Translating this rather controversial article by Pablo Richard, I was reminded of discussions I used to have with a Jesuit friend who thought that my focus on opening the priesthood to women and married men wasn't sufficiently visionary. Like Richard, my friend believed that the Church needs to focus less on priests and transfer more power and responsibility to lay people. Or, as singer/songwriter and now Unitarian minister Fred Small would say: "...We're talking 'bout changes / Not just changing the faces at the top..."
I have many reservations about Richard's argument because I think it's an easy one to make for those who are already "in", like Richard and my friend. I would be interested in hearing what readers of this blog think, if you want to add your comments. I also think it's important to point out that, except for the most orthodox Jews, women have more equality and access to ministerial positions -- rabbis, cantors, etc... -- in Judaism than in the Catholic Church. This too makes me question this article, even as I publish it for discussion.
by Pablo Richard (English translation by Rebel Girl)
July 1, 2011
I think that the problem of women's participation in the Church can only be understood within a global ecclesiological definition.
When Jesus entered the temple, He characterized it as a "den of thieves".
The Jewish people are largely from a temple religion and, in this type of religion, the participation of women is unthinkable.
"Priestly" ministry is something from the Jewish religion.
The Christian faith is not in this temple tradition, neither men, nor women.
We need to make the Church "less priestly", that is, not think of the Church in terms of temple and priests.
In Jesus' Christian tradtion there are "presbyters", which is not a priestly ministry, but men and women in charge of the faith of the community.
If we are talking about "priests" in the Church, neither women nor men should be ordained as priests.
Instead, Jesus followed the tradition of the Jewish synagogue, which is not a place of worship, but of teaching.
Christianity advanced in the inclusion of women as teachers, equal to men. Therefore to state "a Church without women, nevermore" also means "a Church of priests, nevermore".
Christianity wasn't born on an "altar", but at a "table", where all participated.
The problem isn't women, but the Church.
Integrating women into the current model of a priestly and hierarchical Church would be bad for women.
The fundamental ministry in the Church today is the "ministry of the Word", not "priestly ministry."
When the Church reduces ministry to bishops and priests, the inclusion of women is bad for women.
When we have a Church of teachers and prophets, women's participation will be indispensable.
Pablo Richard is a Chilean priest, theologian and Biblical scholar.
Photo: "Last Supper" by Polish artist Bohdan Piasecki. Piasecki created this painting in 1998 for B.A.S.I.C. Brothers and Sisters in Christ, an Irish group working in support of women's ordination in the Catholic Church.