Dialog with Church Leaders and Theological Schools on Charisms and Priestly Ministry
Alcuin Coyle, O.F.M.
from Women and Priesthood:Future Directions, pp. 159-176.
edited by Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota.
Republished on our website with the necessary permissions
ALCUIN COYLE, O.F.M., President of the Catholic Theological Union, received the Licentiate in Sacred Theology and the Doctorate in Church Law from the Antonianum, Rome. He was Vice Rector, Christ the King Seminary, St. Bonaventure University (1964-70), and on the faculty of the Washington Theological Union (1970-75). He is a consultant for the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, for the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on the Permanent Diaconate, and a charter member and Trustee of the House of Affirmation.
Our age has been characterized by a sensitivity to the power of the Spirit. In this Spirit the Church was born at Pentecost, and this same Holy Spirit has exercised a significant role in Church development at every point in history.
From the very beginning Church structure developed in response to the Spirit. According to Robert J. Karris in the third chapter of this book, a single uniform model of ministry was something unknown in the early days of Christianity. Particular ministries developed according to specific needs of space, time and culture. Today more than every before church leaders must be attentive to new promptings of the Spirit in facing the consequent tensions between local diversity and universal unity, between past and present needs with a view toward charting the future directions of ministry and priesthood.
The question of women in the future directions of priesthood cannot be presented in its true light, except against the background of the many gifts of the Spirit distributed among all Christians, and in organic relationship with other ecclesial functions. The Church of the future, therefore, must be envisioned as a community, drawing heavily upon charismatic ministries. In order that the Church be transformed into a more adequately human social order, there must be a continuing development away from ministerial roles, identified with fixed states of life, toward functional roles assumed on the basis of personal qualifications and talents. Such a development in the direction of democratization and specialization, will offer hope for a higher level of cooperation between men and women. It removes sexual discrimination in recognizing God’s call to ministry and priesthood. We are presently witnessing the beginnings of this development.
It must be acknowledged, however, that there are some in the Church who do not share this hope and others who react fearfully. Hope is not simply a flying leap into the utter openness of the future. It is based upon a long tradition back into Old and New Testament times. This book has already explored the diversity and evolution of ministries during these early ages. Hope, for this very reason, is vibrant with real possibilities. Thus, in developing a consciousness regarding women in future direction for ministry, the Church today will be required to take risks. These can be borne without fear provided there is a real sense of history—our ancestors too were men and women of faith (Heb ch 11-12)—and a real sense of hope “the Spirit helps us in our weakness . . . [and] intercedes for the saints” (Rom. 8:26-27).
Church leaders must be confident that God, who is the author of human history—past, present and future—and who guides it to fulfillment, will enable them to achieve the openness that is necessary in responding to our future needs in ministry. This hope should stimulate Church leaders to read with courage “the signs of the times” and to project with a sense of vision the agenda prepared by the contemporary world.
The ecclesiology of Vatican II has challenged the Church to recognize “the signs of the times” and to understand the world in which we live, its expectations, its longings and its often dramatic characteristics. Prominent among the signs of the times which signal the expectations and longings of human persons today is the women’s movement. The fact that the Church has taken little cognizance of the women’s movement itself, and has made only perfunctory, sporadic and uncoordinated efforts to examine its own practices and attitudes, is creating a serious pastoral problem.
At the same time, progress is gradually taking, place in certain sectors of the Church. For example, in many areas women are being called to collaborate with all segments of the Church in the essential work of evangelization. This is a very positive sign, but it is hardly enough. The ministry of the Church will suffer if women are given only a secondary place in its life and mission. While the state of the question rests as a task for the entire Church, bishops in particular have a very special pastoral responsibility in this regard. Likewise, seminaries and theological schools exercise a very important role in opening and facilitating new directions in ministry by women, reaching into priesthood.
The final chapter of this book, completing our investigation of women in priesthood, has a more comprehensive purpose than the preceding ones. Its special focus is on the broader issues regarding the future directions of ministry. By allowing the Spirit to speak to us within the movements of our contemporary world, its achievements and hopes, its failures and needs, we will dream about the future of religious leadership. It will be evident, as we look ahead, that women as well as men can answer the call of the Spirit within this Sitz im Leben. In fact, sexual differences will fade away as people are judged qualified or not for the apostolate.
The observations here will be developed within two perspectives:
- the development of ministries within the Church
- the contemporary challenges placed on the role of theological schools in preparing men and women for future ministry.
