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Full text of the Vatican's ‘On The Collaboration Of Men And Women'
“…in the final analysis, every human being, man or woman, is destined to be 'for the other.' In this perspective, that which is called 'femininity' is more than simply an attribute of the female sex. The word designates indeed the fundamental human capacity to live for the other and because of the other. Therefore, the promotion of women within society must be understood and desired as a humanization accomplished through those values, rediscovered thanks to women. Every outlook which presents itself as a conflict between the sexes is only an illusion and a danger...”  [Vatican Information Service]

Inter Insigniores
1976 Vatican document on the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood

Mulieris Dignitatem: Pope John Paul II’s 1988 Apostolic Letter  On the Dignity and Vocation of Women
"It is universally admitted - even by people with a critical attitude towards the Christian message - that in the eyes of his contemporaries Christ became a promoter of women's true dignity and of the vocation corresponding to this dignity. At times this caused wonder, surprise, often to the point of scandal: "They marveled that he was talking with a woman" (Jn 4:27), because this behavior differed from that of his contemporaries."

Ordinatio Sacerdotalis
Pope John Paul II’s 1994 Apostolic Letter On Reserving Priestly Ordination To Men Alone

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Priesthood and the Masculinity of Christ

The maleness of Christ is required to restore the unity between men and women disrupted by original sin.

Jesus Christ


The refusal of the Catholic Church to ordain women as priests has left many feeling that the Church considers women to be inferior to men. They have difficulty reconciling the Church's proclamations of sexual equality with the 1994 papal argument of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. In that document, John Paul II reaffirmed the 1977 teaching of Inter Insigniores and proclaims that the Church lacks the authority to ordain women, since Christ did not appoint women as apostles and since the historical tradition has restricted priestly ordination to men.

These papal arguments have not been very persuasive due to the common conviction that equality requires gender neutrality—even within the ministries of Christ. If this were so, masculinity would be irrelevant for the mission of Christ. But this is not true. The masculinity of Christ is crucial to his mission of remedying the effects of original sin.

The gender mission of Christ required Christ to be incarnated as a man for the sake of women...
According to Genesis, original sin deprived the human race of its original unity with God and deeply affected the original unity of man and woman. As a result, Christ had an humanitarian mission to restore unity with God and a gender mission to restore heterosexual unity. The humanitarian mission required that Christ be fully human and fully God. Accordingly, since women are as human as men, God could have incarnated as a woman. A female Christ could have restored the human race to its original unity with God. It is not Christ's humanitarian mission that required Christ to be male.

The maleness of Christ is required to restore the unity between men and women disrupted by original sin. Genesis 3:16 says, "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." This passage indicates three gender consequences of original sin: the excessive desire or obsession of women for their men, male domination over women and sexual inequality. Freeing the human race from these consequences of original sin constitute Christ's gender mission.

These consequences are significant. In his letter On the Dignity and Vocation of Women, John Paul II identifies male domination with chauvinism and blames it for the many ways in which women suffer from the lack of proper appreciation for her equality and dignity. Chauvinism—as a consequence of Original sinrequired that the Christ be a man. Due to chauvinism, a female Christ would not have been recognized by men as being their lord, their rabbi, their savior. Christ exemplified sacrificial love, which chauvinism identifies as a weakness and as a peculiarity of women. According to chauvinism, maleness is about power, independence, and control. Not so, taught Christ. Rather, masculinity is for the sake of pouring out one's life for another in love, not for the sake of dominating self-gratification.

