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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


A History of Women and Ordination: The Ordination of Women in Medieval Context by Bernard Cooke, Gary Macy (Scarecrow Press) the purpose of these volumes is to provide the non-specialist reader with the best scholarly research on the role of women in Christian ministry and on the changing shape of ministry in Christian history. This first volume contains two such papers. The first, by Dr. Gary Macy one of the editors of this series, presents the evidence for the ordination of women in the early Middle Ages. This evidence, however, is set in the larger context of the changing definition of ordination that took place in the twelfth-century.

Up until the twelfth-century, the Latin terms, ordo (order), ordinatio (ordination), and ordinare (to ordain) indicated one's role in the church or the society at large and the ritual which celebrated and effected the installment of a person into such a role. Since women as well as men fulfilled important roles in church and society, they were considered be "ordained" into these positions as much as were men. Thus, a king was said to be "ordained" when he was crowned king and so was a queen. An abbot was "ordained" when he was installed as abbot and so was an abbess. A deacon was "ordained" into the diaconate and so was a deaconess.

This changed in the twelfth-century when theologians and canonists began to insist that the only "true" ordination was an ordination to those roles which served at the altar, that is, the subdiaconate, the diaconate and the presbyterate. Further, only men could serve in these roles. In order to explain the many ancient sources that referred to the ordination of kings, queens, abbots, abbesses and deaconesses, the canonists held that these were merely blessings and not true ordinations. The ancient sources had been sadly inexact in their terminology. These arguments so completely won the day that scholars, such as Fr. Martin, could state that "there were, of course, no ordinations of women to Holy Orders during this period." Fr. Martin is referring, as the readers of his paper would certainly understand, to ordination in the sense that it has been used since the twelfth-century. In this sense, true sacramental ordination can only take place when a person is accepted into the orders of subdeacon, deacon, or priest; roles limited from the twelfth-century to males.

Dr. Macy's article, which originally appeared in Theological Studies, 61 (September, 2000): 481-507, gives the background to the earlier understanding of ordination and discusses some of the controversy surrounding the change in the definition of ordination which occurred in the twelfth-century. Dr. Macy further makes the point that merely establishing that the church once considered women to be properly and sacramentally ordained in the past does not immediately argue for or against ordaining women in the present. The Christian church has done many things in the past which Christians now would be loath to imitate, for instance, the Crusades or the inquisitions. Of course, Christians in the past have also done many admirable things present Christians might do well to revive. The question of which practices from the past we in the present ought to imitate (and which practices in the present should be abandoned) must be examined carefully and conscientiously and prayerfully based on the best discernment of the Spirit for present circumstances. Dr. Macy's article, then, is included to provide a general introduction to the history of ordination in Christian history that is essential for understanding of the changing role of women's status in Christian ministry and the relationship of such a history for the modern question of the ordination of women.

Fr. Martin's learned and detailed study takes up the question of the ordination of women after women had already been excluded from the ordained ministry. Originally published in the Spanish Dominican journal of theology, Fr. Martin's impressive study has until now been extremely difficult for audiences to obtain, particularly in the United States. Fr. Martin presents here an amazing array of sources, proving that there was a continuous interest in the question of why women could not be ordained. In fact, the question was a reoccurring concern of theologians from the thirteenth through the sixteenth-centuries, precisely at a time when women had already been excluded from sacramental ordination. The many authors discussed by Fr. Martin were concerned with giving a reasonable explanation as to why women were so excluded from the ordained ministry since there seemed to be no obvious reason why this should be done. The problem was compounded by the fact that these authors were aware of sources which referred to women as ordained.

As Fr. Martin demonstrates, there seems to have been no one consis­tent reason given for the exclusion of women from ordination and that many of the reasons given by modern Christians for not ordaining women differ from those of the later Middle Ages. Perhaps, the several reasons offered never quite justified the current practice and so had to be con­stantly refined and reasserted by each new generation of scholars. In any case, Fr. Martin's article provides an invaluable guide to the social, political, and theological background to the centuries-old Christian practice of excluding women from sacramental ordination.

In order to make the material in these studies more accessible to a wide range of readers, the Latin notes in both articles have been trans­lated into English. Every translator is also a traitor as the old saying goes and this translation is no exception. Several editorial decisions needed to be made which affect the kind of English that appears in the translationsn First, Fr. Martin, of course, had the final say in how he wished the Latin to be translated in his article, and while the editors take full responsibility for the translation, one working principle had to be respect for the inten­tion of the author. Secondly, the academic Latin of the Middle Ages consisted mostly of class notes of one kind or another. They are not polished prose, and so neither is the English translation. The decision was made to stick as closely to the original structure and presentation of the Latin as decent (or at least acceptable) English would allow. The editors decided to err on the side of literal accuracy at the expense of literary elegance.

