“Barring women from ordination to the priesthood,” the National Catholic Reporter editorialized recently, “is an injustice that cannot be allowed to stand.” The proximate cause for NCR’s ill-conceived, if sadly unsurprising, foray into heterodoxy was the recent excommunication, dismissal, and laicization of former Maryknoll priest and long-time advocate of women’s ordination, Roy Bourgeois.
The editors at NCR, like Bourgeois, insist that the ordination of women is simply a matter of justice. Justice means giving one his (or her) due. If a male-only priesthood is an injustice to women, then there must be some good in ordination that is due to women. But the sacrament of holy orders, as NCR forthrightly admits, is a gift. A vocation to the priesthood is either a gratuitous gift or a right. It can’t be both.