Women’s Ordination: A Question of Obedience
I. Feminism and its impact
II. Fatherhood in Scripture
III. Infallibility and Recent Documents
Religion is not man’s attempt to reach God, rather, it is God’s attempt to reach man.
Feminism and its impact Arguments against the all-male priesthood:
· Why not ordain women? (The burden is placed on the Church to demonstrate why women are not ordained to the priesthood, rather than having those who want priestesses to offer their reasons.)
· Arguments for (and responses to those arguments) female priests:
· Those who support it are acting in the spirit of Vatican II. Not so. There is nothing in the Documents of Vatican II that support the cause for ordination of women.
· There are no theological grounds for refusing ordination for women. Church arguments are based on 1) the historical events of the Church; 2) the apostolic teachings; 3) a Sacred Tradition which has never acknowledged a valid female ordination; 4) the “maleness” of Christ; and 5) scriptural references from both Testaments.
· There is historical evidence for priestesses. Some Gnostic groups favored a more active role for women. However, those same Gnostics advocated that “women are not worthy of life” and that they “must become male” in order to reach heaven. (Gospel of Thomas).
· Jesus and the Apostles were bound by their misogynist culture. “To bind Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, with cultural constraints is historically and theologically inept” (This Rock, January 1996, p. 27) See Jn 4:27; Jn 8:11; Mk 10:2-11. Also see below, excerpt from Inter Insigniores.
· Galatians 3:28. “This passage does not concern ministries: It only affirms the universal calling to divine filiation, which is the same for all.” Inter, No. 6
· The maleness of Christ is not a necessary component of God’s plan of salvation. Is 9:6-7. Eph 5:23-32. “Christ, the God-man mediator, was prophesied as being male and, in fact, was born, suffered, died, and was raised in male form.” (TR, p.27)
· Every major Protestant denomination now has female clergy. Ministers do not act in the person of Christ, and do not make the claim to do so. Evangelical teaching relies on 1 Tm 2:1. However, the Vatican does not use this verse as a “proof” against female ordination.
· The Christian concepts of justice, equality and dignity apply to men and women and therefore support the idea of females in the priesthood. “In preserving the uniqueness of the sexes (an idea which is increasingly rare and ‘politically incorrect’ in today’s social climate), the introduction to the Declaration [Inter Insigniores] supports a view of equality that will ‘secure the building up of a world that is not leveled out and uniform but harmonious and unified, if men and women contribute to it their own resources and dynamism.’” (TR, p. 29)
· If a woman is “called” she should have the right to be ordained. First, there is no inherent right to ordination. “Even the apostle Paul, who received a special revelation and direct calling from Jesus, had to have that calling verified by the leaders of the Church.” (TR, p. 29)
· The all-male priesthood is the last bastion of absolute patriarchal authority. It is claimed that the reason there has been no change to the teaching about ordination of women is because there is an interest in the current hierarchy of keeping things status quo. People who take this position cannot understand that there may be other reasons why women cannot be priests.
· Why should women not have the same opportunities as men? There are many women who have taken on culturally established male roles and done quite well. The use of certain “power” words indicates the view that the priesthood carries with it some sense of achievement in the world’s eyes. It is thought that by becoming priestesses, women will be better able to attain levels of prestige and honor only available to men now. They seem to forget the number of great Catholic women who excelled beyond their male counterparts. Looking at the role of mother and father for some single parents, no matter what they do, they cannot “be” the other model for their children. Being must come before doing.
· This issue is still open for discussion, i.e., it has not been infallibly pronounced. Below I have pulled together some thoughts on the infallibility of this issue.
What feminism has done positively:
· Universal suffrage
· Rapidly expanding economic and educational opportunities for women
· Greater participation of women in civic life and all cultural enterprises
· Stronger legal and moral sanctions against sexual and physical abuse of women
· A general recognition of the human dignity of women and of their right - equal to that of men - to protection under the law from all forms of injustice.
What feminism has done negatively:
· Acceptance of no-fault divorce and the consequent de-stabilization of the family
· Promotion of radical individualism which depicts the human person as an imperial, autonomous self free from obligations to all others
· Acceptance of abortion-on-demand, which casts the “rights” of women against the rights of children and their fathers.
