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The Non-ordination of Women: Tradition or Simply an Historical Fact?

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Traditio perpetuo servata?

The Non-ordination of Women:
Tradition or Simply an Historical Fact?

Hervé Legrand
Worship 65 (November, 1991): 482-508.

Herve Legrand, a French Dominican, teaches theology at the Insitut Catholique in Paris. Translated from the French original, this article was originally published in Rituels: Melanges offerts au Pere Gy O.P. (Paris: Cerf 1990) 393-416.

The Catholic Church has never ordained women either to the priesthood or to the episcopacy. No one would contest that. But what degree of theological weight should we give to such a fact? In other words, does the unchanged custom of the church since apostolic times until the present constitute “Tradition” in the strong sense of the word and, therefore, the revelation of the will of God for the church?

If it were possible to identify the history of the church with Tradition, our response should be yes. But everyone knows that such an identification is opposed to the teaching of the church which says that revelation closed with the death of the last apostle.(1) The non-ordination of women is part of the Tradition only if such a tradition has a foundation in Scripture itself or, at least, in the apostolic period. One must be able to connect it to the will of Christ which would be known, at the very least, by these two means.(2) Further investigation is required of the Catholic theologian. The teaching of the church has not yet settled this question in a definitive manner. We will establish this in the first part of this essay.

Having settled the question of whether or not an authoritative teaching of the church exists, we will consider the question of the ordination of women to the pastoral office. By pastoral office, we understand both the presbyterate and the episcopate. Even though it is important, we will not consider the ordination of women to the diaconate. And this for two reasons. First, such an ordination remains an open question in the Catholic Church, as is recognized in the commentary on Inter Insigniores, drafted at the request of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Second, because it is obviously the opening of the pastoral office to women which is the cause of growing disagreement. Therefore, this question must be discussed first.

The terms of the debate, already familiar in theological circles, entail, it seems, the following essential points which will also serve as sections for this essay:

* Does the practice of Jesus and of the apostolic church contain indications excluding women from exercising the pastoral office?

* Supposing that Christ made no pronouncements on the matter: can we glean from Scripture an anthropology of women and of men which would indicate that women could not exercise the pastoral office without betraying the order of creation and, therefore, that God-given vocation which is proper to them?

* Finally, according to the apostolic Tradition, is there a theological content to the pastoral office which, if exercised by women, would make vain its fundamental meaning?

It is not only the pressure coming from the ecumenical dialogue which should impel the Catholic theologian to take up these questions, but the discussion which is taking place in his or her own church. Obviously, whatever one’s particular religious affiliation, a theologian, even a specialist, cannot possibly master every discipline or, even less, the necessary data, to clarify such a broad debate. Not only must one have recourse to exegesis, fundamental theology and systematic theology, but to the broad range of human sciences (all aspects of history, sociology, psychology,(3) and so on) as well. Intellectual integrity forces me to admit my own limitations. It also obliges me to limit myself to a part of the debate: that of raising some methodological questions in the hope of seeing more clearly how the question is to be asked and by what criteria our answers should correspond.

Current Catholic Teaching on the Ordination of Women to the Pastoral Office and its Degree of authority

Since the beginning of the 1970’s, church authorities were lead to confirm the custom of not ordaining women to the pastoral office and to reaffirm the merits of such a custom. This was done indirectly in the Apostolic Letter Ministeria Quaedam of 15 August which suppressed the minor orders and established the ministries of lector and acolyte for future clerics.(4) While these ministries were also open to laymen, laywomen were explicitly forbidden to receive them. However, Catholic women often exercised, in fact, the ministry of lector at Sunday Masses, and continue to do so. We should see in this fact that, until now, the Holy See does not want to encourage the admission of women to any kind of liturgical office whatever. The publication in 1976 of The Declaration on the Question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith represents, on the other hand, a direct stand on the question: the first time in history that this was done in such an explicit manner.(5) This document remains the document of reference. Indeed, canon lO24 of the new Code of Canon Law which has appeared since then, has done nothing more than repeat, literally, canon 968 #1 of the code of 1917. In his letter to Archbishop Runcie (20 December 1984), Pope John Paul II refers briefly to Inter Insigniores .(6) Again, in his Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (1 October 1988) in which he mentions only in passing the ordination of women, the pope gives “an explanation which confirms the declaration Inter Insigniores” by a brief remark made at the end of no.16 on the subject of the priest acting in persona Christi (7)

Futhermore Cardinal Willebrands, in his letter to Archbishop Runcie of 17 February 1986, also makes reference to Inter Insigniores; hence one can certainly conclude that no Catholic theologian can ignore it. For our purpose, it is especially important to make clear the doctrinal content of this declaration and the degree of canonical authority of its teaching.

Doctrinal Authority of Inter Insignores.(8)

The first aim of the declaration is to confirm the existing norm: “The church, faithful to the example of her Lord, does not consider itself authorized to admit women to orders and considers it appropriate to explain the reasons for this decision” (I. I., Intr.).

To lay the foundation of this norm, the congregation bases itself on arguments of differing value. The first is that “the church has never admitted that women could validly be ordained either to the presbyterate or to the episcopacy” (I. I., 1); “this has been the universal practice both in the Western Church and in the Eastern Church” (I. I., 4). Even if in the area of sacraments, one does not deny the church “the power to prescribe or modify whatever would be most suitable for different times and different places” (1. I., 4), “in the final analysis, it is the church, speaking through the magisterium, which, in a variety of circumstances, discerns between what can change and what must remain immutable” (ibid.). In the case in point, “this practice of the church carries with it a normative character . . . this norm, relying on the example of Christ, is followed because it is considered as conforming to the design of God for his Church” (ibid.).

How is such a judgment arrived at? The declaration recognizes that “whatever can be said (concerning Christ’s attitude) does not provide us with direct evidence . . . because exegesis of a purely historical kind is not sufficient” (I. I., 2).

In short, it is the tradition which allows us to see a norm in the fact that women have never been ordained to pastoral offices, and this fact is connected with the example of Christ who never comrnissioned women in the same way that he commissioned the Twelve.

It is on this point, and on this point only, that the congregation exercises its authority. As we read in the official commentary: “It is proper to notice the clear division which the declaration makes between affirming the data (the teaching proposed with authority in nos. 1-4) and the theological reflection which follows, by which the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith seeks to shed light on this rule by showing its fittingness .This does not involve the magisterium (emphasis ours).

Neither does the congregation involve the magisterium of the church in any kind of argument concerning symbolism, not even when this concerns the priest acting in persona Christi capitis during the celebration of the eucharist. Most commentators have not paid sufficient enough attention to this statement of the congregation. This is unfortunate because the congregation does give validity to such symbolic arguments but considers such a task to be the work of theologians and does not wish to involve itself in it, even in a minor fashion.

