Responsive image
Nederlands/Vlaams Deutsch Francais English language Spanish language Portuguese language Catalan Chinese Czech Malayalam Finnish Igbo
Japanese Korean Romanian Malay language Norwegian Swedish Polish Swahili Chichewa Tagalog Urdu
An Agenda for Dialogue between Catholic Feminists and Church Authorities by John T. Finnegan from 'Sexism and Church Law' edited by James Coriden

An Agenda for Dialogue between Catholic Feminists and Church Authorities

by John T. Finnegan

from Sexism and Church Law
edited by James Coriden 1977, pp. 136-149.

published by Paulist Press, New York/Ramsey, N.J./Toronto
Republished on our website with the necessary permissions

The issue of women in the Church does not need another book. (1) There is in fact a surfeit of literature, and one cannot assimilate it all. There are many aspects of the matter that make it a particularly painful topic for the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. First, the American Catholic Church has been identified to the larger community through apostolates and enterprises chiefly staffed by women: the parochial schools, hospitals, orphanages, and other caritative agencies. Catholicism in the United States has given women opportunities to serve and leave a mark upon the institutions that shape Catholic values. (2) There is then a reserve of "women power" and a history of dedication and service that is seeking a new outlet of expression. Hardly a decision maker in the American Catholic Church — be he bishop, pastor or priest — has been untouched here, and in a very human way seek outlets to express esteem and gratitude. Another aspect of the issue on the role of women in the Church is the public nature of the question. In other areas of dissent between Catholic laity and the official teachers of the Church an informed conscientious decision can possibly be achieved which in the practical order would defuse the situation, at least personally. Not so, here. In James Carroll's book, Madonna Red, (3) Cardinal O'Brien listens to Sr. Dolores deny she ever attempted to celebrate Mass, and then the shrewd prelate produces an affidavit... the sworn testimony to the contrary. The external, public nature of this issue keeps pressure on Church authorities, and is reason to believe it will not go away.

The character of the discussion on women in the Church has taken the following form to date:

1. Authoritative statements which equivalently exclude the possibility of ordaining women. This approach distances itself from a genuine dialogue and seems to rest on the premise that a repetition of these statements will eventually suffice. (4)

2. A plethora of authoritative statements by the Church magisterium urging the full equality of women in the Catholic Church, and demanding women's inclusion in the decision making process of ecclesial life (excluding ordination, of course). (5) A delightful combination of events has led to the ignoring of these directives: women are going for the ultimate—ordination to the diaconate and the priesthood — and have not politicized around these other goals. (6) In addition, Church decision makers are content to see the question escalated to the ordination question because that is an affair over which they have no immediate authority, and it relieves them from changing the status quo. "Keep the issue focused on the unattainable, and we won't have to confront the vexing features of the attainable" . . . seems to be the latent, but real attitude.

3. The "Ordination Now" approach, and in the meantime, "act as if you are ordained." This posture recommends that women allow themselves to be chosen as community leaders and then preside at the eucharist, reconcile the sinner to the Church, etc. (7) Being sensitive to the pain women experience when they are in ministry and find themselves unable to perform tasks associated with Holy Orders is essential. However, disregard of the Catholic theology and practice of the selection and training and ordaining of priests, as well as Catholic sacramentology, can only have negative results. The fact that such a posture is being urged in some quarters should encourage Catholic leaders to insure competent theological training for women in ministry, and to involve women in the life of the Church to the limit of present ecclesiastical discipline.

4. The "Ordination Never" approach (8) is the posture of conservative theological weeklies and journals, and much of the national Catholic diocesan press. This position sees the women's movement as a cause and sign of the disruption of Catholic life and associates it with the breakdown of family values, the movement towards the acceptance of ERA, and the popularization of the abortion mentality. Whatever distortion is present here the women's movement has not taken such criticism seriously to its own detriment in Catholic circles. As the Bicentennial Catholic consultation in preparation for the Detroit Conference, October 21-23, 1976, proves, American Catholics are very much concerned with, and principally so, family values. (9) The American Catholic Church at the grass-roots is preoccupied with the protection and building up of family life. To the extent that feminist expectations appear to challenge these values, to that extent will "Ordination Never" flourish. (10) The irony of this attitude is that it faces-off with its companion, "Ordination Now," and peaks the argument at a level that intensifies discouragement and resentment. It may well be that the recent decision of the Episcopal Church of the United States to ordain women will for a time perpetuate this anxiety.

