QUAERITUR: Woman ‘priests’ are inevitable? Fr. Z rants.

From a reader:

In my parish, which is the quite conservative (by that I mean that the only liturgical abuses in the Mass [only O.F.] are the occasional use of the stole being placed outside of the chasuble, one instance of liturgical dancing, which was at a Christmas Eve children’s mass [I left as soon as I read the programme for the Mass and went to another Church’s Midnight Mass], and armies of ‘Eucharistic Ministers;). we even have the high altar, altar rail, and paintings still intact, but not used sadly. We have a nun ‘Pastoral Associate’, who does not wear a habit, but ordinary street clothes. I have been told that she and other members of the Parish think that woman ‘priests’ are inevitable.
Though of course they cannot be ordained, and I certainly would be extremely distraught if they were allowed to play dress-up, do you think in the next 50 years or so we will have women dressing-up playing ‘priest’?

Aren’t some already pretending to be priests?

The Roman Pontiff made it clear that Holy Church has no authority to ordain women.  It simply cannot be done.  Any attempt to ordain a woman to any of the three levels of Holy Orders would be invalid.  This is the irreformable doctrine of the Church which all Catholic are bound to accept as definitive, even as infallible as the CDF made plain.   This teaching is not merely a law or, as liberals like to call it, “policy”.    Mind you, I think most of the people in favor of the ordination of women are simply confused, or not very bright, or mastered by secular concerns.  I doubt many of them have really considered how far they have gone astray, which is very sad, for their souls may be in danger.  We must sincerely pray that God will be merciful to them.

However, a change in the Church’s teaching on the matter  of ordination cannot be attained through the old means of “creeping incrementalism”.  This is a far different thing from, say, how liberals forced communion in the hand, or altar girls, or the near eradication of Latin liturgy for the Novus Ordo, etc.

Whether or not some group will break away from the true Church over this issue or not is a matter of conjecture.   It might happen.  It might not.  I hope not.  But if you see any wymynpryst activity going on where you are, you will know that that is not the Catholic Church in action.  That would not be the action of Jesus the High Priest.  They would be agents of… someone else.

As far as being allowed to “play dress up” as you put it, see my comment about “creeping incrementalism”.

There is a lot of confusion right now.  I think that in the young clergy emerging now from seminaries we have good, faithful men who will do a great deal to fix and heal some of the problems.  However, there are a lot of problems.  Society itself has been in a downward cultural spiral and, as I have said many times here, the Enemy is abroad and has many human agents, witting and unwitting.  We are, as it were, engaged in a war of attrition in the Church: whose side will gain ground or lose ground faster than the other?

I think that we are headed for a lot of really hard choices in the near future.  I am no economist, but it seems to me that we are headed for a serious global economic downturn that could force even billions of people to make hard choices and changes.  There could be a lot of upheaval and suffering as certain dimensions of our society change radically.  This could be a time when – in the face of suffering and fear – many Catholics get serious.  Their priests and bishops will have to get serious.  There may even be oppression.  In any event, we we meay be headed toward a smaller, leaner, hungrier but clearer and more focused Church in our once-Christian once-careless wealthy nations.  I am just musing aloud, right now, but I see this war of attrition I mentioned also in light of the broader trends.  Just as after 9/11 we saw in the United States a greater sense of unity and purpose – now fading as the years have passed – perhaps hardships will bring a greater sense of Catholic identity.  After all, the seeds and roots of the early Church were nourished with the blood of martyrs.  Nothing worthy of our lives and vital forces and faith is going to be easy.  Please know that I hope I am wrong.  I would rather have it that, after a taste of uncertainty and suffering, there is an explosive return among Catholics to the practice of their faith.

So… dedicate yourself to prayer for your parish priest and for that confused sister, and especially for your bishop.  Pray and perhaps also fast for them.  Give all the support you can to good seminarians for your diocese.  Support your faithful priests and give support to your seminarians.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ASK FATHER Question Box, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, The future and our choices, Wherein Fr. Z Rants and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. dcs says:

    It never ceases to amaze me what passes for “conservative” these days.

