Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus commanded that only males were to receive His sacrament of Holy Orders – ordination as deacon, priest, and bishop. Before the first Pentecost, the birth day of His Church, Jesus commanded that only males, and not females, could receive His sacrament of Holy Orders.
With only the eleven remaining Apostles present, before His ascension, He ordered the Apostles to “go to the mountain” which He designated and there He said to them: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. “ (Mt 28:19-20).
Can the Commands Of The Lord regarding the male-only priesthood now be disobeyed ?
The constant Church teaching on the males-only-priesthood Command Of The Lord, since the first century, is reflected in current Canon Law: “A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly.” (Canon 1024; Code of Canon Law, 1983). Papal teaching has always held, proclaimed and made clear what Pope St. John Paul II said in his apostolic letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (May 22, 1994):
“Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren, I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful”
This statement by Pope St. John Paul is in accord with the conditions for an infallible statement and is clearly worded in such a manner.
Failed Ordination Attempts
A rebel bishop lays hands on a woman, says the words of the Sacrament of Holy Orders for deacons, correctly; says all the prayers, performs all the associated gestures and ritual. He then says, “I have just conferred on this woman the Sacrament of Holy Orders and she is now an ordained deacon!” A dissident archbishop lays hands on a woman, Jane Doe, goes through the required rubrics, says the mandated prayers and words, and does the stipulated gestures and actions, and declares, “I have ordained this woman to the priesthood. She is now Father Doe.”
To any of these fictional scenarios, add this: “But my bishops conference said this was legitimate, this is OK, this is valid, and that I can do this.” Or, purely hypothetically, fantastic as it may sound, ratchet this up a few more ecclesial notches, “But the Pope said this is in accord with his magisterial teaching and that now women can be ordained deacons and priests.”
The woman is not a deacon. Why not? Jane Doe is not Father Jane. Why not? The hypothetical episcopal and papal changes and validations had no effect. Why not?
What Actually Happened ?
To answer these ‘Why not?’ questions, beginning in the beginning is always a good place to begin.
History is important here. Did the Church, after it came into existence on the first Pentecost, after it then received the Holy Spirit, did it form a Committee On Getting Grace To Flow from Jesus to His Christians? Did it hold a synod with 10% of the Apostles to create ways to bring God’s life to people ? Did this new Church develop rituals, signs, regulations, prayers, and rubrics for the Church ? Did the Church set all this out and make it subject to change in the future by a group of bishops, by a pope in concert with a council, or even by a pope alone?
The chronology in fact was this: in time, the sacraments came first, then the Church. Jesus made and gifted us with His sacraments before He ascended into heaven, before the first Pentecost. Before His Church was instituted, Jesus gave us his words, directives, instructions, laws, limitations, orders, His “commands,” regarding His seven sacraments, including His sacrament of Priesthood.
What Is a Sacrament ?
Catechisms have answered the question: ‘What is a sacrament?’ :
Baltimore Catechism No. 1, 1885 A.D. : “A sacrament is an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994 A.D. : The seven sacraments are “this treasure from the Lord.” (1117). Quoting from the Council of Trent, 1547 A.D.: “Adhering to the teaching of Holy Scriptures, to the apostolic traditions, and to the consensus . . . of the Fathers,” we profess that “the sacraments of the new law were . . . all instituted by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1114).
This is the clear and unambiguous teaching of the Church, including that of Vatican II: “ They [the sacraments] must always however be referred to Christ, from whom their effectiveness derives . . . Of themselves, they certainly express the effective will of Christ the Savior . . .. (from the General Catechetical Directory, paras, 55, 56, published by the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, in accord with the directive in the Vatican II Council’s Decree on the Bishops’ Pastoral Office in the Church).
The Sacrament of Holy Orders
Two keys to understanding the Sacrament of Holy Orders from these definitions are: 1. that Jesus made the sacraments; and 2. they are gifts to us from Him. As His gifts, the sacraments are not mere incidental unimportant signs that the Church now today can substantially change – the Church must take them as Jesus has given them. Pope Pius XII, in accord with the teachings of the Council of Trent, stated, “The Church has no power over the substance of the sacraments, that is to say, over what Christ the Lord, as the sources of Revelation bear witness, determined should be maintained in the sacramental sign.” (Sacramentum Ordinis, No. 5).
Through All Church History
Holy Scripture, the tradition of the Church, and the constant teaching of the Church for now almost two millennia is that Jesus commanded that only males would be His priests, that females can not be ordained bishops, priests, or deacons.
