Catholic Women Priests?
by Josefa Theresia Münch
Translation of an article published at the time of the Second Vatican Council, namely on 10th Oct. 1965 in the German Catholic weekly “Der christliche Sonntag” (“Christian Sunday”), CS 41/1965, 17th ann. vol. This treatment, already heralded in CS 33, 1965, presents a position counter to Ida Friederike Görres’ (CS No. 25/1965) article “Über die Weihe von Frauen zu Priesterinnen” (“Concerning the Ordination of Women as Priests”).
The article by Ida Friederike Görres, “Über die Weihe von Frauen zu Priesterinnen”, refers to Submissions to the Council, in which the extension of the priestly office to women was petitioned for. These petitions are printed in the brochure ‘Wir schweigen nicht länger’.(1) (We Won’t Keep Silence Any Longer”) though one of them is cut by a half. The fact that the women petitioners chose to approach the ecclesiastical authority to secure the delegation of the priestly office to women by presenting relevant arguments, shows that they do not view the priesthood as a thing that may be usurped. Rather, they have in mind the concrete, dogmatically determined clerical ordination of the Catholic Church. These women are aware that it would be pure nonsense to strive for Catholic priesthood outside the faith or outside the Church. This is clear from the text of the above-mentioned submissions.(1) I know of no other petitions. The thought of an official female priesthood is unusual in the Catholic Church. For this reason the present efforts seem inopportune. Resistance is great. Why do these women then act against their own advantage? Probably because it is their task, their calling. “Help me, and become a priest!” begs a cross-bearing Christ on a poster. Why should a religious girl or a woman not feel that she is meant? She can say ‘no’ and seek many excuses. But she may also feel herself torn; she would like to fulfill the wish of the Lord, but how is that to happen, since there have been no women priests at all till now? If the women’s calling to the priesthood comes from God, the Church is surely also competent, if not duty-bound, to match it and ordain women priests. But how shall we recognize the true calling? Even with male candidates for the priesthood this is difficult. Therefore, it seems appropriate to focus our attention on further criteria, beyond the question of just how genuine subjective vocations are.
Before we consider such criteria, it is important to mark the following: if the exclusion of women from the priesthood is God’s will, and thus God’s law, then the Church is not authorized to fall in with the above-mentioned Submissions to the Council. But if it is just a question of an ecclesiastical law, then the Church can also change it.
Ecclesiastical or Divine Law?
If we consult the body of Eccleslastical Law promulgated in 1917,(E) the Codex Iuris Canonici (CIC) and its sources, there is no convincing reason for viewing the exclusion of women from the priesthood as a positively divine law.(2)
There were deaconesses in the early Church (Rom. 16, 1-2), many of them received consecration as deacon by the bishop’s laying-on of hands and invocation of the Holy Spirit.(3)
The diaconate is a higher ordination according to both Canon 949E of current Church Law and the new Church Constitution (No. 29). Canon108 § (3)(E) even sees the diaconate as an institution of divine law. We may thus reasonably suppose that the deaconesses of the primitive Church also were an institution of divine law and thereby that women have already at least once occupied the lowest rung of the Church hierarchy. Today there is no reason why the Church could not allow them to advance from the rank of deacon to that of priest, now that they have acquired legal competency, can evidence excellent qualifications in theology, and also appear in all other respects suitable. A much more ticklish question would be whether the Church was ever authorised to abolish the female diaconate in the first place.
To be sure, Ecclesiastical Law should not be considered in isolation. It should come in at the end rather than the beginning of theological deliberations, fixing their conclusions, where necessary.
What did Christ say on the Question of Women’s Ordination?
There are places in the New Testament according to which women are supposed to have been forbidden to speak in the assembly: a prohibition issued by a churchman, not by Christ (1 Cor. 14, 34 and parallels). Alongside these, there are also pro-female remarks in the Bible, from Churchmen and Christ. The Lord himself never pronounced against women’s preaching and sermons in Church, nor against a female priesthood. On the contrary, the newly-arisen Christ charged the women: “Do not be afraid. Go and take word to my brothers…” (Matt. 28, 10). The appointment of the women to announce the news is reported also by the other Evangelists.
