The Role of Women in the Catholic Church
2 of 7 in Series: The Essentials of the Catholic Church’s Stance on Controversial Issues
Many women play active roles in the Catholic Church, but few of them have sanctioned titles. Even becoming a nun doesn’t get you the boon of the sacrament of Holy Orders — only men can be ordained.
The reason women can’t be priests goes to the establishment of the sacrament of Holy Orders. Because Christ established the sacrament, no pope, council, or bishop can change it. Eastern Orthodox Catholics don’t ordain women for the very same reason. It has nothing to do with who’s more worthy or suitable for Holy Orders in the same way that the ban on non-Catholics receiving Holy Communion has nothing to do with any moral or spiritual judgment on the persons involved. It has to do with Sacred Tradition, which is considered as divinely inspired as Sacred Scripture.
However, women can serve their parishes in a variety of other ways: Women have equal rights to be sponsors at Baptism and Confirmation. In Matrimony, they’re treated and regarded as full, equal partners with their husbands. Women can serve on the parish council and finance committees. They can be readers at Mass, extraordinary ministers (laypersons who assist the priest at Mass to give out Holy Communion, sometimes call Eucharistic ministers) if needed, and ushers. They can work in the parish office, teach religious ed, and so on, just like their male counterparts. And many parishes have women pastoral associates — usually nuns or religious sisters who help the pastor with many spiritual and pastoral duties. The Church has women who are canon lawyers, judges, and chancellors across the country. The Church has allowed local bishops and pastors the option to permit female altar servers at Mass. Now many parishes have both altar girls and altar boys.