The first area will trace the process from spontaneous charismatic gifts to official recognition of the lay minister, deacon(ess), and priest, of the minister celibate and married, male and female. The second and final section will point out the essential challenge of mission in all theological education and the concomitant need of Christian identity in the complexities of mission to the world.
From very early times, the Church exercised her common mission in the world by entrusting her members with various functions according to their charisma. In chapter three we learned that women featured prominently in almost all religious offices of the Church during the years after Pentecost. Consequently, besides the sacramental ministries there were always other ministries, both liturgical and non-liturgical. In the course of centuries, the sacramental ministries ceased for women, as Carolyn Osiek noted in chapter four. Even non-liturgical roles of women came to be severely restricted.
The Church today is not seeking to resurrect these defunct ministries. Rather according to her ancient pattern she inquires into the charisma of her members now and relates these to her ministerial needs today. To inquire about the modes of ministry for the future, is to ask under what forms the Headship of Christ will need to be represented in the communities that are taking shape today, and what distribution and diversification of ministerial tasks among men and women will be needed for the Church of tomorrow.
The Church should not be content to think that it has been handed down a universal pattern of the structure of ministry effective for all times and places. Rather, we must clearly realize that the ministries, transmitted by the living apostolic tradition, have through the centuries taken diverse forms; the particular value of any one of them remains relative in many details. The same creativity should be expected of the Church today, as characterized the Apostolic Church. The early Church gave to itself those forms of ministry which rose from the charisma of its members, men and women, and best answered the needs of the times.
The creativity and openness to new forms of ministry today is not merely an abstract possibility. It is a responsibility and task which the contemporary world places on the agenda of the Church. In this way the Church will be able to equip itself with a variety of ministries which best correspond to the contemporary needs of the people of God. In this effort, full use must be made of all ministerial possibilities now officially recognized, while keeping these open to necessary adaptation and flexibility. At the same time going beyond the necessary adaptations of traditional forms, the Church must also look to the secular world for effective models of leadership. Carroll Stuhlmueller in chapter two explored this interaction of the sacred and the secular in Old Testament forms of authority. Women provide an extraordinary example not only of secular leadership but specifically of prophetic challenge. Thus the Church can devise new forms of future ministries consonant with her nature. We need to look more closely at the relation of charisma with offices or official recognition.
All Christians are charismatic by vocation, and the Spirit distributes individual gifts to all differently. The exercise of their proper charism can be called “ministry” in the broad sense. Nevertheless, not all are engaged in the ministry of the Church in the same manner and with the same intensity. The two notions of office and charism must be distinguished according to whether services are spontaneously rendered or are entered into on a more permanent basis. This distinction hones in on the question of women’s ministerial role: should its more charismatic form become more regulated and “ordained” within the Church’s Magisterium?
The common and fundamental ministry of both office and charism is unity. The importance of Church unity, particularly for Roman Catholicism, was discussed at length in chapter one. Office and charism seek unity, each in its own way. Office ensures order and continuity; charism, transcending time and space, contributes to the ministry of unity through renewal, reform and development. In the Church, office has its origin primarily from the historical Christ and bears the characteristics of the Incarnation; charism has its origin primarily from the Holy Spirit and bears the characteristics of the working of the Spirit. Office represents the Headship of Christ; charism heals, renews and carries the Church forward.
In the Church, office and charism stand dialectically over against each other, differing in structure and mode of operation. The dialectic between office and charism is one of complementarily. Together they form the total ministry of the Church. Moreover, the Church flourishes best when office and charism respect each other and draw upon the resources of the other. However, there has always been, and always will be, a tension between office on the one hand, and charism on the other. This tension becomes ever more severe when charism seeks a permanent place in the Church institution and proceeds from a strong, prophetic stance. Such is the case with the charismatic role of women.
In chapter nine of this book, Sebastian MacDonald recognized the importance of conflict in the development of doctrine. Other chapters noted the presence of a healthy tension in the history of Israel, in the early Church, and even today.
Similar tensions are found in other spheres of human life outside the Church, and no order of law can do away with such a phenomenon. To a certain extent, tension is necessary and is often very creative and fruitful. Every time, however, that tension causes a problem within the Church, office, and charism will have to find an adequate solution in a spirit of service and reconciliation, so that the tension does not result in crisis and eventual polarization. This warning is especially appropriate when we the Church respond to the women’s movement.
