continuing from The Papal No:
The "great mystery" – in which the bride/church responded to the "gift of love: from the bridegroom/priest – defined the holiness to which the church’s "hierarchical structure is totally ordered." That is, the bridegroom (Jesus/priests) both offered and was the gift; the bride (church), being female, was to receive and respond to the bridegroom.
In this hierarchy, wrote John Paul II, "it is precisely ‘the woman,’ Mary of Nazareth, who is the ‘figure of the Church: – female and passive (receivers.) The man, Jesus, was the figure of the priest, male and active (giver). For this reason, the Catholic Church could never be called ‘he.’ The (active)prest was to the (receptive) church what the bridegroom was to the bride, putting the spiritual community in a literal relationship with biology. The pope did not address the prickly logical consequence of Jesus being a "bridegroom" to his mother, a "bride."
This concretization of the bridegroom/bride metaphor contained an internal contradiction that critics were quick, to point out as did religion writer Peter Steinfels:
Complementarity of the sexes...might be said to require both men and women as priests rather than limit priesthood to one sex. [Instead] of delineating male-female difference, spousal imagery might simply stress an intimacy, union and interdependence in divine–human love that would be incongruous with excluding one sex from priesthood.
According to the concept of complementarity, if men could be both bridegroom (priest) and bride (church member), then women should be both bride and bridegroom. Anything less would break apart the complementarity between male and female. That is, with the altar as an axis for the law of complementarity, Rome violated that law by putting males on both sides of the altar. In its insistence upon natural law and heterosexual complementarity within a ‘nuptial; arrangement, the Vatican had also created and maintained a homosexual one. The only way around this state of affairs was to declare the Church, including its male members, to be a woman.
- Halter, Deborah, The Papal No: A Comprehensive Guide to the Vatican's Rejection of Women's Ordination
, New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2004, pp 78.