Human Conflicts within Church Ministry and the Ordination of Women by Sebastian MacDonald, C.P. from 'Women and Priesthood:Future Directions'

Human Conflicts within Church Ministry and the Ordination of Women

by Sebastian MacDonald, C.P.

from Women and Priesthood: Future Directions, pp. 123-132.
edited by Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota.
Republished on our website with the necessary permissions

SEBASTIAN MACDONALD, C.P., Professor of Moral Theology, received his doctorate from the University of St. Thomas (the former Angelicum,) in Rome. He has published on moral issues and has lectured across the country. He has directed many workshops for religious women. He has held administrative positions within his religious congregation and has been actively involved in community organizations in the city of Chicago.

The ordination of women to the priesthood is a current problem for the Roman Catholic Church. I propose to look at it from a pastoral perspective. In doing so, I am working on the supposition that the Holy Spirit is present in the ministerial setting, embellishing it as the liturgy for Pentecost recalls, shedding light, bestowing comfort, providing refreshment. Because this is a presupposition, I will not be adverting to it in the remarks that follow.

With this supposition in mind, however, we can accept with equanimity one commonly held position today, namely, that the Scriptures do not answer the question about the legitimacy of ordaining women to the priesthood. Though we ordinarily look to the Word of God for guidance in coping with life’s major problems, in the issue under consideration, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that the Scriptures prohibit, for instance, the ordination of women to the priesthood.(1)


The rich resource of the Bible, then, will be probed no further here; this has already been done earlier in the volume. Let us turn our attention to another familiar place where faith assures us that the Spirit of God is operative: tradition. Tradition has emerged as the major factor in this issue.(2) Again, however, decisive arguments pro and con cannot be found within it. In using it we will have to model ourselves on the gospel figure, the head of the household “who can bring forth from his storeroom both the new and the old” (Matt 13:52).

It is not inappropriate to speak of these treasures of tradition as data, that is, facts and figures, or information, that can be appealed to for support. Data is the substance out of which reasons are fashioned. In a question begging clarification, such as the ordination of women, reasons are a determinative factor in the clarification process. But the task of sifting the data and shaping it into forceful reasons is a difficult one.

But it can be done. This is the opinion of the authors of the recent Vatican document on the ordination of women. While acknowledging that Scripture is not conclusive, they propose tradition as probative. Its mainline message, in their opinion, is the appropriateness of the male sex for priesthood, because in this way “natural resemblance” to Christ is best preserved.(3) I do not intend to explore this particular focus of the tradition; it too is being investigated elsewhere in this volume. My interest rather is the procedure followed in gathering the data that has gone into fashioning the reason (the male sex of Christ) against the ordination of women.

The data used to substantiate this prohibition is significant. It includes not only the reason of “natural resemblance” but a series of interpretations of scriptural data, developed in tradition, entailing Christ’s deputation of only men as the Twelve,(4) Paul’s careful usage of “God’s fellow workers”(5) to specify his male disciples, and the subsequent array of statements from the Fathers and medieval theologians against the ordination of women.

A major difficulty lies with the method employed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in using this data and so presenting its arguments. This data is to be located in the “theological places,”(6) a revered source for theology, where the Holy Spirit addresses believers in significant ways.(7) The Congregation associates these “places” with tradition. In doing so, in my opinion, it unduly narrows the field of human experience that is involved. It is not that important authorities have been overlooked. Rather, the notion of tradition is overly restricted to the Fathers and the theologians.(8) Data derived from contemporary science has not been utilized sufficiently in assessing the reasons against the ordination of women.

In developing this criticism, I will not concentrate on the omitted data, but will proceed indirectly by describing the way the Church is gradually coming to grips with pertinent, more contemporary data in its recent official documentation. The 1968 encyclical On the Regulation of Birth (Humanae Vitae) and the 1975 Declaration on Sexual Ethics both represent a healthy move toward a fuller recognition of the data that pertains to human behavior. Humanae Vitae, for instance, is sensitive to the problems associated with responsible parenthood (cf. paragraph n. 2) and the questions to which these give rise (n. 3). In a similar way, the more recent Declaration on Sexual Ethics pays considerable attention to “observations in the psychological order” (n. 8) concerning homosexuality and masturbation (n. 9), and to studies on the fundamental option (n. 10) regarding the question of serious sin.

