Gender and the Will of God

The Issue of Priestesses is Ultimately an Issue of God

Peter Kreeft 

C. S. Lewis said that he wrote the books he wished someone else would write, but they didn’t, so he did.  I feel the same way, and so I write in answer to the need, often expressed by me and often expressed to me, for a single article summarizing the essential reasons for the Church’s position against women’s ordination.  The issue is probably the second hottest argument, after abortion, between the orthodox and the “dissenters” today.  As we shall see, it is not a dispute within the Catholic religion but a dispute between two different religions.
         There seem to be four essential arguments against having priestesses: (I) reasons of authority, (II) reasons of sexual symbolism, (III) reasons of the common good, and (IV) reasons of discernment. 

I. Reasons of Authority 

These are the simplest arguments.  There are three: arguments from the authority of God, of Christ, and of the Church.

            1. God invented the priesthood.  The Church did not invent the priesthood.  The Catholic Church claims less authority than any other Christian church in the world; that is why she is so conservative.  Protestant churches feel free to change “the deposit of faith” (e.g. by denying Mary’s assumption, which was believed from the beginning) or of morals (e.g. by allowing divorce, though Christ forbade it), or worship (e.g. by denying the Real Presence and the centrality of the Eucharist, which was constant throughout the Church’s first 1,500 years).
            The Church will not change the priesthood because she cannot.  For she is not its author, or even its editor, only its mail carrier.  The Catholic priesthood is not the first one invented.  He made two before it: the Levitical priesthood, which was superseded and set aside by Christ; and the priesthood of Melchisadek, which was fulfilled by Christ.[1]  None of these priesthoods can be chosen or demanded or changed by man (or woman).
            God originally limited the priesthood to males of the tribe of Levi.  Did God discriminate against females and other tribes?  Shall we accuse God of sin?  When Cor and other non-Levites tried to perform priestly rites, Moses warned them, and when they continued, God destroyed them.[2]

2. Christ on earth established the Catholic priesthood.  Man had no more say in this than in the Levitical priesthood.  Christ bought the right to set down the laws and limits for His sacraments (including holy orders) with His own blood on the Cross.
            And Christ chose only males to be apostles.  Why?  Advocates of priestesses say that He bowed to cultural limitations, to deep-seated ancient male chauvinism.  But this is to deny the Incarnation, and thus the essence of the Christian faith.  Imagine the absurdity and arrogance of accusing Christ of the “sin of sexism”!  Or, if He was not a “sexist” Himself but tolerated it in choosing only male apostles, He compromised with and fostered this “sin.”
            But that does not at all fit the pattern we find throughout His life.  He is never afraid to offend His contemporaries’ sensibilities, either great or small—e.g. when He tells the Jews they must drink His blood, or when He and His disciples eat with unwashed hands.  Why would He succumb only to this one special prejudice?

3. In addition to the authority of God in the Old Testament and of Christ in the New, there are nearly 2,000 years of uniform Church teaching and practice of priestessness.  Even on a purely human and secular level, that is an impressive vote by what Chesterton calls “the democracy of the dead.”  The same Chesterton, always brimming with common sense, warns us that if we don’t understand the reason for some ancient tradition or institution, that is a good reason for not abolishing it.  If you come across a strange building in an unexpected place, it is really foolish to knock it down because you don’t understand its purpose.  Take it down only if you understand its purpose, and why it’s no longer needed.  But advocates of priestesses freely admit that they don’t understand why the “males only” rule is there.  Well, we do.  So the only people who might have a right to change the old rule are the people who don’t want to change it, and the people who don’t have a right to change it—because they don’t understand it—are exactly the people who do want to change it.
            The Church calls herself our mater et magistra, “mother and teacher.”  Let’s have no mater si, magistra no from Right or Left.  The Church is not judged by human ideologies, but vice versa.  To be a Catholic is to believe that the Church is more than human, that she is graced with Christ’s real presence and promise of guidance into all truth.  I have never met a single advocate of priestesses who faced and affirmed that fact and manifested the loyal and loving submission all the saints had to our mother and teacher.  When feminists become saints, we will become their pupils.
            My position is no a priori prejudice against change in the Church.  She is a living body, and therefore grows.  But she grows from within, like a vine, not from without, like a machine or an ideological platform.  And as I shall show, the change to priestesses would manifest not organic growth and maturity but an identity crisis. 


