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Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture

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Sophie
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2008/08/30 21:03:35 (permalink)
  

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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2008/09/08 17:50:23 (permalink)
ORIGINAL: Sophie

Women scholars belong at synod on the Word
By RITA L. HOULIHAN
National Catholic Reporter
April 18, 2008

At the beginning of his resurrected life, Jesus chose St. Mary Magdalene to witness and announce his resurrection. Yet, too often, women leaders, biblical and otherwise, are invisible in church preaching and proclamation.

Pope Benedict XVI has called a Worldwide Synod of Bishops on “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church” for October of this year.

According to synod leaders, the meeting will pay special attention to “the Word of God in liturgy, in preaching, in catechesis, in theology, spirituality, public and private meditation, enculturation and ecumenism.”

Jesus relied on faithful women and men. Will Benedict and our bishops also? Will they invite women biblical scholars as expert consultants to the synod? Or will they overlook the fact that women have been active ministers of the Word from the start of Christian history and still are today?

Only 14 women were invited as nonvoting observers to the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist. No women theologians were invited as expert consultants, though this would have been a simple way for our bishops to include the perspectives of women. By contrast, 242 bishops attended with full voting privileges.

Currently, 40 percent of the 1,600 members of the Catholic Bible Association are women. These 640 women biblical scholars constitute a rich resource for the synod.

I for one hope and pray and am optimistic that Pope Benedict and the bishop delegates to the synod will correct this painful situation by inviting women biblical scholars as expert consultants in 2008.

Benedict himself honored first-century women leaders in a February 2007 address, saying, “The story of Christianity would have had a very different trajectory were it not for the generosity brought to it by many women. ... Their work was anything other than secondary.” I pray that our pope puts these words of praise into practice and supports Christian women leaders in the 21st-century church.

It is time for church officials to go back to our Christian roots for inspiration. They could examine how Jesus included women in all aspects of his discipleship. They might see how fully inclusive Jesus’ mission was -- a mission that included, relied on and honored women benefactors (Joanna, Susanna and St. Mary Magdalene), women students (Mary of Bethany), and women believers. They could bring the inclusive Jesus to life in 2008.

For the past year, FutureChurch, a national Catholic organization, has spearheaded a campaign requesting that women biblical scholars be invited as consultants to the Synod on the Word. The campaign also asks for more pastoral attention to Jesus’ and St. Paul’s inclusive practice and suggests simple actions parishes can take to make visible women’s leadership and experience in church preaching. At least 5,000 electronic and snail-mail postcards have been mailed to the Vatican and to individual U.S. bishops.

Jesus left us a vision of the world as it can be, a place where “there does not exist among you Jew or Greek, slave or freeman, male or female. All one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). It is every Catholic’s responsibility to make that vision reality now.

Rita L. Houlihan is a member of FutureChurch’s board of trustees.

National Catholic Reporter, April 18, 2008
 
http://ncronline.org/NCR_Online/archives2/2008b/041808/041808s.htm


 
Pope names more women than ever to Synod of Bishops on Bible
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
September 8, 2008

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Choosing men and women from every part of the world and from a wide variety of professional spheres, Pope Benedict XVI nominated 32 voting members, 41 experts and 37 observers for the upcoming world Synod of Bishops.

The nomination of six female scholars as experts and of 19 women as observers will give the Oct. 5-26 Synod of Bishops on the Bible the largest bloc of women ever participating in a Catholic synod.

The list of papal appointments to the synod was published Sept. 6 by the Vatican.

The 32 clerics Pope Benedict named as full members of the synod will join about 180 bishops who were elected by their national bishops' conferences, 10 priests elected by the Union of Superiors General and about two dozen cardinals and archbishops, heads of Vatican congregations and councils, who automatically are members of the synod.

The papal nominees include 18 cardinals, 12 of whom head dioceses. Among them are Cardinals Marc Ouellet of Quebec, George Pell of Sydney, Australia, and Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong.

The bishops the pope nominated come from Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia. They include Bishop Jose Lai Hung-seng of Macau.

Pope Benedict also named as full synod members: Bishop Javier Echevarria Rodriguez, head of the personal prelature of Opus Dei; Father Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Jesuits; and Father Julian Carron, president of the Communion and Liberation movement.

The voting members of the synod can address the entire gathering, and they determine the propositions to be presented to the pope at the end of the gathering.

The 41 experts will serve as resource people for the synod members as they discuss the importance of the Scriptures in the life of the church, look at the Bible's role in Catholic prayer and liturgy, evaluate its role in ecumenical and interreligious relations, and discuss ways to improve biblical literacy at every level of the church.

The six women named experts are:

-- Sister Sara Butler, a professor of dogmatic theology at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y. A member of the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity, Sister Butler was one of two women Pope John Paul II named to the International Theological Commission in 2004.

-- Spanish Sister Nuria Calduch-Benages, a professor of the biblical theology of the Old Testament at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University and a member of the Missionary Daughters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

-- Bruna Costacurta, an Italian professor of Old Testament theology at the Gregorian.

-- Marguerite Lena, a professor of philosophy in Paris and director of theological formation for young adults at Paris' St. Francis Xavier Community.

-- Sister Mary Jerome Obiorah, a member of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and professor of sacred Scripture at the University of Nigeria and at the major seminary of the Archdiocese of Onitsha, Nigeria.

-- Trappist Sister Germana Strola, a member of the monastery at Vitorchiano, Italy.

Pope Benedict also named 19 women to be among the 37 synod observers; the observers attend all synod sessions, participate in the synod working groups and are given an opportunity to address the entire synod assembly.

Like their male counterparts, most of the women observers are professors or leaders of religious orders, Bible-based Catholic lay movements or large Catholic organizations.

As of Sept. 8 the Vatican had not published the names of the "fraternal delegates," the representatives of other Christian churches and communities who attend the synods and are given an opportunity to address the assembly.

A Vatican official said about 15 fraternal delegates would attend; in addition, he said, Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, the chief rabbi of Haifa, Israel, would be a special guest and lead a discussion for synod members on the Jewish interpretation of the Scriptures.

- - -

Editor's Note: The full list of nominations is posted online in Italian at: http://212.77.1.245/news_services/bulletin/news/22536.php?index=22536&lang=it.



http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0804558.htm
Sophie
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2008/09/08 17:52:35 (permalink)
The six women named experts are:

-- Sister Sara Butler, a professor of dogmatic theology at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y. A member of the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity, Sister Butler was one of two women Pope John Paul II named to the International Theological Commission in 2004.



 
Who is Sister Sara Butler?
 
Sister Sara Butler teaches dogmatic theology at St. Joseph's Seminary in New York.  She was an early proponent of the women's ordination, but said she changed positions in the late 1970s after what she calls an "intellectual conversion" while researching the topic.
 
The following is her bio on St. Joseph's website:

Sister Sara Butler

 
Sister Sara Butler, M.S.B.T., S.T.L., Ph.D.

Sister Sara teaches dogmatic theology at St. Joseph's Seminary. She recently published The Catholic Priesthood and Women: A Guide to the Teaching of the Church (Hillenbrand Books).  Her articles have appeared in Worship, The Thomist, Theological Studies, Theology Digest, Anglican Theological Review, Communio, Ephemerides Mariologicae, Chicago Studies, and the New Catholic Encyclopedia.  In 2004 she was appointed to the International Theological Commission, and she has served on the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission since 1991.  Sister Sara belongs to the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity.

"Women's Ordination: Is It Still an Issue?" --
The Terrence Cardinal Cooke lecture of March 7, 2007. 
 
http://www.archny.org/seminary/st-josephs-seminary-dunwoodie/administration/sister-sara-butler/
Sophie
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2008/09/08 18:22:34 (permalink)
Dear friends,
 
Though Sister Sara Butler, one of six women experts appointed to participate in next month's Vatican Synod on the Word was an early proponent of women's ordination, she says she 'changed' positions in the late 1970s after what she calls an "intellectual conversion" while researching the topic.  She now supports the Vatican point of view. (See her book The Catholic Priesthood and Women: A Guide to the Teaching of the Church).
 
The following article from our library was written by Butler prior to her 'change of view.'  In it, she outlines a critique of the Vatican arguments and elaborates on recommendations for those who wish to pursue dialogue with the Vatican.
 
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to let me know.
 
with love and blessings,
 
~Sophie~
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
 
Recent Theological Studies on the Issue: The Findings of the Research Team of the Catholic Theological Society of America
by Sara Butler, M.S.B.T.
New Woman, New Church, New Priestly Ministry
Proceedings of the Second Conference on the Ordination of Roman Catholic Women
November 1978

Baltimore, U.S.A. pp 117-125.

Published on our website with permission of the
Women's Ordination Conference

[Since this article she has changed her position and supports the Vatican point of view. See her book The Catholic Priesthood and Women: A Guide to the Teaching of the Church ]
 
 




Sara Butler, MSBT, is editor of the recent study commissioned by the Catholic Theological Society of America: “Women in Church and Society. ”She holds a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Fordham and has spent the past seven years in Mobile, Alabama, teaching theology to adults, candidates for the permanent diaconate and men and women active in ministry. She currently serves on the General Council of the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity in Philadelphia.
Almost three years ago, on the occasion of the Women’s Ordination Conference, a research team sponsored by the Catholic Theological Society of America held its first meeting. We met at the Southfield Sheraton Hotel during the Saturday afternoon of the conference. Although this plan was not exactly felicitous for members of the Task Force, it did have a certain symbolic value. The excitement and enthusiasm of the conference lent special urgency to our task.
 
What was the task? To conduct a theological review and critique of the work done by various committees and conferences under Roman Catholic and other Christian sponsorship regarding the question of the status of women in church and society.
 
Members of the CTSA research team were: Anne Carr, Frederick Crowe, Margaret Farley, and Edward Kilmartin; consultants were Elisabeth Schüssler-Fiorenza and Joan Range. I served as chairperson.
 
My assignment this afternoon is to acquaint you with the findings of this research team and to suggest which aspects of the theological questions continue to command our attention.
 
As I said, the research team was asked to survey recent literature produced by conferences and committees.
 
The CTSA research team began with a wide-ranging survey of recent literature on the status of women in church and society. This survey revealed that the most pointed considerations occurred in statements regarding the status of women in the church, and, specifically, regarding the question of women’s ordination. We determined to focus our attention on women’s ordination, then, in the belief that this somewhat precise focus would enable us to get a perspective on the wider question of women’s status — a question which is rarely addressed in theological terms. To a considerable degree, this approach did provide such a wider perspective.
 
We narrowed the literature under review still further by taking up only those documents, mostly “official” positions and consensus statements, which supplied some theological rationale. We were not surprised to discover that most statements were formulated in a situation of advocacy, either for or against the admission of women to pastoral office. (Let me note that the term “pastoral office” is used in our report to refer to the office of bishop and priest; we set to one side the question of women’s accession to the diaconate.)
 
The documents included in our survey are familiar to most of you: recent Vatican statements, statements from the bishops of this country, statements from learned societies and national associations (the Canon Law Society, the National Coalition of American Nuns, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and reports from our own conference, “Women in Future Priesthood Now," and from the Detroit “Call to Action”), and statements from bi-lateral conversations in the United States which have addressed this topic. The Vatican Declaration on the Question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood appeared just as we were completing our task.
 
Our task, again, was to give a theological review and critique. Since it was not possible three years ago to appeal to a consensus in the Roman Catholic theological community regarding such questions as Jesus’ attitude towards women or the “nature” of women, the research team had to work first at getting its own consensus on certain presuppositions so that it had a foundation for its critique. This process, difficult at times, was probably the most valuable experience of the team.
 
We took some pains to identify the basic arguments for and against the ordination of women to pastoral office. This led to the decision to deal neither with each document (for they were of uneven value) nor with each argument (these are found in the report on pages 17 and 18), but with the presuppositions of the discussion. It is apparent to all who study this question that there are a number of issues involved, all interacting in a way that makes it very difficult to tackle head-on. Our development of four basic categories of issues has, I think, been a helpful tool for analysis.
 
Before delineating these, let me note that we elaborated two points as regards method which also have wider application. First, we noted that competence to judge particular questions (such as what role women played in Jewish religious life) belongs to specialists in that field; as a research team, we could not properly adjudicate controverted questions of historical fact and interpretation. The very nature of this issue requires scholarly collaboration! Second, we gave attention to the influence of the theological mindsets which are brought to the investigation of this sort of question. As a group, we opted for an “open” mindset, a mindset which emphasizes the future and its still undetermined content and the free activity needed to move creatively into that future, over against a “closed” mindset which emphasizes the past, the already determined, the formulations and institutions handed down to us.
 
What, then, are the four categories of arguments? First, there are arguments based on the praxis of Jesus, the apostles, and the church. Second, there are arguments based on the nature of pastoral office. Third, there are arguments which turn on presuppositions about the nature of women. And fourth, there are arguments which appeal to principles of justice.
 
I should like to summarize briefly the conclusions we drew regarding the first and the fourth categories and then develop at more length the critical questions raised in the second andthird categories.
 
The research team concluded, in its section on the praxis of Jesus, the apostles, and the church, that the evidences of Sacred Scripture and the tradition of the Church are not decisive for the question of admitting women to pastoral office. Our critique of the usual arguments from the New Testament as regards the mind of Jesus proposes that Jesus and the apostles did in fact invite women to a situation of equality with men in their ministry and mission. Reasons adduced from the New Testament for the exclusion of women from priesthood and episcopate cannot, we believe, be supported by critical scholarship. (CTSA Report, page 46) The basis on which the church of later ages judged that women could not be ordained to pastoral office — namely, their natural state of subjection — can no longer be seriously maintained. We judge the constant practice of later centuries to be an unexamined manner of acting, not a genuine theological tradition. It is important to note that reasons adduced from this so-called tradition run contrary to the church’s contemporary teaching about the equality of women and men. We observe, moreover, that the growing consensus among Anglican and Protestant churches is evidence of the development of the tradition.
 
Pastoral roles for women in the Roman Catholic Church which have emerged since Vatican II contribute evidence that strongly favors the admission of women to pastoral office. By virtue of juridical mandate or commissioning, women are being sent to assume charge of parishes and carry out many priestly tasks, short of celebrating the Eucharist, Reconciliation, and the Anointing of the Sick.
 
With respect to the fourth category of arguments, those based on considerations of justice, the research team concludes that the principles of equality, duty implies right, and the common good clearly support the admission of women to pastoral office.
 
Injustice is done when women are excluded, unless it can be established that this matter has been settled in advance by the divine will, that is, unless the divine will, as shown by some reason drawn from theological anthropology or by the nature of pastoral office, can be demonstrated so to qualify the person or office that no woman is, in fact, ever a suitable candidate. The pertinence of the “justice argument,” then, turns on the resolution of these two questions: the nature of pastoral office and the nature of women.
 
Let us consider next the nature of pastoral office. The justification advanced for the traditional exclusion of women is this: The ordained priest must act officially in the person of Christ; it follows that a male priest is required to act in the person of the male Christ. This assertion, already proposed in the 1972 report of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Theological Reflections on the Ordination of Women,” was strongly reiterated in the Vatican Declaration Inter Insigniores. The Declaration attempts to call attention, in virtue of the analogy of faith, to the “profound fittingness” of admitting only men to the sacrament of order. Since sacraments must represent what they signify by “natural resemblance,” the priest must be a man, for Christ himself was and remains a man.
 
The CTSA research team addressed this line of argumentation by challenging the adequacy of the Thomistic theology of the eucharistic ministry of the ordained. The view, traditional with Catholics since the thirteenth century, that the priest directly represents (or denotes) Christ when he pronounces the words of institution in the eucharistic prayer, has been severely criticized by contemporary Catholic liturgical scholars on three counts. In the first place, it neglects the structure of the eucharistic prayers of East and West, overlooking the epiclesis and incorrectly separating the “moment of consecration” from the rest of the canon. Second, it tends to regard the Eucharist as a sacred drama - with the corresponding implication that the faithful are spectators while the priest “plays” the role of Christ. This view is totally out of keeping with the authentic Catholic explanation of the Eucharist as an expression of the faith of the Church, the sacramental coaccomplishment of the sacrifice of the cross in and by the Church. Third, this view separates too drastically the cultic powers of the priest from the ecclesial dimension of ordained ministry.
 
