Human Dignity and Rights in the Context of Gender and the Sacramental Priesthood

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This paper considers the question of women’s ordination to the sacramental priesthood in the context of human dignity and rights. Differentiating between two forms of ontological or intrinsic dignity – the universal dignity of the human being made in the imago Dei, and the particular dignity of those baptised into the imago Trinitatis – it argues that the refusal of ordination to women is a violation of baptismal dignity that constitutes a refusal of women’s rights. It analyses the arguments against women’s ordination and shows them to be based on a misreading of Thomas Aquinas, on the innovative concept of sexual complementarity which has replaced the earlier hierarchical model of sexual difference, and on appeals to mystery that might be better described as mystification. It concludes that the refusal to allow women to respond to the call to ordination is based on a modern form of essentialised sexual difference that is alien to the Catholic tradition and that violates Christological orthodoxy, insofar as it suggests that women are not able to image Christ.

© 2020, The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-157
Number of pages17
JournalInterdisciplinary Journal for Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society (JRAT)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2020

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