The following agenda item is being proposed to the Detroit Conference, "A Call to Action," previously referred to:

That the National Conference of Catholic Bishops working with the appropriate organizations of scholars, lay women, and religious women, and in consultation with women who feel called to the priesthood, sponsor an interpretive study of recent papal and episcopal statements on the subject of the ordination of women, and on the basis of that study and in the light of the needs of the American Church, offer clear leadership to the Catholic community by specifying their policies and plans on the subject of the ordination of women. (11)

The question arises: if the above proposal is accepted, what issues will be involved in this interpretive study? What arguments are used by the papal and episcopal documents, and can these arguments be stated in a way and manner that engages the other side? The magisterium is quite able to affirm that the issue is beyond study, and this seemed to be the approach of the Vatican Study Commission on Women and Society and in the Church. Having learned the lesson of the opinion shifts that can develop when issues are placed under study, the papal magisterium was always attentive to state the ordination of women was no part of the research of the Vatican Study Commission. It is unlikely then that either the Vatican or the Conference of Bishops will undertake a study that will create the opinion or impression of a present theological dubium. Since "current discussion of the issue has shown that traditional reasons for refusing the ordination of women are not universally acceptable," (12) and since the Pontifical Biblical Commission states:

It does not seem that the New Testament by itself alone will permit us to settle in a clear way once and for all the problem of the possible accession of women to the presbyterate. (13)

then it would seem appropriate for the magisterium to state its reasons in a more convincing manner. All the more so since the "Theological Reflections on the Ordination of Women" (14) published by the Bishops Committee on Pastoral Practice in 1972 outlines the traditional arguments and concludes by urging further study.

It seems evident that the magisterium will not be the sponsoring agent for the research into the possible ordination of women, (15) nor should it be. If what Avery Dulles states is true, that "magisterial statements . . . should ordinarily express what is already widely accepted in the Church. . . ." (16) then the role of the magisterium is to explain its own position and to encourage theological reflection.

It is my opinion that prolonged discussion on the women's ordination question is at the present time counterproductive and fruitless. The "Catholic typology" (17) is so different from Anglicanism, and the American Episcopal Church, that it cannot model itself on strategies peculiar to those churches. If that be the case, what is the agenda of the American Catholic community as it addresses itself to the issue of the role of women in the Church?

Issues in Dialogue with the Magisterium

The first issue is practical. How do we as Church go about the implementation of expressed magisterial goals regarding women in the Church? This includes equality before the law, (18) full participation in decision making functions of Church life with a view to modifying the present canonical understanding of "ecclesiastical office" and "jurisdiction," (19) and the opening up of professional theological and pastoral education to qualified women. There have been some notable developments in this latter area during the past five years. One cannot help but be impressed by laywomen who undertake theological education without the financial, spiritual and emotional supports of seminarians, or even religious women. Seminaries that enroll women are shifting from a self-understanding and concept of a traditional seminary or theological school to that of a Center for Ministerial Training, some of whose students will move on to the ordained ministry. This is frequently a painful realization and process for such schools. The Detroit Conference, "A Call to Action," previously referred to, proposes:

That affirmative action be taken by the NCCB and local Ordinaries to bring about participation of women in leadership and decision making at all levels, assure an equal status to women in Church agencies and provide professional theological and pastoral training for women in seminaries and other educational programs available for those involved in the work of the Church. (20)