Jesus chose Twelve Men as Apostles
If Jesus said nothing against a women’s priesthood, why did he not summon a woman from among his followers to be an apostle, such as his mother Mary, or Mary Magdalene?(A) The Hebrew word for (being an) apostle is “shalyach”, i.e. being an envoy. The only people who can officially function as envoy are those who are capable of acting in law: they must not only be accepted as legally competent by the person sending them, because of their qualities, but also be acknowledged as legally competent by the person(s) receiving them. Jewish society of the time, however, did not recognize the legal competence of women; whether they were “undeveloped”, or very gifted and capable, made no difference.
Beside this, Christ chose only Jews as apostles. Today most priests and bishops are non-Jews. Although Jesus did not share his society’s contempt for non-Jews and slaves, and distanced himself just as much from a contempt for women; although, judged by the time and place of his incarnation, he set aside many of the prejudices against slaves, women and non-Jews, he was nevertheless not going so far as to appoint a non-Jew, a slave or a woman as official shalyach.(A) Whoever here accuses women theologians of a contradiction in their argument would have to accuse the Lord himself of a contradiction. Only those who do not pay serious attention to the time and place of Christ’s incarnation think that as Jesus was revolutionary, he should have been revolutionary in this too, and accepted women as well as non-Jews and slaves into the community of apostles. On the other hand what evidence does Holy Scripture give? Just as Jesus did not call a woman (such as his holy mother or Mary Magdalene), he neither did choose as apostle a non-Jew such as a Samaritan or the centurion in Capharnaum. Anyone who knows of the battle that raged in the apostolic council, just on the question of christening of non-Jews (Acts 15, 1 ff.), can judge how much the Judaists would have thundered against non-Jews becoming bishops . They saw just in baptism of uncircumcised men a “disdain for the reason of millennia”,(5) a betrayal of tradition. The fact that today most bishops are non-Jewish would be a yet greater scandal to the Judaists, those pious men of early Christianity, than the fact that the Church has gone beyond the holy number twelve of the apostles and today has more than two thousand bishops, whereas the apostles were intended to be judges over the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19, 28)!
Just as the Church would have had good grounds, in the case of women priests, for understanding Christ’s example by its sense in the light of the times, and permitting them entry to the presbyterate, it also had good grounds for distinguishing, in its master’s institution of priesthood, the divine institution as such from the attributes of twelveness and Jewishness (and in our case, maleness), for those he elected at the time.
For the rest, the Submissions to the Council do not request admission to the apostolic succession and office of bishop at all, but only ask the present-day successors of the apostles to delegate women – strengthened and anointed with the grace of priestly ordination and ministry – alongside men, to help them extend the kingdom of God.
Mother Church is being asked in the Submissions to Council not to take exception to the female sex of those of her children whom God has called to preach the Gospel and become priests. In the same way, a few decades ago the Church was asked to set aside prejudice against the race of coloured candidates coming forward to be priests and bishops, in order to better assist the promulgation of the faith. Then, the Church understood the call of God in that way. May she have similar understanding today for the case of women priests.
Christ, who is simultaneously our High Priest and our sacrificial victim, lived on this earth as a man.
Shall we treat this as a coincidence? Probably not. How, then, is a female priesthood possible despite this? In the eyes of his fellow Jews, Christ could never have appeared as the Messiah if he had existed as a woman. If it was necessary even for a mere envoy to possess the legal competency institutionally denied to women, how much more was this so for the Lord’s anointed, the King of the Jews! But nowadays women are legally competent: from this angle there would thus be no obstacle to a female priesthood.
Because of his Jewish situation, for exactly the same reason as Christ did not take on the form of a woman neither did he come into the world as a non-Jew. Over the years, this consideration for the conditions of Jewish society at that time has become unnecessary, For this reason, women could now become priests just as European and African men do today: these can become priests, bishops and cardinals.
