Former Lutheran Pastor
(Part 1)
Debunks Women's Ordination

[COMMENT: I agree with the generally catholic (small 'c') view of this article, and with most of the Roman Catholic view of sexuality and Body Theology.    See my article, Psychology, Salvation, and the Ordination of Women.   I approach the matter in a quite different manner -- which treats tradition and Church authority very differently from the RC way. 

See also other articles on this subject.   E. Fox] 

Jennifer Ferrara Was Won Over by the Pope's Theology of the Body

SPRING CITY, Pennsylvania, JUNE 21, 2004 (

When she was younger, Jennifer Ferrara never would have foreseen the day
when she became a sort of apologist for the all-male Catholic priesthood.

But that's what the former Lutheran minister who converted to Catholicism
has become.

Ferrara, who became Catholic in 1998, recently told her conversion story in
"The Catholic Mystique: Fourteen Women Find Fulfillment in the Catholic
Church" (Our Sunday Visitor), which she co-edited with Patricia Sodano
another former Lutheran pastor.

Ferrara shared with ZENIT how her search for theological justification of
women's ordination in Lutheran seminary eventually changed her mind about
the priesthood and opened her heart to the Catholic Church.

Q: How did you as a former Lutheran pastor come to realize that women
should not and cannot be ordained as priests?

Ferrara: When I entered seminary, I was a garden-variety feminist who
believed men and women were basically the same. I thought it patently
obvious that women should be ordained.

I really gave the issue little thought, but to the extent that I did, it
was a matter of equal rights. I also was not particularly orthodox in my
beliefs. I had studied religion in college; I did not lose my faith in the
but adopted a mishmash of heretical ideas.

While in the seminary, I gradually became theologically orthodox, which was
-- considering the environment of mainline Protestant seminaries -- a minor
miracle. Slowly, it began to dawn on me that women's ordination was a new
development that needed theological justification. I did not come up with a
full-blown defense until years later when I was a parish pastor.

By that time, I thought of myself as an "evangelical catholic." Evangelical
catholics view Lutheranism as a reform movement within and for the one
Church of Christ. Therefore, Lutherans have a responsibility to work toward
reconciliation with Rome.

The fact that I was a Lutheran pastor put me in an awkward position,
theologically speaking. I was an impediment to that reconciliation for
which I longed. This forced me to take a hard look at the issue of women's

Q: What did Luther himself think of the idea of women priests?

Ferrara: Though Martin Luther did not believe in women's ordination, I
found support for it in his writings.

In his "Lectures on Genesis," he argues that God did not intend for men and
women to have different roles. Differentiation between the sexes is a
result of the fall of our first parents. As a form of punishment, women
have been subjected to men and, therefore, have been deprived of the
ability to administer to affairs outside the home, including those of the

Luther believed that male headship was a matter of natural law. As a
Lutheran pastor, I disagreed. The acceptance of equality between the sexes
throughout the Western world demonstrated otherwise.

According to Luther, societal arrangements should be preserved within the
Church, lest we give scandal to the Gospel. I thought restricting
ordination to men had become a modern-day scandal. Ordaining women seemed
like the best way to serve our Lord in this time and place.

When I started to think about becoming Roman Catholic, I disagreed with the
Church's teachings on women's ordination. I actually thought about writing
an article outlining what I presumed to be the theological deficiencies
with the Catholic position, which in retrospect seems like sheer hubris.

In order to prepare for it, I read John Paul II's theology of the body.
There I encountered a vision of creation that challenged all my feminist
notions about men and women.

Q: How so?

Ferrara: According to John Paul, men and women were not created essentially
the same. Masculinity and femininity are not just attributes; rather, the
function of sex is a constituent part of the person. Men and woman both
the human but do so in different and complementary ways. Believe it or not,
this was a radically new idea to me.

The differences between men and women lie in the way they express love for
one another. Men have the more active role in the relationship: The husband
is the one who loves while the wife is the one who is loved and, in return,
gives love. True authority is exercised through service. As John Paul II
says, "To reign is to serve."

However, men and women serve in particularly masculine and feminine ways.
At the heart of this diversity in roles is the difference between
motherhood and fatherhood.

No matter what men and women do, they bring paternal or maternal
characteristics to their vocation. This is just as true of those who have
chosen the religious life as it is of those who become biological parents.

This means the Roman Catholic priest is not simply a father figure: He is a
spiritual father. To state what has ceased to be obvious in a society
governed by the principle of androgyny: Mothers and fathers are not
interchangeable. Women are not men and, therefore, cannot be priests any
more than they can be fathers in the physical sense. If women can step into
the role of priest, then it is no longer one of fatherhood.

To understand all of this required me to give up my functional view of the
ministry. In most Protestant denominations, the pastor serves a role within
the priesthood of all believers. He or she preaches the Word and
administers the sacraments.

