Saturday, April 2, 2011

Why a Male-only Priesthood? II

When defending the male-only priesthood of Jesus Christ one is almost socially obligated to provide a litany of wonderful qualities of the female sex; as if to apologize for this unchangeable doctrine. But this misses the point. The Catholic priesthood of only men has nothing to do with the personal merit of a man or a woman. The Catholic Church, more than any other religion or institution, honors women throughout the year by celebrating female Saints; most notably the Blessed Virgin who is heralded as the holiest of all the Saints and human beings. Perhaps this is why when the Catholic Faith was most influential just a few centuries ago in Europe, the station of women was elevated far above than what it had been in pagan civilization.

In any case, the male-only priesthood has everything to do with this one fact: Sexuality symbolizes the unseen spiritual world. Indeed, human sexuality and spirituality are so tightly interwoven with one another that to change the attitude or practice of one is to change the attitude or practice of the other.

Man and woman were created in God's image. According to Scripture, God has chosen to reveal not only who he is but the truth of his creation as it relates to himself; especially with regard to God's relationship with the human race. Keep in mind that our culture has become increasingly egalitarian in previous decades. In addition, with the advance of same-sex marriage, the sexual attributes of masculinity and femininity have come to be seen as superficial categories. Some ask, “What is the difference if a child has a father and a father rather than a father and a mother?” “As long as each parent is loving,” they say, “that is all that matters.” Under this radical version of equality, men and women have become neutered to great detriment of humanity.

With that said, we can restore the proper understanding of what a man and what a woman really is by returning to God's revelation. And the bearer of that revelation is the Catholic Church.

Someone who made a brilliant case for the male-only priesthood was a non-Catholic, C.S. Lewis. In fact, he belonged to the Anglican Church; a church that eventually renounced the male-only priesthood. He points out that God's identity as Father is closely bound up with men being priests; and that God invoked as Father brings to light who we are as his image.

“Suppose the reformer [innovator] 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, and 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.”

Lewis goes on to say, “One of the functions of human marriage is to express the nature of the union between Christ and the Church. We have no authority to take the living figures which God has painted on the canvas of our nature and shift them about as if they were mere geometrical figures.”

If it doesn't matter that God is invoked as mother or father then it does not matter if Christ is seen as the bridegroom or bride. To reverse the traditional imagery, dare I say the imagery revealed by God, then it is no exaggeration to say that we will find ourselves in a different religion entirely; one closely akin to ancient paganism. With pagan religious beliefs we will soon be led to pagan morality;you know, the good old gladiator games in the Colosseum and the human sacrifices on the pyramids.

Rarely do people follow doctrines- be it revealed or man-made -to their logical conclusions. Nevertheless, the revealed doctrine that the Priesthood of Christ is to be transmitted through men only preserves the correct belief in the Holy Trinity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is also guarantees the doctrine of how God and his people relate to each other and who we really are. Take away the linchpin which binds only men to the priesthood, and the rest unravels. Sad but true, a fine illustration of this unraveling is to be found in the twenty-first century Anglican Church. It has severed so many of its ties with primitive Christianity. King Henry VIII would not even recognize it.

How the male and female body represent who we are in the final blog.