In a few cases, specific Latin words offered difficulties in translation. The clearest example of this is the Latin word sacramentum. In general, the word can be translated as "symbol," but in certain circumstances, sacramentum more clearly means "ritual" or "sacrament" in the English sense of the word. In order to aid the reader in following this ambiguity, the editors have placed the Latin word sacramentum in parentheses following the English translation of the word as "symbol," "ritual," or "sacrament." The medieval authors would have, of course, understood the word as having the overtones of all three of the English words, probably not distinguishing as carefully between the three as modern English speakers would do.

Finally, the editors have attempted in all cases to provide clear and precise references to the original Latin sources for those readers who wish to read the original for themselves. The editors certainly encourage readers to do so; another language creates another world that even the best translation cannot capture. 

A History of Women and Ordination: The Priestly Office of Women: God's Gift to a Renewed Church by Ida Raming Bernard Cooke, Gary Macy (Scarecrow Press) Raming was one of two women who drew up a published submission to the Second Vatican Council in 1963 challenging the exclusion of women from the priesthood. In June 2002, she was one of seven women who were ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood; the ordination was subsequently rejected by the Roman Catholic hierarchy for some reason. Her doctoral dissertation was translated from German into English and published by Scarecrow Press in 1976 as The Exclusion of Women From the Priesthood: Divine Law or Sex Discrimination. Cooke, a venerable peripatetic American theologian, and Macy (theology and religious studies, U. of San Diego) here translate and edit her second edition. The first volume covers the medieval context.

During the past half century, few issues have been more prominent and controversial in religious circles than the ordination of women. The debate over the role of women in the church has been most acute in Roman Catholic; Orthodox, and Anglican Churches, although other Christian and Jewish groups have not been exempt. 

For decades, Raming has been one of the leaders of the movement challenging the all-male priesthood. She recently republished her German study on the exclusion of women from the ordained ministry, accompanied by an updated international bibliography and three scholarly responses to the Vatican's continuing insistence that women cannot be ordained. A History of Women and Ordination: Volume 2 provides an English-speaking audience with a translation of that revised edition. This volume also provides an English translation of all the canonical sources quoted by Ranting and a chronological bibliography detailing women's ordination from 1973 to the present. Any scholar interested in this volatile and intriguing topic will welcome this scholarly resource.


Ida Raming is a pioneer in the women's ordination movement in the Catholic Church. She is also author of The Exclusion of Women from the Priesthood: Divine Law or Sex Discrimination? (Scarecrow Press, 1976), She was ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood on June 29, 2002.

Bernard Cooke is a prominent U.S. theologian who has served as president of both the College Theology Society and the Catholic Theological Society of America.

Gary Macy is a professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Diego. 

Excerpt: During the past half century, few issues have been more prominent and disputed in religious circles than has the ordination of women. This has been most acutely felt in the Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican Churches, but other Christian groups, as well as Judaism, have not been completely exempt. Beginning in 1975 with the first national conference on women's ordination in Detroit, a meeting that drew national attention and eventuated in formation of the Women' s Ordination Conference, there has been a continuing and vocal demand by increasing numbers of Catholics that there be a reconsideration and reform of women's status in the Church. Basically, this has been a demand for full equality for women, but ordination to both diaconate and presbyterate has consistently been seen as the key symbolic recognition of such equality.

The Detroit conference drew more than national attention. Within a few months the Vatican responded with a letter on the nonordination of women, a document that was widely criticized but did much to frame debate on the topic. Without detailing its line of argument, one of its principal points was that the long-standing tradition of the Church has always seen women as incapable of ordination. Ordination today would be contrary to this tradition and so, while Church officials appreciated the important role of women in the Church, their equality as members, and the depth of their faith and commitment, extending this to ministerial ordination lay outside the authority and power of Church officials. Change was not only inadvisable, it was impossible. For the moment, debate centered on the question of whether such a long-standing tradition should prove an obstacle, and in the absence of accurate historical knowledge, the impression in many circles was that the question of women's ordination was a very recent phenomenon, an outgrowth of the contemporary feminist movement.

Careful top-level theological, historical, and biblical examination of the Papal argumentation disagreed with it and concluded that there did not appear to be any intrinsic block to the ordination of women. But that did not alter the Papal position nor close off the discussion. The Women's Ordination Conference has continued in existence. Several other women's organizations have emerged to further urge the issue, an attempt of the U.S. bishops to skirt the question by a pastoral letter on women's role in the church foundered on women's organized objection, and support for women's ordination has gradually grown in most parts of the worldwide Church.

Meanwhile the Anglican Churches throughout the world have confronted the question and, despite strong objections from some quarters, have officially moved to ordination. In the United States this was triggered by the extra-legal ordination of some women in 1974, a move that was first declared invalid but then accepted within a year as illicit by the Episcopa­lian House of Bishops. But the deed was done. Since then, Anglican ordination of women has become common. A few women have even been ordained as bishops; and some members, including clergy, have left the Anglican Church and "gone to Rome" in protest.

