The Church teaches that men and women are equal, each having different gifts to offer, and that their collaboration is essential in marriage, family, work, Church and society. Nonetheless, does the Church’s all male priesthood oppress women?
By having an all male priesthood does the Church risk appearing to favor men over women? Even if Christ willed this, why should the Church risk being unpopular among women and give the impression that men can and should dominate? Why does the Church exclude women from the “power corridors” of the Church, especially when there is a great shortage of priests? Is the Church telling women they are not acceptable? How can the Church do this especially when the late Pope John Paul II had been such a champion of the rights of women and children?
We know that Jesus was courageous in His counter-cultural inclusion of women. He was comfortable with women. He included them in every aspect of His life even though He did not number them among his twelve disciples. We also know that Jesus asked men to serve as leaders of the early Christian community not because He believed they were superior, and not because the culture of the time demanded it. We can only surmise, therefore, that Jesus believed that men should take responsibility seriously.
What kind of leaders did Jesus expect these men to be? Certainly not like the leaders of His day who dominated others. Did Jesus really expect that men would lead as He Himself lead, a leader in the service of others? Did Jesus trust that men would lead the Church well, or did He have in mind that someday the Church might have to change in order to curtail the abuse of men in these leadership positions?
In the patriarchal society of his time, Jesus was truly counter-cultural, affirming women and inviting them to follow Him even to the consternation of His contemporaries. At the same time He also encouraged men to lead, and to lead by serving, not by being served. In this way Jesus was truly radical, calling both men and women to a profound discipleship and to a profound collaboration that is enriched by the sharing of the different gifts of men and women.
Perhaps Jesus wanted to send a strong message to men! You must assume responsibility to care for others – even to the point of giving your lives. You must not be like Adam, the first man, who blamed Eve, walked away from God when He called, and failed to take responsibility for his own actions!
Women may have been better priests than men; they seem to be better care givers in the family. Moreover, who can question the divine characteristics of motherhood? Mothers, women care givers, aunts are all truly people in whom we find God’s presence. However, did you ever think that God may have given women a much greater responsibility in His Church than being priests, and that is to raise up His priests, to give them life and to teach them how to love? Who can do this better than a woman?
+Gregory J. Mansour
(Reprinted with permission.)