Tradition, Hermeneutics, and Ordination By Francine Cardman from 'Sexism and Church Law'edited by James A.Coriden

Tradition, Hermeneutics, and Ordination

By Francine Cardman

from Sexism and Church Law
edited by James A. Coriden
1977, pp. 58-81

published by Paulist Press, New York/Ramsey, N.J./Toronto
Republished on our website with the necessary permissions

In what is now very familiar history. Archbishop Joseph Bernardin, President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in advance of the Ordination Conference held in Detroit in November, 1975, declared that, "Throughout its history the Catholic Church has not ordained women to the priesthood. Although many of the arguments presented in times gone by on this subject may not be defensible today, there are compelling reasons for this practice."(1) The most compelling reasons that Archbishop Bernardin could find to cite were those offered in a 1972 report from the NCCB Committee on Pastoral Research and Practices entitled "Theological Reflections on the Ordination of Women." (2) According to this report, revelation is made known both by Tradition and Sacred Scripture (understood as two distinct entities); any theological reflection, therefore, on the ordination of women must "took to the life and practice of the Spirit-guided Church." The "constant practice and tradition" of that church (i.e., the Catholic Church) "has excluded women from the episcopal and priestly office." This "constant practice and tradition of the Catholic Church against the ordination of women, interpreted ... as divine law, is of such a nature as to constitute a clear teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church." Although the 1972 report concedes the possibility of a "contrary theological development," it by no means considers this likely. Constant practice and tradition are seen as holding the day.

What then is to be done about the growing conviction — a conviction that is theological, ecclesiological, sociological, and even political/cultural in its basis — that women not only can be but in fact are being called to the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church? What is to be made of the recent decision of the Episcopal Church in the United States at its General Convention in Minneapolis to ordain women to the priesthood? What, finally, does "constant practice and tradition" mean? How is it to be recognized historically and how is it to be interpreted in the present historical situation in which the church finds itself today? In examining the possibility of the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church today, several areas of theological reflection and historical interpretation must be taken into account. Accordingly, this paper will investigate first the meaning of "tradition" in its various senses, asking not only about the distinction between these senses, but also about the ways in which tradition is shaped and handed on. The hermeneutics necessary for understanding tradition in any contemporary situation will then be explored. And finally the question of the ordination of women will be taken up in light of the historical-theological considerations already offered.


In order to ascertain what the "constant practice and tradition of the Catholic Church" both is and means, it is necessary first to define the terms of the discussion, particularly the sensitive and difficult term "tradition." Only when the various senses of this term have been carefully distinguished is it possible to proceed to an inquiry into the significance of the historical facts of church practice and teaching and the means of arriving at an understanding of these facts as they relate to the present life of the church, particularly in regard to the question of the ordination of women.

There are numerous ways in which one might go about defining "tradition," but the most profitable of these are reflected in two recent studies which might, for the sake of convenience be labelled as Catholic and "ecumenical." The first is the lengthy historical and theological work of Yves Congar, Tradition and Traditions: An Historical Essay and a Theological Essay. (3) The second is the fruit of a long process of ecumenical consultation and study by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches. The end product of that process (though by no means the end of the discussion) is the report from Section II of the Fourth World Conference on Faith and Order (Montreal, 1963) on "Scripture, Tradition and Traditions."4 Neither study is entirely satisfactory in itself, but when taken together and placed in the context of other contemporary discussions, it is possible to come to a sense of the question that approximates a theological consensus. It is necessary to distinguish between Tradition, tradition (or apostolic tradition), and traditions. The familiar but imprecise distinction between "Scripture and tradition" would fail under the category of tradition on this analysis.

Some Definitions

Tradition is the Gospel itself, transmitted from generation to generation in and by the church. It is, in a sense, Christ himself present through the Holy Spirit in the life of the church.5 This understanding of the central-ity of the Gospel is reflected in the opening verses of Paul's letter to the Christians at Rome (Rom. 1:1-6):

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including yourselves, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

It is this same gospel, the Tradition of Jesus Christ in the Church, of which Paul can say (Rom. 1:16), "I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." Further, "in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith" (Rom. 1:17).

Thus Congar can conclude that there are two aspects to the gospel, a noetic aspect that gives knowledge and a dynamic aspect that produces an effect. (6) The Gospel that is the power of God for salvation by means of faith is therefore the reality which the First Vatican Council identifies as the salutiferem redemptionis opus.(7) On this view it is also possible to say simply that "the Gospel is Jesus Christ" and is present when Christ is present through the Holy Spirit and actively communicating his life. (8) Tradition, then, is restricted to the meaning of the whole Gospel and its transmission in the church; it is the paradosis of what R. Geiselmann refers to as the Word, and it comes close to what J. Ratzinger identifies as revelation. (9)

In distinction to Tradition, the meaning of tradition without a capital embraces what is often referred to as "apostolic tradition." The Montreal report leaves a gap here when it defines tradition simply as the traditionary process and traditions as the varieties of expression of Tradition or the various confessional traditions.(10) The emphasis on the traditionary process is well placed, certainly, for the very historicity of human experience binds everything up in tradition in this sense, making it difficult to distinguish the process from that which it hands on (Tradition). (11) The gap in the understanding of tradition offered by the Montreal report is due in part to the tendency (never fully realized) to equate Tradition with the Scriptural and written word. It results as well in a relegation of everything included under "traditions" to the realm of the relative and the relatively unimportant, thus failing to convey fully the complexity of the relationship between Tradition and its expressions in the church's history through the traditionary process. In order to reflect both the historical situation and the reality in which the Tradition is still experienced today, it is necessary to define an intermediate sense of "tradition" that would fall between the terms of the Montreal analysis.

To speak of tradition in the lower case is thus to speak of the apostolic tradition and to make an essential connection between tradition and Tradition. This connection is well expressed by Congar's broad sense of tradition as being both a) the act of transmitting and b) the content which is thus transmitted (passive or objective tradition). (12) To define tradition in this manner is to embrace and in a certain sense overcome the familiar distinction between Scripture and tradition. (Because this distinction is so familiar, however, reference to it cannot always be avoided, except at the expense of being incomprehensible; but whenever it is referred to in this restricted sense it will be enclosed in quotation marks.)

