His authority. What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason, no, we believe "because of the authority of God himself who reveals them to His Catholic Church, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. . ."

      Thanks for patiently waiting for my reply…

      September 2, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
  6. Matt

    Really, the fact that anyone takes the Catholic church seriously is a testament only to human credulity.

    September 1, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
  7. jinx

    Some of the same arguments were used to promote racist laws.

    September 1, 2010 at 9:22 pm |
  8. CatholicMom

    If Jesus Christ had been the daughter of God perhaps all priests throughout the Bible would have been women. Then, would men be marching and claiming they want to be women priests?

    September 1, 2010 at 10:33 am |
  9. Diane

    Your point seems very contradictory to me. What is a church but a gathering of people to worship? Surely, you are not referring to the building the people are worshipping in. All people are sinners and they all make mistakes. Since the church is made up of these people, the church is not going to be perfect. Here is another thing I'm sure you don't want to hear: The Pope is not perfect either! He is not Jesus Christ, so he cannot be perfect. He is a sinner, just like you and me. Believing everything he says as the Word of God would make him a false prophet. Yet, I'm sure you follow every word he says blindly just because he has the title of Pope. Sure, the Catholic Church needs a leader and the Pope is that appointed leader, but you have to realize he is going to make mistakes too.

    September 1, 2010 at 8:46 am |
  10. Diane

    I like how the moderator will let someone use CatholicMom's name to write offensive comments, but somehow my post about the church not being perfect and you shouldn't follow the Pope blindly is somehow not allowed.....

    August 31, 2010 at 8:22 pm |
    • Kate

      @Diane

      No moderator involved, it's a keyword trigger list that gets some posts automatically shunted into moderation. That includes if a bad word is included inside a larger word, like const-itution (- needed to get past that filter as demo)

      Best way is to rewrite and try again 🙁

      August 31, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
    • Diane

      Wow, that's ridiculous.

      September 1, 2010 at 8:48 am |
    • Kate

      @Diane

      Kind of ... their reliance on automated filters is probably partly because human-moderating comments sections like this would pretty much require a full-time moderator, and probably partly because of the way certain laws regarding defamation, libel, and related legal issues are worded in various countries.

      Having a dedicated moderator creates a liability loophole, as many sites with such moderators have discovered to their detriment.

      Which isn't to say that CNN couldn't implement a better commenting system that uses automated filtering. But the blogs on CNN aren't all that old yet, the people that make the decisions probably don't see the problem or realize there are better solutions that still give them automated moderation.

      But what would I know, I only build blog sites for people for a living 😛

      September 1, 2010 at 10:29 am |
    • Diane

      LOL! Apparently, it was because I used the word ti-tle when referring to the Pope's position.

      September 1, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
  11. CatholicMom

    NL,
    I understand what you are saying….but perhaps the proper perspective is that ‘in the eyes of the world’ it looks like the Catholic Church is the ‘sinner’ where in truth it is still each individual sinner who is causing this ‘appearance’ of stain on the Church. You see, as defiled as these priests are who have committed these sins, they are still ordained priests who can still perform their priestly duties. When we receive Holy Communion [or any Sacrament] from the hands of a priest who may be one of these offenders, the Sacrament is still valid.
    In other words, if I committed adultery [and it was a complete secret] I would still be married to my husband and our marriage would still be valid. Likewise, if the whole world knew of my sin against my husband, our marriage would still be valid.

    My description of the Catholic Church is not a notion of purity and holiness that I dreamed up….it is how Jesus Christ designed His Church. People do not want to see His Church the way He sees it, and so many feel the pain and sorrow of sin and say ‘it is the Catholic Church’….

    This is what Jesus said would happen…. woe to the one who causes another to sin…..what is this then? If a priest causes another to blaspheme or commit a sin due to the one he committed….Jesus says woe to that person….. He did NOT say He would destroy the Church because of the sinners who are members; Priests, Bishops, and the Pope along with all lay persons are members of Jesus Christ’s Church; no, He said He will protect His Church forever.

    I do not doubt His Word.

    August 31, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
  12. CatholicMom

    NL,
    I understand what you are saying….but perhaps the proper perspective is that ‘in the eyes of the world’ it looks like the Catholic Church is the ‘sinner’ where in truth it is still each individual sinner who is causing this ‘appearance’ of stain on the Church. You see, as defiled as these priests are who have committed these sins, they are still ordained priests who can still perform their priestly duties. When we receive Holy Communion [or any Sacrament] from the hands of a priest who may be one of these offenders, the Sacrament is still valid.