Realistically and politically this is the first order of business. It is interesting to note that under the issue of "Justice in the Church," the forthcoming Detroit Conference calls for:

the Church (to) honor the right of the faithful to competent pastoral care by providing professional seminary training in light of current pastoral priorities and needs. For example, professional training should be provided for those lay, clerical and religious, who are to be assigned to special ministries required by diocesan pastoral plans; seminary training should be available to women preparing for the active ministry. . . (2I)

The gradualism that is already underway in the implementation of the above proposal will eventuate in the American Church having feminine models of pastoral care. Hence any future possibilities for ordination to the diaconate and priesthood will be enhanced by these new models for ministry. Certainly the almost exclusive male model for the ordained ministry has to be changed. The very sight of the irregularly ordained women priests of the Episcopal Church in roman collars is itself an indication that these new models for ministry have not been developed. This then is a task of Roman Catholicism, and in the meantime men and women working together in teams have opportunities to create an atmosphere of acceptance and trust. (22) It has been suggested that a variety of ministries should be developed for women, and that in some instances these be identified and authenticated and liturgically celebrated. (23) One wonders whether the role-free behavior evaluation of male and female life styles — so much in vogue today — would permit such a development.

A second agenda item for the American Catholic Church is the liturgy. Our Catholic liturgy is male-centered and offends Catholic men and women sensitive to the change of language current in American life . . . especially in newspapers, books and media. If Barbara Walters is the new anchorperson in the ABC nightly news, then surely statements like "Christ died for all mankind" will need some modification. As "homoousion" and "hypostasis" attest, words are important. The link between "lex orandi" and "lex credendi" is so essential that it is imperative that language changes be carefully chosen and theologically accurate. (24) Since such changes touch our basic understanding of God, Christ, Redemption ... it may well be that we are building up momentum for a future ecumenical council, dogmatic in nature, that will try to strike a Trinitarian and Christological balance as did the Council of Nicea (325), and the Council of Chalcedon(451). (25)

Protestant churches, unaccustomed to solving theological issues such as the ordination of women by the declarations of a centralized teaching office, or to being restrained by the weight of Tradition, have given the Catholic community some excellent contemporary literature on symbolism, sexual differentiation, the gender of Christ, suggested rules for the formation of new liturgical language, etc. The Scriptures are apt to be more of a problem for some Protestant traditions (e.g., Lutheran, Evangelical) than they would be for Catholics. Respect for the Word of God in Scripture sometimes prevents Protestants from changing simple terms like "men" to "men and women," or "brothers" to "brothers and sisters." Although this would not be true in all cases, the Catholic priest would most likely be uncomfortable in changing the consecratory formula from, "It will be shed for you and for all men" to "It will be shed for you and for ail men and women."

At the Faith and Order Commission meeting in Ghana, July 23 — August 5, 1974, it was decided to establish sixteen regional sub-committees in various areas of the world. These committees were to research such issues as: the Christian concept of God, symbols involving gender, the authority of Scripture with reference to cultural backgrounds of biblical writings, to their theological meaning, and to comparisons with present day cultural situations, the fullness of diakonia, the ministry of the whole People of God as it affects the relationship of men and women, language, imagery symbols of Scripture and the living traditions of the Church as they influence man-woman relations. These studies were made in preparation for the Fifth General Assembly of The World Council of Churches in Nairobi, November 1975. This research is available to Catholic scholars. Catholics do not have to "invent the wheel" on the revision of liturgical language and symbols, however, there will be the task of translating this learning to the practical problems that will be generated by Catholic attitudes and experience. As a member of one of the Faith and Order regional sub-committees (1974-1975), and at the same time participant in studies and research going on in Roman Catholic circles, I was amazed at the methodological differences and the differing agendas. (26) The Catholic approach researches the tradition, (27) focuses on the teachings of Vatican II, analyzes the current cultural and sociological situations, and then holds the official magisterium accountable in responding constructively to the pastoral needs of the present moment. (28) 1 would describe this as a methodology quite responsive to and compatible with the "Catholic typology." From the research of the WCC we have some excellent papers on bible translations (29) and biblical language as well as considerable experimentation with the liturgy of which a trend toward Marian liturgies played a significant part. The growing acceptance in literature and the media of the "McGraw-Hill Book Company Guidelines for the Equal Treatment of the Sexes" (30) will demand changes in our liturgical books and devotional habits. (31) The suggestion of the Conference, "A Call to Action" that

