Someone asked Pope Francis this week about the future of gay priests in the Catholic Church. He answered:
“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
Good for him. Since the church requires celibacy for its priests, sexual orientation doesn’t seem all that important to me as a job qualification. And this certainly redirects his predecessor Pope Benedict VI’s statements that homosexuality indicates intrinsic moral evil. After all, we all have intrinsic moral evil. Romans 3:23, Romans 7 and the doctrine of the Fall explain that clearly. So this one shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for the priesthood.
Pope Francis made it clear that there is one attribute that is a deal-breaker though: genitalia. When it comes to women in the priesthood, we can expect no change in Church policy from this Pope:
In reference to the ordination of women, the church has spoken and said no. John Paul said this with a definite formula. This door is closed.
Women have no place in the Catholic priesthood.
The Papal Inconsistency
This isn’t surprising, of course. The Catholic Church is – among other things – decidedly complementarian. This is one reason why I’m never tempted to convert to Roman Catholicism. I’m not complementarian and I haven’t been persuaded by Scripture to change that.
Am I the only one confused about the Pope’s comments about gays and women? Who [he says] is he to judge if someone is a homosexual and searches his soul and finds good will with God? Yet, somehow women aren’t included in “Who am I to judge” if a woman is called to church leadership out of love and devotion to God and has searched herself and found good will. Rather it was “the church had said no and the door is closed on that.”
Creepy double standard. One [group] wants to love whoever they want and be treated with equality and respect; the other wants to serve God (not themselves) and the Church and be treated with equality and respect. Mr. Pope, you lost me at Hello.
Shayne alludes to something internally inconsistent in the pontiff’s remarks. He feels free to disregard his immediate predecessor’s pronouncement on homosexuality but feels the need to adhere to an older position on the ordination of women.
There’s something even odder, though, about this denial of women taking on clerical leadership. It runs counter to the veneration of Mary that sometimes rises to a form of idolatry, what some people call Mariolatry.
The Pope spoke to this in a follow-up to his comments:
But on this I want to say something. The Madonna, Mary, was more important than the apostles, bishops, deacons and priests. Women in the church are more important than bishops and priests. I think we are missing a theological explanation on this.
Missing a theological explanation on this? I should say so.
Let’s start with finding a biblical basis for raising Mary above the apostles, etc. There is none.
And about praying to her as someone with special access to God, more than any other Christian has ever had? You wouldn’t be able to convince the writer of Hebrews.
A Female Priesthood
What does this have to do with women in the priesthood, you ask? Everything.
First, I have a hypothesis. If the Vatican allowed women into the priesthood, there might be less need to elevate Mary as some sort of consolation prize for denying women a place in church leadership.
Second, and even more importantly, women are already priests alongside men in the kingdom of God:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9.)
The word translated there as “people” is the Greek word “genos“, a word that couldn’t be more indicative of a generic designation of people. It is never used in the Bible to denote men as opposed to women. And the word “nation” is a translation of the Greek “laos“, again always used in the broad sense of people, not a designation of only male people.
This means that the royal priesthood of believers is all women and all men and all girls and all boys in God’s kingdom. Every one of God’s people is special, but none are more special than any other.
So please, Pope Francis, don’t make Mary your excuse for keeping women out of the priesthood.
Instead, make women priests.