In Roman Catholic circles as well as in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the official position remains firmly in opposition to women's ordination. Attempting to quell growing popular support and ongoing pressure from women's groups, the Vatican attempted to suppress discussion of the issue. In 1998, a document was promulgated that forbade further debate of the question, since presumably it had been definitively decided by Papal decree. Not surprisingly, this statement proved counter-productive: To deny responsible dissent from Papal teaching on the topic was widely recognized as unenforceable and discussion was probably intensified by this move.

While all this was happening as a high-profile and rather acrimonious event, another question that was inseparably bound up with women's ordination was emerging almost unnoticed. This was the question regarding ordination itself: What was the intrinsic character of ordinationin the Christian Churches? What was the actual historical origin of episcopal and presbyteral ordination in Christianity? And what did ordination effect and how did it change those who were ordained?

In Roman Catholicism, these questions were affected by the stance of Vatican IIn Above all, the council's recognition of the ministerial responsibility and empowerment of all members of the Church, the people of God, raised questions about the role and power of the ordained. If the faithful were empowered by baptism to undertake most of what had come to be a clerical monopoly of ministry, what was left to the ordained as distinctively theirs? The response seemed clear: Only the ordained were empowered to perform the sacramental actions, most importantly as celebrants of the Eucharist, but that was not as clear as it looked.

Implicit in both debates—about women's ordination and about the role of the ordained clergy—was the same assumption, that "ordination" had always meant what it has come to mean in recent centuries and means for people today. Scholarly research, above all, by Yves Congar, had uncovered evidence that only in the 12th century had "ordination" come to indicate an action that produced in the ordinand two intrinsic powers, the power to absolve sins and the power to change bread and wine in the Eucharist. Prior to that time, "ordinare" had quite a different meaning: To "ordain" a person was a matter of assigning that individual a social/ ecclesiastical status and role.

How accurate are the "new" understandings mentioned here? Is there responsible scholarly study that supports them? The answer is that for some decades there has been such study, but it has been largely unrecog­nized, sometimes arrogantly rejected as marginal by mainstream academe, and scarcely known by those engaged in the debates we have mentioned. It is to remedy this lack, to bring to public attention, to help clarify the truth about historical development in the thinking of Christianity that this series is published. Bringing again to people's notice the evidences of what actually was thought and done regarding ministerial ordination of both men and women will, we hope, help to make discussion of these issues more fruitful.

"Now is the Time: A Celebration of Women's Call to a Renewed Priesthood in the Catholic Church"—this was the motto under which the international network Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW) organized the First International Conference on the issue of the ordination of women from June 29 to July 1, 2001. About 350 men and women from 26 countries and all 5 continents, representatives of the numerous national sub-organizations of WOW as well as several guests from the ecumenical movement, congregated in Dublin, Ireland. In one declaration and eleven resolutions,' they unanimously expressed their determination to actively promote the access of women who have a calling to the ordained offices of the church, e.g., by continuously keeping the issue of women's ordination in the public and by supporting the education of women for the deaconate and priesthood. The assembled men and women will not allow themselves to be discouraged by threats and bans from the Vatican—which burdened the conference in Dublin before it even started. Instead, they want to create a path for the ordination of women in the church, trusting in the power of God's spirit.

This conference is an important milestone on the way to the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church. It is an occasion to look back at the development since the Second Vatican Council and also to look into the future. From this perspective, this reprint of the dissertation (from 1973), which takes an in-depth look at this issue, is published at the right time.

Doctrinal Development since the First Printing

The time period between the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and the present (2001) within the church is marked by the fact that a large number of members of the church have repeatedly asked for several reforms. Not the least of them is the call for a position for women in keeping with the times, that is their complete equality in the structures of the church.

Several women took the initiative on the grass root level in 1962 and 1963 and were supported by some bishops during the Council. Their attempt was a small one that found surprising and strong support in the Encyclical Pacem in terris (1963) by the Council Pope John XXIII. In this encyclical for the first time in the history of the Catholic Church, the women's emancipation movement was regarded as positive, as a "sign of the times" that deserved attention.

In the period immediately following the Council, there was an increasing number of publications (articles and books) about the issue "Women in the Church," among others the first printing of this dissertation (1973), which is now available as a reprint. The special character of this work was undoubtedly that it contains a critical analysis of the basis for the exclusion of women from the priesthood, especially of the relevant legal sources and dogmatic positions. At the time the issue was taboo, and it was only the second dissertation in German-speaking countries that dealt with this issue.

It is thanks to the professor of legal history of law and canon law at the Catholic Theological Department at the University of Muenster at the time, Professor Doctor P. J. Kessler, who died in 1988, for guiding and supervising this work competently and without censoring the author. This is especially worth mentioning because at the time—and possibly still today—it was (and is) very rare that a professor at a Catholic Theological Department would support with his name a research project which was (and is) basically detrimental to his reputation but important for the development of the church.

In the postconciliar period, the scientific and journalistic treatment of the issue, along with synodal processes at the national as well as church-wide levels, including a vote for the deaconate of women and a continuing discussion of the priesthood for women, had a widespread impact.

