"...If the Pope would apply to the church hierarchy the same biblical exhortation as he addressed to the Congress, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," there would be no question of women's full ecclesial equality in becoming priests. The Pope would need to acknowledge that his priesthood and the priesthood of women are inextricably linked in this teaching.
The Church now maintains that the ordination of women is not permitted due to Jesus's practice of only choosing men to be apostles. But in fact the "otherness" of women to the essence of humanity has deep roots in the philosophical theology that informs Catholicism. The Catholic Church has long seen maleness and femaleness as different in essence, two different expression of a "common" humanity. But whereas maleness can symbolize humanity in and of itself, femaleness, as derivative, a particular interpretation of Genesis 2:22 (creation of Eve from Adam's rib), cannot. See my chapter on Augustine and Aquinas in regard to women's derivative nature inWomen's Bodies as Battlefield: Christian Theology and the Global War on Women.
The way forward on the ordination of women in the Catholic Church is to reject this fundamental "otherness" of women, if Pope Francis would only take it. It is on a continuum with rejecting the hierarchical interpretation of the spirit as more valuable than the earth that has so profoundly contributed to the environmental degradation Francis now decries.
I believe this Pope has already laid the groundwork for how the church could do this in his Encyclical Laudato si', as I have argued. In that work, Francis explicitly rejects theologies that authorize "dominion" by human beings over the earth.
Feminist theologians, and particularly Rosemary Radford Ruether, herself a Catholic, have repeatedly said theologies of domination and subordination of women are the basic building blocks of patriarchy. Ruether has said, "Domination of women has provided a key link, both socially and symbolically, to the domination of earth, hence the tendency in patriarchal cultures to link women with earth, matter, and nature, while identifying males with sky, intellect, and transcendent spirit."
This is the foundation in philosophical theology of why women have not been ordained as priests in the Catholic Church and it is the foundation of earth-destroying practices.
When the Pope argues in Laudato si' that human beings are not entitled to dominate the earth as its "lords and masters" he can be interpreted as subverting one of the fundamental supports for the difference in "essence" between men and women, women's identification with "nature" and men's essential identification with "sky, intellect, and transcendent spirit" and thus priesthood.
The threats to our common home and the threats to our common humanity have the same roots and both must be rejected for this planet and this humanity to ultimately survive.
Many people across the globe are coming to realize these links.