Aside from the functions that both man and women can take in the Church (they can be lay members of the congregations- single or married, they both can be consecrated single persons, they can be religious brothers same as women can be religious sisters), there are some specific and honorable functions in Catholic Church designed only for men- whole decisive hierarchy of the Church.

It seems, that even if we reject the idea of female priesthood, there is still no "corresponding" specific function in the Catholic Church for women, that only they could do in the Church.

Is it possible that Jesus handed over only precise functions only to the men, and had no precise idea for the women in his Church, or is it rather the disciples and evangelists, who, as being men of these times, cared little for whatever concerned women, and simply ignored the role designed for the women, and focused on developing a patriarchal structure of the Church?

Where will I find reliable resources to dig on that topic? What can be done in order to provide more recognition of female role in Catholic Church?

I was raised in very conservative Catholic family, and for a long time I was simply accepting that it is the way it must be if it was always so. But since some this model disturbs me more and more and does not help at all to endure in catholicism. I would appreciate if some compassionate person wold be willing to help me in my struggles, I am not trying to fight anybody here, I smimply try to understand. I hope to find some understanding among you, thank you in advance


3 Answers 3


The question assumes the woman is just a 'copy and pasted' man, or interchangeable with man, whereas when God took woman out of man, He didn't intend for equality or sameness, because he made a physically and mentally different creature, designed to be compatible with, complete, and be completed by, the man. We are both created in the image of God - high, intelligent moral beings - but created for slightly different purposes. Man was not intended to be ruled over by a woman, but the woman by man. That may grate the ears of modernists, but it's the Catholic faith both as viewed magisterially and scripturally.

Women have one of the highest callings possible - motherhood. And not just within the immediate, nuclear family, but more generally, too: to bear, feed, educate and raise the next generation of mankind. Women have the capacity to hold back the torrent, as it were, of the moral decay of a society; on the other hand, when the women begin to show degeneracy, that evinces extreme moral rot, and the impending destruction of moral society (which we see today - women wanting to butcher their infants on the altar of exercising choice and autonom for its own sake). And to perpetuate the human race. Fathers, traditionally, only support the mother in her role as such. Women whose calling is to chastity can find themselves the leaders of convents - Mother Superiors and the like.

For a Catholic grounded in theology (not 'patriarchal misogyny') it is repugnant for a woman to have authority over men, just as it is for children to teach adults - although not in the same way (I'm using an analogy - don't blame me if you can't distinguish between an analogy and a direct comparison or equation). The stronger cannot be reformed and moulded by the weaker, but the weaker by the stronger, to use a crude example from nature.

People who deny a fundamental difference in men and women ignore physical and doctrinal reality both (i.e. even if you denied the Catholic faith, you'd still be denying basic biology and science). The Catholic Church admits of no conflation of genders, and never can. In fact, it would be a modernistic heresy to say otherwise: and modernism is a heresy.

It's nigh unthinkable that if Jesus intended for women to be interchangable with men in leadership, He would not have chosen one of the many holy women - chief among whom would be His own mother - to be apostles and priests. It's not as if He wasn't revealing hard to bear things already - such as the command to eat His body and blood.

  • "Man was not intended to be ruled over by a woman, but the woman by man" I am really sorry for you that you believe that. This is not what Catholic man teaches now (at least in world, not necessarily in actions), and you will never find Jesus saying such things, even in the gospels written by men. This is what catholic church was misteken about for the long time, similarily like about cruciades. (Collective educatian takes longer than individual.) By the way - in orthodox tradition women is still considered as "unclean" and cannot even approach the altar.
    – Guest
    Apr 18, 2020 at 21:15
  • You probably are reffering to 1 Corinthians 14:34, but what modern theology doesn't teach to take this sentence literally (like many other sentecess- otherwise the Bible would contradict itself in many places). This was simply an indication of apostle Paul for community in Corinth where there were morality problems, not only in the city but in the christian community as well, we can't extend everything to everybody as we please. Things were said in the context. Again, reading your comment one can only get even more discouraged with Catholic Church.
    – Guest
    Apr 18, 2020 at 21:20
  • By the way I do not deny biology and science! Read my question once again! I do not even ask about female pristhood but some "corresponding role" to these role for females. In the same way as your " Mother Superiors" is corresponding to "Father superior" in male order. Do you see that? Mother-Father. pure biology. corresponding. not the same
    – Guest
    Apr 18, 2020 at 21:23
  • Doesn't Jesus say a man shall leave his father and mother and marry a wife? That's the typical patriarchal system in practice - a men seeking a woman to marry, not the other way around? Assuming there would be corresponding role in females is conflating the sexes into an interchangeable singularity, something Christianity and Catholicism in particular doesn't allow for. Apr 18, 2020 at 21:27
  • nobody knows how exactly Jesus has put the things into words. Gospels were written many years after Jesus' death and contain not only facts but also an interpretation of the facts (by evangelists in that case). You shoud look more for the context in which it was said. And please read again my comment, what I understand through corresponding, again: Mother-Father, Sister-Brother. The same? no. That is what I understand by "corresponding" - diffrend, but equal. Both genders are diffrent. But I will suprise you: the sicience says that there are more similarities than diffrences.
    – Guest
    Apr 18, 2020 at 21:46