Only twelve males were selected by Jesus as the first Apostles. When Jesus said “He who receives you receives me,” He sent out only males. Only the twelve Apostles were present at the Last Supper when He instituted the sacrament of Holy Orders and, by His command, ordered them, and only them, to do what He was doing in remembrance of Him, to act as priests in persona Christi in re-presenting Jesus’s sacrifice to His Father.
Although some women witnessed to the Resurrection, Jesus did not make them Apostles. Only males were considered as replacement for the Apostle Judas. When, at the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells the remaining eleven Apostles that they must do what He has commanded, no women are present.
St. Paul, recognizing that in Christ there is neither male no female, still is inspired by God to write that what he is saying about order in the Church, including the male-only priesthood, is not simply his own personal opinion, a personal directive, or a church custom, but is a “command of the Lord” already in effect:
“Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.” (1 Cor 14:36-38).
Throughout Church history, through and past the Middle Ages, the Church Fathers, scholars, and theologians uphold the Command of the Lord that women cannot be ordained as bishops, priests, or deacons. “Whenever the Church Fathers have occasion to speak, directly or indirectly, about ‘women in the priesthood,’ they reject it clearly and unanimously.” (Hauke, p. 425).
“In fact, ordination of women has been rejected in the Church with remarkable unanimity throughout two thousand years. This testimony is all the more impressive when – above all during the early period in Church history – it stands in contrast to existing ‘emancipatory’ trends. If women are ordained among the heretics or even if they only take on official teaching or baptismal duties, then such behavior is branded not only as a breach of Church discipline, but as heresy.” (Fr. Manfred Hauke, Women in the Priethood? Ignatius Press, 1988, p. 478).
“In sum, the Tradition has been so firm throughout the centuries that, as Inter Insigniores, no. 8 notes, “the Magisterium has not felt the need to intervene in order to formulate a principle which was not attacked, or to defend a law that was not challenged. … each time that this tradition had the occasion to manifest itself, it witnessed to the Church’s desire to conform to the model left to her by the Lord.” [Inter Insigniores, Declaration of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, On the Question of Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood, 1976]. But of course such principles and laws have been challenged in the past thirty years. Hence, the recent Magisterium has had to respond, and it has done so carefully, patiently and firmly. (Mark Lowery, The Male Priesthood the Argument From Tradition, https://www.ewtn.com/library/DOCTRINE/MALEPRIE.TXT.).
But . . .
All of the law, Holy Scripture, tradition, magisterial declarations, documents, treatises, reasoning, history, teachings, and Jesus’s words themselves make no difference to those who now demand that women be ordained, first deacons, then priests, eventually as bishops, and finally, some day, a female pope. Their response to the Command Of The Lord that His priests will only be males and that women will not be priests is one of:
- There is no such Command
- There is such a Command, but it does not apply today
- There is such a Command, but it can be ignored
- There is such a Command, but it can be disobeyed
- There is such a Command, but it must be disobeyed
- There is such a Command, but it can and must be reinterpreted today
- There is such a Command, but a pope can countermand it
- There is [or is not] such a Command, and there are exceptions; there were female deacons, “deaconesses,” who were ordained; and there were female “apostles”
- Right, justice, social justice, equality, recent research, and/or good, and/or the changing times, demand that women be ordained deacons and priests
Full treatments of such positions, and the reasons that they are wrong, can be reviewed in detail in the Hauke and Lowery works cited above, and in Eamon Keane’s The Ordained Priesthood, at https://www.ewtn.com/library/PRIESTS/ORDAINED.TXT.
It is not possible to put in words this author’s debts to Fr. Hauke, Dr. Lowery, and Mr. Keane – whose works are cited above – for the information and sources on the Command Of The Lord regarding male only priests. Of course, none of them is responsible for anything said here.
Why say it? There was a time when the faithful heard that there was going to be a Synod on the Family, and what was expected was a discussion of glorious, sharing heterosexual marriage between a loving man and a loving woman, and the joys of children. In truth and reality, as it turned out, the event was explicitly a Sin-od on Virtuous Adultery and, by implication, a Sin-od on loving virtuous sinful relationships of all types. It was also a vehicle for the proclamation of new teaching, including that the reception of Holy Communion by continuing adulterous sinners is permissible, and that the ecclesial community must “integrate” such ongoing, public sinners into the active life of the Church.
The faithful have now been alerted to what is termed a Synod ostensibly dealing with youth and “vocations.” Based on how things have been going, it seemed a good time to make clear that Jesus gave His Church a command that men alone will receive His sacrament of Holy Orders; that women cannot and will not be ordained, priests, deacons, or bishops; and His Church will never have a female pope.