This third point is really the key to our critique. We reject the view that the priest represents Christ independently of his function of representing the church. The priest acts “in persona Ecclesiae” as well as “in persona Christi.” How are these representational functions related to one another? Contemporary theology situates the priest squarely in the midst of the believing community. This community, the church, is the sacrament and locus of Christ’s presence, because of its faith. Within this community, the priest first represents (denotes) the faith of the church; in virtue of his participation in the collegial office of the whole church, he also gives expression to the unity of local communities and thus to the common faith of the universal church. In his person and activity, then, the priest as member of the believing assembly represents (connotes) Christ who is, with the Holy Spirit, the active sharing source of this exercise of faith. It is in this manner, we suggest, that a priest represents Christ as Head of the Church.
 
This summary cannot do justice to a rather subtle and complex line of argumentation. The crux of the matter is that Christ is present to his church through the exercise of the church’s faith, and not by way of an “institution” (in this case, apostolic succession) which operates independently of that faith. If you have not already done so, I strongly urge you to examine this argument carefully. It has been proposed most successfully by Edward Kilmartin. This thesis regarding the manner in which the bearer of pastoral office represents Christ the Head of the church constitutes the strongest positive argument in favor of women’s ordination. If the pastoral office at the first level of signification directly represents the faith of the church, then women, as full members of the church, should be eligible for this office. There is nothing to exclude them from the symbolic function of denoting the faith of the church and simultaneously connoting the headship of Christ in eucharistic ministry.
 
Let me underline, then, the conclusion that what is in question is not whether women are capable of imaging the male Christ in eucharistic ministry. Rather, the question is whether any priest has the function of directly representing Christ. How does the priest represent the church and Christ? We propose that the priest represents the faith of the church and thereby represents Christ and the Holy Spirit, the source of that faith. “Only within a Thomistic theology of priesthood, with all its seeming defects, can one argue to the exclusion of women from the ordained minister because of the necessity of symbolic correspondence between the minister and Christ the male.” (CTSA Report, page 32)
 
One must acknowledge, nevertheless, that the Thomistic theology of priesthood accords well with the view of the Orthodox and Oriental Churches. The larger schema in which the issue is addressed them and by the Vatican inevitably appeals to the relation of maleness and femaleness to the orders of creation and salvation. The schema is familiar. It proposes that God created male and female with complementary functions and gifts; according to this divine design each realization of human nature has its own unique role: man, the role of headship, and woman, the role of protectress and channel of life. This division of humanity into male and female constitutes a revelation of the divine mystery. The male has a symbolic correspondence with the Father; the female, with the Holy Spirit. Christ represents the Father and is Lord of the church; thus, his male sex is deeply symbolic. It follows, according to this view, that among members of the church roles of headship and representation of Christ should be awarded only to men. The bearer of pastoral office functions as an icon of Christ; it is essential that there be a symbolic correspondence between this officer and Christ the man, Head of the church.
 
This line of reasoning is familiar. I mention it within the discussion of arguments related to pastoral office only to point up the grave inconsistency between this view of the divine order (and therefore of church order) and the actual practice of the church!
 
Women not only successfully exercise roles of leadership (“headship”) in the secular order; they currently function within the church in pastoral roles previously reserved to priests. Women baptize, preach, give religious instruction, officiate at marriages and preside at funerals on the basis of church commissions. In other words, they act “in the name of the church,” by special ecclesiastical mandate. The great anomaly is that these pastoral roles are being carried out by juridical mandate rather than ordination; this is a remarkable departure from tradition! It is hard to fathom how the actual exercise of “headship” can be denied to those who function in these pastoral roles.
 
At this juncture I wish to address the issues which relate to our final category of analysis: the nature of women. The schema of order of creation and salvation which I just recalled comes directly under scrutiny here.
 
What is the nature of “woman” (as they say)? The very question reveals the problem. On the one hand, one could say that the nature of woman is “human nature,” the very same nature as that of “man.” In our report, we noted that those who presumed a single human nature, common to women and men, advocated the admission of women to pastoral office. This position has been called a “one-nature” vision of humanity.
 
On the other hand, of course, are those who make the case for a “special nature” of women, equal but different from that of man. This “two-nature” vision of humanity sees in the division of male and female a distinction which is the foundation of unique roles which are not interchangeable. Men and women, according to this dual model of anthropology, are ordained to complement one another. Together, they are the image of God. Those who espouse this view generally argue for the exclusion of women from pastoral office on the grounds that the function of headship is appropriately male.
 
Time does not permit a full elaboration of these questions from the realm of theological anthropology. Permit me simply to highlight several points.
 
First, it should be noted that the case in favor of women’s ordination can be made independently of which view of humanity — the single or the dual — one holds. This is so because the pastoral office does not directly represent Christ.
 
Second, the underlying argument consistently used by the Vatican has been the two-nature view. Women are seen to be essentially complementary to men. Vatican congregations speak in terms of “the revealed identity of women” and the “originality of women’s nature,” and so on. Women, it is affirmed, have equal dignity by reason of their nature, but God has planned a diversity of functions.
 
Third, the CTSA research team finds this dual model of anthropology inadequate and favors, instead, a single (or “one nature”) view as in every way more true to our times. The single model is more in accord with the experience of contemporary women and the data of the human sciences. These sciences-biology, psychology, cultural anthropology, history, and sociology — lead us to new reflections on the project of being human. The data coming in raises hard questions about the validity of the traditional understanding that males as a class are complementary to females as a class and that the arrangement of social roles on the basis of this duality is essential and necessary to sexual identity and good order. Women’s experience and the human sciences disclose this arrangement as a disguised form of subordinationism. The research team observes that failure to admit data from these sources affects the credibility of claims regarding the divinely-revealed nature of women. Willingness to admit this data with respect to questions regarding the rights of women in the secular order only further compounds the issue, for another standard is invoked for discussion of the rights of women within the church.
 
The standard invoked is the one I noted earlier in which male and female together image God. The male, however, has symbolic correspondence to the Father — and thus to “headship.” The maleness of Jesus, then, is regarded as theologically significant, with the consequence that maleness is also essential for pastoral office.
 
The research team calls attention to the problems embodied in this newly-explicit but traditional view: problems relating to the doctrine of God, the person of Christ, and the extension of salvation to women.
 
In sum, the CTSA research team “does not. . . find that the arguments adduced on the question present any serious grounds to justify the exclusion of women from ordination to pastoral office in the Catholic Church.” (Report, page 47) It calls for a fuller examination of the representative role of the priest and a careful critique of the traditional view of the nature of women.
 
Since the completion of this study in May, 1976, several remarkable collections of essays have appeared: Sexism and Church Law, a study of the Canon Law Society of America edited by James Coriden; Women Priests, a paragraph-by-paragraph commentary on the Vatican Declaration edited by Arlene and Leonard Swidler; and Women and Priesthood, a commentary by members of the faculty of the Catholic Theological Union at Chicago, edited by Carroll Stuhlmueller. A collection of nine essays first published in L’Osservatore Romano is now available from Our Sunday Visitor Press.
 
My review of these essays leads me to advance four recommendations to all who feel a responsibility to pursue the dialogue with the Vatican.
 
1. Most of the essay on the evidence from Scripture and tradition in the Swidler and Stuhlmueller books are excellent and do help to consolidate the opinion that nothing from these sources decisively closes the issue. It is important, I think to become acquainted with the arguments (e.g., concerning the Twelve, the apostles, women in the New Testament church) in order to respond to the most frequently-asked questions.
 
2. The theological critique of the Thomist theology of priesthood is strikingly corroborated by the experience of women in pastoral service. This issue needs to be pressed in order to close the case. The disjunction between the prayer of the priest “in persona Ecclesiae” and “in persona Christi” (words of consecration) is criticized as artificial and without foundation in the texts of the rite itself (cf. Ralph Kiefer’s essay in Stuhlmueller, pages 103-110). This same disjunction, it was observed in yesterday’s reports from mission situations, occurs in the pastoral ministry of women.
 
They pray “in persona Ecclesiae” but call the priest in to pray the “words of consecration” “in persona Christ”. This is clearly demonstrated as an intolerable rupture of the meaning of eucharist in the assembled community. I think it would be fruitful to make a solid critique of this on liturgical principles.
 
3. It is imperative to become more sophisticated in our use of the data of the human sciences. The absolutely fundamental obstacle to the admission of women to pastoral order is the Roman Catholic symbol system and the social structures it supports. To admit women to the symbolic center of the life of the church, to eucharistic presidency, would be to overturn the social order of the church. Cultural anthropologists have much to tell us about the relationship of personal identity to body; of symbol to social organization and, ultimately, to cosmic structures. Mary Douglas’ book, Natural Symbols (Pelican and Random House, 1973), suggests how these relationships interact to reinforce a particular vision of reality. It is this total vision of reality which is threatened by women who refuse to accept the “Body identity” their society mediates to them. This, I believe, is where the issue is joined when we entertain the hope of dialogue with the Vatican. The present symbol system legitimates the subordination of women in church and ministry. (Do not miss Nadine Foley’s superb analysis of the Vatican “ontology of women,” in Sexism and Church Law, pages 82-108. We are faced with the challenge of reinterpreting these symbols to correspond with our lived experience.
 
One task of theology is to demonstrate the intelligibility of our faith commitment. I believe we have a “full agenda” — not a short one — if we hope to bring our church forward into the future with mutual respect, intellectual integrity, and fidelity to the past which has brought us this far.
 
post edited by Sophie - 2008/09/08 18:23:04
Sophie
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2008/09/08 18:29:44 (permalink)
A recent article reflecting Sister Sara Butler's change in point of view
 
Women’s Ordination: Is It Still an Issue?
Sister Sara Butler, M.S.B.T
March 7, 2007

When I joined the faculty of St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, four years ago, I was asked to teach the course on “Orders and Ministry.”  We reached the unit on contemporary issues, and when I announced that we would examine the controversy over women’s ordination, a hand shot up. “Is that still a question, Sister?”  I was quite taken aback by my student’s confidence that this had been settled! 

True, Pope John Paul II ruled in the 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis that the Church has no authority to change the tradition of reserving priestly ordination to men, and that this judgment must be “definitively held” by all the faithful.
[1]  True, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in reply to a question about the authoritative character of the Pope's letter, asserted that this doctrine had been infallibly taught by the ordinary universal magisterium.[2]  But we must acknowledge that it is still a question.[3] 

This is especially true, of course, in the context of ecumenical relations with the heirs of the Reformation.  No one denies that differences over the ordination of women pose a major obstacle to progress towards restoring unity with Protestants and Anglicans.  But many Catholics, too, think that the reservation of priestly ordination
[4] to men constitutes a serious injustice.  Nothing they have read or heard since they drew this conclusion has prompted them to reconsider it.  Some of them feel called upon to engage in a “prophetic” protest against the “institutional Church.”  Others remain silent, in obedience to the directive that Catholics should no longer openly advocate this change, but their confidence in the Church's teaching authority has been badly eroded.  For these, at least, the work of explaining the tradition of reserving priestly ordination to men is clearly unfinished.  Their lingering misgivings dampen enthusiasm for evangelization and, along with many other factors, impede our ability to attract vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.

Many observers maintain that women’s ordination is the defining issue for Catholic women.  They assume that the exclusion of women from priestly Orders proves, despite all protests to the contrary, that the Catholic Church does not truly hold that women are the equals of men.  Often these observers regard the priesthood as no more than a public leadership role, a social role.  They see that women can be ordained in other Christian communities, and note that ordained women are just as capable of fulfilling ministerial functions—preaching, leading worship, giving pastoral care to a congregation—as their male counterparts.  Seeing nothing in the role of minister or priest that requires physical maleness, they conclude that the Catholic Church is guilty of sexist bias in reserving priestly ordination to men.  We are familiar with the way these complaints are voiced.  For example, we hear that the Catholic Church has a “stained- glass ceiling” where women are concerned.  Or, “If you won’t ordain women, don’t baptize them.”  Many concerned Catholics lament the fact that talented women, willing and able to help meet the priest shortage, are rejected, while the faithful go without the sacraments.  They are honestly stumped by the fact that Catholic women—though they may now earn the same degrees as men in theology and divinity—cannot gain access to the ministerial priesthood.  People persist in asking “Why not”? 

For some years, when the question was first seriously raised, I actively and publicly promoted the cause of women’s ordination.
[5]  After much study and prayer, however, I now give my firm assent to the Church’s teaching; I am fully convinced that the matter has been authoritatively settled.  It is not easy to explain what led to my change of mind, because those who ask are usually familiar with a whole series of arguments, for and against women’s ordination, and they expect not only a persuasive explanation of what the Church teaches but also a convincing rebuttal of the objections that are commonly put to the teaching by its critics.  Many find those objections familiar, easy to understand, and more congenial to a democratic mindset than the teaching found in Pope John Paul II’s 1994 letter.  It seems necessary both to review how the question is usually framed from the perspective of the feminist critique, and also to look again at how it is framed by the magisterium, the Church’s teaching authority.  I will also draw your attention to the fact that the Church takes as its premise the settled Catholic doctrine of the priesthood. 

I will develop this presentation, then, in two steps.  First, I will examine the question from the feminist starting point.  I will show why the arguments of feminist theologians
[6] have led to a stalemate—a theological “standoff.”  Second, I will consider the topic from the magisterium’s starting point and indicate why its theological review led to the reaffirmation of the tradition and ultimately to a papal declaration that the Church has no authority to confer priestly ordination on women.  So, I will ask you to keep in mind two different “starting points.” 

I will also ask you to keep in mind a key distinction.  From the time this question began to be seriously re-examined in Catholic circles, the magisterium has distinguished the “fundamental reasons” for regarding the tradition as binding from the “theological arguments” proposed to show why it is “fitting” or meaningful.  This distinction—between the “fundamental reasons” and the “theological arguments”—is crucial.  Many Catholic advocates of women’s ordination to the priesthood challenge the value and credibility of the “theological arguments” proposed by the magisterium without acknowledging the force of the “fundamental reasons.”  This leads to the stalemate I just mentioned.  Others, however, focus on the “theological arguments” because they regard the “fundamental reasons” as fatally flawed.  This objection is more serious, and we will ask whether those who pose it do not also call into question the Church’s settled doctrine of the priesthood as a sacrament.  Is the nature of the ministerial priesthood the real issue?  I will propose that it is.

The Christian Feminist Starting Point

Christian feminists ask, “Why not?  Why shouldn’t women be ordained?”  They expect the answer to be couched either in terms of women’s unsuitability for the office (e.g., their “feminine nature” destines them for other social roles), or in terms of certain biblical texts concerning women’s status vis-à-vis men.  They are prepared to correct any flawed estimate of women’s “nature” and to show that the traditional objections from Scripture can be satisfactorily met.  From the Christian feminist starting point, once women are acknowledged to be the equals of men as persons, and once this conviction is seen to be consonant with biblical teaching, there are really no further obstacles to ordination.

This, in fact, is the logic that led many Protestant denominations to admit women to the ordained ministry.  It was their desire to make an institutional commitment to full gender equality, for example, that prompted the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the Methodist Church to grant full clergy rights to women in 1956.  They changed their policies on ordination as a means of going on record in favor of women’s rights, even when they had few women candidates for the ministry. The policy changes were intended more to signal the Churches’ commitment to equal rights for women than to respond to a demand for ordination on the part of Presbyterian and Methodist women. 


Similar changes were made at about the same time by the Lutheran state Churches in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden.   In their case, however, the state took the initiative.  The Churches were obliged to admit women to the ordained ministry in order to comply with civil legislation requiring that women have equal access to all state positions.
[7]

Not all Protestant denominations followed suit, but they all applied the same logic. Those that affirmed equal rights for women in the social order agreed to ordain them, while those that opposed equal rights in the social order refused to ordain them.  The denominations that resisted “women’s liberation” did so on the grounds that it violated biblical teaching.  They appealed in particular to St. Paul’s teaching regarding male headship and female subordination in the order of creation (1 Cor 11:3-9) and in Christian marriage (Eph 5:22-24), and to his admonitions that women should be silent in Church and not teach or exercise authority over men (1 Cor 14:33-35 and 1 Tim 2:11-14).[8]  In their view, feminist advocacy for equal rights with men was opposed to biblical teaching on both counts: the subordination of wives to their husbands in marriage and the proper roles of women in the Church. 

