A Response to Women Who Want to Be Priests

A Response to Women Who Want to Be Priests

I just stumbled across an article that both angered and saddened me. The article? Fort Myers woman defies church to be ordained Roman Catholic priest.

First of all, the title is misleading, because she cannot be ordained a Roman Catholic priest, thus she is not one. It’s the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church that women can’t be priests.

Here is my (hopefully charitable) quick response:

It has nothing to do with justice or equality. Men and women were created differently. We were given different gifts that when used together, beautifully complement one another. Women can’t be priests, just as men can’t be nuns. One vocation is not superior to the other.

Personally, as a woman, I feel 100% fulfilled in whatever my vocation may be. If I were to be called to religious life, I would feel 100% fulfilled in my capacity to serve the Church as a religious sister (and not to mention honored and humbled to be a bride of Christ).

There is a peace that comes with obedience. St. Thérèse of Lisieux wrote that she felt in herself the vocation of a priest. But did St. Thérèse complain, spend her time mourning what she could not be, and defy her superiors? No—she spent her time loving, leaving a legacy that has made her a doctor of the Church. “At last I have found my vocation. In the heart of the Church, I will be Love!” –St. Thérèse of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul

We are owed nothing. If people stopped trying to achieve what they think they deserve or is owed to them and humbly put their gifts and talents to real use, think of the good that could be done. Things like this create a distraction for the faithful. God owes us nothing; it is we who owe God.

UPDATE: The story I’ve linked to has since been taken down (or made private).

Photo copyright: CNS/Don Feria


About the Author

Lindsey Simmons is the publicity, social and digital media manager at Franciscan Media. An animal lover, she shares her home with her rescue cat and dog. She’s a member of St. Gertrude Parish in Madeira, OH, where she’s served on the Stewardship Committee and with the young adult group.
  • http://www.chicagonow.com/being-catholic-really Pam Spano

    I have never heard this explained better!  Thank you!

    • Anonymous

      Thank you, Pam!

  • Anonymous

    I think a better example would have been instead of a man cannot be a nun it should have been a man cannot be a mother (give birth) That to me is a great vocation!! One that only women can do.

  • Anna VanSant

    Men can become brothers.  And just because you are fulfilled in YOUR vocation doesn’t mean that all women are.  This isn’t just about you.  There are women who are being called by God to the priesthood and are not allowed to say yes to that calling in the Church and I think that is very sad.   It isn’t through obedience to the powers that be that change happens.  I believe that one day women will be accepted as priests in the Church. I have faith that the Church will eventually do the right thing.  Pax, Anna VanSant

    • Anonymous

      To clarify your last sentence, are you saying that the Church is wrong, even though it has been infallibly taught for the past 2000 years?  I ask respectfully,not because I am a man, but as one of God’s children, to look into what Blessed Pope John Paul II says about this in his Apostolic Letter ORDINATIO SACERDOTALIS.

    • ag

      God is certainly not calling any women to the priesthood.  God does not call people to vocations they cannot fulfill.  That would be like saying men are being called by God to become nuns…we know they most certainly are not.

    • Anonymous

      How do you know it is God calling? The evil one would love to see division in the church and that by disobeying the leaders we are sinning against the Holy Spirit. There is a big difference between men and women and they are created to not one be superior to the other but to complement each other. Not all men are worthy of the sacramental priesthood. In the east men can marry but not in this country. Thus Latin rite priest cannot marry. Women have a strong roll to play in fact one I do believe is the greatest calling and that is to be a mother! That is by far the greatest vocation. But in this modern world everyone wants what they can’t have and think it is their right. That is sad.

    • Faithful Catholic

      God does not call women to the priesthood.  What calls them to the priesthood is pride.  If you profess your Faith each Sunday at Mass in the Nicene Creed, then you have already affirmed your belief in the Catholic Church and all of her Magisterial teachings.

      To defy the Church in this matter of dogma is heterodoxy.  The Church will never permit the ordination of women because she is guided by the Holy Spirit.

      Unfortunately, some “Catholics” believe that if CNN says it, then it must be so. 

  • mlb49

    Same old song of the Catholic Church-men are superior. No wonder the membership keeps shrinking.

    • Anonymous

      Actually the number of baptized Catholics worldwide has increased about 12% in the past decade with the numbers in America stable, according to the Vatican.  Also, never has Church teaching ever state that men are superior.  “By defending the dignity of women and their vocation, the Church has shown honor and gratitude for those women who-faithful to the Gospel-have shared in every age in the apostolic mission of the whole People of God. They are the holy martyrs, virgins and mothers of families, who bravely bore witness to their faith and passed on the Church’s faith and tradition by bringing up their children in the spirit of the Gospel.” (from Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, n. 27: AAS 80 (1988), 1719.)