Secular feminism takes the position that: All distinctions between male and female are unjust because men and women are equally human, and the law can be concerned only with human rights; not male human rights and female human rights, not black human rights and white human rights, just plain human rights. To them, the human body is no more the person than a hammer is the carpenter. However, it must be understood that the body and its gender are not merely instruments, rather the body and its gender disclose something essential about the nature of the individual person, both to himself and to others. The most obvious and most important distinction in gender is the procreation of children. Even if a mother has no husband to help, and she is able to play ball with her kids and do other “father” things, she is still in her being and in her relations with her children the mother.
Characters within the Church to be aware of:
· Ruth Fitzpatrick, Women’s Ordination Conference · Mary Daly, feminist theologian at Boston College
· Rosemary Radford Reuther Fatherhood of God Consider this understatement: “It is widely recognized today that the Christian concept of God as Father is under attack.” (“Support from Psychology for the Fatherhood of God”, by Paul C. Vitz, H&PR, February 1997, p. 7) Mark Kelly, in TCA, September/October 1996 defines fatherhood as one who (1) establishes or is head of a household, and is the originator or patron of a class, profession or art, and is a producer or generator; (2) feeds his household, physically and spiritually; and (3) he maintains his household with love and caring because it is his. Headship · Spiritual equality in Gen 1:25-26. · Order of creation and its significance. Gen 2:22-23; 1 Tim 2:13 · Adam “images” God to the rest of the world by mediating the Fatherhood of God. Gen 1:28 · Adam held accountable for the entire race in Gen 3. · “Adam’s sin as head of the created order is so great and the curse so deep that his seed cannot produce a redeemer” (TCA, p. 36) Feeding Exchange of fatherhood in Garden. “Feeding and nourishing as an aspect of fatherhood is a major theme of ‘the Genesis Exchange.’ This exchange of fathers takes place in a food test, which will become a familiar theme in Scripture.” (TCA, p. 36) Adam and Eve ate the food of their new father, the devil. Their eating was a demonstration to Satan of their allegiance to him. Maintenance Even when disobedient, God provides food and clothing to Adam and Eve. God does not disinherit them. The Fatherhood of Joseph Feeding Pictured as food Gen 37:7 The combination of ruling and feeding is essential to understanding a biblical view of fatherhood. Dream fulfilled. Gen 37:5-11 The one who feeds you is your father. Maintenance Despite their sins, Joseph maintains the covenant of God. Gen 50:15-23 Apostolic Fatherhood “The Apostles are called ‘fathers’ in the Canon of the New Testament (see 1 Pt 5:13; 1 Jn 2:1; 1 Cor 4:15,17; 1 Tm 1:2,18; 2 Tm 1:2 Phlm 10; Ti 1:2). “Peter, John and Paul all address fellow Christians who are not their natural offspring as children or sons. They call themselves ‘fathers’ because they fulfill the biblical requirements of being a father. They have generated churches and people, they feed churches and they maintain the same. By being ministers of the Word of God, they continue the work of mediating the Fatherhood of God to the rest of the world. This work was begun by Adam, redeemed and perfected by Christ, and is now being brought to completion in the Church.” (TCA, p. 39)
Infallibility and Recent Documents A list of key documents pertaining to this issue:
· Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1577
· Christifideles Laici, Apostolic Exhortation, December 30, 1988, by Pope John Paul II
· Mulieris Dignitatem, Apostolic Letter, August 15, 1988, Pope John Paul II
· Inter Insigniores: Declaration On the Question of Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood, October 15, 1976, by Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
· Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: Apostolic Letter on Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone, May 22, 1994, by Pope John Paul II
Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: Infallible? Lumen Gentium 25 speaks about infallibility. It states that such papal definitions, as found in OS, “need no approval of others nor do they allow appeal to any other judgment. For the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person. Rather, as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, as one in whom the charism of the infallibility of the Church herself is present, he is expounding or defending a doctrine of the Catholic Faith. (LG, 25) LG also speaks about the “mind and intention” of the Pope when speaking infallibly. Because it can be established that the vehicle used to make such pronouncements is secondary to the intentions of the Pope, what must be established is the Pope’s intentions with regard to this issue.
