Switzerland: An Appeal for “Female Sacramentality”

As the Swiss website kath.ch reports, Sr. Irene Gassmann O.S.B., prioress of Fahr monastery, argues in favor of monasteries as a place for experiments with “female sacramentality.”

While she suspects that an unreflected general opening of ordained offices to women might lead to a “feminized clericalism,” she would prefer monastic communites as a place for experiences with women in sacramental offices “in an unspectacular manner.”

“The monastic vocabulary knows the term ad experimentum, that means to give something a try for a certain period and then to reflect on whether it should be made generally binding.”

A female monastic community could ask the bishop to ordain one of the sisters for the office of Anointing of the Sick. After a few years, probably the permission to preside over the Eucharist could follow. In the same way parishes could ask for ordination for women who take care of the sick anyway, so that the pastoral service does not need to be disconnected from the sacramental experience. Such procedures would be similiar to the original idea of the Rule of St. Benedict: If the abbot – who originally was a layman – needs a priest for the community, he selects one of the monks and asks the bishop for ordination.

Sister Irene sees gender equality in the Catholic Church as a long term development, like “sourdough that has to be kneaded.” Decisions should never be made by men alone, and women should respect men’s fears: “It is important that we women treat men smartly and respect their fears. That we can give them safety: They need not be scared of us.”

“I wish for cooperation on an equal footing. We should not put people in the center – neither women who want to fight for something nor men who want to keep their status. Instead whe should put Christ into the center.”

You can find the entire interview with Forum, a Catholic paper for the Swiss canton of Zurich, under this link.

Together with Einsiedeln Abbey, the monastery of Fahr (photo above) forms the only current Benedictine double monastery in the world. While the abbott of Einsiedeln is the canonical superior of both monasteries, the prioress of Fahr guides the female community largely independently.


  1. Leave it to the Swiss to move reform along! As one who has dual citizenship (US/Switzerland(, I will follow this story closely. (And we need a resident cardinal archbishop somewhere in Switzerland!)

  2. If it were simply a matter of further development from the foundation of long-established streams of tradition (in this case, the streams of male-only “sacramentality” and female communal religious life), without any doctrinal or legal obstacles, this could be a wise way to proceed.

    But for better or worse, it is not that. The doctrinal and legal obstacles are real, and to proceed as though they don’t exist would be to invite division.

  3. I’m not sure exactly what it would mean to ordain someone purely for the sacrament of anointing of the sick. At the very least this would involve a radical rethinking of the sacrament of orders (apart from the issue of ordaining women). Maybe this would be a good thing, but my general bias is that all projects of radical rethinking fall prey to the law of unintended consequences.

    1. I had similar thoughts. Maybe the idea is that of a new form of “minor orders” that might lead to a stage where it would seem natural that those people can also receive the regular and traditional “major orders”. Of course the canonical rules for the sacraments would have to be changed; but this was obviously not the topic of the interview. Yes, it would require a rethinking of the sacrament of orders and sacraments in general, but I am not sure that this rethinking has to be “radical”. Maybe the canonical and dogmatic tradition has always kept doors open for such a rethinking.

    2. I give the idea some credit for at least avoiding the apparently much-forgotten obstacle that Trent placed against the path to having deacons being ministers of the sacrament of anointing of the sick. That said, my sense is not so much of development of development within existing sacramental constraints, but development of ministries and sacramentals aside those constraints, without the satisfaction of being able to make broad/neat claims about them, but with reduced risk of ecumenical friction with the Eastern and Oriental Churches. (Not so much outside the box as around the box, as it were.)

    3. I interpreted it as the woman would be ordained regularly (assuming it is possible) and then just limiting the exercise of the ministry to the anointing of the sick. Sort of like a priest simplex. And then gradually introducing them to more and more ministry. Not a bad idea, if you assume it is actual possible for such an ordination to take place.

    4. It isn’t just women’s contemplative communities. My experience in rural ministry in the Midwest also led me to thinking that Anointing of the Sick could be administered by extraordinary ministers–deacons and lay people. The intended consequence is that sick believers are served, bolstered, prayed with, and experience the grace of Christ. As for unintended consequences, sometimes, like Pope Pius X, you take risks and new challenges are presented.

      But I applaud Sr Irene’s statement which I might amend: “It is important that we lay people treat bishops and priests smartly and respect their fears. That we can give them safety: They need not be scared of us.”

