Why Keep Women Out of the Priesthood
by Erin Saiz Hanna
The New York Times | November 27, 2013
Like Pope Francis’s humble, pastoral nature, much of his 84-page document, Evangelii Gaudium, will win over the hearts of many Catholics. In this exhortation, which lays a clear blueprint for his papacy, Pope Francis calls for reform of the curia and global economic justice. As I read the document, I found myself really rooting for Francis when he said: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” Yes. This is what Jesus would say. This is being Catholic.
But where Francis lost me is on the role of women in the church, where once again women are seen as a separate entity and unworthy of priestly ordination. Pope Francis reiterated we’re not even allowed to discuss the issue. In the document, Francis states, “The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general.”
Where Francis misses the mark is suggesting that women are seeking ordination simply as means to gain power. While women’s decision making and leadership is certainly vital, the fact of the matter is women are called by God to serve alongside their brother priests. For a pope who seems so in tune with the marginalized, how does he not see that women are weeping and yearning for justice in the church? How can his sense of social justice not extend to the women of the church and their capacity for ordained ministry?
By including women as priests, the church would model Jesus’ radical example of equality and solidarity with women. It would also have a powerful and positive impact on a world stunned by economic crisis and continually reeling from sexism, racism, homophobia and other forms of oppression.
As Pope Francis continues his papacy, I believe keeping the hearts of women engaged will serve as a real obstacle for him. While many of Pope Francis’s calls for reform are inspiring, when it comes to the role of women in the church, he is just another enforcer of the stained glass ceiling.
- Erin Saiz Hanna is the Executive Director of the Women’s Ordination Conference, which works to ordain women as priests, deacons and bishops.