A woman's place in the Churc
IT WAS disconcerting to see our bishops' call for a regular dialogue with women linked in the Catholic Herald with a diatribe from Rosemary Radford Ruether (July 8) offering her view on the status of women in the Church. Her cul-de-sac approach, attempting to cram all the discussion of women, sexual morality, church discipline, authority and priesthood into her narrow little set of attitudes, sets a very poor agenda for the proper discussion of these things that the forthcoming document from Rome might lead us to expect.
For Dr Ruether, fullness of life as a Christian seems to irrevocably bound up with being a priest. This cuts right across the central reality of our faith — the personal relationship of a soul with Almighty God. Dr Ruether seems to see being a priest as being a somehow superior sort of Christian — she speaks of women being "kept from ordained ministry" or "rejected" as if the priesthood should be the goal of all.
But the call to the priesthood is not like that. It is a call from God to a specific task within the Church, but there are other tasks and if Vatican II taught us anything at all it was surely a recognition of the (too long neglected?) importance of the lay role.
Dr Ruether will do the cause of women no good at all if she insists on imposing her own misunderstanding of a priest's role on the general debate about women and Christianity. For many of us, the Church's consistent teaching on the male priesthood is not only something we recognise, obey, and respect, but also something which is part of a wide-ranging understanding about the different tasks all of us have in the Church and in the world. Nor do we see the Church's moral stand on matters concerning sexual relationships as inhibiting or restrictive: we do not seek "reproductive rights" but have a common-sense understanding of the collosal privilege given to us through marriage of bringing new and immortal life into being.
Joanna Bogle New Malden Surrey Rosemary Radford Ruether tells us that by its opposition to contraception "in practice the Church actually promotes the high abortion rate that it claims to abhor".
Ms Radford's efforts to promote women's role in the Church and in society are to be admired, but she is way out on this one. True, the Church condemns contraception, but it emphatically does not condemn birth control, and the modern scientific methods of natural family planning are both as effective as the contraceptive methods, and free from their harmful effects.
Erica Rodgers Oldham, Lancs THE article by Rosemary Ruether (July 8) needs to be balanced by another point of view. The answers to Dr Ruether's challenge are not as warped as you or she seems to think. Many of the accusations and suggestions she presents have already been more than adequately answered by the Vatican.
To characterise tradition as
warped because it has usually been advanced by mak celibates is to suggest that "hell has prevailed against the Church" because the errors mentioned by Dr Ruether are, in her terms, of such importance as to lead to a denial of the whole authoritive structure of the Church. Has the Holy Spirit been so hampered as she suggests? If so, adopting her position is tantamount to revolution, such that it will lead to a virtual overthrow of the Magisterium.
It is strange that you should seem to espouse this whilst regretting the defection and disobedience of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Many of Dr Ruether's views are highly questionable and may even be judged heretical by some.
Surely what is needed now is peace and unity in the Church. To fuel the fire of discontent and dissent can do no good, and will only serve to confirm some of Lefebvre's followers in their intransigence.
Fr John Abberton The Presbytery Goole