The doctrinal authority of the declaration, Inter Insigniores made a decision on one point only, The church does not feel authorized to ordain women to the pastoral office for the simple reason that this has never been done. She sees in this fact a norm which reflects Christ’s own attitude. But what is the doctrinal authority of such a statement? Inter Insigniores is not a papal declaration. Canonically speaking, it comes from a Roman congregation and is not, therefore, an irrevocable decision. Certainly, it was approved by the pope. And he can, as we know, approve a document “in forma specifica”—which gives it much greater weight—or simply “in forma communi,” which is the case when no other precision is given. This is the status of Inter Insigniores.

Every professional theologian must recognize the great care which went into writing Inter Insigniores. It certainly does not then merit the sometimes violent criticisms it has received. In spite of the fact that its teaching has been affirmed as Catholic doctrine, the non-ordination of women to the priesthood is declared to be normative only with minor authority. All the same, it would be imprudent to conclude from this that this norm would be modified in the foreseeable future, if ever.

For the time being, the intentions of the Holy See are clear: under no circumstances does it favor an open debate on this topic in the church. At the same time, it does not forbid theologians to engage in further scientific inquiry. Far from it. The document states the wish that more light be shed on the more symbolic aspects of the question.

Having verified that no definitive teaching has been made on this subject, we can now proceed to discuss the three points announced at the beginning of this paper. They represent a verification, and a legitimate one, of a prior concern: does the norm excluding women from ordination represent a revealed Tradition? Or is it, more modestly, simply an historical fact?

Does the Practice of Jesus and of the Apsotolic Church Exclude Women from the Pastoral Office?

Here we will distinguish Jesus’ conduct with respect to women from that of the apostolic church. Thus, we will be better able to discern whether or not the apostolic church was faithful to the example of Christ when it permitted or forbade women to exercise ministries in the church.

Jesus’ attitude with respect to women: what weight should be given to the absence of women among the Twelve? The declaration Inter Insigniores clearly expresses the consensus of exegetes and Catholic theologians when it describes the following attitude of Jesus toward women: “To the great astonishment of his own disciples Jesus converses publicly with the Samaritan woman (cf. Jn 4:27); he takes no notice of the state of impurity of the woman who had suffered from hemorrhages (cf. Mt 9:20-22); he allows a sinful woman to approach him in the house of Simon the Pharisee (cf. Lk 7:37ff); and by pardoning the woman taken in adultery, he means to show that one must not be more severe toward the fault of a woman than toward that of a man (cf. 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 (cf. Mk 10:2-11 Mt 19:3-9).

“In his itinerant ministry Jesus was accompanied not only by the Twelve but also by a group of women: ‘Mary, surnamed the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and several others who provided for them out of their own resources’ (Lk 8:2-3). Contrary to the Jewish mentality, which did not accord great value to the testimony of women, as Jewish law attests, it was nevertheless women who were the first to have the privilege of seeing the risen Lord, and it was they who were charged by Jesus to take the first paschal message to the Apostles themselves (cf. Mt 18:7-10; Lk 24:9-10; Jn 20:11-18), in order to prepare the latter to become the official witnesses to the Resurrection” (I. I., 2).

Focusing on the conspicuous contrast between Jesus’ attitude toward women and that of his milieu (a voluntary and courageous attitude, it is noted), Inter Insigniores highlights that the fact, for Jesus, to have never called upon any woman to be a part of the Twelve, has nothing whatever to do with a conformity to the times in which he was living. Concerning Jesus’ own attitude, then, this is an essential point to keep in mind.

Here the exegetes do not hesitate to bring up a question of method. They make the following point: that the composition of the Twelve, as far as can be known historically, could not be governed by the question of the place of women in the subsequent ministry of the Church. It would be unwarranted to interpret such an act from this perspective. Rather, it must be interpreted from its symbolic importance, that is, as an eschatological warning by Jesus for all of Israel. In the time of Jesus, there were only two and a half tribes; in the eschatological time, the fullness of unity would be achieved. Consequently, by choosing twelve men, Jesus announces that the eschatological time is approaching, that he comes to gather together all Israel (that is, the Twelve Tribes) and that all people will be judged by his word. Thus the Twelve will act as eschatological judges, as the twelve sons of Jacob (cf. Mt l9:Z8). The significance of such a gesture would have been severely compromised if Jesus had included women or a Samaritan in the group.(9)

If we understand the institution of the Twelve from this perspective, it would be equally as artificial to see a connection between this fact and the fact that neither Jesus nor those gathered in the upper room (Acts 1:15-26) made Mary a part of the Twelve. The presence of a woman in this group would simply have made no sense. Equally without pertinence would be to wonder whether Jesus paid heed to or ignored the prejudices of his time by not including women in the group.

A second point made by exegetes runs in the same direction: when Luke historicizes the eschatological and symbolic function of the Twelve, he limits their mission to Israel where they are seen as the trustees of a mandate received from Jesus. As soon as the pagans begin entering the church, the Twelve disappear from history. Thus, James, the son of Zebedee, is not replaced after his death (Acts 12:lff).(l0)

We are now ready to make an observation on the basis of a valid methodology. From the absence of women from the Twelve, we can draw no valid conclusions about Jesus’ intentions concerning the presence of or the absence of women from the exercise of ministries in the church.

In order to trace back to Jesus’ intentions concerning ministry, it is important to verify if the apostolic communities themselves refer back to his example when conferring or denying the exercise of ministries to women.

The Attitude of the Apostolic Churches with Respect to the Admission of women to Ministry.

Everyone agrees that Jesus’ attitude toward women was liberating. This fact, and others, allow us to see that in Jesus’ eyes men and women are equal partners in humanity and in the economy of salvation. While in Judaism, circumcision of the male is the sign of the covenant between God and God’s people, entrance in the church is achieved by baptism, for both men and women. This is a considerable change, and one that was clearly reflected upon. Paul, for example, in Galatians 3:27-28, proclaims the end of all of those divisions found in the old order: “All of you who have been baptized into Christ have been clothed with him. There does not exist among you Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus.”

Was Paul’s perception effectively put into practice by the apostolic church? Do we find, for example, a sharing of ministerial responsibilities in these communities? Certain indications would have us respond affirmatively when we are dealing with Pauline communities, and negatively when we are dealing with deuteropauline communities. Why this difference? By adopting the socalled “household codes,” the church was adapting itself to its cultural environment.

We are now ready to make an observation on the basis of a valid methodology. From the absence of women from the Twelve, we can draw no valid conclusions about Jesus’ intentions concerning the presence of or the absence of women from the exercise of ministries in the church.