On the other hand, however, as a reaction to this, the powers within the church that are oriented towards inertia and the conservation of the status quo, which had already been noticeable during the final phase of the Council, organized. The conflict between those trends in the church that are oriented towards reform and those that want to preserve the existing situation intensifies dramatically in the attitude towards the ordination of women. In this sense, the issue of the ordination of women is a crucial question—because the answer to this question decides if real equality of women in the church is wanted or rejected.

After the Council, the "No" from the Vatican about the ordination of women has been expressed in several pronouncements. On the other hand, this might be seen as a sign that the responsible authorities at the Vatican that are oriented towards the preservation of patriarchy in the church can only react with means of power and pressure because they find themselves more and more on the defensive, due to the growing movement on the grassroots level that is urging for a reform of the position of women, and due to the results of theology that is critical of patriarchy.

Only four years after the first printing of this dissertation, in 1977, during the pontificate of Paul VI, the first official document against the admission of women to the priesthood was published: the declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Inter insigniores. It caused critical reactions worldwide, not only from Catholic women's groups, but also from theologians, and even from members of other institutions of the Vatican (the Secretariat for Christian Unity, especially the Biblical Commission) who felt left out when the document was drafted.

The latter had declared in a vote in 1976 that there was no decision about the ordination of women to the priesthood in the New Testament, that therefore the ban of female priests could not be deduced from the New Testament, and furthermore that Christ's plan of salvation was not violated or falsified by the admission of the ordination of women.' With regard to the theological standing of the declaration Inter insigniores, it can be said that while it is an "authentic declaration of the Roman magisterium," it is not an "infallible" statement—it does not mention that its doctrine is based on divine revelation.' The declaration itself qualifies the "dogmatic obligation of church practice . . . as unmistakably small" and clearly limits the "implications of the arguments from scripture and tradition."

During the pontificate of John Paul II, the restraint and self-restriction of the magisterium that still exists in the declaration Inter insigniores is given up completely. In speeches and written announcements, the pope repeatedly expressed his rejection of the priesthood of women, sometimes even under threat of sanctions.' The pressure of the church leadership on the opposite opinion grew considerably during the pontificate of John Paul II and lasts until today.

In the Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem' (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women), the pope expresses formally`his opposition to the priesthood of women, with reference to the declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Inter insigniores (No. 26). His rejection is embedded in an anthropological "meditation" about gender relations, which is interpreted as a symbolic relationship between "groom" and "bride." This way, a "polarized image of humans" and antiquated roles of men and women are propagated (man as priest, "Vicar of Christ" —woman as representative of the "bride" church or lay church). Immediately after the publication of this Apostolic Letter, there were again many critical voices around the world—the widening gap between the magisterium on the one hand and a growing number of members of the church on the other hand was already obvious.

This growing dissent could not be overcome by the pope's apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis either, published in 1994. The explicit purpose of this letter is to end the ongoing discussion of the ordination of women with a papal word of authority. This letter was supposed to make a binding doctrinal decision against the admission of women to priesthood which was to be "definitively held by all the Church's faithful" (no. 4; emphasis by author). But this use of authority by the magisterium, until then the strongest of its kind against the ordination of women, also remained without results because its decision was based on theological views that could not withstand a scientific, theological examination: "Well-founded counter arguments to the doctrinal position with regard to the ordination of women cannot be settled by the use of authority," as could be clearly observed in the diverse critical reactions to it."

Contrary to the intention of the papal letter, the discussion of this issue gained even more widespread impact. The demand for the ordination of women became stronger, for example through a church petition for a referendum in Austria, Germany and other countries. As a reaction to this, the Vatican used their "last resort" to force the ongoing discussion to stop and to force the demand for the ordination of women to be abandoned: In "On `Ordinatio Sacerdotalis' Responsum ad Dubium" (October 28, 1995) the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared it was part of the deposit of faith and therefore demanded "definitive consent." On thebasis of this classification, the doctrine of the exclusion of women from ordination and priesthood belongs to the new "category of a `definitive doctrine"' developed by the Roman magisterium, which was not mentioned by the Second Vatican Council or by any other ecumenical Council, nor was it the result of an extensive consultation of all bishops, nor was it "the result of critical discussions of the theologians." Nevertheless, it was added to church law. However, even this—so far the most severe—action by the church leadership, working in a centralist way—without the inclusion of the College of Bishops—will not be able to achieve adoption and acceptance of the pope's decision against the ordination of women with most members of the church. The continuing dissent between the magisterium and a growing number of the church's faithful in this question shows that this is a "case of theological non-reception".

About the Development of Church Law (since 1973)

According to the principle that canonical law follows the official Church teaching, the rejection of the ordination of women was also reflected in church law, in the Codex Juris Canonici (hereafter CIC) of 1983. Canon 1024 of the "new" codex repeats verbatim from the corresponding canon of the codex from 1917 (c. 968 § 1): "Only a baptized man can validly receive sacred ordination." While this rule is not qualified as divine law, it still found its way into church law through the new category of a "definitive doctrine" (cf. CIC, c. 750 § 2), after it was formulated in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1994) as a "definitive" doctrine about ordination being reserved for men, which was confirmed in Responsum ad dubium (1995) of the Congregation For the Doctrine of the Faith. Its binding character is explicitly stressed (the doctrine is "to be recognized and observed") and is made a punishable offense (cf. c. 1371, n. 1).

