Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Women and the Priesthood

Over at First Things, Monica Migliorino Miller reviews a new book by Sister Sara Butler titled The Catholic Priesthood and Women:

Butler points out that Inter Insigniores and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis both insist on Christ’s sovereign freedom in his choice of male apostles. And this is an enormously important point. Indeed, much of the legitimacy of the “fundamental reasons” is based on the fact that, not only did Christ act in a certain way, thus setting up a permanent norm, but that Christ acted in freedom. History does not constrain him, culture is not a barrier, history is not a force that may dictate to Christ his choices. Christ is the Lord of history, he is the Lord of his Church. Behind the “fundamental reasons” is a christological one, and while the Church’s documents insist on Christ’s freedom, it is the theologian’s task to explain why this is important. Butler does not provide this much-needed explanation. What is at stake is the very person of Christ—the divine Logos—in a gesture by which the constitution of the entire new covenant depends. If we follow the arguments of the dissenters, we are forced to conclude that in the very founding of the Church Christ (perhaps innocently) was guilty of an act of injustice to half of the human race. This, of course, is untenable.

All of the apostles were also Jewish, of course, so gender must somehow be different, though Miller believes that Butler's explanation on this point is weak.  Miller expands it:

Arbitrary or no, Christ’s male gender, as Butler recognizes, is constitutive of the economy of salvation. But this means we are not dealing any longer with merely theological reasons for the ban on women priests. After all, Christ’s male gender is as much a historical fact, as much a willful historical choice on the part of the Redeemer, as was his choice to call only men to be among the Twelve. Thus Christ’s having called only male human beings to be apostles, having called only male human beings to share in his priestly ministry, is preceded by the fact of his own masculinity in relation to the Church. Thus the “fundamental reasons” and the “theological reasons” are closely intertwined. If the Church believes she must remain faithful to an original gesture of Christ when he called only males to be apostles, she is even less free to dismiss the male gender of Christ in the economy of salvation upon which the meaning of that gesture depends. The ban on women priests is not simply a matter of the Church remaining true to a fact—Christ only chose men—but a matter of the Church remaining faithful to the fundamental truth of the relation between the order of redemption and the order of creation—an order the Church has no power to undo.

The book seems well worth reading; perhaps it will take up the questions Eduardo asked back in March 2006.


Vischer, Rob | Permalink

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