The Struggle to Serve

The Ordination of Women in the Roman Catholic Church

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About the Book

Appointed by Pope Paul IV to examine the role of women in the Bible, the Pontifical Biblical Commission found, in part, that the will of Christ would not be disobeyed if the Roman Catholic Church ordained women. The Commission reported: “The New Testament does not settle in a clear way … whether women can be ordained priests, scripture grounds alone are not grounds enough to exclude the possibility of ordaining women [and] Christ’s plan would not be transgressed by permitting the ordination of women.”
Further, it is attested among biblical scholars that although the Bible was written in a patriarchal culture, Jesus is predominantly portrayed as one who promoted the equality of women and men. Yet the Church has continued to exclude women for twenty centuries primarily on the basis of the precedent of twelve male apostles at the Last Supper.
It is clear that women will be needed, and in elevated roles, if a declining Church is to grow and prosper in the future. Catholicism is faced with a precipitous drop in the number of priests, portending parishes without pastoral care—unless women are ordained. Addressed here are the conflicts and questions surrounding the struggle by women to serve.

About the Author(s)

Simone M. St. Pierre lives in Manitobia, Canada.

Bibliographic Details

Simone M. St. Pierre
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 215
Bibliographic Info: notes, appendices, annotated bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2011 [1994]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6716-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      xi

Introduction      1

1. THE ORDINATION OF WOMEN      7

The Conclusions of the Pontifical Biblical Commission      7

The Development of the Christian Priesthood      8

Tradition in the Church      10

The Church’s Fidelity to Christ      12

The Argument in Terms of Male Representation      15

The Restriction of Women      16

The Use of Aquinas      16

Jesus’ Maleness      18

Can Women Represent God?      20

Does the Priest Represent Jesus’ Humanity or His Maleness?      21

2. WOMEN IN THE MINISTRY OF JESUS      29

Jesus’ Maleness      30

Jesus’ Message      30

Jesus’ Attitude Towards Women in the New Testament      31

The Women in Mark’s Gospel      32

The Women in John’s Gospel      33

The Women in Luke’s Gospel      34

The Women in Matthew’s Gospel      35

Women in Jesus’ Ministry      36

Mary and Martha      36

The Unknown Woman      37

Mary Magdalene      40

Mary of Nazareth      42

The Twelve      45

Why “Twelve” Men?      46

Why Twelve “Men”?      47

3. THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE EARLY CHURCH      51

Can Scripture Determine Appropriate Roles for Women?      51

Paul and Women      52

Towards a Biblical Methodology      53

A Feminist Historical Reconstruction      56

Women’s Roles in Paul’s Writings      56

Silence for Women in the Church      57

I Timothy 2.8-15       60

Roles for Women in the Pauline Tradition      62

Phoebe      62

Apostle      64

Prophet/Prophetess      66

The “House” Church      66

The Order of Widows      67

Searching for Historical Documentation      67

4. OVERCOMING THE LAY-CLERGY DUALISM      71

The Lay-Clergy Distinction     

The Laity in the Early Church      72

The Theological Implications      72

The Official Treatment of the Laity      74

Vatican II      74

The Implications of the Term ‘Zaity”      74

The Problem      75

The Effects      75

The Code of Canon Law      78

The Bishops’ Synods      80

The Bishops’ Synod      81

The Canadian Interventions      82

Ministry in the Church      85

Lay-Clergy Tensions in the Early Christian Community      85

Jesus’ Ministry      86

The Concept of Ministry in the Early Church      87

The Role of “Apostolic Succession”      88

The Council of Chalcedon      89

5. WOMEN IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH      93

The Problem      94

“No” to Women Priests      97

Ministry for Men and Women      98

The Structure of the Church      99

Women’s Struggle for Equality      102

The Resistance to Change      104

Pastoral and Liturgical Roles for Catholic Women      105

The Bernier Case      106

Arguments Against the Promotion of Women      107

Arguments for the Promotion of Women      112

A Comparison      114

Women’s Inequalities      115

6. A CONTEMPORARY UNDERSTANDING OF THE ORDINATION OF WOMEN      117

“On the Dignity and Vocation of Women on the Occasion of the Marian Year”      117

Men and Women in the Created Order      118

Jesus’ Attitude Towards Women      118

Equality versus Diversity      119

Bridal Imagery      121

What Does the Official Church Offer for Women?      122

The Theology of the Ordination of Women      124

Understanding How God Was Revealed      124

Understanding Tradition in the Early Church      124

The Church’s Ministry of Service      127

A “Christian” Ministry of Service      129

Bernard Cooke      129

Denise Lardner-Carmody      131

Edward Schillebeeckx      133

The Official Teaching on Vocations      134

The “Vocations” Prayer      135

The Problem with the Lack of Vocations in the Roman Catholic Church      136

Towards a Renewal of the Hierarchy      136

The Legitimate Call to Vocation      137

Equal But Different      137

The Spiritual Effects of Women’s Exclusion from the Ministerial Priesthood      138

A Theology of Liberation from Clericalism      141

Conclusion      145

Chapter Notes      149

Appendix      173

Bibliography      177

Index      199

Book Reviews & Awards

“well-researched…highly relevant and insightful…. An essential purchase”—Library Journal; “clear, concise, yet broad in scope…. Undergraduate (all levels)”—Choice; “both timely and well thought out…. The book could not be more welcome”—Booklist.