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What Would Jesus Do…About Priestesses?

A former associate pastor at my parish once addressed a question about offering communion to anyone who would like to receive it by relating it to the question “What would Jesus do?” He said to consider a slightly different question; “What did Jesus do?” If the last The Last Supper was essentially the first Eucharist, it seems Jesus was very particular about who was in attendance and thus able to receive; much different than the Eucharistic foreshadowing that occurred at the multiplication of loaves in today’s Gospel reading, which was kind of a free for all (see John 6:1-15).

There were also no women at The Last Supper, which is a strange thing according to this article I happened upon about the Passover Seder meal. Apparently, Jesus broke with tradition and did not celebrate the Passover with family even though Jewish tradition holds that the mothers of the house and the children have an important role to play. Why would Jesus not invite his female relatives and followers? Not even his mother. No doubt he would have been with them at previous seder meals and knowing this would be his last, wouldn’t it have been even more appropriate to invite them all? It all points to the fact that his was no ordinary seder. This time he was conferring the Eucharist and the priesthood to his apostles and to no one else; this is the most reasonable explanation.

The Church is clear about the ordination of only men to the priesthood (see CCC, par. 1577). Jesus and his followers chose men to be their successors. Some might say that is only because they were bound by the times; people in those days would never accept women as leaders. But if Jesus is Lord then he is not “bound” by anything unless he chooses to be, like choosing to feel hunger, thirst and pain just like we do; and I don’t think he cares so much what people think in terms of social norms. It seems to me that if Jesus really wanted women to be his successors it would have happened.

Men as priests also connects with the idea that being male or female is not only a physical reality, but also a spiritually reality. As a priest, the man acts in the person of Jesus offering the Eucharist to his Church, which is literally the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine. If Jesus is “The Life”, then this giving and receiving of Jesus mirrors the giving and receiving that happens between a husband and his wife to bring about new life. No wonder the Catholic Church takes the definition of marriage so seriously!

If we view male and female as something only physical, we miss the greater reality. This not only leads to thinking a male-only priesthood is evidence of bigotry and a way to suppress woman, but also leads to confusion about marriage, gender and a whole host of other Church teachings on what it means to made in the image an likeness of God.

“For, once the idea is abroad that the changeless things can be subject to change, no peace is possible”

– David Warren

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Ben Butera

Ben Butera is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology and currently a Solutions Development Manager for a global 500 company. In 2010 he was certified as an instructor and Program Leader for his company’s initiative in analytical problem solving and decision making. In 2016 his first book was published entitled "Faith with Good Reason: Finding Truth Through an Analytical Lens". Ben is also co-author of “Two Catholic Men and a Blog”; a blog about Catholic faith and reason. He is a religious education catechist, a husband, a father and lives with his loving wife and three children in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.

28 Comments

  1. We actually know with 100% certainty what Jesus would do and what He did- i.e. commanded – about His ordained priesthood. The “Command of the Lord,” is that only males are to be ordained. En punto, das ist alles, end of ecclesial story, bottom divine line, disobey at your eternal peril. Jesus also commanded that no spouse can live with someone else, except in damning adultery; so no es problema for a heretic dictator to declare “Jesus, as I see in my amazing theological perspicacity and now-approaching demi-godness, yet again blew it, I know how He can be a better Jesus, and I declare women may act in persona Christi capitis, just ignore what’s below the waist and in the chromosomes. And to reiterate, no bishop who ordains women will be condemned forever.” Many problems with that however (see my Deaconesses, Never Deacons, Never Priestesses. Catholic Stand …
    http://www.catholicstand.com/deaconesses-never-deacons-never-priestesses); not the least of which is that when one is “in person” one is not just a soul, not only a spirit; one is an embodied soul, and ensouled body; and to deny that Jesus’s body is Him, is a form of the heresies that Jesus had no human body. Jesus had no uterus, no female genitalia, no female DNA – that is, Jesus Christ as The Son of God and Son of Man was male. body-and-soul. According to what Jesus set out for His sacrament of Holy Orders, only a male can say in His person, “This is my body . . .This is My blood.” Must read: book: WOMEN IN THE PRIESTHOOD? by Fr. Manfred Hauke. Guy McClung, Texas

  2. “The Catholic church gets priests from men. There should be no more debate over the subject of female aspiring to be priests also. Jesus Christ was a man. If Christ wanted female priests, he would have ordained his mother, Mary, first but he did not do that” says Archbishop Dr.Odama.

    Amen!

  3. And yet, we continue to pretend that churches like the Church of England are legitimate and to be taken seriously, on a level with RC church, with their women priests, their ‘married’ gay priests and bishops…

  4. God created Adam from the dust of the earth and breathed the breath of life into him. Eve, God took from the side of Adam. Eve is not Adam. Eve is a share in God’s Breath of Life in the family of man through Adam
    In the same manner, woman is a share in Jesus Christ. All men and mankind are a share in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Real Presence on the altar and in the tabernacle. The manhood of the priest is necessary. The female is superfluous, unnecessary. One must ask: “If one has everything, why is one seeking to a status that one cannot fill nor in which one cannot seek one’s destiny?”
    If a female wishes to ascend to the altar of God, without a vocation from God, to the ordained priesthood, there must be something lacking in wisdom and understanding on her part. How will she lead souls to Christ when she cannot even understand Jesus Christ?

