Jul 22, 2007

Women Ordination

A fellow member in VaticanFriends*, Mathias, wrote this wonderful and simple article on the ordination of women. I recommend those who have difficulty understanding this topic to have a read. Two thumbs up, Mathias! And thank you for allowing me to share this with others.

Jesus has appointed 12 jewish men as apostles. These men represent symbolically the 12 tribes of Israel - the "new covenant in the blood of Christ" is therefore not a contradiction to the old covenant but its completion and perfection. When Saint Paul writes to the Romans that "grace and vocation that are granted by God are irrevocable", this implies a "character indelebilis": also in apostasy a baptised remains baptised, a confirmed remains confirmed, and a priest remains priest - in the same way a jew remains a jew and has therefore the continuous calling to lead the heathens to God (that is to say to their king Christ).

This calling is not stopped when jews do not acknowledge Christ as their messiah - every jew will always be called to acclaim Christ as their king in order to be able to live their vocation.

As a consequence, there is a constancy between Israel and the Church (the people of God from Israel and the peoples) in the sense that the church is the completion and perfection of Israel (with the specialty that Israel is the heart of the church, the priestly people which has put forth the Messiah, while the heathens collect around this heart (pilgrimate to Zion).

Since Israel as ecclesial structure has declined the Messiah, we are confronted to a dilemma because God has promised us this way of salvation to Abraham, and because God who is the ever faithful one will without doubt keep this vow.

Because I am deviating a bit from the topic at this point, I will summarize a bit: Israel became realised in Mary, the daughter of Zion (a real symbol). At this point I would have to show the representation of Israel as woman in the old testament and the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob/Israel, as well as the description of the Church/Mary in the apocalypse of John as being crowned with 12 stars in order to demonstrate the realisation and perfection of Israel in the Church. But at this point is shall be enough to simply postulate this here.

The 12 Apostles represent the 12 tribes of Israel (the 12 stars of the Madonna in the apocalypse). This close constancy in the sense of perfection and completion is in contrast to the protestant view of the creation of something radically new (in the sense of an anti-principle, compare the principle of justice by deed at the jews in contrast to the principle of justice by faith of Luther). Given this close constancy of old and new covenant, the answer to the question why Jesus has appointed MEN is: because the priesthood of Israel was a single-sex male priesthood.

The next question which we pose now is: "Why did Israel have a single-sex male priesthood"? The answer to this question appears to be obvious: "because Israel was a chauvinistic, patriachial society that was oppressing women!". The next question that follows is: "What kind of societies were the surrounding peoples (the Assyrians, the Egypts, the Kanaans etc.)?". You will get 100 points for the answer "chauvinistic, patriarchal societies that were oppressing women".

But why on earth did these other peoples have a FEMALE priesthood? This is evident: the religious life would not have been possible without these priests. As a consequence the prize question is: what was the difference between Israel and the heathens that both "women oppressing monsters" had such a different understanding of pristly office?

At this point one must add, that the heathens had a polytheistic heaven full of different gods that included gods with a lived sexuality while the Israelites had a asexual monotheism. At the heathen peoples, the consequence of the sexualised heaven was a sexualisation of the religious cult and of liturgy, which is always accused heavily in the Old Testament as one of the greatest evils of the surrounding peoples (next to human sacrifices) and which is therefore rejected.

To put it in a nutshell, one can say that Israel had a single-sex priesthood because their image of God was an asexual one and because the cult was always free of sexuality - which demands as last consequence naturally also celibacy. Celibacy was already founded in the Old Testament in the form of cultic pureness: the priest in charge was not allowed to sleep with his wife in the same bed during the times he was enacting his priestly functions. This foundation was only in fragments and did not yet arrive at a state of completeness, just the same as the law of Israel without Christ did not yet arrive at a state of completeness.

Israel was always aware (and this was vital in order to differentiate itself from the surrounding heathen peoples) that one cannot change the cult (which is the rite) without changing at the same time also the image one has of God and His relation to the people. As a consequence, one may not change anything substantial and anything having identifying character in the rite. It is not a coincidence that - at that time - Cardinal Ratzinger saw a direct link between the reform of liturty (the turning around of the altar) and the call for women ordination which was based in a shifted focus on human beings (anthroposcentration).

One would have to add in this context also the role of the church as emancipator of the woman and as the one who laid the basis for the idea of sexual equality (for instance, in its laws on marriage the church was the first institution to have the same law for men and women). Also, one would have to work out here that neither the church nor Israel had a fundamental problem with having women leadership: Israel had a Queen and the irish double-monasteries were under the rule of an abbess which kept her own auxiliary bishops for consecrations. But this would go beyond the topic of this essay and it would take more time than I've been allotted to here. But it is important here to see that the fundamental reservation of consecrations for men is not primarily based on the patriarchal structure of the time (which is true for the under-representation of women in offices that have no theological reservation), but that this is due to a theological differentiation from idolatry.

Other interesting links:

Literature to the constance between Israel and the Church:
Dieter Böhler SJ, Maria die Tochter Zion – die Bedeutung der Mutter Jesu in der Hl. Schrift, GuL 78/6 (2005) 401-412.
Joseph Ratzinger, Die Tochter Zion. Betrachtungen über den Marienglauben der Kirche. Einsiedeln 1977.
Werner Löser SJ, Maria, der Tochter Zion, in: A. Raffelt (Hg.), Weg und Weite (FS K. Lehmann). Freiburg-Basel-Wien 2001, 535-547.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger/Hans Urs von Balthasar, Maria Kirche im Ursprung, Johannes Verlag Einsiedeln, Freiburg, 2005.
Hans Urs von Balthasar, Maria für heute, Johannes Verlag Einsiedeln, Freiburg 1997.

Literature to the constancy related to priesthood and sacrifice in the old and new covenant:
Dieter Böhler SJ, El sacrificio de Israel, el sacrificio de Cristo y el sacrificio de la Iglesia, Diálogos universitarios 3, León (México) 2004.

[1] Compare. Mt 5,17: “denkt nicht ich bin gekommen, um das Gesetz und die Propheten aufzuheben. Ich bin nicht gekommen um aufzuheben, sondern um zu erfuellen”.

[2] Röm 11,29.

[3] Compare Denzinger 1609.

[4] Mi 4,1-3.

[5] Compare Dieter Böhler SJ, Maria die Tochter Zion – Die Bedeutung der Mutter Jesu nach der Hl. Schrift.
I have listened to his speeches and base my arguments also on private conversations with this author.

[6] Dtn 23,18f.

[7] Among others Lev 20,1-5.

[8] Compare Denzinger 185.

[9] This source will be handed in later on.

~ By: Mathias, Germany

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Dr. Philipp Wilhelm
Rigistr. 7, 6410 Goldau, Suisse
Email: Philipp.Wilhelm[at]
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