Holy Orders/My Faith/Sacraments

I Never Want to Be a Priest.

Going home for holidays was always something I looked forward to in college. I didn’t get to go home a ton because my family lived over 24 hours from my University, unlike most of my friends I didn’t just hop in a car to go home for Christmas. Instead while most people were driving a couple hours to get home, I was hustling through busy airports.

I have always enjoyed people watching in airports and I also actually enjoy the small (sometimes awkward) conversations with the person next to me on the plane. When I traveled home for Christmas break these plane conversations usually started with my neighbor asking me why I was going home. Once I told them I was going home for a break, the next question that usually followed was “what is your major?” I always get varying responses when I tell someone I studied Theology, but on these plane rides in college, there was one response that was pretty common.

“What do you want to do with your degree in Theology? Do you want to be a priest? Why can’t you be a priest?”

To be honest, sometimes these questions made me uncomfortable. But because it was such a great opportunity to share my faith, I tried to answer to the best of my ability.

“Do you want to be a priest” isn’t just a question that was asked because I was woman studying theology. I think it comes from a deeper place, I think people are genuinely curious why the Catholic Church teaches that the priesthood is reserved to men. And let’s be honest, some people aren’t just curious about it, they are angry about it.

I want to tell you as a woman, I am not mad that I can’t be a priest but actually respect and uphold the priesthood.

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the priesthood. I think the only way we can start to understand why the priesthood is reserved for men is by looking at what the priesthood actually is.

1. What’s a priest anyway?

Christ’s priesthood was prefigured in the Old Testament. Priests in the Old Testament mediated between man and God. Think of the priests who offered sacrifices. While these priests in the Old Testament mediated and offered sacrifices, they were unable to to bring salvation through their sacrifice, that would only come through Christ (CCC 1539, Exodus 29:1-30).

2. Christ’s priesthood.

The New Covenant fulfills the Old Covenant and in the New Covenant, Christ becomes the only priest, only His sacrifice could win salvation for the world as the “one mediator between God and man” (1 Timothy 2:5, CCC 1544, 1545). While Christ was still on earth, He ordained men to continue His priesthood after He was gone. This is a beautiful gift to the Church because through the ordained priesthood, Christ continues to be with us throughout the ages — especially through the Eucharist!

3. Christ’s priesthood continues.

The only reason we have the process of ordination is because Christ was priest first. Priests who are ordained in the Catholic Church participate in what is known as the “ministerial priesthood” (CCC 1547). Christ is the high priest and when men are ordained priests they are participating in Christ’s priesthood, not their own. In fact, when men are ordained priests they don’t just act like He acted, but they are made like Him (CCC 1548). They receive a spiritual print on their soul that allows them to stand in the person of Christ. Since this is such a real participation in Christ’s ministry as priest, including His masculinity, both physically and spiritually, it makes sense that women can not be ordained into Christ’s priesthood in the same way that men can.

4. The priest acts in the person of Christ.

Unfortunately many confuse equality with function. It is possible to have the same equality but have different functions, and it isn’t unjust that some of us have different functions than others. Our human bodies even show us this! The ministerial priesthood is a male function, not because the Church wants to discriminate against women but because, Christ as male, represents His relationship to the Church, His bride (CCC 796). And the priest stands as an icon or in the person of Christ when he functions as priest.

5. The Common Priesthood?

But that doesn’t mean that non ordained men or women can’t participate in Christ’s priesthood at all. All of the faithful participate in what is known as the “common priesthood” of Christ (CCC 1547). What does that mean? It means that of the faithful participate in Christ’s priesthood by participating in the mission of Christ as priest, prophet and king.

6. Role of women in the Church.

Does the fact that women can’t be validly ordained priests in the Catholic Church upset me? Quite simply, the answer is no. I trust God, and I trust that He knew what He was doing when He established the sacrament of holy orders. I also trust that God has a special place for women in the Church. I am blessed to work for the Catholic Church. My job allows me to serve, meet, and love God’s people daily. As a woman, and a member of the Church, I know I offer gifts to the parish I work at. I know I am respected, needed, and valued. I also work next to priests daily. Working with priests hasn’t made me bitter. It has shown me the beauty of the priesthood and the sacrifice it entails.

Through their beauty, sensitivity, and compassion, women serve the Church in numerous ways. You only have to look to the women saints who have gone before us to see that!

Oh, and if you have any doubts that the Catholic Church doesn’t uphold women. Check this lady out. Saint among saints, Mother of God, conceived without sin, privileged to bear our Lord:

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About the Author

Michelle Neitzke

I am originally from the south but somehow found my way up to the northern tundra (aka Saint Paul, Minnesota) where I live and also work for an amazing parish in the Archdiocese. I love good humor, fall weather, black olives, tea, studying theology, bodies of water, Chick-fil-a, bookstores, and great company. I love sharing my faith with others and I consider it an honor that I am able to participate in the Church’s mission of making the name of Jesus Christ known and loved. Follow me on Twitter @MichelleNeitzke