A Lay Person's Guide to Pope John Paul II's Teaching on the Role of Women

by Dr. Joseph Bagiackas

on the Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem

To review, see INTRODUCTION

eleventh installment: VI. The Church as the Bride of Christ

The All Male Priesthood

   In the overall context of the discussion of Christ's masculine role as Bridegroom, it is now possible to understand why Christ appointed only males to be Apostles. "In the calling of only men as His Apostles, Christ acted in a completely free and sovereign manner" (p.88). This means that He was not worried about the cultural attitude toward women when He established His policy of only having males as priests. Furthermore, "Since Christ, in instituting the Eucharist, linked it in such an explicit way to the priestly service of the Apostles, it is legitimate to conclude that He thereby wished to express the relationship between man and woman, between what is feminine and what is masculine. It is a relationship willed by God both in the mystery of creation and in the mystery of Redemption. It is the Eucharist that above all expresses the redemptive act of Christ the Bridegroom toward the Church the Bride. This is clear and unambiguous when the sacramental ministry of the Eucharist, in which the priest acts 'in persona Christi', is performed by a man (p. 89).

   If a woman were to consecrate the bread and wine, the effectiveness of the Eucharist would be obscured. In making this point, Pope John Paul II is confirming the teaching of Pope Paul VI on this matter in the Declaration Inter Insigniores of 1976.

   The Pope then makes some other points which are answers to questions about the all male priesthood. The Church must not be viewed as a democracy, or in another way that is against her nature. Being a priest is not like being elected to office. Neither does having women priests depend on the "vote" of Catholics. The ministerial priesthood is different from the general priesthood of all Catholics. But it is a service, not a power position. The Church has a hierarchical structure. Its leaders are not appointed by the people, but by other leaders under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But in the order of holiness, Mary, a woman, is first, not Peter or the Pope. Through the ages, many great women have arisen and given leadership in the Church in spite of society's discrimination against women.

   Next week: The conclusion of Pope John Paul II's Teaching on the Role of Women. To review the rest of this series, go to Archives beginning with the June 23, 1997 issue of A CALL TO PEACE: volume 8, no. 12.

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