Female Priest: What is the Big Deal?

Female Catholic Priest: They exist?

I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Catholic female priest. I was attending an organ donation religious panel. To my dismay, traditional Catholicism failed to make an appearance. Rather the panel had Judaism, Islam, and Protestantism represented. As I sat with my co-workers, this lady wearing a Roman Collar comes up to our table and sits down. After an exchange of small talk, she declares that she is a Catholic priest.

At this moment, my eyes got wide. She passes her business card, which read, “member of the independent Catholic Church.”

Now I started laughing on the inside about the oxymoron that is independent Catholic. You cannot be independently universal. I sighed and put the incident behind me until this year.

Opening the Door to Women

I taught 7th-grade religious education. When we got to the chapter on Holy Orders, I thought it would be good to interview a priest.

So I asked the youth to come up with questions for the priest. Inevitably the question of why priest can’t be female came up.

The priest said, “well, Jesus selected all males to be his apostles”. So far the answer is correct, but then it took a turn for the worse. “Yet we know that women are equally a part of the body of Christ. We know that some of Jesus’ disciples were women. Thus maybe women will play a larger role in the future.”

Shocked, I push back a little. “Father, I thought priest was male due to being in persona Christi and the fact that the Eucharist is Jesus’ male body.”

He replied, “that is very interesting, I have never heard of that argument.”

It honestly makes me wonder what is taught in seminary.

Argument Against Female Priest

Apostles versus Disciples

All of Jesus’ followers were disciples. Some of his followers were apostles. So- what’s the difference? This is explained in the gospel of Mark

“He appointed twelve [whom he also named apostles] that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons: [he appointed the twelve:] Simon, whom he named Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus; Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

So apostles have authority from Christ and have permission to preach. This is all very good.

Yet some might say, Jesus was just conforming to societal expectations. Jesus chose males because in his time males had authority. We live in a different culture, thus we do not need to follow Jesus’ example.

This ignores how Jesus elevated women.

Jesus Restores Female Dignity

In the gospels, Jesus radically treated women. Women were not objects to Jesus. This can be seen in Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan women at the well. First a little context. Jesus enters the town of Samaria at noon. It’s hot at that time. Nobody in their right mind would go and fetch water at this time.

Yet Jesus sees a figure approach the well. It’s a woman. Instead of ignoring her as the culture would dictate, Jesus chooses to engage with her. He listened to her and respected her. The Samaritan woman became a witness for Christ. Speaking of witnesses, women were the first witness to the resurrection. Mary Magdalene was one of the first people to see the risen Christ. Back in Christ’s time, women were not legal witnesses. If Jesus cared about cultural expectations, his first appearances would have been to men.

Mary as New Eve

Everyone knows that Catholics honor Mary, Jesus’ mother. Most protestants argue that the legitimizing of the Catholic church led to political corruption. The practice of honoring Mary resulted from this corruption.

There’s just one problem; the dates don’t add up. Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity 300 AD. Honoring Mary occurred much earlier.

St. Irenaeus of Lyon (d.202) compared Mary to New Eve.

Just as Eve, wife of Adam, yet still a virgin, became by her disobedience the cause of death for herself and the whole human race, so Mary, too, espoused yet a Virgin, became by her obedience the cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race… And so it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by Mary’s obedience. For what the virgin Eve bound fast by her refusal to believe, this the Virgin Mary unbound by her belief. (4)

This quote stresses Mary’s role as the cause of our salvation through her obedience.

Hence, Mary is honored as helping to bring about our salvation. Christ is the new Adam and Mary the new Eve.

What does this have to do with a female priest?

Well If the early Christians thought Mary should be respected, what better way to do that then make her an apostle. Yet that’s not what happened. Rather the eleven apostles drew lots and nominated St. Matthias. Thus even though Mary was the most likely choice for an apostle, they still went with a male follower.

By making Mary the new Eve, the Church demonstrates its respect for women. Yet, the early church including the eleven apostles maintained an all-male priesthood. To understand why we must understand the relationship between the Eucharist and the priesthood.

The Function of Priesthood

Old Testament

The Old Testament describes the story between God and his chosen people, the Israelites. The Old Testament describes the Israelites as a holy nation and a kingdom of priest. Yet God also set aside the tribe of Levi for liturgical worship. The Old Testament structure becomes fulfilled by Christ.

New Testament

By our baptism, we are made priest, prophets and kings. Yet just like in the Old Testament, there is a secondary priesthood. The Levi was responsible for procuring sacrifices for the Israelites. This function is fulfilled by Christ. Jesus Christ takes on death and defeats it. Because he is God, his saving act has infinite merit.

Yet the question remains, how are the effects of Christ’s saving act applied to us? Jesus’ sacrifice is applied to us throughout time through the institution of the Eucharist. The same body that was shed on the cross is made available to us through the transformation of bread and wine. Christ’s one sacrifice presents itself in the Eucharist. Similarly, Christ is the great high priest that works through the ministerial priesthood. (CCC 1544).

The priest, when performing his priestly duties, acts in the person of Christ. When a priest is acting in the person of Christ, the priest must symbolize what is happening. Thus, when the priest says the words, “this is my body,” the priest must have a body similar to Christ. In other words, the priest must have a male body.