Masculinity is for the sake of pouring out one's life for another in love, not for the sake of dominating self-gratification.
Fallen women also needed Christ to be incarnated as a man-and not only to teach men a lesson. Original sin weakened femininity to the point where it blinded women to the truth about her desire for love. Original sin derailed woman's transcendent passion for God with an egocentric passion for man-for a Mr. Right able to satisfy the yearnings of her heart. Fallen woman thus assumes either that Mr. Right will be perfect or that accommodating his chauvinism will be the sacrifice that enables her to be loved. Thus, woman needs not only to be freed from the harms of chauvinism but also from the misdirection of her desire. Women need to learn not only that there can only be one perfect man, Jesus Christ, but also that men need not be chauvinistic. If Christ had been incarnated as a woman, these lessons would have been untaught. Thus, the gender mission of Christ required Christ to be incarnated as a man for the sake of women as well as for the sake of men.

If Christ had to be incarnated as a man in order to fulfill his gender mission, then it is not possible for women to undertake this mission. If it is not possible for women to undertake the gender mission, then it is not possible for women to be ordained Catholic priests. For the Catholic priest images Christ in his gender mission as well as in his humanitarian mission. This is particularly the case since the Catholic Church was founded to counter the effects of Original Sin.

Since the refusal of the Catholic Church to ordain women is grounded on the gender mission of Christ, it is a refusal that promotes sexual equality. It is incredibly important that the Church promote sexual equality—for two reasons. First, sexual equality counters the harmful gender inequities of original sin. Secondly, as John Paul II points out, it is only when spouses recognize and appreciate the equality of the other that they are able to appreciate properly the other's spousal gift of self. Without this appreciation, marriages fail to properly image the loving equality of the Trinity. Genesis 1:27 says "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created him." We are made in the image of God. Thus, we love best when we love as God loves. As John Paul II puts it in On the Dignity and Vocation of Women, n.7:

The Catholic priest’s imaging of Christ promotes sexual equality.
"The fact that man 'created as man and woman' is the image of God means not only that each of them individually is like God, as a rational and free being. It also means that man and woman, created as a 'unity of the two' in their common humanity, are called to live in a communion of love, and in this way to mirror in the world the communion of love that is in God, through which the Three Persons love each other in the intimate mystery of the one divine life."

In other words, heterosexual love and spousal oneness image the love and the oneness of the Trinity, where the distinction of personsand roles—precludes neither unity or equality. Thus, the need to image Trinitarian love requires heterosexual equality. The Church is thereby obligated to promote sexual equality.

Therefore, the promotion of sexual equality, Trinitarian love, and faithfulness to the missions of Christ requires the Catholic Church to forgo ordaining women. By so doing, not only does she proclaim the importance of Christ's male incarnation and the need for ordained priests to image His gender mission, but she also honors her Savior.

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August 16, 2004

R. MARY HAYDEN LEMMONS is an associate professor of philosophy and Catholic studies at the University of St. Thomas in St.Paul, Minnesota.

@Copyright, R. Mary Hayden Lemmons. All rights reserved. For a more complete argument, please see the author’s article in Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, entitled "Equality, Gender, and John Paul II," Logos 5:3 (Summer 2002): 111-130.

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READER COMMENTS
01.27.07   troubledgoodangel says:
I was surprised that my entry regarding this article has been censored (vanished from the screen?). I had reminded in my reply that according to the Judeo-Christian Bible evil has entered the world through the woman (Genesis 3:6). The passage in question should not perhaps be seen as an indictment of all women, but it is without question an indictment of the first woman called Eve! I know that many do find this "politically incorrect." But I submit that in this instance we have no choice. We can deny it and censor it as much as we want, but God's Word will survive! There were many attempts throughout history to burn the Bible for the sake of this quote. But the Bible is still with us and will be till the end of time! Why? Because the Bible, being God's Word, will not even be destroyed by the atomic bomb or the end of the world! And this we should keep in mind before we censor the Bible!