Similar to women is the case of female animals, which were considered to be ritually inferior (and thus not just different). This must have played a role in the fact that for the feast of the Passover a male lamb had to be slaughtered and eaten (Exod. 12, 5). Christ, however, is likened to the paschal lamb (not equated with it, for we are concerned with an exemplificatory image). In a society where “female” meant inferior, a male sacrificial victim was a victim without blemish, a gift more pleasing to God.
For the apostles and the followers of Jesus, to believe in their complete redemption through the Lamb of God was made easier by his becoming a man than it would have been if he had taken the fleshly form of a woman and then made the self-sacrifice on the cross. They really would not have understood redemption through a woman (Cf. John 16, 12). But who would seriously believe that the second figure in the divine personage would have been any less able to redeem us by becoming human dying and rising again, if he had been made flesh as a woman? The only person who could think this would be someone who actually really does secretly view woman as a miscreated human being, as a “mas occasionatus”,(1)(6) even while loudly proclaiming her equality; or someone who has very little trust, not only in women but also in God.
Could a Woman be a Representative of Christ?
As far as legal competence is concerned. there is no longer any counter-argument.
In the practices of the Church, has a woman ever represented the man Christ?
At each administration of the sacraments, as well as in the sermon and catechism, we are to believe that ultimately Christ is the giver of the sacrament and grace. The person who administers it instead of him is only the intermediary, only Christ’s representative, not Christ himself. No one doubts that women represent the conceptive bride of the Church each time the sacraments are received and the word of God is heard. But women can also change roles and represent Christ the fructifying donor.
At catechesis and sermons in Hyde Park today, women, too, are allowed to stand in place of Christ, to represent the conceptive Church’s reciprocal:(B)(C) the Cardinal of England gave women the “missio canonica” for this. We may thank God that women have so illuminatingly represented Christ, both out at their workplace and at home to their husbands, that they have helped those around them to believe in him.
We see that women have fulfilled a representative function in these areas, and still do, and this although Jesus was born male and they were born female. They have surely not harmed the Church by thus representing Christ, but rather have imparted to it grace, and new life of a mental and spiritual, rather than a biological kind.
In just the same way, nurses and midwives may represent the active, giving principle when they perform an emergency baptism,
Women are also not barred from representing Christ as the donor of grace, help, and encouragement when they are looking after children and old people. Men hardly envy them their representation of Christ washing his disciples’ feet, even when women are properly paid and have legal backing as well as an old-age pension for their activities.
A wife gives her husband the sacrament of marriage, just as the husband gives his wife this sacramental grace. In this, both are simultaneously givers and receivers of the sacrament. for each gives something different from what is received.
The deaconesses of the early Church were also allowed to represent Christ at the administration of the communion. Women also took the bread of life into concentration camps. Recently some nuns in Colombia and Brazil were given the authority to administer Holy Communion.(D) Thus they represent Christ, the head of the communion fellowship, when he said: “Take, all of you, and eat of this, for this is my body… Take, all of you, and drink of this, for this is the chalice of my blood…”
But what about the representation of Christ at the administration of sacraments which are the exclusive preserve of the priest?
In the above-mentioned functions, which mainly belong to the lay priesthood, four things are obvious: a) that women have always represented Christ and must continue to do so, otherwise their Christianity would be sterile, and not an imitation of Christ; b) this representation of Christ does not conflict with the nature of woman; c) nor does it contradict the mystery of the Church and its marriage with Christ;
d) nor does it conflict with the beliefs on which an understanding of priesthood is based. Quite the opposite.
The same is true of performing functions specifically allocated to ordained priests. Here, too, a woman representative of Christ would conflict neither with the nature of woman, nor with the mystery of the Church and its marriage to Christ, nor with the understanding of priesthood that derives from belief, but would harmonise with them.
Christ, the Church’s bridegroom (Eph. 5, 22-31). What is the outcome of dogmatic considerations on women representing Christ?
Only someone over-interpreting the picture of Christ’s marriage to the Church can thereby construe an objection to women’s ordination as priests. The moment when one presupposes that this image is to be taken so literally that Christ the bridegroom can only be represented by a man, one must also assume that the mystery between Christ and Church would be just as effectively destroyed if the Church-as-bride were not represented by a woman. If the bridal Church could only be represented by a woman, what would then be the consequences?
