Even though I am an Orthodox Christian and not a Roman Catholic, I was very disappointed when I read Meg Catanzarita’s assertion that Jesus Christ would desire there to be “women priests.” I believe that, through the Holy Apostles, Jesus Christ had the entirety of the Christian faith “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). So, I too “cannot ’not’ respond.”
Her boasting of being educated in Catholic institutions from grade school to college does not prove her point. We have countless clergyman and scholars with far more impressive pedigrees that disagree with her. That does not make them right either. We can all enlist people with “educations” in support of “our” side, but this does not get to the heart of the matter: “What would Jesus do?,” as she asks.
Thankfully, we know what Jesus would do, because He is God and still speaks to us today in the Scriptures and the Church, “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Tim 3:16). These Scriptures tell us that Church leaders must be able to hold “fast the faithful word as he has been taught” (Titus 1:9). So, whatever the “correct” answer to the “women priests” question is, we cannot have one answer this year and another answer the next.
So, what is the answer? The Scriptures contain not a single example of a female priest. Instead, Saint Paul teaches that, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” within the Church (1 Tim 2:12). Whenever he gives requirements for priests and bishops, he is explicit that they must be men (1 Tim 3:1-2 and Tit 1:6-7). We know we are not misunderstanding Paul, because the entire ancient Church until recent times has always taught this, starting with Saint Clement of Rome. He is the Church’s third Pope and we still have a letter of his that reaffirms a male priesthood.
Those with novel ideas like Catanzarita would have been condemned by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry. He did not say vainly, “For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men” (Mark 7:8).
However, if Catanzarita knew why God has established a male priesthood, she might change her mind on the issue. In short, God wants the Church to be a living demonstration of the divine life of the Holy Trinity. Saint Paul writes, “I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor 11:3). This is not a teaching that makes women less than men any more than Jesus Christ is less in His divinity than the Father. I presume Catanzarita, with her extensive Catholic education, remembers the words of the Athanasian Creed: “In this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another.” Yet, Jesus Christ both submits to, and is headed by, the Father. In the same way, woman is not less than man. As Saint Paul reminds us, “Neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord” (1 Cor 11:11). So, in the Lord, female laity are not independent of male priests or vice versa—but the male priests exercise headship. This is not due to inequality. Rather, the divine reality of God Himself manifests itself within the life of the Church by being faithful to the traditional teaching.
This is completely non-negotiable for the Christian, because we “are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18). Heaven is not an endless buffet line or beach resort. It is an everlasting experience of growing closer to and more like God. This is well known and universally regarded among Orthodox and Roman Catholics. I am sure that Catanzarita, due to her significant learning, knows that this is why Christian art throughout the ages has put halos around the heads of the saints. And so, if my eternity in heaven is partaking in the life of God, how can I contemplate laying aside the divine hierarchy of the Church for a novel one? It would obfuscate the presence of the Trinity within the Church.
Jesus Christ appointed 12 male disciples to the Bishopric. These Apostles, who Christ Himself promised the Holy Spirit would “lead…into all truth” (John 16:13), likewise appointed only men to succeed them. And subsequent to them, the Church has never wavered from the example of God.
This is no coincidence. Jesus Christ said, “The Kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:21), that is, the Church. Christ has shown us the life of God and this divine life, as reflected by the hierarchy we see in the Scriptures and history of the Church, is Trinitarian and eternal as God is.
Catanzarita’s asserts that the “Jesus I know would smile and shake his head at all the hoopla about women priests.” Likewise, the Israelites when they wandered in the wilderness grew impatient, fashioned a golden calf for themselves, and said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Ex 32:4). Those with “itching ears” who cannot “endure sound doctrine” (2 Tim 4:3) have been fashioning idols since the beginning. And so, I must conclude, Catanzarita’s “Jesus” is not the “Jesus Christ” that is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8). This is because “her” Jesus Christ is simply her own and not the real, historical Jesus.
We who are faithful to the historical Jesus Christ, whose words we know and whose Church has maintained His example ever since His ascension ask that our ancient faith not be modified. We welcome those with new and different ideas to form their own corporate bodies, but ask that they not impose their views upon others, as this is not keeping with the spirit of tolerance.