It is a simple and massive fact that the Church has said No to priestesses-consistently, publicly, clearly, and authoritatively.  “Rome has spoken; the case is closed”—that formula used to evoke love and loyalty, not snide sneers.
            The issue today is not whether the Church will have priestesses.  She won’t.  The only open issue is whether the would-be priestesses will have the Church.  The issue is not theoretical but practical; it is a test of loyalty to the Church, and therefore to Christ.  For the Head is not related to His Body as a CEO to a business, but as the furry ball between your shoulders to your torso.  To say Yes to Christ but No to His Church is to will a divine decapitation.
            Today’s rebels against the Church’s authority on this issue (or others) nearly always misunderstand the very essence of authority.  They think it means power, but it means right.  In fact, it means “author’s rights.”  Christ, the Author of the Church, has rightful authority over His own Body, His own organs—unless we are not His Body, not sheep but goats.  His sheep follow Him—follow Him, not lead Him—because they know His voice, recognize His authority.
            This is all we need say about the issue.  The case is closed. WE can be certain of what is true and right here, even if we do not understand the Church’s reasons.  But the Church, like a good mother, also gives us reasons.  She tells us not only, “Do this because Mommy says so,” but also, “Monny wants you to know why she says so.” 

II.   Reasons of Sexual Symbolism 

The Church’s main reason for her stand brings us to the second main point, the reasons of sexual symbolism.  The first two things we learn about sex from God, right from the beginning, are that (1) God designed it, not man; and that (2) it is very good.  God’s first command was to “be fruitful and multiply.”  I do not think He had in mind growing oranges and memorizing times tables.
            Significantly, most of the advocates for priestesses do not seem to see or care about these two facts.  They often see sexuality as (1) social, human, conventional, and changeable; and as (2) a problem, an obstacle, or even an enemy, in the case of radical feminists railing against the “prison” of wombs and motherhood.  The next step is natural: to glorify the act of breaking out of this “prison” by killing their unborn babies.  If they see their bodies as their own, not God’s (as in the popular, blasphemous title, Our Bodies, Our Selves) [3], the next step is naturally to see their babies as their own property; and if their wombs are their enemies, so are their wombs’ human contents.  In fact, abortion is symbolic suicide.  Once the baby is born, it is not hated and killed nearly as often, even though it is more of an inconvenience to care for once it is born.  The idea of symbolic suicide explains this irrational choice.  “Our Bodies, Our Selves” is a defiant “in Your face” to God, and to His image in them.  For this image, according to Genesis, is not just the soul, but also sex, the source of life.  (Read Genesis 1:27 to see the connection between “image of God” and “male and female”).
            Advocates of priestesses also misunderstand sexual symbolism because they usually misunderstand symbolism itself.  They think of symbols as man-made and artificial.  They don’t see that there are profound and unchangeable natural symbols, that things can also be signsSaint Thomas bases his multiple method of scriptural exegesis on this principle.  He writes: 

The author of Holy Writ is God, in whose power it is to signify His meaning not by words only (as man can do) but also by things themselves.  So whereas in every other science things are signified by words, this science has the property that the things signified by the words have themselves a signification.  Therefore that first signification, whereby words signify things, belongs to the first sense, the historical or literal.  That signification whereby things signified by words have themselves a signification is called the spiritual sense, which is based on the literal and presupposes it. [ST I, 1, 10]  

God writes history (and nature) as man writes words.  Behind Saint Thomas’s hermeneutic is a metaphysic: a sacramental view of nature and history.  In Chance or the Dance? [4] Thomas Howard brilliantly pinpointed the difference between this ancient worldview, in which everything means something, and the reductionistic modern worldview, in which nothing means anything.  If every thing in nature means something, then the big things in nature mean something big.  And sex is a Big Thing.  What it means is so big that we will never exhaust it, only discover more facets of its diamond.  But it is there, a massive fact of nature, not a clever human idea.
            Every good poet knows that natural symbols are like the essential structures of language itself: unchangeable.  The sky is, always was, and always will be a natural symbol for Heaven; the dirt is not.  The eye’s seeing is a natural symbol for the mind’s understanding; the gut’s groaning is not.  Everyone knows this, unconscieously.  That is why our language has evolved as it has.  Light, ascending notes in a major key somehow have to mean hope and joy; descending, heavy notes in a minor key inevitably mean something grave.  Words like “grave” and “gravity” have multiple meanings glued with inextricable mental epoxy.  Everything is connected, and everything points beyond itself.
            Especially sex.
            God, who deliberately designed sexuality, also deliberately designed to incarnate Himself as a male.  Jesus Christ is still a male.  He still has His human body in Heaven, and will forever.  It is and will forever be a male body.  This is not ideology or theology or interpretation; this is fact, this is data.  My attempt to explain the Church’s No to priestesses in light of this data can be summarized in two propositions:
            1.  Priests of Christ, who are Christ’s mouths through which He Himself says, “This is My Body,” must be men because Christ is a man.
            2.  Christ, the perfect human image of the Father, is male because God is Father.  God is masculine.  God is a He, not a She.
            To deny (1) is to deny the Eucharist, and thus Catholicism.
            To deny (2) is to deny the authority of Christ, and thus Christianity.
            C.S. Lewis—not even a Roman Catholic—saw point 1 better than most Catholics do: 

