The Roman Catholic Church is an institution that has lasted for nearly two thousand years. Catholics believe that Jesus Christ, who came on earth as a male, himself ordained his close friends, the men who were to carry on his work after his return to his Father, to perform the two acts that are essential to priesthood: changing the bread and wine into Christ himself in the Eucharist and absolving (or retaining) sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
These sacraments have been passed from the first priests, the Apostles, down to the most recent priest ordained in the world today, through the bishops, who lay their hands on them. A priest represents Christ at the altar; he stands for Christ, he symbolises Christ, for that time. A symbol has to be appropriate to the thing it symbolises. It is no use taking earth as a symbol of liquidity, for example.
The uniquely womanly act is to bring life into the world – what a gift that is!
The maleness of the priesthood has nothing to do with social convention. Priestesses were two-a-penny in all the religions in Christ’s time, except for Judaism. Yet, Christ, who showed such warmth towards women in the Gospel narratives, did not choose them to carry on that particular work of his. There is plenty of work for everyone to do: we are all called to be saints, not clerics. There are many women saints, married and unmarried alike! And there are such rewards for us, along the way.
I confessed at the start of this blog that I suffer from this allegedly hideous disease. The Church is a church of sinners and the only sinner I know intimately is myself. So when I consider the things that I have done and the things that I have left undone, I have reason to feel guilty. That is the time to make use of the ultimate de-tox and to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I am sorry for the sins, great and small, that I have been responsible for, and I present myself ( mostly anonymously, in a lovely dark little box, with a screen between me and the confessor-priest), confess the failures for which I am responsible, tell God that I am sorry for them, and resolve to try not to commit these sins again. The priest, standing in for our loving Jesus, absolves me from them and after praying as the priest instructs me, I return to the world, a new person, squeaky-clean, spiritually years younger, and ready to try again.