For the sake of clarity it is perhaps better to think of tradition as the traditionary process as it manifests itself in the apostolic tradition; this apostolic tradition in turn consists of both Scripture and what has been familiarly and inexactly referred to as "tradition." The primary sense of tradition that is important here is the fullness of the apostolic tradition. It corresponds generally to Congar's widest sense of apostolic tradition, namely "everything the Apostles have passed on to help the people of God to live in the truth of the divine covenant relationship sprung from Jesus Christ." (13)

Within the tradition, it is the scriptural witness to Tradition that holds pride of place.(14) Although it springs from tradition (i.e., from the handing on of the oral testimony of the Apostles which is then written down and handed on), in its final written state Scripture possesses a normative value in relation to all subsequent tradition. There is, as Congar maintains, "an absolute normative value" to the Scriptures, (15) for they are the formulation of the church's paradosis and are given to the church so that it might preserve the Gospel (i.e., Tradition).(16)

Taken in its more common and less precise sense, "tradition" is often related to Scripture in such a way that it includes everything else (other than the Scriptures) which comes from the apostles. Under this somewhat truncated sense of "tradition" fall several meanings isolated by Congar: the usage and reading of Scripture from the viewpoint of the Christian mystery — i.e., Scripture read christologically, ecclesiologically, and eschatolog-ically; the meaning given to the realities transmitted within the group or community which is committed to share them (especially eucharist and baptism); and, though it is always linked to Scripture, dogma understood as the attempt to understand the Tradition as conveyed by the Scriptures and the church's life.(17) Even on this understanding, Scripture and "tradition" are in actuality quite closely related. They are, in fact, but two aspects of the same reality, namely the tradition in its broadest and most useful sense. Thus Scripture and "tradition" are significant realities only in the context of the church. Scripture, "tradition" and church are inseparably related; apart from each other they are insufficient and even, Congar admits, inconsistent. (18)

Much of the earlier Protestant-Catholic polemic about the relationship of "Scripture and tradition" can be resolved by distinguishing the various senses of Tradition and tradition. To make these distinctions is also to enter more deeply into the church's historical tradition (taken here in its non-technical sense), which has generally held a more unified view of the relation of Scripture, "tradition" and church than either of the polemical positions formulated during the Reformation controversy. (19) By distinguishing more carefully than has previously been done in the context of controversy, it is possible to leap the horns of the "Scripture-tradition" dilemma by seeing it for what it is: a false dilemma. The old terms of debate are thereby rendered meaningless or at least no longer relevant.

In addition to Tradition and tradition (the latter in the more inclusive sense in which I have defined it), it is possible and perhaps helpful to use the term traditions to indicate other aspects of the church's life that have not been covered explicitly by the other terms. These would include particularly the traditions of ecclesiastical disciplines, institutions, liturgical customs, and so on — those things that Congar refers to as "monuments." (20) In a subsidiary sense one could also speak of confessional traditions, as does the Montreal report, but clarity would be aided by use of some other term, perhaps "denomination" or simply "confession."

To understand the distinctions between Tradition, tradition, and traditions suggested here is also to reflect more accurately the complexity of the relationship between Tradition and tradition and the difficulty encountered in attempting to make clear-cut distinctions between the two in any given historical situation. Tradition can only be expressed in tradition, that is, in the traditionary process that hands on the message and eventuates in the written Scriptures preserved and interpreted in the life of the church. Scripture has a privileged position both in the traditionary process and in relation to the Tradition, though it is not itself simply identical with that Tradition.(21) The relationship of other aspects of tradition to Traditions is somewhat more ambiguous. This ambiguity results from the fact that Tradition itself is not an isolated reality but is the Gospel of Jesus Christ made present in the Church by the Holy Spirit, that is, the Tradition is made known only in the context of the historical life of the church in which the traditionary process occurs and the tradition is lived. (22) Because the church itself exists only in the context of culture, a further element of ambiguity is added to the Tradition-tradition relationship. The church is in continuous interaction with Us culture and this interaction occurs in continuously changing ways. In its efforts to express the Tradition, tradition must find different forms suitable to changing historical situations.

The relationship between the Tradition and its expression in the tradition is therefore a subtle one; clear lines of demarcation between the two cannot be drawn. Some elements of the tradition (aside from Scripture) are in closer relationship to the Tradition than others. Some elements shift in and out of relationship to the Tradition, approaching it more or less directly depending on the historical context. Even those aspects of tradition that at one time might seem closest to the Tradition can in principle change their relationship to it. They can certainly, at the feast, change the forms of their expression, and in this respect, as Schillebeeckx observes, they also change their relation to Tradition. (23)

An Image

As a means of visualizing the relationship between Tradition and tradition, a relationship which is at once both complex and flexible, the amoeba suggests itself as a helpful image. Like all metaphors, it is imprecise — no strict analogy between the two objects of contemplation is envisaged — yet it can perhaps convey a sense of what is involved in the ambiguity of relationship between Tradition and tradition.

An amoeba is a one-celled organism consisting of protoplasm and membrane organized by and around a nucleus. The amoeba itself has no definite shape but changes its form as it moves through its environment (its "culture"), extending pseudopods in one direction or another; it can also engulf and digest other organisms in its environment. What is most significant about the amoeba is a trait that it shares with other cells: simple substances can pass back and forth across its semi-permeable membrane by a process of osmosis. To exist at all in its environment, then, the amoeba must have some basic substances in common with its culture — it could not exist in an acid medium, for instance. Other substances capable of passing through the membrane may be present in varying concentrations in the environment and in the protoplasm. But when the concentration of one of these substances outside the amoeba reaches a critical level, the laws of osmosis take effect and that substance tends to pass into the protoplasm in order to equalize concentrations on both sides of the membrane. The reverse process also holds. Because the membrane is, as a result of genetic (i.e. nuclear) determination, semi-permeable, there is a kind of natural selectivity in regard to what may or may not enter the amoebic protoplasm.

The point of this elementary biology lesson is simple and, I hope, by now obvious. The church is brought into being and maintained in being by its organizing nucleus, the Tradition. This nucleus, however, is not an independent entity capable of existing by itself; rather, it is dependent on the surrounding protoplasm for its continued existence. The forms which the church takes can (and have) changed as it carries the Christian faith through its historical environment. The metaphor breaks down somewhat at this point, or at least has to do double duty. In the first place, the passage of substances back and forth across the membrane suggests the way in which tradition and traditions can move in and out of relationship to the Tradition, assuming a position nearer to or farther away from the nucleus. In the second place this process of osmosis also suggests the way in which tradition and culture, hence also Tradition and culture, are related. When the concentration of a "substance" in the culture reaches the critical point — say, for instance, the demand for the abolition of slavery (disregarding for now the ultimate origin of the impulses that have led to this demand) — then this cultural "substance" must pass into the church. Likewise, if the concentration of such a "substance" is high in the church but no longer so in the culture, it must pass out of the church and be dispersed into the environment. The nucleus of the amoeba determines the selectivity of its membrane, which will not permit harmful substances to pass through it by any natural process. The Tradition performs a similar function for the church. Because of human freedom and sinfulness, however, the exclusion of essentially alien and harmful substances is not as "mechanically" guaranteed as with the amoeba. Yet for the church there is a far more important guarantee at work: the divine promise that ultimately the gates of hell would not prevail against it. Though at times the church may be more culture-bound than others, it will never finally so lose its identity as to betray the Tradition.

