The Question of Ordaining Women to the Roman Catholic Priesthood, In Light of Tradition
Historically, the issue of ordaining women priests in different faith traditions has been a complex and controversial subject. Debates in the different traditions on ordaining women have addressed a variety of issues, ranging from whether or not women possess the natural leadership necessary for a priest, to the question of whether priesthood is a proper vocation for women. Different faith traditions have, of course, reached different decisions on the admission of women to the priesthood. While there has not been a unanimous admission ofwomen to ordination, the majority of Christian denominations and Jewish traditions currently ordain women as priests or rabbis. 1 2 The most noticeable exception to this trend is the Roman Catholic Church, which has never ordained women. The specific reasons for the Church’s stance were not clearly articulated until the 1970’s, when the Anglican community of Hong Kong, the Anglican community in Canada, and the Episcopal community in Philadelphia, decided to ordain women. The Roman Catholic Church felt compelled to respond to these appointments because they were “carried out within communities that considered that they preserved the apostolic succession of order”.3 Basically, the problem was one of consistency. The Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Episcopalian traditions all held that “authority in the church has been transmitted by ordination or laying on of hands from the apostles to present-day clergy”.4 However, while the Anglican and Episcopal churches admitted women to the priesthood, the Roman Catholic Church did not. The Church thus found itself in the position of having to explain its reasons for excluding women from the priesthood.