STrib: An opinion piece about the ordination of women (well done!)

A few days ago I posted something from the liberal newspaper of my native place, the Minneapolis Star Tribune about wymyn who thynk they are prysts.

Today there is an opinion piece in response:

As a 20-something Catholic woman with a master’s degree in theology, I found the article “Female priests push Catholic boundaries” (Dec. 11) relevant and provocative.

Having shown a religious interest at a young age, I often was asked whether I would want to be a priest when I grew up. It seemed to me a possibility at the time.

When the question of the ordination of women first became especially prominent in the 1970s, Pope Paul VI called for a team to research and explain the church’s teaching on the subject.

Looking into such fields as history, sociology and psychology, in addition to theology, some questions raised were: What is the priesthood? Have women been ordained before?

Did Christ allow for it? Is it in the Scriptures? What did the Apostles do?

What has the teaching of the church been over the centuries? How does the church acknowledge and affirm the participatory role of women in the church and in contemporary society?

After thorough consultation, it was determined that it is not in the church’s power to ordain women — not just that it won’t, but that it can’t. There is nothing the church can do to “make” the ordination of women valid.

This is because the Catholic Church does not manufacture what is true, but looks at the way things are, the way God has given them to us.

And that is one of the main reasons I am still a practicing Catholic. I want to know what is true, not just what I want to be true.

Over recent decades, a number of intelligent but sensitive Vatican documents have further explained the church’s teaching on ordination, as well as on the essential and irreplaceable role of women and the laity. (These articles are readily available in print form and online.)

Over time, the question “So, do you want to be a priest?” has become, to me, offensive. [NB:] It implies that the ordained ministry is the only way to be “in” the church, and that my current roles as a lay Catholic woman are somehow inadequate.  [Exactly.  It is a horrible form of “clericalism” to suggest that to, say, participate actively in liturgical worship, you have to do what the priest does, as if you are not good enough unless you are being “clericalized”.]

All Catholics have an essential part to play in the church, and not just inside the church building. There are unique things that a single woman or a religious sister or a mother can do that a priest cannot.

Similarly, there are family fathers, single men, and nonordained, consecrated men (brothers, monks, etc), who each have their own important contribution to make.

We all have to work together, in our various roles, to be one body of Christians.

The news article also made numerous references to the declining number of male Catholic priests as one of the reasons to ordain women.

This runs contrary to accessible, easily verifiable evidence that the enrollment of young men in U.S. Catholic seminaries has actually increased in recent years. Many seminaries have more men enrolled this year than they have had in decades; some are even full.

Being of the same generation, I am especially proud of these men, who have grown up hearing nothing but ridicule of their church in the public arena, yet have found a love for their Catholic faith and have answered a call to give their lives in service of others.

It is what we are all called to do in our various states of life. As a woman, I look forward to working alongside these priests in the future — without being one.

* * *

Katherine Thomas is a Twin Cities bookseller and religious educator.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Dan says:

    Wow! A great article. When I first read “opinion piece about women’s ordination” I thought the worst…but this was excellent!

    Her premise that the Church does not “manufacture” what is true is a great perspective from which to approach this, and many other issues. I hope other bloggers/newspapers pick this one up…

  2. JonPatrick says:

    Obviously a lockstep sheep who has been brainwashed by the oppressive male hierarchy :-)

    Seriously, this is an excellent letter and effective reply. Kudos to Katherine Thomas.

  3. contrarian says:

    Outstanding. Well written.

    She was of course limited by a word count, but one thing that could also be mentioned is that the idea that the vocations crisis will be solved by admitting women to the priesthood (can’t figure out a not-weird way to write that) conveniently ignores the vocations crisis affecting many’a protestant denomination that has no problem with women clergy.

  4. randomcatholic says:


  5. Just the best statement on this issue that I’ve ever seen! Seriously, no mere man (whether ordained or not) could say it so convincingly. Vive la difference!

  6. bootstrap says:

    Excellent. I would add that if someone (anyone) wants to get “power” in the Church, there is really one way – and only one way – to achieve that goal. All you need to do is become a Saint.

  7. HyacinthClare says:

    The woman sells books? Is she online? Can we buy books from her company? I want to SUPPORT this very smart and faithful lady!

  8. aspiringpoet says:

    Wasn’t one of the things that Vatican II tried to do to reaffirm the importance and role of the laity – that you did not have to be ordained, or even in a monastery, to contribute to the Church or to become holy? If so, then it seems contradictory for people to support Vatican II (as I presume these women do, at least in name) while also disseminating the impression that they must be priests in order to be of worth to the Church.

    It seems to me that there is still a lot of – perhaps subconscious – resistance among Catholics to the possibility of holiness for laity. As a devout young Catholic, I often meet people who seem absolutely convinced that I must have a vocation to religious life, as if it were not possible to be young and devout in the world. People need to understand that holiness does not consist in taking particular vows or in receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders, but in being faithful to God’s will for one’s own life, accepting His choice for us in humility.

  9. ronconte says:

    The Magisterium infallibly teaches that the Church does not have the authority to ordain women to the priesthood. Ordinatio Sacerdotalis only addressed ‘priestly ordination’, i.e. ‘ordination to the priesthood’. The ordination of women to the deaconate is still an open question.

