I had a helpful insight while I was preparing my presentation on why only men can be priests. I discovered the catechesis on the subject should not just include theology and apologetics. The question of whether the priesthood should be open to women can be addressed from the reality of mercy. The Church approaches the question very mercifully, but not in the way some women would like.
The Church has a beautiful way of expressing the immense mercy she has for women. Many women are anxious about their "roles" in the world. Many feel the Church sees them not equal to take up the office of the priesthood. But, in reading up Guadium et Spes, the Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, I found that the pastors seek to understand and empathize with the struggles of women. They are merciful, but, the truth about the institution of the priesthood for men only, is a truth that cannot change. Gaudium et Spes began with the Preface:
The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.
They go on further with an empathetic voice:
Today, the human race is involved in a new stage of history. Profound and rapid changes are spreading by degrees around the whole world. Triggered by the intelligence and creative energies of man, these changes recoil upon him, upon his decisions and desires, both individual and collective, and upon his manner of thinking and acting with respect to things and to people. Hence we can already speak of a true cultural and social transformation, one which has repercussions on man's religious life as well.
These changes have affected women profoundly. They have desires they haven’t had before, because scientific developments and technological advancements have created new “opportunities.” Some, of these opportunities have been explored and found to be detrimental rather than helpful, like, putting a career before children and the use of artificial birth control. Woman was created by God with a nature which creates a desire and want to have children. But, as the Council Fathers state, the “cultural and social transformations” has had “repercussions on man’s religious life as well” and so women responded to the feminist voice that said, “forget what your religion teaches, forget family life, go for the money and career. It is your turn to have what men have had.” Women who bring the struggle for a female priesthood to the Church and the culture are basing it on the desires of an earthly kingdom. It is a struggle that cannot progress, because it's premise arises from fallacy that arose from the culture.
Gaudium et Spes speaks of man trying to live life with out religion:
On the other hand, growing numbers of people are abandoning religion in practice. Unlike former days, the denial of God or of religion, or the abandonment of them, are no longer unusual and individual occurrences.
The women’s liberation movement or feminism, which seeks happiness without religion and God has had a profound effect on Catholic women. A sense of a need for women to have “solidarity” against men who dominated the home and the workforce has infiltrated consecrated religious women and some lay women through its “goddess mentality” and false equality of “we can do anything man can do.”
The pastors are aware of this and instead of being critical of their new mindset, they show understanding because they know that “it is only through the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light” (GS, 22). When expounding Christological truths, pastors can never criticize or berate. They always understand it is where the person is, coercion won’t win the women over to full assent to Church teaching regarding that the priesthood is reserved for men only. Only mercy shown through the pastoral insight found in Gaudium et Spes and other Magisterial documents.
My prayer is that feminists do not continue to unjustly judge our pastors as unmerciful to their cause. It is my prayer that feminists realize the pastors do see the stresses of the world, but they articulate well, but that it is the transformation of society to a non-religious one that predates and initiated some women's rallying cry for a female priesthood. A sense of struggle is often brought on people by participating too closely in the culture. A more objective approach to the role of women in the Church and mercy on their side towards the Magisterium would alleviate much of their perceived "struggles."