This means that women in the Roman Catholic Church continue to be excluded from the diaconate and allegedly "definitively" from the priesthood and the episcopate. The far reaching consequences for the position of women in the church are obvious: Women are denied, for example, the independent and personally responsible practice of pastoral care. Since they are not ordained and cannot have any ecclesiastical jurisdiction (potestas iurisdictionis), but can only participate as lay persons in its practice according to the law (cf. CIC, cc. 129 § 1; 274 § 1), they are also denied any influence (within the framework of a religious office) on the obligatory doctrines of faith and morals as well as on the church legislature. Some examples can show how this legal position affects actual church practice. Despite the growing lack of priests, women cannot head the Eucharist. Even a female religious community whose members are often well educated in theology needs a man as priest and pastor. Women are excluded from the official teaching of doctrines, e.g., during councils. Correspondingly the existing code of canon law has been written by a committee of men alone.

In view of these drastic legal restrictions, the programmatic words of the church constitution of the Second Vatican Council Lumen Gentium (No. 32): "In Christ and in the church there is no inequality because of race and ethnicity, social status or gender (emphasis by author) (cf. Gal. 3, 28)" seem like a hollow phrase, because the fundamental right for equality (cf. CIC, c. 208), which results from the membership with God's people, is considerably limited for women because of their gender. This, however, diametrically opposes the goals of the reform of church law, which was initiated by John XXIII during the Second Vatican Council. This reform ought to have taken into account the "changed challenges of the modern world" and the "needs of God's people." However, the concept of church as "God's people," newly taken up by the Council, which stresses the idea of equality of all members of the church, has not become decisive for the Code of Canon Law of 1983. Rather, the church book of law adheres to the established organized structure of the church which was already characteristic of the Code of Canon Law of 1917 (cf. cc. 207 § 1; 212 § 1 CIC/1983). According to this, women belong only to the laity which is subordinate to church officials and has the duty to obey them. As a result of women's exclusion from ordination and its related consecrated offices (c. 1024), their right for a free choice of vocation is severely restricted, even though it was declared an inviolable human right in the Encyclical Pacem in terris (1963) by John XXIII, and even though it belongs to the fundamental rights of the church (cf. c. 219). The contradiction between this fundamental right in connection with c. 208, which stresses the equality of all faithful because of their "rebirth in Christ," and the rule of c. 1024 is obvious!''

A large degree of equality of women and men in the "new" church law has only been achieved in the laity. However, as soon as duties in the cultic-liturgical field are concerned, it becomes obvious that women will remain second-class lay persons as long as they are excluded from the priesthood, because according to c. 230 § 1, the duties of a lector and acolyte, conferred permanently through a liturgical rite, continue to be reserved for men only. Women can only carry out some of the duties that are connected with these positions for a limited period of time, e.g., therole of lector, assisting the distribution of the Holy Communion, as well as altar service and altar duties. After the Council, the lengthy arguments about the admission of female altar servers were finally settled through an official interpretation of c. 230 § 2 by the responsible Vatican authority, which decided that the liturgical "service at the altar" can also be carried out by women, but not without restrictions. This means that the explicit ban for women to enter the altar area has been cancelled. In addition, there are several other positive developments, which partly result from the pastoral emergency situation: lay persons, including women, can carry out pastoral duties in parishes without a priest, of course under the supervision of a priest or pastor assigned by the responsible bishop (cf. CIC, c. 517 § 2). Furthermore, laymen of both genders can participate as judges in an ecclesiastical tribunal (CIC, cc. 1421 § 2, 1435); they are also permitted as financial administrators (CIC, cc. 494 § 1, 537, 1282). These examples show that the societal change has not "completely passed by church law"—however, the real, urgently needed "major breakthrough is still to come.”

Lasting Relevance of the Issue in the Present

It is evident in light of this background that a reprint of the dissertation is still relevant (unfortunately, I might add), because it includes a critical analysis of the numerous sources (legal, patristic and biblical) that form the basis and structural grounds for the continuing exclusion of women from ordination and priesthood. To round off this work, several articles by the author have been added (in an appendix). Arising from particular situations, they discuss, among other things, the stereotypical arguments against the ordination of women which are expressed, for example, in the declaration Inter insigniores (1976) and the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1994). Another article is devoted to the emergence and development of the (by now worldwide) movement for the ordination of women in European countries up until the present. In addition, there is an updated bibliography that documents the publications about this issue since the first printing of this dissertation.

