I've been reading a few blogs recently about the differences between the Catholic and Anglican approach to the ordination of women to the priesthood. The Archbishop of Canterbury has been in Rome and whilst he was there talked of this difference between us and posed the question, how big an issue is this. Read the Archbishop's address at a Willebrands Symposium here. It is a fair enough question to ask if there is to be meaningful ecumenical dialogue and I found two articles, in particular, helpful.
If this is a question you are interested in, then I can recommend you take a few minutes and have a look at Jeff Steel's article on his blog, de cura animarum. This issue seems to be not so much as what a priest is, but who he is. Jeff says: Is Rowan correct that 'priesthood' really is a secondary issue and not a key point of division? I was particularly struck with the sentence: Christ did not call for a function to be carried out in the Church but a Sacrament to communicate effectively his love and redemption for the world in a real and symbolic manner, after having quoted John Paul II from Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.
Reading on, Fr Dwight Longenecker has an excellent piece on his blog, Standing on My Head, about whether priesthood is a Sacrament or Ministry. Fr Longenecker has a lovely quote at the top of his blog from GK Chesterton. Any scene can be more freshly and clearly seen when it is seen upside down. This, I think, suggests why Fr Longenecker has managed to get immediately to the heart of the issue. He says: It comes down to the fact that Anglicans do not necessarily understand ordination to be a sacrament. This is the key point. Either priesthood, or more specifically Holy Order, is a Sacrament or it is not. Setting out the key issues, Fr Longenecker manages to give a very good overview of why there is difficulty for others to understand the Catholic teaching on why the Church cannot ordain women to the priesthood. It's five minutes well spent!