Tradition and the Church

The church exists to embody the Tradition, which is the constitutive factor of its identity. It is called into existence as a community and maintained in existence by the common memory and common hope (the Tradition) in which all its members share and which they attempt to realize both individually and collectively. (24) The Tradition from which the church derives and in which it lives surpasses all expressions of it, even Scripture itself. It is a mystery that transcends all attempts to express it and which continually calls the church (and all humanity) to the future fulfillment of that mystery. While Tradition is normative, tradition is relative. Although the Tradition is finally mystery, it is nevertheless conveyed to us in and through the relative. To the extent that the divine absolute is made known, it is made known through the relativity of human history. Therefore tradition is authoritative for the church's life, though never in an absolute way. Because the fulfillment of the promise of the mystery is in the future, it is important that there be a place in which that promise is presently being made known. Therefore, changing historical situations are significant: the proclamation of the Gospel — the Tradition in the church — will take on different forms in different situations, even though every form will finally fall short of the promise until the time of its fulfillment. The Tradition must be continually reappropriated, reformulated and reconceptualized in terms that can speak to present situations. New responsibilities for actualization of the Tradition in the tradition always remain open as long as the historical life of the church continues.

There is a certain amount of discontinuity in this conception, since history makes for discontinuity, but even in what seems to be radical discontinuity the absolute or the divine (the Tradition) is made present. It is Tradition itself that provides the continuity, bridging the gulf between past and present and looking to that future in which the saving work of redemption is fulfilled. (25)

Change across the whole spectrum of tradition is not only possible but necessary on this view — and necessary precisely in order to remain faithful to the Tradition. Change in traditions, practice, interpretation of dogma, and interpretation of Scripture are all theoretically conceivable and have in fact taken place throughout the church's history. Consider only a few examples. Perhaps the most dramatic example of change in the history of the church is the Gentile mission: in its radical discontinuity not only with Judaism but with the previous understanding and practice of the Christian community, it has few rivals; yet it nevertheless represents continuity by virtue of its faithful response to the Tradition that calls all persons to its promise. The understanding of the impossibility of a further forgiveness of sins after baptism (except by martyrdom) gave way to the possibility of one additional repentance, and finally of many. Cyprian was mistaken about the sacramental understanding of baptism and ultimately his views had to be corrected by Augustine, who was himself wide of the mark in regard to predestination but to the point about grace. The development of a sacramental system of seven sacraments and the theological rationale for it were hardly straight-forward. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception represents an obvious change and correction of most of the previous theological reflection on the subject, though it was somehow in touch with at least the piety of the faithful. In the realm of discipline and practice, examples could be multiplied well beyond necessity. Consider only the questions of communion in both kinds or Mass in the vernacular. And in that shadowy area where doctrine and discipline interact, consider the halting progress of demands for clerical celibacy as revealed in church orders, canons, and decrees of Popes. (26)

The only real constant in "tradition and practice" has been change. (27) Yet change in the church is never for novelty's sake, but for the sake of the realization of the Tradition in the Spirit-guided life of the church. Because the relationship between Tradition and tradition is seldom unambiguous, change is not to be undertaken hastily or haphazardly. It is in helping to discern and direct the course of change that the magisterium has its particular importance in the church's life.

Magisterium, however, is not simply to be equated with the teaching office of Pope or bishop in either its infallible or its ordinary exercise. The reduction of the concept of magisterium to this hierarchical and jurisdic-tional teaching office is the result of a theory of tradition that originated with Roman theologians in the last half of the nineteenth century and was widely taught in the first half of the twentieth. (28) Aside from an unfortunate identification of magisterium and tradition (and with the limited understanding of tradition that it entailed), this theory is responsible for separating the work and authority of bishops from that of theologians, to the point that the latter are virtually ignored in the teaching functions of the church. It would be more reflective of the historical reality, and more helpful in the church's present situation to speak, as Dulles does, of two magisteria, that of pastors and that of theologians, complementary and mutually corrective. (29) Neither of these magisteria, however, has significance apart from the full life of the church, including the sensus fidelium. For this reason Dulles urges that magisterial statements should "ordinarily express what is already widely accepted in the church, at least by those who have studied the matter in question." (30)

Because most changes or developments in doctrine, dogma, or interpretation need to receive confirmation at some point by the magisterium if they are to be fully incorporated into the life of the church, it is important to-have a clear understanding of what constitutes magisterium. But even with a more adequate conception of magisterium, the problem of change and reinterpretation remains: how is the church to interpret its tradition in light of new questions and new situations? To ask this is to raise the question of hermeneutics.


It is in the tradition — in the historical church guided by the Holy Spirit — that the Tradition is proclaimed and handed on. Although Tradition is apprehended in tradition (however partial and incomplete this apprehension may be), the manner of its apprehension is by no means immediate or direct. Rather, the tradition and particularly its Scriptural witness must be grasped and interpreted in each new situation. Although interpretation need not be done de novo in every historical moment, a certain degree of critical reflection is required in any appropriation of the Scriptures or any other aspect of the tradition. The process of interpretation presents a hermeneutical question: how and by what principles can the gap between text and reader be bridged?31 In regard to Scripture, a generally accepted hermeneutical understanding already exists. (32) But in regard to the other aspects of tradition, there is as yet no common hermeneutical understanding. Many of the elements for constructing a hermeneutics of tradition or history are already at hand, however, in the work that has been done on the interpretation of dogmatic and magisterial statements by Rahner, Schillebeeckx, Dulles and others.33 What I propose to do is to expand the inquiry which they have begun and ask about the interpretation of tradition in both its inclusive and its restricted sense.