  5. “How will she lead souls to Christ when she cannot even understand Jesus Christ?”

    Pride is the killer of the Holy Spirit Mary. These women are filled with pride instead of humility. If they had humility they would never consider the idea of priesthood.

  6. Any woman, or girl, who says the Holy Spirit has called her to the sacrament of Holy Orders is either mistaken or lying. Guy McClung, Texas

  7. From what I’ve read, it wasn’t / isn’t that unusual for close friends / coworkers to have a Passover dinner the NIGHT BEFORE Passover. So Jesus having the Last Supper with just his closest followers, the Twelve, would not be unexpected. We have all experienced a version of this type of practice. Thanksgiving and Christmas are both single days but I know many people who have multiple Thanksgiving Dinners and Christmas celebrations. Jesus would have had the “official” family Passover on Friday night at the beginning of Passover at the proper time. BTW, his crucification / death timing correspond with the sacrificing of the Passover lambs at the temple, so Jesus needed to be dead before the beginning of Passover (for the whole world / thru-out time).

    Regarding the sex of the Ordained there is a reality that limits both God and the Church.
    Women reproduce through / in their body. Men contribute to the reproduction outside of their body.
    The race of Adam was created through / with Eve, outside his body.
    The Father created the Son through / with / in a woman’s body, since the Father didn’t have a body.
    The Church is the Bride of Christ and is always referred as she or her. Jesus the Bridegroom, uses the Priest, acting in persona Christi, to provide the faith to raise children up through / in his Church.

    Priestesses, a common thing in the ancient world, would not work. It’s not possible.

    BTW, I have always thought the reason people who are in favor of ordained females and call them “a female priest” instead of Priestess is that everyone knows that a Priestess is a pagan office. No one says a female Waiter or female Steward, etc. There are words for those things.

  8. Good points JFK, but consider that If you knew it was your last Passover and last meal in general, wouldn’t you want others there too, including your mom. Still seems odd with no other explanation.

  9. Ben, somethings are mysteries. That being said I think his earthly task would take precedence over an event (passover) that would lose it’s importance once he rises.

    BTW, my statement , “The Father created the Son through / with / in a woman’s body, since the Father didn’t have a body.” Is a VERY poor effort to explain simply a Truth about the eternal breaking into our temporal reality. It is wrong in several aspects but conveyed what I intended.

  10. Is it certain there were no women at the Last Supper? The Gospels affirm the Apostles were there but also use the more general tern disciples and don’t explicitly say no one else where there. Who made the supper?

  11. Knowing it was the Last SUpper, if you wanted someone there, they would have been there. No inspired word of God says anyone else was present except the 12. Just as he commissioned only the 11 in Mark & Matthew; and only the 11 were at the Ascension. The Command Of The Lord is in Holy Scripture and is the constant tradition of the Church since the Ascension. Since Scripture does not say Pontius Pilate was not at the Last Supper, and does not say Nicodemus was not there, can we conclude they were present, and ordained priests? Guy McClung

  12. Some might say that is only because they were bound by the times; people in those days would never accept women as leaders.

    But they accepted women as priestesses – there were several pagan priestesses during that time, so it was certainly not unheard of.

  13. “Mary-Am unfamiliar with her vision of that. Was anyone else there besides the Apostles? Guy”
    Anne Catherine Emmerich is on audio and a wonderful listen. No, only the Apostles were present. In her visions, Anne Catherine Emmerich described the Last Supper down to the Holy Grail the tablecloth and the servers.

  14. Thanks Mary. I broke out the text and re-read the vision.
    She has recounted great detail making our contemplation even more efficacious since it helps us to remember that we are family…they are our relatives. St.’s Philip and Matthew sitting together..that gave me a smile. My brother and I were named after them.

    We are not obligated to believe in her visions but I truly appreciate them.
    The Poem of the God man, Maria Valtorta, has extraordinary scenes from the unrecorded lives of our Holy Family.

  15. I just don’t get the call for female priests in the Catholic Church by disgruntled nuns and feminists. It’s illogical for a female human being to be an ordained representative of the male Jesus Christ. “Get over it. Can’t happen”, is what I would like to say to them. Guess they think this is still the 1960s and just maybe the pope is crazy enough to give them hope..
    In our neck of the state there are at least 3 Episcopalian priestesses whom I’ve met. At funerals the sermons are good to excellent, though they obviously try to lower their voices which I find humorous. The former head Bishop in the US was a female. She and her husband came to commemorate the 350 anniversary of the Episcopalian Church in eastern VA. Then there’s the lesbian Epis. bishop over in southern MD, though that may not be current info due to a DUI. Wonder how many priestesses are fallen away Catholics? All Episcopalian ordained clergy have “priest” on their certificates. The new Anglican parishes do not have LBGT priests; do not preform mixed marriages aka as same sex, and are very pro-life. All a plus but they do not have the real Eucharist.

