Everyone wants justice, but few are willing to work towards a more just world.
Yet, it is only when we work for justice to others that we work towards justice for ourselves.
Yet, it is only when we work for justice to others that we work towards justice for ourselves.
"Essential Inequality & Social Justice in an Unjust World"
Many of the challenges we face today are created by our inability to collectively agree what justice should look like. Countless philosophers, politicians, economists, and theologians have tried to describe justice for us, but the trouble is that they rarely agree; the core belief of one is the abdication of all values for another. These conflicting ideas and their often impossible ideals have left us an ideological haystack from which we must find justice.
At the center of our search for justice is the human being, for an understanding of justice that leaves the human out doesn’t work in a world inhabited by humans. Therefore, we must firstly decide what it means to be a human, and secondly what it means to be just. A principle that leaves either out may look good on paper but such a principle is useless, for it cannot resolve the many problems caused by injustice. We need principles that are useful if we want to create a just world.
One of the problems we face is that our thinking is shaped by thoughts that do not belong to our time. As inheritors of the Greco-Roman culture our modern western world is based on a world that no longer exists. Nevertheless, their particular way of life is still with us and influences our thinking, for eager scholars proved efficient transmitters of works that would have vanished had they not been copied or assimilated into others. Thus the philosophy of Plato was immortalized and handed down to us by church Father Augustine; Roman statesmen Caesar, Cicero, and Aurelius were brought back by the Renaissance; and Aristotle inspired the medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas to create his masterpiece that resurrected the Greek philosopher’s presence in mainland Europe after nearly a millennia of absence.
When a mindset that belongs to a time that regularly experienced famines is transported to a time of plenty, problems inevitably surface. The people who lived in antiquity accepted stark economic inequality, slavery, and imperialism, for resources were scant. Equality and liberty could only brush the surface without ever penetrating the depths of society because of the complex Roman patron-client system. Noble birth, wealth, and important connections granted families high ranking in the rigid hierarchy; low-ranking birth, poverty, and the lack of an influential patron cemented the placement of the masses at the bottom of the pyramid. Although a rigid hierarchy may have made eminent sense to those who had to daily fight for their survival, in a world of plenty that same hierarchy becomes an excuse for hoarding resources one doesn’t need—but someone else does. This creates the question whether our natural resources should be available to all, or whether some should have the right to appropriate more than they need. In other words, is inequality just?
The Judeo-Christian tradition, with its declaration of the brotherhood of all humankind, challenged the ancient hierarchy with its uneven distribution of wealth. The upside-down pyramid that places the servants above those who are served requires a radically different kind of concept of justice. It doesn’t allow for the appropriation of common resources by the few; instead, it demands that people share their wealth. But if all are equal, what about individual achievement? Should we not merit what we have?
As long as we aimlessly accept everything handed down to us, justice will elude us. It is crucial that we examine the ideas that form the foundation of our understanding of justice, wherefore this work examines the views of seven influential thinkers who sided either with essential inequality or human equality. Our first choice, Aristotle, is celebrated for his works on metaphysics, logic, and economics. Ayn Rand is a controversial, yet often piercing thinker, with a large readership in the United States. Karl Marx is well-loved among the world’s workers for his analysis of the value of labor, while C.S. Lewis is a respected and widely read Christian philosopher and novelist. Plato is known for his theory of Forms and his general distrust of information gained by the senses. Friedrich Nietzsche is famous for his ability to shock the general reader with his rather unsettling conclusions about human nature, and our final choice, Jesus, challenged us to change from within and live a life of love.
This work doesn’t attempt to give all the answers. However, it examines the weaknesses and strengths of arguments we use daily to form our understanding of justice. It is important that we take responsibility for the world we live in, for without justice we cannot form a just society; without a just society, we cannot expect people to act justly. The responsibility is one we all share alike—as is the reward.