To establish the infallibility of the text, the following properties must be evident: 1) The very form of the words ought to stand out with solemnity which normally occurs when a doctrine is defined by the words “we believe”, “we define”, “we anathematize”, etc.; 2) The matter of the doctrine should be drawn from divine and apostolic tradition and ought to serve man’s supernatural salvation by fostering faith and morals; 3) It ought to be manifestly clear from the words themselves that the Magisterium wants to present the teaching as divinely revealed and, therefore, irreformable and to be believed by all; 4) It should be addressed to all the faithful; 5) It should be discerned in the very tenor of the words of the definition that only those things clearly stated and directly intended fall within the definition.
When these are applied to OS and the following Responsum, it is clear that they teach an infallible doctrine. In OS, 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:12 were not used, so it can be assumed that they reflect a cultural bias on the part of the writer and are therefore not relevant The Council of Trent (Sess III of the Council of Trent, Feb 4, 1546) states that “these texts would qualify as part of the Verbum Dei traditum (the Word of God handed down) since, appearing in the canon of Scripture, they must be acknowledged as written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit ‘and preserved without interruption in the Catholic Church.’” (A Question of Canonicity, by Dr. Robert Fastiggi, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, April 1997, p. 29)
“[T]he CDF’s ‘Declaration on the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood’ (Inter Insigniores) of October 15, 1976 explicitly refers to both 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:12 and understands them as a ‘prohibition’ concerning ‘the official function of teaching in the Christian assembly’. Moreover, this Vatican document goes on to state that ‘for St. Paul this prescription is bound up with the divine plan of creation (cf. 1 Cor 11:7; Gen 2:18-24); it would be difficult to see in it the expression of a cultural fact.’” (H&PR, April 1997, p. 50)
Rom 16:3 demonstrates that Paul saw women as equal in all aspects of ministry. That this refers to women teaching in public assembly is not clear in the text and cannot be used effectively for this argument. Regarding the claim of adherence to the culture of the time This claim is made, along with the additional notation that our culture is much more advanced regarding the rights of women and their roles. The following can be found in Inter Insigniores: “For example, to the great astonishment of his own disciples Jesus converses publicly with the Samaritan woman (Jn 4:27); he takes no notice of the state of legal impurity of the woman who had suffered from hemorrhages (Mt 9:20); he allows a sinful woman to approach him in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Lk 7:37); and by pardoning the woman taken in adultery, he means to show that one must not be more severe towards the fault of a woman than towards that of a man (Jn 8:11). He does not hesitate to depart from the Mosaic Law in order to affirm the equality of the rights and duties of men and women with regard to the marriage bond (Mk 10:2; Mt 19:3).”
No. 2 Also, by using the Scripture itself, it is noted in Inter Insigniores: “In the Pauline letters, exegetes of authority have noted a difference between two formulas used by the Apostle: he writes indiscriminately 'My fellow workers' (Rom. 16:3; Phil 4:2-3) when referring to men and women helping him in his apostolate in one way or another; but he reserves the title of 'God's fellow workers' (1 Cor. 3-9; 1 Thess 3:2) to Apollos, Timothy and himself, thus designated because they are directly set apart for the apostolic ministry and the preaching of the Word of God. In spite of the so important role played by women on the day of the Resurrection, their collaboration was not extended by St. Paul to the official and public proclamation of the message, since this proclamation belongs exclusively to the apostolic mission.”
No. 3 Bibliography “Why No Women’s Ordination”, by Michael J. Tortolani, This Rock, January 1996, p. 26 “A Question of Canonicity”, by Dr. Robert Fastiggi, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, April 1997, p. 29 “The Democratization of Religious Truth”, by Archbishop Elden F. Curtiss, The Catholic Answer, January/February 1997, p. 41 “Heresies in the Church”, by Archbishop Elden F. Curtiss, TCA, March/April 1997, p. 36 “The Fatherhood of God”, by Mark J. Kelly, TCA, September/October 1996, p. 32 “Infallibility: In Fact, There Is Truth”, by Mark Shea, TCA, September/October 1996, p. 48 “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: Infallible?”, by Reverend Jack Healy, O. Carm., H&PR, December 1996, p.9 “Patience with Dissenters?”, by K.D. Whitehead, H&PR, March 1997, p. 51