Men would no longer be authorised to give answers to the question “What does the Church say?” – no matter whether they were male priests, male bishops, council members, or even the Pope. These men would never have been authorised to issue interdicts and orders in the name of the “Spouse and Mother Church”. Even the most trenchant anti-clericals have never proclaimed such nonsense. But this over-literal interpretation of the image of the marriage between Christ and the Church has, for centuries, been good enough to construe the exclusion of women from the priesthood.
If we follow the literalist perception of the symbol of the bridal Church, those receiving sacraments should only be women. For how then shall men embody this idea? According to this thesis, no male should be allowed to receive sacraments, either baptism, communion, confession, or ordination as priest or bishop, or any other sacrament. For this receiving, and portrayal of the receptive principle, would be not only against the “nature and dignity of men”, who according to the traditional “characteristic distinctions” of the sexes would have to represent just the active principle, and not the passive, receptive inferior principle: no, a man receiving sacrament would be also contrary to the essence of the Church and the priesthood, by which the giver can only be represented by a man, but the receiving counterpart only by a woman.
In this case, too, no theologian will maintain that the image of a marrriage between Christ and the Church should be over-literally interpreted, To exclude men from receiving all sacraments would be a scandal. Then who gives a woman writer or a theologian the right to strain this image so as to “prove” that women should be excluded from priesthood? No one.
Further dogmatic impossibilities would result from the exaggerated evaluation of this symbol. Let us merely mark here: the exclusion of women from the ordained priesthood can no more follow from the mystery uniting Christ and Church, as expressed in the image of marriage, than can the exclusion of men from receiving the sacraments.
Every Christian, male or female, can change roles, as we have seen; that is, they can receive sacraments and thus personify the bridal Church, or act as intermediaries of grace and thus represent Christ the bridegroom. As long as mediating grace is part of those functions not reserved for ordained priests, it signifies a sharing in the collective priesthood of the faithful. In this way each woman is already allowed today to participate in the high priesthood of Christ, his teaching and his kingdom, and moreover not just as an appendage of her husband or father, but by virtue of her baptism in the name of the Heavenly Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This gift of baptism is developed into official priesthood through ordination. The ordained priest then changes roles more often than female and male laity, The fact that the official priest probably has to represent Christ more often than the laity do, is also no grounds for excluding women from the official priesthood: for otherwise, we would have to suppose that representing the Church was less possible for a man than for a woman.
It would be a matter of pressing urgency in theology, to purify this image, the mystical marriage between Christ and the Church, of its sexual and patriarchalistic conceptions. Exactly the same applies to the fine symbols of the bishop’s ring and the term “ecclesia viduata”, and the image of marriage between a male – or in future a female – parish priest and their congregation. These do not say – excuse the explicitness – that the women of a diocese or a parish are the pastor’s concubines… The coherent sense and beauty of these images is elsewhere: Christ inhabits the Church, and is more integrally bound up with it than husband and wife can be with each other. This is a call to the bishop and his diocese, to male priests and female priests-to-be, and their congregations, to stick together, to be inwardly bound to each other, to love each other sincerely not with just that sexual and yet Christian love reserved to the sacrament of matrimony, but with a selfless caritas Dei that is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit dwelling in us (Rom. 5, 5). Thereby the woman priest of the future would also be duty-bound to love her congregation as Christ loves his Church – certainly no easy task. But why should a woman fulfil this task less perfectly than a man, if she has the talent and training, the Church’s official backing. and the calling from God? This is especially incomprehensible when, in line with traditional sex typology, it is asserted that selfless love is primarily the morning gift of a woman, not of a man,
Christ is the Head of the Church
The image of the mystical body of Christ is much less of an argument than is that of the Church as bride for excluding women from the priesthood. Here, too, we find exchange of roles. We are all the Body of Christ, Christ alone is the Head. No priest can be identified as the Head: he can only be its representative, and moreover by virtue of his ordination and office he can more distinctively be so than female or male laity. Since women exist with a head, just as men do, they also could represent the Head of the Church. Those who regard women exclusively as sexual creatures, however, will not accept this. They derive their argument against women priests, however, not from the mystery of the Head-and-Body union of Christ-and-Church, but rather from an un-Christian biologism that degrades women to mere sexual objects.(6)
Spiritual motherhood and fatherhood; Mary, Mother of the Church
It is doing a man an injustice to view him and his status as father only from the sexual angle. It is just as mistaken to evaluate a woman and her motherhood only from the viewpoint of sex and erotic criteria. We ascribe spiritual fatherhood to the unmarried priest. Why should merely the care of corporeal life be entrusted to unmarried women? The motherly talents could actually be used for the birth and nurture of mental and spiritual life. Mary, the mother of the Church, is a glorious example of this.