official Church documents, catechisms and liturgical books and rites be reviewed with sensitivity to language that could be offensive to persons, (32) will, if approved, be the beginning of a long journey. This issue of revision of language and symbol should receive immediate attention, and if we are to take our cues from other Christian churches, it will be painful. The very nature of the manner and style necessary to reform liturgical books for Roman Catholics . . . with approval from Rome . . . adds a difficulty factor that will be vexing, perhaps even irritating. However, it should begin in earnest, and it should be made public that it is underway.
Finally, there must be some way of treating the ordination question in stages; first, ordination to the diaconate, secondly, ordination to the priesthood and episcopacy. The diaconate for women may well be realizable in the near future. Research is being done on the role of women in the early Church when the deaconess was an integral part of Church life (33) It may well be that we have today something very close to the early Church deaconesses in the woman who is an "extraordinary minister" of the Eucharist, and who prays with, guides, directs and teaches a portion of the faithful. Insufficient attention has been given to the 1973 decree, "Immensae Caritatis" (34) which permits women to distribute the eucharist even within the liturgical ceremony of the Mass. (35) A convincing argument can be made that a contemporary woman can pastorally do all that her sister deaconesses could do in the early Church. It is the missio canonica, the dimension of being sent officially in the name of the Church, as well as the liturgical ordination ceremony, that is missing. It is my contention that the Catholic Church already has some sort of "deaconess" present and active in ministry. What is now awaited is the authentication of this by the official Church, a canonical mission in the name of the Church, and an ordination ceremony. Some research has yet to be done to compare the duties and responsibilities of today's deacon with the deacons and deaconesses of the early Church. A redevelopment of the deaconess today may make her a sister of her early Church antecedents, however, it would not necessarily prove from the historical argument that she could perform the same duties as todays deacon.
In regard to the ordination of women to the priesthood, I suggest a moratorium on certain types of writing — all good in themselves — but essentially counter-productive. A type of theological and historical evaluation of the present Catholic position that makes it appear discredited and backward is not helpful. (36) The Catholic treatment of the issue at present has to be "de-Westernized." Why is it that the Bilateral Consultations between Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches of the West declare the issue an open question, or even, "the ordination of women must come to be a part of the Church's life," (37) and yet when dealing with Eastern Orthodoxy, the Bilateral Consultations reaffirm a negative position? It would be unwise of the Pope to take a stand in such a climate. Even the
World Council of Churches has had to always preface its arguments regarding women's ordination to priesthood with: "those member Churches who agree in principle to the ordination of women to the priesthood." (38) The Association of Theological Schools uses similar language when dealing with its constituency. There are serious scholars and segments of the Church who maintain that there are valid theological issues involved in the ordination of women. These theological questions cannot be dismissed. (39) The theological issues have been identified (40) by recent papal statements and those of the President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops as;
1. "If women did not receive the call to the Apostolate of the Twelve, and therefore to the ordained ministry; nevertheless, they are called to follow Christ as disciples and co-workers . . . We cannot change the behavior of the Lord . . ." Pope Paul VI, April 18, I975. (41)
2. The points that surfaced in the exchange of letters between Pope Paul VI and the Archbishop of Canterbury:

a. Letter of Pope Paul VI — Nov. 30, 1975

  • —the example recorded in Scripture of Christ choosing His Apostles from men
  • —the constant practice of the Church which has imitated Christ in choosing only men
  • —the living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accord with God's plan for His Church

b. Letter of Archbishop Coggan— Feb. 10, 1976

  • —sometimes what seems to one tradition to be a genuine expression of ... diversity in unity will appear to another tradition to go beyond the bounds of legitimacy. (42)