Because hermeneutics is generally understood to relate to the interpretation of texts, its use in regard to Scripture and even to dogmatic or magisterial statements is readily understood. But in order to speak of a "hermeneutics of history" (Schillebeeckx's formulation) or a hermeneutics of tradition, it is necessary to extend the notion of "text" so that it refers to the traditionary process (in both its aspects — as that which is handed on, and the process of handing on) and the efforts, whether past or present, to interpret and understand it. (34) Since a text is "a document whose real meaning can only be understood beyond its literal meaning,"(35) any present understanding of tradition must go beyond mere literal repetition of words or practices.(36)

The question of interpretation is also unavoidably a question about the significance of culture. As the sociologists of knowledge have made clear, reality is to a large extent "socially constituted." That is, our subjective perceptions of reality are given coherence and structured into an "objective" universe by our language, our social values, and our norms. Reality is thus experienced and perceived in and through culture: knowledge is, in its broadest sense, socially defined. (37) Both the message which the church proclaims (the Tradition) and the means by which it proclaims and perpetuates it (the tradition) are therefore intimately related to culture, although, given the transcendental or divine aspect of the Tradition, neither it nor tradition are ever identical with culture. Because the Tradition is conveyed in tradition, there must be a continual reinterpretation of this tradition in light of the present hermeneutical situation. The way in which tradition understands and expresses the Tradition must change with changing historical situations, or otherwise the same thing (the Tradition) would not continue to be understood. (38)

In formulating and applying a hermeneutics of tradition, the extremes to be avoided are an excessive reliance on either the past or the present. K. E. Skydsgaard, in a World Council of Churches study on "Tradition as an Issue in Contemporary Theology," characterizes the extremes of scriptural interpretation (which apply equally well to the interpretation of tradition) as either fundamentalist or illuminationist. (39) Dulles describes the extremes in regard to the interpretation of dogma (again, equally applicable to tradition) as either archaist or evolutionist. (40) He also takes note of the tension between past and present as the locus of interpretation when he observes that the lack of equation between the Word of God and the words of man frees us from the limitations of any cultural period: "the present liberates us from the tyranny of the past, the past from idolatry of the present." (41) And Schillebeeckx stresses the value of an openness to the future that will not permit the present to be the only significant moment (contra the Bultmannian existentialist view which "de-eschatologizes history" by regarding the present as the eschaton). (42) At the same time, however, he also insists that a proper emphasis on the present as the locus for understanding a text precludes any attempt simply to retreat into historical reconstruction or return to an original period. (43) Another way of putting what all these views seek to convey is to say that the present and the past are given significance — i.e., interpreted — by the future. For the Christian, then, as Schillebeeckx asserts, the "eschatologi-cal kerygma of Christ" is a constant that cannot be superseded. (44) Yet that kerygma is made known only in the tradition, hence the past is significant; the tradition is always appropriated in the present, hence the significance of the present hermeneutical situation. One can conclude with Schillebeeckx that "a present-day understanding in faith cannot take place outside this dialogue with Scripture and the whole tradition of faith." (45)

The hermeneutical process thus has the double thrust of viewing both past and present critically. This twofold aspect of a hermeneutics of tradition is described by Schillebeeckx as consisting of demythologizing (i.e., demolishing earlier structures of truth) and then mythologizing (or re-mythologizing, i.e. constructing new concepts). (46) His analysis of the hermeneutical process applies to the appropriation of tradition in general as well as it does to the interpretation of dogma. It is similar also to P. Ricoeur's delineation of a "hermeneutics of suspicion" or demystification and a "hermeneutics of restoration" or reappropriation. (47) In the process of faithful listening to the tradition, one undergoes what Ricoeur terms an "ascesis of reflection," which by the "extreme iconoclasm" of allowing itself to be "dispossessed of the origin of meaning" makes possible the "restoration of meaning." (48) The restored meaning is not identical with the original text or (in Ricoeur's terminology) symbol; but it is not finally discontinuous with it either, for the second meaning resides somehow in the first. (49)

In terms of Tradition and tradition, the newly reappropriated meaning of tradition that the hermeneutic process makes possible remains in touch with the Tradition that guarantees all meaning and all continuity, even in the face of apparent discontinuity. "Orthodoxy" is thus understood as the living interpretation of the promise (the Tradition) as it has been realized in the past (the tradition), and it becomes the "basis of orthopraxis." (50) In this sense interpretation is the "hermeneutics of praxis." (51) What can be expected from this is that "God will be in the future as he was in the past and is now, always unexpected."(52)

What, then, of the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church?


If by the power of the Holy Spirit the Gospel of Jesus Christ is made present in the church — if Tradition is expressed and responded to in tradition — then it is necessary to consider the possibility that the current crisis of priestly ministry in the church (as revealed particularly, but not only, in declining numbers), the cultural movements toward the liberation of many groups of people, and even the confusion about sexuality may all be converging toward a moment of kalros. Such a moment offers both opportunity and judgment, and calls for response. Reading the signs of the times is always a risky matter. What might be termed the "Gamaliel principle" (cf. Acts 5:34 ff.) of non-interpretation at least has the advantage of "benign neglect" for those to whom it is applied; it is the least one can expect from those in a position to exercise it. There are, however, historical situations which call Christians to attempt, in faith, to interpret the signs of the times insofar as such interpretation is necessary for commitment. (53) For women in the church this crisis of interpretation is already at hand, and as more and more women actualize the risk of interpretation, the crisis will become a crisis for men as well — that is to say, a question for the whole church. For even though interpretation is in the first instance personal, it is not meant to remain a mere private opinion. (54) Interpretation of the signs of the times must be confirmed, amended or rejected by the common body of Christ. In confidence Christians trust that the Lord will keep his people in all truth. Yet it must also be noted, not as a threat but as an indication of the seriousness of the issues that affect women (hence also men), that unless women can both hear and experience the Good News within the body of Christ, their participation in that visible body will become increasingly problematic.

The question of the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church is only one of a complex of issues that concern women in the church and in society. But it presents a specific occasion for taking some steps in the reshaping of Christian thought and life that is going on in this century. How does one faithfully interpret the tradition in light of this present hermeneutical situation?

Interpretation becomes a difficult problem and hermeneutics takes on a particular significance when the church is in a period of transition from an earlier interpretation to a new one." The present question of women's ordination is certainly to be situated in the midst of a process of rein-terpretation. The factors calling for new interpretation themselves suggest that the situation ought to be viewed in an even broader framework, namely that of a time of theological revolution, the beginning of a "paradigm shift" in theology.56 Revolutions in Christianity, representing major shifts in thought and life, "occur when the Christian story is organized and utilized in markedly different ways in order to structure and interpret new life worlds and new thought worlds."57 Such revolutions are not necessarily good or even representative of "progress." There are good and bad theological revolutions: "an authentic theological revolution ... is one which comprehensively affirms the heritage even while reformulating, redirecting, and extending it into new domains of experience and reality."58 Even in the midst of a paradigm shift, therefore, the process of interpretation begins with a return to the sources.