The mainline Protestant denominations, on the other hand, maintained that biblical teaching supported the full equality of women with men in both the social order and the Church.  They appealed to another Pauline text—Galatians 3:28, which states that in Christ Jesus there is “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female”—and to the Gospels, that is, to the example of Jesus which scholars increasingly came to see as favoring the equality of women with men.  In light of this evidence, they concluded that there was no valid “biblical” reason to bar women from ordination.
[9]  In the belief that the New Testament supports the full equality of women and men in Christ, then, these denominations began to admit women to the ordained ministry. 

When Anglicans and Roman Catholics evaluated the question, they were quite naturally influenced by the frame of reference already established in the debate within Protestantism —conducted largely in terms of the biblical witness.  They also felt obliged, however, to consult the Church’s Tradition and to assess the theological explanations offered in the past for an all-male priesthood. 

When advocates of women’s ordination reviewed the traditional arguments, they focused in particular on the objection posed by St. Thomas Aquinas, namely, that women, because of their natural condition of subordination,
[10] could not signify eminence, and therefore were not suitable candidates for an office representing Christ’s authority. 

Scholars began to wonder whether the Church’s traditional practice might itself be based on this faulty estimate of women’s status.  One significant research study suggested that it was.
[11]  It supplied impressive evidence to support the hypothesis that the reservation of priestly ordination to men was not a genuine theological tradition but only an unexamined practice that reflected outdated socio-cultural views about women’s inferiority to men.  On the basis of this and similar scholarly studies, Anglicans and Roman Catholics who favored women’s ordination grew confident that the development of doctrine which had already taken place with respect to women’s equal rights and dignity with men would lead to the acknowledgment of their equal access to ordination.  Like their Protestant counterparts, Anglicans concluded that there were no “theological obstacles” to the priestly ordination of women.  A report of the Anglican Communion’s 1968 Lambeth Conference put the matter this way: “If the ancient and medieval assumptions about the social role and inferior status of women are no longer accepted, the appeal to tradition is virtually reduced to the observation that there happens to be no precedent for ordaining women to be priests.” [12] 

Roman Catholic advocates likewise assumed that the traditional practice was open to change in light of the decisive affirmation of the rights and dignity of women made at the Second Vatican Council and in the post-conciliar teaching.  They were correct, of course, about the development of Catholic doctrine on the equality of the sexes.  The Council denounced discrimination on the basis of sex, as regards basic human rights in the social order, and affirmed that in Christ and in the Church, “there is no inequality arising from race or nationality, social condition or sex.”
[13]  The Council Fathers cited the doctrine of creation in the divine image (Gen 1:27) in support of the first assertion and the Pauline text, Galatians 3:28, in support of the second. 
 
Later, Pope John Paul II would teach that this text from Galatians captures the “Gospel innovation” manifested in Jesus’ counter-cultural and liberating way of dealing with women.  The Pope drew out the implications of the “Gospel innovation” for the relationship of husband and wife and for the relations between men and women more generally, saying that it calls for mutual and not unilateral “submission out of reverence of Christ.”[14]  With this in mind, and on the conviction that the only real obstacle to women’s ordination was an outdated view of women—a “faulty anthropology”—many Catholics thought it inevitable that the Church’s practice of reserving priestly ordination to men would change. 

The magisterium, however, did nothing to encourage this expectation.  In response to the growing Catholic advocacy for change, as well as to the consensus emerging in the Anglican Communion, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a Declaration on the Question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood, Inter insigniores, in January 1977.
[15] 
 
This Declaration had two parts.  In the first part (§§ 1-4), the Declaration supplied the “fundamental reasons” for the Catholic position, namely, that the Church has no authority to change the reservation of the ministerial priesthood to men because it belongs to a universal, unbroken tradition that is based on the example of Christ and the practice of the apostles, a tradition that constitutes a perennial norm.  In the second part (§§ 5-6), the Declaration proposed certain “theological arguments” to illuminate the Church’s tradition by showing its fittingness. These address the question of sacramen­tal symbol­ism and the related topic of the theologi­cal relevance of Jesus’ male­ness.  From the Christian feminist starting point, the “theological arguments” from the second part appear to be, and are often reported as, the Church’s real or “fundamental reasons” for reserving priestly ordination to men.

The “theological arguments” are familiar: it is fitting that the priest be a man because he is a sacramental sign of Jesus Christ, who was and remains a man, in his Cove­nant relationship to the Church as her Head and Bride­groom.  In those actions “which demand the character of ordination,” the natural symbolism of gender serves to reveal that the priest acts “in persona Christi.”  This sacramental symbolism makes both the ministry of Christ and the Church’s dependence on Christ visible. This line of reasoning, set out rather tentatively in 1977, was later more firmly proposed by Pope John Paul II.
[16] 
 
I think it is fair to say that advocates of women’s ordination have focused most of their attention on arguments related to the equality of the sexes, the implications of sexual difference, the theological relevance of Jesus’ male identity to his priestly office, and the nature, value, and implications of sexual complementarity.  These same topics have, quite naturally, occupied those theologians who responded to them in support of the tradition. 

For the record, we should note that the Declaration rejects the idea that priestly ordination is reserved to men because women are inherently inferior to them, and it explicitly sets aside patristic and scholastic arguments that betray the influence of such an opinion.  It acknowledges these prejudices, in fact, precisely to exclude them from consideration.
[17]  In addition, we should note that the Declaration does not rely on the Pauline texts that would ban women from certain functions in the Church, that is, on the evidence used by some Protestant denominations to justify reserving the ordained ministry to men.  The “theological arguments” proposed in Part II of the Declaration clearly do not appeal to the hierarchical ordering of the sexes.  They do appeal, however, to the complementarity of the sexes.  In this, they represent a revised and rather new attempt to explain why it was fitting that Jesus chose men and not women for this office.  Given the sacramental nature of the priesthood, they suggest, it is fitting that the one who acts not only by the power but also in the person of Christ (in persona Christi) be a man.  The “natural resemblance” of gender has sacramental significance, especially in the Eucharist, the mystery of the New Covenant—in which Christ’s relationship to the Church is that of a Bridegroom to his Bride.  The Declaration denies that this symbolism does implies any “natural superiority of man over woman”; rather, it corresponds to the facts of salvation history, which themselves correspond to the natural symbolism of gender.

Now the appeal to sexual complementarity does not necessarily help!  It runs counter to the Anglo-American feminist ideological commitment because, historically, this kind of argument has worked against women’s interests, confining them unfairly to auxiliary and subordinate social roles.  Feminists tend to view any appeal to sexual “complementarity” as a patriarchal ploy contrived to bar women from positions of authority.  As a result, critics charge that the Declaration simply replaced one flawed argument, the one based on female inferiority, with another, that based on sexual difference or complementarity.  Because of this judgment, and because of the very considerable attention that theologians have directed to the Declaration’s “theological arguments,” many people assume that these arguments constitute the foundation of the Church’s teaching
[18]—as if women were excluded from the priesthood on the basis of a particular theory of sexual complementarity.  They then subject to further examination the theological anthropology proposed by the Holy See.

Feminist theologians lament that the Vatican’s “outmoded,” “dualistic” anthropology gives unwarranted importance to the difference between the sexes. They attribute Pope John Paul’s judgment about the binding character of the tradition to his conviction that there are “essential differences between masculine and feminine versions of human nature.”
[19]  Then, on the assumption that the Pope’s “binary” anthropology is linked by theological necessity to male names and imagery for God, these theologians undertake a radical critique of the Christian tradition and even of biblical revelation in hopes of correcting an imbalance they deem “sexist” and injurious to women.[20] 
 
In sum, many Catholic advocates for women’s ordination think that the “theological arguments” proposed in the Declaration and confirmed in subsequent teaching have been offered to explain, and even to prove, why priestly ordination is reserved to men.  Puzzled, they protest: Granted that sexual complementarity has undeniable value and importance for marriage, why is it so important for the priesthood?  What is it about the priesthood that requires maleness?  Clearly, ordained women in other Christian communities are entirely able to perform priestly functions.  Why is the Pauline metaphor that compares Christ and the Church to Bridegroom and Bride so decisive?  Isn’t this just one among many biblical metaphors for this relationship?  Is not people’s need for the sacraments more compelling than the obligation to maintain a particular symbolic coherence between the priest and Christ in his relationship with the Church?  For these and similar reasons, they regard the “theological arguments” as arbitrary, even contrived.  They credit them to a poorly-disguised “patriarchal” bias against women. 

This is the line of reasoning that has led to the current stalemate.  Polarized Catholics wrestle with two different assessments of the relevance of “maleness” to the priesthood.  On the one side, advocates of women’s ordination insist that since it is Jesus’ identity as a human being, not his male sex, that is theologically significant, women should be able to represent him as priests.  On the other side, supporters of the tradition find the Declaration’s account of the theological significance of the Word’s Incarnation as a male not only fitting, but also attractive and illuminating.  If the priest represents Christ the Bridegroom in his relationship with his Church-Bride, it seems to them eminently reasonable that priestly ordination be reserved to men.
[21]

As I have said, for some years I agreed with and publicly promoted the priestly ordination of women.  Eventually, however, I became discouraged by the liberal feminist tendency to reduce sexual difference to a “reproductive role specialization.” 

I thought feminist theologians were overlooking the potential that nuptial symbolism has for shedding light on the mystery of the Covenant, and thus of Christ’s relationship to the Church.
[22]  At the time, like most who took Christian feminism as a starting point, I took it for granted that the chief point of contention was the nature and sacramental significance of sexual difference.  Once I attempted to defend my appreciation of the magisterium’s “theological arguments” from nuptial symbolism, however, I saw more clearly their auxiliary nature—that they were set out in the second part of the Declaration only to elucidate the “fundamental reasons” proposed in the first part.  The Declaration itself acknowledges that the “theological arguments” do not “prove” or establish the Church’s teaching.[23]  (This is why they are in Part II!)  They are not actually the reasons the Church gives.  In fact, the “fundamental reasons” are clearly identified, and they are set out in Part I of the Declaration.  In order to grasp the force of these reasons, we need to approach the question of women’s ordination from a different starting point, the magisterium’s starting point.

2.       The Magisterium’s Starting Point

When Pope Paul VI publicly referred to the question of women’s ordination in 1975, he gave this explanation: “women did not receive the call to the apostolate of the Twelve.”
[24]  At the time, advocates of women’s ordination found this reference to Jesus’ call of the Apostles rather surprising.  Many critics thought the Pope was avoiding the real issue, which they assumed had to do with the equal rights and dignity of women.  But the Pope was approaching the question from a different starting point, namely, from the doctrine of the priesthood.[25]  Sixteen years later, in 1994, Pope John Paul II again adopted this starting point in his apostolic letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis.  It begins: “Priestly ordination, which hands on the office entrusted by Christ to his Apostles of teaching, sanctifying and governing the faithful, has in the Catholic Church from the beginning always been reserved to men alone” (§ 1).  In this letter the Pope makes no reference to the sacramental significance of gender or to the male priest as a fitting representative of Jesus as Head and Bridegroom of the Church.  Since he clearly did not intend to repudiate these “theological arguments,” by omitting them he re-enforced the point that they are just that—arguments from fittingness, illustrations, grounds of plausibility—not the “fundamental reasons” for the practice which the Church proposes with authority.[26]  Let me underscore this point: according to the “fundamental reasons,” the Tradition is traced to the will of Christ, not to a decision made by the Church. 

At this point, we need to review these “fundamental reasons.”  The Declaration Inter insigniores sets out them out in four steps.  First, there is the constant tradition itself, universal in East and West, and quick to suppress innovations, of conferring priestly ordination only on men. Second, according to this tradition the reservation of priestly ordination to men represents fidelity to the will of Christ, made known by his choice of men (and not women) to belong to the Twelve.  Third, the tradition is confirmed by the practice of the apostolic Church, which, following the Lord’s example, continued to choose only men for the ministry by a laying on of hands.  And fourth, this practice has always been recognized as normative in the Church. 

These “fundamental reasons” have real priority over the “theological arguments.”  They testify to the conviction that the Church knows and faithfully follows Christ’s will for the ministerial priesthood, and that his will can be known by consulting his example, the example of the apostolic community, and the constant practice of the Church.  In other words, the Church’s teaching rests not on a particular theory of theological anthropology, and not on the “theological arguments,” but on the will of Jesus Christ, the Author of the New Testament priesthood. 

At this point it is important to notice that the Declaration does not spell out the Catholic doctrine of the priesthood; it simply presupposes it.
[27]  It presupposes, that is, that Christ founded the Church and instituted Holy Orders, the sacrament by which the priesthood is handed on, and that Holy Orders is a sacrament distinct from Baptism.  It presupposes that by means of ordination Christ calls, authorizes, and equips certain of the baptized as priests to carry out his sanctifying, teaching, and shepherding ministry.  Have commentators and critics of the Church’s teaching overlooked this unexpressed presupposition?  We need to notice, further, that the points just mentioned distinguish the Catholic doctrine of the priesthood from the classical Reformation understanding of ordained ministry. This is important for our question.  Despite the significant ecumenical agreements on ordained ministry in the Church,[28] differences remain, and they stand out quite sharply when we come to the topic of women’s ordination.  It is well known that the 16th century Reformers denied that Holy Orders is a sacrament.  This difference, then, touches the origins of the ministry (that is, its institution by Jesus Christ), its relationship to the office of the Twelve Apostles (and therefore to apostolic succession), and its relationship to the common priesthood (or priesthood of the baptized).  To put it simply, it is not because we differ over the equality and complementarity of the sexes that some Protestants ordain women, and the Catholic Church does not; it is because we disagree over whether Holy Orders is a sacrament.

How does this disagreement impinge on our question?  First, according to Catholic teaching, Holy Orders is a sacrament distinct from Baptism that confers on one of the baptized a sacred power not possessed by the rest. This is what is meant by saying that the ministerial priesthood differs in kind and not just in degree from the common priesthood of the baptized.
[29] According to the Protestant Reformers, by contrast, ordination commits to the minister, for the sake of good order and on the basis of his or her spiritual gifts, the exercise of functions that in principle belong to all of the baptized.  The Reformers held that the “general ministry” of Word and Sacrament is given first to the whole Church, and then transmitted by ordination to those who will serve the rest in the “special ministry.”  What follows from this?  According to the classical Reformation doctrine, it is indeed unjust to bar baptized women from the ministry on the basis of their sex.  The slogan, “If you won’t ordain women, don’t baptize them” makes sense in denominations that adhere to this doctrine.  Once it is agreed that biblical teaching upholds the equality of women with men, there is no further obstacle to the admission of qualified women to the ordained ministry.

This Catholic-Protestant difference may not at first appear significant, but its implications become clear when we consider the practice, in some denominations, of “lay presidency.”  This refers to the tradition of authorizing lay persons, by some means other than ordination, to preside at the Lord’s Supper.
[30]  Churches that allow for “lay presidency” clearly do not understand ordination to confer upon the minister a new power or capacity.  They hold a view that the Council of Trent rejected.  Trent condemned the proposition that “all Christians are without distinction priests of the New Testament, [and] that all are equally endowed with the same spiritual power.”[31]

The Catholic alternative is, in fact, recalled in Ordinatio sacerdotalis § 2.  Pope John Paul teaches that the Twelve did not receive from the Lord “only a function which could thereafter be exercised by any member of the Church; rather they were specifically and intimately associated” with his own mission (cf. Mt 10:1, 7-8; 28:16-20; Mk 3:13-16; 16:14-15).  By contrast with a theology of ordination based on the common priesthood of the faithful, then, the Catholic Church teaches that the Lord himself instituted a hierarchical ministry to carry out his prophetic, priestly, and pastoral tasks in the Church.  Bishops and priests entrusted with this office by ordination exercise functions that the rest of the baptized could not in principle fulfill. 