If we look at the individual sacraments, and Mary, the woman who gave us Christ the archisacrament,(4) we see that she can hold her own against any official priest. A Catholic clergyman has drawn a highly succinct conclusion from this: “If God chose a woman to realise the incarnation, and has thus sanctioned once for all the participation of woman in manifesting salvation, why should priestly ordination be impossible for women then, since ordination for women would not remotely approach that degree of participation in Christ’s work of salvation which is represented by the Incarnation and the help the Mother of God had to give in this? This means, then: if God for his part accorded the higher degree of participation to a woman, why should the Church for its part refuse her the lower degree?”
Women in the Pulpit and at the Altar?
This is initially a shocking concept for most people. But why actually should not a woman be possible in the pulpit and at the altar?
We have seen that on the basis of exegesis, ecclesiastical law, and dogmatics a female priestly office would be a distinct possibility. If one looks at the individual functions that a priest has to perform and considers whether a woman could carry out each of these functions well and worthily, one finds no convincing counter-arguments. We have got used to the woman teacher in state schools, the woman at the dispatch box, the woman on television: why should we not get used to a woman in the pulpit? “It would be ridiculous to wheel out woman’s gossipiness as an argument against women hearing confession, since women have long famously proven their discretion, as doctors with medical secrets and as security services employees with secrets of state”.(5) The majority of the faithful would soon find a woman officiating at the altar no more difficult a changeover than was brought in by the reform of the liturgy.
Admittedly, not every woman could perform these priestly functions, just as not every man would at once have the stuff to be a good priest and butcher, a good physician and tailor, or a good atomic physicist and cook. Just as surely as a woman can become an able teacher or head teacher, mayor, judge or doctor, there are surely women alive who would have the stuff to make good women priests. It is not a questlon of pushing unsuitable ladies into the priestly profession. Nor is it a question of appointing a woman to sacred office and squeezing her into an institution that she finds oppressive, when she prefers to work in the Church without being ordained and even has a special charisma for this. It is much more a question of opening a door to women who have a vocation to be ordained priests, so that they are better enabled to make more of their talents, rather than having to bury them and complain to God about the dilemma resulting from his calling and the Church’s rejecting. The Church prays for labourers in the vineyard of the Lord. God hears her prayer and calls women as well as men. It is for the Church to accept God’s offer thankfully.
Men at a disadvantage?
Wouldn’t men, being after all “excluded from motherhood”,(5) be disadvantaged by women’s admission to the official priesthood? They will hardly plead this exclusion as an insult or deprivation of their rights. When their wives groan in birth pangs they will also hardly suspect “a conspiracy of women”(5) in this exclusion. Instead of this, men have fatherhood, and its related experiences and activities…
But what about the Female Aura and male reactions to it?
When Mary Ward left the protection of the convent walls, when women first entered the most varied professions (secretary, schoolteacher, doctor, etc.), this chorus of disapproval came each time.
As if there were no conscious and unconscious, voluntary and involuntary male aura! Also, reactions of the female sex are frequently beyond the will and control of the bearer of a male aura.
Have people concluded from this that male priests should only exercise care of male souls, while only women priests should be appointed to the care of all female souls? There have been previous hitches in practice, but for pastoral care advantages also have been forthcoming from the tension between male priests and women. Nothing different ought to be expected with female priests.