All charismatic gifts and offices then are intended for mutual service of the community. Charisms arise from the Spirit, are discerned by the community, and are authenticated by office for the common good. When certain charisma are acknowledged officially so that they can fulfill their function in the name of the community, we have lay ministries. All members receive the Spirit and express the ministerial nature of the Church in their own sphere. Some may do so in a more stable manner, and have become visible signs of the community’s own concern and commitment. The field is unlimited. Men and women fulfill these functions, as they are manifestations of the special gifts of the Spirit and are rooted in baptism. Hence, they are not derivatives from the apostolic ministry, and they do not demand any change in basic structures. All that is needed is that community leaders recognize the many services already being rendered by many of its members.
In the course of history lay ministries tended to be absorbed within the clerical office and their duties exercised primarily within the context of the liturgy. On the one hand, liturgical celebration, instead of being an action of the whole community, had become the preserve of a few ministers specifically ordained for that purpose. Liturgy was viewed in a restricted manner as consisting of the ritual performed by the ministers so that many integral elements of liturgical celebration became marginalized. Correspondingly, on the other hand, the ordained ministers came to be defined more and more in terms of their ”sacred” functions in the liturgy. Therefore, the reality of lay ministries and, more important, the participation of all christians in the basic ministerial function of the Church in the world was gradually lost sight of, as all ministries became clericalized. Carolyn Osiek discussed some aspects of this clericalization in chapter four; Dennis J. Geaney investigated the gradual liberation of lay ministries in chapter eleven.
The renewal of lay ministries was introduced at Vatican II and became more specifically actualized in the post-conciliar document Ministeria Quaedam of 1972. This apostolic letter restored to lay people the exercise of all ministries that belong to them in virtue of the common priesthood and of charisma allotted to them by the Spirit. The document suggests the possibility of lay ministries related to the Church’s charitable action. This distinction clearly indicates that lay ministries are not to be restricted to services pertaining to the liturgy. In principle, they extend to all aspects of the mission of the Church.
This is an important distinction to keep in mind, as we investigate the lay ministry of women and its possible ordination within the priesthood. The post-conciliar Church has been so preoccupied with internal structures and processes that a great deal of attention has been diverted from the important task of developing lay leadership. Moreover, during this period, many priests assumed the lay responsibility for social action, particularly in the areas of peace and justice. Overlooking the primary task of the laity, many priests became involved primarily in pursuing social causes rather than in preparing the laity to assume their proper responsibility for such issues. As a result, there is a real necessity at the present time to re-examine the question of the loss of a generation of lay leadership, and that out of such a re-examination a new sense of direction will emerge.
The ministerial opportunities, on the other hand, afforded the laity through the restoration of the Permanent Diaconate have been a welcomed development. However, this ministry could eventually prove to be a serious regression, if it creates the impression that it is through the Permanent Diaconate the laity primarily participate in the ministry of the Church. Such an impression could easily foster a rather prevalent attitude that to exercise a ministry within the Church you must be ordained. This soul-searching question must be pondered by any lay movement as it seeks ordination; women must attend to it, as the restoration of their own order of deaconess is under study and they look towards the priestly order.
The pressing task of Church leadership is to develop lay responsibility, in ministry, and to devise ministries that best respond to the needs of the local Church. For it is at this level that recognition must be given to the role exercised by the laity in all aspects of the mission of the Church. Ministeria Quaedam is an invitation to translate into actual practice the conviction that the responsibility of the Church in her mission to the world cannot be borne by the clergy alone. The comprehensive responsibility must be shared by all Christians through a distribution of tasks and functions.
Against the background of this theology of lay ministries we consider the nature and function of the diaconate. The nature and history of this office will direct us in understanding the ministry of women and its ordination by the Church. Although the diaconate has emerged as a sacramental ministry, and consequently signifies in its own way the Headship of Christ, in its present form it does so only in a derivative and limited way, subordinate not only to the bishop, but also to the priest. It has not escaped the historical forces of sacralization, and has become predominantly a liturgical ministry.
In accordance with ancient tradition, though the deacon had a special place in the liturgical celebration, his proper place was in the world, witnessing to the service dimension of Christ and of the Church’s mission, and with special concern for the poor. While the priest was primarily concerned with the ministry of Word and Sacrament, the deacon was primarily concerned with service, especially to those in need. After the first couple centuries, the deacon ceased to be a servant (minister). He became an administrator and emerged as a rival to the priest for power within the community. When the functions of leadership and administration were taken away from him, he became only a subordinate minister in the liturgy and his office became progressively superfluous.