Yet despite this growing awareness, there is still some diffidence in dealing with the data positively and constructively, as, for instance, by more vigorously integrating it into the doctrinal corpus as explanatory reasons for the conclusions that are reached.(9) What is happening, instead, is that this data is usually not preferred over against the traditional interpretation of Scripture and the usual understanding of tradition (the Councils, Popes, Fathers, liturgy, Sacred Congregations and theologians).(10) The present Declaration on the Question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood, and its Commentary, continues to follow this more restricted pattern in its understanding of “theological places.”


The teaching Church does not yet seem comfortable, by and large, with certain kinds of data bearing upon human conditions and conduct. I see several reasons for this hesitancy.

There is a propensity to preserve harmony and consistency between the data, the reasons fashioned out of it, and the principles and norms, or conclusions and applications that help constitute official doctrine or positions.(11) Underlying this is a fundamental viewpoint on reality itself, entailing a firm conviction that Divine Providence “reacheth from end to end mightily, and ordereth all things sweetly. ”(12)

Nicholas Crotty adverted to this attitude several years ago in addressing the issue of evil in human action. Citing Noldin’s manual of moral theology,(13) he remarked on the commonly held position that, in the objective order, there can never be conflict between moral values.(14) This is because the moral order is immediately subject to God’s government. It cannot be allowed that God be the cause of conflict in the objective order; such a principle would imply that He is responsible for the inevitable loss of goodness or for any injury that occurs in resolving the conflict.

Such a viewpoint pervades the present document on women ordination. It influences the choice of data that enters into the formulation of reasons against ordaining women. I will not exhaustively pursue this point, but will offer several illustrations of it. At the very outset the Declaration speaks of the equality that is to result between men and women, which “will secure the building up of a world that is not levelled out and uniform but harmonious and unified” (par. 1). Further on, speaking of the fact of the Incarnation of the Word in the male sex, it remarks that “it is, indeed, in harmony with the entirety of God’s plan as God Himself has revealed it” (par. 28). The accompanying Commentary points out that “the equality of Christians is in harmony with the complementary nature of their tasks” (p. 26).

Though I too may be selective in the data I glean from the documents in question, I submit that there is a strong influence at work here that bears close attention in evaluating the argumentation against the ordination of women. It is strong enough to eliminate contrary data.

In conjunction with this propensity for seeking harmony are the appeals to the fittingness found between the sacrament of Order and the calling of men only (Commentary, p.11), and the analogy of faith (p. 11), explained in terms of “ ‘this natural resemblance’ which must exist between Christ and his minister” (p. 12).

Closely linked to this principle of “harmony” is another reason why the Church seems to experience difficulty in dealing with certain kinds of data. Church documents generally disregard “conflict” as a principle or way of understanding God’s design for us, and our attempts to respond to Him. Crotty indicts Catholic moral theology for such a failure, as it struggles with the issue of evil surrounding us and our complicity in it. He complains that the moral principles in use seek to extricate us from responsibility for much of the evil that is objectively involved in our behavior and conduct.(15) There is an overriding concern not to give objective recognition to the role that conflict plays in moral theology. As it is, such conflict is confined to subjective factors at the level of individual action. There principles such as that of the twofold effect and probabilism (to cite merely one of the moral systems involved here) are employed to interpret the responsibility of the individual moral agent for the evil that is bound to occur in the conflict. In ways such as this the moral tradition of the Church has sought to curtail and confine moral responsibility for the evil that so often accompanies human action at the individual level.

This orientation toward conflict helps to explain the caution evident in the Commentary about discontinuity with past tradition concerning the ordination of women, and the fear of introducing something new. This appears in the rhetorical question: “But what the Church has never done—is this any proof that she cannot do it in the future?” (p. 22) The evident determination here to avoid a break with the past appears to me as an example of the Church’s attempt to deny the possibility of conflict at the objective or doctrinal level, and thereby curtail and restrict the unfortunate impact (a kind of evil) that would ensue. By the same token, however, this denial of conflict with tradition affects the procedure the Church follows in dealing with the data pertaining to such issues as the ordination of women.