The tensions and scandals will surely not be got rid of by excluding women from ecclesiastical office and liturgical functions. Women occupy space in the Church one way or other, whether in the ministry or not. They jointly belong to the Church congregation and are even active in the ecclesiastical apostolate, whether ordained or not – that makes little difference to the tension between men and women.
Is it that women’s nature is more strongly corrupted by the influence of original sin than man’s? This maxim, seldom openly articulated but often thought,(6) cannot in any way be documented from Genesis, not even by the fact that Eve gave her Adam the fruit of temptation. The people living today are the offspring of these ancestral parents. Even if someone could prove that Eve had sinned worse than Adam, it is still quite clear that priests alive today are, like all men, sons of Eve and not just of Adam, and women alive today, the possible candidates for a female priesthood, are daughters of Adam, not just of Eve.
Perhaps the corruption of human nature caused by original sin is less easy to redeem in a woman than in a man? Whoever asserts that, is inventing an ineffective or weak baptism for women and a potent baptism for men, and is in conflict with the “ex opere operato effect” of the sacraments. Besides, women do not resist the divine grace of salvation through the sacraments any more than men do. Baptism thus effectively heals, purges and uplifts a woman and man alike.(2)(4)
Additional reasons of a practical sort
Exactly the same vehement, and often malicious, unobjective arguments have generally been slung at the female teacher, the female Protestant pastor and female catechist, female assistants in the domain of pastoral care, missionary sisters or female missionary doctors as have been slung at a female priesthood.
The woman’s menstrual cycle and her eroticism were not the only arguments trotted out as typical female weaknesses. A lack of ability for abstractions(5) (in those days they talked even more coarsely, about stupidity and about woman’s smaller brain), a lack of education, too great an emphasis on feelings, a strong dependency on private associations in thought and judgement, the urge to show off, the tendency to take everything personally, etc., were all rattled off, as if these weaknesses were never found in men!
Female official appointees in all professions as well as parliamentary representatives and ambassadors, have proved that these things are a matter of prejudice, and that this prejudice projects the weaknesses of a certain category of women – weaknesses that most certainly are shared by men – on to all women. This is an unfair generalizaton.
Female shop assistants, secretaries and village school teachers are hardly less “on a pedestal” than a priest. These women withstand and face up to a constant rush of encounters. They even prefer this to dealing with just paper, Index cards or machines.
One could positively say, even, that women would be “better suited to many of the priestly duties than many men, by virtue of their female endowments. Their stronger empathy in individual and personal matters, and their greater sociability” (5) would be of advantage to them there. If they did not know how to link their sociability with the requisite amount of aloofness, they would have gone under long ago. Meanwhile female doctors, teachers, Protestant pastors, missionary nuns and others have given a living example that women in such professions do not need to be either sexless or virile.
Abbesses and mothers superior, female ambassadors and mayors and parliamentary representatives have shown that women may represent their people, from the village up to the nation state: why not God’s people the Church? (5) Already the Institute of Mary, the female pastoral assistants, the missionary nuns and doctors, have all suffered from the reproach: they might well clean the church, decorate the altars, embroider liturgical vestments, bake the hosts, tend the sick, and carry out work of corporeal and spiritual mercy, but they should not “crave so much personal prestige” (5) as to strive for those jobs which in the meantime women have, de facto, come to perform. It is these women’s putative “envy” (5) and the “bad conscience” (5) of helpful churchmen, that we have to thank for the fact that there are “so many forms of female apostleship today”.(5)
Those women striving towards priesthood today are in good company with their ambition or calling: Catherine of Siena and Theresia of Lisieux, too, entertained this ambition.
May women who are suited for the priesthood be given the chance to take it up; may they be gifted, in addition to their divine calling, with the Church’s mission to exercise it. That “handful of women” pray for this, and also pray for those “people of Jerusalem” who are helping them through suffering to attain more quickly to the heavenly Jerusalem…
1. Gertrud Heinzelmann, ed. (1964). Wir schweigen nicht länger! (We Won’t Keep Silence Any Longer). Postfach 370 (P.O. Box 370). Zürich: Interfeminas-Verlag.