      1. Except that such a proposition goes against the infallible teaching of the Church that priests are the sole minister of the Anointing of the Sick. Additionally, to disagree is not to fear. It is quite dishonest and a serious calumny to attribute such a motivation to those who wish to hold on to the infallible teachings of the Catholic faith.

  4. There are some important nuances to this proposal (some mentioned in previous comments) which combine to make it extraordinarily unlikely that the nuns of Fahr will be able to advance this “experiment.” Multiple changes in canon law would need to be made needing the ascent of Pope Francis, and could not be bypassed by a local ordinary or bishops conference.

    For all intents and purposes, a new clerical order would need to be created, between a priest and a deacon (as even deacons or possibly deaconesses cannot Anoint). One might recall that a somewhat similar “stopgap” clerical class existed before the Second Vatican Council, that of Priest Simplex or “Mass Priest,” who could say mass but otherwise didn’t have faculties to administer any other Priestly ministry (even preaching at their masses). They existed to accommodate men who were felt lacking in theological prowess but were otherwise holy enough for a priestly vocation (notable example being Bl. Solanus Casey). There’s a more legalistic explanation for this phenomenon, but suffice to say Simplex priests ceased to exist after the current 1983 Code took effect, as an effort to unify the priesthood.

    Then there’s of course the infamous Canon 1024, which says “A baptized male alone receives the sacred ordination validly.” The theology behind this canon is spelled out more in depth in Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, and I highly doubt the current Pontiff would expend effort or even lend credibility to a cause to repudiate either (especially given his multiple previous statements on the matter).

    All of this is to say that this proposal by the nuns of Fahr is well intended but highly unrealistic, both theologically and practically. Nor do I think this is necessarily the right solution to the problem of the unavailability of the Sacraments, as much as I hate to rain the parade of those seeking greater inclusion of women into Church leadership. The Church’s theology and Magistarium deserve a seat at the table here.

  5. Why is it so hard to accept that men and women, as created by God, are different with different roles to play? Both Scripture and Sacred Tradition bear this out. Was God a misogynist for identifying himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, rather than Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel? Was he a misogynist for instituting a male only priesthood (contrary to the practice of the surrounding pagans) in the Old Testament? Was Jesus a misogynist for only selecting men as apostles? Our sources for the truth should be Sacred Scripture and Tradition, not secular ideology.

    1. Father, I think one can accept that God made men and women with different roles to play without assuming that every element of scripture and tradition is free of contextual conditioning. Paul seems to think that it is very, very important that women keep their heads covered; certainly most Christians today think that this is simply a matter of cultural convention and not a mandate for today. Likewise, Paul’s injunction to wives to submit to their husbands was described by Pope St. John Paul the Great as “profoundly rooted in the customs and religious tradition of the time”, and thus it must be read in light of the “innovation of the Gospel” (i.e. the mutual subordination of husband and wife to each other).

      I am not arguing for the ordination of women to the priesthood or anything else, but only for the need to discern what in scripture and tradition is revealed truth and what is cultural packaging. It’s not easy.

    2. You are confusing apostles with The Twelve, Reverend Forte. Anyone sent on mission by Jesus was an apostle. We read in Luke 10.1 that the Lord sent out (apostello) 72 others in twos – all apostles. Their gender is not specified.

      1. Let’s not be pedantic. Not all those who were sent held the office of apostle:

        “When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named apostles.” (Luke 6:13)

      2. Sure. He named them as apostles, ***also*** as compared to the woman at the well, Saul of Tarsus, and others. The gospel citation isn’t “whom he *only* named apostles.” Is an apostle defined by sex or by the mission one accomplishes?

      3. Reverend Forte,
        You describe as pedantry the attempt to differentiate between an apostle and ‘the Twelve’ which is a critical consideration, yet you introduce a differentiation between an apostle and one who “held the office of apostle” when there is none.

        The distinction between an apostle and ‘the Twelve’ has a direct bearing on your claim that Jesus chose only men as apostles. Jesus chose only men to represent ‘the Twelve’ to parallel the twelve tribes of Israel, all named after the sons of Jacob. But, as Todd’s example illustrates, some of those who were SENT (apostello) i.e. apostles, were women.

