Barring women from being Catholic priests is not the result of sexism 2,000 years ago, it's because women cannot fulfill a basic function of the priesthood, "standing in the place of Jesus," a leading British Catholic thinker argued Monday.
"This teaching is not at all a judgment on women's abilities or rights. It says something about the specific role of the priest in Catholic understanding - which is to represent Jesus, to stand in his place," argued Father Stephen Wang in a statement sent out by the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales.
The bottom line is that Jesus chose 12 men - and no women - to be his apostles, Wang argues.
The choice was "deliberate and significant, not just for that first period of history, but for every age," Wang says.
Men and women are equal in Christianity, he continues, but "this does not mean that our sexual identity as men and women is interchangeable. Gender is not just an accident."
He compared the role of a priest to that of an actor playing King Arthur or British soccer star Wayne Rooney in a movie.
"No one would be surprised if I said I wanted a male actor to play the lead," he said, admitting the analogy was "weak."
But, he said, "it shouldn't surprise us if we expect a man to stand 'in the person of Christ' as a priest, to represent Jesus in his humanity - a humanity that is not sexually neutral."
Indeed, that analogy is weak. But more fundamentally, I have to think one can believe that sex is not interchangeable while still not considering a critical component of Jesus' human representation to be his penis (why not his height or -- let's have some fun, shall we? -- skin color? Would you hire George Clooney to play Magic Johnson? On second thought, don't answer that). If I were a Christian, I'd find that message to be incredibly degrading. The essential Jesus: universal love, global salvation, and a cock.
But whatever. I'm an interested spectator in this fight, no more.