The present notion of the diaconate is simply a rediscovery of the traditional vision that became obscured in the course of history. This new vision offers a better sense of identity to the priest as minister of the Word and Sacrament. It is also clear that the notion of diaconate understood in this way is expressive of an essential dimension of the Church. The ministry is seen neither as a means of meeting the shortage of priests, nor as a stepping stone to the presbyterate or to a married clergy, nor a mere recognition of distinguished service. The diaconate should be conferred on these persons, men or women, who are already devoted to the Church’s ministry of service, one of the requirements being a certain stability in it. The establishment of such a diaconate would also lead naturally to the reality of a better developed concept of team-ministry. For this reason we look more closely at the office and ministry of priest.
Vatican II, as mentioned already in this chapter, placed great emphasis on the office and charism of the bishop on the one hand, and the charisma of the lay apostolate on the other. This latter is derived from the ”common priesthood” of all. Since Vatican II, experience has shown that these directions resulted in a crisis of identity for many priests. However, as the implications of the conciliar teachings became clearer, the true role of the priest emerged as one of unifying spiritual leadership. This role expresses itself in the various priestly functions: prophetic, sacramental and pastoral. We need to look at these in more detail, in order to perceive the proper role of women within the priesthood.
The most significant change in the concept of the priest today is the fact that the priest is seen in terms of ”mission to the world.” This on-going task requires a challenging dialog and respectful cooperation with all other members of the community. This two-fold process expects a rather realistic problem assessment on the part of priests. The temptation to accept prestige and privilege, as well as the inclination of people to bestow benefits on them are diminished when professional competence is seen to be more important than symbolic roles. This is very important for the problem of the man-woman relationship in the Church.
The new emphasis upon service and cooperation has helped precipitate the wide-spread identity crisis of priests who have discovered that they are less qualified to serve the community than many competent laity. In this age of specialization, many priests find themselves in the position of non-professionals engaged in a variety of fields that can be better handled by non-clerical specialists, whether men or women. The recognition of this fact is leading to an atmosphere conducive to a rethinking of the meaning of ministry. There is a growing realization that there exists in fact a diversity of ministries. Competent men and women are functioning already in a variety of these ministries, in positions of leadership and responsibility.
At this point of time there is a great need for diversification of the traditional form of priestly ministry, which in turn would imply on the part of some priests a certain specialization designed to meet precise pastoral needs of a local church. There are also certain difficult situations which call forth new forms of priestly life and ministry. This idea, particularly in the case of women who aspire to priesthood, was introduced in the first chapter of this book.
In these situations, the procedure will have to be experimental and by way of carefully proposed pilot projects. These challenges become apparent when we consider the total mission of the Church both to the rural and urban situation. Here is where the exceptional expertise of many women must be considered.
In the rural areas where the christian community is scattered over a wide territory, the Eucharist is celebrated only occasionally. The ministry of the few available priests then becomes seriously inadequate. In such a situation, new forms of priestly ministry and new styles of Eucharistic piety are required in order that spiritual leadership can reach outward to the farms and ranches, to the owners and share-croppers.
A new model for the ministry of men and women could be introduced gradually in the following way. First, lay ministries could be installed chosen from among the leaders of the local community. At a second stage, suitable persons from among them could be ordained to the diaconate. As a final stage, deacons who have proved themselves as spiritual leaders in their respective communities, and are found suitable for this ministry, could be presented as candidates for ordination to priesthood even though married or of the female sex. They would continue to exercise their secular profession on a part-time basis. Here we would see celibacy no longer as a requisite for priesthood, although the tradition and noble witness to celibate life, as we will point out later in this chapter, would continue for priests serving other ministries.
By way of contrast to rural areas, another type of situation is seen in the pluralistic society of our cities. In the urban areas there is a growing tendency for homogeneous groups, based on various professional and other factors, to seek community at the level of the group. Diversification in the exercise of the priestly ministry seems necessary to reach out to the pastoral needs of these groups. Priests will have to specialize in their ministries, for example, to workers, to students, and to professional people. Since the homogeneous groups cut across parish boundaries, the ministry of those specialized priests will extend across larger areas. The expertise for these works will also cut across sexual barriers. The present organizing of parishes marked by geographical boundaries will remain, but the exercise of the ministry in the city will become much more flexible. This will require that the entire pastoral clergy of the city share a common vision of their task and learn to operate as a team with an appropriate division of responsibilities.