      • Anonymous

        Well said Michael!

        • Gzach

          we have to know that the call to be priest has to come from above,not as per our wishes.even if a person that is a man wants to be priest it would become fruitful only if we had the call .  what if a man want to be a priest and every priest wants to be bishop and every bishops wants to be cardinal  and every cardinal wants to be pope ?
          but other than our own wishes what we have to look at is what is gods plan about us . try to find out gods will

          when god wants women to be priests then god will sure let it happen
          not seeking gods will and pursue our interest had beeen the problem for the gospel all the time
          Any women who thinks they are qualified and eligible to be priest may not be good for the job even if they were born as man

          as the god has said in the scripture  ‘ i had known you even when you were in mothers womb.if god wanted a person to be priest dont be doubted that he will let them born as man

          After all being a priest is standing in the alter in the place of jesus . to take his place we have to offer oursevles fully all our desires , ambitions and the like  and let the lord deside who should represent him or stand in his behalf

          if all those who desire to be priest both men and women , had they submitted those wish to god and let him decide
          the church would have been stronger

      • Holly Gatling

        A beautiful Trappist priest once pointed out to me that the Catholic Church gave women enormous opportunities in education and leadership.  The idea that the Catholic church represses women is absurd.  The Magnificat is the greatest feminist statement in history.

  • Holly Gatling

    My struggle to understand the Church’s teaching on the all male priesthood was difficult. No theological argument worked for me.  Then one day while driving, which is when I do a lot of thinking, the answer came to me as clearly as if a voice spoke through my car radio.  “The priesthood is a gift, not an employment right.” Mystery solved.

    • Malhotra Mira

      A gift only deserved by men. Mystery reopened.

  • Miriamvs

    I remember my mother pointing out that if Jesus had wanted women to become priests, he would have had his own Mother, or Mary Magdelane, or one of the other women who he had befriended there at the Last Supper to receive that ordination and set the precedent. He didn’t, because as the author so eloquently notes, men and women are created to with unquie and varied gifts and abililites that preclude women from being ordained priests.

    It’s funny (or actually sad, really) that 2000 years later some who honestly believe themselves to be faithful Catholics think they know better, and want to right Jesus’ wrong. Thanks but I’ll stick with the original plan — that men and only men can be priests, and women can serve in other beautiful and fulfilling ways that are and have always been part of God’s master plan.

  • Martristarr

    “Women can’t be priests, just as men can’t be nuns. One vocation is not superior to the other.”

    There is a hierarchy in the church. Brothers can be somewhat equated with sisters, but brother and sisters are equal to priests. Therefore, one is superior to another.

  • Mary

    I just can’t accept that the priesthood is not seen as superior to life as a religious sister. I love many of the priests and sisters I’ve known in my life, but the assertion that they are equal is absurd. Why, then, is the concept of obedience used in another one of your points? A population of priests consisting of a mixture of compassionate, thoughtful men and women would be more representative of the congregation and more balanced in perspective. Does anyone truly believe that God differentiates between men and women? That tired argument that God made men and women differently just doesn’t make any sense. Women bring strong leadership gifts to the work. They have much to teach and to offer. Priesthood should be about the dispositions and service in love that individuals bring to parishes. What a difference it would make to both men and women to see women in the priest’s role! 

    • jofr

      A religious is not called to represent a congregation or a peoples point of view. It troubles me that anyone would think they were called to the power of hierarchy and not to HUMBLE servants of Christ. As a priest (or a nun) one has a duty to obedience and to be in service to others. People who are really called to religious life are not called because of the power of the office. They are misleading themselves. It is a calling to service and sacrifice. Priests are at the service of their bishops, Nuns are at the service of their bishops too. What reason would a woman have for wanting to be a priest as opposed to a nun when they are both servants of people through Christ. Christ’s life was about sacrifice. He was a man. The apostles he chose were men. Its about HUMILITY not about power.

  • Still_praying_onit

    “I feel100% fulfilled in whatever my vocation may be.”   It is possible- and likely- that you’re trying to state your happiness at being engaged (with a vocation to marriage).  You presume that if you were called to sisterhood, you’d be just as fulfilled– and yet that is presumptious.    Almost as much as knowing 100% who God would call to any specific role.

    Also, this statement- and article- have the same feel as so many responses:  anger, indignation, and a general “why won’t they just sit down and be obedient”.  Women who rock the boat are presumed to be greedy, powerhungry idiots out to ruin the church.  All of those presumptions mask a righteousness and unwillingness to consider a God who works beyond rules.   Perhaps the angry defenders of Church tradition ought to spend time in prayer with this issue, instead of simply dismissing it outright. 