But why should a woman not in this [priestly] sense represent God? … Suppose the reformer stops saying that a good woman may be like God and begins saying that God is like a good woman.  Suppose he says that we might just as well pray to “Our Mother which art in Heaven” as to “our Father.”  Suppose he suggests that the Incarnation might just as well have taken a female as a male form, the Second Person of the Trinity be as well called the Daughter as the Son. 
            Suppose, finally, that the mystical marriage were reversed, that the Church were the Bridegroom and Christ the Bride.  All this, as it seems to me, is involved in the claim that a woman can represent God as a priest does….
            To say that it does not matter is to say … that all the masculine imagery is not inspired, is merely human in origin.  And this is surely intolerable; or, if tolerable, it is an argument not in favor of Christian priestesses but against Christianity….
            It is also based on a shallow view of imagery…. One of the ends for which sex was created was to symbolize for us the hidden  things of God.  One of the functions of human marriage is to express the nature of the union between Christ and the Church.
            Christians believe that God Himself has taught us how to speak of Him. [5] 

Lewis the Anglican saw what the priesthood means better than many Catholics today.  The priesthood does not mean merely ministry.  The new ICEL [6] mistranslations of the liturgy which substitute minister forpriest are blind to the blindingly obvious fact that a priest is not just a minister.  Ministries like lector, Eucharistic minister, teacher, psychologist, counselor, social worker, and political activist—and even prophet—are indifferent to sex.   Women can and do perform them.  But priesthood is different.  Only a priest can consecrate.  A Catholic priest is not just a symbol of Christ (even that would form a strong argument against priestesses) but is sacramentally in personal Christi.  When Father Murphy says, “This is My Body,” we hear Jesus Christ speaking.  Father Murphy does not mean “This is Father Murphy’s body”!  The priest is not merelyremembering and repeating Christ’s words here; his is really “channeling” them.
            So Christ’s priests are men becaue Christ is a man.  An analogy to help us see the necessary connection is offered by Bishop Eldon Curtiss [7]

Could the role of Hamlet in Shakespeare’s famous drama be portrayed adequately by a woman as a woman?  Only if the plot were rewritten, and the relationships and dialogue of the main characters substantially changed.  But then it would not be the work of Shakespeare.  Whereas Hamlet’s fictitious life merely is recalled with each presentation of the play, in the Eucharistic celebration the life, death and resurrection is represented in its present reality

But why is His maleness essential?  Because He is the revelation of the Father, and the Father’s masculinity is essential.  That is the second half of our equation.  To understand it, we must distinguish male frommasculine.  Male and female are biological genders; masculine and feminine, or yang and yin, are universal, cosmic principles, extending to all reality, including spirit.
            All premodern civilizations knew this.  English is the only language which has no masculine and feminine mouns; so it is easy for us to believe that the ancients merely projected their own biological gender out onto nature when they called Heaven masculine and Earth feminine, Day masculine and Night feminine, Land masculine and Sea feminine.  In the Hindu marriage ceremony, the groom says to the bride, “I am Heaven, you are Earth”; she replies, “I am Earth, you are Heaven.”  Is it not incredibly provincial and culturally arrogant for us to assume without proof or even investigation that this universal human instinct is mere projection, fantasy, and illusion, rather than insight into a cosmic principle that is really there?  Once we look, we find abundant analogical evidence for it, from the bottom of the cosmic hierarchy to the top, from the electromagnetic attraction between protons and electrons to the circumincession of the Persons in the Trinity.
            God is masculine to everything, from angels to prime matter.  That is the ultimate reason why priests, who represent God to us, must be male.
            To say God is masculine is not male chauvinism.  For it makes us all spiritually feminine.  We are all God’s bride; no one is God’s husband.  God has no homosexual marriages.  All souls are His she’s.
            There is strinking historical evidence for this.  The Jews, God’s chosen people, the people to whom God revealed Himself (and if we do not believe that, we do not believe in that God, for that is the only place we find that God: the Jews and the Christians and Muslims and philosophical theists who learned from them)—this unique people were totally different from all others in their concept of God in five related ways.

