Thursday, June 5, 2014

María José Arana: "There are women who have a great priestly vocation"

By Nekane Lauzirika (English translation by Rebel Girl)
June 1, 2014

"I sincerely believe that if the hierarchical Church wants to tackle the issue of celibacy with an eye to rethinking the institution, it should definitely begin to listen to women's voices," says María José Arana, a religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, doctor in Theology with a degree in Sociology from the University of Deusto. María José has been pastor [pastoral administrator] of a parish in Aranzaxu, Biscay [Spain] and president of the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women. Among her many works and studies is Mujeres Sacerdotes ¿por qué no? Reflexiones históricas, teológicas y ecuménicas ["Why not women priests?: Historical, theological, and ecumenical reflections" -- Part 1 of this book is available free in Spanish on].

María José Arana thinks that once again the issue of women in the Church has been put on the back burner. "The debt the hierarchical Church has with them goes much further back, is more urgent and flagrant but nonetheless, it continues," she points out in a critical tone. Because neither the issue of a female diaconate or the priesthood is dogma. "Moreover, there are traces of the practice of the early Church than speak to us of the presence of women deacons and priests. And above all, the women's issue has evolved enormously in civil society and the Church has lagged behind," this professor at the School of Theology in Gasteiz and Institute of Theology and Pastoral Ministry in Bilboa asserts.

And the voice of women theologians?

This theologian, who also belongs to other Christian women's groups like the Foro de Estudios sobre la Mujer ["Women's Studies Forum"], wonders "why the hierarchical Church doesn't turn to the work that many of us women theologians have already done on the subject, why they don't listen to the many women who have been called, why they don't see the positive contribution their presence could bring to the institution of the priesthood which, however, is resoundingly impoverished by the lack of them."

It's an opinion that's shared by former Jesuit José Luis Erdozain, driving force of the journal Herria 2000 Eliza who thinks that it's unacceptable that in the 21st century, in an institution like the Catholic Church parity is conspicuously absent. "Women are completely excluded from the church hierarchy; it's an almost medieval anachronism that in this century women are still being denied the ability to be priests and bishops."

For Erdozain, the celibacy issue isn't the main problem, but rather "male-female equality in the Catholic institution. This would involve a profound change in the Church's thinking.There are many, many women and nuns -- in the convents and in the street, who have a great vocation to service and charisma and a huge capacity for reconciliation -- key characteristics for the priesthood. Women can have the same priestly vocation as men," he asserts.

In the debate on women's ordination, various aspects are brought up -- biblical, theological, human rights arguments... -- "however there's one that is almost never taken into account and seems basic to me: the same priestly vocation," Arana adds.

Paul VI categorically denied that women could have an authentic priestly vocation: "Such an attraction however noble and understandable, still does not suffice for a genuine vocation." Nonetheless, Arana adds, there are today -- and were in the past -- women who affirm that they feel called to the priesthood in the deepest part of their being "and many of them experienced this denial with deep sorrow and helplessness -- Saint Catherine of Sienna, Saint Therese [de Lisieux] and many others."

They all felt the suffering of this impossibility and "sublimated" it in a life of sacrifice similar to Paul VI's thinking..."Sorrow! Today there are a couple of hundred of them who have been ordained outside of what Rome says, although they're excommunicated. The priestly vocation is anthropological and theological. It's an authentic calling. That's why many women feel cut short in something very personal. They want to be priests and they can't," she exclaims sorrowfully.

More web resources on or by María José Arana


This bibliography comes from the website of Arana's religious order.

  • La Clausura de las Mujeres, Mensajero, Bilbao, 1992
  • Mujeres sacerdotes, ¿por qué no?, Claretianas, Madrid, 1994 (with Mary Salas)
  • Rescatar lo femenino para re-animar la Tierra , Cristianismo y Justicia, Barcelona, 1997
  • "Caminemos al resplandor de su Luz" in Reflexiones sobre el Espíritu Santo en la Vida Religiosa, Frontera/Hegian, Vitoria, 2000
  • Recordando juntas el futuro, Claretianas, Madrid, 1996 (ed.)
  • Mujeres, diálogo y religiones, Desclée de Brouwer, Bilbao, 1999 (ed.)
  • Networking for Reconciliation (ed.), Die Deutsche Bibliothek- CIP Einheitsaufnahme, Bâsel, 1999
  • El Diálogo Interreligioso en un mundo plural. Islam, Cristianismo y Judaísmo, (ed.) Desclée de Brouwer, Bilbao, 2001
  • Cuando los sacramentos se hacen vida, (ed.), Descleé de Brouwer, Bilbao, 2008


  • Para comprender el cuerpo de la mujer, "Símbolos, corporeidad y ecología", Verbo Divino, Estella, 1997
  • Diez palabras sobre la Vida Religiosa v. "Ecumenismo y diálogo interreligioso", Verbo Divino, Estella, 1997
  • Diez mujeres escriben Teología v. "Sacerdocio", Verbo Divino, Estella, 1993
  • Algunas mujeres nos han sobresaltado, Claretianas, Madrid, 1993
  • Fe y Teología en la Historia. Estudios en honor del profesor Evangelista Vilanova
  • "María Magdalena y las demás mujeres. La espiritualidad de María Magdalena vivida por las mujeres en la Edad Media ", Publicacions de l'Abadia de Montserrat, Barcelona, 1998
  • Repensar la sexualidad desde las mujeres en "Revisión de la comprensión cristiana de la sexualidad", Nueva Utopía, Madrid, 1997
  • Panorama de la Teología española, "Algo sobre mi itinerario teológico", Verbo Divino, Estella, 1999
  • Del Cosmos a Dios, "Orar con la Tierra ", Desclée de Brouwer, Bilbao, 1999
  • 10 palabras sobre la Secularidad , v. "espiritualidad y secularidad", Verbo Divino Estella, 2002
  • 10 palabras sobre la violencia, v. religión, Verbo Divino, Estella, 2004
  • "Panorama de la Vida Contemplativa en el siglo XX en Euskalherria", " La Mujer vasca en el nacimiento y desarrollo de la VR en Euskalherría", "Geografía histórica y estadísticas de los Institutos femeninos de Vida activa en Euskalherría a lo largo del siglo XX", los tres en Historia de los religiosos en el País Vasco y Navarra, Arantzazu, Oñate, 2004
  • "Antonia de la Misericordia. Recobrar el pasado para recrear el futuro, hoy" en Antonia, Mujer de Inclusión, El perpetuo Socorro, Madrid, 2005
  • Suplemento al Diccionario Teológico de la Vida Consagrada , v. diálogo interreligioso, Claretianas, Madrid, 2005
  • "Espiritualidad de la Resistencia " en AAVV Espiritualidad de las mujeres, Desclée de Brouwer, Bilbao, 2005
  • "Narrar la historia y mover al amor". En qué creen las mujeres, AAVV, P. de MIGUEL, Desclée de Brouwer, Bilbao, 2007.
  • "El Nuevo rostro de la VR que el Espíritu va diseñando" en AAVV, Revitalización carismática y mejora organizativa. Semana 36 de VC. Claretianas, Madrid , 2007
  • "Bible Women and Women's Bible", en Weaving Dreams- Traüme Weben, AA.VV. Berlín, 2009
  • "La Vida Religiosa , a la Escuela del Apocalipsis", AAVV, En la Escuela de la Palabra, Claretianas, Madrid, 2008.
  • "Eva y Pandora: por causa de ellas todos morimos", en Mitos Femeninos. Laberinto de espejos. Pedro Marcos Cossio (edit), Arcibel, Sevilla, 2010.

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