    In your private prayer—- God may shatter your expectations of Him and his Church.  But if God does reaffirm the Church rules to you privately, He may also ask for a bit of humility in dealing with those who haven’t heard Him as clearly yet.

    • Malhotra Mira

      Your answer really is poignant among the sea of simplistic replies and this simplistic article. I totally agree. While we are told our roles are just as satisfactory, these rules are usually passed on by males, who are defining who we can be or what God has spoken, who have no understanding as to what it would be like to be female. I’d like to think of a Catholicism that places more value on the heart, intention and ability of a person, rather than her/his gender, which for some reason is the ONLY determining factor of whether you can apply for priesthood or not. I do believe in my heart that it is God’s will that women become priests.

  • Crossquad

    A woman on a cross is twice as horrible as a man because of twice the beauty that was
    put into them.


  • Stephen Mozier

    It comes to a question of obedience: if we are obedient to God’s Will, spoken through His Church, then we will submit to whatever that is. It is not God’s Will that women be clergy, and this is spoken through the official teaching of the Magisterium and confirm some years ago by the Holy Father, Blessed Pope John Paul II.  The Church does not have the authority to ordain women as priests. 

  • rita

    For those who are interested in the roles of men and women you might want to view this lecture http://vimeo.com/16653964

  • Anonymous

    An excellent presentation on this topic which clearly articulates why the church teaches what it teaches is given by Dr. Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College. The audio of this presentation can be accessed at http://peterkreeft.com/audio/09_priestesses/peter-kreeft_priestesses_.mp3

    • Anonymous

      Thank you very much! Dr. Peter Kreeft is fantastic. He is one of the authors for our Servant Books imprint.

  • Anonymous

    By the way Pam thanks for writing this and God’s Blessings on your Marriage!

    • Anonymous

      I think you mean me (Lindsey)…if so, thank you very much and God bless you! :)

      • Anonymous

        I corrected it! sorry about that!

        • Anonymous

          No worries, haha. Lot’s of names flying around here. :)

  • Anna Claire

    Some women are called to the priesthood. Deny that all you want but God knows it to be true. Sometimes people must disobey in order to bring about any change and or reform to what is unjust. They go bravely knowing fully what the consequences are. The words of excommunication may be spoken or even put into writing but to those women who believe the Holy Spirit is on their side…excommunication is all in the mind….Also,what good does it do? Their consciences are clear because they love the church.

  • Rudy

    I attended Judy Beaumont’s ordination yesterday in Fort Myers, Florida. It was a beautiful service and she is now a Roman Catholic priest, perhaps not in the eyes of the institutional church, but in the eyes of many of the faithful who are the church and those who support her ministry to the poor. If you are interested in learning more about the woman priest movement, I recommend a viewing of the documentary “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican.” Also check out the web site Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests and Bridget Mary Meehan’s blog (she is a woman bishop) bridgetmarys.blogspot.com …

    • Joe from KC

      Those there were not faithful. That word has a definition we would do well to read.

  • Di

    The example of St. Therese shows us that it is not wrong, in itself, to have those feelings and questions about it–it is not so easy a concept to grasp as it’s made out to be.  Yes, Jesus picked twelve men.  We can still wonder why–and theologians could do a better job of explaining how the role of the priest in the sacraments entails men standing in, so to speak, for Jesus?  The church could do a better job of explaining, and demonstrating, that the priesthood is not about power and authority for its own sake, which it occasionally appears to be.

    Merely saying, “The Pope said so, so be quiet,” is a call for thoughtless, not thoughtful, understanding, and dignified, obedience.

  • Anonymous

    Please show one single example of a culture that assigned a high status to “women’s work.”  Once that happens, I’ll accept your “separate but equal” argument.

  • Pingback: The Fraternal Character of the Priesthood — Healing Reflections for the Soul

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com/ EditorCT

    St Therese did NOT want to be a priest.  If you read the entire passage it becomes manifestly clear that she is speaking poetically. She makes a list of things – contradictory things – that she would love to do to show her love for God.  It is ridiculous to interpet that passage as her wanting to be a priest any more than any of the other things on the list. Ridiculous. Who, in their right minds, believes that Jesus wants us to pluck out our eyes or cut off our limbs, rather than sin – yet that’s what he said. 

    Get a grip.

  • Jmibe5

    Look at it this way, women cannot be priests because Jesus is the bridegroom and the church is the bride. What are our priests, the bridegroom if women were to be ordained as priest that would be a lesbian couple and that will never happen. We are all called to be holy. No one is superior to anyone else. We have rules for a reason, to preserve our catholic tradition that we have had for over 2000 years.

