Is the Catholic Church Sexist?
I have recently been confronted with the idea that the Catholic Church is indeed "sexist" because it does not allow the ordination of women to the priesthood. Dictionary.com defines "sexism" as "discrimination or devaluation based on a person's sex, as in restricted job opportunities; esp., such discrimination directed against women."
It is seen as a very bad thing these days if you deny someone a job based on their sex. Therefore, many would think that it is something bad if the Church is not allowing women to become priests. Why can't a woman be a priest? There are many women that are ministers in Protestant churches, so why doesn't the Catholic Church just lighten up and allow women too? Is it just trying to be super-controlling and anti-women? Is the Church indeed sexist?
Let's look at what the Church says in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "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."
One might think that Jesus just picked men by coincidence and that He didn't mean to be saying that women couldn't be priests. After all, didn't Jesus have close friends that were women? Yes, the Bible does include women that were close friends to Jesus but they were not the apostles. Let’s talk about the difference between an apostle and a disciple. A disciple of Jesus is simply someone who is a follower of Jesus. An Apostle though is someone who was appointed by Christ as a special leader in the Church. The 12 Apostles appointed the first bishops of the Church. They were the first priests. Notice though that none of the first priests (apostles) are women, and as the Church continued to grow throughout history none of the priests that were ordained from the original 12 are women either. It is true that women would still have some leadership positions in the Church, but never were they ordained as priests or deacons or deaconesses, although the title was used from time to time. Still, one might just think that that was the way the world ran back then (men being overly controlling of women and not allowing them to have authority).
However, let's look at what the priesthood is. Is it simply a career? A job? If it was something as simple as that then I would agree that anyone and everyone could be a priest. But the priesthood is something different then just a job. It is in fact a change of being. Who is a priest? A priest is sometimes called an "Alter Christus" meaning "Another Christ". This doesn't mean we would worship a priest or see him as another god, but rather this means that this priest has been called by God to act in persona Christi capitis or, in the person of Christ, the Head in administering the sacraments that Christ instituted--Christ being the only True High Priest (Hebrews 4:14) The priest is acting in the Person of Christ--as a steward and administrator of Christ's grace. This is not simply a job, but is a calling from God. God has only chosen certain individuals for this calling. He has picked those whom He wished to represent Him. Only a man can represent Christ Himself in the special role of the priesthood because Christ was and is a man. This is not shunning women, just as a God creating women with the ability to give birth to children is not shunning men.
God has created men and women equal in dignity. Men are not better than women, and women are not better then men. However, God has made man and women different. Men and women are different physically and emotionally, but they are equal in dignity. One is not better than the other even though Men can do some things women cannot, and women can do some things that men cannot.
The Church is not prohibiting women becoming priests because it is power hungry and sexist, but because this is what we believe was taught by the personal choice and action of Christ Jesus Himself, and that it is indeed impossible (even if Church leaders wanted to) that the priesthood can include women. Women are important to the Church, and should not be seen as having no role. Women who wish to dedicate their lives to Christ in a special way through the Church may become nuns or consecrated. Married men and women also take certain roles in helping their local parishes, the diocese and missionary work. God has called each and everyone to a certain mission in life and each mission is vital to playing out God's perfect plan.