A website called the National Catholic Reporter has run an editorial in support of Roy Bourgeois, an advocate of female priests:
Barring women from ordination to the priesthood is an injustice that cannot be allowed to stand.A secular liberal would have argued, in support of female priests, that individual desire is sovereign, that sex distinctions shouldn't matter, and that it is the will of men rather than a natural or God ordained order which is authoritative in deciding things.
...Bourgeois brings this issue to the real heart of the matter. He has said that no one can say who God can and cannot call to the priesthood, and to say that anatomy is somehow a barrier to God's ability to call one of God's own children forward places absurd limits on God's power. The majority of the faithful believe this.
The Catholic Reporter doesn't follow exactly the same path, but it's not too far from it. We are told that we should support female priests because "the majority of the faithful believe this" (making the will of men authoritative) and that distinctions between men and women involve nothing more than "anatomy" - that it's merely a case of different body parts.
The idea of a natural order is also brushed aside, on the basis that God operates outside such an order.
Finally, although the Catholic Reporter doesn't openly make the pitch that individual desire is sovereign, it does argue that it is up to the woman herself to decide and that it is unjust if her decision is impeded.
One major flaw in the approach taken by the Catholic Reporter is that it is obvious that distinctions between men and women are more than anatomical. If you are a Catholic, you will believe that God made these distinctions for a purpose, so that they have at least some bearing on our roles and relationships in life.
And if you do seek to dissolve such distinctions, then much else follows. Concepts of fatherhood must then collapse, as will those of motherhood. The marital relationship changes to be something other than a connection between the distinctly masculine and feminine. Deep changes to personal identity must also follow, as it would become irrational for individuals to identify in a serious way as man or woman.
There is also a lack of consideration in the approach taken by liberals and by the Catholic Reporter to the good of the larger social fabric. All that is held to matter is what an individual seeks to do or become. But individual life can't be atomised in this way. We draw part of our identity from institutions, communities, cultures and traditions and we develop attachments and recognise the inherent good in the natural forms of community we belong to, such as families, ethnies, nations and churches.
Therefore the Catholic Reporter should have considered much more seriously what effect an innovation like female priests might have on the good of the Church itself as an institution.
As it happens there are already churches which have gone down the path of a female priesthood. The Reporter might have considered how these churches, such as the Episcopalians in the U.S., have fared. Are attendances rising or falling? Is there an improved or a worsened stability within these churches? Has orthodoxy on significant matters been maintained?
The problem is that the principles on which liberalism is based don't recognise the good of the larger entities to which individuals belong - what matters instead is individual desire considered alone. So liberals don't take very seriously the kind of questions I asked above. What that sometimes leads to are beliefs that seem "suicidal" or self-annihilating to traditionalists.
Finally, there is a major problem in arguing for a female priesthood on anything like liberal lines, such as the idea of the will of men being authoritative or an unimpeded individual desire to be or to do as we choose being the ordering principle of society.
The problem is that this then undermines the authority of the priesthood, whether male or female. If it is the will of men as expressed in public feeling that has authority, then it is the case that priests ought to listen to and follow what the public thinks rather than the other way round. (A letter writer in today's Herald Sun wrote: "It's time to appoint a young, vibrant Pope ...They need to take their blinkers off and listen to the people on moral issues.")
Similarly if it is unjust that my desire to be or to do what I have a mind to do is impeded, then is it not an injustice if priests use their moral authority to restrict my moral choices?
So arguing for a female priesthood on anything like liberal lines is self-defeating, as it undermines the authority of the priesthood itself.