The tradition becomes an object of the "ascesis of reflection." It is critically examined from the perspective of suspicion in order eventually to achieve a restoration of meaning. This recovered meaning is what any new or emerging paradigm must, at the least, be able to account for and affirm.

In regard to the ordination of women, I want here only to suggest the major elements of an "ascesis of reflection" as it relates to the tradition and history of praxis that has so far excluded women from ordination in the Roman Catholic Church. I then want to point out those elements of the tradition that might be sources for a renewed interpretation and a restoration of meaning.

The Scriptures

Since Scripture has a privileged place in the witness to the Tradition, it is the logical starting point in the process of reflection. The task here is surprisingly easy. Not only is there a considerable amount of material dealing with the scriptural sources that relate to the question of women's ordination.(59) There is also a report on this subject from the Pontifical Biblical Commission which concludes (on a 12-7 vote) that "it does not seem that the New Testament alone will permit us to settle in a clear way and once and for all the problem of the accession of women to the presby-terate."(60) The report takes notice of the dignity and equality of women and men in both the Gen. 1 and Gen. 2 creation accounts; the use of feminine imagery in the Old Testament; the remarkable attitude of Jesus toward women; and the striking newness of his teaching in their regard. The report also emphasizes the necessity of investigating the sociological condition of woman according to biblical revelation and to her "ecclesial condition." The critical question, however, is this; "What is the normative value which should be accorded to the practice of the Christian communities of the first centuries?"(61)

In answering this question the authors of the report were divided. There is apparent agreement on the fact that although the New Testament makes no explicit connection between hierarchy and sacramental economy, this connection must nevertheless be assumed. There also seems to be agreement that despite a specific injunction to the contrary (1 Cor. 14:33-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-15) it might in certain circumstances be possible to allow women to preach. Nevertheless, there is no agreement on the possibility of entrusting the sacramental ministry to women — despite the fact that there is no specific New Testament reference to entrusting this ministry to anyone, male or female.

The significance of the disagreement at this point must be weighed against the warning at the beginning of the report that questions of priesthood and eucharistic celebrant represent a "way of looking at things which is somewhat foreign to the bible."(62) This is why such questions cannot finally be resolved by appeal to Scripture. What is clear, both from the report and from a consideration of hermeneutics is that to attempt to identify the "will of Christ" in regard to priesthood and sacrament on the basis of the apparent facts ("apparent" because facts do not speak for themselves and cannot be taken in isolation as fragments of pure truth) that Jesus called only twelve males (Jewish at that) to be his apostles, or that he did not include his mother among them and constitute her a priest as well, is to read Scripture in a fundamentalist and ahistorical manner.63 Interpretation of this sort is at odds with a genuinely Catholic (and catholic) appropriation of the tradition through the Scriptures.

I have examined the report from the Biblical Commission at some length because of its significance as a recent statement from the church, but also because it is an apt illustration of what the Scriptures cannot tell us in the present discussion. It is possible to be considerably briefer in suggesting what they can tell us.

Two recent studies point to the way in which Scripture can inform current thought on the ordination of women, namely by providing paradigmatic understandings of ministry and the basic structures of the church's life.(64) In the first of these Edmund Schlink seeks to discern the "dynamic basic structures" that underlie the diversity of church life and ecclesiological thought in the New Testament.(65) He isolates six basic structures: the structure of the church's relationship to the history of salvation; of the worship gatherings; of the relation between church and world; of church order; of church unity; and of theological reflection about the church (ecclesiology). Each of these structures is in some sense basic to the church, yet each of them manifests itself in a variety of ways during the New Testament period. Thus the question of the preservation of the church in history is raised.(66) In answer to this question Schlink concludes that: the church is always threatened by false doctrine and secular powers, in ever-changing forms of attack, yet it is promised indestructibility because Christ will remain with it; in every changing historical situation the church must remain true to the fundamental apostolic witness, and to do so it must continually distinguish true from false, preaching Christ in a new way in new situations, adapting church order as it progresses; by remaining in Christ while also pushing forward, the church assures its basic unity; both change of structures and correction of such changes are necessary as the church continues in history.(67)

From its beginning, then, the church has lived out of a paradigm of change even in regard to its most basic structures. Reginald H. Fuller's study of the ordination of women in the New Testament reinforces this point. After examining the evidence from Jesus, the earliest church, Paul, and "emergent Catholicism" in regard to women and ministry, Fuller concludes that "adaptation and flexibility were the keynotes of ministry in the New Testament period."(68) He argues further:

If in Paul's churches women were allowed to exercise a full ministry of the word (and perhaps even of sacrament), though under a single restriction of being veiled, and if in the sub-apostolic age women were silenced; if too in Paul's churches there was no ordination, and if by the time there was ordination there was no ministry of women apart from the widows, the New Testament says to us that the church is free to adapt its ministry to the needs of the age.(69)

The conclusions reached by Fuller and Schlink are by no means unique, but represent what could be called a consensus, or at least an emerging consensus, of biblical scholarship in regard to the ordination of women.

The Tradition

Just as there is the possibility of a fundamentalist reading of Scripture, there is equally the possibility of a fundamentalist reading of tradition. This position can best be characterized by the argument that what the church has done for nearly 2,000 years must represent Christ's will for his church for all time.(70) Even when proponents of this position acknowledge some kind of historical development in "what the church does," this development is without contingency — i.e., it is regarded as homogeneous in its course and content and normative in its concluding state, whenever that is reached. Such a view is basically unhistorical; to understand the "will of Christ" in regard to the details of the church's life is to violate that genuine historical perspective that looks to the future fulfillment of God's promises and so realizes that present and partial experiences of that future promise cannot represent the telos of Christ's will.

It is therefore necessary to approach the historical evidence through a "hermeneutics of suspicion," questioning the tradition about the sources of women's exclusion from ordination. Without tracing in detail here either the nature of women's ministries in the church or the disciplinary and doctrinal developments that led to the restriction of such ministries and finally to their prohibition altogether in the exclusion of women from priesthood, I want to outline the major factors that contributed to this situation.