  2. Federico says:

    I hope you are right that it is a war of attrition. If one side in a war of attrition is carefree about contraception and abortion…I can predict which side will win.

  3. Agree with dcs. Doesn’t sound like too conservative of a parish to me.

  4. Samthe44 says:

    That parish is ‘conservative’ compared to the others in the city.

  5. It’s quite conservative except for all of the things listed that prove it isn’t.

  6. Glen M says:

    Like Fr. Z, I’m not an economist either, however, I predict a major economic shift soon too. The Western standard of living will decline to pre-WWI levels, the emergence of a Victorian era working class, and the end of global super powers and empires. We will become a less materialistic society which is of course a good thing. Turning our collective attention away from things that rust and ultimately don’t matter will most assuredly lead back to the Eternal. As individuals become much more careful with their money the same accountablity will be demanded of governments. Politically correct nonsense will end with a rise of common sense and God’s natural law. /endrant

  7. Tom Esteban says:

    I believe it was Ignatius of Antioch who said,
    “Wherever there a wymynpryst be, there is not the Catholic Church” :-D

    These things hardly bother me at all, since women cannot be priests. It represents a danger to the faithful, but not necessarily to the faith as such. I am more concerned with liturgical abuse, where the faith is in danger moreso than the faithful who can be misguided. Keep the faith strong, orthodox and Traditional and these people will fall to the side and won’t be mentioned in the history books.

  8. dans0622 says:

    For a second, I thought the title of this post was “Woman ‘priests’ are ineffable.”


  9. Brooklyn says:

    I am becoming more and more convinced that a good number of people who call themselves Catholic are, in fact, Protestant. I will define Protestant as one who professes belief in Jesus Christ but denies the authority of Christ’s church. As has been stated many times on this blog as well as many others, “Lex orandi, lex credendi.” The modernists within the church have succeeded in far too many cases in turning our liturgy and devotions into Protestant liturgy and devotions, and thus have turned many Catholics into Protestants. I recently met a woman who is converting to Catholicism from Evangelical Christian. She goes to the TLM on a regular basis. She said if all she had was the Novus Ordo, she wouldn’t have even thought about converting, that it reminds her of a protestant worship service. But when she went to the TLM, she knew God was there.

    The Catholic Church will never die, and will never even be in danger of dying. We have that promise from our Lord. But that doesn’t mean that she won’t become a very, very small group completely surrounded by enemies. They can kill our mortal bodies, but they can’t touch our souls. I don’t worry about the actual Church itself. I am very worried about the hundreds of millions of souls that are at risk.

    Along with Father, I hope that the hard times we are heading into will help wake people up and make them see what is really important. But I’m not overly optimistic.

  10. moon1234 says:

    The post about heading towards a smaller Church have been preached by MANY people in traditional circles for three decades now. I firmly believe this. It is self evident that in many areas in the country the Church is either imploding (people leaving or coming only on Easter/Christmas) or it is devolving into an everything (almost) goes mentality. This can not go on indefinitly.

    Our Lord promised that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church. He did not say how large the Church would be or that it would be a dominant force in the world. It is up to those of us who love the Church and follow her precepts to be examples to the rest of the world. This does not mean just being nice/get along friendly. It means speaking those hard to say truths to those who are near us. It means putting our faith in God and love of His Church ahead of our own personal vanity.

    I have found, in my own personal life, a community of traditional Catholics where I feel at home. I don’t need to worry about the next crazy innovation or idea. I don’t have to worry when my kids play with their kids that there will be objectionable material at their home. I can go to Mass and worship our Lord in a respectful and reverent manner. I have prayed for a long time for this opportunity. I pray for the priests in our parish and all priests often.

    From the ICRSS blog (Which I find very comforting and very true today):

    St. John Mary Vianney

    “He seemed overwhelmed by a boundless sense of responsibility: ‘Were we to fully realize what a priest is on earth, we would die: not of fright, but of love… Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail. It is the priest who continues the work of redemption on earth…… What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door? The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of his goods … Leave a parish for twenty years without a priest, and they will end by worshiping the beasts there … The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you.'”

    Bold Emphasis mine. How very true this statement is today. Substitute beasts for Money and Posessions.

