In my last article, I wrote about 7 reasons for an all-male priesthood. The teaching is very clear, but there are still many people, perhaps even with firm commitments to the spirit of fairness, that do not understand or accept the Church’s teaching. As always, we are called to be strong in the truth of Divine Revelation while patiently giving clear instruction.
This essay will not be a rehash of last week’s article. But I did want to add one more element to the discussion. I reserved this one for a separate article, because it is a bit more on the speculative side on my part. I have been playing around with this idea for a while. And while there is some thought here that is rooted in the Sacred Tradition, I did not want to add this line of thought to the much more solid reasoning of the last article.
One of the reasons, I believe, that Christ made sure to reserve priesthood only for men was to remind of a great natural and supernatural truth: men and women are different.
We have to be very careful on this point or else we can be horribly misunderstood. The reason why this is difficult to express is that there are those who see any difference as a difference in value. Air and water are clearly different. But both are necessary to the human person. Deprive a person of either and they will die. Both have equal value. The same must be said at the outset about men and women. Their value is the same, but you do a great disservice to the person to treat men and women exactly the same, because they are not. We would never dream of treating air and water the same way, otherwise we would throw water at a drowning man.
Part of the problem is that we are quick to look at the difference between men and women primarily rooted in biology. In college I was taught that sex is the biological difference between men and women. But I was also taught that gender are the social difference. For example, the fact that men have Y-chromosomes would be a difference in sex. But the tendency for women to wear skirts and makeup would be a gender difference. This leads to the idea that those difference that are biological are mostly solid while anything that is not a biological difference is something that is fluid; it is something that is alterable to the whim of society. This, I think, completely misunderstands the relationship between sex and real gender.
This next point is based on much of John Paul II’s theology, but he does not articulate it in quite the same way. So if I am off point here, blame me and not him. Men and women are more similar than they are different. But those difference are important. God made us male and female. As stated before, much of our academic culture views gender differences as social construction built on top of a biological framework. I would argue (and I think John Paul II and CS Lewis would agree) that it is the opposite.
Why do we assume that gender comes from sex and not the other way around? Of course it would be silly to say that our social constructions form our biological realities, and on this I would agree. But what if gender is not less solid than biology, but more solid? What if gender is not a social construction but a spiritual reality out of which sexual differences arise?
If the body is the “sacrament of the person” that means it is the outward sign (the body) of the invisible reality (the soul). Hence, the gender of the person precedes their biology. This would mean that we are men and women down to our very souls. We are primarily human beings that are in the form of masculinity or femininity. And then this form gets reincarnated into a biology which reflects the spiritual reality. Genesis says that God created men and women in the Divine Image. It is important to remember that this is a spiritual Image, not a physical. This would imply that this masculine and feminine distinction is rooted in that spiritual imagining. And God made us this way for a reason.
To reiterate, I admit that this is much more speculative on my part than the reasons in the previous article, so I am happy to take any correction if I veered to far into shakey ground. And it is important to note again that any difference does imply a difference in value. Men are not more valued than women. Women are not more valued than men. But we are different and that is the way it should be. Human beings should not be complete by themselves. We need others. Written into our biology is the fact that we are called to be bonded to another who is opposite of us. And even on a spiritual level, the influence of the opposite sex must be felt.
I will never know what it is like to be pregnant. There is a special bond that mothers have with their children that will always be beyond my experience. That is the way God has ordained it. As a man, I am not resentful of this. Men and women have different roles.
And to uphold this difference is to stand against the current tide of society. By the Church stating very clearly that only men can be priests, they are making a very clear point that there is an ontological difference between men and women that society cannot erase. And Christ, being God, may have in His Divinity understood how even the most fundamental truths of human beings would be attacked by the modern age’s demonic desire to destroy all that is true and remake the world in its own broken image. But the Church will not bend and so She is attacked as out of date.
But in reality, the Church’s teaching on all-male priesthood are rooted in eternity as the passing fads of our age ebb away with the swift current of time.
Copyright 2018, WL Grayson