Just as the Twelve (in the Pope’s words) “were drawn into a specific and intimate association with Christ” and “given the ‘mission of representing Christ the Lord and Redeemer’,” so today priests and bishops are called by Christ from among the baptized to offer his ministry to the rest, by his authority and in his person.  Their ministry is offered not on the basis of the sacraments of initiation, but on the basis of the sacrament of Holy Orders.

Now the magisterium affirms that women and men enjoy the same status on the basis of Baptism, i.e., as members of the common priesthood, but it does not see this as having any implications for admission to the ministerial priesthood.  In other words, in the structure of the Catholic Church the real distinction or “difference in kind” is between the non-ordained and the ordained faithful, not between women and men.  Since there are no women among the ordained, many perceive this to be a difference based on sex, but it is not.  It is based, rather, on the fact that “by Christ’s will some [granted, these are always men] are established as teachers, dispensers of the mysteries and pastors for the others.”
[32]

A second difference is that Catholic doctrine traces the origin of the ministerial priesthood to the Lord’s “apostolic charge” to the Twelve. The longstanding Catholic tradition holds the bishops to be the successors of the Apostles, and it was called to mind many times at the Second Vatican Council in support of the doctrine of episcopal collegiality.[33]  The Council repeatedly asserts that the charge given to the Apostles was handed on to their successors, the bishops, who receive the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders.[34]  For Catholics, this is a solid doctrinal claim.  It is founded not on a scholarly reconstruction of the origins of the ordained ministry, but on the lived faith of the Church and a constant tradition of sacramental doctrine and practice.

We need to pay close attention to this matter of the apostolic charge the Lord gave to the Twelve.  Many critics fail to take into account how it functions in the Church’s teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men.  Some fail to do so because they mistakenly believe that the question turns, instead, on a particular theory of theological anthropology.  Others, however, dispute whether the ordained ministry can be traced back to Jesus and to the Twelve. 

 
It is not uncommon for Protestant and even Anglican theologians to deny such a connection, on the grounds that it cannot be established by means of historical-critical scholarship.  Many conclude that the Twelve had a unique office to which there are no successors,[35] and that what now corresponds to the ordained ministry emerged later in the life of the apostolic Church, in response to gifts of the Spirit.[36]  Notice the consequences for our question.  Once the link between the Twelve and the ministerial priesthood is broken, the force of the magisterium’s principal claim with respect to the reservation of priestly ordination to men is destroyed.  In Catholic doctrine, however, the institution of the ministerial priesthood is grounded in the Lord’s call and commission of the Twelve Apostles.

If we approach the question of women’s ordination from the magisterium’s starting point, then, we begin from the perspective of the Church’s settled doctrine, that Christ founded the Church, that he gave the “apostolic charge” to the Twelve, and that he instituted the sacrament of Holy Orders.  The question to be examined is limited to whether there is evidence that, in choosing only men to belong to the Twelve, the Lord expressed a perennial norm for the ministerial priesthood, i.e., with respect to the sex of those who are ordained.  Recall that the Declaration was addressed to scholars who had suggested that the Church’s practice represents an unexamined way of acting, dictated by historical and cultural prejudices against women and sustained by appeal to certain Pauline texts.  In response, the Declaration asserts that the tradition was not unexamined, and that those who came to its defense appealed not only to certain texts from St. Paul but also to the Lord’s will for the priesthood, known by way of his choice of men to belong to the Twelve. 

In many instances, of course, the tradition was defended by appeals to “the Pauline ban” and the inferior social status of women.  Today, however, the magisterium regards those appeals as “theological arguments,” and explicitly rejects the view that women are in a “state of submission” to men.  “Theological arguments,” remember, address the question of fittingness, that is, why Christ might have restricted ordination to men.  But the first question is one of factwhether he did so and in some way communicated his intention.
[37]  The Declaration calls attention to a second tradition of explanation, one that addresses this question of fact.  According to this tradition, the Church knows that women are not called to priestly functions because Jesus chose men, and not women, to belong to the Twelve.   This is the tradition the magisterium retrieves and sets out among the “fundamental reasons” for its conviction that the Church has no authority to ordain women.

           Time permits mention of only the most important witness to this second tradition from the patristic era, St. Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis (in Crete) in the late fourth century.
[38]  Epiphanius made a collection of heresies, explaining what was at stake and giving the Church’s verdict on each.  In the course of denouncing a heretical sect, the Collyridians, in which women priests offered worship to Mary under the title Ever-Virgin, he asserts that God has never called women to be priests, either in the Old or the New Covenants.  He speculates, “If women were to be charged by God with entering the priesthood [hierateuein] or with assuming ecclesiastical office [kanonikón ti ẻrgázestai ẻn Ẻkklesía], then in the New Covenant it would have devolved upon no one more than Mary to fulfill a priestly function.”[39]  His judgment has passed into the tradition in this “Mariological” form.[40]  This argument may strike us as naïve, but we need to attend closely to its implications.

           First, it reverses the supposition that women are excluded from the priesthood because they are unworthy.  Just the opposite: it is because they are evidently worthy that it is necessary to justify their exclusion!  To do this, Epiphanius appeals to the example of Christ, who called no woman—not even his Mother—to be one of the Twelve.
[41]  The second implication is that Christ’s will with regard to women in the priesthood can be discovered by considering the position of Mary vis-à-vis the Twelve Apostles.  In the context of the current debate it is significant, I believe, that Bishop Epiphanius does not stop with Mary.  He points out that in addition to his Mother, Jesus had many holy women in his company, e.g., Salome, Martha and Mary, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, the Canaanite woman, and the woman with the hemorrhage.  Although the Lord might have invited any of these holy women to belong to the Twelve,[42] he did not do so.  There is a third implication: for Epiphanius, the call to the priesthood is equated with the call to belong to the Twelve.[43]  We can know Christ’s will for the priesthood, he claims, from the fact that he only chose men to belong to the Twelve.  Notice: women are not excluded because of their “subject” status or some unworthiness deriving from their sex (these are holy women, saints!); rather, it is a dispensation of the Lord’s will. 

It is interesting to note that this reasoning is not original with Epiphanius; there are third century sources, cited in the Declaration, that also report this judgment.  If I report his witness at some length it is because his work, the Panarion, ultimately provides the pattern for the “fundamental reasons” set out in the Declaration Inter insigniores.
[44]  Epiphanius is the first to point to the unbroken tradition itself as an argument,[45] but he is surely not the first to link the vocation to priesthood to the call of the Twelve, or to imply that bishops and presbyters are the successors to the Apostles.  These connections were already well-established in the patristic tradition.

           After its report of the patristic reasoning, the Declaration briefly assesses the medieval testimonies.  Recall that it sets aside “theological arguments” that depend upon a “faulty anthropology.”  It cites St. Bonaventure’s explanation, although the content of his teaching—that a man is required to represent Christ who is male—is employed only in the “theological arguments” and reported only in the Commentary that accompanied the Declaration.  It is the Commentary, too, that makes mention of the fact that from the second half of the 12th century forward, some Scholastic Doctors taught that the prohibition on women in the priesthood is due to an historic determination by Christ himself.  They reasoned that if this determination originated only with the Church it would constitute an injustice to women.
[46]

The Declaration then takes up the Gospel testimony.  It was once argued that Jesus did not include women among the Twelve because his contemporaries would not have accepted women as witnesses to the Resurrection.  Scholars today, however, agree that Jesus was remarkably free in associating with women, breaking with the customs of his day in his dealings with them.  According to the Declaration, it cannot be proved, therefore, that he was constrained by the culture in choosing only men for the Twelve.  As I have noted, Pope John Paul II also called attention to Jesus’ way of dealing with women, identifying it as a “Gospel innovation.”  He asserts that since the Lord did not conform to the religious and cultural expectations of first century Judaism, we can be sure that he acted with “sovereign freedom” when he chose men and not women to belong to the Twelve.
[47] 

The Declaration points out that “a purely historical exegesis of the texts cannot suffice” (§ 2) to settle the question of the Lord’s intention, and it acknowledges that we have no “sayings” of Jesus that explain his choice.  Although the facts recorded in the Gospels “do not make the matter immediately obvious,” the evidence of the tradition allows the Church to know his will.  The example of the apostolic Church, in a particular way, confirms this conviction.  Although many women are mentioned as sharing in the apostolic ministry in responsible positions, only men are entrusted with the ministry by the “laying on of hands.”
[48]

The final reason is that this pattern has always been regarded as a norm from which the Church is not free to depart.  From the magisterium’s starting point, then, the question of women’s possible access to the priesthood must be addressed within the context of the Church’s settled doctrine that the Lord’s institution of the sacrament of Holy Orders is linked to the apostolic charge he gave to the Twelve.
[49]  The answer is discovered in a tradition of practice that is traced back to Christ’s own determination.  The Lord’s will with respect to the priesthood can be known by way of his choice of men, and not women, to belong to the Twelve. 

Looking at the magisterium’s case as a whole, we see that it begins with the doctrine of the priesthood, sets aside the tradition that justified the Church’s practice by appeal to the inferiority of women and the “Pauline ban,” and then lifts up an alternative tradition, one that looks instead to the Gospels and defends the reservation of priestly ordination to men as something required by fidelity to the will of Christ.  This is a case in which the testimony of Tradition weighs heavily, though the scriptural witness provides the fundamental data.”
[50] Only on the basis of this premise does the magisterium propose the “theological arguments” from fittingness.  

A Second Look at the “Theological Arguments”

            We are now in a position to look again at the “theological arguments” found in Part II of Inter insigniores, not in order to prove something, but because we are searching for the meaning of the Lord’s dispensation.  Why only men?  What value does this have?  The Declaration recalls that the sacraments are signs, natural signs but also signs related to the events of salvation.  In setting forth arguments from fittingness, it suggests that the person who is ordained enters into the constitution of the sacramental sign.  Since he is a sign of Christ-in-relation-to-the-Church, it is fitting that he possess a “natural resem­blance” to Christ who is signi­fied.  By a process of theo­logical reason­ing the require­ment of natural resemblance is linked to the maleness of Christ; the priest is an icon of Christ, Head and Bridegroom, in his service to the Church, his Body and Bride.  This is particularly evident in those actions in which the priest represents Christ, Mediator of a New Covenant, that is, actions that require the character of Holy Orders.

           Priestly ordination, as we have noted, is conferred by Holy Orders, a sacrament distinct from Baptism.  The ministerial priesthood is not simply a position of public leadership.  It “is conferred not for the honor or benefit of the recipient, but for the service of God and the Church.”
[51]  It is Christ’s gift to the Church—the means by which he continues to make his teaching, ruling, and sanctifying ministry available to the rest of the baptized.  The priest is sacramentally configured to Christ in order to provide the rest of the faithful with the Lord’s Word and sacraments, the means of holiness, and to lay down his life for them.  Along with the rest, he is called to holiness.  In fact, as the Declaration (§ 6) points out, the goal of the Christian life is not to be a priest but to be a saint!  Perhaps this addresses the complaint that the Church has a “stained-glass ceiling.”  A Catholic who aspires to be in “stained-glass” will not break through a ceiling but may end up in a window, and the way to get there is open to all!  The hierarchical priesthood is at the service of the “hierarchy of holiness.”[52]  The ordained minis­try exists to promote the exercise of the common priest­hood in the apostolic structure of the Church.  The non-ordained faithful—women and men—are placed at no disadvantage with respect to the universal call to holiness. 

           The Church is the People of God, Body of Christ, and Temple of the Holy Spirit.  It is a gift of God, not simply a voluntary society of believers who come togeth­er on their own initiative and create an institutional order that serves their purposes.  The minis­tries necessary to the Church’s functioning are also gifts, or char­isms distributed by the Holy Spirit, and the institution of the apostolic office is traced back to the Lord himself.  While demon­strated competence should certainly be a condi­tion for access to the office of priest in the Christian community, it is not the only condi­tion.  In fact, believers do not deter­mine these condi­tions on their own, but faith­fully maintain the pattern—a hierar­chically-ordered communi­ty—given by Jesus Christ.  It is the Lord who calls and chooses those who will represent him as his minis­ters.

           Can we not appreciate the “fittingness” of asking only men—in fact, only some men—to take his role as Head and Bridegroom insofar as he “faces” the Church, his Body and Bride, and offers her his ministry?  The symbolism is, indeed, nuptial or spousal.  It beautifully displays God’s covenant love for his people and reminds us of Jesus’ sacrificial love for the Church. Once we embrace Christ’s will for the ministerial priesthood as maintained unbroken in the sacramental practice and doctrine of the Church, it is possible, I believe, to discover that the reservation of priestly ordination to men in no way detracts from the role of women—or, for that matter, of non-ordained men—in the Church, since all share the dignity of the baptized and the same call to holiness.  The priesthood is Christ’s gift, by which he entrusts his ministry to some in order that they may serve the rest as God’s holy people.  In fact, the reservation of priestly ordination to men serves to make visible this gift—the Lord’s ongoing presence in the midst of the Church.


[1] See his apostolic letter, Ordinatio sacerdotalis § 4 in Origins 24:4 (June 9. 1994): 49. 51-52.
 

[2] According to the Congregation’s “Response to a Dubium,” this teaching carries weight because it “pertains to” other doctrines that would be compromised if it were denied.  See “Inadmissibility of Women to Ministerial Priesthood,” Origins 25 (1995), p. 401.

[3] In this lecture, I attempt to outline the argument presented more fully in The Catholic Priesthood and Women: A Guide to the Church’s Teaching  (Chicago / Mundelein: Hillenbrand Books, 2007).

[4] I do not intend to address here the related question of women’s possible admission to the permanent diaconate.

[5] See Research Report: Women in Church and Society, ed. Sara Butler (Bronx, NY: The Catholic Theological Society of America, 1978). 

[6]  I restrict the definition of “feminist theologians” to theologians who take as a norm the full equality of women, and who appeal to women’s “interpreted experience,” i.e., women’s experience of being oppressed, as a source.  For this understanding of feminism, see Sandra M. Schneiders, Beyond Patching: Faith and Feminism in the Catholic Church (New York: Paulist Press, 1991; revised ed., 2004), pp. 16-17. 

[7] Mark Chaves, Ordaining Women: Culture and Conflict in Religious Organizations (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997), pp. 82 and 43.  Chaves (p.  91) regards official resistance to women’s ordination as symbolic of a broader resistance to liberal modernity.

[8] This collection of texts is often referred to as the “Pauline ban.”

[9] Krister Stendahl, The Bible and the Role of Women (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), p. 41.

[10] The sed contra of Q. 39 in the Supplement to the Summa theologiae adduces the Pauline text 1 Cor 14:34 conflated with 1 Tim 2:12.

[11] Haye van der Meer, Women Priests in the Catholic Church? (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1973).

[12] The Lambeth Conference 1968: Resolutions and Report (London/New York: S.P.C.K./ Seabury, 1968), p. 106. 
 

[13] Gaudium et spes § 29 and Lumen gentium  § 32.

[14] See his apostolic letter of 1988, Mulieris dignitatem (On the Vocation and Dignity of Women) §§ 12-16 and 24.   

[15] The Declaration was dated October 15, 1976 but released on January 27, 1977.  For the text and commentary, see “Vatican Declaration: Women in Ministerial Priesthood,” Origins 6:33 (February 3, 1977): 517.519-32.

[16] See, in particular, Mulieris Dignitatem §§ 25-26, and Pastores Dabo Vobis (“I Will Give You Shepherds,” 1992) §§ 21-23.

[17] As the Commentary that accompanied the Declaration says (p. 526), with reference to St. Thomas's explanation, “some arguments adduced on this subject in the past are scarcely defensible today.”

[18] Peter Steinfels calls this the “linchpin” of the Church's case in A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003), p. 294.

[19] Elizabeth A. Johnson, “Imaging God, Embodying Christ: Women as a Sign of the Times,” in The Church Women Want, ed. Elizabeth A. Johnson (New York: Crossroad, 2002), p. 53.  The Pope indeed teaches that there are “essential differences,” but he does not propose these as “the reason” for his judgment about reserving priestly ordination to men.

