This is the best effort yet to explain to the general public the rationale supporting the Church’s teaching on male-only ordination. From the STLToday:
Defending tradition in a Church where sex differences still matter
BY COLLEEN CARROLL CAMPBELL
Tradition, according to Catholic writer G. K. Chesterton, “means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead.”
Two St. Louis-area women turned tradition on its head Sunday when they participated in an ordination ceremony for Roman Catholic Womenpriests, a schismatic or breakaway group that aspires to overturn the 2,000-year-old Catholic practice of reserving priestly ordination for men. Although the ceremony was held at a Jewish synagogue and presided over by a self-proclaimed priestess whose own ordination the Catholic Church does not recognize, sexagenarian rebels Rose Marie Hudson and Elsie Hainz McGrath now consider themselves the city’s first Catholic priestesses.
The Catholic Church considers their ordinations invalid. But that has not stopped journalists from heralding the ceremony as a momentous event that portends the victory of democracy over tradition in the hierarchical Catholic Church.
Like many Americans, journalists tend to view the church as a political institution in need of drastic democratic reform. Dismissing the hierarchy’s appeals to Scripture and tradition as cloaked attempts to consolidate power, church critics advocate for a more egalitarian institution in which bishops live and die by approval ratings, doctrinal disputes are settled by majority vote and traditions are discarded when they fall out of fashion.
This democratic vision conflicts with Catholic theology. Church teaching holds that the pope and bishops are successors to the apostles called by Jesus to shepherd his church. So their authority derives from God, not from the consent of the governed.
As for the male-only priesthood, the church views it as a mandate based on the example of Jesus, not based on cultural norms. Although Jesus routinely bucked sexist conventions of his time by socializing with shunned women and sharing profound theological insights with women disciples, he consecrated only men as his 12 apostles at the Last Supper. Even his mother, whom Catholics esteem as the premiere model of a Christian disciple, was not called to be an apostle.
Catholic teaching holds that Jesus intended his apostles, the first priests, to represent him as the bridegroom to the church, his bride. According to Catholic theology of the Mass, when a priest consecrates the Eucharist — which Catholics believe to be the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus — he is acting in the person of Christ. Since Jesus came to earth as a man, the fact that the priest is a man is not incidental in Catholic sacramental theology; it is crucial. And the symbolism of a man giving up everything to make himself totally available to the church as a priest is particularly powerful in a world that too often considers self-sacrifice to be women’s work.
Of course, such symbolism only makes sense if one believes in the significance of sex differences. Unlike the androgynous feminism that dismisses masculinity and femininity as meaningless social constructs, Catholic theology regards God’s decision to create human beings male and female as fraught with meaning. The church teaches that man and woman each make distinctive contributions and bear God’s image in a unique way. Since their equality in dignity does not always translate into sameness of roles, it is no more unjust for women to be excluded from the priesthood than for men to be denied the chance to conceive and bear children.
Such arguments remain unconvincing to those who view the church through the lens of modern identity politics, yet they are persuasive to many Catholic women and men. A sacramental worldview tells them that signs and symbols, like sex differences, still matter. And traditions handed down from ages past can reveal transcendent truths that still speak to us today.
Colleen Carroll Campbell is an author, television host and St. Louis-based fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Her website is http://www.colleen-campbell.com.