Any discussion on new directions of priestly ministry calls for some reflection on the future role of celibacy. This has special relevance both for those who have accepted celibacy and for those who continue to envision it as only one of their options for the future. In terms of the future, I would plead for a disjunction of ministry and celibacy both with regard to the marriage of ministers and the admission of married people to ministry. In the light of recent experience, it would appear that this would be a more realistic policy for the future.
There is very little point in placing celibacy in opposition to marriage by posing the question “which of the two represents the greater or more noble aspect of Christian life?” By doing this, one would only postulate propositions that cannot be demonstrated. One cannot adopt this kind of generalization in the matter of celibacy. Nevertheless, experience testifies that celibacy can be lived in an adult and balanced manner by certain people because through the Spirit they have given it a precise meaning in their lives.
Some see celibacy as a means of being available for serving the world. Without any attachments, they are free to go wherever they are called. Others regard celibacy as a privation motivated by eschatology, i.e., by the fact that we are living in the ”not yet”—in the expectation of the return of the Lord. Again, others desire to remain celibate on account of a special relationship and consecration to the person of Christ. Some make the option because they desire to balance the tendency of giving an absolute character to marriage and sexuality. Others live out their celibacy as a means of directing themselves to the kingdom of God, to the values of another order. For these, celibacy is a way of making the contingent character of the world come into their lives. It is quite evident that these expressions of the meaning of celibacy, as well as the values that are being lived, can turn celibacy into a way of life that is rich and full of meaning for the apostolate.
There are also several possibilities regarding the specific form of celibacy itself. The first is the desire to observe this way of life in solitude. While some look for a strong, cohesive community in order to serve the world and kingdom of God, others seek more flexible communities where each one is open to the other in common prayer and reflection yet can develop individual, apostolic ministries. It is clearly important that celibate priests reflect profoundly on the variety of these forms with a view to finding new avenues. It is quite obvious that celibacy calls for a spiritual maturity, a free choice and the example of others who have lived it in an authentic manner. It is a charism that must be approached as a whole way of life, rather than a mere absence of marriage.
An objective observation on the past and present shows that the state of celibacy can be a most fruitful sign and a source of reflection for many who are called to ministry. Inasmuch as it also represents a special charism in the Church, celibacy can direct the faith of all toward God, the ultimate mystery that constitutes the profound sense of our being. It is our hope that present and future directions on priestly life and ministry will not be directed solely to the solution of problems, but to the needs that must accompany those who are trying to make their lives an authentic witness in view of the kingdom, and for those who are preparing themselves for such a choice.
The preceding paragraphs apply equally to men and women. They reflect on the common ministerial gifts spread among the Church. Some men and women exercise their charism principally through a close and continuous involvement in secular affairs. They are called to lay ministries. Other men and women are more attached to the Church, yet not so much in a sacramental way but as a way of manifesting the Church’s concern and service towards the poor and the deprived. These represent the traditional office of deacon(ess). A more sacramental role is undertaken by the priest. We have seen the priest exercise these liturgical functions, married or celibate. Each imparts its own quality to the priesthood.
All of the gifts, which are consecrated by the Church in lay ministry, diaconate or priesthood, as celibate or married person, can be possessed by women. Women, therefore, ought to be tested like men for church office, so that the apostolate will adequately meet all needs and reflect all gifts. Because this book investigates the specific role of women in future directions of priesthood, we turn now to examine their charism and call to office.
During the early days of Christianity, women exercised various forms of ministry and service. There were deaconesses, generally widows, who carried out various liturgical, pastoral and diaconal tasks. During the course of the centuries, many circumstances contributed toward bringing a different state of affairs to prevail where ministry became a masculine privilege. During the last few decades, however, there has been a marked change in the conception of human sexuality and the role of women on the basis of the behavorial sciences and experiences. Thomas More Newbold explored a number of these issues in chapter ten. The traditional pillars of culture—class and immutable social roles—are beginning to crumble. Different professions and social functions are now perceived differently as a result of the fact that they are being exercised in an enriched manner by both men and women. It would be most advantageous for the Church to accept these social advances and thus appeal to the responsibility of women.
The present situation of women in the Church is an ambiguous one. On the one hand, women exercise many important functions in the Church, while on the other, they are denied all official ministries, ordained and non-ordained. The time has come to seriously face this situation and to recognize the validity of ministry for women in the Church. The exigencies of the present time, both in the world at large and in many local churches, demand such a recognition.
