Here we go again. Roman Catholic Womenpriests have “ordained” another woman. If aesthetics alone were not enough of an argument against them, the teaching of the Catholic Church is perfectly clear: ordaining women is an ontological impossibility. Ordination cannot be conferred on women anymore than sonship or husbandness.

The proper matter for the sacrament of holy orders is baptized men. A woman does not become a priest when words of consecration are said over her even if a valid bishop is using the right formula. Just like saying the words of consecration over pizza and beer will not make them the body and blood of Christ even if you’re a priest who has the proper authority to celebrate the mystery. Wrong matter = no sacrament. John Paul II, may his memory be eternal, put it quite well:

Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force. Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Luke 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.

Which is essentially to say that the Church can’t ordain women for the same reason it can’t draw you a square circle. And there is a certain freedom in that. Women being ordained isn’t a threat because it’s actually not happening. It’s unfortunate that there are women seeking and playing at ordination, but it’s not a serious threat to the Church.

And that leads to a question: since the very concept of ordination is, by necessity, much looser in protestantism, are women “priests” or “ministers” actually “priests” or “ministers”? When they perform the Lord’s Supper is the same thing happening as when an ordained protestant male minister performs the same actions? Do they have real authority from God? What principled reason would there be for saying that their ministry is invalid? Certainly Scripture states that women shouldn’t be ordained, or at least maleness is assumed in many of the qualifications, but so is virtue. If a man is ordained and then found to be a lecher, does he stop being an elder?

These and a host of other questions all surround the divide on the concept of ordination between Protestants and Catholics. I think it’s a vitally important question because it’s at the root of why the Reformation was a schism and not a branch. Nobody sent the reformers. But it is impossible to take God’s authority outside of the boundaries God has put upon it. You can’t steal the altar of the Lord and do as you please with it. If you do, it ceases to be the altar of the Lord.

Unlike the Reformers, however, the Womenpriests at least tracked down a validly ordained bishop to start the ball rolling in their movement. The reformers didn’t even give the Church enough deference to track down a rogue bishop to give them street cred as ministers. Their authority came from themselves pure and simple and that is the root cause of the ecclesiastical chaos that dominates the protestant landscape.

For the definitive treatment of the problems here, I’d refer you to St. Francis De Sales’ The Catholic Controversy, particularly the section on mission.