Male priesthood

Question: I know women cannot be priests because Jesus chose only men to be apostles. A priest recently said another reason is because of the nuptial meaning of the body. What does this mean?

Alfred Corigan, Loma Linda, Calif.

Answer: To speak of the nuptial meaning of the body means that the very design of our body orients us toward a marital relationship. The man is meant for the woman, the woman for the man. And in this complementary relationship, which we call marriage, there is the fruitfulness of children. In effect, our body says to us, “You were made for another who will complement and complete you, making your love fruitful.”

This is also an image for the spiritual life, wherein God speaks of his relationship to his people in marital imagery. In the New Testament, Jesus is the groom and his Church is his bride. The Church and its members are called to relate to the Lord, to be completed by him and complemented by him such that their love bears fruit.

The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is also a sign of God’s relationship to his people — he the groom, we the bride. Even celibates manifest the nuptial meaning of the human person. As a priest, I am not a bachelor. I have a bride, the Church. Religious sisters also manifest a marital relationship, where Jesus is the groom and they are his bride.

To speak, therefore, of the nuptial meaning of the body, is to insist that the sexual distinctions of male and female are not merely arbitrary physical aspects. Rather, they bespeak deeper spiritual realities that we must learn to appreciate and respect. Men and women are different and manifest different aspects of God’s relationship. Women manifest the glory of the Church as bride. Men manifest the glory of Christ as groom.

In terms of the priesthood, this is important, because Christ in his humanity is not simply male, he is groom, and the sacred liturgy is a wedding feast; Christ the groom is intimately connected with his bride the Church. Thus, your pastor is invoking rich theological teaching to help explain one reason Christ chose only men for the priesthood.

Why saints’ intercession?

Question: Catholics pray to saints, but the Bible says there is only one mediator, Jesus. How can you justify this?

Jason, via email

Answer: Jesus mediates a relationship with the Father in a way no one else can. No one comes to the Father except through him. However, in terms of our relationship with him, Jesus has established things and people which help mediate our relationship with him: apostles, evangelists, and teachers and roles of service to build up the body of Christ. Faith comes by hearing the word of God.

Therefore, our relationship with Jesus is mediated by both Scripture and those whom the Lord sends to evangelize us.

Catholics do not hold that the prayers of saints substitute for Christ’s mediation. Rather, they are subordinate to it, and are facilitated by him. For, as head of the body of the Church, he creates a communion of all the members, allowing and expecting that all the members of the body support one another.

This does not substitute for Christ’s mediation, but rather presupposes it.

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to msgrpope@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.