      4. Gerard,

        The distinction is not between an apostle and “the Twelve”, but between an apostle and an ordinary layman who is sent. In addition to the passage from Luke that I already referenced, I would direct your attention to Matthew 10:1-14:

        ” Then he summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.”

        Thus Matthew, too, identifies the Apostles with the Twelve. The identification of the Twelve with the Apostles has always been common usage. Nor does the reference to others latter as apostles change this. Indeed the first act of the Apostles was to chose a replacement for Judas since this was an office. The whole concept of apostolic succession is that other men were chosen to fill this office as the Church expanded.

        In the end, even if I were to concede the linguistic point, it does not change my original point concerning the Apostles. Jesus only chose men for the office the Twelve. Latter, following the example of Jesus, men only were chosen to succeed them in this office, those today who are in Holy Orders by virtue of ordination. That, in both the Old and New Testaments, God chose only men for the priesthood, and that the Church has followed this example for two thousand years, should make us pause before we raise charges of discrimination and misogyny. Faith should lead us to try to understand this decision of God rather than question its fairness.

      5. OK, Fr. Forte, you’ve made your point and I think your point is clear to everyone. Not everyone agrees with you, and we are going to leave it at that.

  6. A papal indult would suffice. There is already a permanent indult in the high mountains of Peru for an order of nuns to do sacerdotal ministry year round. They must. A priest only visits via donkey once a year.

    As the abbess states, it is anti-pastoral to call a priest for AOS, when the BCC has journeyed with the family bedside, and will continue to do so once the priest leaves. The USCCB could request an indult for BCCs to provide AOS bedside in healthcare settings only to fill the vast need, and a spiritual continuum of care; the world would not come to a non-McDonalds sacramental end.

    PS, the link is only in Deutsche…

    1. An indult cannot disconnect that the minister of the Anointing of the Sick is an ordained priest.

    2. It would be interesting to hear more about this Peruvian indult.

      I find it odd that Anointing of the sick is singled out here. Would this (both in the case of impending danger of death, and in case of a long illness that renders the sufferer housebound) not normally be combined with sacramental confession (or, in case the patient is too weak to speak, general absolution)?

      1. “It would be interesting to hear more about this Peruvian indult.”

        I spent a couple of minutes in Google but wasn’t able to find anything on it.

  7. “Decisions should never be made by men alone, and women should respect men’s fears: “It is important that we women treat men smartly and respect their fears. That we can give them safety: They need not be scared of us.”

    I love this! (Can’t you see the twinkle in her eye?) And the fact that the Sister wants to remove obstacles, while people keep finding a hundred little ways to keep them in place. I’m with Sister Gassmann and her spirited proposal.

    (Not that it matters.)

  8. Has sister forgotten that Sacred Scripture ties the anointing of the sick to the presbyterate? “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” (James 5:14). It seems as if she wants us to follow her idea over Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, to which we are equally bound (2 Thes 2:15). Even Pope Francis acknowledges that the question of the ordaination of women to the Presbyteriat has been settled; and he ain’t no conservative.

    1. Except that what is there designated as ‘presbyter/s,’ namely the senior members of the community and the order of presbyters as currently understood are not one and the same concept.

      1. Council of Trent, Session 14, On the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, Canon IV:

        “If any one saith, that the Presbyters of the Church, whom blessed James exhorts to be brought to anoint the sick, are not the priests who have been ordained by a bishop, but the elders in each community, and that for this Cause a priest alone is not the proper minister of Extreme Unction; let him be anathema.”

        Among Catholics this question is not debatable.

      2. I think it is good to bring Trent into the discussion, but if you try to settle an issue by sheer authority, you leave your listeners, as St. Thomas puts it, “with an empty head.” So just saying “Trent said it; I believe it; that settles it” doesn’t do much to advance understanding.

      3. Following the dictum of faith seeking understanding, we should indeed seek to understand the teaching of the Council of Trent more fully, but it does need to start with the acceptance in faith of that teaching. That fact that the Church has infallibly declared something settled does make that question settled and we are not free to suggest otherwise. The task, then, before us is to deepen our understanding. A sine qua non of being Catholic is accepting in faith what the Church in its infallible Magisterium proposes to us as articles of faith. That ordained priests alone are the proper ministers of Anointing of the Sick is one such article.

      4. There is a list of “unchangeable” Catholic teachings that, as we all know… eventually changed. Fr. Forte, you’ve made your point and I’d ask you to stop repeating it.

  9. Religious orders of brothers often had individuals ordained to minister to their sacramental needs. I am th8nking most especially of the Alexian Brothers who minister in hospitals. And after all sacraments were made for people, not people for the sacraments.

  10. But we also need to keep in mind that Communion as Viaticum is “the last rite,” not anointing. Anointing is a substitute when Communion cannot be received due to physical condition or medical technology being used, And any EOM can administer the Eucharist to the dying.

  11. Or as many lay people who work inside the faithful structure one calls the Church know full well…if I am ministering to a dying person and the nearest priest is a hundred miles away, and the family is asking for an annointing, I can:

    A. Tell them it will never happen,
    B. Provide solace by reading the Council of Trent session 14 Canon IV
    C. Provide, pastoral care that is disconnected from the sacrament
    D. Be a part of a community that has provided for the Sacrament because putting Christ in the center is really significant.

    Thank you Sister for treating me, a male, smartly and respecting my fears. You do know that has been corporate policy for the Church since…the Council of Trent. May the sisters of your community be blessed with the pastoral care I imagine they have provided for people around them for years.

    1. Of course (with regard to the Anointing of the Sick) the correct answer is C. We cannot change the reality of the needed matter, form and minister of a sacrament no matter how much we would like to. Simulation of a sacrament is never the answer.

      1. Christ is communicated, really, through situations and by means not officially approved by the hierarchy. Sometimes the hierarchy comes around, as in Acts 10.9ff. I would agree that simulation is never the answer. But I can also state that effective pastoral care can also overshadow the absence of the sacrament, because of grace. Does that not chip away at the sacraments as they are perceived by believers? Truly, it’s time for change on this front. As long as there’s one priest working full-time in a chancery when he should be out among the masses.

      2. Yes, Todd.

        Maybe another way of putting it is C-Prime: Providing pastoral care that, while not proposed to objectively provide grace in the same way as the Sacrament itself, is formed and aligned with the sanctification that the Sacrament itself offers so that there may be a subjective experience of grace. (This is something along the lines of what I meant earlier by thinking “around the box”, as it were.) Because, while the valid definitions of the Sacraments offer us certain clarity about where we as members of the Church can rightly expect grace to flow under given conditions, the workings of grace are not limited to the Sacraments.

      3. One could always anoint after reading Mark 14:3-9, about a woman anointing Christ for his burial. This would carry most of the significance of the sacrament, joining the patient’s suffering with the suffering of Christ and promising the Resurrection, but since the anointing was done by a woman it cannot have to do with a sacramental anointing administered by a priest.

    2. There will always be people who will rarely if ever celebrate any sacrament other than baptism because priests are unavailable, either due to shortage or hostility to the faith. The 7000 strong Kirishitan Catholic community in Japan went almost three centuries completely isolated from the rest of the Church after the Tokugawas martyred all their priests and closed the borders in the early 1600s. They still kept the faith alive and saved souls even though generations never experienced the Eucharist. Situations like this still exist today and could never be solved by any number of ordained clergy. Don’t get me wrong, we still need Sacraments to enrich our Christian life, but our salvation is not absolutely contingent on them all else being equal (except baptism, which anyone can validly administer if done correctly). For this and many other theological and juridical reasons (some that I mentioned earlier), what the nuns at Fahr ask for can never be granted. Our task then isn’t to fight the Church and take matters into our own hands, but to be pastorally present to the people of God fitting to our individual roles in the Church.

      1. “what the nuns at Fahr ask for can never be granted.”

        That is a very select interpretation of the power of the keys.

        “Our task then isn’t to fight the Church and take matters into our own hands, but to be pastorally present to the people of God fitting to our individual roles in the Church.”

        Our task may also be prophetic, to persist in some Luke 11 nagging of bishops and theologians. If the Holy Spirit judges clergy-only administration, so be it. But such a stance also may have unintended consequences. Lay people may be deemed more fruitful and effective at leading Word or Communion services than priests leading Mass. New sacraments led by lay people may surface and the old may be retired to cities and seminaries. Or perhaps bishops and prelates will forsake their cities and move into the frontiers of Christianity and encounter the need more directly.

        Characterizing opportunities like this as “fights” possibly reveals the fears Sr Irene so accurately discerns. I read the woman asking. If someone is getting defensive about it, the fight may well be all theirs.

        Change or not. Consequences will be predictable. Or not. It makes for an exciting and Spirit-filled time to be a Catholic.

      2. As much as I appreciate Sr. Irene’s charitability in acknowledging the concerns of Church leaders, I think she (and others) misses the mark as to what Church leaders actually fear with women’s ordination. The real fear is not of a hostile takeover of the Church at the hands of radical feminists (though Fr. Z would probably say so anyway), but rather a fundamental breakdown of Church doctrine on the sacraments and vocations as they relate to gender.

        Whether we agree with it or not, the Church’s restriction of Holy Orders to men has been longstanding and consistent, so much so that Pope John Paul II doctrinally defined it on three occasions (1983 Code of Canon Law, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, and Ad Tuendam Fidem). This is why I find it basically impossible that any proposal to delegate the celebration of the sacraments to women would be able to reconcile with definitive Church doctrine (the word “definitive” is used in all three docs btw), as in effect, the proposal would essentially need to conclude that JPII and every other pope was utterly and “definitively” wrong on a doctrinal matter. Theology aside, any Pope that would dare accept such a proposal would completely destroy the credibility of his office and its ability to speak authoritatively on Church doctrine. I know this all probably sounds dramatic, but these “fears” are not without precedent in the wider Christian community, and I’ll point out the current disunited and bitter state of the Anglican churches over similar matters as an example of what many fear would happen to us. The whole issue of making making the Sacraments more available to us lowly laity is a very complex one, and any serious proposal needs to engage with Church doctrine and tradition. I see no need to unwittingly create more problems for the Church than we already have; one Reformation was enough.

      3. A reasonable reply and just consideration for tradition. And yet, when those who wrap themselves in the mantle of tradition begin to speak of imagined fights and such, I have to wonder how well-rooted in tradition they might be. Perhaps their attempts at articulating tradition are flawed. If it’s not time to go back to the drawing board for theology, perhaps communication skills need polishing.

        Women administering sacraments is at root a matter of administration. There is nothing that denies faith in or fact about God and salvation in a woman anointing a sister with oil blessed by a bishop. That St John Paul II has said it cannot be is more rooted in practice than anything that has to do with faith or morals.

        Now, if those who are concerned about reliving 1517, 1054, Anglican upheaval or such, would like to sit seriously and address sacramental need, that would show a decent respect for the laity. You suggest that the Magisterium deserves a seat at the table–and nobody would deny them such, except for themselves.

      4. I can agree with much of what you said, but let’s not obscure two important facets to this discussion: firstly, the exclusive ordination of men is in fact doctrinal matter, as officially declared by JPII. I honestly might not have come up with the same conclusion, but he had the right authority to make such a judgment, and we need to accept that.

        Secondly, the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is inextricably tied to the priests’ ordination, as that is the means by which the sacramental graces are conferred, not the Holy Oil blessed by a bishop (which can be validly replaced with store bought vegetable oil). To be fair, the Church might have a “less difficult” time changing the form of this sacrament than that of the right matter for a priestly ordination, but it’s still quite a stretch that would come with its own theological and practical challenges that ought not be dismissed lightly. Sacramental availability is always important, but it’s never an end that justifies all means.

      5. I can agree with much of what you wrote also. But I don’t think anybody is tackling this issue “lightly.” It seems worth a serious conversation and much prayer and discernment. Not outright dismissal.

  12. View from the pew
    Regarding: Anointing of the Sick
    – For communities with out presbyters or bishops, it makes sense that there be a way for the sick, and elderly, and those in need of strengthening be anointed in the context of their faith community. While not a sacrament this anointing would be a sacramental.
    – A catechist, lector, or acolyte (either of these three as commissioned or installed), or deacon could anoint those in need using a appropriate ritual.
    – This sacramental would be rooted in evidence of anointing from the early church, and from the Christian Scriptures.
    – If by this practice and by length of time it might become clear by the Holy Spirit through the church that this sacrament was unnecessarily linked to ordination. That is, this sacrament is more like matrimony in that the spouses are the ministers of the sacrament. So the heads of an household of faith / domestic church could be the minister of the sacrament for a family member or neighbor. Also a lay liturgical minister, or catechist (installed or commissioned) of the parochial church of the person in need be the minister.