[20] This logic is already apparent in Rosemary Radford Ruether's Contemporary Roman Catholicism: Crises and Challenges  (Kansas City, Mo.: Sheed & Ward, 1987), pp. 37-38.

[21] For a critical evaluation of this position, see my essay,  “Ordination: Reviewing the “Fundamental Reasons,” Voices 19:3 (Michaelmas 2004): 19-26.  

[22] See my “Second Thoughts on Ordaining Women,” Worship 63:2 (March 1989): 157-65 and “The Priest as Sacrament of Christ the Bridegroom,” Worship 66:6 (November 1992): 498-517.

[23] This is stated in Inter insigniores  § 5 (at the beginning of the paragraph) and elaborated in the Commentary released along with it (Origins 6:33 [February 3, 1977], p. 529).

[24] “Women/Disciples & Co-workers,” Origins 4:45 (May 1, 1975), p. 719.  The Pope went on to say that women “are, nevertheless, invited to follow Christ as disciples and co-workers.”

[25] I use this expression, rather than “the doctrine of Holy Orders,” in order to exclude the diaconate.

[26]  Notice also that the explanation given in the Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1557 makes no reference to the “theological arguments.”

[27] Lack of acquaintance with this teaching has seriously affected the public debate on women's ordination.  

[28] For example, the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission’s agreed statement on “Ordination and Ministry” in The Final Report (Cincinnati: Forward Movement Publications, 1982), and the U.S. Lutheran-Roman Catholic statement in Eucharist and Ministry (Washington, D.C.: USCC, 1970), and Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, Faith and Order Paper, No. 111 (Geneva: World Council of Church­es, 1982).

[29] See Lumen gentium § 10.

[30] Surprisingly, evangelical Anglicans in the diocese of Sydney, Australia have been debating whether or not to authorize lay and diaconal “presidents” of the Eucharist since 1977.  See Margaret Hebblethwaite, “Laity at the head of the Anglican Table?” The Tablet 248:8016 (26 March 1994): 382-84.

[31]  DS 1610/ ND 1320.  Some will point out that certain contemporary Catholic theologians, like Edward Schillebeeckx, make a similar argument.  They speculate that in an emergency situation the assembly could authorize one of its members to celebrate the Eucharist. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, however, has vigorously rejected this thesis.  See “Vatican Congregation’s Letter to Bishops: The Minister of the Eucharist,” Origins 13:14 (September 15, 1983): 229.231-33. (ND 1756-5767).  See also the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s Notification, “Doctrinal Congregation on New Work by Father Schillebeeckx,” Origins 16:19 (October 23, 1986): 344.

[32] Lumen gentium § 32.

[33]  Interest in affirming episcopal collegiality motivated contemporary Catholic scholars to investigate further the role of the Twelve.  For more on this, see my essay “Women's Ordination and the Development of Doctrine,” The Thomist 61 (October 1997): 501-24, at pp. 517-23. 

[34] Lumen gentium §§ 20-21.  See the Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1577 for the link between the constitution of the apostolic college and its successor, the college of bishops, and the reservation of priestly ordination to men. 

[35] The Catholic Church distinguishes between the aspects of the apostolic office unique to the Twelve and those that belonge to the “apostolic charge” that they handed on to their successors.  See Catechism of the Catholic Church § 860.

[36] See Faith and Order Paper No. 181, The Nature and Purpose of the Church (Switzerland: WCC/Faith and Order, 1998), § 85.

[37] See Guy Mansini, “On Affirming a Dominical Intention of a Male Priesthood,” The Thomist 61:2 (April, 1997): 301-316, for a very impressive development of this precise point.

[38] St. Epiphanius (d. 407) is not regarded as a reliable historian, and he is not free of bias against women, especially women heretics, but his testimony is important because he grew up in Palestine, and therefore knew the Syriac as well as the Latin and Greek traditions.  Sts. Augustine and John Damascene endorsed his judgment against groups that allowed women access to priestly functions.  See Manfred Hauke, Women in the Priesthood? A Systematic Analysis in the Light of the Order of Creation and Redemption  (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), p. 418. 

[39] The translation from Epiphanius’ Panarion (79,3) is from Hauke, p. 416. 
   
[40] Inter insigniores § 2 recalls that in 1210 Pope Innocent III appealed to this: “Although the Blessed Virgin Mary surpassed in dignity and in excellence all the Apostles, nevertheless, it was not to her but to them that the Lord entrusted the keys of the Kingdom of Heav­en.”

[41] He also appeals to the example of the Apostles: never was a woman ever appointed to succeed the Apos­tles as bishop or presbyter.

 

[42] Panarion 79, 3-4.
 
[43] Epiphanius does not need to defend this assumption; it was “in possession.”
 
[44] See Jean Galot, Mission et ministère de la femme (Paris: Lethielleux, 1973), pp. 71-84.
 
[45] According to Hauke (p. 418), Epiphanius describes female priest­hood not only as a breach of Church discipline but also as heresy.
[46] See p.­ 526 in the Origins edition.
 
[47] Ordinatio sacerdotalis § 2.
 
[48] See Albert Vanhoye, “Church’s practice in continuity with New Testament Teaching,” L'Osservatore Romano 10:10 (March 1993), p. 10.  This brief article addresses several of the critical objections raised with regard to the New Testament origins of the priesthood.
 
[49] The Council of Trent locates the institution of the priesthood at the Last Supper (DS 1749, 1752/ND 1546, 1556).
 
[50] This judgment is found in Inter insigniores (§ 2) and in the accompanying Commentary  (p. 528).  It concurs with the conclusion reached by a study undertaken by the Pontifical Biblical Commission: “It does not seem that the New Testament by itself alone will permit us to settle in a clear way and once and for all the problem of the possible accession of women to the presby­terate.­” (See “Can Women Be Priests?” Origins 6 [July 1, 1976], p. 96.)  The Commentary compares this to the difficulty of establishing the dominical institution of some of the sacraments and of the structure of Holy Orders. 
 
[51] Inter insigniores § 6.
 
[52] Mulieris dignitatem § 26.
 
http://www.archny.org/seminary/st-josephs-seminary-dunwoodie/administration/sister-sara-butler/
post edited by Sophie - 2008/09/08 18:49:36
Sophie
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2008/09/08 18:51:17 (permalink)
from the news in 2004...
 
Catholic Church names first women to advisory panel for the Vatican
The San Diego Union Tribune
March 11, 2004
 
VATICAN – The Roman Catholic Church has quietly taken a step forward for women's equality, naming the first female theologians as Vatican consultants, but it has denied the appointments had anything to do with their gender.

Pope John Paul II, whose defense of the male-only clergy has rankled some liberal Catholic women, named the two theologians over the weekend to the International Theological Commission, an influential advisory board for the Vatican.
 
The Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano published without comment Sunday the list of new members, including Sister Sara Butler of Chicago's University of Saint Mary of the Lake and Barbara Hallensleben of Fribourg University in Switzerland.
 
"They were not chosen because they're women. They were chosen for their competence," Cardinal Georges Cottier, papal household theologian and former head of the commission, told Reuters. "It's very positive, and I'm very happy.
 
The appointments placed Butler and Hallensleben among the highest-ranking women in the church, which allows only celibate males to be priests. Men hold all top jobs in the Curia and the Vatican bureaucracy, although women hold lower-level posts.
 
Reuters
 
http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20040311/news_1c11relbrief.html

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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2008/09/08 18:55:27 (permalink)
 
 
 
 
 
 

more to follow...the supper bell is ringing!
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2008/09/08 23:10:10 (permalink)
Sister Sarah Butler's arguments against women ordination are exceedingly weak.  Neither does she argue from scripture, as there is no denial of ordination to women in the New Testament whatsoever.  Though long-winded there is sadly little substance in her article and no reason to deny women ordination in her arguments she sets forth.
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2008/10/18 21:32:58 (permalink)
Today October 18 is the feast day of
Saint
Luke the Evangelist




  • One of the interesting aspects of Luke's Gospel is his frequent juxtaposition of a story about a man and then another about a woman.
  • Luke also mentions the women who followed and assisted Jesus in His ministry (e.g., 8:1-3). Thus, in a way that no other evangelist does, Luke depicts a Jesus who cares for the status and salvation of women quite as much as He does for men.

Saint Luke was a gentile (not mentioned as a Jew by Saint Paul in Col. 4:10-11), a Greek (according to Saint Jerome), perhaps born in Antioch (per Eusebius), and a medical man by profession--Saint Paul speaks of him as 'our beloved Luke, the physician' (Col. 4:14).

He was the author of the Gospel the bears his name and of its continuation--the Acts of the Apostles. The Gospel was definitely written by a Gentile Christian for Gentile Christians. Though Jesus lived and worked almost entirely among Jews, He also reached out to others. Whenever Jesus has dealings with, for example, Syrians, or praises a Roman centurion, Luke tells us about it. He also shows Jesus' special friendship with the outcasts of society and his love of the poor.

One of the interesting aspects of Luke's Gospel is his frequent juxtaposition of a story about a man and then another about a woman. For example, the cure of the demoniac (Luke 4:31-37) is followed by the cure of Peter's mother-in-law (4:38-39); the centurion's slave is healed (7:1-10), then the widow of Nain's son is raised (7:11-17); the Gerasene demoniac is healed (8:26-39) followed by the raising of Jairus's Daughter and healing of the woman with the hemorrhage (8:40-56).

Luke also mentions the women who followed and assisted Jesus in His ministry (e.g., 8:1-3). Thus, in a way that no other evangelist does, Luke depicts a Jesus who cares for the status and salvation of women quite as much as He does for men. Perhaps this is because Luke probably learned much about Jesus from the Blessed Virgin herself. Only he and Matthew record elements about the hidden life of the Lord before his public ministry.

Luke stresses God's mercy and love of all mankind. He alone records the parables of the lost sheep, the Good Samaritan, the prodigal son, the Pharisee and the publican, the barren fig tree, Dives and Lazarus. He is also the only one to record Jesus' forgiveness of Mary Magdalen (?) (Luke 7:47), His promise to the good thief (Luke 23:43), and His prayer for his executioners (Luke 23:34). And he is also the only evangelist to record the Ave Maria the Magnificat, the Benedictus, and the Nunc Dimittis, which are all used in the Liturgy of the Hours (Night, Evening, Morning, and Night Prayer respectively). Luke also emphasizes the call to poverty, prayer, and purity of heart, which comprise much of his specific appeal to the Gentiles.

Luke also wrote the Acts of the Apostles, which might more appropriately be known as the Acts of the Holy Spirit. This is a continuation of his Gospel account, though the Acts may have been written first. According to Eusebius and Jerome, Acts was written during Paul's imprisonment, though Saint Ireneaus says after Paul's death c. 66. Eusebius says that the Gospel was set down before Paul's death, Jerome says after, and an early tradition records it as being composed shortly before Luke's death.

Legend has him as one of the 72 disciples, and some scholars identify him with Lucius of Cyrene, a teacher and prophet at Antioch (Acts 13:1) and with Lucius, Paul's companion at Corinth (Rom. 16:21). We don't know exactly when he was converted; perhaps in 42 when Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas came to preach at Antioch, or possibly even earlier when the Christians fled from Jerusalem to Antioch after the stoning of Saint Stephen.

Certain passages of Acts, written in the first person plural, are usually held to show that the writer was with Saint Paul on parts of his second and third missionary journeys and on the voyage to Italy, when the ship was wrecked off the coast of Malta (Acts 16:10ff; 20:5ff; 27-28). He was with Paul during both his first and second imprisonments. In his letters, Paul thrice (AD 61-63) refers to Luke's presence in Rome, writing to Timothy, 'Luke is my only companion.'

Between the two missionary journeys (AD 51-57), he stayed at Philippi as a leader of the Christian community. Then he rejoined Saint Paul on the third trip, meeting him in Macedonia and accompanying him to Jerusalem. Thereafter, he was Paul's constant companion. He was with Paul after his arrest in the Temple and during the two years (57-59) of his imprisonment at Caesarea. When Paul appealed to Caesar, Luke went with him and was shipwrecked with Paul on the coast of Malta. Until St. Paul's martyrdom in 67, Luke never left his side.

A writer perhaps as early as the late second century declares that, having served the Lord constantly and written his gospel there, According to a less reliable tradition, Luke died, unmarried, in Boeotia, Greece, at the age of 84, 'full of the Holy Spirit.' He is said to have been martyred, which is very doubtful, but we have no record of his history after the time he was in Rome with Paul.

Though Luke may never have known Our Lord in the flesh, it is possible that he did know the Mother of God and Saint John. He was in Rome at the same time as Saints Peter and Mark and, while in the company of Paul, must surely have known many of the disciples.

Translations of his relics were claimed by Constantinople and Padua (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Green-Armytage, Walsh, White).

Perhaps one of the best novels about Saint Luke is Taylor Caldwell's Dear and Glorious Physician, which is especially good in portraying extant pagan heralds to the coming of Christ.

Saint Luke is the patron saint of physicians and surgeons, and also of guilds of artists, art schools, and painters of pictures because later tradition in the Greek Church claims that Luke was also an artist. Reputedly Luke carried a portrait of the Blessed Mother with him and that it was the instrument of many conversions. Indeed, he was a great artist in words, and his narratives have inspired many masterpieces of art; but the existing pictures of the Blessed Virgin, which he is said actually to have painted, are all works of a much later date, including that of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Unfortunately, a rough drawing in the catacombs inscribed as "one of seven painted by Luca" confirmed the Greek legend in the popular mind.

Additionally, he is considered the patron of sculptors, bookbinders, goldsmiths, lacemakers, notaries (because of his account of Christ's life), and butchers (because of his emblem, the winged ox) (Appleton, Roeder, Tabor).

Saint Irenaeus is credited with having first assigned the mysterious winged ox, described in Ezekiel and by Saint John in Revelation, to Saint Luke. The first known usage of the emblems of the apocalyptic creatures is in the apse mosaic of Saint Pudentiana in Rome dating to the end of the 4th century, although they were not specifically associated with any one of the Evangelists. Nevertheless, since the time of Saints Jerome (died 420) and Augustine (died 430), the winged ox has been assigned to Saint Luke. This may be an allusion to the sacrifice in the Temple at the beginning of his Gospel, and to Saint Luke's emphasis on the atonement made by Christ's suffering and death (Appleton).

In art he appears (1) as a bishop or a physician with a book or scroll, often accompanied by a winged ox; (2) painting the Virgin (anonymous, at St. Isaac of Syria Skete, Boscobel, Wisconsin, USA) (this subject is especially used in 15th and 16th- century Flemish paintings); (3) in a doctor's cap and gown, holding a book; (4) occasionally present in scenes of the Annunciation or angel's message to Zacharia; (5) giving his book to Saint Theophilus B; or (6) as an evangelist, writing (14th century French illumination) (Roeder, White). Exceptional painting of Saint Luke include those of Roger van der Weyden in the Pinacoteca, Munich; Jean Grossaert in Prague; and the School of Raphael in the Accademia di San Luca in Rome (Tabor).

http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/1018.shtml
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2008/10/18 21:36:47 (permalink)
Dear friends, 

Luke and women and the priesthood? Luke's Gospel is remarkable in that he gives so much focus to the role of women -- especially to the apostolate of Mary.  It is in his Gospel that we hear her speaking voice in the Magnificat , the longest passage spoken by any female voice in the The New Testament.  A model silent, passive woman?  Not so in Luke.  Instead she is a lowly peasant woman (teenage girl), empowered to speak with a voice that preaches with prophetic joy:


My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.
- Luke 1, 46-55
As an interesting aside, the message of her voicing the possibility of concrete transformations was considered so subversive that for a period during the 1980s, the Guatemalan government banned its public recitation!
Emphasizing the role of women as Luke does, he obviously envisages an active role for women in the apostolate.  He brings this home in the context of Mary.  He shows us that Mary 'possessed to an eminent degree that integration with Christ's common priesthood which would have made her a natural ministerial priest.'  Our website founder, Dr. John Wijngaards makes the observation:


Mary's internal share in Christ's priesthood to such an eminent degree argues a fortiori to woman's capability of exercising external priestly functions. Luke's interest in the ministry of women makes his description of Our Lady's ministry a scriptural source of hope, reflection and expectation of great possibilities.