3. "It is not correct to say that no serious theological obstacle stands in the way of ordaining women to the priesthood." Statement of Archbishop Bernardin, Oct. 7, 1975. (43)

4. "The constant tradition and practice of the Catholic Church against the ordination of women ... is of divine law , . . constitutes a clear teaching of the ordinary magisterium . . . this is Catholic doctrine." Statement of Archbishop Bernardin, Oct. 7, 1975. (44)

5. Whether canon 968 of the present Code of Canon Law requiring a baptized male as necessary for the validity of Orders is a doctrinal or disciplinary canon is disputed. It is clear that the official statements of the magisterium indicate that it is a juridicized doctrine of the Church. (45)

The ecclesiastical polity of the Roman Catholic Church does not permit an issue of such magnitude to be settled at the local or national level. This means that each area of the universal Church must treat aspects of the issue that it would ordinarily for cultural and historical reasons overlook, put to one side, or consider insignificant and irrelevant. For the American Catholic Church this means we cannot pass over or dismiss arguments as readily, for example, as the Episcopal Church. (46)


The American Catholic Church has to be pragmatic and practical. This is not difficult because it corresponds to national character. As this feature of our American culture applies itself to the issue of ordination of women, it will mean:

A much greater effort to seek after what is attainable and to stop using the ordination issue as a means of raising the consciousness of American women. The irony is that what is suggested, even required, in official Church documents is allowed to be disregarded because of the ordination question. A de-escalation on the ordination question and a focus on the prior pastoral-canonical changes will serve as a basis for future theological developments in regard to the ordination of women.

A serious effort should be made to re-establish the office of deaconess.

Liturgical and catechetical language changes should be made which will permit our teaching and prayer life to speak to people in words and symbols that touch the human heart and experience.

The theological discussion should be de-westernized and a serious effort made by Roman Catholic scholarship to mediate the differences in its own Bilateral Consultations with Protestants and Orthodox.

In conclusion, advocates for change on this issue concerning the ordination of women have to be ready for a lengthy struggle. They must have the spiritual resources for a long, yet fruitful, interim period of slow change characterized by dialogue, courage and patience. On the journey we might just purify ourselves and the Church of Christ.


1. Cf. Appendix B- "A Selected Bibliography (1965-1975)" in Women and Catholic Priesthood: An Expanded Vision, ed. by Anne Marie Gardiner, S.S.N.D. (New York: Paulist Press, 1976), pp. 199-208. Also, "Women and Religion: A Survey of Significant Literature (1965-1974)", Anne E. Patrick, Theological Studies, Dec, 1975 (vol. 36 no. 4), pp. 737-765.

2. Langdon Gilkey, Catholicism Faces Modernity (New York: Sea-bury Press, 1975). This work is excellent in identifying the distinctive features of the Roman Catholic tradition. A shorter version of Gilkey's thesis is in, Proceedings of the Catholic Theological Society of America —29th Annual Convention, vol. 29, pp. 323-330.

3. James Carroll, Madonna Red (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1976).

4. Pope Paul VI, Statement of April 18, 1975 to the Committee Studying the Church's response to the International Women's Year. Cf., Origins, May I, 1975, pp. 718-719; Correspondence of Pope Paul VI with Archbishop Coggan of Canterbury— reprinted in Origins, Aug. 12, 1976, pp. 129-132; Statement of Archbishop Bernardin of October 7, 1975, pp. 257-260. This is also published in, Women and Catholic Priesthood . . . op. cit.,pp. 193-198.

5. For a short summary of these statements, cf., "Le Feminisme, Les Femmes et L'Avenir de L'Eglise," Pro Mundi Vita, 56/1975, p. 18; Vatican Study Commission on Women in Society and in the Church— Study Kit — (1975), U. S. C. C. Publications Office; "We must . . . address ourselves seriously to the question of women in the Church" — Archbishop Bernardin Statement, op. cit.; Report of NCCB Committee on Women and Society and the Church, printed in Origins, June 24, 1976, pp. 69-74; Committee Report to NCCB by Bishop McAuliffe's Special Study Group, Origins, Dec. 11, 1975, pp. 396-400; A frequent theme in alt the papal and episcopal statements is the full integration of women in society and the Church.

