Scholar: Ordaining Women Is Disrespectful

Says Promotion of Female Priests Overemphasizes Masculinity

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ROME, MAY 4, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Those who want to ordain women to the priesthood manifest a failure to recognize the dignity of women, said an expert in moral theology and women's issues.



Pia de Solenni asserted this during her April 27 conference at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.

De Solenni won the Pontifical Prize of the Academies in 2001, receiving an award from John Paul II for her doctoral thesis on St. Thomas Aquinas.

At the conference, de Solenni used St. Thomas' arguments to analyze the issue of the ordination of women to the priesthood in light of the natural complementarity between the sexes.

St. Thomas taught that woman was not created from man's head in order to rule over him, nor from his foot to be ruled by him, but from his side in order to rule with him, she explained.

Ordinatio Sacerdotalis

The 1994 Vatican document "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" concentrates on three basic points, de Solenni explained: "Christ, in ordaining only men, acted freely without constraints by cultural norms; nonadmission to the priesthood is not a sign of lesser dignity; the Church does not have the faculty to ordain women."

De Solenni illustrated the first point saying that many claim Christ ordained only men because of the cultural norms of his day. Since the role of women has changed, some say the Church should also adapt and allow women to be ordained to the priesthood, she said.

De Solenni contended, however, that the Gospels show how Christ often broke with the cultural norms of his day: In fact, it was to the Samaritan woman at the well that he revealed himself clearly as the Messiah -- to her as to no other, she said.

Equal dignity

"Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" points out that the non-admission of women to the priesthood does not signify a lesser dignity. The entire history of the Church, said de Solenni, "witnesses to the presence and active participation of women."

"It was the consent, understanding and devotion of a woman that brought the Church to us," and the fact that the Virgin Mary was not chosen by her son to be a priest "indicates that the sacrament does not discriminate on the basis of dignity or merit," de Solenni explained.

De Solenni reiterated a point from "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" which says the question of women's vocations should not be confined to ordination.

"Woman will never be the bridegroom, in any form. The temptation to force upon women a masculine paradigm arises from our confused notions of power and authority which, in turn, devalue her vocation as a bride, clearly illustrated by Mary," de Solenni said.

Ordaining a woman, she said, "would be, in essence, to show complete disregard for the reality she is as a woman, as a bride."

Masculine vs. feminine

De Solenni asserted: "The promotion of ordaining women to the priesthood is a sign of misunderstanding and even disrespect for the dignity of woman."

The fact that "the significance of the feminine identity is so largely misunderstood or even disregarded, indicates that our very notion of Church is in peril, has lost personality. She has become an 'it,' a mere institution, rather than a living being," de Solenni added.

The discussion of ordaining women to the priesthood has been a sort of "overemphasis of the masculine," she said.

"No doubt," continued de Solenni, "women need a voice in the Church, but it must be an authentic voice and not their voice made to sound like a man's."

Women, she stated, have a unique role in the Church and in society and that role should not be forced into masculine paradigms. "To do so," she said, "runs the risk of losing what is truly feminine -- not the femininity of fashion, but the varied femininity of women saints, whose personalities and strengths span just as far as those of men saints … if not more."