It seems theologically sound to say that Mary's personality and her role in redemption established once and for all the complete equality of women in God's eyes and, therefore, by right in the Church. This would naturally include, to my mind, the capability of acting in the name of Christ at the eucharist table or in the confessional.
For more about this, see our library article by Dr. Wijngaards called, The Gospel of Luke's Theme of Mary's Apostolate.  You can link to it  directly here: http://www.womenpriests.org/scriptur/mary.asp If you have any questions, please let me know.

with love and blessings,

~Sophie~
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2008/10/18 21:53:27 (permalink)

Icon of Virgin of the Sign
The Virgin Orans - 1980
E. Coveliers o.s.b.
Regina Pacis, Belgium

http://www.iconsexplained.com/iec/00343.htm

One of Mary's priestly roles: mediator of the actual body and blood of Christ for the world.
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2008/10/18 21:53:53 (permalink)
Dear friends,

Throughout the centuries, the faithful have cherished a devotion to Mary as priest -- a model priest and the first priest after Christ. Through their 'Catholic sense,' they have intuitively understood that she shares in Jesus’ priesthood more than any other person. Implicitly the devotion contains the strong but usually unspoken conviction that though a woman, Mary could easily have been ordained a priest -- just as much as any man. There were times throughout history that this conviction was expressed explicitly in the Church -- by popes, bishops, priests and theologians. In Christian artwork throughout history, we see Mary possessing a priestly status equivalent to that enjoyed by bishops and ministerial priests.

For more about this, I invite you to explore some segments of our site specifically dedicated to Mary as priest:

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to let me know.
 
with love and blessings,
 
~Sophie~
post edited by Sophie - 2008/10/18 22:20:01
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2008/10/18 21:54:34 (permalink)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
See also: Luke's portrait of Mary, Theology Digest, St.Louis Univ., Missouri. 36:1 (Spring, 1989) by Marie-Louise Gubler
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2008/10/18 21:55:17 (permalink)
Dear friends,

Let's move back to our consideration of Luke.  As has been pointed out, he is one of the Gospel writers who is most friendly to women.  How so?

Not only does he focus on Mary's apostolate, he also emphasizes the role of women in the Early Church.  Women were an important part of the early Christian community. Luke goes out of his way to include women in his writing. For instance, he carefully balances every mention of men with an equal mention of women.  In his article, Women In Luke's Gospel (http://www.womenpriests.org/gospels/lkwomen.asp) Dr. Wijngaards points out examples of this:

  • in the infancy narrative Zechariah receives a promise of a child, but so does Mary (Luke 1,5-38). The people of Israel who welcome Jesus to the Temple are represented by Simeon and Anna (Luke 2,22-38).
  • Jesus heals the man possessed by a demon and he heals Peter's mother-in-law (Luke 4,31-39). He gives life to the centurion's slave and the son of the widow of Naim (Luke 7,1-17). On the Sabbath he heals a woman and a man (Luke 13,10-17; 14,1-6).
  • Luke presents many parables in pairs: the man who plants a mustard seed matches the woman putting leaven into the dough (Luke 13,18-21); the shepherd looking for his lost sheep matches the woman sweeping her house for a lost coin (Luke 15,3-10); the man waking up his neighbour at night matches the widow pestering the judge for help (Luke 11,5-13 and 18,1-8).
  • On the last day, Jesus says, `two men will sleep in one bed; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will grind at the same mill stone; one will be taken, the other left.' (Luke 17,34-35).
  • Jesus is followed by twelve disciples whose names are known. Jesus is also followed by a number of women whom Luke mentions by name: `Mary from Magdala who had been freed from seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's courtier; Susanna, and many others who provided for Jesus and the apostles out of their own resources' (Luke 8,1-3). 
Dr. Wijngaards also observes that while some authors maintain Luke uses these examples to restrict the roles of women in the community (see, for instance: E.TETLOW, Women and Ministry in the New Testament, New York 1980; E.MOLTMANN WENDEL, The Women around Jesus, New York 1982; E.SCHÜSSLER FIORENZA, In Memory of Her. A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins, New York 1983), most authors, however, agree that Luke ascribed to women a role and a measure of equality well beyond the expectations of his time. If you are interested, read about this in : B.WITHERINGTON, `On the Road with Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and Other Disciples - Luke 8,1-3', Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 70 (1979) pp. 243-248; R.RYAN, `The Women from Galilee and Discipleship in Luke', Biblical Theology Bulletin 15 (1985) pp. 56-59; J.BRUTSCHECK, Die Maria-Martha Erzählung, Frankfurt 1986; J.KOPAS, `Jesus and Women: Luke's Gospel', Theology Today 42 (1986) pp. 192-202.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

with love and blessings,

~Sophie~
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2008/10/18 21:55:45 (permalink)
Dear friends,

What does Luke have to say on the role of women in future ministry?  In an article from our library, our website founderd Dr. Wijngaards writes:


All four Gospels affirm that women played a special part in Jesus' life. It was noted particularly in Luke's Gospel. Luke records episodes not found in the other Gospel accounts... Jesus' relationship to women is an outspoken theme of this Gospel.

Why did Luke focus attention on the role played by women in Jesus' life? Obviously here, as in the other cases, Luke acted in response to a need in the early Church. In many communities women played a leading role. Apollos' conversion at Ephesus was as much due to Priscilla as to Aquila (Acts 18, 18-26). In Corinth it was Chloë who sent messengers to Paul to inform him about problems in the Church (1 Cor 1, 11). The community of Cenchreae had a lady deacon, 'Phoebe our fellow-christian' (Rom 16, 1-2). At Philippi, where Luke worked a long time in the apostolate, we find mention of three prominent ladies: Lydia, who ran a prosperous business in purple dresses and in whose house the local community met (Acts 16, 14-15); Euodia and Syntyche about whom Paul could say 'these women who shared my struggles in the cause of the Gospel' (Phil 4, 2-3). It is obvious that these women and others whose names have not been recorded, were concerned about their own specific role in the christian community.

When recalling incidents of Jesus' life involving women, Luke has a very rich message to give. In his view women are equal recipients of Jesus' grace. Like men, women too should be converted (Mary Magdalene), listen to Jesus' word (Mary and Martha), pray with perseverance (the tenacious widow), and share in his sufferings and cross (Luke 23, 49). The role of being a mother, with its sorrows and joys, is reflected on in persons such as the widow of Naim, Elizabeth and Our Lady. Jesus takes examples from women's everyday tasks: drawing water from the well, grinding corn with the millstones, sweeping the house, mixing leaven through the dough, and preparing food for guests. Jesus had observed such activities and invested some of them with profound symbolic meaning. In these and many other ways Luke's passages on women yield an unexpectedly rich treasury of pointers and reflections.

Did St Luke however advert to the ministry of women? Did he, in presenting these words and deeds of Jesus, want to reflect on women's involvement in the apostolate? Does St Luke's Gospel contain a 'vision' of how women could be given a more responsible role within the christian community?

In looking at:


Dr. Wijngaards observes Luke narrating how women too accompanied Jesus in his apostolic mission. Dr. W. writes, "Luke realised that, given the social status of women in those days, it was impossible for Jesus to draw them into the apostolic team. In the early Church as Luke knew it, a truly equal partnership of women in the ministry was also excluded, on sociological grounds. But it is certain that Luke, who is the only evangelist to recount this aspect of Jesus' ministry, records the above incident because he saw it had prophetic value. If women were so closely associated with Jesus on his apostolic tours, this would certainly imply for Luke the possibility of a much greater participation of women in the era of the Church. If ever the Church were to call on a woman to take up the full ministry of a Barnabas or a Paul, Luke would not have been surprised. He would have seen an anticipation of this new development in the small band of women who shared all they had with Jesus and his apostles."

Read the entire article, click here: http://www.womenpriests.org/scriptur/future.asp

with love and blessings,

~Sophie~
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2008/12/31 01:28:01 (permalink)
December 27 is the feastday of John the Apostle and Evangelist
 
Saint John the Apostle (Greek Ιωάννης, see names of John) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. Christian tradition identifies him as the author of several New Testament works: the Gospel of John, the Epistles of John and the Book of Revelation. Many modern scholars believe that John the Apostle, John the Evangelist, and John of Patmos refer to three separate individuals. This can be determined via new means of inquiry such as textual criticism. Certain lines of evidence suggest that John of Patmos wrote only Revelation, not the Gospel of John nor the Epistles of John. For one, the author of Revelation identifies himself as "John" several times, but the author of the Gospel of John never identifies himself directly.


St. John the Apostle by Hans Memling, c. 1468
(
The National Gallery, London)

Identifications
Main article: Authorship of the Johannine works

Some modern scholars distinguish at least three different authors. The author of the Gospel of St John and the First Epistle of John is known as St. John the Evangelist or St. John the Theologian (alternately rendered St. John the Divine or St. John the Beloved). The Second and Third Epistle of John had the same author, who calls himself the presbyter; he has been identified with the enigmatic John the Presbyter. An author named John wrote the book of Revelation (Revelation 1:1), though it is not clear whether this is the apostle or another John. Traditionally, Christians believe that the apostle John wrote Revelation (Revelation 1:1, 1:9, and 22:8), the Gospel of John, and the epistles. Scholars like Justin Martyr held this view as early as AD 140. The main objection to this view is that the original Greek in Revelation is not like the other writing in the Gospels or the epistles, mainly because it does not follow the normal rules of Greek grammar. Some scholars believe that a different John wrote Revelation. Other scholars think that some of John’s disciples wrote the Gospel and the epistles and that John himself wrote Revelation. Most Evangelical Christians, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics continue to hold that all New Testament "John" books were written by Saint John, the son of Zebedee.

The apocryphal 2nd century Gnostic text called Secret Book of John was also attributed to John, though not by established traditional Christian orthodoxy.

The Gospel of John contains references to the "disciple whom Jesus loved". Traditionally this is taken as a self-reference by the author, and therefore a reference to John the Apostle.

Though many say he was 95 when he died, sources say he was most likely 104.



Extra Biblical Traditions
 
Roman Catholic tradition states that St. John and the Virgin Mary moved to Ephesus, where they eventually died, though there is an alternative tradition that holds Mary's death to be in Jerusalem, where her tomb is), a tradition held true by Orthodox Christians. The tradition about Mary's tomb in Ephesus emanated mostly after 1841, based on the visions of German Augustinian nun Anne Catherine Emmerich. Many Evangelical and other people question this, especially due to the advanced age which Mary would have reached by this time. This presents no problem though with the alternative tradition, brought forth by Orthodox Christians, which states that the Virgin Mary died 10 years after Jesus' Resurrection, in Gethsemane. In a coptic test of the 4th century, in the 20th Homily of st Cyrill of Jerusalem, it is maintained that Mary's death took place in Zion(Jerusalem), on the 15th of August of the year 43 A.D. and that she was buried in Gethsemane.

Some believe, however, that there is support for the idea that John did go to Ephesus and from there wrote the three epistles traditionally attributed to him. John was allegedly banished by the Roman authorities to the Greek island of Patmos, where some believe that he wrote the Book of Revelation. According to Tertullian (in The Prescription of Heretics) John was banished (presumably to Patmos) after being plunged into boiling oil in Rome and suffering nothing from it. It is said that the entire colosseum were converted to Christianity upon witnessing this miracle.

In art, John as the presumed author of the Gospel is often depicted with an eagle, which symbolizes the height he rose to in the first chapter of his gospel. In Orthodox icons, he is often depicted looking up into heaven and dictating his Gospel (or the Book of Revelation) to his disciple, traditionally named Prochorus.

Liturgical commemoration
 
He is venerated as a saint by most of Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church commemorates him as "Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist" on December 27. In the Tridentine Calendar, this feast day is repeated, in general merely by a commemoration within another feast day, for eight days (an octave), counting the feast day itself. Pope Pius X reduced this octave to a "simple octave", which meant in practice that the feast-day Mass was repeated only on the Octave Day (3 January). Pope Pius XII abolished this octave entirely in 1955. It therefore does not appear in the General Roman Calendar for any year thereafter. In particular, it is not found in the 1962 Roman Missal of Pope John XXIII, whose continued use as an extraordinary form of the Roman Rite is authorized under the conditions indicated in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.

Another feast day excluded in that Missal, but which appeared in the General Roman Calendar until 1960, is that of "St John Before the Latin Gate" on May 6, celebrating a tradition recounted by St. Jerome that St. John was brought to Rome during the reign of the Emperor Domitian, and was thrown in a vat of boiling oil, from which he was miraculously preserved unharmed. A church (San Giovanni a Porta Latina) dedicated to him was built near the Latin gate of Rome, the traditional scene of this event.


Byzantine illumination depicting John dictating to his disciple, Prochorus (c. 1100).
 
The Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite commemorate the "Repose of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian" on September 26 (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, September 26 currently falls on October 9 of the modern Gregorian Calendar). On May 8 (May 21), they celebrate the "Feast of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian", on which date Christians used to draw forth from his grave fine ashes which were believed to be effective for healing the sick.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_the_Apostle
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RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2008/12/31 01:29:26 (permalink)
Dear friends,
 
The women of the New Testament:  Why haven't we hear more about them? It is clear that women play significant roles in the Gospel of John. Their importance is evident through the number of times they appear and in the theological importance of their stories. For instance:

  • The opening miracle in Jesus' ministry occurs at a woman's initiative (The Wedding Feast at Cana: John 2,1-11).
  • Women are Jesus' main conversation partners in three stories that reveal His identity and vocation and the nature of faithful discipleship (The Samaritan Woman at the Well: John 4,4-42; The Woman Caught in Adultery: John 7,53-8,11; Martha of Bethany, John 11,1-44).
  • His passion is watched over by the women from its preparation (John 12,1-8) through to death (John 19,25-27) and resurrection (John 20,1-18).
  • In John's Gospel, men do not have a monopoly on witness and discipleship in John. Instead, John narrates a faith world that would not exist without women's participation in it. 

And so the question still question presses: Why haven't we heard more about women of the New Testament (or all of scripture for that matter)? In a commentary focused specifically on the Gospel of John, scripture scholar Father Felix Just, SJ, PhD, observes:

Due to cultural circumstances of the past, the Bible was written mostly by men about men. Most biblical interpretation over the centuries was also done by men for men.  As a result, women's perspectives (including stories about women and/or by women) have often been neglected.  

A careful reading of the Gospels, however, uncovers many more stories than we might think in which women play very significant roles. Recovering these stories is one of the most important tasks of "feminist hermeneutics," which everyone can do today, men as well as women.

He continues:

Although there are more Women in Luke's Gospel, the Gospel according to John contains several well-known stories involving prominent female characters, and most of these pericopes are found only in John.
John: Pericope

  • 2:1-11: The Mother of Jesus at the Wedding of Cana, and afterwards going with him to Capernaum
  • 4:1-42: The Samaritan Woman at the Well encounters Jesus and later brings others to him
  • [8:1-11]: The Adulterous Woman is accused by others but forgiven by Jesus  [not originally in John]
  • 11:1-45: Martha and Mary ask Jesus to help their brother Lazarus, and express their faith in him
  • 12:1-8:Mary of Bethany anoints the feet of Jesus during a dinner, and is defended by Jesus
  • 19:25b-27: The Mother of Jesus and other Women are present at the Foot of the Cross
  • 20:1-2: Mary Magdalene discovers the Empty Tomb and tells the disciples
  • 20:11-18: Mary Magdalene is the first person to whom the Risen Jesus appears

    There are also some shorter references to women and feminine imagery in the Fourth Gospel:

    John: Reference

    • 3:4:  Nicodemus asks about returning to a mother's womb and being born a second time
    • 3:29:  John (the Baptist) uses an analogy involving a bride and bridegroom
    • 6:42:  Some Jews claim that they know Jesus' "father and mother"
    • 9:18-23:  The parents of the Man Born Blind (implicitly also the mother) are questioned by the Pharisees
    • 12:15: The Evangelist mentions the "daughter of Zion" while quoting Zech 9:9
    • 16:21: Jesus uses the image of a woman in labor as an analogy for sorrow turning into joy
    • 18:16-17: The woman gatekeeper challenges Peter in the courtyard of the High Priest
    The source of Felix Just, SJ, PhD's article is here: http://catholicbibleresources.net/John/Themes-Women.htm. If you have questions, please let me know.

    with love and blessings,

    ~Sophie~

    ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    Rev. Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.
    Loyola Institute for Spirituality

     
    Soon after Just was born in Berlin, Germany, his family emigrated to Tucson, Arizona, where he graduated from Tucson High School and studied Mathematics at the University of Arizona (B.S. 1978; M.S. 1980).