After the New Testament period, which gives evidence of considerable "apostolic" and ministerial activity of women, the ministry of women in the early church was basically that of deaconess. While subject to some kind of ordination, the deaconesses were clearly subordinate to the deacons, presbyters, and bishops.(71) Deaconesses assisted at the baptism of women, catechized female converts to the degree thought suitable for women, visited and sometimes anointed sick women, and performed a number of order-keeping functions at the liturgy. Although there are some ambiguities in the evidence of the early church orders,(72) it is clear that the role of deaconess was limited, much more popular in the East than in the West, restricted to spheres in which males could not easily or appropriately function, and was soon relegated to unimportance. The factors that effected this restriction and led to the exclusion of women from both ministry and priesthood, were basically two: the development of clerical celibacy and the emergence of a Christian priesthood.(73)

Early attempts to require celibacy of the clergy were related to a growing spirit of asceticism in the church, an exaltation of the virtue of virginity, and a confusion of virginity (particularly as expressed in monas-ticism) with the qualities and charisms necessary for church office. The history of canonical legislation in this period is an impressive witness to the difficulties of trying to require continence of the already married among the clergy and celibacy of those seeking to be ordained.(74) Along with the development of clerical celibacy and the limitations this put on the ministry of women, the emergence of the notion of a Christian priesthood modeled after the Old Testament levitical priesthood (75) further inhibited the association of women with the clergy and positively prevented them from membership in the clerical ranks. A Christian priesthood on Old Testament lines was necessarily male and was concentrated on ministry at the altar of sacrifice, service of which required ritual purity.(76) Emphasis on the offering of sacrifice as the major role of the male Christian priesthood led as well to concentration on the maleness of Jesus Christ rather than on the generic nature of the humanity that he took upon himself in the incarnation.

The history of theological reflection on woman mirrors these developments.(77) Women tend to be seen as weak by nature, inferior in creation, easily deceived and led into sin, and subject to man in the punishment meted out after the Fall. The canonical history of the exclusion of women from orders also reflects the various factors enumerated here. The process by which canon 968 of the present Code of Canon Law was first incorporated into Gratian's Decretum and through it transmitted to the present day was a process basically uncritical in regard to sources and significance; they are much more the result of the developments sketched above than of critical theological reflection and reception.(78)

In the history of the exclusion of women from orders, disciplinary developments took on theological justifications which helped in turn to reinforce practices and elevate them to the status of "tradition." Yet such developments and their rationales are not expressive of the full sense of genuine tradition. While the evolution of celibacy and the priesthood of a male clergy is one instance of the interaction of discipline and doctrine, it is an expression of the discipline-doctrine connection in regard to only certain doctrines — and perhaps at the expense of other more basic doctrines.(79) In concentrating on the levitical priesthood and ministry at the altar of sacrifice as an understanding of both Christ's ministry and the Christian ministry, it is easy to lose sight of more fundamental trinitarian and christological beliefs. In seeking to recover these doctrines — having been provoked to do so by the exercise of suspicion and the asking of new questions — a "hermeneutics of restoration" comes into play.

The Restoration of Meaning

Here I can only suggest two areas which would reward further exploration. Taking the Trinity as the image of God in human beings one is led to expect that the most intimate aspect of trinitarian relations—namely the mutuality of the persons of the Trinity — will be reflected in human experience, particularly in the relations between men and women.(80) The history of the relationship of celibate male clergy to women has shown little of this mutuality; neither have man-woman relations in general. Yet if the doctrine of the imago Dei is to mean anything, must not the mutuality of the persons of the Trinity be what persons are trying to embody in all aspects of human life, whether in the so-called secular world or, especially, in the church?

Similarly, a serious and critical attempt to reappropriate the christological decisions of the early church would lead one to understand that what was at stake in the conflict between Nestorius and Cyril was whether it was generic humanity which the Word of God assumed (Cyril) or a specific, individual manhood (Nestorius). If the latter, the maleness of Jesus Christ would be of peculiar importance. But if, as was the case, the former position was maintained, then it is the humanity of Jesus Christ that is significant. Whether representing Christ to the church or the church to Christ, (81) this representation is best achieved by a clergy that includes men and women (i.e., all of redeemed humanity).(82)

By a critique of the doctrinal traditions related to the exclusion of women from priesthood, it is possible to restore some important and neglected aspects of the central trinitarian and christological doctrines on which all other Christian doctrines depend. This restoration of meaning is beneficial in several ways: it offers the possibility of a resymbolization of evil (83) — i.e., of ceasing to see woman as a symbol and source of evil, and looking instead for other and more appropriate symbolic expressions of the nature of evil; it further makes possible an expanded vision of priesthood and ministry and an increased appreciation of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ's priesthood; and finally it can enable women to live more fully the eucharistic mystery as it both expresses and builds the community of the body of Christ at the same time that it anticipates the fulfillment of this community in the time of God's promise.

As applied to the tradition as the bearer of Tradition, the exercise of a hermeneutics of suspicion and restoration makes it possible to reappropriate some of the central scriptural affirmations about life in the new community that is the body of Christ. For any one who is in Christ is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:7 ff.), and his/her life is shaped by the fundamental Christian experience of "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit" (2 Cor. 13:14). It is this trinitarian experience that baptism represents in a particularly vivid and efficacious way. In this context Paul's allusion to a baptismal formula or fragment of liturgy in Gal. 3:27-29 takes on particular significance. For in the new community, the new creation, the barriers of division have been and are being broken down, and there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. Although it has been quoted so often in recent discussion that it seems trite, this baptismal formula cannot fait to have impact as long as it is seen for what it is: not a statement of Paul's individual theological opinion but an expression of the Christian community's very life and identity. The baptismal affirmation of faith in the paschal mystery provides a perspective of interpretation that is at once christological, ec-clesiological, and eschatological.(84) It calls the church and the individual Christian into the future of God's promise while making it possible to live from that promise in every present situation.

Although the Roman Catholic Church has not in the past ordained women to its sacramental priesthood and ministry, it can certainly do so in the present or the future. "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Gal. 5:1).


1. United States Catholic Conference. News Release, Oct. 3, 1975.

2. Committee on Pastoral Research and Practices, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Most Rev. John R. Quinn, Chairman. The text of the report is reprinted in Journal of Ecumenical Studies 10, n. 4 (Fall 1973), pp. 695-99.

3. London: Burns and Oates, Ltd., 1966.

4. The Fourth World Conference on Faith and Order: The Report from Montreal 1963, ed. P. C. Rodger and L. Vischer, pp. 50-61.

5. Montreal, p. 50. See also Alexander Schmemann, "The Orthodox Tradition," in The Convergence of Traditions, ed. Elmer O'Brien (New York: Herder and Herder, 1967), pp. 22-27; and John Meyendorff, Orthodoxy and Catholicity (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1966), pp. 91-106, on "Tradition and Traditions." For Orthodox theology especially the role of the Holy Spirit in tradition is particularly important.