Continuation of the Discrimination against Women in the Roman Catholic Church

The knowledge of the long history of discrimination against women because of their gender, one important period of which is described in this work, can help us increase our awareness of the continuing inferior valuation of women. Despite all reassurances of the equality of women (e.g., in Mulieris Dignitatem), and despite the praise of the "genius of woman," the history of discrimination against women in the Roman Catholic Church continues. It will continue as long as men in the highest positions of the church have power over the spirit and souls of women by defining the nature and "dignity" of women through their difference from that of men, creating legal consequences and arbitrarily setting limits to their work in the church. It will continue as long as men of the church deny women a calling to the priesthood—ignoring the free working of the Holy Spirit which is "allotted to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses" (cf. 1 Cor. 12:11). In assuming control, men of the church thereby place themselves between God and women, disregarding the inviolability of the person of woman, her immediacy with God, her freedom to decide for herself as a person in religious matters.

The definitive exclusion of women from ordination and related consecrated offices because of their gender, imposed by the men of the church, reveals the continuing and sinful disruption of gender relations in the church, which are determined by power and control. As long as this deplorable state of affairs continues, the central Christian message cannot be fulfilled: "For as many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ . . . there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:27f.).

The Calling of Women to the Priesthood—God's Grace for a Renewal of the Church


By adhering to the dominance of man over woman, the Vatican shuts itself off from the new things (Rev. 21:5) that have emerged through the beginning of the Kingdom of God in Jesus. It also shuts itself off from the working of the spirit of Jesus in the church of our times. God continually gives the church new graces. To these belong the charisms that qualify one for the priesthood (cf. Eph. 4:8, 10-12). God gives them to women as well as men. A representative example for the free working of the Holy Spiritthat allots to every one as she wills (cf. 1 Cor. 12:11)—and not how it is ruled by the church hierarchy—is the testimony of St. Theres of Lisieux (declared a Doctor of the Church in 1997): "I feel called to priesthood!" She is seen as the patron of those women who rise in many countries today and publicly affirm their calling and being called by God to the priesthood. The diverse graces, which are given to both women and men, are meant to bring about continuous renewal and rejuvenation of the church and its offices. The responsible authorities therefore do not have the right to reject these graces and callings just because they were given to women (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-25; 1 Tim. 5:19). The continuing resistance of the church leadership against the acceptance of women's callings to priesthood, as well as the legal obstacles that it sets against their unfold­ing, lead to a one-sided, patriarchal character of the office, which also leads to the stagnation and impoverishment that we are experiencing in the contemporary church. This is why the church leadership's attitude towards the question of women and ordination of women will decide the future fate of the Roman Catholic Church.

All men and women in the church are therefore called upon to make an effort for the creation of a relationship between genders, which is marked by justice, truthfulness and mutual respect. Too many men, clerics and laymen, overlook without sensitivity the situation of their sisters in faith and leave them to their fate—but also too many women still remain in the position of a spectator, not affected by their own situation in the church, not willing to burden themselves with the exhausting fight for a dignified position in the church. For the sake of the credibility and renewal of the church, however, all members of the church share the responsibility for the full acceptance of the diverse charisma—regardless of person and gender.

Sent and Authorized " . . . to preach deliverance to the captives" (cf. Lk. 4:18f.)

However, the highest ecclesiastical authorities of the church carry the main responsibility for this. If they justify the rejection of the ordination of women by saying "that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women" (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, no. 4), this argument is not convincing. It seems to be a mere pretext to conceal the patriarchal unwillingness. It is conspicuous that in the case of the exclusion of women from ordination and priesthood, the leading ecclesias­tical authorities were able to use their (alleged) authority without hesitation and scruples, even though this exclusion cannot be justified theologically and prevents the unfolding of charism to the detriment of the church. In this case, the question about the limits of their legitimate authority would have been indeed necessary because this action was undoubtedly an abuse of power!

It is now time to end this detriment to the church, to free women in the church from the chains of patriarchal power and to let them finally experience the freedom of God's children. The responsible ecclesiastical authorities do indeed have the legitimate authority for such an act of liberation. Christ Himself, the head of the church, gives it to them, because through the baptism in His name, any social distinction between men and women has been lifted (cf. Gal. 3:27f). Ida Raming Summer 2001

La Lucha Continues: Mujerista Theology by Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz (Orbis Books) Mujerista theology begins with personal experience and moves toward a theology that advances the dignity and liberation of all Hispanic/Latina women. This collection of essays combining personal narratives and theological discourse brings together important insights into the concerns of Hispanic women, the ways in which they can shape theology, and the roles they can take on in the church.

Ada María Isasi-Diaz, a professor of theology and ethics at The Theological School, Drew University, is author of many articles and books, including Mujerista Theology and En La Lucha: A Hispanic Women's Liberation Theology.

This book, La Lucha Continues: Mujerista Theology, the second volume of my essays, is in an attempt to present the theo-ethi­cal elaborations that have occupied me for the last nine years. As was true in the first volume, Mujerista Theology: A Theology for the Twenty-First Century, my goal is to make women and men theologians, the churches, and society at large take note of the religious understandings and practices that are intrinsic elements of the struggles for survival and liberation of Hispanas/Latinas in the USA.