    Let us keep all priests in our prayers.

  11. jbas says:

    I think the heretics whose reconciliation Saint Dominic sought practiced a sort of ordination of women.

  12. Catholics do not need growth of more “luke warm” Catholics. I believe we are content with just the Label of Catholicism and we do not following our Catholic faith. Attrition may be the answer for more dedicatied Catholics.

  13. wchoag says:

    We have a nun ‘Pastoral Associate’, who does not wear a habit, but ordinary street clothes. I have been told that she and other members of the Parish think that woman ‘priests’ are inevitable.

    It is amazing how deeply Hegelianism has influenced the thought of modern Catholics and most are completely unaware of it. Heck, most don’t even know who Hegel was.

  14. anilwang says:

    From a non-American perspective, after 9/11, the U.S. seems to lose a lot of it’s self confidence and seemed to focus on reacting to the world out of fear and pessimism instead of vision and hope. Compare the Sci-Fi of the 1980s with the Sci-Fi of the 2000s if you want to understand what I mean. Now a lot of this vision was “Imperialistic” and “Arrogant” to non-Americans, and it can be argued that the U.S. regularly overstretched it’s authority, but it’s not a U.S. specific criticism because the other superpowers did also (both in the 1980s and in the 1800s and the 1700s and…..).

    Fortunately, the Church is in the state of 9/11. The liberal calls for Women’s ordination and “changes in policy” make the assumption that the Church is just making it up as it goes along. Such a faith is built on sand. Uniquely Catholicism must be swallowed whole nor not at all. If any one part is false, the whole thing is a sham. If you want to believe the Church is fallible, you must become Protestant, which is what many of these liberals end up doing, unless they also believe the faith is just “inspired teaching”, in which case they might just switch to a secular institution since there are better ways to spend an afternoon and better places to find “inspired teaching” and more fun social groups than the Catholic Church. And if persecution comes (as is increasingly the case), this group will just disavow the Church as too inconvenient, leaving only the martyrs, confessors, and underground Catholics.

    At it’s core, all the mess that we see in the Church has not damaged the faith. It might be bruised and downtrodden, but it has not been irrevocably damaged by any means. Liberals are Satan’s distraction so that we lose faith in his Church. As with the Maccabeean revolt, secularist liberals are always a distraction that discredit the faith to both the faithful and outsiders. We must pray for and care for them and bring them into the fold, since we are our brother’s keepers, but we shouldn’t be surprised or discouraged that the wheat and tares grow together.

  15. O.K. “With deepest respect and humility,…” (Naw) O.K. ” With profound respect for…” (Oh, fudge) Look, the Church suffers from a kind of collective delusion: that women are NOT priests. Yup. I said that. “that women are NOT priests”. The whole Church is a priestly nation (1 Pet. 2:9; CCC 1546-47). You can’t make women priests when they already ARE priests. [Okay… fine. Yes. By baptism all the baptized share in Christ’s priesthood. But you and everyone else knew exactly what priesthood we are talking about. Ordained priesthood, which is qualitatively different from the priesthood of the baptized.] You can, however, delude, deceive, and distract women from realizing their value and mission as laypeople. When the outside culture critiques the hard-to-deny misogyny in many places in the Church, Catholic women react by demanding ordination. That’s because they were taught that only priets matter and that women don’t. Thye’ve internalized the nonsense. [We haven’t done that on this blog and never will.] So, to remedy the injustice, they think that women should be made priests. But, this reaction does not make female priests inevitable; it makes the women reacting even more distanced from their mission as laypeople. [That’s a good insight.] The mission of the laity has value and worth. Period. But most laypeople don’t know their mission, nor do they value it. Most think of themselves as an accessory to the ministerial priesthood. As economic factors push parishes around, the non-mministerial needs of a parish can be met by laypeople without detracting from the sacramental ministry of priests. Be glad there is a parochial assistant in your parish. The priest can’t do everything. But, neither can the parochial assistant. She’s just not a priest ordered to the sacraments. As a laywoman, she is ordered to the mission of serving the Gospel in the world and serving her brothers and sisters. She doesn’t have to be a priest in order to know she has value and worth in the Church. [And so long as they never put on the vestments of the priest or attempt a role that only a priests can have, fine.] Most folks fall over themselves to say, “Oh, thank you, Father”; but when was the last time folks said “Thank You” to the laypeople (usually women) who keep your church clean and running in good order. Are they garbage? [C’mon now. Don’t exaggerate. You were doing so well!] Making women priets would do nothing to improve the position or valuation of the laity in the Church. It’s just more ‘clericalization of the laity’. It’s just not our job to be clerics! We have more important things to do…with deepest respect and humility. [Good thoughts. You know, I have always that the worst form of clericalism was when priests try to give their own roles to lay people of either sex. It is as if to say, “You are good enough as a lay person. I have to make you better by letting you do my things. That has always infuriated me.]