6. Congar, pp. 280-282. For a basic scriptural instance of the combination of the noetic and dynamic, see I Cor. 11:23-26. See also Joseph R. Geiselmann, "Scripture, Tradition, and the Church: An Ecumenical Problem," in D. Callahan, H. Oberman, and D. O'Hanlon, eds., Christianity Divided, p. 56.

7. Congar, p. 282. See Vatican I. Pastor Aeternus, First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ (Denzinger, XXXIV ed., 3050).

8. Congar, p. 272.

9. Geiselmann, p. 54; Joseph Ratzinger, "Revelation and Tradition," in Revelation and Tradition, ed. with K. Rahner, Quaestiones Dis-

Tradition. Hermeneutics, and Ordination / 77

putatae 17 (London: Burns and Oates, 1966), pp. 35-40. This sense of "Tradition" corresponds to Congar's first and broadest meaning of "tradition" —see pp. 287, 296-97.

10. Montreal, p. 50.

11. J. Geiselmann, The Meaning of Tradition, Quaestiones Disputa-tae 15 (London: Burns and Oates Ltd., 1966), p. 82.

12. Congar, pp. 287, 297.

13. Congar, p. 300. While Congar's definition is perhaps too sweeping, the use of the term "apostolic tradition" has a practical function-namely in distinguishing the meaning of tradition that I am proposing here from other uses of the word (such as that which would set it in contradistinction to Scripture) — as well as a more substantive function of emphasizing that Scripture is itself a result and a part of tradition and cannot make much sense or be of much value apart from that tradition. The Scriptures are "apostolic" only in the loose sense in which the early church felt them to possess that authority which the apostles represented in the church. Likewise various aspects of the church's life are "apostolic" only in this loose sense of being faithful to or in harmony with the apostolic witness to the Gospel. Just as specific books of the New Testament cannot be traced reliably to specific apostles (nor need they be), so too with other aspects of the church's tradition. The notion of "apostolicity" is significant as a link between the Tradition and the various attempts of the church to express that Tradition in its tradition. In this sense "apostolicity" is, in most cases, more like the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" than a label guaranteeing that "this product was made in first century Palestine by Apostles."

14. Congar, p. 305.

15. Congar, p. 422.

16. Geiselmann, Meaning, pp. 35-37.

17. Congar, pp. 288, 301.

18. Congar, p. 423. Cf. Geiselmann, "Scripture," pp. 54-55; Montreal, pp. 51-53; Karl Rahner, "Scripture and Tradition," Theological Investigations VI (Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1969), pp. 98-112.

19. Geiselmann, "Scripture," pp. 44 ff.; Congar, p. 423.

20. Congar, p. 288.

21. Congar, pp. 422, 305.

22. See, for instance, Rahner, in Revelation and Tradition, pp. 9-25, esp. 20-21; "The Historicity and Theology," Theological Investigations IX (New York: Herder and Herder, 1972), p. 71.

23. Edward Schillebeeckx, "Toward a Catholic Use of Hermeneutics," in God the Future of Man (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1968), p. 12, applies as well to tradition as to dogma; Avery Dulles, The Survival of Dogma, pp. 198-99; Rahner, "Historicity," pp. 67-68.

24. Josiah Royce, The Problem of Christianity, Vol. II (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1968 — originally published 1913), pp. 57-103.

25. Schillebeeckx, pp. 39-40, 41; Dulles, pp. 189, 202-203; Rahner, "Revelation," pp. 12-14; Rahner, "Historicity," p. 79; Geiselmann, Meaning, pp. 41-43.

26. John E. Lynch, "Marriage and Celibacy of the Clergy: The Discipline of the Western Church: An Historico-Canonical Synopsis," The Jurist (1972), pp. 14-38, 189-212. See also Roger Gryson, Les origines du celibat ecclesiastique (Gembloux: Duculot, 1970).

27. On the possibility of error in theology, see Rahner, "Historicity," pp. 74-80; on reversibility of dogma, see Dulles, pp. 192-212; for documentation of examples of change in doctrinal positions by the magis-terium, see Raymond Brown, Biblical Reflections on Crises Facing the Church (New York: Paulist Press, 1976), pp. 109-118.

28. A. Dulles, "What is Magisterium," Origins, Vol. 6, n. 6 (July 1, 1976), p. 84. See also two recent articles by Congar: "Pour une histoire semantique du term "magisterium," and "Bref historique des formes du "magistere" et de ses relations avec les docteurs," Revue des Sciences Philosophiques et Theologique 60 1976), pp. 85-98 and 99-112, respectively. There are surveys of the historical development of this position in Gabriel Moran, Scripture and Tradition: A Survey of the Controversy (New York: Herder and Herder, 1963) and James P. Mackey, The Modern Theology of Tradition (New York: Herder and Herder, 1962).

29. Dulles, "Magisterium," pp. 85-86, with reference to Thomas Aquinas distinction between magisterium cathedrae pastoralis and magisterium cathedrae magistralis. See also the articles by Congar. Dulles' formulation in Survival, p. 211, is also helpful.

30. Dulles, "Magisterium," p. 86.

31. Schillebeeckx, p. 20.

32. "The Significance of the Hermeneutical Problem for the Ecumenical Movement," in Faith and Order Studies 1964-67 (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1968), pp. 35ff, See also Vatican II, Dei Verbum, art. 11-12 (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation), in Walter M. Abbott, ed., The Documents of Vatican II (New York: Guild Press— America Press — Association Press, 1966).

33. Rahner, "Historicity"; Schillebeeckx, "Toward a Catholic Use of Hermeneutics"; Dulles, Survival, esp. chapts. 11-12.

34. See Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy. An Essay in Interpretation, trans. Denis Savage (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970), p. 25. The possibility of applying Ricoeur's work to the present problem was first suggested to me by Joseph A. Komonchak's brief references to the "hermeneutics of suspicion" and "hermeneutics of restoration" in his essay on "Theological Questions on the Ordination of Women," in Women in Catholic Priesthood: An Expanded Vision, Proceedings of the Detroit Ordination Conference, ed. Anne Marie Gardiner, S.S.N.D. (New York: Paulist Press, 1976), p. 255.

35. Schillebeeckx, p. 18.

36. Schillebeeckx, pp. 8, 19; Dulles, p. 206.

37. Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckman, The Social Construction of Reality; A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge (Garden City, New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1967), pp. 66-68.

38. Cf. Schillebeeckx, p. 31.

39. Skydsgaard, in The Old and The New in The Church. World Council of Churches Commission on Faith and Order (Studies in Ministry and Worship [London: SCM, 1961]), p. 34.