In order to trace back to Jesus’ intentions concerning ministry, it is important to verify if the apostolic communities themselves refer back to his example when conferring or denying the exercise of ministries to women

Everyone agrees that Jesus’ attitude toward women was liberating. This fact, and others, allow us to see that in Jesus’ eyes men and women are equal partners in humanity and in the economy of salvation. While in Judaism, circumcision of the male is the sign of the covenant between God and his people, entrance in the church is achieved by baptism, for both men and women. This is a considerable change, and one that was clearly reflected upon. Paul, for example, in Galatians 3:27-28, proclaims the end of all of those divisions found in the old order: “All of you who have been baptized into Christ have clothed with him. There does not exist among you Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus.”

Was Paul’s perception effectivly put into practice by the apostolic church? Do we find, for example, a sharing of ministerial responsibilities in these communities? Certain indications would have us respond affirmatively when we are dealing with Pauline communities, and negatively when we are dealing with deutero pauline communities. Why this difference? By adopting the socalled “household codes,” the church was adapting itself to its cultural environment.

The Pauline communities acknowledge ministerial responsibilities for women. Recall Prisca and Aquila, that couple so close to Paul, and called by him “my fellow workers in the service of Christ” (Rom 16:3), and who worked closely with him at Corinth and Ephesus (cf. Acts 18:26); recall also Evodia and Syntyche, active at Philippi (cf. Phil 4:2). Phoebe is called diaconos (the masculine form of the noun) and prostatis at Cenchreae. Junias, along with her husband Andronicus, is called “outstanding apostle in the Lord” (Rom 16:7).(11) Mary, Tryphaena, Tryphosa and Persis are called missionaries (Rom 16:6, 12). Certain women allowed their homes to become domestic churches, like Phoebe at Cenchreae, Lydia at Philippi (Acts 16:14, 40), and Nymphas at Laodicea (Col 4:15). We could also mention the prophetesses at the church of Corinth or the four daughters of the deacon, Philip, who were also prophetesses (Acts 21:9).

The deuteropauline texts exclude women from the ministry of the word and from holding office. According to the current hypothesis, the so-called “great epistles” are considered to be Pauline (except for Ephesians and Colossians which were both written around the same time). The letters to Timothy and Titus were written much later. Among the so-called “Catholic letters,” the epistle of Peter appears at roughly the same time. We cannot go into an exegetical study at this point. For our purposes, it suffices to get to the point by citing the following remarkably clear passage from 1Tm:11-15: “A woman must listen in silence and be completely submissive. I do not permit a woman to act as teacher, or in any way to have authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was created first, Eve afterward; moreover, it was not Adam who was deceived but the woman. It was she who was led astray and fell into sin. She will be saved through child bearing, provided she continues in faith and love and holiness—, her chastity being taken for granted.”

Women, already forbidden to speak in the assembly, are likewise forbidden to teach. From the creation story, one could be led to conclude that the woman holds a subordinate place to the man and, by extension, all women to all men. If, on the one hand, she is second in the order of creation, she is, on the other hand, first in the order of sin. Obviously, such thinking conforms neither to Genesis nor to Paul’s way of thinking. Before going into further detail on this matter, two remarks should be made.

a) The author of the letter to Timothy bases his remarks on the order of creation and the fall. If he had followed the “example of the Lord,” is it likely that he would have let such an argument go by and remain silent?

b) In the subsequent history of the church, these two prohibitions will be used as an easy and obvious means to exclude women from the pastoral office for, in classical terms, they are excluded from having jurisdiction (over men) and from exercising the ministry of the word (forbidden to teach).

As for the Pauline communities, such continuity is a little more tenuous for, whatever reservations Paul might express with regard to the ministry of the word, they are not as weighty. 1Cor 11:3-16 is, in fact, an authorization given to women to pray out loud and to prophesy, on condition that their heads are covered. 1Cor 14:34-35 means that women must not speak in the assembly, in only the broadest sense of the term. If they do not understand something, rather than interrupt the speaker, which would be improper, they should wait and ask their husbands when they get home.(l2) Undoubtedly, many exegetes consider these verses to be interpolations;(l3) but even if they are authentic, Paul hardly forbids women to speak publicly in church.

The evolution with respect to the Pauline communities is considerable especially because women, normally active and recognized as exercising ecclesial and missionary responsibilities, become, ecclesiastically-speaking, practically invisible. We can only make mention of the order of widows and of deaconnesses. What, then, has happened?

The Adoption of the "Household Codes" by the Apostolic Church: a Factor in the Evolution of the Status of Women.

We understand by the expression “household codes” (or Haustafeln, the German expression adopted by English-speaking exegetes), ethical traditions found both in Stoicism and in Jewish Hellenism, which consign the duties of those of the same household. In general, these rules describe three aspects of family life: the submission of the wife to the husband, children to their parents, slaves to their masters. Christianized, especially by their constant reference to the Lord, these household codes are proposed to Christians most notably in the post-Pauline writings. In chronological order, then, we find reference to them in Col 3:18-4:1; Eph 5:2l-6:9; 1 Pt 2:13-3:7; Ti 2:3-5; 1Tm 2: , 5:9-15.

We find in these texts an evolution toward the complete subrnission of the wife to the husband, an evolution which will find its full expression in 1Timothy. It should be noted that if one does find a reciprocal submission in Eph 5:21 such submission is not, in fact, developed except for the wife and is no longer interpreted as being a submission “in the Lord” as in Colossians. The wife must fear and respect her husband. If there is a disparity here, and if the accent is on “submission” as in 1Pet, still we do not find a negative image of the wife, as is the case with the pastoral letters.

Some excellent studies have uncovered a continuity between these later pastoral letters and the early patristic writings.(l4)We can only give a summary of it here. Generally, this evolution can be explained by the connection between the ancient church and the oikos, and, more precisely, by an apologetic and missionary concern, the concern being that if preaching the word was confided to women, * would have little respectability. We are dealing here with a completely different issue than that of the intention of those communities to remain faithful to the model of ministry determined by Jesus.

From this inquiry, the non-ordination of women seems to be a traditio mere apostolica and not a traditio divina. In fact, 1) The example of Jesus in choosing the Twelve provides us with no conclusions as to whether or not women should be admitted to or excluded from exercising pastoral ministries. 2) The absence of Mary from the Twelve likewise permits no conclusions. 3) The apostolic communities first permitted and then restricted the ministerial activity of women; grace, that is, baptism (cf. Gal 3:27-28) favored it, while the demands of apologetics and missionary activities determined the exclusion of women from the ministry of the word and governance. This exclusion does not seem to result from the conscious duty of being faithful “to the example of the Lord.” 4) Appeal to the order of creation and the fall justifies the subordination of women to men and their exclusion from the pastoral ministry.