Why the Catholic Church Should Ordain Women
The Catholic Church does not ordain women, and there are many reasons for it. Let's look at some of the arguments in favor of the exclusion of women from the priesthood.
The Catholic News Service writes:
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that only men can receive holy orders because Jesus chose men as his apostles and the "apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry." Blessed John Paul II wrote in 1994 that this teaching is definitive and not open to debate among Catholics.”[i]
But the men Jesus chose were not only men, they were Jewish men; when was the “Jewish” dropped from the equation and Gentiles included in the priesthood?
For example, why did Jesus choose Paul (a Jewish man) to become an apostle to the Gentiles and have him appoint overseers in their churches if Gentiles were not eligible for the priesthood?
In Acts 9 Saul meets Jesus on the road to Damascus, and becomes Paul; in Acts 10 Peter is sent to a Gentile called Cornelius.
"Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached- how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen-by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message" (Acts 10:34-44 NIV).
God does not show favoritism.
The Jewish apostles sometimes struggled with the idea of including the Gentiles in the church.
"When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?" (Galatians 2:14, NIV).
The inclusion of Gentiles was done by a special revelation, after the formation of the church, after Jesus had sent the first apostles. What was the rationale behind the decision to include the Gentiles? The one concept that Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, never ceased from declaring: Jesus had ended the enmity between Jews and Gentiles caused by the law and made the two one body through his death.
"For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit" (Ephesians 2:14-18, NIV).
If Gentiles were included in the priesthood because of the death of Jesus, and not because Jesus had sent them, why isn’t this true also of women?
A common misconception is that only the first twelve disciples were considered apostles. Barnabas, for example, wasn’t one of the Twelve Apostles, but he was nevertheless called an apostle.
“Although Barnabas was not among the original Twelve, he is traditionally thought to have been among the 72 commissioned by Jesus to preach; thus, he is given the honorary title of Apostle.”[ii]
All of the 72 sent by Jesus were Jewish, but were they all men?
“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go” (Luke 10:1-2, NIV).
We know of one woman apostle who had “been in Christ” before Paul, which would place her before Acts 9 and 10, before the conversion of Paul and the inclusion of the Gentiles. Junia is mentioned together with Andronicus (Rom 13:7), wherefore they could have traveled together as apostles.
Since women were apostles before the inclusion of Gentiles, why are women excluded from the priesthood if the priesthood was given to the apostles and those they appointed after them?
In addition, if Barnabas is recognized as an apostle by tradition, why do we not accept the apostleship of Junia by tradition?
“Salute Andronicus and Junia my kinsmen.” …Then another praise besides. “Who are of note among the Apostles.” And indeed to be apostles at all is a great thing. But to be even amongst these of note, just consider what a great encomium this is! But they were of note owing to their works, to their achievements. Oh! how great is the devotion (φιλοσοφια) of this woman, that she should be even counted worthy of the appellation of apostle! But even here he does not stop, but adds another encomium besides, and says, “Who were also in Christ before me.”[iii]
And if those who were sent by Jesus were eligible for the priesthood, certainly the Samaritan woman and Mary Magdalene should be included in those sent by Jesus to preach the Gospel (John 4, 20:18).
At this point, Dominican Fr. Wojciech Giertych, the theologian of the papal household, claims we can’t know why chose only men as his apostles.
“According to Giertych, theologians cannot say why Jesus chose only men as his Apostles any more than they can explain the purposes of the incarnation or the Eucharist.”
But then Giertych somewhat surprisingly states that only men are eligible for the priesthood because Jesus was a man.
"The son of God became flesh, but became flesh not as sexless humanity but as a male," [Fr. Wojciech] Giertych said; and since a priest is supposed to serve as an image of Christ, his maleness is essential to that role.”[iv]
Image of Christ.
Aren’t we all in Christ and reflect therefore the image of God, Christ being God?
“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Col 3:9-11, NIV).
