Wednesday, July 24, 2019

"The Priesthood of Women" by Leonardo Boff, Supportive Article from A Prominent Roman Catholic Theologian

My Response: Roman Catholic Theologian Leonardo Boff's endorsement of  women priests  is timely as Pope Francis prepares for the Amazon Synod and floats the idea of married priests. I agree with Boff that the role of priest is to be a coordinator of  service in the community.  Roman Catholic Women Priests in our international movement  are redefining priestly ministry as we  celebrate the holy in sacramental rites and meet the challenges of living the vision of Jesus in our world today. Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP,

Leornard Boff
"The feminine dimension is not exclusive to women, because both men and women are carriers, in their own ways, of the masculine and of the feminine. In first question in Summa Theologica, dealing with the object of theology, Thomas Aquinas made it clear that theology can address any subject, so long as it is done in the light of God. Otherwise, it would lose its pertinence. Therefore, is good to ask, from this perspective, about priesthood, that the Roman Catholic Church has denied to women. And to consider the sound theological reasons that guarantee its usefulness.

The so called “deposit of faith”, this is, Christian positivism, is not a cistern of dead waters. It is revived when it confronts the unrestrained changes of history, as in the case elicited by the Amazon Synod.

In effect, all over the world, we see the affirmation of the equality of women and men in dignity and rights. Understandably, it is not easy to undo centuries of patriarchy, that involved diminishing and marginalizing women. Yet, slowly but surely, discrimination is being overcome and in some cases even punished. In practice, all public spaces and very diverse activities are open to women. Should this also be true for the priesthood of women in the Roman Catholic Church? In Evangelical Churches, the Anglican Church and also the Rabbinate, women have been allowed to perform functions previously reserved to men.

Until recently, in the highest hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, it was forbidden even to suggest the possibility, especially under Pope John Paul II. The idea of the Priesthood of Women was hostage to the secular patriarchal culture. But it cannot be turned into a bastion of conservatism and anti-feminism in a world moving forward towards the richness of the relationships of men and women. Pope Francis has the merit of raising questions that are pertinent to the present world, such as the question of conjugal morality or the treatment of homosexuals and other minorities.

As a feminist of the last century, A. van Eyde, used to affirm: «The well being of men and women is interdependent. Both will be hurt if, in a community, both can not contribute with the full measure of their possibilities. The Church herself will be wounded in her organic body if she does not make room for women within her ecclesiastic institutions» (Die Frau im Kirchenamt, 1967: 360).

The meticulous research of men and women theologians at the highest level has proved that there is neither a doctrinal nor dogmatic barrier that impedes the access of women to the Priesthood.

In the first place, let's remember that there is only one Priesthood in the Church of Christ. Those who come under the name of “priest” are only figures and representatives of the unique priesthood of Christ. Their function can not be reduced, as the official argument maintains, to the power to consecrate. It can be said that the whole life of Jesus Christ is priestly: Jesus presented Himself as a being-for-others, defending the most vulnerable, also defending women, preaching fraternity, reconciliation, unconditional love and forgiveness. Jesus does not appear as a Priest only in the Las Supper, but in His whole life. That is, Jesus was a creator of bridges and of reconciliation.

The function of the ministerial priest is not to be keeper of all the services, but to coordinate them, so that they all serve the community. By presiding over the community, the priest also presides over the Eucharist. This service (that Saint Paul calls “charisma”, and there are many) can also be exercised by women, as is shown in the non Roman Catholic Churches and in the Ecclesial Base Communities.

And there are more fundamental reasons that call for that ministry to be exercised by women.

In the first place, the first Divine Being who came to the world was the Holy Spirit, who accessed Mary's womb to beget the second Person, the incarnated Son, Jesus Christ. The Son only came after the “fiat” (the yes) of Mary.

Jesus was followed not only by apostles and disciples, but also by many women who guaranteed Him the infrastructure. The women never betrayed Jesus, something that cannot be said about the Apostles, especially the most important of them, Peter. After the prison and crucifixion, the men all ran away. The women did not run. They stayed at the foot of the Cross.

It was the women who, in a genuinely feminine posture, first went to the tomb to anoint the body of the Crucified. The main event of the Christian faith, the resurrection of Jesus, was witnessed for the first time by a woman, Mary Magdalene, to the point that Saint Bernard would say that she was "Apostle" to the Apostles.

If a woman, Mary, could give birth to Jesus, her Son, how can she not represent Him sacramentally in the community? This is a flagrant contradiction, that only can be understood in the framework of a Church that is patriarchal, machista and comprised of celibate men in the body of the organization and guidance of the faith.

Logically, the feminine priesthood cannot be a reproduction of the masculine priesthood. It would be an aberration if it were. Women's priesthood must be unique, according to the way of being of the woman, with all that femininity implies in the ontological, psychological, sociological and biological spheres. She must not be the substitute for the male priest. The woman will realize the priesthood as only she will know how.

The time will come when the Roman Catholic Church will align her path with the feminist movement of the world, and the world itself, towards an integration of the “animus” and the“anima” for the enrichment of humanity and of the Church herself.

We are, then, in favor of the priesthood of women within the Roman Catholic Church, women chosen and prepared beginning with the faith communities. It behooves them to give their priesthood a specific configuration, different from that of the priesthood of men.

Leonardo Boff

Earthcharter Commission
Translation done in tribute to Margot LeBreton Merz

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