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The Emasculate and Effeminate Priesthood

In light of the recent rash of female “womanpriest ordinations” in the U.S. and the world over (see our New Oxford Note “Archbishop Burke Has Courage,” Jan.), a clear and compelling defense of the male priesthood would go down real smooth right now. So we turned with interest to an article by Helen Ratner Dietz in the November 2007 Homiletic & Pastoral Review (HPR) looking for refreshment. She writes, “Christians have barely begun to counter the arguments of those women influenced by feminism who with so little theological literacy demand the Christian priesthood for themselves.” Yes!

Dietz writes, “Because he is considered to be the image of Christ, who is the bridegroom of the Church, the Christian priest must, like Christ, be male and, must, like Christ, be thought of as a bridegroom.” Yes again!

Drinking a little deeper, Dietz’s offering — titled “The Male Priesthood: Wearing the Jewels of the Bride” — started to leave a sour taste in our mouths. Says she, “We are so accustomed to think of Christ solely as the bridegroom that this once well-known concept of Christ as bride has become unfamiliar to us.” Huh? Christ as bride?

Dietz offers as her example the story of Abraham giving bread to the Lord at the oaks of Mamre (Gen. 18:1-6). She says, “By appropriating her role as bread-giver, Abraham in priestly fashion…substitutes himself for Sarah.” Likewise, she says, Christ assumed the feminine role of bread-giver at the Last Supper. Likewise the priest at Mass.

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