08.07.06   Isidore says:
The main argument for an all-male priesthood can be summarized by the following syllogism.Premise 1. God became incarnate as a male human being - Jesus Christ.Premise 2. A Catholic priest acts in persona Christi/images Christ in his gender mission.Conclusion. Maleness is a necessary precondition of ordained priesthood.Prof Lemmons argues that premise 1 is not "accidental", "incidental" or "cultural" but that God's incarnation as a male human is fundamental to the economy of salvation. Contrast this with being of Jewish descent, circumcised, speaking Aramaic, having a beard etc. which are not necessary conditions for ordination and acting in persona Christi. To be a permanent objection to female ordination, her statements about fallen gender have to be permanent features of the human condition and not changeable by culture. ie not speaking only about a contemporary North American experience, but stating that no culture, however enlightened, can overcome these deficiencies of fallen humanity. However, it seems to me that this is a sophisticated restatement of a feminist stereotype that 'all men are b*****ds' and all women are fools for tolerating this. Presumably nuns in all cultures and ages found the real "Mr Right".Premise 2 is more interesting. The argument is not that women cannot act in persona Christi with regard to holiness, ministering to the needy, having administrative authority or teaching (cf female Doctors of the Church). The objection is to do with being a minister of the sacraments. How can a woman re-present a male Christ at the Eucharist?The ultimate minister of all the sacraments is Christ himself. It is Christ himself who baptizes, absolves, transubstantiates, ordains, marries etc.. Women may baptize. Baptism of those who have reached the age of reason absolves all their personal sins, not only Original Sin. In the Latin Church the couple (not the priest) are the ministers of the sacrament of marriage. In heterosexual marriage this necessarily requires a female minister of the sacrament, otherwise only homosexual men could marry sacramentally!Despite their not being of the same gender as Christ, women somehow manage to act in persona Christi in at least two of the sacraments. One needs to show how and why they can act in persona Christi in some sacraments but not others.Whatever one believes about the possibility of female ordination, valid arguments should be used.

08.31.04   johnxteresa says:
Amen

08.20.04   Anna says:
Dear ex-Catholic Girl, As an ex-Southern Baptist who was upset that about women not being allowed to be pastors, I have come a long way. What I have noticed, with great pleasure, that the Catholic Church has more roles for women than where I came from. We can be called to serve God, via religious communities, and these communities come in all flavors. So a woman called to quiet prayer might find a home in the Carmelites, whereas those called to teaching, ministry to the poor etc. would be in other groups. Once within, she might be raised to leadership within her community. There is none of that where I came from.I can also be a channel for God's grace by being an Extraordinary Eucharistic minister or by teaching children in the parish level. I like being a woman Catholic.

06.06.04   alexander caughey says:
Married clergy, is a fact of life, throughout the Catholic Communion. Catholic married deacons, are being raised to the priesthood. Patience and open debate among Catholics, is producing change, to deal with the needs of the Catholic Church. I disagree with a number of ideas and orders, emanating from theCatholic hierarchy, but I maintain my loyalty to my church, for without my input, I cannot hope for change. The failure of the Protestant reformers (Luther and Zwingli - Catholic priests) was found in their willingness to find easy answers to complex issues of living life in accordance with the need to live happily and in fulfilment. The result of the Protestant rebellion is now manifested through the epidemic of different and differing denominations of those who are "perfect" Christians. Catholicism is the Church of the Sinners and as a sinner of some reputation, I choose to belong to the church that suits my sinning tendencies. As a humorous aside, you now belong to a church, which was founded by King Henry V111, in order to satisfy his lusty needs to marry a younger, prettier and more fruitful woman, whom he later beheaded. I wish you luck and much happiness.

06.05.04   ex- catholic girl says:
I am new to "Godspy." I was raised Roman Catholic, but left as a young adult. I am now an Episcopalian. What a difference! It was- and still is- refreshing and amazing to see married clergy, and women ordained to the priesthood! Jesus had both male and female followers; his message of love is for everyone. Okay, maybe I am oversimplifying, but the Catholic church needs to WAKE UP and realize that the call to holy orders should not be limited to men!