6. An oversight in the publication of, Women and Catholic Priesthood, op. cit. Proceedings of the Detroit Ordination Conference, Nov. 28-30, 1975, was the exclusion of Majorie Tuite's, O.P. talk on strategy and goals. An eminently sensible moment in the Detroit Ordination Conference was not included in the record.

7. Cf., Rosemary R. Ruether, "Ordination: What is the Problem?" in Women and Catholic Priesthood, op. cit., pp. 30-34. Some sample opinions of the author are; "Any Christian community gathering together with the intention of being the Church of Christ has the power to celebrate the Lord's Supper as an expression of their common life; that community has the power to designate particular persons to represent it in sacramental actions of the Church to itself, and to pastor the community." Also, "when a brother or sister confesses to us, we already have the power to forgive. When two or three gather together in Christ's name, we already have the fullness of the eucharist."

The distance of these opinions from the traditional Catholic doctrine of priesthood and sacraments is obvious. R. P. McBrien in the same work is critical of the Catholic women's movement for the failure to monitor its own ranks concerning its more extreme positions — cf., "Women's Ordination: Effective Symbol of the Church's Struggle," pp. 89-93.

8. A sample of these negative opinions is; Vincent P. Miceli, "Women and the Priesthood," Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Aug.-Sept., 1976, pp. 28-32.

9. Cf. Agenda document, "Family" in the U.S. Bishops' Conference, "A Call to Action," which will meet in Detroit, Oct. 21-23, 1976. A sample section of this document reads:

One of the areas of concern noted most frequently in the Bicentennial Consultations was family life; one of the actions most often suggested was that the Church should support family life. (Page 6)

10. The Bicentennial Consultations in preparation for the U.S. Bishops' Conference meeting, "A Call to Action," in Detroit, Oct. 21-23, 1976, was instructive on this point. Recommendations to the Detroit meeting had to be based on data surfaced in the nation-wide consultation. While the position of the feminists was ably presented, the grass-roots reaction was hesitant and cautious on the ordination issue. For this reason the recommendations, while politically sound, will not please some because the issue of women's ordination is not advocated. The report calls for further study. Cf., Document on "Church," p. 20, Recommendation II. 2.

11. Ibid.

12. Symposium of Roman Catholic-Anglican theologians, June 22-25, 1975, Cincinnati, Ohio. Cf., Origins, July 17, !975, p. 100 for complete statement.

13. Origins, July I, 1976, pp. 92-96.

14. Pamphlet published by U.S.C.C. Publications Office, 1312 Mass. Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005.

15. I would interpret the proposal of the forthcoming Detroit Conference as not suggesting the NCCB sponsor research into the pro-con of the women's ordination question, but rather an engaging and understandable explanation of magisterial statements already made. To the extent that St. Augustine's dictum is true; "God speaks to people in the way people speak to themselves," then these papal-episcopal statements are inadequate and unsettling.

16. "What is Magisterium?", Catholic Theological Society Presidential Address, by Avery Dulles, S.J., June 12, 1976—reprinted in Origins, July 1,1976, pp. 81-88.

17. For reflections on "Catholic Typology," cf. talk by Jan Cardinal Willebrands at Cambridge University, England, January 18, 1970 — An excerpt quoted in, "Papal Primacy and the Universal Church" — Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue V (Minneapolis: Augsburg Press, 1974), pp. 215-218. For view into what might be called the "Protestant Typology," cf., John E. Lynch, C.S.P., "The Ordination of Women: Protestant Experience in Ecumenical Perspective," Journal of Ecumenical Studies 12 (1974), pp. 173-195.

