Tuesday, August 2, 2022

WOMEN PRIESTS. HISTORY IN THEIR FAVOR Juan José Tamayo/Feminist Liberation Theologian, "Women Priests Exercise their Ministry freely from the Option for the Poor"

 This is an excellent article that makes the case for Roman Catholic Women Priests written by a feminist/ liberation theologian incorporating  historical studies, hierarchical resistance of magisterium, and the current development of RCWP/ ARCWP as  a new paradigm of liberating inclusivity and egalitarianism. The author addresses the concerns of Pope Francis directly. 

"I can attest to this because I know some of these women priests who exercise the priestly ministry freely from the option for the poor, do not reproduce clericalism or the patriarchy of the official male priesthood, work for a non-discriminatory Church for reasons of ethnicity, culture, religion, social class, gender and sexual identity and have an excellent welcome and a deserved recognition within the grassroots communities and social movements, with which they are engaged in the struggle for a more just and eco-fraternal-sororal society."

Fuente: religiondigital.org

I highly recommend this article for a discussion of  RCWP/ARCWP as a new model that fits within a liberating experience of ministry rooted in baptismal equality and an option for the poor and social justice. 

Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP



 
WOMEN PRIESTS. HISTORY IN THEIR FAVOR

Juan José Tamayo/Feminist Liberation Theologian

During the last decades there have appeared rigorous scientific investigations, numerous documents and declarations of theologians and theologians, Christian movements of base, civic-social organizations, and even of bishops and cardinals of the Catholic Church, claiming the access of women to the priesthood. All of them consider the exclusion of women from the priestly ministry as a gender discrimination that is contrary to the inclusive attitude of Jesus of Nazareth and primitive Christianity, and goes against the emancipation movements of women and the egalitarian tendencies in society, politics, domestic life and work.

The Catholic Church Magisterium against women's priesthood 

The high ecclesiastical magisterium responds negatively to this claim, relying on two arguments: one theological- biblical and the other historical, which can be summarized as follows: Christ did not call any woman to be part of the group of the apostles, and the tradition of the Church has been faithful to this exclusion, not ordaining women priests throughout the twenty centuries of the history of Catholicism. This practice is interpreted as Christ's explicit will to confer only on men, within the Christian community, the threefold priestly power of teaching, sanctifying and governing. Only they, because of their likeness to Christ, can represent him and make him present in the Eucharist.

These arguments have been repeated with little change for centuries and are set forth in various documents of identical content, of which I highlight three to which the bishops appeal every time critical Christian movements insist on claiming the priesthood for women: the declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Inter insigniores (October 15, 1976) and two apostolic letters of John Paul II: Mulieris dignitatem (August 15, 1988) and Ordinatio sacerdotalis. On Priestly Ordination Reserved for Men Only (May 22, 1994). The most forceful of all the statements in this regard is the latter, which settles the question and closes all doors to any change in the future: "I declare that the Church has no power whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, and that this opinion must be considered as definitive by all the faithful of the Church".

A few months before resigning his pontificate, Benedict XVI, citing John Paul II's Ordinatio sacerdotalis, ratified the prohibition of the Catholic Church to ordain women, considering this prohibition part of the divine constitution of the Church and declared that the Church lacks the authority to allow women access to the priesthood, since Jesus Christ ordained only men priests, and did so voluntarily.  

It is true that history is not prodigal in offering accounts of women priests. This should not be surprising or surprising, since it has been written by men, mostly clerics, and their tendency has been to hide the prominence of women in the history of Christianity. "If women had written the books, I am sure they would have done it differently, because they know that they are falsely accused." This was written by Christina de Pisan, author of The City of Ladies in 1404, the work usually considered proto-feminist. However, documents are not lacking, as I will try to show.

Most New Testament studies, historical research on early Christianity and current theological reflections agree that

Most New Testament studies, historical research on early Christianity and current theological reflections agree that there is no reason for the exclusion of women from the various ecclesial ministries.

According to some Gospel traditions, women joined the Jesus movement on equal terms with men. This inclusive religious practice was a real revolution within the patriarchal and androcentric Jewish society and religion. I believe it can be affirmed that women recovered in the Jesus movement the freedom and dignity denied to them by the Roman domestic codes and the orthodox tendencies of Judaism.

Women exercised ministerial and directive functions in early Christianity. In her book El ministerio eclesial. Responsibles en la comunidad cristiana (Ediciones Cristiandad, Madrid, 1983) Edward Schillebeeckx asserts that women, as leaders of domestic Christian communities, could preside over the Eucharistic celebration.

Important historical research disproves the forceful affirmations of the papal magisterium, to the point of invalidating them and turning them into pure rhetoric at the service of a hierarchical-pyramidal-clerical institution such as the Catholic Church, one of the last and most effective bastions of patriarchy, which appeals to the masculinity of God "Father" and the virility of Jesus of Nazareth to exclude women from the presbyteral, episcopal and papal ministry. This practice of excluding women from the sphere of the sacred and divine representation confirms the two very accurate affirmations of the third wave feminists: Mary Daly and Katte Millet. The first affirms in her book Beyond God the Father (1973): "If God is male, the male is God". The latter writes in Sexual Politics (1970): "Patriarchy has God on its side".

Theodora, episcopa

In order not to make this article too long, I will cite two of the most rigorous studies that invalidate the affirmations of the three documents mentioned above: When women were priests (El Almendro, Córdoba, 2000), by Karen Jo Torjesen, professor of Women's Studies and Religion at Claremont Graduate School, and the work of the Italian historian Giorgio Otranto, director of the Institute of Classical and Christian Studies at the University of Bari. They demonstrate, through inscriptions on tombs and mosaics, papal letters and other texts, that women exercised the priesthood during the first thirteen centuries of the Church's history. Let us look at some of this evidence, which undermines the arguments of the ecclesiastical magisterium.