There is a growing awareness of the equality of women in all spheres. The call experienced by many women to dedicate themselves to the service of others in various ministries has had serious repercussions on discussions regarding ministries in the Church. Women are full members of the Church. Discrimination against them, exclusively on the basis of sex, will deny to the Church the particular gifts and charisma of women. Aptitudes should be recognized by the Church, no matter who manifests them.
If a woman has the required qualities for ministry, she should be welcomed and accepted by the local community. Each local church should initiate a process of dialog and collaboration between men and women in ministry that will dissipate the fear of otherness, as well as inhibitions and resistance. Such a line of action will bring about an eventual aware ness of constructive confidence. The presence of women in a variety of ministries will also lead to new dimensions of team-ministry and to a progressive change in the self-image of the priest. The Church, particularly in its theological institutions, should gradually prepare for the change when women will take their rightful share in the ministry of the Church.
The incorporation of women in the ministerial service of the Church suggests at times sacred ordination as opportune. Many in the Church are aware of the weaknesses of the traditional theological objections to the ordination of women, particularly from the doctrinal and biblical levels. Moreover, there are indeed many psychological and sociological factors that have clouded the theological issue, and these dimensions must be given consideration, particularly in virtue of sociological conditions of time and place. Consequently, because of the convergence of so many factors involved, this book has endeavored to clarify the fundamental nature of the problem of ordaining women to priesthood. In the meanwhile, the admission of women to all of the other ministries has the backing both of theology and tradition.
There is no serious reasons to exclude women from any creative ministries, and in particular from the diaconate. There are women who have a specific charism for service to the Church, but not within the celibate community. At the present time, there is no alternate form of a recognized ministry available for them. If the diaconate were open to these women, whether married or single, it would enable them to express this particular charism fully and authentically in a new witness and service to the local and universal Church.
Finally, from an ecumenical point of view, we are brought face to face with the fact that ministry is a service that has been obscured by the rigidity that governs the man-woman relation in ecclesial ministry. Many Christian Churches have already recognized this fact. The Roman Catholic Church can hardly continue to reject as absolutely impossible something that is already becoming possible within Christianity. In the future, the Church must continue the dialog with the experience and experiments of women in ministries in other ecclesial communities. This is a matter that can brook no further delay.
Theological schools are at the heart of any endeavor to foster and facilitate new directions for future ministries. We turn our attention to their role and purpose. These institutions must be willing to recognize the fact that formation to ministry is no longer to be designed along the lines of a strictly uniform pattern. Theological schools should evaluate their present goals in the light of contemporary ministerial needs, and consequently provide an openness to specialization that will allow a diversity of programs both on the academic and pastoral levels, as well as in the formation of pastoral life-style. In this way, women would have access to training and formation programs for personal and spiritual development, as men generally have at the present time.
There is a real necessity to integrate formation efforts in any future preparation for men and women to ministry. This vision animating such a formation is one fostered by a unified spiritual leadership—a ministry richly diversified and embodied in a variety of concrete tasks and service. What, we ask, are some of the contemporary challenges facing theological schools during the post-conciliar period as a result of new directions of ministry? I would like to propose some challenges for your consideration. It will be evident that women as well as men would qualify. Therefore, our discourse from this point onward will generally not allude specifically to men or women.
The ecclesiology of Vatican II provided a model of ”the Church as mission” which is most integral to the question of theological formation to ministry. Vatican II viewed “Church” and “World” not as static categories. The Church exists in the world as the presence of God’s meaning for humankind, and is grounded in the ministry of Christ’s service for the life of the world. Jesus Christ came into the world as one who serves, to bring God’s love and salvation to men and women and to reconcile one another into a new humanity, freed from every type of alienation. This ministry of Christ to all that is human is continued by the Church. The Church, therefore, is turned to the world, and all members share and express their ministry to the world in a variety of ways.
Within this ecclesiology, the Church has a new vision of its relationship to the world. It is essentially mission in character. The mission is to bring the healing power of God to bear on all aspects of human life and the problems facing contemporary humanity. In order to foster this vision, theological schools must recognize that their service, like the Church’s, is essentially mission. Theology, even the most rigorous academic theology, is not simply preparation for ministry; it is mission itself. Therefore, to study theology is to engage in mission. This is why theological education hermetically sealed from the climate of modern technology and science, and the empirical outlook this has generated, could not possibly equip a man or woman for future ministry within the Church. Theological education does not simply provide a body of esoteric knowledge whereby the student is constituted a professional or an expert in order to hand out information at a lower level. The minister is not in relation to the people as doctors are in relation to their patients. For the most part, the laity are already on the mission in another form when the minister comes to them.