Besides the two principles, one of “harmony” and its reverse side, “avoidance of conflict,” there is a third aspect to note: the tendency to an exclusively a priori reasoning in handling practical pastoral concerns. It is seldom evident that the pastoral situation enjoys a priority in helping to fashion the principles that guide Church policy. The recognition of “the help which the Church receives from the modern world” (16) is certainly not indicated in the Declaration being considered here. The frequently cited role of custom in the genesis of Church law is a slow and disorganized procedure, but it does show how lived experience provides data for the formulation of policy. An instance of this was the extension of the Sunday precept to assist at liturgy into Saturday evening; this was an accommodation of a pastoral nature to the weekend leisure habits that prevail in the modern world.(l7) When “practice” is referred to in the Declaration, it is that of the Apostles (pp. 7-8): “This practice of the Church therefore has a normative character: in the fact of conferring priestly ordination only on men . . . This norm . . . has been and is still observed because it is considered to conform to God’s plan for His Church.”

Charles Curran, speaking from the perspective of moral theology, has been a consistent critic of the tendency within official Church teaching to be non-historical and too exclusively deductive.(l8) This and the other two reasons already cited in this chapter lead me to question how adequate is the data-base out of which the Declaration fashions reasons to deal with the issue of women’s ordination. Though the negative conclusion it has reached may be justified, there is a problem with the procedure. The basis for gathering data is overly restricted. It comes as some surprise that the Congregation itself, in the Commentary, admits “such a quest [for reasons to substantiate the conclusion] is not without risk” (p. 30). But, then, the remark is made: “It is well known that in solemn teaching infallibility affects the doctrinal affirmations, not the arguments intended to explain it” (p. 30).(19) In addition to the dubious propriety of this reference to infallibility in relation to the non-infallible Declaration, there is a frank admission that the reasons advanced in the Declaration may lack the force of cogency. But this deficiency is offset, so the argument runs, by an appeal to “profound fittingness” (p. 30) and “analogies of faith” (p. 31), which I have previously described as instances of an inadequate harmony-principle at work.

This exclusive reliance on fittingness and analogy is appropriate where “the properly supernatural content of [the] realities” (par. 34) reach far beyond the competency of “the human sciences.” For an issue, however, such as the leadership-role of women, where the secular world with its politics, economics and social practice has made considerable progress, the Church can learn very much and obtain abundant data to clarify the issue of ordination. Admittedly, clarity is not always the outcome of such investigation. Nonetheless, such an effort is the more promising and credible procedure to reach conclusions on the question of women’s ordination. Unfortunately, the harmony-principle tends to shunt aside the data of human experience where tradition not only lives but also faces conflicts and develops new consensus. A fuller appreciation of human experience will throw light on this contention.


The constant tradition (p. 21) that proves so influential in this prohibition of ordination for women is itself the product of something prior to it. There is certainly an experience that feeds this tradition. Here I intend to explore at length the meaning and function of experience.

I rely in great measure on studies in the field of “experience.”(20) These investigations have coped with the vagueness that afflicts this term due to its wide usage in popular language. In this view experience is an interaction occurring between a person and his/her environment, that begets new relationships. These, in turn, possess the creative potential for further interactions of the same kind.(21)

The primary emphasis in this description is on the active element in experience. It attempts to offset the common understanding that experience results from a more or less haphazard passive accumulation of events in the life of an individual or institution. If there is a thread of unity, it is none other than the identity of the individual or institution serving as the repository of these widely divergent experiences. Over against this common viewpoint, a highly active role is assigned to experience by someone such as Dewey. It consists in a vigorous interaction between an agent and the environment, organized in a way to make something happen, such as a new relationship. Behind this description of experience lies an approximation to the laboratory model in which experiments are conducted to test hypotheses. But there is also a strong mandate to assume responsibility for the kind of experience we undergo.