            1. They had no goddesses and no bisexual or neuter Gods.   Their one God was always He, never She or It.
            2. There were no priestesses.
            3. This God was totally transcendent to the universe, for He created it out of nothing.  There is even a word in Hebrew not in any other language: bara’, “to create.”  Only God can do it, not man.  God was not part of the universe, as in polytheism, or the whole of the universe or the soul of the universe, as in pantheism.
            4. God spoke.  He revealed Himself in prophetic words and miraculous deeds.  He came out of hiding and acted.  All other religions were man’s search for God; Judaism (and Christianity, its fulfillment) was God’s search for man.  Therefore, religious experience for a Jew as fundamentally response, not initiative.  There were no yoga methods, no ways to push God’s buttons.  God initiated, man responded.
            5. The law was the primary link with God, who revealed His will in Thou Shalts and Thou Shalt Nots.  The God of pantheism may have a consciousness, but not a will; and the gods of polytheism have conflicting and evil wills.  Only in Judaism do you have a full union of religion and morality, relationship with God and relationship with moral law.  Only the Jews united mankind’s two primary spiritual instincts, the instinct to worship and the instinct of conscience.  Only the Jews identified the object and end of worship with the author and definer of morality.

            These five remarkably distinct features of ancient Judaism are clearly connected.  As a man comes into a woman’s body from without to impregnate her, God creates the universe from without, and performs miracles in it from without, and calls to Man from without, revealing Himself and His Law.  He is not The Force, but The Face; not Earthspirit Rising, but Heavenly Father descending; not the ideal construct of the human mind, but the Hound of Heaven.  To speak of “religion” as “man’s search for God,” if we speak of this God, is like speaking of the mouse’s search for the cat (to steal an image from C.S. Lewis).
            This issue is absolutely central, and therefore I beg your indulgence while I quote a long paragraph from Lewis, which I believe is the best single paragraph ever written on the difference between Judaism and Christianity on the one hand, and all other religions on the other. 

Men are reluctant to pass over from the notion of an abstract … deity to the living God.  I do not wonder.  Here lies the deepest tap-root of Pantheism and of the objection to traditional imagery….  The Pantheist’s God does nothing, demands nothing.  He is there if you wish for him, like a book on a shelf.  He willl not pursue you.  There is no danger that at any time heaven and earth will flee away at his glance.  If he were the truth, then we could really say that all the christian images of kingship were a historical accident of which our religion ought to be purged.  It is with a shock that we discover them to be indispensable.  You have had a shock like that before, in connection with smaller matters—when the line pulls at your hand, when something breathes beside you in the darkness.  So here: the shock comes at the precise moment when the thrill of life is communicated to us along the clue we have been following.  It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone.  “Look out!” we cry, “it’s alive.”  And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back—I would have done so myself if I could—and proceed no further with Christianity.  An “impersonal God”—well and good.  A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads—better still.  A formless life force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap—best of all.  But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, the king, the husband—that is quite another matter.  There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall?  There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (“Man’s search for God”) suddenly draw back.  Supposing we really found Him?  We never meant it to come to that!  Worse still, supposing He had found us? [8] 

            I think the fundamental problem with most advocates of priestesses is as radical as this: they do not know Who God is.  Most would register strong discomfort or puzzlement at the description Lewis gives—i.e. at the Bible’s God.
            If the reply is that this ancient, Biblical picture of the hunter-king-husband God is historically relatie, and that we should throw away the accidental shell and keep the essential, timeless meat of the nut, I reply:

1.  That the masculinity of God is not part of the shell but part of the nut.  It is not like Hebrew grammar, a replaceable and translatable medium.  Something as deliberate and distinctive and all-pervasive in Scripture as God’s He-ness is no mere accident, especially when so obviously connected with the other four points of the five-point complex noted above.

2.  If it is a residue of the sin of sexism, then God has revealed Himself sinfully.  This argument really denies the existence of divine revelation.  Or it judges the divine revelation by human ideology and opinion rather than vice versa, thus frustrating the very purpose, the essential purpose, of revelation, which is to reveal something that we couldn’t have come up with from our own opinions or ideologies, in order to correct them.  
Behind the idea of the need for a divine revelation is the idea of Original Sin—another traditional notion which most priestess-advocates deny, ignore, or at least are embarrassed by.  We are not good and wise and trustworthy, but sinful and foolish and in need of correction.  We should expect to be surprised and even offended at God’s revelation; otherwise, we wouldn’t need it.

3.  There is the camel’s nose under the tent” argument.  Once you start monkeying with your data, where do you stop?  Why stop?  If you can subtract the divine masculinity from Scripture when it offends you, why can’t you subtract the divine compassion when that offends you?  If you read your Marxism into scripture today, why not your fascism tomorrow?  If you can change God’s masculinity, why not change His morality?  Why not His very Being?  If you revise His “I,” why not His “AM”? 