05.31.04   alexander caughey says:
Justice must be equal for all. Justice serves the rights of all who are innocent. Justice must punish all who are judged as guilty. The punishment must fit the crime. Assigning guilt to those who are homosexual, simply because the majority of abusers are homosexual, would suggest that we should punish all who are guilty of nothing more than being part of a minority group, of whatever persuasion.The over whelming majority of homosexual clergy live their lives in accordance with their oaths.Sixty years ago, the human race was murdering the Jewish people, for daring to be born Jews.That today, we are facing an hysterical reaction from some Catholics, because our media has made a determined attempt to emphasise some weaknesses in the human person of some Catholic clergy and the same media patently refuse to show balance by reporting the untiring sacrifice of so many of our clergy, in living lives of sacrifice, must suggest that our view of life is rather "bent" in the direction of intolerance of those who are guilty of nothing more than being dedicated priests, who also happen to be homosexual, through no choice of theirs.

05.30.04   spy1 says:
80% or more of the sexual abuse by priests was homosexual-related: priests abusing young males, mostly adolescents. This is an incredible statistic, and we cannot bury our heads in the sand about it. The simple fact is that the overwhelming responsibility for abuse lies with homosexual priests. There is no way to pretend that homosexual and heterosexual priests have the same level of responsibilty for this. We may disagree about what it all means, but facts are facts.

05.30.04   alexander caughey says:
Who would have thought that married clergy should become an issue, when a number of Christ's twelve, were married and had children. That the early life of our church featured married and unmarried clergy, should show us that both were considered as good as each other. That the epitome of all that is "orthodox" in Christianity, the Orthodox Churches have married and unmarried clergy; that Byzantine rites of the Catholic Church have married and unmarried clergy; that Anglican married clergy, converted to Rome, have been ordained as Catholic priests, must suggest that our church is now recognising married clergy as capable of doing just as good a job, as unmarried clergy. We need time for the penny to drop.That homosexual clergy who commit acts of sexual impropriety against teenage boys, should condemn all homosexual clergy, must suggest that all heterosexual clergy who commit similar acts against teenage girls, should condemn all heterosexual clergy. That the recent scandals involve mainly homosexual clergy, might explain our willingness to find imperfection in those who are trying to find perfection unlike the rest of us, who are definitely too perfect to understand that despite the appalling behaviour of some priests the remedy lies not in singling out those who are presumed innocent but in weeding out those who are condemned by their own acts of criminal behaviour of whatever persuasion and whatever crime. Crime is always crime and should not be distinguished by those whose prejudices are of a different persuasion.

05.30.04   alexander caughey says:
I would hazard a good guess that the issue of the masculinity of Christ was never an issue with Christ, nor should it be with those of us who are rather inclined to believe that masculinity means being the masculine man, we presume a man to be, when he appears to be acting in a masculine manner.Masculinity, as opposed to femininity, is not being the person we might assume a masculine man to be.Masculinity (femininity) in a male (or female), is being the person that we are being, when we are being who we are becoming, when we choose to live according to the freedom of the Spirit of God. The truth of God's Spirit of Love, will definitely set our true nature free, to become who we are to become, when we live in the Kingdom of God, within, for a life free of the prejudices of being someone else, other than an other self, in order to satisfy the needs of those with whom we live our lives, who are expecting us to live our lives, according to their prejudices and ideas of what masculinity (femininity) means to them. The confusion of gender understanding, arises from our easy willingness to live our lives, according to the whims of a society, dedicated to raising false ideas on masculinity or femininity, to the level of God worship. The worship of the beautiful male or female body, has created an epidemic in body self-worship, well beyond the needs of maintaining our bodies at a healthy state. We glorify our symbols of excellence in body culture, to the detriment of seeking the real person, within, crying for our recognition. We have created false Gods and are now paying the price for our folly of worship of those whose physical beauty is a product of dedication to the superficial self. God help us and preserve us from ever thinking that Christ is to be considered the epitome of all that we consider masculine, for His idea of being masculine, was to deliver His life, as a human being, to the fond caresses of the lash, embraced by the nails of a cross. Such is the state of our lives, that we now equate Christ's masculinity with the opposite of being homosexual. For to equate Christ with our idea of a heterosexual male, when Christ has never made any distinction between males, other than choosing to love all He chose as His company of friends in apostleship, would indicate that many of us have not understood Christ's willingness to avoid distinguishing between any human being, by loving all with out exception, or judgement of their suitability to be called masculine. That some homosexual males look and act rather "queer", should remind us that queer behaviour is also found prominently in the way we presume to understand what maleness is or should not be, in a society dedicated to loving all that maleness (or femininity) is appearing to be. Appearances so often deceive and none more so than in those of us who presume to know who we are, when in reality, we are living the life of who we are not. That our church is now debating the issue of married clergy and homosexual clergy, should enable us to learn more about sacrifices made by so many for the unwillingness of so few to be able to make sacrifices of their own egos, to wards presuming to know what perfection might be, in those of us, whose own perfection is in need of heavy working and not out at a gym. If we are to be the person we are to become, in the image of our creator, then we should not presume to be prejudiced to wards those who fulfil our own ideas (sexual or otherwise) of what masculinity or femininity should be, rather, a willingness to understand the hearts of the human being, would produce a heartfelt approach to all who need our heartiness of spirit of loving all who need to be loved.