    He entered the
    California Province of the Society of Jesus in 1980 and was ordained a priest in 1991. His Jesuit training included attending the Jesuit Novitiate in Santa Barbara, CA, studying at the Hochschule für Philosophie in Munich, Germany (Bakk.Phil. 1984), teaching mathematics and German at Jesuit High School in Sacramento, CA, and studying theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, CA (M.Div. 1990, S.T.L. 1994). Along the way he also had several shorter teaching stints and pastoral experiences in Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland, Guaymas, and Rome.

    Fr. Just did his doctoral studies of the New Testament in the Dept. of Religious Studies at Yale University, New Haven, CT, culminating in a dissertation entitled, “The Social Role of Blind People and Attitudes toward the Blind in New Testament Times” (Ph.D. 1998). His other research interests include the Gospel and Letters of John, the Book of Revelation and Apocalyptic Literature, the Roman Catholic Liturgy, and the Lectionary for Mass.

    He is currently an Associate Director of the Loyola Institute for Spirituality in Orange, CA, through which he offers and directs a variety of adult biblical education programs. Prior to moving to Orange County, he taught theology and religious studies at Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles), the University of San Francisco, and the University of Santa Clara. He was also the Director of the Center for Religion and Spirituality, a part of LMU Extension, and has worked extensively with the Campus Ministry program at Mount St. Mary's College, Los Angeles. He is an active member of the
    Catholic Biblical Association and the Society of Biblical Literature, and tries to keep up his working knowledge of several ancient and modern languages.

    Fr. Just maintains a large internationally acclaimed website with a wide variety of biblical and liturgical materials (
    http://catholic-resources.org). He frequently gives public lectures and workshops for parishes and dioceses on a wide variety of biblical, liturgical, spiritual, and theological topics. He enjoys hiking, camping, cycling, backpacking, and a broad range of popular and Christian music.
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    RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2008/12/31 01:30:33 (permalink)
    Dear friends,

    In her article, Jesus and Women in the Gospel of John, author Karen Heidebrecht Thiessen writes:


    Recently, the issue of “women in ministry” has had a high profile in many churches. There is agreement that women, like men, are called to minister within the church and to the world. The debate focuses on the nature of ministry and the forms of expression appropriate for women.
    She observes that "the usual procedure is to anchor arguments concerning women in ministry in the Pauline epistles," but that since there is little concensus on the Pauline writings, she suggest turning to the Gospels for guidance.  In her article, Heidebrecht Thiessen specifically examines the Gospel of John to discover Jesus’ understanding of the ministry of women. 

    Her observations are interesting.  For instance, we see that Jesus did not view women in terms of sexual temptation or sexual gratification. And though "nowhere in John does Jesus explicitly teach about the roles and nature of women,"  Heidebrecht points out:


    ...we are left with an implicit commentary by John, who portrays women as active, innovative ministers of the Kingdom. We are given only indirectly Jesus’ attitude toward women, as revealed by his words and actions: the Johannine Jesus affirms them in roles that were unusual and often unacceptable within that culture. Jesus’ approach to women was in such contrast to that of his culture that we can assume a deliberate modelling of a new way of relating to women (Schneiders, 36). Surely such modelling is as valid as explicit teaching.

    John’s story reveals a certain sensitivity and a deep respect for women which is evident in his selection and portrayal of incidents in Jesus’ life. The Johannine Jesus is not presented as seeking to modify the feminine role prevalent within Judaism; rather, Jesus seems to ignore it altogether as he calls women to public ministry and affirms them in the face of male opposition.
    Heidebrecht Thiessen shows us a Jesus who treats women as unique and valuable individuals. He does not condescend to flatter them but instead demands just as much from women as from men. His approach to women is revolutionary considering the cultural norms of his day.

    She also observes that John does not describe women in relation to men but instead does the opposite. "Rather than viewing women in terms of their roles of wife, mother and housekeeper as was common within Jewish culture, the Johannine Jesus views them as individuals capable of making important decisions and commitments. Instead of seeing women primarily in terms of their sex or marital status, Jesus views them in terms of their relationship to God."

    Heidebrecht Thiessen summarises that "while the Johannine Jesus does not give us explicit teaching on the subject, his words and actions imply several principles that governed his relations to women:


    • He treated women as people. He did not view women in terms of sexual temptation or sexual gratification. He neither avoided nor catered to them. He did not create new categories or rules for them as women but approached them as responsible and capable individuals.
    • Jesus allowed women to transcend their culturally defined roles. He did not assess their value according to their role of wife or mother but viewed them in relationship with himself.
    • Jesus encouraged women to serve him to the best of their ability. He did not specify areas of ministry for women and other areas of ministry for men. Rather, he affirmed women as they took initiative in the exercise of their particular ministry gifts.
    • Jesus’ approach to women appealed to the kingdom norm of equality in Christ. He was willing to challenge cultural norms in order to remain true to the higher kingdom vision."
    And last but not least, Hildebrecht Thiessen asks questions about the implications of the Gospel of John for today's Church and women.  "How do we live out the principles Jesus models for us in the Gospel of John? We live in a society which is much different from that of Jesus. Or is it really that different?


    • Do we allow women in the church to be individuals as well as women? Do we avoid hiring women as part of pastoral teams because of the sexual temptation they may represent to the male members of the staff? Should we not rather call men to be responsible for their own sexual desires?
    • Do we in the church assess the value of women only in terms of their ability to function within the role of wife and mother? Why is it that most of the teaching in women’s groups addresses women as to their roles as wives and mothers, while men are much less frequently taught on their roles as husbands and fathers?
    • Do we in the church allow women to serve to the best of their ability? Do we tend to assume that all women have a domestic bent, an artistic eye and a “way with kids?” What do we do with a woman who exhibits special theological insight or has the gift of preaching? Do we equally affirm all women as they take initiative in exercising their unique gifts?
    • Do we appeal to the kingdom norm of equality in Christ or are we constrained by the limits of our own church subculture?

    Hildebrecht concludes:

    Jesus was not afraid to defy cultural prohibitions when it came to relating to women. However, neither did Jesus fully implement his kingdom vision. While the Gospel writers present evidence of Jesus having followers who were women, the fact remains that Jesus did not choose to have women as part of his special group of twelve disciples. Does this then imply that women are forever barred from leadership roles within the church? I think not. Rather, I believe Geddert is correct when he states:

    Jesus also lived in the real world, and though he prepared the soil for the full implementation of his kingdom vision, he did not himself institute all the radical changes that the implementation of that vision would entail (Geddert, 12).

    Paul summarizes the kingdom vision of Jesus in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Jesus’ death brought with it equality for Jew and Gentile, but it was only with time and with extreme struggle and sacrifice on the church’s part that this part of the vision became a reality. It was also only centuries after Jesus’ life on earth that the practice of slavery was finally abolished, and yet we believe that the granting of equality to both Gentiles and slaves lies within the kingdom vision of Jesus.

    The question we face today is that of the implementation of the final phrase in Paul’s summary of the kingdom vision—“in Christ there is neither male nor female.” Has the time come to allow that final phrase to become a reality within our present context? We cannot beg to refrain due to cultural considerations, for women in leadership has become acceptable in almost every sphere of our society except the church. Can it be that we have created our own church subculture that renders us incapable of implementing this part of the kingdom vision? Has not the time come to free ourselves from our self-imposed bondage and to allow the vision of Jesus to break through to our reality in all its fullness?

    A copy of Hildebrecht Thiessen's article follows here.

    with love and blessings,

    ~Sophie~
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    RE: Women Priests as Viewed from Scripture 2008/12/31 01:31:13 (permalink)
    Jesus and Women in the Gospel of John
    by Karen Heidebrecht Thiessen

    Recently, the issue of “women in ministry” has had a high profile in many churches. There is agreement that women, like men, are called to minister within the church and to the world. The debate focuses on the nature of ministry and the forms of expression appropriate for women.

    John portrays women as active, innovative ministers of the Kingdom 
     
    The usual procedure is to anchor arguments concerning women in ministry in the Pauline epistles. Some hold Paul’s restrictions to be normative for today; others feel their relevance is limited because of their cultural and situational specificity. Those who believe the Bible restricts the public ministry of women appeal to texts such as 1 Timothy 2:11-12,14 and 1 Corinthians 14:34; those who favor the unrestricted ministry of women counter with Galatians 3:28, Romans 16:1-3,6,12, Philippians 4:2-3 and 1 Corinthians 11:5. Since there is so little consensus on the Pauline writings, perhaps we may turn to the Gospels for guidance.

    This article focuses on the Gospel of John to discover Jesus’ understanding of the ministry of women. Is it valid to expect a response on the subject of women in ministry from a document not primarily concerned with this question? {53} Nowhere in John does Jesus explicitly teach about the roles and nature of women. Rather, we are left with an implicit commentary by John, who portrays women as active, innovative ministers of the Kingdom. We are given only indirectly Jesus’ attitude toward women, as revealed by his words and actions: the Johannine Jesus affirms them in roles that were unusual and often unacceptable within that culture. Jesus’ approach to women was in such contrast to that of his culture that we can assume a deliberate modelling of a new way of relating to women (Schneiders, 36). Surely such modelling is as valid as explicit teaching.

    John’s story reveals a certain sensitivity and a deep respect for women which is evident in his selection and portrayal of incidents in Jesus’ life. The Johannine Jesus is not presented as seeking to modify the feminine role prevalent within Judaism; rather, Jesus seems to ignore it altogether as he calls women to public ministry and affirms them in the face of male opposition.

    Jesus' Three Great Conversations with Women

    It is in observing how Jesus acted in contrast to his culture rather than in conformity to it that we come in touch with his revolutionary new attitude towards women. Often we read the stories of Jesus’ encounter with women without realizing the radical nature of his actions. However, the accounts would have had a very different impact on the original readers familiar with the culture Jesus was challenging. For today’s readers to hear the message the author intended, it is necessary to be familiar with the attitudes toward women that characterized the cultural milieu in which Jesus ministered.

    Women in first-century Israel were defined by their role as bearer of their husband’s offspring and their function as a sexual release for their husband. As Rabbe Hiyya said, “It is enough for us . . . that (women) rear up our children and deliver us from sin (by being sexual partners)” (Hurley, 69). While one can be assured that not all men and marriages were characterized by these assumptions, the abundance of statements such as these show that the worth of women was generally defined by their biological function.

    Jewish literature tended to characterize women as unclean, sexual temptresses. The Talmud describes a woman as “a pitcher full of filth with its mouth full of blood, yet all run {54} after her” (Swidler, 3). Since male lust was considered unavoidable due to the seductive nature of women, contact between the sexes was to be avoided. Because women were held responsible for male temptation, they were barred from public life lest they cause a man to sin.

    Intellectual initiative on the part of women was not encouraged in Rabbinic Judaism. While study of the Torah was one of man’s highest priorities, it was considered a sin for a woman to do the same. Rabbi Eliezer said, “If any man teaches his daughter Torah it is as though he taught her lechery” (Swidler, 93) and, “It is better that the words of the Law be burned, than that they should be given to a woman” (Hurley, 72). Due to woman’s lack of intellectual ability, she was also barred from the role of witness. Josephus states in his Antiquities that “the testimony of women is not accepted as valid because of the lightheadedness and brashness of the female sex” (Swidler, 115).

    Although Jesus did not systematically spell out his teaching on women, his manner of treating women demonstrated his personal attitude toward them. The implications of his encounters with women point to the role he expected them to assume as equal partners with men. Some of the greatest conversations ever reported between Jesus and women are found in John’s Gospel: 1) Jesus has a theological discussion with the Samaritan woman in which he reveals his identity as the long awaited Messiah. 2) Jesus has a searching talk with Martha concerning the resurrection. 3) Jesus chooses to send the message of his resurrection to his disciples through Mary Magdalene. These three great conversations with women will now be examined.

    Jesus and the Samaritan Woman
     
    In the story of the Samaritan woman, Jesus crosses both social and religious barriers (John 4:4-42). While much attention has been given to this aspect of the story, few have pondered the significance of Jesus conversing with not only a Samaritan, but a Samaritan who was a woman.

    Jewish society frowned upon conversation between male and female. This was particularly true of Samaritan women, who were deemed perpetually unclean. The laws of purity declared that “the daughters of the Samaritans are menstruants {55} from their cradle (Daube, 137). The Samaritan woman’s surprised reaction to being addressed by Jesus is evident (4:9). The latter part of the verse is often translated “for Jews have no dealing with Samaritans” (RSV). The verb sugchrontai alludes to the cultic code that forbade a Jew to eat or drink from the vessel of an unclean person such as a Samaritan, and especially a Samaritan woman whom they considered a perpetual menstruant. The Samaritan woman’s shock is understandable as Jesus requests a drink from her vessel.

    When the disciples return, they are shocked to see Jesus and the Samaritan woman in conversation. The Greek does not attribute the disciples’ shock to the fact that Jesus was talking to “the woman” but rather “a woman.”

    Schnackenburg points out that “the disciples are not taken aback . . . to see him disregarding the barriers of race. They are thinking of the reserve imposed on all Jews, and a rabbi in particular, with regard to the female sex” (1:443). The attitude of Aboth Rabbe Nathan is typical of rabbinic thought when he says, “One does not speak with a woman on the street, not even his own wife, and certainly not with another woman, on account of gossip” (Haenchen, 1:224).

    The Samaritan woman immediately believes in Jesus as Messiah. She leaves her water jar and heads toward the village to give witness to this great revelation. Significance can be attached to the woman leaving her water jar when one considers the call of other disciples which involved leaving fishing boats and tax booths. We have here “a feminine version of the standard Gospel formula for responding to the call to apostleship, namely to ‘leave behind all things’ ” (Schneiders, 40).

    The concluding verses tell of the Samaritan woman’s witness to her village (4:39-42). The importance of her work is reinforced when Jesus says to the disciples, “I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor” (v. 38). Jesus uses the apostolic language of sending (apesteila), as he invites the disciples to join the Samaritan woman in the missionary process she has already initiated. Thus, the Samaritan woman is portrayed as a model for apostolic activity.

    The Samaritans believe “because of her word” (dia ton logon) (v. 39). This expression is significant because it recurs in Jesus’ “priestly” prayer for his disciples where he says, “It is not for these alone that I pray, but also for those who believe in {56} me “through their word” (dia tou logou) (John 17:20). John describes the Samaritan woman’s work in that village in precisely the same language he uses to describe the disciples’ ministry.
    • The Cultural and Literary Context
    Traditional exegesis has made much of the Samaritan woman’s sinful marital situation, but has largely neglected her role as the first person in John’s Gospel to whom Jesus clearly revealed himself as Messiah and who acted on that recognition. The fact that Jesus revealed himself to the Samaritan woman is remarkable when one considers that she led a highly irregular life, that she was from a rejected minority group, and that she was in fact a woman. Jesus revealed the truth about himself to a person considered unworthy of hearing such truths and incapable of understanding them. He was not limited by the customs of his day but addressed her as an equal with men and a potential sharer in the kingdom. He gave the Samaritan woman important theological teaching, treated her seriously and responded to her comments. The Johannine Jesus did not require her to cease being a woman or a Samaritan but viewed her primarily as a person in need of the revelatory truth of Jesus as Messiah.