After the “we cannot know” and the “Jesus was a man” arguments, we finally arrive to the core of the question:
“Men are more likely to think of God in terms of philosophical definitions and logical syllogisms, he said, a quality valuable for fulfilling a priest's duty to transmit church teaching.”
But should not women who think of God in terms of philosophical definitions be included in the priesthood? No, because male priests love the church in a “male way” and show concern "about structures, about the buildings of the church, about the roof of the church which is leaking, about the bishops' conference, about the concordat between the church and the state."”
In other words, we really don't want to know why God chose men for the priesthood, because there is no why.
In the end, Giertych, makes an astonishing comment:
"The mission of the woman in the church is to convince the male that power is not most important in the church, not even sacramental power," he said. "What is most important is the encounter with the living God through faith and charity." "So women don't need the priesthood," he said, "because their mission is so beautiful in the church anyway."
Let’s take one more look at the arguments presented above. Men should be priests because Jesus chose men to be his apostles, because Jesus was a man, because men think philosophically, because men are concerned about buildings. But what about the Bible? Why does Giertych not take his own advice?
"In theology, we base ourselves not on human expectations, but we base ourselves on the revealed word of God," the theologian told Catholic News Service. "We are not free to invent the priesthood according to our own customs, according to our own expectations."
The Catholic website, Catholic.com finds the prohibition for women to become priests in the Bible.
“While women could publicly pray and prophesy in church (1 Cor. 11:1–16), they could not teach or have authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:11–14), since these were two essential functions of the clergy. Nor could women publicly question or challenge the teaching of the clergy” (1 Cor. 14:34–38). [v]
But this begs the question, if men are eligible for the priesthood because Adam was created first, why were Gentile men excluded from the priesthood in the Mosaic Law, and why was Jesus a priest according to the order of Melchizedek?
All humans descend from Adam, in him we all die (1 Cor 15:22). How can the first man be the foundation of priesthood considering he is the beginning of humanity itself? All that is true of humans in general is found in Adam: he was created in the image of God, created to care for the earth and its inhabitants, created to be walk with God and to be with other humans. If we say the man’s prior creation is the foundation for the man’s authority, we are essentially saying that being an incomplete human is required for authority; the man was a lonely creature before the woman was created. Perhaps this explains why the Catholic Church insists on celibacy for priests.
But this begs the question: why did priests in the Old Testament marry if spiritual authority requires celibacy? And why did God choose first Melchizedek and Aaron to be his priests, if being a man is the only requirement for the priesthood? And why is there a long line of qualifications for priests in 1 Tim 3, if being a man is the most important qualification for the priesthood?
Because the Catholic Church relies on both the Bible and tradition, the same website cites various church fathers to support the idea that women should not be ordained. Most of the examples describe heretical women, but their examples do not prove that Catholic women espoused heresy, nor that the Catholic Church didn’t ordain women. The examples are equally troublesome. For example, when we look at the writings of Tertullian, we find him attempting remove women from the priesthood, for he talks about ordained women.
"How many men, therefore, and how many women, in Ecclesiastical Orders, owe their position to continence, who have preferred to be wedded to God; who have restored the honour of their flesh, and who have already dedicated themselves as sons of that (future) age, by slaying in themselves the concupiscence of lust, and that whole (propensity) which could not be admitted within Paradise! Whence it is presumable that such as shall wish to be received within Paradise, ought at last to begin to cease from that thing from which Paradise is intact."[vi]
The original Latin text supports the above reading:
"Quanti (how many men) igitur (therefore) et quantae (how many women) in ecclesiasticis ordinibus (in ecclesiastical order) de (concerning) continentia (continence) censentur (judge/recommend), qui (who) deo (to God) nubere (married) maluerunt (prefer), qui (who) carnis (flesh) suae (theirs) honorem (honor) restituere (restore). (revive)."[vii]
The same is true of Chrysostom, who approved of Junia as an apostle. By the fourth century the leadership model of the Church had changed from the domestic overseer in the private home to the monarchial bishop who presided in God’s stead over a public assembly. The bishop was seated on a raised dais from which he governed the Church and it was from this seat that Chrysostom wanted to exclude women.
