Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Women priests in the Church?: José Maria Castillo suggests not

NOTE: There is a school of thought among some progressive theologians that, rather than admitting women into the priesthood, we should be eliminating the institution altogether. I have always entertained both perspectives on this blog. -- RG

By José M. Castillo (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Redes Cristianas
December 2, 2013

I understand that there are quite a few women who are disappointed with the recent exhortation of Pope Francis. Just as, surely, there will be others who feel safer now with what this innovative pope has said. My point of view doesn't represent much on this or many other issues. But, be it much or little, I want to make clear at the outset that I agree with what Francis says about women in the exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium".

Let it be noted that the pope himself, in this exhortation (which is not an encyclical, much less a dogmatic definition), tells the bishops and theologians that in the particular case of women's ordination, there's "a great challenge." And so he says to those skilled in these matters that they could help "recognize more fully what this entails with regard to the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church's life." (no. 104). The issue, therefore, and in regard to the ordination of women, is not closed, but is in a process of searching, something which I'll try to explain in what I can arrive at on the subject.

Pope Francis stresses the need for the Church to return to fully living out the Gospel. Well, if that is taken seriously, we will seriously implement what the pope is saying. And, in such a case, what we find in the Gospel is that Jesus didn't ordain anyone a priest. Not women, of course. But men neither, nor even the apostles as is usually said with more ignorance than knowledge of the facts. "Priests" are not spoken of in the Church until the 3rd century. And about "orders" and "ordination", we ought to know that "ordo" doesn't belong to biblical language, but is a term and an institution that was taken from the organization of Roman society. And that was also done well into the 3rd century.

I'm not going to linger on other historical explanations. For quick information, as is the case, my view is that if Jesus did not think of priests but, on the contrary, had deadly conflicts with priests, is it best for the Church to increase the influence of the clergy and fatten an establishment that has appropriated power and privileges at the expense of all other believers in Jesus? Are we going to use women to boost that structure that is dying because every day there are fewer and fewer men who want to be part of that group? If Jesus did not think of clerics or priests, are we going to keep them going, even strengthening them with women priests?

So, a church without clergy? Well, yes. So what? Jesus chose twelve apostles. But, in the view of early Christianity, the purpose of that was for these men to be witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, a substitute was found for Judas (Matthias). But afterwards, as the other apostles were dying off, no substitute was found for any of them. The Gospel speaks of exemplary disciples, followers who had to put living as Jesus lived before anything else, even their own father's funeral. But people with power and privilege? No way.

Jesus wanted them to be "last", "servants" and "slaves" of all. This is what the Gospel says. We mortals have invented and fleshed out everything else. To live off it. Do we want to live as Jesus lived? And who is stopping women from doing that? Jesus didn't want people with power, but followers who are faithful to his way of understanding life.

And what do we do about the sacraments? Let each community decide, in each case, who coordinates, organizes, and runs it, as is done in all human institutions and groups. And what the Council of Trent said in its 7th session? Before 1980 I showed, citing the Acts of the Council in detail ("Símbolos de libertad", 1981, ch. 8) that what was affirmed in that session is not a doctrine of the faith. One can think in a different way and do things differently. What matters is not who has this or that power. What's really important is living as Jesus lived. I'll talk about the issue of abortion another day.

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