In terms of this understanding, the issue of ordaining women assumes a different significance from what it has in the interpretation of tradition presented in the Declaration. The experience of being a woman reflected in this tradition is a truncated one because it is a passive construct, consisting of data that has arisen haphazardly. Or, to speak more precisely, the historical experience appealed to was under the control of unknown forces redolent of ignorance, passion and taboo. These effectively stunted the experience of what it means to be woman, and it is this imperfect and incomplete tradition that is presented in the document under consideration.(22)

In this setting, it is being a man that approximates the experience of being fully human. Being a woman is a lesser condition. The experience that substantiates these views is obviously incomplete, and needs to be supplemented by an active interpretation of what it means to be a woman. This is a task which the Declaration has not addressed. As a result, it is deprived of the kind of data needed to fashion cogent reasons for any conclusions about the ordination of women.(23)

In seeking a more complete experience on behalf of women, there is a pastoral implication for the mission of the Church. This must include a serious dialogue with the world, as part of that environment in which women interact. Pope Paul VI spoke of this mission in his first encyclical letter.(24) Such a dialogue is essential for gathering a data-base on the role of women in the family, industry, the business world, politics, and any other phase of society where women live and work. If the Church regards this data as irrelevant to the issue of women’s ordination,(25) it is foreclosing consideration of a considerable amount of experience capable of raising serious questions for investigation.(26)

In the last analysis, this appeal to such an interpretation of experience looks to those new questions and the new data that are emerging. It is my contention that the Church in the name of harmony and the analogy of faith has permitted only a limited access to experience and so has seriously narrowed the base for constructing any arguments pro or con in regard to women ordination. Should the total experience of being a woman undergo investigation, the conclusions may change. A total experience comprises a continuity between the secular and ecclesiastical spheres of woman’s experience, and thereby broadens the base of data to be examined.(27)

Such a broadened experience will resist the harmonizing tendencies observable in many church documents. This is because new dimensions of experience beget new interactions and new problems in the issue of ordaining women. The potential conflict latent in these problems, if honestly confronted, will generate the kinds of reasons needed to handle the issue effectively.(28)

The underlying conflict, when the total experience is examined, is the man-woman problem.(29) There is a continuum between the secular aspect of this problem, and the ecclesiastical. Woman’s experience of being dominated and exploited by men cannot be compartmentalized in such a way that what occurs in secular society has no reference in religious society. And it is just as inappropriate for the Church to seek to harmonize the secular aspects of this experience as it is to do so with the ecclesiastical aspects. The mission of the Church urges otherwise.

If the Church seriously attends to the total experience of women, largely one of inequity, the hidden problems will emerge and lead to the kind of investigation that would never be possible in a procedure seeking to harmonize a narrowly based experience. The reasons operative on behalf of fittingness and analogy lose some of their significance when placed in the context of the experience of being woman, that spans the religious and secular spheres. For, in this context, the issues of domination, exploitation, discrimination and injustice are clear. They are as endemic to the Church as to secular society at large, and the Church renders all of us, especially women, a service in acknowledging the problem and committing her resources to respond to it.

A positive regard for experience and its problems entails a greater role for conflict in the development of Church policy. The role of harmonizing divergences under such overarching considerations as the Will of God will be significantly reduced. No longer, then, will one seek to minimize the presence and influence of evil, both premoral and moral, in human experience. An orientation towards harmony may well explain why the Church countenanced such things as slavery, colonization, the crusades and the inquisition in the course of history—all associated with varying degrees of premoral and even moral evil that were not confronted adequately or soon enough.

If the Church were more attuned to the conflict nature of these and similar occurrences, it would more quickly be caught up in the helpful procedure of isolating the evil that is involved, and realistically weighing it in the balance against the good that is being achieved. Moral responsibility lies in this careful weighing of good and evil. So far as the ordination of women is concerned, the Church best situates itself to make a response when it considers the total experience of being a woman, including the conflicts and problems. For these enable the evils of her situation to clearly emerge, and thereby pave the way for the Church to pastorally minister to those who are afflicted, persecuted and suffering.


The issue of the ordination of women touches the nature of the Church’s identity and mission. This is so, not simply because half of its membership is women. There are more basic reasons than that.