    Culpepper believes that the Evangelist uses the Samaritan woman as a model of female discipleship, serving to modify the thesis that only male disciples were important figures in the founding of the church (137). She is given an apostolic role; she calls others as Jesus called the disciples, “Come and see” (4:29, 1:39), and others believe “because of her word” (4:39,42; 17:20). While John has the townspeople refer to the Samaritan woman’s words in verse 42 as lalia or “common talk” (Arndt and Gingrich, 464), the narrator himself refers to her testimony in verse 39 as logos or the “Word.” This narrative reflects a perspective “free of any cultural or theological hangup that is uncomfortable with having a woman become a foremost ‘minister of the word’ ” (Stagg, 237). John implies that the hour has come when even women may be messengers of the Kingdom.

    John further heightens the effect of the Samaritan woman narrative by placing it in sharp juxtaposition to the Nicodemus narrative of the previous chapter. “He is a male teacher of Israel, she a {57} woman of Samaria. He has a noble heritage, she a shameful past. He has seen signs and knows that Jesus is ‘from God’, she meets Jesus as a complete stranger” (Culpepper, 136). Unlike Nicodemus, she makes no effort to keep her relationship with Jesus secret but announces it to all (4:29). John has chosen to illustrate the full revelatory process with a simple Samaritan woman rather than a male teacher of orthodox Judaism.

    Jesus and Martha of Bethany
     
    The second great conversation Jesus has with a woman is with Martha of Bethany (John 11). While the climactic miracle in this story is the raising of Lazarus, John gives great prominence to Mary and Martha throughout the narrative. Rather than attempt a detailed examination of the entire passage, this study will focus on the way the author portrays Martha.

    John introduces the three characters involved in the narrative in verse 1. It is of note that he portrays Lazarus in terms of his relationship to Mary and Martha. It seems likely that in the eyes of the Evangelist, both Martha and Mary were more prominent than Lazarus. The author obviously expects the story of Mary’s anointing of Jesus to be familiar to his readers since he refers to it in 11:2 but has not yet narrated the event itself (cf. 12:1-8). Jesus names Martha, Mary and Lazarus as objects of Jesus’ love (v. 5). The only other individual in John of whom this is said is the Beloved Disciple. Witherington feels that this implies that Mary and Martha as well as Lazarus were disciples of Jesus (108).

    Already in verse 3 the narrator encourages us to see Mary and Martha as persons of faith. The message they send to Jesus telling him of Lazarus’ illness hints that they believe only Jesus can deal with their drastic situation (Witherington, 109). This impression is strengthened when Martha tells Jesus that if he had been there her brother would not have died. Martha’s response to Jesus’ assurance that her brother will rise again (verse 23) gives evidence of her theological awareness, expressing the belief of Pharisaic Judaism in the resurrection of the dead at the last judgement (Ellis, 186). It is at this point that Jesus attempts to move Martha from her affirmation of traditional eschatological expectations to a realization that he is the one who fulfills Jewish expectations.

    Jesus addresses one of his “I am” sayings to a woman, and Martha responds with a climactic confession of Jesus as “the {58} Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world” (verse 27). Her confession is similar to Simon Peter’s great confession in Matthew 16:15-19, which has often been viewed as related to his position of leadership. In fact, this is the closest parallel to Peter’s confession found anywhere in the Gospels.
    • The Literary and Cultural Context

    The story of John 11 is the longest narrative found in the Fourth Gospel apart from the Passion account. It is also the climactic sign of Jesus’ ministry as it immediately precedes the account of his own death and resurrection. It is significant that John chooses to highlight a story which makes a woman the recipient of one of Jesus’ most profound statements about Himself and in which a woman makes an accurate and appropriate response to his declaration. The dialogue between Jesus and Martha is “one of the most magnificent revelations of Himself which the Son of God ever made. Hers is one of the most unreserved confessions” (Ketter, 287).

    John presents Martha as the ideal of discerning faith. Martha’s confession is notably fuller and perhaps even more satisfactory than the Petrine confession in John 6:68-69. It is Martha rather than Peter who serves as the Johannine model of discerning and steadfast faith. Within a culture which placed little value on the word and witness of women, John portrays Martha as an exemplary model of what it means to confess the truth about Jesus. Jesus transcends the typecasting of his day and views Martha as a person capable of a perceptive and discerning faith. Witherington states:

    The account illustrates the Fourth Evangelist’s conviction that women have a right to be taught even the mysteries of the faith, and that they are capable of responding in faith with an accurate confession. In short, they are capable of being full-fledged disciples of Jesus (109).
    Jesus and Mary Magdalene

    The goal and apex of John’s Gospel is reached in chapter 20:1-18. Here we find the ultimate revelation of Jesus’ identity as the resurrected Christ, the Son of God.

    Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb of Jesus in the early morning hours. Having discovered the empty tomb, she runs to tell Peter and the Beloved Disciple. After viewing the empty {59} tomb, the Beloved Disciple “believed” (v.8). This is difficult to reconcile with verse nine: “They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” Paul Minear solves this dilemma by arguing that the belief of the Beloved Disciple was not in the resurrection of Jesus; but rather, that having seen the evidence himself, he finally believed Mary Magdalene’s report (127). Since the witness of a woman was not considered credible within that particular cultural context, it is possible that John wanted to highlight the Beloved Disciple’s belief in the report of a woman!

    Upon encountering the resurrected Jesus, Mary is commissioned to tell Jesus’ brothers the news of his resurrection. Mary eagerly proclaims the message of the risen Jesus to the disciples, and the disciples believe Mary’s testimony. This is consistent with John’s portrayal of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples in verse 20 where he does not record surprise or shock on their part.
    • The Cultural and Literary Context


      In traditional scholarship priority has been given to the male-oriented tradition of Jesus’ resurrection appearances preserved in 1 Corinthians 15:1-7. While Paul has nothing to say regarding the witness of women to the empty tomb and the resurrection, the Gospels make their witness prominent. Frank and Evelyn Stagg state:

      The most significant affirmation of women in the New Testament may well be found in the tradition made prominent in all four Gospels that women were the one to find the tomb of Jesus empty (144).
      The resurrection is foundational to New Testament faith (1 Cor. 15:12-19, 1 Thess. 4:14 and Rom. 10:9). Thus it is significant that Jesus entrusts a woman with the most crucial message of his earthly mission—the message of his triumph over death. While Peter and the Beloved Disciple are at the tomb in John 20, Jesus does not appear to them. Rather, Jesus chooses to appoint a woman as his witness despite the fact that the testimony of a woman was of no account to those within Jewish culture.

      It is possible to ascribe to Mary Magdalene a quasi-apostolic role. In fact, the Western Church tradition considered her to be “the apostle to the apostles” (Brown, 1975:693). Essential {60} to the apostolate was seeing the risen Jesus and being sent to proclaim him (1 Cor. 9:1-2, 15:8-11 and Gal. 1:11-16). The narrative in John 20 clearly qualifies Mary on both accounts. She goes forth to proclaim the message of Jesus to the apostles with the standard apostolic announcement of the resurrection, “I have seen the Lord” (Brown, 1979:189). Whereas within Jewish culture women were not qualified or authorized to teach, the Gospel of John pictures the risen Christ commissioning a woman to teach his male disciples the most basic tenet of the Christian faith.

      Brown believes Mary Magdalene is portrayed as holding a place within the tradition about women disciples analogous to that of Peter among the male disciples. “Both of them received the first appearance of the glorified Jesus and the foundational apostolic commission” (1979:43). The Fourth Gospel portrays Mary Magdalene as having a claim to apostleship not unlike Peter’s and Paul’s. She, like them, saw the risen Lord and received from him the commission to go and preach the news of his resurrection.

      Reflections on Women in John
       
      It is through John’s portrayal of Jesus relating to women that we gain insight into both Jesus’ and the Evangelist’s attitude toward women. Rather than assuming that women have similar characteristics and tendencies, and formulating rules designed for women only, Jesus treats them as unique and valuable individuals. Nowhere does he condescend to flatter women, but rather he demands as much from them as from men. Jesus’ approach to women is revolutionary considering the cultural norms of his day.

      None of the women in John except Mary the Mother of Jesus and Mary the wife of Cleopas are described in relationship to men. In fact, John does just the opposite as he defines Lazarus by his relationship to Martha and Mary! Rather than viewing women in terms of their roles of wife, mother and housekeeper as was common within Jewish culture, the Johannine Jesus views them as individuals capable of making important decisions and commitments. Instead of seeing women primarily in terms of their sex or marital status, Jesus views them in terms of their relationship to God.

      Unlike men in his culture who avoided the presence of {61} women for fear of being seduced, Jesus associates freely with women. He has close friendships with women not related to him, like Mary and Martha, and even holds an extended private conversation with a Samaritan woman of ill repute. Instead of blaming women for male lust, Jesus implies that it is men’s responsibility to discipline their thoughts rather than denying women access to public life.

      One of the most radical aspects of Jesus’ behavior towards women is his willingness to teach them. While rabbinical thought considered it inappropriate to involve women in intellectual instruction, Jesus teaches women personally. He assumes that women are capable of learning and understanding the theological truths that he presents to them, and able to engage in theological debate. Jesus is willing to risk public scandal in order to instruct women. John further affirms women in their intellectual capacity as he presents them as valid witnesses of the truth about Jesus. It is through the witness of the Samaritan woman that the people of Sychar are introduced to Jesus. More importantly, it is Mary Magdalene who is entrusted with the truth of Jesus’ resurrection and commanded by the risen Jesus to be a witness of that truth to the disciples.

      In summary, we observe that women in the Fourth Gospel are presented positively and in intimate relation with Jesus. Kopas points out that there “are enough examples of lack of comprehension of a person’s relationship to God among the men who follow to make his encounters with women all the more amazing” (202). Women are portrayed as comprehending the teaching of Jesus and responding enthusiastically and appropriately. They are women who are not afraid to take initiative in their relationship with Jesus, and the Evangelist presents Jesus as affirming these women in their unconventional roles. In fact, Schneiders states that “If leadership is a function of creative initiation and decisive action, the Johannine women qualify well for the role” (39). Jesus pays no heed to the views of women common in his time. Rather, he enters into theological discussion with women, affirms them in their public proclamation of his revelation, values them as close friends and chooses them to be witnesses to the truth of his resurrection. {62}

      Jesus and Today's Woman
       
      Having examined the way Jesus related to women in John, it is appropriate to ask what relevance that study has to our current attitudes toward women in the church. While the Johannine Jesus does not give us explicit teaching on the subject, his words and actions imply several principles that governed his relations to women:
        He treated women as people. He did not view women in terms of sexual temptation or sexual gratification. He neither avoided nor catered to them. He did not create new categories or rules for them as women but approached them as responsible and capable individuals.

        Jesus allowed women to transcend their culturally defined roles. He did not assess their value according to their role of wife or mother but viewed them in relationship with himself.Jesus encouraged women to serve him to the best of their ability. He did not specify areas of ministry for women and other areas of ministry for men.Rather, he affirmed women as they took initiative in the exercise of their particular ministry gifts.

        Jesus’ approach to women appealed to the kingdom norm of equality in Christ. He was willing to challenge cultural norms in order to remain true to the higher kingdom vision.
      The question remains: How do we live out the principles Jesus models for us in the Gospel of John? We live in a society which is much different from that of Jesus. Or is it really that different?:
      • Do we allow women in the church to be individuals as well as women? Do we avoid hiring women as part of pastoral teams because of the sexual temptation they may represent to the male members of the staff? Should we not rather call men to be responsible for their own sexual desires?
      • Do we in the church assess the value of women only in terms of their ability to function within the role of wife and mother? Why is it that most of the teaching in women’s groups addresses women as to their roles as wives and mothers, while men are much less frequently taught on their roles as husbands and fathers?
      • Do we in the church allow women to serve to the best of their ability? Do we tend to assume that all women have a domestic bent, an artistic eye and a “way with kids?” What do we do with a woman who exhibits special theological insight or has the gift of preaching? Do we equally affirm all women as they take initiative in exercising their {63} unique gifts?
      • Do we appeal to the kingdom norm of equality in Christ or are we constrained by the limits of our own church subculture? This fourth question requires further explanation before we can begin to answer it.
      Jesus was not afraid to defy cultural prohibitions when it came to relating to women. However, neither did Jesus fully implement his kingdom vision. While the Gospel writers present evidence of Jesus having followers who were women, the fact remains that Jesus did not choose to have women as part of his special group of twelve disciples. Does this then imply that women are forever barred from leadership roles within the church? I think not. Rather, I believe Geddert is correct when he states:
        Jesus also lived in the real world, and though he prepared the soil for the full implementation of his kingdom vision, he did not himself institute all the radical changes that the implementation of that vision would entail (Geddert, 12).
      Paul summarizes the kingdom vision of Jesus in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Jesus’ death brought with it equality for Jew and Gentile, but it was only with time and with extreme struggle and sacrifice on the church’s part that this part of the vision became a reality. It was also only centuries after Jesus’ life on earth that the practice of slavery was finally abolished, and yet we believe that the granting of equality to both Gentiles and slaves lies within the kingdom vision of Jesus.

      The question we face today is that of the implementation of the final phrase in Paul’s summary of the kingdom vision—“in Christ there is neither male nor female.” Has the time come to allow that final phrase to become a reality within our present context? We cannot beg to refrain due to cultural considerations, for women in leadership has become acceptable in almost every sphere of our society except the church. Can it be that we have created our own church subculture that renders us incapable of implementing this part of the kingdom vision? Has not the time come to free ourselves from our self-imposed bondage and to allow the vision of Jesus to break through to our reality in all its fullness? {64}

      Bibliography
      • Arndt, William E., and E. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Christian Literature. 2nd ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1979.
      • Brown, Raymond E. The Community of the Beloved Disciple. New York: Paulist Press, 1979.
      • ______. “Roles of Women in the Fourth Gospel.” Theological Studies 36 (1975): 688-699.
      • Culpepper, Alan R. Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983.
      • Daube, David. “Jesus and the Samaritan Woman.” Journal of Biblical Literature 69 (1950): 137-147.
      • Ellis, Peter E. The Genius of John: A Composition-Critical Commentary on the Fourth Gospel. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1984.
      • Geddert, Timothy J. “Jesus and Women: A New Vision for Humanity.” Unpublished paper, Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, CA, 1989.
      • Haenchen, Ernst. John. Hermeneia. 2 vols. Trans. Robert W. Funk. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984.
      • Hurley, James B. Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.
      • Ketter, Peter. Christ and Womankind. Trans. Isabel McHugh. Westminster: Newman Press, 1952.
      • Kopas, Jane. “Jesus and Women: John’s Gospel.” Theology Today 41 (1984): 201-215.
      • Minear, Paul S. “We don’t know where . . .” Interpretation 30 (April 1976): 125-139.
      • Schnackenburg, Rudolf. The Gospel According to St. John. 3 vols. Trans. Kevin Smyth. New York: Herder and Herder, 1968.
      • Schneiders, Sandra M. “Women in the Fourth Gospel and the Role of Women in the Contemporary Church.” Biblical Theological Bulletin 12 (1982): 35-45.
      • Stagg, Evelyn and Frank. Women in the World of Jesus. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978.
      • Swidler, Leonard. Women in Judaism: The Status of Women in Formative Judaism. Metuchen: The Scarecrow Press, 1976.
      • Witherington, Ben, III. Women in the Ministry of Jesus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.
      Karen Heidebrecht Thiessen is a 1990 graduate of the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California. She resides in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
      © 1990 Direction (Winnipeg, MB)

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      The Samaritan Woman at the Well
      by He Qi, China
      http://www.heqiarts.com/gallery/gallery3/pages/6-SamaritanWomanAtTheWell.html

      In the Gospel of John, women are Jesus' main conversation partners in three stories that reveal His identity and vocation and the nature of faithful discipleship.
       
      Jesus's conversation with the Samaritan Woman at the Well: John 4,4-42 is his longest theological conversation recorded in scripture.
       
      By way of contrast with Nicodemus and the Twelve Apostles, this woman shows great depth in understanding what he says. She responds by engaging in apostolic activity in her community.
       
      The Samaritan Woman: An Early Apostle!
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