Why do Catholics Forbid the Ordination of Women? *


The story of Deborah, recounted in the Book of Judges, portrays a woman of remarkable wisdom and courage (see 4:1-5:31). As "a mother in Israel" (5:7), a prophetess speaking for God, and a judge governing the people, she attracted to her leadership many who trusted her judgment and were inspired by her example.


Scripture offers other women as well who serve us as models of faith and holiness--first among them, or course, Jesus' mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary (see Lk 1:26-56). Since biblical times as well, the Church has been blessed in every generation with gifted women who have witnessed to their Lord in extraordinary ways, including three--St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Catherine of Siena--who have been recognized as Doctors of the Church for their insights as spiritual teachers.


Certainly, then, the Catholic Church affirms that women can be spiritual leaders and teachers. Women assume countless positions of leadership and teaching throughout the Church today, and we all benefit from their gifts. Nevertheless, the ordination of women as clergy is an altogether different matter; it depends, not on gifts, but on calling--and only God can issue a vocation.


The Lord Jesus had many holy women among his disciples, including his mother (see Lk 8:1-3; Acts 1:14). Nevertheless, he chose men to be his twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose the coworkers who would become their colleagues, successors, and assistants in the ordained ministry (see Mt 10:1-4; Acts 1:15-26; 6:1-6). "The Church recognizes herself," the Catechism says, "to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible (cf. John Paul II, MD 26-27; CDF, declaration, Inter insigniores: AAS 69 (1977) 98-116)" (1577).


Since ordination is a divine calling, no one has a right to it. The choice belongs to God, and it must be received from him as an unmerited gift. But the Church has the authority and responsibility to discern that calling along with the person called, and then to confirm it, through the bishops, by conferring the sacrament of Holy Orders.


Other related scriptures: 2 Kgs 22:14-20; 2 Chr 34:19-28; Mt 1:18-25; 11:1; 19:28; 24:1-12, 22-24; Acts 5:14; 13:1-3; 16:14-15; 18:1-2, 26; Rom 16:1-15; 1 Cor 16:19; Phil 4:2-3; Col 4:15; 1 Tm 3:2-13.


Catechism of the Catholic Church: 1577-1580.


*Quoted from The New Catholic Answer Bible. Wichita, Kansas, Fireside Catholic Publishing, 2005. www.firesidecatholic.com


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