Dec 31, 2022 706 Father Joseph Gill, USA

Q & A: Why can only men become priests?

Q – Why is it that only men can become priests? Doesn’t that discriminate against women?

A – A body has many parts, each of which has a unique role to play. An ear cannot be a foot, nor should an eye desire to become a hand. For the whole body to function well, each part has a critical role to play.

Similarly in the Body of Christ (the Church), there are many different and beautiful complementary roles to play! Not every person is called to be a priest, but all are called to be saints in their own specific vocation.

The priesthood has been reserved to men for several reasons. First, Jesus Himself chose only men to be His Apostles. This is not just due to the culture of the times, as some have claimed. Jesus often broke cultural norms in His relationships with women—He bantered with the Samaritan woman, He welcomed women into His entourage, He chose them to be the first to witness the Resurrection. Jesus bestowed a remarkable dignity and honor upon women, treating them asequals—but He did not choose them for the unique role of Apostle. Even His own mother Mary, who was holier and more loyal than all of the other Apostles, was not selected as an Apostle. The Apostleswere the first bishops, and all priests and bishops can trace their spiritual lineage to the Apostles.

A second reason is because when a priest celebrates the Sacraments, he is standing “in persona Christi” (in the person of Christ). A priest does not say, “This is Christ’s Body”—no, he says, “This is MY Body”. He does not say “Christ absolves you” but rather, “I absolve you.” It makes me tremble, as a priest, to take these words of Christ as my own! But as the priest stands in the person of Christ the Bridegroom, giving of himself to His Bride (the Church), it is fitting that a priest be a male.

A final reason is because of the order of creation. We first see God create rocks and stars and other inanimate objects. No big deal. Then God creates plants—we have life! Then God creates animals—life that moves and is conscious! Then God creates man—life that is in His image and likeness! But God is not yet finished. The highpoint of His creation is woman—the perfect reflection of God’s beauty, tenderness, and love. Only a woman can bring forth life as God does; a woman is created to be relational, as God loves relationship. So, one can state that woman is the pinnacle of God’s creation.

The vocation of priesthood is centered around service and laying down one’s life for the flock. Therefore,it would not be appropriate for womento serve men, but rather for men to serve women. Men are created to defend, protect, and provide for others—the priesthood is one way in which he lives out that calling, as he defends and protects souls from the Evil One, and provides for the Church through the Sacraments. A priest should be laying down his life for the souls entrusted to his care!

It is a modern error to think that leadership equals power and oppression. Because of original sin, we often see people abuse leadership roles, but in the Kingdom of God, to lead is to serve. In this light, priesthood is a calling to sacrifice, to imitate Christ even to the Cross. It is a uniquely masculine role.

Thisin no way means that women are second-class citizens in the Church! Rather, their calling is equal but different. Many heroic women have given their lives for Christ as martyrs, virgins, consecrated religious, missionaries, leaders—in a uniquely feminine way, bearing spiritual life, nurturing relationships, uniting themselves to Christ the Bridegroom.

What a beautiful thing it is to have such a wide variety of different but complementary vocations in the Church!





Father Joseph Gill

Father Joseph Gill is a high school chaplain and serves in parish ministry. He is a graduate from Franciscan University of Steubenville and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. Father Gill has published several albums of Christian rock music (available on iTunes). His debut novel, “Days of Grace” is available on amazon.com.

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