2. J.Th.Münch in: Wir schweigen nicht länger! (We Won’t Keep Silence Any Longer) pp. 45 ff. Though the author would today add some improvements to the individual points, e.g. Can. 490,(E) the conclusion still stands: according to ecclesiastical law, the exclusion of women from the priesthood is not to be regarded as a divine law.
3. Cf. Josef Funk. SVD: Klerikale Frauen? (Women clerics?). Österreichisches Archiv für Kirchenrecht (Austrian Archive for Ecclesiastical Law), 4/1963. Vienna: Herder.
4. For further details see: J.Th.Münch. Submission to the Council. October1962. Ms.
5. Ida Friederike Görres, Über die Weihe von Frauen zu Priesterinnen (Concerning the Ordination of Women as Priests) Der Christliche Sonntag, (Christian Sunday), 20.6.1965.
6. Cf. also: Cardinal Suenens (1963), Krise und Erneuerung der Frauenorden (Crisis and Renewal in the Women’s Orders). 2nd. Ed. Salzburg, p. 51.
The author is aware that a number of objections are not yet answered or only partly answered by this article. She is quite willing to give more details, literary sources and bibliographical references.
Before the German-language original of Catholic Women Priests? was published, another article by J. Th. Münch appeared in Der christliche Sonntag (Christian Sunday) on 15th. Aug. 1965, CS 33/1965, published with the title “Sollen die Frauen in der Kirche schweigen?” (Should Women be Silent in the Church?).
The notes ABCDE show where, in the year of English translation (1989) of this article, the author sees some things differently from in 1965.
A. a) Jesus had not just male but also female disciples (Luke 8, 2-3).
b) It cannot be ruled out that among the 72 other disciples that Jesus sent out (Luke 10, 1-9-20), there were females.
c) On Easter morning Christ first charged the women to announce his resurrection, and only later did he also charge the apostles and the remaining disciples with the task.
d) He chided the apostles because they had not believed those – the women, among others – by whom he had sent the message of his resurrection to them.
e) There is a broad tradition according to which Mary Magdalene
1. was recognised as an apostle, and
2. even acquired the honorary title “apostola apostolorum”, i.e. “The apostles’ (woman) apostle”.
f) While no woman belonged to the Twelve, in 1989 it is held to be certain that it was a woman, Junia (and not a man, Junias, the result of incorrect copying or misreading) whom Saint Paul together with Andronicus greets in the Epistle to the Romans (Rom.16, 7). He simultaneously acknowledges her as an apostle (“Their eminence is great among the apostles, and they were Christians before I was.”) The same apostle Paul lay great value on being acknowledged by the eminent apostles, especially Peter (Gal. 2, 2. 6).
(The present-day Italian translation of the Bible naturally assumes that it is a woman Junia rather than a man Junias.)
B. In those years when lay preaching was permitted, women also preached on certain occasions, and even in Sunday Mass – whether they actually belonged to an Order or not. In Germany lay preaching – whether by men or women – has been and still is allowed at religious services where there is no priest.
C. In South America (Brazil, Columbia, Peru, etc.) and even in India and many parts of Africa, nuns have complete responsibility for the charge of whole parishes. That they should preach as part of that, is there a matter of course,
D. Now woman assistants at communion are no longer a rarity even in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Spain and other European and non-European countries.
With the nuns who take full responsibility for tending and leading parishes without a priest in Latin America, India and several parts of Africa, the administration of Communion is an indispensable part of their activities.
E. The numbering of the canons relates to the CIC still valid in 1965, not to the recent CIC of 1983.
- Go to “My Letters to the Pope” by Josefa Theresia Münch.
- Go to Letter to Pope John Paul II.
- Go to Should Women be Silent in the Church?, in the German Catholic weekly Der christliche Sonntag, 15th. Aug. 1965.
|Six options for Catholic women who feel called to the priesthood?|
Please, credit this document
as published by www.womenpriests.org!
This 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.
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.