Men and women, preparing for ministry, must be made familiar with the climate of contemporary thinking and how committed Christians pursue the missionary task of the Church in their daily lives. Thus, while it is desirable that theological education take place in the context of the larger academic community, this must not be considered the sole context.
Pastoral field work, preferably in an urban situation, and under competent direction, should be incorporated into the very structure of theological education. This should take place before and during any intense theological training. It should be concerned specifically with the problems of modern life and how the Gospel can shed light on these issues. Above all, it should search out the theological and moral dimensions of social issues and problems. Thus, emphasizing that theological formation must not be isolated from modern thought and life, we are indicating also that the theological school is not the unique locus of theological education. Reflection on the relation of faith to experience is itself of the very structure of theological education.
In the preparation for ministry, a fundamental aim of the theological enterprise should be the inculcation of a true and profound sense of Christian identity. There is no such thing as purely academic truth in theology. Theology is a service of the Word of God, and as such, it is only a different modality from the proclamation of ”The Word.” There must always be a sustained attempt to penetrate into the meaning of the mystery revealed in Jesus Christ, which leads the student to grasp the workings of grace in his or her own life as well as within the world at large. Arising from this, the task of theology is to bring the great tradition of the Christian faith—biblical, historical and theological—to bear on the issues of the contemporary world. The study of theology is, therefore, a dialog between past and present, with a view to planning for the future.
In order to integrate this role of theology for men and women candidates to ministry, there is also a great desire and need for a new spirituality for the future. The old spiritualities are insufficient. The East has produced a spirituality that has tended to the extreme of spiritualism, which does not give serious consideration to the reality of the world, of work, of everyday life. Western culture has produced a materialistic ethos, which does not consider realistically the profound multileveled dimension of human existence. It cannot countenance transcendence. In practical terms this means the discovery of a way to find where God is in the loneliness of the modern city and in the expanse of rural existence. This task calls for sensitive and creative leaders, who look to the theological schools for information and formation.
In preparing for religious leadership, our theology of redemption and our theology of creation should sharpen our focus on personal qualities within men and women. Theology should hopefully touch and provoke a call to real spiritual leadership—a leadership to minister to people, to help them become aware of their gifts, and how they can serve the Kingdom.
Leadership is based on the fact that God has called us to do His work, and has given us whatever we need to respond effectively. He has invited us to join in His style of personhood, which is life-affirming and life-creating, active in this world and yet always reaching beyond it. The apostles became aware of their potential in being called by Christ. He made the Samaritan woman aware of who she was, aware of her poverty, but also of her potential. Jesus made her respond to Himself. To call one another to life in Christ Jesus—this is one of the most basic tasks of ministry. It means to help one another discover the real meaning of life so that each one may become the unique creature God created in a relation of love with all other creatures. It is a leadership that demonstrates the ministry of healing and compassion, and makes the forgiveness of the Father something visible and credible. At a point of time when so many people feel unaccepted and alienated from family, community and country, it becomes a ministry that gives special witness to the charism of unity, so conspicuous in the nature of the Roman Catholic Church and of its priesthood.
Leadership within this age of the Church has taught us a great deal about ecumenism—that all who call upon the name of the Lord constitute His presence in the world. It is of far greater significance than anything that divides us at the practical or theoretical levels. An ecumenical theology does not merely mean a deep knowledge of doctrinal differences. It develops a theology with emphasis on the principle that what unites the followers of Christ is greater than what divides them. The unity we have discovered to be present is not of our making—it has always been there. How this develops depends on all of us, but particularly on our religious leaders.
Ecumenical theology, moreover, must not be restricted to the Christian presence. It must include the wider religious dimensions represented by the great religions of the East. At a time when the presence of Christianity is more manifest on every continent, and is giving continued expression to our faith in relation to many non-Western traditions, theologians should emphasize the necessity of understanding the implications of world-pluralism in theology. Furthermore, since the fundamental issues which confront the world are global in scope and character, it is of the greatest importance that Christian Churches of diverse national, class and theological backgrounds find ways to listen and to learn from one another. In this way the future minister of the Church will be prepared theologically from a world perspective.
This book has scanned the entire Biblical-Christian history in order to discern how religous leadership emerges from the charisma of the spirit, scattered throughout the world in each distinct gift of life.