The other half of the case against priestesses based on sexual symbolism, supplementing the masculinity of God, is the femininity of the Church.  The Church is God’s Bride.  All the saints and mystics say the ultimate purpose of human life, the highest end for which we were made, is the spiritual Marriage.  It is not socially relative; it is eternal.  And in it, the soul is spiritually impregnated by God, not vice versa.  That is the ultimate reason why God must always be He to us, never She.  Religion is essentially heterosexual and therefore fruitful.  There is no lesbian love with God, and no goddesses; therefore no priestesses.
            The New Birth—our salvation—comes from above, from without, from transcendence.  We do not spiritually impregnate ourselves with divine life or salvation, any more than we physically impregnate ourselves.  Modernism, humanism, and naturalism amount to spiritual autoeroticism, spiritual masturbation.
            The Church can no more be fruitful without being impregnated by her divine Husband than a woman without a man.  Feminists who resent that fact, resent that fact—and thus tend to resent facts as such, and notions like objective truth and divine revelation.
            The issue of priestesses is ultimately an issue of God. Historically, there have been three basic theological options: the single transcendent divine Husband (theism), many immanent gods and goddesses (paganism), or the pantheistic Divine Neuter or Hermaphrodite.  Priestessses have always served the latter two gods, never the former.
            God made His chosen people different, and He was extremely ornery and cantankerous about them remaining different, even to the extent of commanding the slaughter of whole pagan populations in the Promised Land to prevent them from corrupting His pure revelation to the Jews.  Is this true?  Is this divine revelation?  Are these our data?  There it is, right in the very politically incorrect Bible.  If God did not invent the Jews, then the Jews invented God.  In that case, let’s all be honest and cease to be Christians or even theists and become polytheists, pantheists, or atheists, as many radical feminists have already done.  Their spiritual gravity to these false religions is natural.  And it is the agenda behind priestesses, the worldview behind priestesses.  Priestesses are merely the camel’s nose under the tent.  If it is admitted, the rest of the camel will follow, because it’s a one-piece camel.
            The obvious and ubiquitious objection to this view is that it is male chauvinism  To quote my colleague Mary Daly [9], “if God is male, then male is God.”  Besides the logical fallacy (for instance, from God is love, it does not follow that love is God), I see five other mistakes in this argument:

1. The traditional view is closer to female chauvinism, for it makes us all female in relation to God.  Women need not become like men when they approach God, but men must become like women, spiritually.  All souls are God’s brides.

            2. The fact that Christ chose to incarnate Himself as a man does not insult women any more than the fact that He became a carpenter insults kings.  The Incarnation was kenosis, emptying.   He came down to the lowest place: a crucified criminal in a Roman-enslaved hick town.  Not an angel.  Not an emperor.  And not a woman.  The Incarnation was not into privilege and power but into suffering and service.

            3. Juli Loesch Wiley [10] argues that if Jesus had been a woman in the male-dominated world of the first century, His life and teaching of unselfish love for others would not have been as arresting and as instructively scandalous as it was.  For women, in all times and places and cultures until modern feminism, have always been in general more altruistic, less power-greedy, less violence-prone, more self-emptying, and more naturally religious than men.  (You still see more women in church than men.)  In becoming a man, Jesus in a sense let women be and went after men to transform them—not into women, and certainly not into wimps, but into men like Himself.  He redefined manliness and power as courage to suffer instead of the lust to dominate; giving instead of taking.  Women were a little less in need of that lesson.  Again, Christianity seems closer to female chauvinism than male.

            4. Women priests would demean and insult women, for asking them to represent the man-God would be like asking them to be cross-dressers or to wear male sex organs.  It would remove the distinctive dignity of women qua women as symbols of the Church, whom Christ, symbolized by the priest, marries.  A symbol or sign is to be looked along, not looked at.  What would priestesses mean, what would they symbolize?  They would signify to all women that they are spiritual lesbians instead of brides.

            5. Christ’s maleness is not chauvinistic because He had a mother (but no earthly father).  Mary is the definitive refutation of the charge of chauvinism.  No merely  human being was ever nearly as great as this woman, according to the distinctive teachings of this “chauvinistic” Church.  Mary is “our tainted nature’s solitary boast.” [11]

            “Mother of God” is hardly a title to sneer at!  Mother of anyone is hardly a title to sneer at.  A boy and a girl were arguing about who would play captain in a game of pirates.  The boy insisted on being captain; so the girl won the argument by agreeing: “Okay, you can be the captain.  But I’m the mother of the captain.”
            The ground of Mary’s greatness is the thing too simple and innocent for the feminists to see.  The reason she is crowned Queen of Heaven, the reason for her great glory and power, is her total submission to God—her sacrifice, her suffering, her service.  Muslims see it, but so-called Christian feminists don’t.  It is islam, the total surrender, the fiat—and the peace, the shalom, that is the secret treasure hidden in this submission, the delicious fruit of this thorny plant.  Modern feminism becomes a radically different religion from Christianity (or Judaism or Islam) when it drifts into a radically different ideal of sanctity, of the summum bonum, the greates good, meaning of life, and purpose of all religion.  Feminists need most fundamentally what we all need most fundamentally: to go to the Cross, to unflex the fist, and to bow the knee. 