  16. CAM.

    You said it best.

    They do not have Jesus.
    -Douay Rheims Bible
    Then Jesus said to them:” Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.”

  17. Cam & Phil, Great comments. Whenever I am asked if I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior I say Yes, did that Feb. 25, 1947 at ST Ann’s Church in San Antonio-my mom and dad and godparents speaking on my behalf, and then I reaffirmed/confirmed that publicly myself on Mar. 31, 1960 at St. Pius X Church in San Antonio. Usually they looked puzzled. Then . . wait for it . . I tell them that yesterday I ate the flesh of Jesus and drank His blood – and then I ask them, “When is the last time you ate His flesh and drank His blood?” Almost always, there is absolutely no reply, none. They do know their Bibles, don’t they? Guy McClung, Texas

  18. Guy, liked your response. The priest at our mission tells us that local ministers say that Catholicism is not a Bible based faith. He always replies that of course it is. That every celebrated Mass has readings out loud from the Bible, new and old testaments, and that the sacraments were instituted by Jesus Christ; it’s there in the new testament.
    I too was born in San Antonio. Baptized by a Military Ordinariate priest most likely in January 1949 as I was a late December delivery. I should dig out my baptismal certificate for the exact date as it is a very important date as you noted so precisely for yours.
    I am concerned that many active Catholic couples wait many months after the birth to have their child baptized. It is a disturbing trend. A problem finding godparents? To nudge things along I had the Christening dress made for my nephew’s baby.

  19. Good article in general, but the Last Supper was NOT a Seder meal. Our Lord never attended a Seder meal in His life, as it had not yet been invented. The Seder (meaning “order of service”) meal was invented by modern Judaism as a remembrance of the Passover meal, which has no longer been celebrated since the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. There is no ritual slaughter of a lamb and all the Divine ordinances associated with Passover. The Last Supper was a Passover meal as prescribed in the Old Testament. It was not that unusual for a Passover meal in the 1st century to have only men in attendance. Every adult male Jew in the world was required to come to Jerusalem for the Passover if at all possible. Most of them left their wives and children at home. Jerusalem’s population swelled from about 50 thousand to a million, mostly young able-bodied men, many of them fanatically religious (hence Pilate’s concern not to enrage the crowds).

  20. Kurt, yes it is absolutely certain from our Lord’s words in the Gospels that our Lord and the 12 disciples were the only people present at the Last Supper. See Mark 14:17-20. “He came with the Twelve… ‘one who is eating with Me will betray Me … one of the Twelve’ “. i.e. nobody else was eating with Him.
    In the Gospels the Apostles are always called “disciples”. It is only after Pentecost that they are called Apostles, with Mathias replacing Judas. The other 11 ordained Matthias (Acts 1:15-26) showing that he had not been present at the Last Supper when Christ instituted the priesthood of the new Covenant.
    And no, contrary to some claims, there were not “women out in the kitchen cooking and serving the meal, whom the sexist Gospel writers omitted to mention”. Our Lord ordered Ss Peter and John to “go and prepare the Passover” (Luke 22:7-13) i.e. take a lamb to the Temple to be ritually slaughtered by a priest, skin it, put it on a Cross-like spit, roast it over an open fire, and bring the unleavened bread, wine, and bitter herbs. They found out where to prepare it by following a man carrying a pitcher of water – a very unusual sight – fetching water was women’s work. A man would only do so if he was living in an all-male household, similar to the monastery-like celibate male community at Qumran which wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. So there were no women at all in the house. Most likely our Lod told His Mother and the other women accompanying Him to remain just outside Jerusalem, possibly at Bethany with Mary, Martha and Lazarus, so that they wouldn’t become collateral casualties when He was arrested. And because He wanted to institute the new priesthood in the Twelve.

  21. As a person whose training and avocation is history and social science, I would like to note that in Jesus’ time and before and after until the 18th Century, female priestesses and other women presiders were associated with pagan religions. Even today, it is protestant churches and reform synagogues, as dissenters, that are the exemplars of women’s ordination in their own groups. Even in convents, the abbess was not an ordained cleric but rather an administrative authority position. Not being well versed in psychology, I can not speculate on the reason for support by men or women for ordination though I imagine that the manic desire for the leveling of differences between male and female enters in somewhere.

  22. Why aren’t the the 12 apostles ever called priests in the New Testament? It is because every Christian is a priest in the NT church, both male and female. This is our baptismal priesthood that we all participate in, and includes the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood of bishops and priests. We all participate in the one priesthood of Christ.

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