An ongoing difficult task for me is to find ways to straddle the academy and the world of grassroot Hispanas/Latinas. My work in the academy—teaching, research, writing—and my work with grassroot Hispanas/Latinas—participating in litur­gies and meetings, asking questions about God and meeting everyday obstacles—are very much of one piece. For me it is not a matter of applying what I learn in one of these worlds to the other. I engage in both of them consciously from a liberation perspective. My goal has always been and continues to be to help bring about justice for Hispanas/Latinas, for our com­munities, and for all oppressed people.

Mujerista theology works to contribute, in the name of His­pana/Latina communities and for the sake of all the poor and the oppressed, to the ethical norms that guide society and its future. Our hope has always been to help build open and flexi­ble relationships among all persons and between persons and institutions. These new dialogic, non-competitive relationships provide a firm foundation to create the kind of society we want, one that promotes the welfare of all, with a particular focus on those who are most vulnerable. Only on the basis of such a soci­ety can we hope for a truly democratic political regime with insti­tutions and practices that enable the full participation of all its members, a society that leaves no one behind and that carefully guards against a few of its citizens flourishing at the expense of whole other sectors.

How does mujerista theology contribute to such a society, to this kind of proyecto histórico (historical project), to this utopian vision? First of all, in mujerista theology utopia does not func­tion to define social structures but rather to indicate theo-ethi­cal understandings, values, norms, and virtues based on the religious beliefs and practices of grassroot Hispanas/Latinas who struggle for liberation in the USA. Hispanas/Latinas' proyecto histórico does not offer details for a political, economic or social model but rather a vision of what should/could be that is "suf­ficiently concrete to provide a guide for action and to elicit a commitment." The proyecto histórico to which we seek to con-tribute is one that challenges present systems considered by the rich and powerful as ultimate, fundamental, permanent. What we seek to do is to insist on alternatives, on possibilities that are open to the unimaginable. We dream of a world beyond the lim­itations of the present, beyond those restrictions named "true universals." Mujerista theology seeks to contribute to the elab­oration of "reality-based universals" open to differences and diversity, seeking to include instead of excluding, reconciling instead of establishing hegemonic understandings that promote the privileges of the few at the expense of the many. The reality-based universals to which we seek to contribute are made up of "situated universals," which start with the concrete reality of lo cotidiano and not with abstract understandings of the truth or the application of true universals to a particular situation.

Reality-based universals, situated universals give us a firm basis for action and concretize our proyecto histórico. Our proyecto histórico, based on our daily struggle to survive and to live fully, is an action, a practice of resistance. Our reality-based universals lead us to understand that instead of attempting to bring about large changes, what we must insist on are small structural changes, changes taking places at many levels and in many places, changes that will make a difference someday precisely because they take into consideration the personal, the specific, the local. We are bent on changes that set processes in motion and do not seek "true solutions" because these seem to ignore particularity, diversity and differences. Our struggles give pri­ority to what is needed and useful, to effectiveness on a small scale, at the level of everyday reality. We give priority to creat­ing relationship instead of insisting on changing bureaucratic set-ups that will continue to ignore the personal. Likewise in our theological enterprise, we attempt to bring about fullness of life, committed as we are to hope for and to be open to the irruption of the divine in our everyday lives. Mujerista theology advocates and tries to live an on-going process of conversion that focuses on the need to bring radical change in those every-day, violent, and exploitative practices that oppress and mar­ginalize us.

Mujerista theology seeks to contribute to a liberating proyecto histórico by providing insights and understandings regarding norms, values, virtues, and understandings of the divine that are life-giving instead of silencing the cries of the poor. However, we also focus on Hispanas/Latinas as subjects of our own history, as moral agents who have much to contribute and who want to participate actively in bringing about justice for all. At the beginning of the twenty-first century the struggle to survive as moral agents fashioning our own history is ferocious, for we bat­tle understandings that displace persons from the heart of real­ity and make capitalism and militarism—the market and weapons — the center of reality. Living in a society that continues to promulgate the myth that anyone willing to work hard can "make it," Hispanas/Latinas have to be adamant about devel­oping and sustaining dreams and hopes that are not acceptable as part of the present "American dream." To do this we have to take responsibility for bringing about change in our lives and in our communities. To be subjects of our own history means that we cannot wait for others to better our lives. Only those solu­tions achieved by the sweat of our brows, by the work of our hands, and with the convictions that our hopes and dreams give us are acceptable. Living in the richest and most powerful nation in the world makes us all the more prone to look for an individ­ualistic way out of oppressive structures. The temptation to do all in our power to participate in privileged structures, even when it means acting at the expense of our own people, makes our struggle for liberation all the more difficult.