I understand your concern. And I understand the frustration. Biblically, the Catholic Church follows the model laid out in the Old Testament priesthood. But I dont think that's really the question.

As a man, I just read it from a different point of view. In the Bible, Eve sins first, but Adam receives the blame.[Gen 3:6, Rom 5:12-21] After being removed from the Garden, punishment for the woman is difficulty in childbirth.[Gen 3:16] The punishment for man is... to do everything else![Gen 3:17] The man is to be the farmer, the hunter, the gatherer, the priest, the ruler, the judge, etc. He sends us wandering in deserts, fighting wars, hunting, building temples, governing, judging, tilling, bartering, etc. It is exhausting! As presented biblically, it takes all sorts of things for men to do to enter Heaven or God's graces.

Think about it. The Apostles follow Christ all over the place, and He is constantly chastising them! (did you ever notice they never bring anything to eat?!) Yet a certain "woman" [Lk 7:36-50] puts oil on his feet just one time, and he goes off telling everyone how great she is!

But there is a great lesson there, to me. There is great freedom in NOT being required to do something. Women just be what they were made to be, and it's as if its a free ride to eternal life!![1 Tim 2:15] Ask any woman about being a mother and they will tell you its a full-time job. That's right -- a full-time job was built right into her DNA!! Men have nothing comparable. If you can shovel dirt, no reason you can't flip a burger, or be a priest, or a hunter, or wash dishes, etc. Therefore the job that men's bodies were built for is.... everything else!

I was complaining in front of a priest once and his response was basically, "Gen 2:18 says the woman was made as a helper, which means that your job is... everything!" I've done the dishes ever since without complaint. Brutal for men; freeing for women.

Hope that was the charitable response you were looking for...

  • I have impression that your answer describes the role of women in the society, which was not my question (actually I’m quite ok, how it looks now in XXI century) . Also the model of families, where both mother and father share responsabilities on children, so that both could do full-time job in the offices, or other places where they fulfill themselves professionally. But neither society nor family model was not my question.
    – Guest
    Apr 18, 2020 at 11:51
  • Neither was my question the stories from Old Testament, which even the Catholic Church does not interpret literally, the story from Genesis that you mentionned it’s just a story, but not a history. As a thinker, rather than feeler, I was hoping to discuss on the historical level.A “helper” is not a function in the sense that I am asking. Funcion in the Church in the context I’m asking is: priest,bishop, cardinal, pope, deacon, religious brother/sister, consecrated single person male/female, non consecrated lay person male/female.
    – Guest
    Apr 18, 2020 at 11:52
  • The model of the society in that time was clear – it was a patriarchal society for many years – here it is worth to mention, that not all the ancient cultures had a patriarchal structure, but because of the physical strength of men, naturally there are the majority of them . (The existence of such models shows that the patriarchal structure is not the only one that naturally develops). Luckily, slowly the society starts to learn cooperation than rivalisation, but not the Catholic Church which keeps it’s model firmly, and I try to understand the logic behind it.
    – Guest
    Apr 18, 2020 at 11:54
  • Jesus was known as the one who was breaking the cultural structures. It could be that he had a function in the Church for women too, but the evangelists, as men who were rooted strongly in their patriarchal culture didn’t think about it as an important to mention(in the gospels that their wrote many years after the death of Jesus) and to interpret later on in the way they did with the functions for men, developing them into priests, bishop, cardinal, pope etc. Are there any researchers on this?
    – Guest
    Apr 18, 2020 at 11:55
  • "I have impression that your answer describes the role of women in the society." I am not sure how it could be read that way when I placed everything in the context of 'men'. I apologize if that got missed.
    – MarkV
    May 7, 2020 at 14:55

Why are the functions for man clear in the Catholic Church leading and decisive hierarchy, but there is no corresponding function for women?

I am answering this question the best I can and do so desiring not to get into a debate on the issue. The reservation of priestly ordination to men is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and seemingly controversial teachings of the Church.

Jesus could have chosen women to be priests, but he did not. Surely the first woman chosen would have been his very own mother, the Most Holy Virgin Mary.

Jesus, the second Person of thr Blessed Trinity, knew exactly what he was doing when he instituted the priesthood and the Holy Eucharist. Nevertheless, proponents of a female priesthood will always say that Jesus Christ was only acting according to the customs of his times, but that goes against the solid teachings of the Catholic Church.

Simply put, the Church believes that Christ willed it so.

Although there is still no "corresponding" specific function in the Catholic Church for women, that must not be looked on the Church leaders or even Our Lord love women any less. As Catholics, we believe that the ecclesiastical roles within the Church are different as willed by the Divine Trinity. Women should not be looked on as inferior or loved less.

Keeping all this in mind, we can see that Christ choosing only men as Apostles was a deliberate action. As Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger noted before his election as Pope: “One forgets that in the ancient world all religions also had priestesses. All except one. The Jewish. Christianity, here too following the ‘scandalous’ original example of Jesus, opens a new situation to women: it accords them a position that represents a novelty with respect to Judaism. But of the latter, he preserves the exclusively male priesthood.” What Cardinal Ratzinger is pointing out here is that if Jesus did choose women to be priestesses, it would not have been as much as a shock as people think. All religions had priestesses. The astonishing thing was that they were absent from the community of Jesus Christ. As clearly stated in Scripture, Jesus broke many Jewish customs; however, here he deliberately retains it.

We must also look at the Priesthood as a Sacrament. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each Sacrament.” The Sacraments are outward “signs” which represent spiritual realities. For example, washing with water at Baptism signifies cleansing from sin, regeneration, and participation in the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. The water is an outward “sign” of what is really taking place spiritually. In the incarnation, Christ was born male and the priest is a sacramental sign or “icon” of Jesus Christ. Pope John Paul II alludes to this when he states that the apostles and their successors were given the mission of “representing” Christ. The Priest at Mass stands in Persona Christi (in the person of Christ); and Christ the Head and Mediator is male; therefore, the priest who represents Him must be male. Bonaventure adds to this a theological argument based on the long-standing tradition of regarding the bishop as the “spouse” or “bridegroom” of his diocese. Because of this, only a male should receive priestly ordination. Crucial to this theological argument is his suggestion that the sacramental symbolism of the priesthood reflects the bishop (or priest) in relationship with the Church, the “Bride of Christ”.

I would like to close with an excerpt from “Light of the World,” an interview with Pope Benedict XVI. In this book Pope Benedict XVI explains the Church’s position on the matter. “John Paul ll’s formulation is very important: The Church has ‘no authority’ to ordain women. The point is not that we are saying we don’t want to, but that we can’t. The Lord gave the Church a form with the Twelve and, as their successors, with the bishops and the presbyters, the priests. This form of the Church is not something we ourselves have produced. It is how He constituted the Church. Following this is an act of obedience. This obedience may be arduous in today’s situation. But it is important precisely for the Church to show that we are not a regime based on arbitrary rule. We cannot do what we want… Incidentally, women have so many great and meaningful functions in the Church that there can be no question of discrimination.” Finally, if there is any doubt of the Church’s respect for women, we need only look at Our Holy Mother, whom the Church formally declared to be the Queen of Heaven (Oct. 11, 1954, Pope Pius XII).