05.30.04   spy1 says:
While I agree that Christ's maleness is important, two false assumptions seem to operate in this article: 1) that men knew nothing of self-sacrifice because they considered it womanish and 2) that women are naturally self-sacrificing. Neither history nor present experience bears this out. Many men have been self-sacrificing (chauvanists or not); many women have been selfish. Both man and woman stand in desperate need of Christ's example in order to grasp the fullness of sacrificial love. His example is, of course, perfectly balanced: unbreakably strong self-sacrificing love.RE homosexuality: This idea that homosexuals want to be liked any more than anyone else does strikes me as strange. I have not found that to be the case. Perhaps the quote is out of context. Still, I don't think homosexual men should enter the priesthood, for a very practical reason: they will have to be around men all the time, sometimes in close quarters, especially in seminary or monastery. Due to their attraction to men, this is the equivalent of putting a woman in an all-male environment. The temptation is too strong. Nor are we helping them by placing them in temptation's way. One order I had contact with saw two men leave and get married due to this misguided openness to homosexual priests and brothers. This is a scandal and it's avoidable. We can see this in military schools forcibly made co-ed too. It took very little time before some of the few women were pregnant by other recruits.

04.18.04   Siena says:
Sem, It was an article in the National Catholic Register called "The Major Factor In Abuse Study Is Homosexuality" maybe back around in February or so. I found it through Godspy. The quote you refer to was by Mango. Siena

04.04.04   sem says:
Siena,Can you point me to the article where you got those quotes? You list two names: Mango and RossiniWhich one were you quoting at this point? "It’s about being men who know what leadership is. A man who is homosexual can’t do it. It’s not his fault. He can be very nice, he can be very good, but he can’t do those things that Christ did because he wants to be liked.Honestly speaking, i just can't stomach that statement, and i would like to see the context in which is was written.peace,shannon

04.02.04   Siena says:
Sem,When it comes to homosexuality... I love the sinner, hate the sin. Let's say my sin is pride. I'm not going to create a subculture of proud people and be proud of my sin. Call a spade a spade. Call a sin a sin... not a lifestyle. Read this:(It's from an article I read on Godspy) "Philip Mango, a psychotherapist for 30 years who directs the St. Michael’s Institute for the Psychological Sciences in New York, said he would recommend homosexuals be screened from seminaries because it’s not enough for priests to be celibate — they also need to be masculine.The problem is deeper than whether someone will "act or not act out," he said. "It’s about being men who know what leadership is. A man who is homosexual can’t do it. It’s not his fault. He can be very nice, he can be very good, but he can’t do those things that Christ did because he wants to be liked. He hasn’t been affirmed. If you want to be loved, you cannot lead."-Ellen RossiniI guess I should have included this in my reply, but the homosexuality statement wasn't my main point. It was more of a side bar. I agree with Philip Mango.

