When Women Become Priests: The Catholic Women's Ordination Debate


While numerous provocative works have sought to justify why women should be ordained as Catholic priests, When Women Become Priests is the first sustained reflection on the differences that would obtain with women at the altar. In the face of a centuries-old tradition of a male priesthood, what are the implications for the Catholic church of ordaining women? Would women priests become co-opted into the male clerical caste, particularly in relation to celebrating the sacraments? In an analysis that deftly unites feminist criticism, psychoanalysis, and Catholic theology, Kelley A. Raab explores the symbolic implications of women at the altar, providing rich insight into issues of gender, symbolism, and power. When Women Become Priests addresses critical issues about the effect of a female priest on the parishioners she would serve, on the sacrament of communion, and on the significance of the symbolism of Jesus that priest maintain during certain ceremonies. Rooted in her firm belief in the place of women within the Catholic priesthood, Raab's work is one that -- rather than reducing religious convictions to psychological construct -- seeks to re-invigorate these convictions for the contemporary world. Supported by interviews with women in the Episcopal priesthood (which has ordained women since 1977), Raab draws upon object-relations theory, Freudian concepts of the unconscious, and French feminist thinkers Julia Kristeva and Luce Irigaray to show how the celebration of mass by women priests would require a constructive reenvisioning of core dimensions of Catholic theology.

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