It is now time to consider this point.

Are there Perceptions or Biblical Statements which Speak of the Relationship between Men and Women or of the Nature of Women which would Preclude the Latter from Exercising a Pastoral Office because then they would Betray the Order of Creation and the Vocation which is Proper to them?

Biblical anthropology and androcentrism. The question is often posed in the following manner: because pastoral ministry necessarily implies being at the head of the church and representing it, women cannot accede to it without betraying the order of creation in which the man takes first place and the woman the second (thus 1 Tm). Moreover, in the order of creation man and woman are complementary. By claiming to assume a role of ecclesial authority, a woman runs the risk of alienating herself from her spiritual vocation. She would do violence to herself, or violence would be done to her. She would be dehumanized.

The biblical rationale takes its cue from Paul’s saying in 1Cor 11:3: “The head of every man is Christ; the head of every woman is her husband," and in verse 7: “Man is the image of God and the reflection of his glory. Woman, in turn, is the reflection of man’s glory.” Similar pronouncements can be found in the household codes which we have already enumerated. This subordination of women to men is the major historical argument barring women from ordination.(15)

In speaking about the household codes, we saw that their first given was the social submission of women to men, a submission which was, however, christianized by the expression “en Christo.” But behind the social propriety there exists in the shadows a more fundamental order expressed by the sequence God, Christ, man, woman, encompassing the order of creation, the fall and the redemption. Using a biblical rationale one also includes the absence of Mary from the college of the Twelve or the fact that she was never a priest, and this, in spite of the fact that Mary was the most perfect and the most holy among women. This proves that it was only her sex which barred her from the priesthood.

There would have to be, then, a nature which is proper to woman, and different from that of man, such that sexual identity determines, in large measure, the vocation of each person. Biological differences are the foundations of intrinsic differences like virility and femininity, understood as activity/receptivity (or passivity), rationality/ intuition, aggressiveness / softness, attention to structures/attention to persons, and so on. Such a phenomenology sometimes finds literary expression in such works as Die ewige Frau by Gertrud von Le Fort. But its scientific value is not confirmed by the human sciences. Whatever the case may be, from this perspective, to ask women to assume a pastoral ministry where activity, rationality, objectivity, attention to structures, and so on, are required, would be to dehumanize them and separate them from their true human and christian vocation.

Even more fundamentally still, this masculine/feminine polarity finds its reflection in the nuptial symbolism of biblical revelation where only the man can represent God or Christ opposite a necessarily receptive (feminine) humanity and church. But this question deserves to be treated separately. For the moment, some remarks of an epistemological nature are needed in order to evaluate what has been said in a discourse which sees in the subordination of women to men an immutable order revealing the will of God, as if theology could define the “feminine nature” and the “masculine nature.”

We must now ask ourselves if there exists a kind of revealed biblical anthropology which would challenge that anthropology which is more and more prevalent in contemporary Western culture according to which men and women are seen as partners, equal in dignity and equal in responsibility. If one could answer yes, then we would not need to know whether this ideal of a partnership is actually lived out, (l6) but we would need to denounce it as an error causing a great deal of harm both to men and to women. As K. E. Borresen has so brilliantly shown,(l7) Christian anthropology itself has accepted this androcentrism. A few brief remarks are needed for understanding of this anthropology.

Some brief reflections on Christian anthropology. Without taking up the vast question of the status of Christian anthropology, a few remarks will be helpful in situating it in relationship to changing cultures, to social structures and finally to the question of historicity.

The relationship between men and women has entered into a phase of profound redefinition in the West. This is due primarily to objective factors such as medical progress (better care of newborn babies and pregnant women, birth control, a longer life-span) and working women. A greater social life for women, financial independence, the need to share household tasks and the education of offspring, all of these things now.figure into a marriage partnership. This is not a fad. Values and self-images are changing because of this, with ramifications both in the private and public sectors. This also highlights the fact that many traits of men and women, thought to be “natural,” are in fact culturally determined.

Given all of this, what is the task of the church? Is it to evangelize this new type of partnership? This would not be too difficult if we were to think back to the example of Jesus or Paul. Or is it to ask women to consider themselves subordinate to men by the will of the Creator? By enforcing arbitrarily such a subordination, we would surely contribute to estranging women from Christian life and promoting their secularization.

Anthropology and social structures. But does St Paul, and even the author of Genesis, propose a revealed anthropology concerning the man-woman relationship? No, St Paul wished merely to explain the love of Christ for the church by using the example of marriage as it was lived in his time. The light of Christ entered marriage, calling for agape, but without the call to change the structure of marriage itself. Likewise, the author of Genesis wished to explain the provenance of the evil which exists between husband and wife and who yet remain attached to one another.

In other words, neither Paul nor Genesis wishes to sacralize a social model on God’s behalf. They speak to us first of God and Christ. That is revelation, and not those social models which we might have before our eyes and which will be transformed by that revelation.

It will be noticed that the method used to reconstruct the socalled creational model of the subordination of women to men takes a completely different road. In this model, the fact that men assume nearly all the roles of power and authority, is seen as revealed. But is not this differentiation of sexes due to sociocultural conditions and to androcentric cultures from which we ourselves have barely emerged? Is there not an attempt to deduce a divine model (therefore, immutable) which can then be imposed on different societies from what is really an historically contingent situation?

It should have been noticed that such is not the direction in .: which revelation points, nor, for that matter, Christian anthropology. The human sciences will permit us to be vigilant regarding this even if, as stated so aptly in Inter Insigniores 2.6: “The supernatural content of the realities of faith are outside of their competence.

Ethics and historicity. Without these previous methodological clarifications, we contribute to making the history of the church a moral scandal. The gospel of a community of equals would have succumbed to a process of repatriarchalization which is still vigorous in the Catholic Church. By making use of such criteria, we should also be justified in our being scandalized by the fact that the Church, from the beginning, did not fight to set up a political system resembling our current Western democracies.

It is illuminating, in this area, to consider that the eschatological perspective of Gal 3:28 regarding the status given to Jews, slaves and women by the Christian society, raises the same problems. These different statuses had not been revised with any great depth until recently. Is it by chance that they all changed practically at the same time?

For reasons of clarity, let us summarize what we have said thus far.

1) The hierarchical subordination of women to men can be guessed at in several New Testament authors. Christian agape does not alter this structure but rather gives it a new and different meaning.

2) Because this point can only be guessed at, the unilateral subordination of women to men cannot be a manifestation of the order of creation. At the very least, there is substantial evidence to show the legitimacy of the partnership between men and women, or the exercise of authority of women over men.

3) The subordination of women to men has been the chief argument for excluding women from ordination throughout the history of the church.