Under the arch of a Roman basilica there is a fresco with four women. Two of them are Saints Praxedes and Prudence, to whom the church is dedicated. Another is Mary, mother of Jesus of Nazareth. Above the head of the fourth is an inscription that reads: Theodora Episcopa (= Obispa). The 'a' of Theodora is scratched in the mosaic, but not the 'a' of Episcopa.

In the last century inscriptions were discovered that speak in favor of the exercise of the priesthood of women in early Christianity. In a tomb of Tropea (southern Calabria, Italy) appears the following dedication to "Leta Presbytera", dating from the middle of the V century: "Consecrated to her good fame, Leta Presbytera lived forty years, eight months and nine days, and her husband erected this tomb for her. He preceded her in peace on the eve of the Ides of March".

Other inscriptions of the sixth and seventh centuries also attest to the existence of women priests in Salone (Dalmatia) (presbytera, priest), Hippo, the African diocese of which St. Augustine was bishop for about forty years (presbyterissa), in the vicinity of Poitires (France) (presbyteria), in Thrace (presbytera, in Greek), etcetera.

In a fourth century treatise on the virtue of virginity, attributed to St. Athanasius, it is stated that consecrated women can celebrate the breaking of bread together without the presence of a male priest: "The holy virgins can bless the bread three times with the sign of the cross, pronounce thanksgiving and pray, for the kingdom of heaven is neither masculine nor feminine. All the women who were received by the Lord attained the rank of men" (De virginitate, PG 28, col. 263).

In a letter of Pope Gelasius I (492-496) addressed to the bishops of southern Italy in 494 he tells them that he has learned, to his great regret, that the affairs of the Church have reached such a low state that women are encouraged to officiate at the sacred altars and to participate in all the activities of the male sex to which they do not belong. The bishops of that Italian region had themselves granted the sacrament of Holy Orders to women, and they exercised priestly functions as a matter of course.

A priest named Ambrose asked Aton, bishop of Vercelli, who lived between the ninth and tenth centuries and was well acquainted with the ancient conciliar provisions, what meaning should be given to the terms presbytera and deaconess, which appeared in the ancient canons. Aton replied that women also received the ministries ad adjumentum virorum, and quoted the letter of Paul of Tarsus to the Romans, where it can be read: "I commend to you Phoebe, our sister and deaconess in the Church of Cenchreae". It was the council of Laodicea, held during the second half of the fourth century, continues Bishop Aton in his reply, which forbade the priestly ordination of women. As regards the term presbytera, he recognizes that in the ancient Church it could also designate the wife of the presbyter, but he prefers the meaning of ordained priestess who exercised functions of direction, teaching and worship in the Christian community.

Pope Honorius III (1216-1227) was against granting women the floor in a letter to the bishops of Burgos and Valencia, in which he asked them to prohibit the abbesses from speaking from the pulpit, a common practice at the time. These are his words: "Women should not speak because their lips bear the stigma of Eve, whose words have sealed man's destiny".

Locked in the tower of 'patriarchy'.

These and many other testimonies that I could give are rejected by the ecclesiastical magisterium and by the theology that depends on it, alleging that they lack scientific rigor. But who are the theologians, who are the pope, the cardinals and the bishops to judge the value of historical research? The real reason for their rejection are the patriarchal approaches in which they are installed. The recognition of the authenticity of these testimonies should lead them to revise their androcentric conceptions and to abandon their misogynist practices. But they do not seem to be willing to do so. They prefer to exercise power authoritatively and in solitary confinement in the tower of their 'patriarchy', instead of exercising it democratically and sharing it with women believers, who today are the majority in the Catholic Church and yet lack a presence in its governing bodies and are condemned to invisibility and silence.

Women priests in the Catholic Church, today

It is true that Pope Francis has pleasantly surprised us with very accurate criticisms against the discrimination of women in society and with initiatives such as the incorporation of three women, two religious and one laywoman, in the Roman Dicastery of Bishops, whose function is the appointment of candidates to the episcopate. bishops. But in this same appointment I see an inconsistency or, better, a contradiction: that of women being able to elect bishops without being able to accede to the episcopate.

A second contradiction, even greater than the previous one, is that, with women having the history in favor of their exercise of the priestly ministry, the Code of Canon Law imposes on ordained women priests a greater penalty than on pedophiles: excommunication, but not through any official condemnatory declaration, but latae sententiae, that is to say, automatically. Which means that it is the women priests themselves who self-excommunicate.

But, logically, they refuse to do so and continue to exercise the ministry, and in this exercise they have the support of an important sector of the Christian community. A ministry at the service of the Christian community, exercised clandestinely. We are facing a third contradiction, which currently affects 265 ordained women within the Roman Catholic Church in the RCWP-ARCWP Movement, started twenty years ago on the Danube River, who vocationally exercise their ministry in the following of Jesus of Nazareth, the liberating Christ, in the most vulnerable social environments.

I can attest to this because I know some of these women priests who exercise the priestly ministry freely from the option for the poor, do not reproduce clericalism or the patriarchy of the official male priesthood, work for a non-discriminatory Church for reasons of ethnicity, culture, religion, social class, gender and sexual identity and have an excellent welcome and a deserved recognition within the grassroots communities and social movements, with which they are engaged in the struggle for a more just and eco-fraternal-sororal society.

Fuente: religiondigital.org



No comments: