Women and the priesthood
Sir, – Brendan Butler (June 27th) says that there is no justification for the continued exclusion of women from the priesthood in the Catholic Church because “nowhere in his recorded actions or words did Jesus ever exclude anybody, especially women”.
It is certainly true that Jesus counted many women among his close friends and disciples. However, it is quite incorrect to say that this extended to including women among those who he wished to carry his message to the world, since in fact his recorded words and actions suggest the very opposite.
The selection by Jesus of the 12 apostles is clearly recorded in the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke, with each of the 12 being specifically named by him and each of them being male. From the words used by Jesus to the remaining 11 following his resurrection, it is clear that he intended these apostles to carry his message to the world, essentially forming the basis for the church. (“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them . . . and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19). The 11 apostles, in turn, chose men to succeed them in their mission.
This tradition was maintained in the centuries that followed and, as the catechism of the Catholic Church states, this was not an arbitrary decision but was made because “the Church recognises herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself”.
Whether you agree with it or not, this seems to be an entirely reasonable interpretation of the recorded words and actions of Jesus, so it is hardly surprising that Pope Francis has taken a hard line on the issue. This stands in contrast to his statements on the question of priests marrying, a matter on which he has shown an admirably open mind, and on which Jesus himself was entirely silent. – Yours, etc,