18. Lucy Vasquez, O.P., "The Position of Women According to the Code," The Jurist 34 9 (1974), pp. 128-142: Clara Henning, "Canon Law and the Battle of the Sexes," in Religion and Sexism — ed. by Rosemary R. Ruether (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1974), pp. 267-291. Also, cf., Joan Range, "Legal Exclusion of Women from Church Office," The Jurist 34(1974),pp. 112-127.

19. "Women in Canon Law"— CLSA Report — cf.. Origins, October 16, 1975, pp. 260-264. The issue here is the revision of canons 108-110; 145; 196-210. The present Code permits ordinary jurisdiction and ecclesiastical office only to male clerics. For some further reflection here, cf., Haye van der Meer, S.J., Women Priests in the Catholic Church? (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1973), Chapter V, "Theological Speculations — The Power of Jurisdiction," pp. 106-127; "Canonical Reflections on Priestly Life and Ministry," American Ecclesiastical Review, June 1972, pp. 363-392; James A. Coriden, "Ministries for the Future," Studia Canonica (vol. 8 no. 2), 1974, pp. 255-276.

20. Proposed Statement on the "Church," Recommendation II, 3, page 20.

21. Proposed Statement on "Church," Recommendation I, 5, page 18.

22. A glimpse of what this would involve is suggested in, "Women's Liberation/Men's Liberation," Margaret Brennan, I.H.M., Origins, July 17. 1975, pp. 97-105.

23. Originally proposed by the Colloquium on Women in Ministry, Siena Heights College, Adrian, Michigan, July 30-August 3, 1973, in a Report submitted to the NCCB. (unpublished) Also, suggested in the Bicentennial Conference, "A Call to Action," October 21-23, 1976, proposed statement on the "Church"; "That ministries presently being performed by women in the Church be identified, and where appropriate, formally authenticated, and that the ministries be reviewed to insure that women involved have the opportunities for training and the authority and responsibility they need to perform this work effectively." Cf., Recommendation II, 5, page 21.

24. Stanley Marrow, S.J., "God the Father in the New Testament (unpublished manuscript), March 1975. The author, whose paper was submitted to a sub-committee preparing for the World Council of Churches meeting, Nairobi, Kenya, November 1975, takes a strong position on the validity of the word, "Father," as pertaining to God. -

25. Cf., John R. Sheets, S.J., "The Ordination of Women," Communio, Spring 1976, pp. 3-15. The author suggests that the ordination of women question cannot be resolved without a dogmatic statement by the Church.

26. For the report of the Fifth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, November 1975, cf., Breaking Barriers — the official Assembly Report, Nov. 23-Dec. 10, 1975 — ed. by David M. Paton (London/New York: SPCK/Erdmans, 1976). Cf. p. 114 where it states, "those member Churches which do ordain women and those which do not continue dialogue with each other and with non-member Churches about the full participation of women in the full life of the Church including ordained ministries, according to the measure of their gifts. Faith and Order's reflections are contained in the pamphlet, One Baptism One Eucharist and a Mutually Recognized Ministry (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1975), "The Ministry," pp. 29-57.

27. George H. Tavard, Women in Christian Tradition (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1973). For some negative reactions to the tradition, cf., Des Femmes Accusent L'Eglise— Les Cahiers du Grif— #8 (September 1975), passim. Also, "Sex and Anti-Sex in the Early Church Fathers," Donald F. Winslow— and — "Male and Female in the Christian Tradition: Was There a Reformation in the Sixteenth Century?", Eleanor L. McLaughlin in Male and Female, ed. by Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse and Urban T. Holmes, III (New York: Seabury Press, 1976), pp. 28-38; 39-52.

28. The writings of Elizabeth Carroll, R.S.M. are typical of this approach. Cf. her study, "Women and Ministry," Theological Studies, Dec. 1975 (vol. 36 no. 4), pp. 660-687.

29. In the sub-committee which convened in the Boston area scholarly papers were presented by Dieter Georgi and Gordon Kaufman and Paul Hanson of the Harvard Divinity School. For a light and pleasant description of the problem, cf., "Games Bible Translators Play," private paper by Ruth Hoppin, 15 Portola Ave., Daly City, California. 94015.