III. Reasons of the Common Good 

Let’s be practical for a moment: in terms of the concrete daily life of ordinary Catholics, what would a Church with priestesses look like?  To answer this question we must back up and ask, What is the relation between a priest and the Church anyway?  And the answer is certainly that the priest is for the Church, not the Church for the priest.  The priesthood is not for personal fulfillment, and certainly not for “empowerment.”  So the justification for changing the priesthood to include priestesses must be improvement of the laity, not the improvement of the priesthood.
            Improvement in what direction?  It has to be in the direction the Church is for.  What is its end?  Why did God make it?  Not to be politically correct (or politically incorrect), not to fulfill and happify and empower individuals (and not to stultify or unhappify or disempower individuals, either), but to save and sanctify souls.  That is the standard by which everything in the Church must be judged, from Bingo to Operation Rescue [12], from ecumenical councils to collection plates.
            Now what effect would priestesses have on salvation and sanctity?

1. It would undermine many Catholics’ confidence in the Church’s authority by contradicting the explicit teaching and practice of 1,900 years of history.  Even if “no priestesses” is not ex cathedra, to begin to ordain them would surely create in many minds this question: If the Church was wrong for almost 2,000 years about this, why might not she be wrong in the rest of her ordinary teaching, too?  It may well even foster doubt ofChrist’s wisdom and infallibility; for the Church’s stand against priestesses, like her stand against divorce, is not based on her own ideas or her own authority but on fidelity to His.  If Jesus erred in being so chauvinistic as not to ordain apostlesses, why might He not also hae been wrong and prejudiced and less enlightened than we about other things, such as adultery and marriage, or even how to get to Heaven?

            2. Many of the faithful would doubt the validity of women’s ordination and thus the validity of all the sacraments received from priestesses.  Are my sins forgiven?  Perhaps not, if an invalidly ordained priestess gave me absolution, or a priest ordained by a priestess-bishop.  Is this really Christ I receive in the Eucharist, consecrated by a priestess, or am I idolatrously and blasphemously adoring a matzo?

            3. De facto schism would result—or at least enormous parish hopping, and the final end of the geographic parish and the substitution of the ideological parish. [13] 

            4. It would tear apart the Church worldwide, for nearly all other cultures except the American, Canadian, and Western European are totally opposed to women’s ordination.  This comes clear repeatedly at international conferences and synods of bishops.  Third World Catholics would be deeply scandalized, and would probably form breakaway churches.  The Lefebvrist tragedy [14] would be compounded 10,000 times.  The Church may be as badly split as in 1054 or 1517. [15]

So for practical and prudential reasons, priestesses would be an ecclesiastical disaster.
            And for principal reasons of church order, too.  For the feminists fail to understand what a priest is—not only symbolically, as we have seen in considering sexual symbolism, but ecclesially and communally, too.  There is only one reason to be a priest: because you are called by God.  How do you know the will of God?  The only public, objective, and certain way is by divine revelation.  And God has revealed through the Church what He wants His priesthood to be.  If anyone does not believe that the Church’s teachings are God’s revelation, he is simply not a Catholic.
            God has not let important thigns like the sacraments of His Church depend on our feelings or opinions.  We can talk back to our mother the Church, but she has the last word because she is God’s mouth.
            The Church tells us that the priesthood is not a right and not a privilege.  No one can claim the right to be a priest.  She also tells us that priesthood is for service to others, not personal advantage, not even personal holiness.  Being a priest does not make you better or holier, necessarily.  It necessarily makes the laity better and holier. 


Advocates of priestesses often argue that denying a woman this function is insulting her personal worth.  This view is “functionalism,” the confusion of personal worth with function—like the arguments that justify early abortions or late mercy-killings because the brain is not functioning rationally.  This mistake, by the way, is more typical of males than females, for men have always tended to identify themselves and their worth with their job or their achievements, while women have always (up till now) tended the traditional wisdom that being is deeper than doing.
            Over 99 percent of all men also do not function as priests, and many of them can’t, by reason of age or physical or mental condition.  Are they therefore less worthy and valuable human beings?  If not, then neither are women, for the same reason.
            A woman can’t be a biological father either.  Is that also a slap in the face of her dignity?  Has nature already insulted women in the same way as the Church is doing?  The more radical feminists will gladly answer Yes, thus revealing their own fragile (and masculine!) sense of self-worth.
            The most egregious error of all is the demand to ordain women for “empowerment.”  I can think of no term that more perfectly proves the speaker’s utter incomprehension of what she says than that.  It is like wanting to manage the Boston Red Sox because of your thirst for “success.” [16]
            Priests are not power brokers, or managers.  They are sewers.  Like Christ, they drain off the world’s sins.  They are garbage men.  Like Christ, they clean up our spiritual garbage.  They wash feet—dirty, smelly souls—ours.  The Pope, priest of priets, is servus servorum dei, servant of the servants of God.  This is not a clever P.R. slogan; this is his real job description.  Even if all my other reasons against priestesses were invalid, this total misunderstanding of priests’ essential job description would invalidate the feminist claim. 

IV. Reasons of Discernment 

And this brings me to my fourth and last kind of reason against priestesses: reasons of discernment.  Can we discern what spirit is at work here?  I don’t think we need to be very advanced in the Christian art of discernment to answer that question.  All we need to do is listen, and if we listen with a heart open to God rather than to human ideology, we will easily hear that rage, the anger, the self-righteousness.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read Donna Steichen’s book Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism [Amazon link] (Ignatius).
            Who are the advocates of women’s ordination?  The most prominent and vocal are always dissenters against other official Catholic teachings as well.  The issue of women’s ordination is not isolated; it is one thread of a seamless garment.  Pull it, and you unravel the whole robe.  (By the way, “dissenter” is a modern euphemism for “heretic.”  Both words mean the same thing: one who says No, one who picks and chooses for himself, one who refuses to eat all the food Mother Church tells us to eat.) 
            Most shockingly, feminists who advocate priestesses usually also advocate accepting abortion.  The fact seems to me immediately and totally to destroy their credentials to a hearing.  For we know what god the priestesses of abortion serve, and his name is not Jesus.  It is Moloch.  Moloch also says, “Suffer the little children to come unto me,” but where Jesus places His hands on their heads, Moloch places his teeth.
            In addition to approving abortion, some leaders of the push for priestesses also want the Church to approve contraception, fornication, sodomy, same-sex marriage, and divorce.  A more complete demonic attack on the family could not be orchestrated even in Hell.
            Some of the leaders in the movement, such as “Womynchurch” [17], clearly admit they are worshipping another God—Mother Earth—and practicing another religion—paganism, Christ’s old enemy risen from the dead.  Anyone who freely opens the Church’s doors to these barbarians is clearly a traitor, and anyone who can’t see through these spies’ tissue-thin cover of “Catholicism” is a fool.
            The origin of modern feminism is not inside Christianity buyt outside it and against it, in deeply anti-religious and anti-Christian ideologies like Marxism and deconstructionism.  Mary Daly summarized her self-image candidly when she called herself (in Pure Lust [Amazon link]) the Antichrist, and summarized her life’s work as “castrating God the Father.”  Next to her, Nietzsche was a wimp.
            There is an obvious connection between the root of the spirit of modern feminism—which is not prayer, personal holiness, or submission to God’s will—and it’s fruit, which is not love or joy or peace.  In the most public feminist faces you can see the hate, the hardness, and the hurt.  Not all advocates of priestesses have that look, but their leaders do.
            In the Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius [18] says we must discern between the spirit of consolation (which is from God) and the spirit of desolation (which is from Satan).  The latter produces these fruits: hate, anxiety, fear, resentment, anger, anguish, bitterness, rage, pain, and lack of peace.  By their own admission these are precisely the feelings of the leaders of the demand for women’s ordination.  These are not passing moods but a settled state of deep alienation.  And they are not the feelings of a few individuals but of the movement itself, of its very ideology and its publications.  We can easily discern in them a past history of having been badly hurt—often sexually abused—which then became a state of deep hatred.  Often it is a paradoxical mixture of great self-hatred and great self-righteousness.  A the very least it includes great doses of self-pity, which certainly does not come from God.  As Christians, we must recall the value in suffering and pity all sufferers, but as Christians we also know suffering can cut both ways, that our reaction to our suffering may be good or bad. 


Spiritual warfare is our condition at all times, according to Scripture and the saints, but especially today in this time of crisis and decadence in both Church and society.  The issue of priestesses ultimately is a battle in this great war, a battle between the priests of the Lord and the priests of Baal, like Elijah’s battle on Mount Carmel.  It is a time for choosing—not just between theologies and between Gods; a time for remembering and repeating Joshua’s challenge to Israel (remember that “Joshua” means “Jesus” and the new Israel is the Church): 

Now therefore fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.  And if you be unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. [19]  

[Peter Kreeft, “Gender and the Will of God: The Issue of Priestesses is Ultimately an Issue of God,” Crisis Vol. 11, No. 8  (September 1993), pp. 20-28.]