Mujerista theology insistence that grassroot Hispanas/Lati­nas are organic theologians perfectly capable of explaining their religious beliefs and the role these play in their daily struggles is a way of rescuing our thinking, imagination, and consciences from the hands of the dominant culture. Our religious beliefs and practices challenge the rationality of modernity that has so miserably failed the poor and the oppressed. They also challenge the non-rationality of postmodern thought that, though cen­tered on the singularity of each person, proposes an individual-ism beneficial only to the rich and powerful. The non-rationality of individualism is countered by the acknowledgment of human sociality. It is the need for community and the recognition of common interests that moves us to true solidarity. It is precisely Hispanas/Latinas' commitment to family and community that makes hope flourish. However, to maintain the hope so essential to our proyecto histórico, we need to insist on a critical con-science not only about our reality but also about ourselves. "We are not subjects of a reality that is apart from ourselves, reality which is at the same time object of our actions. We are both cause and effect of such a world. . . . Therefore, there are no objective changes without a radical transformation of the polit­ical subject. There is no change of the political subject without action that radically transforms reality." This is what mujerista theology embraces as its mission when it claims to be a libera­tive praxis: we seek to transform ourselves as Hispanas/Latinas by taking responsibility for our reality, by seeking to transform it so we can live fully.

The essays in this book, then, are simply links in the elaboration of a mujerista proyecto histórico that seeks to transform oppressive reality by sustaining and enabling Hispanas/Latinas' struggle to survive and live fully at the beginning of the twenty-first century in the USA. Honoring our belief that we need to be accountable for our subjectivity, for our hermeneutics, and for demonstrating how our stories and practices intersect with other persons and with societal forces, the first part of this book has three essays that inform the reader about life-experiences that have influenced my worldview. I do not think my life-experiences and my worldview are exceptional or radically different from those of other Hispanas/Latinas. These beginning essays open the door not only to my world but to the world of many other Hispanas/Latinas and provide for the reader a different view into the reality that the rest of the book seeks to explicate.

The second part of the book consists of nine essays that artic­ulate a variety of mujerista ethical-theological understandings pertinent to our vision for a just future. They draw from a variety of sources: theology, ethics, literature, philosophy, epistemology, sociology. In each there are methodological understandings that insist on the importance of process, on the fact that how we do what we do influences and even delineates in specific ways the content of our theo-ethical enterprise.

All of the essays are directed first and foremost to Hispanas/ Latinas. They are an attempt to give back to Hispanas/Latinas and to our communities what I have heard and learned from them. By sharing with Hispanas/Latinas the information they have given me I seek to enunciate a liberating mystique that will enable us to face our daily struggles and provide us with a sense of community to sustain us in situations we are not capable of facing alone. This book is also directed to other oppressed and marginalized groups in gratitude for what we have learned from them and in the hope that our perspectives and understandings will benefit them in their struggles. In this sense mujerista theology is a praxis of solidarity with other communities of struggle, for we are convinced that unless we build common under-standings and practices among those of us who are marginalized, our communities will continue to be denied access to what they need for fullness of life.

This book is also directed to the academy at large, to theolo­gians and ethicists who are committed to base their truth-claims in a reality that excludes no one. It is our contention as mujerista theologians and ethicists that theology and ethics need "to tran­scend the possibility of methodological alienation" by always expanding their "interpretative horizons." This means that all theo-ethical enterprise has to be in dialogue with as many other theo-ethical perspectives and understandings as possible and always acting with theoretical and methodological rigor. For us, from a liberation perspective, this dialogue has to privilege the voices of the poor and the oppressed. Further, this dialogue has to be a praxis in which theory and practice are inexorably linked. Theology, therefore, is not something we read, study or write but an enterprise: liberative doing, liberative action.

This book is an attempt as well to talk to the official church, that is, to church officials in charge of ecclesiastical structures and practices. It presents to them for their serious consideration the religious understandings and practices of Hispanas/Latinas that are part of the on-going revelation of God in our world today. Hispanas/Latinas, who constitute numerically a signifi­cant part of the Christian community in the USA, are indeed an important element of the people of God. Yet our religious beliefs and practices are not known and our communities receive little pastoral attention. It is our hope that the elaborations of mujerista theology will reach the clergy in our churches, enlight­ening them about what Hispanas/Latinas need and want from our churches, what we wish to contribute, and how we want to contribute it so we can indeed feel at home in our churches.

Finally, this book is addressed to society at large. Mujerista theology is grounded in Hispanas/Latinas' reality and it seeks to bring about radical change in society that will allow us to free ourselves of oppressive understandings and structures. We can-not overemphasize that mujerista theology is a liberation praxis from the perspective of Hispanas/Latinas but not exclusively for us. Our proyecto histórico is all-inclusive, seeking to transform society and its institutions, including the churches. The space in which mujerista theology seeks to play an effective role is that inwhich Hispanas/Latinas move: the USA society. Our task con­tinues to be a theoethical one but because we believe that all history is history of salvation, our theo-ethical scenario is history too. In this effort we contribute a history from the past reinterpreted from the perspective of the vanquished, and a history of the future into which we project ourselves as responsible subjects, as Hispanas/Latinas not afraid to struggle for liberation, for fullness of life.

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