For instance, Church mission is involved because the status of women in the modern world challenges it to evaluate its effectiveness on their behalf, in the face of its refusal to ordain them priests. Can the Church be faithful to what it is all about, in terms of representing the care, concern and compassion of Jesus Christ today? Mission means ministry and service on behalf of the needs of the world. The element of power, even when properly interpreted in terms of magisterium and jurisdiction, is not an adequate understanding of Church ministry, despite the tendency to make it such.(30) It is this focus on power that stands at the heart of the objection to ordaining women to the ministry, namely, that they are not suitable subjects of such power, since they lack the natural resemblance to Jesus Christ residing in male sexuality.(31)

If ministry were understood as service, this objection would fall, since women have proven to be effective ministers in the category of service.(32)Within the ecumenical context, arguments have already been forthcoming to interpret the validity of ordination in terms of the effectiveness achieved by the ministry in question, rather than in terms of the passing on of power through the imposition of hands.(33) If the mission of the Church were described in terms of effective ministry, then the definition given at the Call to Action meeting in Detroit, 1976, would be pertinent: “priesthood is a special relationship of love, that is, a unique community of life, with the people of God; its essence is not a role, functions, series of actions or stereotyped expectations.” (34) Women are certainly qualified for this type of ministry. Will they be called to it? If and when this occurs, the mission of the Church will be improved.

Church identity lies in its leadership function, and the issue of women’s ordination raises this identity for investigation also. The primary leadership task of the Church is to forward the cause of Jesus Christ in the present day world.(35) Here too, leadership appears in the promotion of love, peace and justice on behalf of the oppressed and burdened.

It is difficult to understand how this can be accomplished without assuming responsibility for the plight of the women of the world. Their condition is not simply one among many, but, to the discerning eye, it is a root problem, where the conflict of good and evil occurs in a radical form.(36) The inequity here, both in the Church and in secular society, is too paradigmatic for any institution to take it lightly and still maintain its credibility as a moral force in today’s world.(37)

It should be noted that the insistence on the totality of this experience of being women in both church and secular society necessarily entails problems and conflicts touching on the variegated condition of women. In some instances ordination is not an appropriate response to the problem at hand. This would be especially true where the secular quality of woman’s experience leaves her totally unqualified for the ministerial service of priesthood. In this case ordination is not appropriate, though some other religious ministry, corresponding to her demonstrated effectiveness, is in order. In any case, the leadership the Church assumes on behalf of women will add significantly to the identity it enjoys in the world.


Despite some of the remarks made in this chapter, harmony does enjoy a notable place as a fruit of the mission of the Church.(38) But, in this instance, it is a harmony consequent upon the resolution of the conflict between good and evil, threatening all its members, both men and women. In this role harmony has not been blind to the real hurts and injuries, suffered especially by women.

A sizeable number of these women seek ordination to the priesthood. This is undoubtedly a problem, In this Declaration the Church has begun to take it seriously; hopefully it will continue in this vein. It renders a service to a divided world by seeking to reconcile the divisions within itself.(39) Such reconciliation may not necessarily entail ordination of women. But, until the problem is confronted in all its complexity, an adequate solution will not be forthcoming, and the Church will be failing in its mission to the world. The question must be properly posed in order to orient the process of response in the proper way. Otherwise women and men will continue to live with an unanswered question, and sustain an experience of suffering that spans the continuum of church and secular society. Such pain and suffering is incompatible with the Catholic tradition, graced by the presence of the Holy Spirit, Who is the promise of solace, comfort and refreshment to us all.


1. The Pontifical Biblical Commission concluded: "It does not seem that the New Testament by itself alone will permit us to settle in a clear way and once and for all the problem of the possible accession of women to the presbyterate." Seventeen members of this Commission voted unanimously for this statement. They voted twelve to five in favor of the statement that Scriptural grounds alone are not enough to exclude the possibility of ordaining women. Cf. Origins 6:6 (July 1, 1976) 92-96. Of even greater significance is the following remark: “It must be repeated that the texts of the New Testament, even on such important points as the sacraments, do not always give all the light that one would wish to find in them.” Commentary on the Declaration of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the Question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood (Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1977) 27.

2. "Unless the value of unwritten traditions is admitted, it is sometimes difficult to discover in Scripture entirely explicit indications of Christ's will," ibid.

3. “‘Sacramental signs’, says Saint Thomas, ‘represent what they signify by natural resemblance’. The same natural resemblance is required for persons as for things: when Christ's role in the Eucharist is to be expressed sacramentally, there would not be this ‘natural resemblance’ which must exist between Christ and his minister if the role of Christ were not taken by a man” Declaration, Sec. 5, par. 27.