    In other words, if I committed adultery [and it was a complete secret] I would still be married to my husband and our marriage would still be valid. Likewise, if the whole world knew of my sin against my husband, our marriage would still be valid.

    My description of the Catholic Church is not a notion of purity and holiness that I dreamed up….it is how Jesus Christ designed His Church. People do not want to see His Church the way He sees it, and so many feel the pain and sorrow of sin and say ‘it is the Catholic Church’….

    This is what Jesus said would happen…. woe to the one who causes another to sin…..what is this then? If a priest causes another to blaspheme or commit a sin due to the one he committed….Jesus says woe to that person….. He did NOT say He would destroy the Church because of the sinners who are members; Priests, Bishops, and the Pope along with all lay persons are members of Jesus Christ’s Church; no, He said He will protect His Church forever.

    I do not doubt His Word.

    August 31, 2010 at 5:52 pm |
  13. Believenotmen

    http://www.whatsaiththescripture.com/Fellowship/An.Earnest.Appeal.html

    Go read about yourself Catholic Church

    August 31, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Believenotmen,
      The person who put up that web site up does not know what Tradition is…..it is what Jesus Christ taught the Apostles and told them to hold on to it. It is not man-made tradition that Jesus is talking about. Jesus Christ said He would SEND the Paraclete [not Paraklete] to the Apostles after His Ascension. He did not say that to all of us. We receive the Holy Spirit by Baptism and that is why Jesus Christ commanded the Apostles to go out to all nations and Baptize everyone.

      There are too many errors in these writings; very messy writing and twisting of Truth going on in it…….

      September 6, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
  14. Adele

    Your most welcomed CatholicMom. Thanks for the nice compliment, and yes we are blessed to be Grandparents.
    Stick to your guns, and don't let the baddies here get the best of you.

    August 31, 2010 at 4:05 pm |
  15. St. Michael

    Wow, such incredible ignorance, even from many claiming to be educated (former) Catholics. Pick up a book people. The doctrine of "in persona Cristi" comes from the Church Fathers and is even taught and practiced by Lutherans. Stop quoting Gnostic Gospels as though they are Christian. Mary Magdalene was NOT an apostle. Grnostics are neo-platonists not Christians. No scholar ignors the holy women of the Bible, their ability to be lay disciples, or to spread the Gospel. The sacraficial priesthood is something quite different. I believe St. Paul lays it out quite clearly in 1/2 Timothy and Hebrews.

    As for you other ignorant children, show me one sacred source that mentions limbo or the condoning of pedophilia... If you hate the Church, fine. Go tell someone who cares. We're used to martyrdom from within and without. You hypocrits preach tolerance as your doctrine, yet you spit more venom than a pit full of vipers. We never claimed it as a virtue within our Church. Some things should not be tolerated and ignorance is just the first.

    August 31, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
    • Diane

      Here is something for you to read about the translation of Timothy about women not being allowed to teach:

      http://www.churchofgoddfw.com/monthly/women-teach_printer.htm

      September 1, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
  16. Frogist

    Umm so what gender is the Holy Spirit?

    August 31, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
    • Diane

      Good question!

      September 1, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
  17. ttwp

    CatholicMom,
    It is evident that God's knowledge, truth and love is in your heart–otherwise the antichrists on this blog would not attack you with such venom. God bless you.

    August 31, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
  18. ttwp

    CatholicMom,
    It is evident that God's knowledge and truth is in your heart otherwise the antichrists on this blog would not attack you with such venom. God Bless...

    August 31, 2010 at 3:00 pm |
    • ttwp

      CatholicMom,

      The antichrists that have hijacked your post will pay for their sins. Do not let them touch you. Resist them as your resist Satan's long hard touch.

      August 31, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
  19. CatholicMom

    I am a priest dressed in a homemakers outfit. Please stop mocking me by using my handle. Satan is your master, stop listening to him. You need to get exorcised as soon as possible. Only the Catholic Church is able to perform an exorcism, do not be fooled by the false religions of this evil world.
    Oh touch me Satan, touch me.
    That was not my typing.

    August 31, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
  20. CatholicMom

    I am a priest dresses in a homemakers outfit. Please stop mocking me by using my handle. Satan is your master, stop listening to him. You need to get exorcised as soon as possible. Only the Catholic Church is able to perform an exorcism, do not be fooled by the false religions of this evil world.
    Oh touch me Satan, touch me.
    That was not my typing.

    August 31, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29
Advertisement
About this blog

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.