The all-male Catholic priesthood is an issue I know doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to a lot of people, and I completely understand, having been there myself. Still, I find it really tragic that more people aren’t talking about this question of women and the priesthood – especially Catholics. The Catholic faith is really amazing in that, no matter how much you explore and learn, you can always go deeper. So in a certain sense, there are things that we accept without understanding. But we’re also thinking human beings, and questioning what we don’t understand can lead to a greater depth of faith.
When I was little, I remember asking my mother, “Why can’t girls be priests?”
To which she replied, “Do you want to be a priest?”
I didn’t, so that was that. I’m not sure I bought that entirely, but it was enough for the moment. As I got older, it seemed to make more sense to me. We call a priest “Father”, priests are spiritual fathers, women can’t be fathers. Done and done. And then, roughly a year ago, it struck me.
Why do they have to be fathers?
So I asked questions. I texted my cousin. I emailed a couple of my aunts. I cornered a friend at midnight and asked questions… and more questions. And then I researched. Now here I am, almost exactly a year later, and I’m ok with women not being priests. More than that, I think it’s fantastic.
“The violence which so many individuals and peoples continue to experience, the wars which still cause bloodshed in many areas of the world, and the injustice which burdens the life of whole continents can no longer be tolerated.”
You would think those words were spoken yesterday. Terrorism, shootings, and other acts of violence seem to overtake our news these days. But this call to action was actually made over 20 years ago, by St. Pope John Paul II (JP2) in his 1995 address for World Day of Peace.
In that same address, JP2 advocated for a particular solution – the advancement of women.
“The work of building peace can hardly overlook the need to acknowledge and promote the dignity of women as persons, called to play a unique role in educating for peace,” he wrote. “I urge everyone to reflect on the critical importance of the role of women in the family and in society, and to heed the yearning for peace which they express in words and deeds and, at times of greatest tragedy, by the silent eloquence of their grief.”
In 1988, Pope John Paul II published the Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem, which means in Latin “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women.”
Read it from the Vatican here.
Or get this book version, which includes commentary.
Some key points and thought-provoking quotes:
- A woman, Mary, is at the center of human salvation because it was through her that Jesus came into the world
- In her “fullness of grace” Mary signifies the fullness and perfection of what is feminine
both man and woman are human beings to an equal degree, both are created in God’s image.”