Notes [20]

 1.    The "Levitical priesthood" refers to the narrower lineage of Aaron and his sons within the tribe of Levi (Ex. 28:1), whose ministerial priesthood prevails within the Old Testament.  Melchisadek (or Melchisedek or Melchizedek) was the king of Salem who blessed Abraham in Gen. 14:18.  The "priesthood of Melchisadek,"is seen in Scripture as a foreshadowing of the New Testament priesthood of Christ (Heb. 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:1; cf. Ps. 110:4), and in Catholic tradition as the ordained priesthood of the Catholic Church. (See the entries: "Levites," "Melchisedek," "priest," "The High Priest,"and "Priesthood" in the online Catholic Encyclopedia.)

 2.    The rebellion of Cor (or Korah) against the lawful priesthood of Aaron and his sons is described in Numbers, ch. 16, where Cor and his followers "assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said to them: 'You have gone to far!  For all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them; why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?'  ... And the Lord said to Moses and to Aaron, 'Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them ....'  ... and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men that belonged to Korah and all their goods." (Num. 16: 3, 20-21, 32; cf. Num. 26:9; 27:3; Jude 11).

 3.   Our Bodies, Ourselves for a New Century [Amazon link], by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998), a book advocating a woman's right to kill her unborn babies and endorsed by radical feminists such as Gloria Steinem.

 4.    Thomas Howard, Chance Or The Dance? [Ignatius Press link] (1969; rpt. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989).

 5.    C.S. Lewis, "Priestesses in the Church?" in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics [Amazon link], by C.S. Lewis, edited by Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1970), pp. 234-239.

 6.    ICEL = International Commission on English in the Liturgy, a controversial Vatican commission with an uneven track record that has come under repeated censure by the Vatican for its tendency to let its biblical translations be guided by considerations of political correctness, its suppression of gender-specific language, terms connoting hierarchy, patriarchy, etc. 

 7.    The Most Rev. Eldon Francis Curtiss was installed as Archbishop of Omaha on June 25, 1993.

 8.    C.S. Lewis, Miracles  [Amazon link] (New York: Macmillan, 1947, 1960), pp. 93-94.

 9.    Mary Daly (pictured right), born 1928, is a radical feminist theologian and mother of modern feminist theology.  A former Catholic theologian and nun, she taught for 33 years at Boston College, where she barred men from her classroom, until her position was terminated in 1999. (Bibliography)

10.    Juli Loesch Wiley is a writer, speaker, and activist for the Consistent Life ethic and the founder ofProlifers for Survival.  An anti-war activist in the 1970s, she is a more recent convert to the pro-life position, arguing that abortion succumbs to the female-body-as-recreational-object syndrome, enabling a man to use a woman, then vacuum her out so that she's ready to be used over again, as if she were something like a rent-a-car.

11.    William Wordsworth (1770-1850) in his "Hymn to the Virgin," gave us the now-famous description of Mary as "Our tainted nature’s solitary boast.” 

12.    Operation Rescue was an anti-abortion organization founded in 1986 by Randall Terry and others.  It sparked the largest movement involving civil disobedience in American history, with thousands of men and women voluntarily sitting down in front of abortion mill doors to obstruct the killing of innocent babies, at the cost of arrest and prosecution on trespassing charges.  (History)

13.    This has been the situation in many American dioceses, at least, according to Hans Kung, who quotes the late Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago as declaring: “Well in my Archdiocese of Chicago, we have practically a situation of congregationalism. They are just going to a conservative pastor if they are conservatives, they go to a liberal pastor if they are liberals, and they are going their own way.’ (Interview with Stephen Crittenden on The Religion Report, Radio National, December 15, 2004)

14.    The "Lefebvrist tragedy" refers to the ordination of four bishops by Msgr. Marcel Lefebvre, head of  the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), against a direct papal order, creating a state of schism or irregularity for his followers. (See James Akin, "Introduction to the Lefebvrist Schism")

15.    1054 marks the date of the Great Schism between the Eastern churches and Western Roman Catholic Church.  1517 marks the date Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door, sparking the Protestant Reformation. (See the entries under "Eastern Schism," "The Reformation," and "Protestantism" in the online Catholic Encyclopedia.)

16.    This was, of course, well before the Boston Red Sox became World Series Champions in 2004.  Kreeft is notorious for his speculations heretofore as to which would happen first, the world series victory of the Boston Red Sox or the Second Coming of Christ.

17.    WomynChurch is a coalition of dissident Catholic groups promoting a radical feminist agenda among Catholics (Women-Church Convergence website).

18.    St. Ignatius Loyola, founded the Jesuits, or Society of Jesus, in 1540. (See "St. Ignatius Loyola" and "The Society of Jesus" in the online Catholic Encyclopedia.)  St. Ignatius' profound instruction on spiritual discipline is contained in the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius [Amazon link], trans. by Anthony Mottola, Intro. by Robert W. Gleason  (Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1964).

19.    Joshua 24:14-15.

20.    Notes by Philip Blosser, December 28, 2004.