The debate based on Theology
Tradionalist Argument One. Only a man can represent Christ at the Eucharist.
“A sacrament is a sign . . . and the priest is a sign of Christ. Since it is not possible for the female sex to signify eminence of degree, for a woman is in the state of subjection, it follows that she cannot receive the sacrament of Order . . .” Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica Suppl. qu. 39 art. 1.
“The priest acts ‘in the person of Christ’. Since Christ was a man, only a male priest can signify Christ at the Eucharist.” Pope Paul VI in Inter Insigniores § 24-28!
1.1 The ancient theological history of the expression ‘acting in the person of Christ’ actually did NOT exclude women.
The real reason for the Fathers of the Church and medieval theologians to think women cannot act in the person of Christ lay in their biological views.
Following Aristotle, they attributed procreation to the father: the whole future child is carried in the male sperm, they thought; the mother is just like soil in which the seed grows up. They were convinced that women were not complete human beings and could, therefore, not represent Christ.
1.2 The quality signified by the priest is not Christ’s maleness, but his role as mediator.
This can and should be signified also by women priests:
(a) because women are equal in Christ;
(b) women too bear Christ’s image;
(c) women already act as ‘other Christs’ as ministers of baptism and marriage;
(d) women reflect better Christ’s feminine traits
(e) women too can represent Christ’s love which is the essence of his priesthood.
See also the defective theology of Thomas Aquinas in this matter.
Conclusion: women too can represent Christ at the Eucharist.
Traditionalist Argument Two. Christ was the ‘Bridegroom’. The priest must therefore be male.
In the symbolism of salvation Christ is the Bridegroom and the Church is his Bride. A man should therefore represent Christ in the priestly ministry.
Inter Insigniores § 29-31
“Revelation shows why the incarnation took place according to the male gender. For this reason, only a man can take the part of Christ, be a sign of his presence, in a word ‘represent’ him (that is, be an effective sign of his presence) in the essential acts of the covenant.” Commentary on Inter Insigniores§ 102
The priest’s acting in the name of the Church is of less importance. Rome’s texts in full!
2.1 The image of a nuptial mystery does not apply to the priestly ministry. Where allusions are made to it in the liturgy, the symbolism is ambivalent, since all Christians represent both the Groom and the Bride.
2.2 Moreover, at the Eucharist the priest acts not only “in the person of Christ”, but also “in the person of the Church”.
2.3 Read also:
- The Creation of Womanhood: A Hierarchical Construction by René van Eyden
- “Not Man enough to represent the Groom?!” by John Wijngaards.
- Women Bishops? Views in the Roman Catholic Church, Official and Otherwise by John Wijngaards,
- Christology , Introducing Asian Feminist Theology, by Kwok Pui-lan, Pilgrim, 2000, ch.6, pp79-97.
- Will women ever be leaders in the Roman Catholic Church?
Conclusion: the scriptural imagery of the Bridegroom and Bride have no relevance to the gender of the ordained priest.
Tradionalist Argument Three. Women’s exclusion from priestly service has nothing to do with ‘equal rights’.
Human rights, such as equal rights for women, do not apply in the context of the ministries.
Rome’s texts in full!
3.1 It is true: no individual has a right to be ordained.
But excluding a whole class of baptised persons from the priestly ministry constitutes a question of real discrimination, especially since there are no valid arguments from Scripture and Tradition.
3.2 The claim that Christ had to be born as a man is unheard of in Christian tradition!
According to ancient tradition, only what is assumed in the Incarnation, is redeemed. A man-only Incarnation would imply that women are not fully redeemed ! But women are re-born and thus redeemed as much as men are – in baptism.
Conclusion: The all-inclusiveness of redemption and baptism imply the all-inclusiveness of the sacramental priesthood.
Tradionalist Argument Four. Women who think they can be priests are simply deluded.
Women who believe to have a priestly vocation are not guided by the Spirit.
For only the Church controls who is called and who is not.
Rome’s texts in full!
The fact that other Christian Churches ordain women, as well as the fact that some Catholic women feel called to the priestly ministry are clear signs of the Holy Spirit which the Church may not ignore.
Conclusion: The theological reasons for excluding women are null and void.