40. Dulles, Survival, p. 189; cf. R. Brown on "blue-print" vs. "erector-set" ecclesiologies, pp. 52-57.

41. Dulles, Survival, p. 189.

42. Schillebeeckx, p. 37.

43. Schillebeeckx, p. 30; cf. Robert Wilken, The Myth of Christian Beginnings (Garden City, New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1972).

44. Schillebeeckx, p. 30; cf. Rahner, "Historicity," pp. 68, 71; Wolf-hart Pannenberg, "Dogmatic Theses on the Doctrine of Revelation," in Revelation as History, ed. Pannenberg, et al., trans. David Granskou (New York: Macmillan Company, 1968), p. 133 ("it is not so much the course of history as the end of history that is at one with the essence of God") and pp. 143-144 (on "the inexhaustibility of the event of revelation as an eschatological event" and the provisionality of all forms of Christian life in this world).

45. Schillebeeckx, p. 34.

46. Schillebeeckx, p. 40.

47. Ricoeur, p. 27 ff.

48. Ricoeur, p. 27.

49. Ricoeur, p. 31.

50. Schillebeeckx, p. 36.

51. Schillebeeckx, p. 37.

52. Schillebeeckx, p. 37.

53. "God in Nature and History," Faith and Order Studies 1964-1967 (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1968), p. 29.

54. Ibid., p. 30.

55. Schillebeeckx, p. 12.

56. George A. Lindbeck, "A Battle for Theology: Hartford in Historical Perspective," in Against the World For the World; The Hartford Appeal and the Future of American Religion, ed. Peter L. Berger and Richard John Neuhaus (New York: The Seabury Press, 1976), pp. 31 ff. Lindbeck uses T. S. Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions as the basis of an analysis of "theological revolutions."

57. Lindbeck, p. 35.

58. Lindbeck, p. 36.

59. See, for instance, the bibliographies in Anglican Theological Review, Suppl. Series n. 6 (June 1976), by Barnhouse, Fahey, Oram, and Walker, pp. 87-94; Women and The Priesthood; A Selected and Annotated Bibliography, compiled by Patricia A. Kendall (published by The Committee to Promote The Cause of and to Plan for the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood, The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, 1976).

60. "Can Women Be Priests," Biblical Commission Report, in Origins, vol. 6, pp. 92-96.

61. Ibid., p. 95.

62. Ibid., p. 92.

63. See, for instance, John R. Sheets, "Ordination of Women: The Issues," American Ecclesiastical Review 169 (January 1975), pp. 17-36, esp. p. 29 ("the sole reason is the will of Christ and consciousness of his will in those who were chosen to continue his ministry.").

64. Edmund Schlink, "The Unity and Diversity of the Church," in What Unity Implies: Six Essays after Uppsala, ed. R. Groscuth, World Council Studies n. 7 (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1969), pp. 33-51. Reginald H. Fuller, "Pro and Con: The Ordination of Women in the New Testament," in Toward a New Theology of Ordination; Essays on the Ordination of Women, ed. Marianne H. Micks and Charles P. Price, Virginia Theological Seminary (Somerville, Mass: Greeno, Hadden and Company, Ltd., 1976), pp. 1-11.

65. Schlink, p. 38.

66. Schlink, p. 45.

67. Schlink, pp. 45-46.

68. Fuller, p. 9.

69. Fuller, p. 9.

70. E.g., Sheets, art. cit.

71. See, for instance, the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus; the Didascalia Apostolorum; and the Apostolic Constitutions. See also Roger Gryson, Le ministere des femmes dans I'Eglise ancienne (Gembloux: Du-culot, 1972), for a thorough review and evaluation of the early evidence.

72. Gryson, Ministere, p. 107, "Deaconesses are part of the clergy," in ref. to Apostolic Constitutions 8.28.6.

73. I have sketched in slightly more detail than is possible here the outlines of this interpretation in "Women, Ordination and Tradition," Commonweal CII, n. 26 (Dec. 17, 1976), pp. 807-810, and hope to develop it more fully elsewhere. For some of the evidence pertinent to these historical developments, see the essays in this volume by Katharine Meagher, S.C., "Women in Relation to Orders and Jurisdiction," and Hamilton Hess, "Changing Forms of Ministry in the Early Church."

Rather disappointing both in its use and evaluation of the sources and in its estimation of the current situation is Agnes Cunningham's brief study for the Ad Hoc Committee for Women in Society and the Church of the USCC, "The Role of Women in Ecclesial Ministry: Biblical and Patristic Foundations" (Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1976), 29 pp.

74. Gryson, Celibat; Lynch, art. cit.

75. For documents, see James A. Mohler, The Origin and Evolution of the Priesthood (Staten Island, New York: Alba House, 1969). For historical analysis see Bernard Cooke, Ministry to Word and Sacraments (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), pp. 525-573.

76. See Gryson, Celibat; Bernard Verkamp, "Cultic Purity and the Law of Celibacy," Review for Religious 31 (1971), pp. 199-217.

77. See, for instance, Rosemary Ruether, "Misogynism and Virginal Feminism in the Fathers of the Church," Religion and Sexism, ed. Ruether (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974), pp. 150-183; George Tavard, Woman in Christian Tradition (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1973), pp. 1-122.

78. Joan Range, "Legal Exclusion of Women from Church Office," The Jurist 1/2 (1974), pp. 112-127; Ida Raming, Der Ausschluss der Frau vom priesterlichen Amt: Gottgewollte Tradition oder Diskriminierung? Eine rechts historisch-dogmalischen Untersuchung der Grundlagen von Kanon 968.1 des Codex Iuris Canonici (Cologne: Bohlau, 1973). Raming's work is now available in translation: The Exclusion of Women from the Priesthood: Divine Law or Sex Discrimination?, trans. Norman R. Adams (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1976).

79. Cf. Vatican II, Unitatis Redintegratio, art. 11, in Abbot.

80. See Margaret Farley, R.S.M., "New Patterns of Relationships: Beginnings of a Moral Revolution," Theological Studies 36, n. 4 (December 1975), pp. 640-643 especially; also "Moral Imperatives for the Ordination of Women," in Women and Catholic Priesthood, p. 47.

81. Edward J. Kilmartin, S.J., "Apostolic Office: Sacrament of Christ," Theological Studies 36, n. 2. (June, 1975), pp. 243-264.

82. Richard A. Norris, Jr., "The Ordination of Women and the 'Maleness' of the Christ," Anglican Theological Review, Suppl. Series, n. 6 (June 1976), pp. 69-80,

83. Farley, "Moral Imperatives," pp. 44-45, 47-48. 84. Schillebeeckx, p. 288.

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