  16. Brad says:

    The priestess is almost garbed and almost at the altar in the Diocese of Rochester.

    I feel so sorry for the people there since I randomly discovered this website chronicling the state of affairs. The lady in back is the “parish admin”. I’ll bet anyone a $2 bill that the priest pictured is announced, pre-Mass, as the presider (less any clarification that he is sole ordained present) and not the celebrant.


  17. Fr-Bill says:

    Those who will be in the Ordinariate have experienced the bad fruit of the tree of the priestess. We know that there is no such thing as a female priest. That may be why the Liberals claim that the Ordinariate is (insert negative label here). Priests are male. Holy Communion is received while kneeling and on the tongue.

  18. Cotton D says:

    Would like to see Fr. Z go deeper into this matter as to why we can’t have women priest. Saying that the Church says so doesn’t go far in instructing the unknowing and therefore; we have all these people thinking it just is policy. Knowing what the priest is doing on the alter and what role the priest plays in Christ’s role as Bridegroom to the bride, the Church. Getting the reason why amplified will help the understanding.

  19. JonPatrick says:

    @cottonD, if you go to the “tag cloud” to the right of the page (just below the Immaculate Heart of Mary image) and select “women’s ordination” at the bottom of the cloud you will see 18 posts by Fr. Z on this topic. Happy reading!

  20. Supertradmum says:

    Before I left the world of RCIA, tired of fighting the establishment, two of my fellow instructors, both deacons, said women priests were just a matter of time. Even those catechumens I was teaching knew this was Wrong… And, on Sunday, two little girls were altar servers, causing, I think, much of the confusion among the laity, who on the whole, cannot make the distinction necessary and see those on the altar as “clerics”. I have tried to explain the difference and the doing away with the minor orders until I am fatigued.

    The laity need to do lay things, like evangelize the workplace and raise their children Catholic, but so many do not feel part of the Church unless they are on the altar, as readers, extraordinary ministers, etc. The clergy have let the laity be “clericized” partly in a confused effort to “democratize” the Church and not let anyone feel “left out”. If someone tells me about Anglican priests, I remind them that these women are not actually priests at all. We need more teaching from the pulpit on the apostolic succession and the fact that Christ, as God and Man, knew exactly was He was doing when He set up a patriarchy. He was not a “victim” of His culture. God created the Jewish culture.

  21. robtbrown says:

    Supertradmum says:

    Before I left the world of RCIA, tired of fighting the establishment, two of my fellow instructors, both deacons, said women priests were just a matter of time.

    Were they permanent or transitional deacons?

  22. robtbrown says:

    Some of the permanent deacons are good people, but the formation has been so deficient (esp. a few years ago) that some amen were ordained who were questionable Catholics.

    Which brings to mind another point: I keep hearing people talking about the change in seminarians, that they are more conservative, etc. That might be true, but it’s supposed to be the task of seminaries to produce good priests–and to weed out those who wouldn’t be good. (Of course, for years it was the other way around–a lot of the good men were pushed out, but the goofs sailed through “formation”.) Instead, we hear it’s only a function of the man himself.