4) Theology enjoys no particular competence to decide typically masculine or feminine qualities: this is better determined by social life and by the human sciences.

5) In short, the exercise of ministerial authority by women would not go against the order of creation, nor would it automatically go against what is perceived to be the vocation of women in a given society. If neither the example of Jesus nor the order of creation excludes a priori the ordination of women to the pastoral office, it remains to be seen whether or not such an office would be emptied of meaning if held by a woman. It is especially here where the question of symbolism is so important.

According to the Apostolic Tradition, is the Content of the Pastoral Office such that its Exercise by a Woman would Empty it of Meaning

Inter Insigniores affirms that the pastoral office is of such a nature that its exercise must be carried out by a man, unless we were to disregard the symbolism which is inherent in the celebration of the eucharist: “We can never ignore the fact that Christ is a man And, therefore, unless one is to disregard this symbolism for the economy of Revelation, it must be admitted that, in actions which demand the character of ordination and in Christ himself, the author of the covenant, the Bridegroom and Head of the church, is represented, exercising his ministry of salvation—which is in the highest degree the case of the eucharist—his role (this is the original meaning of the word persona) must be taken by a man” (I. I., 5).

Directly after this, the declaration adds that in the eucharist “the priest represents the church, which is the Body of Christ. But if he does so, it is precisely because he first represents Christ himself who is the head and shepherd of the church” (ibid.)

Thus, all holders of the pastoral office must meet three symbolic demands: they must all be able to represent Christ as head, shepherd and bridegroom of the church. Bearing in mind that the declaration does not wish to engage the doctrinal authority of the church in this matter, we believe that it is possible to distinguish between the symbolism of Christ as head and shepherd of the church, and that of Christ as the bridegroom of the church.

The symbolism of ministry and the symbolic nature of nuptials. One cannot deny that Christ presents himself and is presented as the bridegroom of the church in the New Testament. This is suggested in Mk 2:19, from the parables in Mt 22:2 and 25.1. John the Baptist refers to Christ as the bridegroom (Jn 3:28-29). Paul mentions this symbolism in 2 Cor 11:2 and Eph 5:21-33 develops it. The Book of Revelation takes up this theme again in 19:7, 21:2, 9 and 22:17. The church is thus called the bride of Christ who is, moreover, the New Adam. Nothing can justify the weakening of this symbolism. But does this symbolism necessarily have a place in pastoral ministry?

The adage of medieval canonists representing the bishop as the bridegroom of the church is certainly well-documented,(l8 )but it calls for two remarks. On the one hand, it was meant to avoid the abuse of transferring from one diocese to another. On the other hand, to the best of our knowledge, it is never cited in the context of the eucharist. We understand this well enough because “it is the groom who has the bride. The groom’s best man waits there listening for him and is overjoyed to hear his voice” Jn.3:29). Any transgression by an ordained minister of the sentiments of the Baptist would be spiritually grave because he would be placing himself, or would be placed, in the realm of phantasm rather than symbolism. The image of the male minister as bridegroom of the church would have but a moral value (fidelity, devotion). Could not this moral value be found as equally in women as in men?

The symbolism of ministry as presidency and pastorship in the name of Christ. If the ordained minister is not the bridegroom of the church, except morally speaking, he must be, on the other hand, both symbolically and in fact, its head and shepherd. It is in this manner that the church has always understood, and rightly so, pastoral ministry according to the apostolic tradition. We are next faced with the question of whether or not a woman, because of her sex, would be incapable of presiding over the church of God or act in persona Christi especially at the celebration of the eucharist.

Is a woman, by the very fact of her being a woman, incapable of representing the church? This thesis, developed by Louis Bouyer,(l9) has its supporters. We will cite only two examples: Hans Urs von Balthasar (20)and Desmond Connell (21) use Bouyer’s thesis as the most decisive argument on the unfittingness of women for the presbyterate.

Louis Bouyer constructs a phenomenology of men and women based on their sexuality which would cause them to situate themselves in an essentially different manner in the world and in society. According to him, male sexual activity occurs outside of himself and intermittently. He concludes from this that man has one sole function in the world, that of representing, a representation which one finds in the function of the priesthood: “We will say that man, as such, is defined by the paradox that he represents essentially that which is beyond him, that which he is incapable of being himself and by himself.”(22)

Hans Urs von Balthasar paraphrases this as follows: “The man, as sexual being, merely represents what he is not and transmits what he does not really possess and so is simultaneously more and less, than himself. The woman, however, reposes in herself and is entirely her own being, namely, the total reality of a created being facing God as his partner, receiving, retaining, and nurturing his seed and his Spirit.”(23) In short, “the difference is so profound that to the woman is assigned not representation, but being, and to the man, the task to represent.”(24)

Beyond the arbitrariness of this, such talk seems to us to have little methodological foundation. First of all, how can one attribute, quasi-metaphysically, “being” to the woman and “representation” to the man, based on a certain vision of their respective roles in reproduction? Moreover, is sexuality reducible to reproduction? Does sexual differentiation, certainly present everywhere, bring about such a rupture between what is human in human beings? Next, as we have already noted, these authors never take into consideration the existing relationship between the social differentiation of the sexes and the cultural considerations which determine it. Without being able to prove this lacunae, let us ask the following simple question: does the image of paternity which is so described correspond to the way most fathers under the age of forty practice it in Western society?

On a more positive side, we can say that it is a commonplace that, at least in the West, women can acquit themselves as well as men in situations which call for representation and authority. These same women could plausibly represent the faith of the church and its communion just as well as men, provided that they are ordained to act in persona Christi.

Could a woman, provided that she is ordained, act in persona Christi? We will now proceed from the given that to be ordained means to act in persona Christi and we wish above all to clarify this expression which plays such a key role in the debate.(25) The priest does not act in persona Christi in an immediate sense in the eucharist. To be in persona Christi he must be in persona Ecclesiae. He must be ordained and must exercise the office of representing the faith and the communion of the church. In the eucharist, properly speaking, he acts in a context governed by the epiclesis which he announces in the name of the church and with the church. Responses such as “amen” and “with your spirit” indicate that he is acting in communion with the Holy Spirit, in communion with the church. It is therefore only by acting in persona Ecclesiae that the priest acts in persona Christi. The very uniqueness of pastoral ministry assumes the articulation of both of these elements. It is essential to grasp that according to tradition priests presided at the eucharist because they presided in the church. The reverse order cannot be verified.(26)

This being well-established, a woman could not be ordained and see herself entrusted with the pastoral office of the communion of the church, unless and above all she was deemed capable of representing the faith of the church and overseeing its communion. By virtue of her ordination, she would be placed vis-a-vis other Christians. Because of this symbolism, they would recognize that they receive grace and salvation from Christ and not from themselves. They would have the experience of being called by another, of being sent by another, of benefiting from the ministry of Christ the good shepherd. Thus, the ordained woman would be acting in persona Christi.