4. "Jesus Christ did not call any woman to become part of the Twelve," Ibid., Sec. 2, par. 10.

5. Ibid., Sec. 3, par. 17. The phrase "my fellow workers," on the other hand, refers to both men and women companions of Paul. Cf. also the Commentary, 27. Robert J. Karris investigates this phrase in ch 3, sec IV of this book.

6. Commentary, 21. For the meaning of this term, consult Eberlard Haible, "Loci Theologici," in K. Rahner, with C. Ernst and K. Smyth (eds.), Sacramentum Mundi: an Encyclopedia of Theology (New York: Herder and Herder, 1970) vol Vl: 224-226. Melchior Cano (1509-1560) is often regarded as the one responsible for introducing this term into theological vocabulary, in order to compactly designate the places, in order of importance, where truth can be found. In moral theology the term ''theological sources" is more common (cf. Noldin-Schmitt-Heinzel, Summa Theologiae Moralis(33), Vol I, n 10). When Noldin prioritizes seven of these sources for moral theology, the last is the procedure and practice of the church, preceded by Scripture, the Councils, Pontifical Decrees, the Code of Canon Law, the Fathers and the theologians.

7. "This tradition which comes from the apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit." Cf. Walter M. Abbott (ed.), The Documents of Vatican II (New York: Guild Press, 1966) "Dei Verbum," n 8, 116.

8. The parameters of tradition appear rather clearly in the Commentary, 21-24, where it seems to extend from Irenaeus to the theologians of the last century, as they are cited on page 38, fn. 36.

9. Even the Papal social encyclicals, which have been widely praised for their attempt to confront current economic problems in our industrialized world, are undergoing criticism for their abstract methodology and non-historical approach. Cf. Edward Duff, ''Anniversary as Anachronism," The Amer. Eccl. Rev. 164 (May, 1971) 303ff. Such criticism is even more accurately levelled at the marriage encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII (Arcanum Divinum Sapientia) and Pius XI (Casti Connubii). However, Pius XII, in his 1951 Address to the Midwives, seemed to rely on relatively recent scientific information (the discoveries of Knaus in 1929 and Ogino in 1930) relative to the sterile period in the woman's ovulatory cycle, in his attempt to allow for some measure of responsible family planning on the part of Christian couples. This method came to be called rhythm.

10. Humanae Vitae especially has received considerable criticism for its inadequacy in dealing with scientific data pertaining to human sexuality. Many of these remarks are summarized by Richard McCormick in his " Notes on Moral Theology," Theological Studies 38 (March, 1977), at the following places: 102 (Kaufmann and David) and (Bleistein), 104 (Maguire), 105 (Delhaye), 107 (Auer, Korff, Lohfink). Charles Curran also, in "Sexual Ethics: Reaction and Critique," Linacre Quarterly 43 (August, 1976) cites similar complaints: p. 151 (Editorial in the Brooklyn Tablet), and 158, where he remarks: "the Congregation does not pay sufficient attention to the experiences of people and praxis . . .'' For similar criticisms of Humanae Vitae, cf. C. Ryan, "Science and Moral Law," in J. P. Mackey (ed.), Morals, Law and Authority (Dayton: Pflaum, 1969) 79-91.

11. An indication of this is provided in the citation already quoted from the Declaration on Sexual Ethics, concerning the "complete harmony with the divine order of creation" (n 13).

12. According to Wis 8:1 in the Vulgate: “Attingit ergo a fine usque ad finem fortiter et disponit omnia suaviter.”

13. Cf. the earlier, 1953, edition, at nn 65, 68 and 190.

14. Nicholas Crotty, ''Conscience and Conflict," Theological Studies 32 (1971) 210.

15.Ibid., 211-247.

16. Cf. The Documents of Vatican 11, "Gaudium et Spes," n 44, 245-247.

17. This is implicit in the remark of the Sacred Congregation of Rites and The Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy: "The purpose of this concession is in fact to enable the Christian of today to celebrate more easily the day of the resurrection of the Lord," " Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery," Catholic Mind 65 (September, 1967) n 28, 54. The way by which customs contrary to the law can become normative in the church and reverse the earlier law has been discussed in this volume by Dismas Bonner, in ch 5, sec 1.