  • jofrmil

    A call to religious vocation is a call to imitate the HUMILITY of Christ and not a call to power. All these arguments for female priests have there roots in the desire for what they perceive as human power. The calling is to HUMILITY not to power and the power of the church is all 100% the power of the trinity. Christ was a male. The apostles he chose were men. The succession is and has been handed to men. Women nuns are at the humble service of their bishops but so are priests and The Bishops are the servents of the Pope who’s authority comes from the only power in the church,The power of God.

  • jofrmil

    A call to the power of religious vocation is an absurdity. A call to religious vocation is a calling to HUMILITY not to power. True religious life has nothing to do with power. The church never was meant to be a democracy and a true call to service is a call be in the service of Christ through your local Bishop. If you don’t like being told what to do you have not found the humility to serve, and you should not be a priest or nun. Christ was a man. He chose male apostles. The succession is from male to male. I find it hard to believe that if God wanted it otherwise HE would have waited 2000 years to do so and I don’t believe He changed His mind!


    The answer can be found in the “CATECHISM of the CATHOLIC CHURCH, Second Edition”.

    CCC: “1577 Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination. The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ’s return.
    The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.”
    Bible passages in CCC footnotes: Mk 3:14-19; Lk 6:12-16; 1 Tim 3:1-13; 2 Tim 1:6; Titis 1:5-9; etc.
    Code of Canon Law – “Can. 1024 A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly.”
    For info on the CCC, and authoritative links, on the net go to: http://whatcatholicsreallybelieve.com
    or search – ” What Catholics REALLY Believe SOURCE “.

  • s myers

    Please do not give up sisters. You have sacraficed so much more than most priest. I can only hope that Pope Frances will have the courage and character to allow this to happen, a woman on the alter giving the body of Christ.. that will bring me back to the church. A church that for over 50 years was my salvation, then because of priest actions and the cover ups I no longer felt good even walking into the sanctuary. I sincerely feel these atrocitties would have never happened had a woman been in a position to know what was going on, a woman would have not only reported it to the church she would have gone to the police. So sisters stay strong and persevere. God is caling you to the priesthood, answer His call.


    In my catechism classes, it has been said many times that the Church is holy, but not perfect. Obedience to God is one thing, but to the doctrine of the Church there is a caveat that exists for an obvious reason. This is why there was a Vatican II, and why there will most likely, someday, be a Vatican III.

    Fulton Sheen said that God came to earth in human form because we cannot wrap our arms around the universe. God provided something that we could comprehend in order that we find a way to express our mutual love. Even in her celebrated book, “The Catholic Priesthood and Women” Sister Sara Butler concedes that little is known about the historical Jesus. We do our best to fill in the blanks, but for better or worse we are bound by the social and cultural conventions of our times. If women were allowed into the priesthood now, many things within the Church’s structure would be turned on their head – it would take a lot of work to re-examine and re-define the structures in place. But, that does not mean that such a venture is against God will.

    The foundation of the Church’s argument, namely that Christ did not choose women apostles, that he came in the form of a man – is the key. I’ve wondered, though, if people would have listened and viewed him in the same way if he’d come as a woman, particularly at that time? He would not have even been allowed into the synagogue in Nazareth when he read from Isaiah to proclaim that prophecy had been fulfilled. We take the choice of God coming in the form of a male human being as an indicator of one thing, when it might have been an indication of something else. God’s coming was the fulfillment of prophecy, period. Women were – and continue to be – thought of as less in the middle east. Could it then be argued that God just chose the form that would allow the best avenue to speak and direct the flock?

    A Dominican priest in the National Catholic Reporter stated that “men are more likely to think of God in terms of philosophical definitions and logical syllogisms.” So, in other words, women are not naturally logical or philosophical creatures – I question that statement heavily. This comment is the reason that some priests have been banished from the Holy Orders and others have allowed the ordination of women – because they find it an archaic sentiment of humanity’s social and cultural trends rather than the will of God. It’s the same argument that keeps women out of the physical sciences and engineering realms at universities, despite the contributions of female scientists throughout the ages. It is not a statement of what truly is, but how women are reared in society. Women are not supposed to be good at logical activities, like mathematics, etc. and so they are simply not encouraged or supported in those directions. It disrupts the social system in place.

    Another point the Dominican priest makes is that women “have special access to the heart of Jesus.” This seems tragic to me if true. God’s love is the point and our motivation for living a life of holiness and this statement is saying that one sex has greater access to the greatest gift humanity was ever given? Agape is supposed to be the highest form of love and yet the priest’s above statement implies romantic love of some kind.

    Human beings are creatures of habit and we do not like change. That does not mean it doesn’t happen, though. I just have to trust that, if the Church does need to change its position on this front, it will happen in God’s good time.