Such an action would not be an innovation for Catholic theology. Indeed, all ministers of the sacraments act in persona Christi. In the Latin tradition, women, like their husbands, are recognized as the ministers of the sacrament of their marriage: they are thus acting in persona Christi. In the same way, women have been permitted to administer validly the sacrament of baptism since the eleventh century, thus acting in persona Chnsti. Those who, in all fairness, grant to women the dogmatic capacity to represent Christ in as important a sacrament as baptism, deny it to them in the case of the eucharist. They seem to maintain that although women can act as representatives of Christ, they are somehow unable to represent him.(27)

In conclusion, if it were socially plausible that a woman might be able to represent the faith and the communion of the church, presiding over it as a woman, it is also plausible that she might be able to represent Christ, that she might be able to symbolize him. When this social plausibility exists, and when the ecclesiological and theological content of pastoral ministry is respected, what possible weight could be given to the lack of sexual identity between Christ and the minister?

Very little weight, it seems, including in the eucharist, for this is not a theatrical play. In a theatrical play, a woman could not obviously represent Christ, for in the eucharist the action is situated in the mystery, that is, in the sacrament. In this perspective, the representation of Christ in the name of the faith and of communion is decisive. In recalling that the first meaning of the word persona indicates a role played in the theater (I. I., 5), Inter Insigniores is making a statement of a philological order not a liturgical one.

Concerning a symbolic argumentation, it appears important to us to state:

1) The representation of Christ as bridegroom is purely moral in the case of ministers. This excludes it from being symbolic, even for men.

2) The content of the pastoral office requires the possibility of representing Christ as head and pastor. In certain Christian contexts, where society permits, women could plausibly assume such a representation.

3) The representation of Christ is rooted in the sacrament of orders. Women can act in persona Christi in such an important sacrament as baptism. In the eucharist, she could also act in persona Christi ff, by virtue of ordination, she could act in persona Ecclesiae, representing ministerially both the faith and the communion of the church.


The non-ordination of women to pastoral ministry is an undeniable historical fact, but it is not “Tradition” in the strong sense of the term.

The threefold inquiry which we have made does not allow us to conclude resolutely that the non-ordination of women was a Tradition which revealed the will of God for his church. The absence of women from the Twelve is not conclusive; the restriction of women from ministry during the apostolic period is clearly explained by other motives than trying to be faithful to the will of Christ. Neither the symbolism of Christ as head and bridegroom of the church, nor the nature of women, nor the nature of the pastoral office, permit under certain circumstances, the exclusion of women from the ability to exercise, through ordination, the ministry of church communion and, therefore, the sacraments.

Thus, we find ourselves faced with a constant custom which represents an appropriate way of acting to the conditions in which the church has lived until now. She has not examined critically this way of acting, as she was not faced with the parameters which are characteristic of it today.

In this regard, Inter Insigniores seems to us to be carefully nuanced when it states that Scripture alone cannot solve the problem,(28) in finding itself in an awkward position to justify it historically,(29) and finally, by claiming only a lesser level of doctrinal adherence. The declaration is very faithful then to the actual situation: “The church does not consider itself authorized to admit women to priestly orders” (I. I., intro.). In light of these considerations, this way of dealing with the issue can gain the respect of non-Catholics; it can also be considered more respectful of women; for it is no longer based, as in the past, on the inferiority of women, but on the way in which the church understands its own fidelity to Christ.

Dogmatically, can the church change? The position enunciated in Inter Insigniores obviously requires the practical assent of Catholics. But this document has not closed the reflection which began before its publication, a reflection which led many theologians and pastors to think that the ordination of women to the pastoral ministry was possible.(30) In so many other areas impressive reasons have been given not to do “what has never been done” and yet things changed. We have but to mention the repetition of the sacrament of penance, the determining of the matter and form of the sacrament of orders (which conditions its validity), lending with interest. Again, other changes with greater practical consequences have been made: the number of sacraments, the sacramentality of the episcopate, and so on.

The systematic theologian will be wary of isolating the question of the possible ordination of women from the rest of the theological enterprise and the rules which govern it. Without being exhaustive, let us mention that this question has a lot to do with the relation between Scripture and Tradition, between christology and pneumatology and ministry, on the status of the relationship between men and women in society and in the church, on the place of Mary in the church,(31) on the way in which the church views her rootedness in history.(32) This list probably indicates that the question needs more time to mature on the systematic level at least. Of course, there are other indications as well. Catholic theologians that we are, who would probably not be opposed to the Ordination of women fom a doctrinal level, might not be so favorable given the current theological and pastoral situation.

The current theological and pastoral climate does not offer much hope for the possibility of change. The cultural changes which spell the end of androcentrism have not been sufficiently evaluated by the church. The extraordinarily innovative Apostolic Letter of John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem (1988), is the first official document which systematically challenges androcentrism. But it may take generations to emerge from the ambivalences, confusions, and yes, even fear, which comes from this situation.

Due to objective factors, the current redefinition of the relationship between men and women is accompanied by great perplexity(33) and confusion. We generously attribute this to feminists. Admittedly, feminism can carry with it a debatable theology of God,(34) on the way in which it articulates the differences at the heart of the equal dignity of all Christians, on the vocation to ministry, and so on. Nevertheless, one cannot hold women. responsible for this confusion because the problem is common to both men and women. It is also too soon to evaluate the feminist movement as a whole.(35) Confronted with this problem, many theologians are obsessed by a possible masculinization of women. They are profoundly disturbed to the point of seeing in the possible ordination of women a challenge to the entire order of creation and the entire symbolism of revelation.

As long as such objections are expressed, the pastors of our church will not want to foresee the ordination of women for fear that a woman as minister of the communion will exacerbate the divisions. Theologians can only approve of them.

Will the Catholic Church one day call women to the pastoral ministry? Perhaps never. But if she does so it will only be in fidelity and by fidelity. If the preservation of her identity and of her mission is on those terms, then she must accept some changes. The living tradition is precisely that, and this is very different from historical repetition.

Rosemary Nurnberg asks, in the excellent article from which we quoted, if the reason which led the ancient church to exclude women from the ministry of the word does not suggest that, today, the church grant it to them. These days, does not their absence from this ministry provoke that irrisio infidelium which had commanded their exclusion in antiquity?(36)

One thing is certain, to favor the mutual recognition between men and women, to favor their partnership, must be the task of the church today and of every man and woman. To educate, to promote healing, to elaborate constructive guiding images for the church and for society is a matter of great urgency because the notion of partnership, at once so marvelous, is also threatened. It is the place of much joy and much suffering. It is there where Christian agape must find itself. Without it, all changes in structure would be of modest importance. This agape must also help us to bridge the actual differences between our churches on this question, differences which risk remaining. The present contribution had no other purpose than to attempt to elucidate the Catholic position without overstating it, but also without minimizing it.


