Sara Pekar, Pastoral Associate – 10 December 2018
Hi everyone! I wanted to briefly expound upon and further explain some things in the video that I did not make clear.
The first question asked to me was about the priesthood. As early as the 300s, the Roman Catholic tradition has ordained priests who are unmarried men of faith who intend to remain unmarried for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. This practice is a sign of consecration entirely to God and to God’s people. As Christ is the true priest, ordained men are only His ministers. The wisdom of the Church has always put forth that as Christ himself did not marry, but focused single-mindedly on the will of His father, so too should His priests. However, the Church also recognizes a different, but legitimate practice in the Eastern Churches, where married men can be ordained priests and deacons. Celibacy is still held in great honor, and many priests still freely choose it. For more information on priestly celibacy, you can check out Pope Paul VI’s Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Presbyterorum Ordinis.
Both in the East and West, the practice of male ordination has been united. It isn’t so much that the Church is unwilling to ordain women, it’s more that they are unable to. Jesus Christ himself chose 12 men to be His disciples. It is true that Jesus also had many followers who were women, but they were not selected as part of the 12. It’s interesting to me that even after the death and resurrection of Jesus, when the disciples were discerning who to elect to the Apostolic Ministry (to replace Judas), they did not consider Mary, Jesus’ mother, or any of Jesus’ close female followers, but instead elected Mathias (Acts 1:15-26). Jesus’ treatment of women indeed breaks cultural norms, and we know He has the greatest love and mutual respect for women; yet He chooses men alone to carry on His ministry. Surely Jesus is intending to teach us something by His choice, which we know is the will of the Father. For this reason, the Church has always felt bound by Christ’s choice, and upholds that the ordination of women is not possible. To learn more about the dignity and vocation of women, I’d invite you to read Mulieris Dignitatem, written by Pope John Paul II.
I was also asked about homosexuality. My response in the video was focused on gay marriage, though there is so much more that should be said about it. When we think about our identities, we can all name things that are important to making up who were are: our physical characteristics, hobbies, desires, etc. Especially today, we are told that our identity is found in who and what we love, and so it makes sense that our sexual orientation can seem intrinsic to our identity. But I challenge this line of thinking, and say that more fundamental than any of the things I listed, our identity is bound up in the love that God has for us. Any approach to homosexuality should begin with this as a starting point. We exist because God willed it so, and the purpose of our existence is achieving the perfect happiness and fulfillment we are made for – coming to know and love the God who made us. There are different avenues that Christ calls us to in order to achieve this happiness: the consecrated call to priesthood or religious life, the call to the vocation of marriage, or the call to single life. Because of what is told to us throughout Scripture as the meaning and purpose of marriage, the Catholic Church upholds that earthly marriage is meant for a man and a woman, as the commitment is a sign of Christ’s commitment to His Church. Just because a person experiences same-sex attraction does not mean they are unable to love, or that they are any way ‘less-than’ someone who doesn’t. We, as the faithful, have an obligation to see our brothers and sisters with dignity and hear them with respect, even if their experiences are outside of our experience or seem complicated or uncomfortable to us.
Ultimately, the Church relies on our faith in Christ as the perfect image of the all-loving Father when we’re asked to believe doctrines that are challenging or difficult to comprehend. To some who have lost faith in the Church, these difficult practices are reason to leave. What good is the Church to me if it’s outdated and backward, or worse – discriminatory? But for us who do believe, and who have had meaningful encounters with Jesus, trusting in His Divine teachings become a little bit easier. I really do believe that Jesus Christ is alive in the Church, and that His Holy Spirit moves in every human heart. If we can help people see that, remove the obstacles to their belief through good listening and with an attitude of understanding, I know God will do the rest.