30. Available at the McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10020. Also, from the Task Force on Women in the Church and Society, United Church of Christ, 297 Park Avenue South, New York, N.Y. 10010.

31. Cf. Liturgy far All the People, Box 592, Hyattsville, Md., 20782 (Price: $1.00). This booklet is published by the Baltimore Task Force on the Status of Women in the Church and modifies the Catholic Mass rite-including the four canons — in a manner that is judged sensitive to Catholic feminists. This work indicates the International Committee for English in the Liturgy (ICEL) will have a new agenda. Much could be learned from the recent efforts of the Episcopal Church to revise the Book of Common Prayer.

32. From, "A Call to Action" — U.S. Bishops Conference — Detroit meeting, October 21-23, 1976. Cf. Statement on "Church," Recommendation II, 4, page 20-21.

33. E.g., Agnes Cunningham, "The Role of Women in Ecclesial Ministry: Biblical and Patristic Foundations" (U.S.C.C. Publications, 1976).

34. "Immensae Caritatis," Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments, January 29, 1973. Cf. Study Text #1—Holy Communion— Bishops Committee on the Liturgy— (U.S.C.C. Publications, 1973).

35. Jean Laporte, "Women's Ministry in the Early Church" —unpublished—Presented at the Colloquium on Women in Ministry, Siena Heights College, Adrian, Michigan, July 30-August 3, 1973.

36. A suggested example of the "counter-productive" method is, Hans Kung, "Feminism: A New Reformation— A Dissident Catholic Nails his Theses for the Liberation of Women to the Church Door," New York Times (Magazine Section), May 23, 1976.

37. Proceedings of the Catholic Theological Society of America— 27th Annual Convention, September 1972, p. 204.

38. Breaking Barriers — Nairobi 1975 — op. cit., passim; and especially pp. 98, 113-115,309-311.

39. Cf. Joseph A. Komonchak, in "Theological Questions on the Ordination of Women," Women and Catholic Priesthood . . . , op. cit., Appendix E, pp. 241-259. This is a fine article and wrestles responsibly with the argument, however, it may well be a case of "he who proves too much proves nothing." Those who believe there is a theological argument against the ordination of women should be haunted by his words: "the defenders of the tradition . . . must defend it; it is not enough to repeat it, nor is it reasonable to require an unthinking deference to it." p. 257.

40. Some other descriptions of the theological issues involved are; Rt. Rev. Arthur A. Vogel, "The Ordination of Women: Issues in the Debate," Ecumenical Trends, September 1976, pp. 113-119; Cunningham, "The Role of Women in Ecclesial Ministry . . .", op. cit., pp. 21-22; Sheets, "The Ordination of Women," op. cit.; "Theological Reflections on the Ordination of Women," NCCB, 1972.

41. Origins, May 1, 1975, p. 719.

42. Origins. August 12, 1976, p. 131.

43. Origins, October 16, 1975, p. 257, 259-260.

44. Ibid. In a news conference, Archbishop Bernardin said the issue remains open for discussion and research. Cf., Women in Catholic Priesthood . . . , op. cit., pp. 197-198.

45. "Theological Reflections on the Ordination of Women," NCCB (1972) implies that canon 968 is doctrinal.

46. As Vogel does in, "The Ordination of Women: Issues in the Debate," op. cit.

Contents Page of book Support our campaign Sitemap Contemporary theologians Join Campaign activities Go back to home page

Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

Visit also our websites:Women Deacons, The Body is Sacred and Mystery and Beyond.

You are welcome to use our material. However: maintaining this site costs money. We are a Charity and work mainly with volunteers, but we find it difficult to pay our overheads.

Visitors to our website since January 2014.
Pop-up names are online now.

The number is indicative, but incomplete. For full details click on cross icon at bottom right.

Join our Women Priests' Mailing List
for occasional newsletters:
An email will be immediately sent to you
requesting your confirmation.