Female Priest: Ultimately a Lie

All sacraments must symbolize what they represent. Water cleans objects. The sacrament of baptism cleanses us of sin. Thus, water is required to represent the cleansing nature of baptism.

In the sacrament of Holy orders, a person pledges to be Christ for the people. Christ was male. Thus, the person must also be male. Having an office exclusively for males may seem strange for today’s society. Yet acknowledging the biological differences between male and female should not diminish the dignity due to women. A woman cannot claim to share in Christ’s physical body for to do so would be a lie.

Christian Rock Music: a Defense

“Can’t you see you’re not making Christianity better, you’re just making rock n’ roll worse.” King of the Hill S08E02

My History With Rock Music

I have always liked rock music.

In elementary school, when my peers were listening to Spice Girls and Brittny Spears, I was listening to Barenaked Ladies and Lenny Kravitz.

I even sang Fly Away for elementary school talent show; hides face in embarrassment.

This love for rock music never left me even though the bands and style of music did change.

Christian Rock: How it Snuck Into My Playlist

In college, I stumbled on a band called The Letter Black. I am not sure why or how this indie Christian band was featured on a secular music review site.

Not knowing what I was getting my self into I took a listen. The song Best of Me took hold of my heart and would not let go. What stood out to me was the lyrics:

If I could find yesterday

I would take You back to where I’m coming from

Cause You can see the way

All these scars have kept me running

And chasing down the past

But I’m not done, I’m turning back

I swear, You’re the only reason I keep breathing

I swear, You keep on giving me the reason to keep believing

Finally I’m worth it, though I’m not perfect

It still feels right, and I keep on giving

Trying to make a difference, in my life

But I know another way to show

Everything I can be for You

You’re all that I’ll ever need

I’ll give you the Best of Me

If I could read tomorrow’s mind

I would know exactly where You’re taking me

If I’m going to slip away

Or if I stay and give You all my trust

You will keep me safe

I know You won’t let me fade

I swear,…

This blew my atheistic mind. Why?

Because I had never considered religion to bring out the best in people. Rather I always thought religion was a crutch for people to rest on.

Yet 1st John 4:19 says

19 We love because he first loved us. (RSV 2nd Catholic edition)

At the time I had a lot of scars (still do). I attempted to find my worth in being perfect. This song explicitly states that she is worth it despite her imperfections and scars.

This message brought healing to my soul.

Overcoming Trauma:

In 2011, I was diagnosed with a herniated disc.

The news devastated me.

I had to leave school and take a leave of absence and spend 3 long months in the hospital.

For the uninitiated, there isn’t much to do in hospitals.

Thus, I listened to Christian rock music.

I need hope that secular music just could not provide.

One time, in particular, stands out.

It was the middle of the night. The nurse comes in to make me go to the bathroom. I had yet to go all day. The circumstances made the hospital staff understandably worried. They catheterized me.

Fear swirled through my head.

“What if I’ve lost my ability to go to the bathroom on my own”, I thought.

With that thought, tears came. The nurse tried to comfort me to no avail.

As the nurse left the room, I decided to turn on music.

No sleeping now, I thought as I cried.

The following song came on the radio: On The Front Lines by Light Up the Darkness

Can You comfort me when I call / Is my voice bouncing off the wall

As the weeping prophet my tears still fall

Not unlike my words upon deaf ears

I’m standing on the front lines with Jesus on my right side

I’m not defeated / I will stand tall

And my armor is fitted / And I will not fear

You held my hand / You led me here

You can defeat the enemy

I hear his cunning whispering words / I despise the enemy’s call

He tries to slay me with his lies

and I cannot compromise on the Solid Rock I stand

I don’t think that song would have the same emotional impact outside of a rock song. If it was a pop song or traditional praise song, It may have very well come across as cheesy. Yet Christianity attracted me, not through everlasting joy, but by the battle motif. Jesus is king standing on the front lines with us. He is battling the principles of darkness.

Is Screaming a Form of Praise?

The Bible talks about shouting a lot. The most famous example is the battle of Jericho.

So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. Joshua 6:20-6:22 (RSV 2nd Catholic edition)

Now we can read this as a historical narrative. Yet I also believe in a personal interpretation.

I believe that the walls represent obstacles in our lives. Things that keep us from our divine given purpose. Thus, screaming and shouting is a permissible form of praise. Our screams anticipate God’s intervention. Thus we can enter into eternal city of the new Jerusalem. Something is freeing about shouting out for God and watching the walls fall in our lives.

Christian rock: a Gimmick?

So does Christian rock music make actual rock music worse?

My answer would be, “it depends.” Artistic intentions play a large role in the integrity of the music choices. If the intention is to make Jesus seem cool or edgy and contrary to what Jesus is really about, then yes it is not authentic. Firstly, be a musician. Secondly, write meaningful messages about faith that can only be conveyed by rock music. Thirdly, don’t do it to try to spread the gospel to the masses or tap into the Christian market. We, Christians, have Christian Contemporary and praise music for that purpose.