  23. AnAmericanMother says:

    Fr Bill, Supertradmum,

    Father Z and most everybody here have a better handle than I on the philosophical and theological reasons that women can’t be ordained priests . . . but let me give you my practical, nuts ‘n’ bolts observations, just for what it’s worth. I was a parishioner at the “training parish” for our ECUSA diocese, and so I saw every female that was ordained for a very large area, well-populated with Episcopalians. With one possible exception, they simply weren’t fit for the work, for various reasons – some didn’t have the personality or psychological makeup, some didn’t have the necessary education, some were like the dog chasing the car – “I’ve got it, now what do I do with it?”

    I would say that 95% of the “priestesses” in the Episcopal church were political, not religious. Even though all insisted that they were “called”, what appeared to motivate them primarily was politics, whether feminism of one stripe or another, general liberal causes (UN, ecology, ‘civil rights’ including abortion), or frank LGBTQ activism. They were not so much interested in parish matters or celebrating the eucharist (other than the political point that made) as they were in getting into the pulpit and pushing whatever cause they had espoused, and going to various ‘marches’ and ‘conferences’ supporting those causes. None of them (again with one exception) was able to deal with the day to day issues of being a priest – administering the sacraments, running a parish, settling disagreements, visiting the sick, etc. It was all ideological, and having a platform for the ideology was all they were after.

    Of course, having begun in political ideology they continued in that vein and it fed on itself, so that the causes got weirder and further “out there” all the time (“Stations of the United Nations Millenium Goals”, anyone? The sight of Episcopal priestesses, in collars, marching for abortion rights in D.C. was one of the things that convinced me that we had to leave.) The one exception that I mentioned was a highly educated and well-intentioned woman but theologically rather conservative, although she was by far the most able of the lot she was isolated and eventually stuck in a backwater mission parish because she would not toe the extreme political liberal line.

    So I’d say, from purely a practical standpoint, female pastors aren’t going to work and hurt rather than help a church — at least a liturgical church where preaching is not the focus of the job.

  24. Springkeeper says:

    I used to be a feminist, read all the mags, believed the dogmas, took the women’s studies courses, etc. then I joined the USMC and found out how completely wrong the gender feminists really are. I became a fundamentalist Baptist (and boy oh boy are there some women haters there) and recently became Catholic. One of the things I have always respected about The Church is her maintaining her moral beliefs and practices no matter what. Yes, there have been apostate priests, nuns, etc. but the center has held. Father Z said “Their priests and bishops will have to get serious. There may even be oppression. In any event, we we meay be headed toward a smaller, leaner, hungrier but clearer and more focused Church in our once-Christian once-careless wealthy nations. ” and I concur. There will not be women priests anymore then there can be given permission to use artificial contraception or the whole nature of what the church is will cease to exist and that will not happen. If I were ever to start feeling insignificant as a woman in the church, I would just remember that Mary was not a priest either and just look at her.

  25. cl00bie says:

    I am in formation for ministry with a focus on RCIA (I am currently doing my 30 hours of supervised ministry before my commissioning). I am required to take 7 classes and attend assorted retreats and workshops.

    At my sacraments class (which was taught by a very nice pantsuited sister), one of the questions on the final was: “Address three of the ‘sacramental challenges’ outlined in the appendix”. One of thos challenges was the priest shortage and the solution offered was more “eucharistic celebrations in the absence of a priest”.

    I explained in my answer that this not only was *not* a “solution” but was actually exacerbating the problem. When young men grow up in a parish that has normalized these sorts of “celebrations”, he begins to understand that priests are not necessary. Why would you want to give up wife and family to be unnessary, or be a “sacramental vending machine”. So this causes a precipitous drop in vocations. You end up causing a self-fullfilling prophecy.

    What needs to be done is the priest returned to his former state of clerical dignity (not better than laity, not worse, just *different* with a different role). Young men will then see the value of a vocation, the joy and love that a priest has for God and his congregation and the congregation’s love for God and him. Then instead of sowing the vocational field with the salt of “fake priests ‘saying mass'”, you can fertilize it with a defined valuable challenging need that a man is hard wired to respond to.

  26. AnAmericanMother says:


    And what kind of reaction did you get to that answer?