  10. Maggie says:

    Three cheers! I am always encouraged when I read about fellow young women standing up for the truth in this area. And I’d echo what others above: can we find out what her store is called? I’d love to support her business!

  11. rodin says:

    Cheers! An example of uncommon common sense as well as orderly thinking in an era of disordered mental activity.

  12. nialasfitch says:

    Extremely commendable. An intelligent and effective piece. Well done and thanks to Ms Thomas for speaking up for truth, however unpopular it may be.

  13. Elizabeth D says:

    I have also gotten comments insinuating I should be a priest, I am also sincerely offended by them. It really strikes me as if they are suggesting something not only absurd but indecent, and they tend to have a weird or mischievous look in their eye, which no one ever does who suggests I could have a vocation to be a nun (ie a real vocation). It does strike me as implying that they feel being a woman isn’t good enough.

  14. teomatteo says:

    If Ms. Thomas were my daughter i would be proud of her thinking and be thankful that she is not ashamed of the teachings of the Church. God bless them.

  15. dnicoll says:

    Amen and PTL! “I want to know what is true, not just what I want to be true.” – which is EXACTLY why I am in the process of converting to Catholicism, having been (very) Baptist for the last 25 years. It’s not about us, it’s about HIM.

  16. smad0142 says:

    While it is true that magisterial texts on the issue have only mentioned the Priesthood, it makes sense that the Diaconate, as the first grade of Holy Orders, is also included. Valid matter for Holy Orders, by Divine Law, is a baptized male. If a baptized woman is invalid matter for one grade of Holy Orders it must also be invalid for all grades of Holy Orders.

  17. StabatMater says:

    A priest who was my theology professor at a Catholic college asked if I had considered becoming a priest. I “think” he was joking. Ugh! I was 23 and newly married– and a woman– I cringed and replied that I had considered the convent before God sent my husband to me. I was active in my parish as a catechist, lector, and “youth minister” at that time.
    My husband and I have gradually become much more traditional as we have learned more Church history and Latin along side our children through homeschooling. Now as I sit in the pew at Mass in the EF, it is so evident to me that as a wife and mother if I am NOT in the pew as my vocation calls, “doing my job,” the Church CAN’T go on!!! We are to impart the Faith, and this is the greatest privilege and responsibility I am called to fill in all my duties as a mother. There is nothing powerless in that ! As a former feminist I have felt the MOST free in the Traditional Mass– I now KNOW my place as a woman and am rejoicing in that as never before! Such a great enlightening! The EF has for us made everything so black and white, so crystal CLEAR– just what I always craved from Mass but was not as evident with so many “helpers” at the altar.
    My 7 yr old son also CLEARLY sees the role of the priest in the EF as one of great importance and responsibility. He is drawn to the masculinity of it all with nearly 20 acolytes serving. In these days when gender roles are so blurred, the EF beautifully restores right order and clarity to male and female like NOTHING else can. It is the only hope (in my opinion) to restore our culture. Hence, I REALLY get it now, Fr. Z.: Save the Liturgy, save the world!

  18. benedetta says:

    Well said this post.

  19. irishgirl says:

    Bravissima to the lady writer! Well done, indeed!
    smado142-what you said!

  20. muchtall says:

    I found myself wanting to stand up and cheer after reading this article. Bravo!

  21. ronconte says:


    The idea that the Church lacks the authority to ordain women as priests or bishops is an infallible teaching of the Magisterium. The idea that the Church also lacks the authority to ordain women as deacons is a theological opinion. The Magisterium has not infallibly taught that only males are valid matter. Also, the Church has the authority and ability, to a limited extent, to change the conditions for a valid Sacrament. So the ordination of women deacons remains an open question.

  22. trad catholic mom says:


  23. Andy Milam says:

    Interesting timing….there is a contrasting article over at US Catholic by Phylis Zagano which advocates the ordination of women as deacons. I’ve posed the key component over there and thus far, no repsonses….

    Take a read. I won’t post the link, but Fr. Z can, if it so pleases him.

  24. The more people float women deacons as clergy, as opposed to deaconesses in the more historical form, the less likely that the Church will appoint females to any kind of deacon-related office. Obviously there’s plenty of chance for confusion with clergy, in the Latin Rite, because plenty of people pushing it are confused and want others to be confused too. So I don’t think we’ll have any deaconess revivals in my lifetime.

  25. mamajen says:

    I grew up in a very traditional parish where female altar servers were not even allowed. I was fascinated by the mass, and used to wish that I had been born a boy so that I could serve on the altar or become a priest. For some reason it never occurred to me to be angry or wish that women could be ordained. When I was a teen we moved to a different parish and I was offered the opportunity to be an altar server, but I ultimately declined even though I thought about it. I did eventually become an Extraordinary Minister along with my husband, which was for me one of the highlights of my life so far. What a privilege it was. I have a three-year-old son now, and I hope he will grow to love the mass as much as I did when I was a child. I won’t push him, of course, but how nice it would be if he ended up fulfilling my dream.

  26. Panterina says:


    Kudos to Katherine Thomas, and also to StabatMater for her relevant post!

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