18. Cf. especially his essay on "Natural Law and Contemporary Moral Theology," Contemporary Problems in Moral Theology (Notre Dame: Fides Press, 1970) 97-159.

19. The Commentary remarked earlier: ''So constant has it [tradition] been that there has been no need for an intervention by a solemn decision of the Magisterium" (21), as if implying that there was an instance here of infallibility by way of the ordinary magisterium of the Church; cf. the implication in the question: ''How are we to interpret the constant and universal practice of the Church?" (22).

20. These include especially the work of John Dewey.

21. This description is culled from many places in Dewey's writings. For instance, Experience and Nature (LaSalle, IL, Open Court, 1971) chapter 1: "Experience and Philosophic Method.''

22. While acknowledging that "in the writings of the Fathers one will find the undeniable influence of prejudices unfavorable to women" (par. 6), the Declaration seeks to minimize the import of this bias by remarking: "but nevertheless, it should be noted that these prejudices had hardly any influence on their pastoral activity, and still less on their spiritual direction." If this be true, it is remarkable. In terms of the view I am here taking of experience, with an emphasis on its completeness and integrity, I would not regard this remarkable achievement of the Fathers commendable, even if it were true, since such a dichotomy in their experience of women would effectively curtail much of the interaction that lies at the root of what experience is all about. The ''misogynist statements of the Church Fathers" are discussed by Carolyn Osiek in this book, ch 4; cf. her ''conclusions."

23. Some indication of the kind of data that is helpful in formulating reasons pertaining to the debate is provided by Andrew Greeley in an article entitled "Catholics Cling to Traditions," Chicago Tribune, February 22, 1977, section 3, p. 3. There he interprets data gathered by the National Opinion Research Center from 950 American Catholics? questioned on the statement: "It would be a good thing if women were to be ordained priests." He found that the results corresponded to the hypothesis that attitudes toward women were acquired very early in life from the culture and atmosphere of family experience.

24. Ecclesiam Suam, August 6, 1964.

25. This is a distinct possibility, in view of the remark: "the priestly office cannot become the goal of social advancement; no merely human progress of society or of the individual can of itself give access to it," Declaration, Sec. 6, par. 38.

26. Earlier, the Declaration stated: "The Church's tradition in the matter has thus been so firm in the course of the centuries that the Magisterium has not felt the need to intervene in order to formulate a principle which was not attacked, or to defend a law which was not challenged," Sec. 1, par. 8. This is grist for the mill of Mary Daly, of whom Anne Patrick writes: "Daly describes her method as one of asking 'non-questions', that is, pursuing areas of inquiry that are 'invisible' to traditional methods because these areas do not fit into accepted categories of thought. This involves especially the analysis of 'nondata', the experience of women, which has largely been ignored by patriarchal systems of thought," "Women and Religion: a Survey of Significant Literature, 1965-1974,'' in Walter Burghardt (ed.), Woman: New Dimensions (New York: Paulist Press, 1977) 188.

27. This stress on the continuity of woman's experience is needed to offset the dualism and discontinuity that is often inserted into her experience both in church and secular society, which, in turn, seems based on the deeper dualism between man and woman. Certainly, the ecclesial experience of women is not somehow made acceptable simply through being discontinuous (even if this were possible) with her secular experience. Rosemary Ruether sees the male-female dualism running indiscriminately throughout both the religious and secular experiences of woman. Cf., a summary of her thought in Anne Patrick's essay above, 186.

28. The burden of the argument here is that a conflict orientation illuminates the presence of evil in the human situation more distinctly than a harmony orientation does. Elizabeth Carroll comments on the long-range benefits accruing to the Church from its early surfacing of the Jew-Gentile problem. She relates these benefits to women with the remark: ''if the narrower view had prevailed and circumcision of the foreskin of males had been made a prerequisite for baptism, women would have been denied Christian baptism." Cf. ''Women and Ministry," in Burghardt, 95. In a more polemical tone, Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza succinctly underlines the advantage of a problem-orientation for theology: "theology has to abandon its so-called objectivity and has to become partisan. Only when theology is on the side of the outcast and oppressed, as was Jesus, can it become incarnational and Christian," "Feminist Theology as a Critical Theology of Liberation," in Burghardt, 40. This aspect was discussed by C. Stuhlmueller in this volume, ch 2, sec I, relating the Old Testament prophetic defense of the oppressed with the development of priesthood.