  27. chrryblssmprncss says:

    What is so sad about this whole thing is the exact women that want to play “dress up” will never be
    caught dead in a dress or other feminine attire. I believe this is due to ignorance as many women are disillusioned about their “role play” in the world. You have to admit it’s confusing. The secular world demands that we first be a provider and -then if time allows-nurture a family. If you choose to give the first up and put all your energy into the second-you are mocked, looked down upon as a “drudge” or “low lifer” and is emotionally forever tormated by the world for your choice as few will respect or even encourage stay at home moms!!

    I used to believe in women priest mainly because in our world women “can do” everything else! They fight in the wars, they battle in business, anything a man has done so should a woman but better! I am not saying that there is never a time that such action is not approprate but for everyday- we by our birth are called to be a woman!
    We are told young- to be men! Act like men! Dress like men! Control the men! Camp with the Boy Scouts ( I love camping -camping with boy scouts is NOT the way to go!)

    Basically why are so many people surprised women feel this way! They are expected to everything else! There is not longer distinction between the sexes! Where’s the shock?

  28. AnAmericanMother says:


    “Camping with the Boy Scouts” – as the old (Baptist) deacon said, now you has done quit preachin’ an’ gone to meddlin’!

    My daughter was in the Girl Scouts for awhile, but I became disgusted with the obvious feminist/lesbian agenda and she became disgusted with the fact that the troop never did anything. My attempts to interest the girls in some actual outdoor pursuits, even mild ones such as birdwatching, nature hikes, campfire cooking, etc. were not well received. And as for actually going on a camp-out, even to a state park with large tents on platforms . . . fuggetaboutit!

    So my daughter joined the BSA Venturers as soon as she turned 14, and I became a Crew Advisor. It’s a co-ed program for kids ages 14-21 that continues the outdoor adventure component of Scouting. We had a ball. Philmont, Northern Boundary, ropes courses, kayaking, hiking the AT, Lifesaving and First Aid courses, conventions with the Explorers . . . and LOTS of camping. My daughter earned her Outdoor Bronze Award and her BSA Lifesaving Certificate (I did the Red Cross Lifesaving course years ago, and compared to the BSA that was a stroll in the park. How about a nice half mile swim at 6 a.m., just to get warmed up before the course starts?)

  29. Ruth says:

    My favorite story of women feeling they were an after thought in the Catholic Church, as though Our Lord could forget his mother, is several years old! It happened the day after Pope Benedict was elected and this lady came in looking distressed. When queried as to why, she said that since Cardinal Ratzinger was now the Pope, “women would have to go back to being candlesticks on the altar.” At first I was confused and asked what she meant. Her response ran something like, “He will take away what we have gained in the Church since Vatican II.” All I could think was how pretty the candlesticks are in my parish (not the same as the distressed lady) thank goodness!

  30. Hirduin says:

    This reminds me of the homily (yes, a homily) I heard this morning by an official spokesman of our diocese (a deacon) here in Grand Rapids, MI. It was on the ‘great faith” of the syro-phoenician woman. He then went on to say that one has “good faith” if one believe some but not all of the teachings of the Catholic church. He said that repeatedly though he didn’t say which teachings. I suppose one’s faith is “good” if one believes God was in Christ but not that He was God or born of a virgin! I am beginning to think I never want to visit a OF liturgy ever again. He didn’t say if “good” faith can bring salvation or not though it that kind of “faith” is “good” then one can just as easily be saved with that kind of faith than with “great faith”. Liturgical abuse is one thing, but spreading lies in a homily is worse!

  31. AnAmericanMother says:

    We had a lot more fun at our parish (and yes, it is OF but very reverent and orthodox).
    Our young Redemptorist priest, who is in residence from Thailand while finishing his master’s degree in public health from our local medical school, mentioned the difference between “canis”, dogs generally, especially the semi-feral dogs of the street, and “catelli”, the little house dogs that are not the children but still part of the larger household, “perhaps not with a place at the table, but with a place under the table.” And the application of that to those ‘inside’ and those ‘outside’, both then and now.
    From there he went on to talk about prayer and the necessity for ‘storming the gates of heaven.’ He gave a couple of specific examples of answered prayer.
    It was a very good homily.
    Mr William Byrd and Mr. Henry Purcell provided the music.

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