We can see that in the Early Church, women deaconesses existed. However, we must keep in mind that such deaconesses were non-ordained deaconesses. This role for women was instituted by some Church leader to aid in areas to help in where the employment of women would be more prudent than the usage of male deacons.

At this point, attentive readers of the New Testament will note that in a few cases, women are called diakonoi, which is the term that came to be used for members of the first degree of holy orders (i.e., deacons). For example, there is Romans 16:1:

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant [diakonon] of the church at Cenchreae (ESV).

The problem is that, as the ESV suggests, the term “diakonos” was much broader in meaning in Koine Greek than it is today: it essentially meant “servant.” (For example the servants who fill the water jugs at the wedding at Cana, in John 2:5, are also called diakonoi.)

There is evidence that the early Church had orders of “deaconesses” who would, for example, assist adult women in their full-immersion Baptisms (which was the norm back then). It is clear by all accounts, however, that the deaconesses never received the Sacrament of Holy Orders through the imposition of hands, as (male) deacons do. Again, the term “deaconess” was applied before the term “deacon” came to have the technical use it has today. (There is a good summary of this issue in the old Catholic Encyclopedia).

The International Theological Commission: From the Diakonia of Christ to the Diakonia of the Apostles explains that the role of deaconesses was one of service, yet were not ordained as their male counterparts were.

The Ministry of Deaconesses

Deaconesses should carry out the anointing of women in the rite of baptism, instruct women neophytes, and visit the women faithful, especially the sick, in their homes. They were forbidden to confer baptism themselves, or to play a part in the Eucharistic offering (DA 3, 12, 1-4). The deaconesses had supplanted the widows. The bishop may still institute widows, but they should not either teach or administer baptism (to women), but only pray (DA 3, 5, 1-3, 6, 2).

The deaconesses were named before the sub-deacon who, in his turn, received a cheirotonia like the deacon (CA 8, 21), while the virgins and widows could not be "ordained" (8, 24-25). The Constitutiones insist that the deaconesses should have no liturgical function (3, 9, 1-2), but should devote themselves to their function in the community which was "service to the women" (CA 3, 16, 1) and as intermediaries between women and the bishop. It is still stated that they represent the Holy Spirit, but they "do nothing without the deacon" (CA 2, 26, 6). They should stand at the women's entrances in the assemblies (2, 57, 10). Their functions are summed up as follows: "The deaconess does not bless, and she does not fulfil any of the things that priests and deacons do, but she looks after the doors and attends the priests during the baptism of women, for the sake of decency" (CA 8, 28, 6).

This is echoed by the almost contemporary observation of Epiphanius of Salamis in his Panarion, in around 375: "There is certainly in the Church the order of deaconesses, but this does not exist to exercise the functions of a priest, nor are they to have any undertaking committed to them, but for the decency of the feminine sex at the time of baptism." 67A law of Theodosius of 21 June 390, revoked on 23 August of the same year, fixed the age for admission to the ministry of deaconesses at 60. The Council of Chalcedon (can. 15) reduced the age to 40, forbidding them subsequent marriage.

For more information about this topic, perhaps the following articles would be considered of interest:

  • Thank you for the long answer, most of these is developed thought from Cathechism of Catholic Church. Unfortunately my question is not about female priesthood/diaconate and my question says clearly "if we reject the idea of female priesthood". By "corresponding" I mean: Mother-Father, Sister-Brother. They are not necessarily the same things. What is more, the priesthood is in the catholic church very much connected to decision-taking, it is not only pure sacrament. What if to disconnect these two?
    – Guest
    Apr 18, 2020 at 21:35
  • And finally: the argument (from CCC) that you revoke "Simply put, the Church believes that Christ willed it so." is my very question. On which base CC belives that Christ willed so? Didn't he really have anything to say for women and evangelists just didn't care about it? And did he want all this decisive structure to be so much connected to the priesthood? How can we know? Was it revealed to anybody or these ar just assumptions of some people who count? Because my assumptions are diffrent but I don't count in deciding about it, because I'm a women.
    – Guest
    Apr 18, 2020 at 21:38
  • @Guest I not getting into a debate here, Jesus mad no statements on the role of women. Thus the Church can freely say that God willed such things. Otherwise he would have said so.
    – Ken Graham
    Apr 18, 2020 at 21:49

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