In the Catholic Church, the priest acts "in persona Christi." Christ is the
bridegroom; the Church is his bride. This nuptial mystery is proclaimed
throughout the Old and New Testaments.

According to the Catholic understanding of the priesthood, the priest
represents Christ himself, the author of the covenant, the bridegroom and
head of the Church. This is especially true in the case of the Eucharist,
when Christ
is exercising his ministry of salvation.

One must utterly disregard the importance of the nuptial mystery for the
economy of salvation in order to make an argument for women's ordination.

If the Church were to ordain women, the entire understanding of the
importance of the feminine and masculine in the working out of our
salvation would be lost. Much is at stake here. Once I really saw that, it
was relatively easy for me to give up my ordination and embrace the
Church's position.

Former Lutheran Pastor
(Part 2)
Defends All-Male Priesthood

Jennifer Ferrara on Proper Roles in the Church

SPRING CITY, Pennsylvania, JUNE 22, 2004 (

Women can find innumerable opportunities for service in the Church if only
they embrace their proper role, says a former Lutheran minister who now
extols the all-male Catholic priesthood.

Jennifer Ferrara, who became Catholic in 1998, recently told her conversion
story in "The Catholic Mystique: Fourteen Women Find Fulfillment in the
Catholic Church" (Our Sunday Visitor). She co-edited it with Patricia
Ireland, another former Lutheran pastor.

Ferrara shared with ZENIT how women will find fulfillment in the Church if
they understand that only Catholicism recognizes the importance of the
feminine in society and in salvation.

Q: What role is left for women in the Church if they cannot be priests?

Ferrara: It is not a matter of a role "being left for women" but of women
embracing their proper role. There has always been plenty for women to do
in the Catholic Church.

Remember, the ordination of women in Protestant communities is a recent
development. Before then, women had almost no role to play in those
denominations. Protestant churches are starkly masculine.

As a Lutheran, I had no female models of holiness to turn to for comfort
and guidance. Though many Protestant denominations ordain women, they do
not recognize the importance of the feminine -- mother Church embodied in
Mary -- in God's plan for salvation.

I do not see why many Catholics discount the importance of the women
religious in the life of the Church as if they were second-class citizens.
They are our spiritual mothers.

Protestants have never recognized such a role for women. Moreover, there
are also all sorts of lay apostolates, orders and associations women can

Q: Your conversion from a Lutheran minister to being a Catholic also meant
giving up your former ministerial role, yet some women in the Church argue
they feel excluded because they cannot become priests. What would you say

Ferrara: I would begin by saying I understand their anger and frustration.

At first, I was bitter about the prospect of giving up my ordination in
order to join the Church. However, I would also tell them my life as a
Roman Catholic laywoman, wife and mother has taken on a new sense of

For the first time, I am trying to listen to what the Church has to say
about who I am rather than expecting the Church to conform to what I think
she should be.

In general, modern people chafe against revealed authority because they
expect the outer life of institutions to be rendered serviceable to the
psychological inner life of individuals. Therefore, if women want to be
priests and claim to feel pain because they are not priests, it
automatically follows that they should be priests.

Yet women who insist they have a call to the priesthood and use their pain
as evidence of an authentic interior call from God are, in fact, using the
protean politics of pain and not Catholic theology to explain their

If they truly wish to empty themselves and renounce their own will for the
sake of God and Church, they will find innumerable opportunities for

Q: How do you explain John Paul II's claim that men and women were not
created as identical beings to those who think men and women are the same,

Ferrara: I have found that those who are determined to embrace the
principle of androgyny are not open to hearing about the Pope's teachings.

However, the average person knows instinctively that men and women are not
the same. This is especially true of those who have children. They see
mothers and fathers, boys and girls, are inherently different.

John Paul II's teachings explain reality. That is where I begin. If you can
get people to acknowledge the simple premise that men and women -- though
equal in dignity and importance -- are different, you can begin to talk
what this means for the roles they play.

Q: What can be done to combat the movement for women's ordination?

Ferrara: Those of us who oppose women's ordination cannot allow ourselves
to be put on the defensive. We do not have to apologize for our stance. The
best way to combat the movement for women's ordination is to present the
Church's teachings in a positive light.

We do not raise the status of women by convincing them that they need to be
men. Though women can and should be allowed to do most of the jobs
traditionally filled by men -- bringing to them a feminine sensibility --
they cannot and never will be biological and spiritual fathers.

Those who insist otherwise effectively deny that which is noble and holy
about being wives and mothers -- biological and spiritual -- in the plan by
which God intends to redeem his creation.

The Catholic Church is one the few institutions, maybe the only one, left
in the world that recognizes the importance of the feminine not only for
the proper working of society but for our salvation. We need to be willing
to say just that.

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