04.02.04   sem says:
Siena,i agree that the article is wonderful and that there is much to learn about our mysterious and beautiful femininity: i am a 40-something, ex-feminist, Catholic convert. But i disagree with some of your comments regarding homosexuality, and homosexuality and the priesthood. First off, it's unfair and inaccurate to assume that men who struggle with the temptation of same-sex-attraction, are not masculine. [They are men. They may have to rediscover their masculinity as we had to rediscover our femininity.] However, for the sake of argument, i do acknowledge that some gay men are somewhat effeminate. I don't think this ought to bar them from the priesthood because even though being a priest involves a different degree; it is still the same thing as being a human just like all the rest of us. Whether living as a priest, or living as a woman-- it's a jumble of temptation and sin and human will and God's grace at work. It's late, so i think i'm just going to start listing some points:1. God calls men to Holy Orders; they go thru years and years of discernment. The man may not complete the journey but it wouldn't be because God made a bad call, you know?2. Gay men are not sin personified. They are like everyone else: they make a conscious decision to engage in sinful behavior, or to refrain from that sinful behavior. just like spouses who are tempted to commit adultery; they either sin, or they don't. Being tempted by sexual sins is something we all face and we are never condemmable for being tempted. 3. When we do sin, it's one thing to cast light on it, but throwing stones is another. We all have to find that line and not cross it. I see the movement to ban gay men from the priesthood as a major example of humans trying to outguess God at best, and metaphorically reaching for stones at worst.4. In short, there are same-sex couples who live chastely, and all priests must face temptations. Straight, gay, man, woman, we are all the same. peace to you sister,shannon

04.01.04   Siena says:
Christ is male. He carries a feminine message. This is perfection. The strength needs to be the one to carry the soft voice... otherwise no one will hear it. Women who want a stronger role in the Church or who want women to be priests are not only unrealistic, they are greedy. She already has the Church! Mother Church. Now she also wants to be its carrier? Has she no place for the male in the role of salvation? Humanity is both male and female. We cannot be human without both. We must both play our most powerful hand. For the man that hand is strength, for the woman that hand is beauty. Together they create Truth. Feminists: Stop judging value by the world's standards!!! Power is not the end-all-be-all. Does Christ not say, "The meek shall inherit the earth" "The last shall be first"? Women don't need to become men, the world needs to value feminine gifts the way they value masculine gifts. The Church as "she" stands today is perfect. The fact that a man will sacrifice his life, to carry her voice is not only beautiful... it is HEROIC. This is why priests do not only need to be male, they also need to be masculine. Therefore, not only can women not be priests, but homosexual men should not be priests either... they are not man enough for the job. By the way, for a little perspective... I'm a 32 year old ex-feminist woman who is still learning the truth and beauty of her own femininity

01.15.04   human33 says:
Though I had to re-read this several times to get it; the idea of Christ's revamping manhood, which would cause a new womanhood to follow, is an epipheny. It certainly wouldn't have worked the other way around - men would laugh at the idea of woman as stronger and a role-model (even though Mary is). Instead, they attempted a kind of androgeny, which failed.Men, rather, have become more effeminate, as women became ruffians. Some day both men and women will see the ecsquisite feminine-but -not-effeminite side of Christ, and the strong, steadfast side of the beautiful virgin Mary. Hopefully then the man will relate to this strong feminine model spiritually; and women will relate to the Christ in their hearts for their inspiration of of 'manly' strength for themselves. Then both sexes will be the original mankind - not adrogenous, but whole. A true unity, once disrupted, restored.

10.14.03   Godspy says:
The maleness of Christ is required to restore the unity between men and women disrupted by original sin.

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