    1. So, basically, if anyone is sick, summon the elders of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up?
      The only difference from St James is that by elder you mean someone quasi clerical, instead of an actual cleric? Th anointing will not be a sacrament, but a sacramental? Will the prayer of faith be similarly downgraded, so that it will not save the sick or raise them up?

      This is backward thinking as I see it. The sacrament is the Church praying for the sick. If that happens, it is a sacrament. If someone other than a priest is doing it, she should be ordained; she is a leader of the Church’s prayer already. What other reason is there for ordination?

      The only reason for “experimentation” is to discover if the prayer of faith is effective, or if we are so bound up with male clericalism that the Church can no longer pray. Has there already been a fundamental breakdown in the Church’s theology of the sacraments with regard to gender?

      1. Have just skimmed through this conversation, which has at least been expressed in moderate terms on all sides. Two points seem to be missing or under-represented
        1. the word ‘ordination’ covers several different ‘levels’ – one can talk of ordination to the diaconate without in any way including ordination to the priesthood; they are two different career paths.
        2. the complication with the Last Rites is not the anointing or viaticum but the forgiveness of sins. Only a bishop or priest has the power to ‘loose and to bind’, so only a bishop or priest can give absolution.
        Lastly, if I may return to the debate on apostles, surely the relevant point here is not whether or not women meet this definition (I think that they do) but that only the twelve participated in the Last Supper.

  13. In reply to Jane Coll
    If the last supper was a Passover meal it would have been unusual for children not to have been present, if only to carry out the ritual questioning. If children were present it is difficult to imagine why mothers and female minders would have stayed away. The silence of the canonical Gospels on this issue is intriguing.

    1. Family members and quasi-family (the women disciples) were included in the pilgrimage – they would, in the ordinary course of things, have likely been part and parcel of the ritual and domestic preparations.

      If one favors the ostensible Johannine timetable over the Synoptics, the Last Supper would not necessarily have been the initial Passover meal, but could have been an anticipatory meal of a rabbi and his closest disciples. That said, it doesn’t mean the other members of the retinue were not around.

      Silence is important, and it’s hard to avoid filling it in with one’s preferred filler (for example, the filler that the meal was one of poverty). The tradition’s filler is not, however, readily dismissible simply on that ground – there’s an asymmetry that puts a thumb on the scales in favor of older filler over newer.

    2. I am sure that women and children were around – or women anyway, after all there had to be someone in the kitchen. The significant factor is that they are not mentioned. It is clear from earlier verses that Jesus had the event carefully planned. So the washing of the feet (surely a diaconal act?) and the instructions to ‘do this in memory of me’ were specifically reserved to the twelve male disciples. It was a private meal, so Jesus could have included women. He chose not to. Either that or the gospel writers air-brushed them out of history and I do not think that we make that assumption without turning all of Scripture into a ‘pick and mix’ collection.

    3. Matthew and Mark specifically say that it was with the Twelve, while Luke says with the Apostles, which he uses as equivalent to the Twelve. So this is not silence on the part of the canonical Gospels on the issue but a deliberate, and consistent, limiting to the twelve Apostles. That this does not correspond with what modern sensibilities would like to have been the case is irrelevant; this is what Scripture declares. That such an arrangement was contrary to ordinary practice at the time is significant. We need to accept God’s revelation as it has been handed to us rather then try to force it into categories that modern man would prefer.

      1. “We need to accept God’s revelation as it has been handed to us rather then try to force it into categories that modern man would prefer.”

        Modern “man” of the first century bristled against Jesus’ choice of Jews for the Twelve. That was settled. The matter of administration and/or distribution of clergy might one day get settled too. In ways that look different from today.

  14. The usual suspects have said all the usual things, and squeezed most of the juice out of this discussion, to which I am a very late arrival.

    I would just add one thing that hasn’t been commented upon:

    I hope it’s an issue of translation, but the idea of “female sacramentality” suggests that the sacraments are gendered. I don’t believe that. In fact, I must reject it in the strongest terms as a capitulation to the spirit of the age.

    In Christ “there is neither male nor female.” We may surround sacraments with our cultural presuppositions, we may put the boys first in line to receive confirmation (as was done for many years before the reform of the liturgy), but that does not make confirmation a male sacrament or a female sacrament. It’s a sacrament, period.

    We may ordain only males, but that doesn’t make ordination a “masculine” sacrament. The very idea is ludicrous. A sacrament is a sacrament. Let’s save gender and sex for where it applies!

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