God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good. (Gen. 1:31)
Yes, we know that all creation groans and is in agony even until now. Not only that, but we ourselves, although we have the Spirit as first fruits, groan inwardly while we await the redemption of our bodies…. And hoping for what we cannot see means awaiting it with patient endurance. (Rom 8:22-25)
In this final chapter our eyes look to the future. We peered across the horizon for signals of things to come; these appeared in the many, unrecognized and “unordained” manifestations of human talents. Many of these have already advanced to professional careers in the secular arena, and yet Church authorities seem to stand back—hesitant, fearful, at times friendly but awkward, at other times suspicious and hostile.
We hear again the pagan Jethro saying to the great Moses:
You are not acting wisely…. You will surely wear yourself out, and not only yourself but also these people with you.
The task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me, and I will give you some advice, that God may be with you. (Ex. 18: 17-19)
Church leaders are guided by Pope St. Peter I in their response. Many in the Church, who had known the Lord Jesus during his earthly life, objected to Pope Peter: “You entered the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them” (Acts 11:3). In fact, Peter did more than that. He had given ”orders that . . . [without any further ado, the household of the gentile Cornelius] be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:48). Peter’s ultimate justifiction for breaking rank and doing what even the Lord Jesus had never done lay in the surprising charisma of the Spirit:
If God was giving them the same gift he gave us when we first believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to interfere with him. (Acts 11:17)
It took the early Church several, painful decades before the new mission to the gentiles was fully endorsed. St. Paul addressed this question in his major epistles to the Galatians and Romans. The Church explored tradition. It obeyed Jesus’ injunction:
Search the Scriptures
in which you think you have eternal life—
they also testify on my behalf.
This study, “like a dragnet thrown into the lake” of Biblical and Church life, has ”collected all sorts of things.” We are consoled by Jesus’ words that such is “the reign of God.” Such an abundant harvest raises all sorts of problems. We have too much, even of good things; so it seems anyway, as we vacillate what to do before the teeming charisma of the Spirit which the dragnet collected. The speculative line turns into personal tragedy, when it is made to read: we have too much, even of good people, especially of the female sex, as we look to future directions of priesthood.
Our problem was the early Church’s trauma as well. What were they to do about the gentiles, all those good people waiting to be summoned to Christianity and to Church leadership.
Then one night Paul had a vision. A man of Macedonia stood before him and invited him, ”Come over to Macedonia and help us. (Acts 16:9)
Our response ought to be the same as Paul’s:
We immediately made efforts to get across to Macedonia, concluding that God had summoned…. (Acts 16:10)
Yet, the struggle continued in the early Church, and so Matthew made a significant adaptation to Jesus’ parable about the dragnet. While Jesus concluded to the eschatological judgment, Matthew drew our attention back to the age of the Church:
Every scribe who is learned in the reign of God is like the head of a household who can bring forth from his storeroom both the new and the old. (Matt 13:52)
This book has dealt mostly with the old; the Church is always fearful, as it was even in apostolic times, to proceed in paths beyond those where the footprints—the norms—of Jesus were visibly present. While investigating the old, we spotted continual signals of the new. The Old was not seen as specific details restricting the movement of the Church but as models for the Church’s recognition of the Spirit now. Because of the old, the Church was continually bringing forth the new.
The Jew is always seen in visionary form. We, too, like Paul of Tarsus, ”had a vision.” In the final chapter we attempted to journey into the future directions of the priesthood. This path led us through the way of God’s creation where the Spirit is groaning for recognition. We proceeded from charismatic gifts to official Church recognition, from lay leadership to the ordained form of deacon and priest, from the charisma of celibacy and marriage, to their presence in men and women. We delayed over women and their future role in ministry and priesthood.
From the mind and hopes of women we can view the purpose and work of theological schools. Such a vision places expectations upon them. Theology becomes mission, not only to bring the Church’s healing to all aspects of life but to recognize the Spirit’s presence in the Macedonian as well as in the ”household of Cornelius.” A Christian identity is imparted to the transcended gifts of the Spirit and a new, rich, vibrant unity is achieved not only across the Church but throughout the world.
It must be unity in Christ Jesus. “Baptized into Christ,” wrote St. Paul, “all of you . . . have clothed yourselves with him. There does not exist among you Jew or Greek, slave or free person, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus . . . [and] descendants of Abraham” (Gal 3:2729)
As charisms unite in Jesus, they emerge in all the areas of leadership where Jesus speaks, forgives, rules, consecrates and calls home. The groanings of the Spirit of Jesus call us to dialog about the future directions of priesthood. Among the old and the new are the gifts of life, male and female, created together by God in the divine image. ” God found it very good” (Gen 1:31).
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