To say that a woman cannot be a priest in no way detracts from her human dignity and her equality with men, says Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando.
The bishop addressed the ongoing debate on the status of women in the Church in a letter to the faithful yesterday.
“Too often, proponents of a ‘feminist narrative’ allege that Church teachings harbor an anti-woman bias,” he wrote, referring to the proposal that the all-male ordained priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church is the result of such a bias.
The bishop argued that Catholicism is far from being anti-woman and has “raised the dignity of women wherever it took root.”
He noted that pagans mocked Christians “precisely because women were treated as equals to men.”
“Pagan societies were hardly ‘pro-women’ – and this was true of civilizations of high culture like that of the Greeks and Romans as well,” he said. “Where the Gospel took root, however, the status of women improved.”
“That the Church only ordains men to the priesthood is not a comment on the status or state of women but a statement on the nature of the priesthood as instituted by Jesus Christ,” he stated, citing Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.
Bishop Wenski also cited Pope Benedict XVI’s comments on his recent visit to Brazil. The Pope condemned the “chauvinistic mentality that ignores the ‘newness’ of Christianity in which the equal dignity and responsibility of women relative to men is acknowledged and affirmed.”
“Church teachings on the equal dignity of men and women give no aid or comfort to those who would hold for the ‘inferiority’ of women relative to men or to those would justify any discrimination or exploitation of women on such grounds,” Bishop Wenski elaborated. “As the Scriptures attest: every baptized person is fully entitled as a child of God.”
The bishop also admitted that women were not always treated with dignity nor given their due within the Church throughout history. “Believers have, in this as well as other areas, often failed to live in a way congruent to our beliefs,” he stated.