"In what sense then does he say, “I suffer not a woman to teach?” He means to hinder her from publicly coming forward, and from the seat on the bema, not from the word of teaching. Since if this were the case, how would he have said to the woman that had an unbelieving husband, “How knowest thou, O woman, if thou shalt save thy husband?” Or how came he to suffer her to admonish children, when he says, but “she shall be saved by child-bearing if they continue in faith, and charity, and holiness, with sobriety?” How came Priscilla to instruct even Apollos? It was not then to cut in sunder private conversing for advantage that he said this, but that before all, and which it was the teacher’s duty to give in the public assembly; or again, in case the husband be believing and thoroughly furnished, able also to instruct her. When she is the wiser, then he does not forbid her teaching and improving him."[viii]
Chrysostom based his prohibition on Genesis 3:16 instead of Genesis 2:
"If it be asked, what has this to do with women of the present day? it shows that the male sex enjoyed the higher honor. Man was first formed; and elsewhere he shows their superiority. “Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man.” (1 Cor. xi. 9) Why then does he say this? He wishes the man to have the preeminence in every way; both for the reason given above, he means, let him have precedence, and on account of what occurred afterwards. For the woman taught the man once, and made him guilty of disobedience, and wrought our ruin. Therefore because she made a bad use of her power over the man, or rather her equality with him, God made her subject to her husband. “Thy desire shall be to thy husband?” (Gen. iii. 16) This had not been said to her before… The woman taught once, and ruined all. On this account therefore he saith, let her not teach. But what is it to other women, that she suffered this? It certainly concerns them; for the sex is weak and fickle, and he is speaking of the sex collectively. For he says not Eve, but “the woman,” which is the common name of the whole sex, not her proper name. Was then the whole sex included in the transgression for her fault? As he said of Adam, “After the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of Him that was to come” (Rom. v. 14); so here the female sex transgressed, and not the male.”"[ix]
The reason for the prohibition seems to be the concept of honor. The priesthood is seen as honorable, and therefore bestowed only on those who are worthy of such an honor. Chrysostom wished to reserve the priesthood to men because he believed only Eve was guilty. Tertullian agreed with a perpetual punishment for women because of Eve’s sin.
"If there dwelt upon earth a faith as great as is the reward of faith which is expected in the heavens, no one of you at all, best beloved sisters, from the time that she had first “known the Lord,” and learned (the truth) concerning her own (that is, woman’s) condition, would have desired too gladsome (not to say too ostentatious) a style of dress; so as not rather to go about in humble garb, and rather to affect meanness of appearance, walking about as Eve mourning and repentant, in order that by every garb of penitence she might the more fully expiate that which she derives from Eve,—the ignominy, I mean, of the first sin, and the odium (attaching to her as the cause) of human perdition. “In pains and in anxieties dost thou bear (children), woman; and toward thine husband (is) thy inclination (conuersion), and he lords It over thee.” And do you not know that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert—that is, death—even the Son of God had to die."[x]
We no longer believe the woman is an inferior creature punished with subjection, nor do we believe Genesis 3:16 is a commandment from God.
Since the ancient exclusion of women from the priesthood was based on error and faulty theology, should the Catholic Church not move on and include women in the priesthood?
And the answer is a resounding, yes!
[iii] Homilies on Romans, Homily XXXI
[vi] On Exhortation to Chastity, XIII
[viii] Homilies on Romans, Homily XXXI.
[ix] Chrysostom, Homilies on First Timothy, Homily IX. “The weakness and light-mindedness of the female sex (infirmitas sexus and levitas animi) were the underlying principles of Roman legal theory that mandated all women to be under the custody of males” (Pomeroy, 150).
[x] Tertullian, On the Apparel of Women, Book I, Ch. I.
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