1. Thus Vatican I, pastor Aeternus (DS 3070) and Pius X, Lamentabili (DS 3421).

2. This is how the manuals of theology classically understood the Tradition (with a capital “T”). Cf. B. Bartmann, Precis de theologie dogmatique, 1 (Mulhouse 1941) 45: “The divine Tradition goes back either to the ‘mouth of Christ,’ or to the ‘communications of the Holy Spirit’ made to the Apostles after the ascension of our Lord. Only the divine Tradition is a source for dogma; everything that is of human origin, even if one could make it go back to the Apostles as the leaders and organizers of the Church (traditio mere apostolica), or to later leaders (traditio ecclesiastica), does not enter into consideration, whatever be the importance of this tradition for discipline, worship, the liturgy and ecclesiastical law. Thus we understand under the name of dogmatic Tradition, the revealed truths which the Apostles received from Christ or the Holy Spirit and which the Church, from that time ‘transmitted without change.

3. An interesting approach in this respect can be found in “Lectures de textes de Paul concernant les femmes” in D. Stein, Lectures psychanalytigues de la Bible (Paris: Cerf 1985) 89-113.

4. AAS 64 (1972) 529-34.

5. AAS 69 (1977) 98-196

6. DC, t. 83 (1986) 800.

7. DC, t. 85 (1088)1084.

8. Cf. H. Legrand, “Die Frage der Frauenordination aus der Sicht katholischer Theologie. Inter Insigniores nach zehn Jahren,” in E. Gossmann and D. Bader (eds. ), Warum keine Ordination der Frau?. . ., Katholische Akademie (Freiburg 1987) 89-111.

9. Cf. H. Moll, “Faithful to her Lord’s example. On the Meaning of the Male Priesthood in the Catholic Church” in H. Moll, ea., The Church and Women. A Compendium (San Francisco 1988)164.

10. The elders and the bishops are not understood in the Pastoral Letters as having succeeded the Twelve; cf. R. E. Brown, Priest and Bishop (New York: Paulist 1970) 51 69; Brief Survey of the New Testament Evidence on Episkope and Episkopos (Faith and Order Paper lo,), Geneva, s.d.; reprinted, with footnotes, as “Episkope” and “Episkopos”: The New Testament Evidence, Theological Studies 41(1980) 322-38; R. Schnackenburg, “Lukas als Zeuge verschiedener Gemeindestrukturen,” Bibel und Leben 12 (1971)232-47. It is not our intention to discuss here the birth of the presbyterate or the episcopacy as fixed structures in the early church. As Lumen Gentium, no. 28 noted, it is ab antiquo. The recent contribution of R. M. Hubner, “Die Anfange von Diakonat, Presbyterat und Episkopat in der fruhen Kirche,” in A. Rauch, P. Imhof (eds.), Das Priestertum in der einen Kirche. Diakonat, Presbyterat und Episkopat (Aschaffenburg 1987) 45-89, provides an important updated bibliography.

11. We know that modern exegesis, betraying its androcentrism as feminists point out, understood that this Junias was a man, contrary to the patristic tradition. M. Hauke, Die Problematik um das Frauenpriestertum vor dem Hintergrund der Schopfungs- und Erlosungsordnung (Paderborn 1982, 354ff still maintains this opinion. The authoritative study on this question is that of V. Fabrega, ”War Junia(s), der hervorragende Apostel (Rom 16:7), eine Frau?" in Jahrbuch fur Antike und Christentum. 27/28 (1984/1985)45-64

12. Cf. R. Gryson, Le Ministere des femmes dans l’Eglise ancienne (Gembloux 1972) 28.

13. This has been presented in H. Legrand & J. Vikstrom, “The Admission of Women to the Ministry,” in Roman Catholic/Lutheran Joint Commission, The Ministry in the Church (Geneva: LWF 1982)88-107.

l4. A good work on the state of scriptural research in J. Gnilka, “Die Haustafeln” in Der Kolosscrbrief, HThK X, 1, Freiburg, 8asel, Vienna 1981, Zo5 - 16. Cf. also K. Muller, Die Haustafeln des Kolosserbriefes und das antike Frauenthema. Eine kritische Ruckschau auf alte Ergebnisse, in G. Dautzenberg et al. eds., Die Frau im Urchriskutum (QD 95) z63-319; cf. also, especially for 1 Peter, M. L. Lamau, Da chretiens dans le monde. Les communaute’s pitriniennes au premier siecle (LD 134), Paris (1988)133- 30. For the first patristic period, consult the excellent article of R. Nurnberg, “ ‘Non decet neque necessarium est, ut mulieres doceant.’ Uberlegungen zum altkirchlichen Lehrverbot fur Frauen,” lahrbuch fur Antike und Christentum 31 8

15. The status subjectionis of the woman is a commonplace in patristic literature as in theology until this century. For a first attempt to address this, cf. H. Legrand, “Die Frauen im Verstandnis der Kirche: Erganzung oder Partner der Mannert” in Frau—Partnerin in der Kirche (Vienna 1985) 14-28. This was also the perspective of canon law, cf. 1. Raming, Der Ausschluss der Frau wm priesterlichen Amt. Gottgewollte Tradition oder Diskriminierung? Eine rechtshistorisch-dogmatische Untersuchung der Grundlagen wn Kanon 968 #2 des Co dex luris Canonici (Cologne: Bohlau Verlag 1973). The Code of 1983 puts an end to the subordination of women.

16. Some serious concerns are legitimate with respect to the effectiveness of this partnership: the growing concern about unmarried couples in all of Europe: in France 37 percent of marriageable-age people are not married, 48 percent in Sweden; in Paris one tax-paying household in two is composed of a person living alone. Statistics for France: E. Sullerot, Pour le meilleur et sans le pire, Fayard, 1984,10-60. The divorce rate is increasing in Europe while the birth-rate can no longer insure the renewal of this generation in the majority of Western European countries.

17. K.E. Borresen, Subordination and Equivalence. The Nature and Role of Women in Augustine and Thomas Aguinas (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America l981).