29. Cf. M. Thomas Aquinas [Elizabeth] Carroll, who is convinced that "one of the prime ministries must be a healing of the man-woman situation in the church and in Society," The Experience of Women Religious in the Ministry of the Church (Chicago, 1974) 16. Cf. also Margaret Brennan, "Standing in Experience: a reflection on the Status of Woman in the Church," Catholic Mind 74 (May, 1976) 19-32.

30. The current ecumenical approach to the sacrament of Orders is throwing new light on the complexity of the term "power" when applied to priesthood. Cf. especially the studies of Harry McSorley, "Trent and the Question: can Protestant Ministers consecrate the Eucharist?" Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue , vol IV: Eucharist and Ministry (Washington, D.C.: USCC, 1970) 283-287, and also ''The Roman Catholic Doctrine of the Competent Minister of the Eucharist in Ecumenical Perspective," ibid., 124, 126, 128, 132-137.

31. Declaration. Sec. 5. par. 27.

32. The Declarat¿on, Introduction, par. 2, acknowledges the service women have rendered the Church. The ecumenical context, already mentioned, lays great stress on service as constitutive of Christian ministry: "the orientation toward service and specifically service to all mankind and not just the church, becomes a criterion of utmost importance in rethinking ministry in our day." This is a remark of Robert McAfee Brown, "Order and Ministry in the Reformed Church," Reconsiderations: Roman Catholic/Presbyterian and Reformed Theological Conversations 1966-1967 (New York: World Horizons, Inc., 1967) 135. Daniel O'Hanlon makes the same point: "The new fact of official recognition by the Roman Catholic Church of the Protestant communities as Churches, and as means of Christian salvation, strongly suggests that there is real and effective ministry and church order in these churches," ibid. 146. This takes on added significance in view of the growing role of women in Protestant ministry, as the Declaration itself is quick to note: "This [admission of women to pastoral office] therefore constitutes an ecumenical problem," Introduction, par. 4.

33. O'Hanlon observes: "If order is really for service and not for power, then genuine service to the unity of the Church should be a supreme norm, a norm which may dictate the abandonment of rigid demands in all cases for an uninterrupted series of episcopal laying on of hands," ibid., 152.

34. Cf. A.D. 1977 (Quixote Center, 1977), n 7, 6.

35. Hans Küng makes much of this phrase in laying out a program for effective Church action: ''Whenever the Church privately and publicly advocates the cause of Jesus Christ, whenever it champions his cause in word and deed, it is at the service of man and becomes credible." Cf., On Being A Christian (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1976) 524.

36. Just how basic a problem sexism is (and whether Mary Daly is correct in calling it the basic cause of other forms of oppression) is under discussion. Anne Patrick calls for "further analysis of what is at the root of sexism, and of how sexism is related to other structures of injustice and to traditional concepts of sin.'' Cf. Burghardt 188-189.

37. Milton Rokeach, The Nature of Human Values (New York: The Free Press, 1973) 189, concludes that ''two values alone, equality and freedom, underlie similarities and differences in major ideological differences." For this reason, women's experience of inequality is to be taken seriously.

38. As O'Hanlon says: "A diakonia which is not flexible enough to serve the basic purposes for which it exists, namely, the unity, the communio of all Christians and their unified witness and service to all men simply ceases to be truly diakonia." Cf. Reconsiderations . . ., 152.

39. The Declaration seems oriented in a different direction, especially in its warning: ''The priestly office cannot become the goal of social advancement; no merely human progress of society or of the individual can of itself give access to it; it is of another order," Sec. 6, par. 38. I have taken a different position in this chapter, especially on the basis of the continuum of experience between the religious and secular spheres. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza pleads for a truly all-inclusive, Catholic community called church, that, in line with Paul's observation in Galatians 3:28, proves capable of transcending ideological sexist forms. Cf., Burghardt, 43.

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