18. Cf. J. Trummer, “Mystiche Ehe im alten Kirchenrecht. Die geistliche Ehe zwischen Bischof und Diozese,” Osterreischiches Archiv fin Kirchenrecht 2 (1961) 62-75. J. Gaudemet, “Note sur le symbolisme medieval. Le mariage de 1’ veque,” L’Annee canonique 22 (1978) 72: “In the patristic period, the connection between marriage and the union of the bishop with his church was rare and imprecise.” He concludes: “In the ninth century, the symbol of the marriage bond is clear.... In the twelfth century, the symbolism has not completely disappeared, but its only purpose is to test the subtlety of jurists,’’ ibid., So.(?)

19. L. Bouyer, Mystere et ministeres de la femme (Paris: Aubier Montaigne 1976).

20. Cf. H. Urs von Balthasar in H. Moll, ea., The Church and Women. A Compendium (San Francisco 1988) 153-60.

21. Cf. D.Connell, “Women priests: why not?,” ibid., 207-27.

22. L. Bouyer, 47. Previously he said: “With a man, fatherhood is never only one quality among many others and, it is but for a short time that even the one who possesses it, exercises it in fact” (ibid. 31).

23. H. Urs von Balthasar, ibid. 158.

24. Ibid.

25. Cf. B. D. Marliangeas, Cles pour une theologie du ministere. In persona Christi. In persona Ecclesiae, Theologie historique 51 (Paris 1978).

26. Cf. H. Legrand, “The Presidency of the Eucharist in the Ancient Church” in Worship 27 (1979) 413-38. The problematic as a whole in H. Legrand, Initiation d la pratique de la theologie, vol. 3, 2 ed. (Paris 1986)194-273.

27. This is the suggestion of D.Connell, article cited supra., n. 19, p. 220: “(The priest act) not just as minister, but in a representational role” and p. 222: “It is important to distinguish between acting as a representative and acting as a representation” This distinction allows us to recognize that in baptism the woman acts as a representative of Christ but is excluded from presiding over the eucharist because the priest is not only the representative of Christ, but also the “sacramental representation”,as in general, “it is fitting for the woman to be the sacramental representation of the church” (p. 223). This non-traditional distinction appears to us to have two disadvantages: is it founded to designate as sacramental the symbolic representation of the church by the woman in the same terms as designating the priest to be the sacramental representation of Christ? And, in this latter case, is there not an unverified shift in meaning when passing from the sacrament of orders to the sacrament of the priest? On this danger, cf. P. J. Cordes, “ ‘Sacerdos alter Christus.’ Der Representationsgedanke in der Amtstheologie," in Catholica 26, 1972 38-49

28. We know also that the Pontifical Biblical Commission responded unanimously that the New Testament cannot resolve dearly or definitively the question of knowing whether or not women can be ordained priests. The response of the whole Commission was first published in Origins 1 July 1976, 92 -96, and then under the title “Biblical Commission Report. Can Women be Priests?” in L. and E. Swidler, eds., Women Priests. A Catholic Commentary on the Vatican Declaration (New York: Paulist 1977) 338-46.

29. It should be pointed out that the eight authorities cited in note 7 of Inter Insigniores in support of the incapacity of women to be ordained, according to the Fathers of the Church, are not directly conclusive except in three cases. Also, the references for note 8 are hardly probing. For further discussion on this cf. J. M. Higgins, “Fidelity in History,” in L. and E. Swidler, Women Priests, 85-9l. Finally, the explicit reasoning of the two quotations from Thomas Aquinas put forward in notes 18 and 19 appeal directly to the status subjectionis of the woman in relationship to the man (comparison with the slave): the significatio rei(?) is impossible as a result of the social being of the woman. By their silence on this matter, the writers of Inter Insigniores base themselves on the theology of sacramental sign in Thomas Aquinas, a theology which would exclude women from ordination.

30. Before the publication of Inter Insigniores we documented the rapid change in the attitudes of Christians, theologians and bishops with respect to the question at hand. Cf. H, Legrand, “L’ordination des femmes au ministere presbyteral. Reflexions theologiques au point de vue catholique” in Documents-Episcopat, 7, 1976; English translation in Origins, January 1977.

31. Speculations concerning the priesthood of Mary were studied by R. Laurentin, Marie, I’Eglise et le sacerdoce, wl. 1, (Paris 1952); vol. z, (1953). The question is even more profound: a certain parallelism between the titles given to Mary and those recognized as belonging to Christ (mediator/mediatrix; redemptor/co-redemptrix) appeared at one time to be developed in a certain part of Catholic piety. Lumen Gentium no. 8 happily ended this for the simple reason that this parallelism was founded less on systematics than on the strength of sexual bipolarity, so fundamental to human existence, operating on the imagination in the interpretation of Revelation. The symbolic typology of Christ (masculine)/Mary-Church (feminine) “in which the divine partner is andromorphus and the human partner gynecomorphus, loses its capacity to signify the relationships between God and humanity as soon as the subordination of women disappears. The incompatibility between the divine and the human continues, but it can no longer be illustrated by that which is postulated between the divinity and femininity,” E. K. B¢rresen, Imago Dei, privilege masculin? Interpretation augustinienne et pseudo-augustinienne de Gn 1, 27 et 1 Co 1l, 7," in Augustinianum 25, (1985) Z33 (Miscellanea Trape).

32. Cf. H. Legrand and J. Vikstrom, op.cit., supra n. 13, 260-70.

33. One symptom: Judaism itself foresees in certain of its branches the ordination of women to the rabbinate. Cf. S. Greenberg, ea., The Ordination of Women as Rabbis. Studies and Response. (New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America 1988).

34. A good critical analysis of this kind of feminism can be found in S. Heine, Frauen derfrnhen Christenheit (Gottingen 1986); English translation: Women and Early Christianity (London 1987) and id., Wiederbelebung der Gottingen? (1987); English translation Christianity and the Goddesses, (London 1988).

35. Cf. for example W. Kasper, “The Position of Woman as a Problem of Theological Anthropology” in H. Moll, ea., The Church and Women. A Compendium (San Francisco 1988), 51-64. On feminist theology strictly speaking, we share the opinion of H. Moll, “ ‘Feminist Theology.’ A Challenge”: “Whoever attempts to evaluate the different currents in feminist theology should suspend judgment for the time being, for this movement is still in a state of development and at the present time presents anything but a uniform structure. Consequently, apodictic as well as conclusive evaluations are premature.” in H. Moll, ea., The Church and Women, p. 271. One direction seems positive to us, that which never disassociates the lot of men and women. We appreciate in this current the suggestions of M. Th. van Lunen-Chenu, “Le sens profond du feminisme” in Le Supplement (December 1978) 507-20.

36. Thus p. 73, art. cit., supra, n. 14.

See also our files on Eric Doyle OFM. In 1975 Eric Doyle and Hervé Legrand were appointed by the Vatican to a working party on the Ordination of Women set up by ARCIC.

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