Page 5, 18th February 1977

18th February 1977
Page 5
Page 5, 18th February 1977 — Women in the Church

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Locations: Manchester, Rome


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Women in the Church

The recent pronouncement from Rome has brought its expected crop of correspondence about the ordination of women to the priesthood, and one would not necessarily wish to add to the excellent article from the pen of Mr St John-Stevas in your issue of February 4. But perhaps the time really has come when we should get our priorities right. First, the argument against the ordination of women from what may he termed the negative tradition cannot in the final analysis be substantiated.

Considering the social sanctions of the first century, it would have been quite extraordinary if Christ had included women among the Twelve. The argument from the negative tradition is probably no stronger than that which once militated against women doctors, women MN. or even women graduates in our older universities.

Secondly, the argument from what may be termed expediency the possible conflict with the claims of marriage and family — is not relevant as long as the discipline of celibacy obtains in the Catholic Church, although the Anglicans may have more of a headache in this respect.

Thirdly, it is well nigh impossible to undertake research in the normal manner into the ordination of women, as the matter has historically never arisen until this age and generation. The medieval Church did not confuse abbesses with priesthood!

Fourthly, the fact that "God became Man" is not really a valid theological argument because, first, the Incarnation took place at a certain point in history; and, secondly, because "man" in this context refers to complete and perfect humanity.

It is, however, perhaps in this area — in the impersonal priesthood of Christ — that we may discover a glimmer of a theological justification for confining the priesthood to men, and one hopes that there may be those with the scholarship and the time who may ultimately be able to justify the exclusion of women on theological as well as historical grounds.

But it is not enough to be negative. There are two aspects of this situation about which we must be completely positive.

First, in comparison with the unity of the Church and its witness to a pagan world, the issue of the ordination of women is not important. The witness of the Church is not confined to the clergy!

Secondly, the Church must develop a much more positive attitude towards the ministry of women. For too long the Catholic Church has tended to regard women as having one of two functions — either the mater familias, or alternatively as a member of a religious community.

Should there not be a whole teaching ministry in which the laity, men or women, may participate, and a ministry which extends beyond the school or the college of education.

It is true that this would involve selection and theological training, but given that, is there any reason why women should not be appointed to the staff of seminaries, take part in the in-service training of both clergy and laity, and use their gifts, education and training in this teaching ministry?

Maud E. S. Dawson Fallowfield, Manchester.

As a woman student of social science I put it to Mr Norman St John-Stevas that, physically, emotionally and logically men are better equipped to undertake certain tasks than women, During my lifetime I have witnessed men becoming more like women, and women more like men, with the result that our society is in a state of stress.

Speaking for myself — and I think for a number of women — we do not want to become priests. Through my efforts as a Christian and in the ecumenical field I have observed that most sensible females recognise they are more fitted to become complementary to the male and are happiest when they have a loving relationship which is free.

Most women have their own methods of manipulating their families, and most Christian women arc the backbone of this country. When I think of the work of the Women's Institutes and other organisations, the women who run their homes and their families contribute far more than those who go out bawling on platforms for Women's Lib.

I am in favour of nursery schools and every aid for the mother in the family, but this generation has witnessed what has happened when women lose their virtue, neglect their homes and lose the respect of men.

Margaret Stuffield London, SW2I

I am surprised and rather shocked by the letters I have read in your paper stating that as Our Lord chose only Jews for his Apostles, therefore as times have changed he would have chosen women for the ministry had he been on earth today.

Our Lord preached the Word in Judaea, where there were only Jews. Even so, there was one noted exception — St Paul, whom Christ called as "a chosen vessel unto me." St Paul was a Roman citizen.

In the Swedish Church, where they have "ordained" women, there is already a schism, and the same applies to the Church in the United States. For many centuries the Church has always had men for the ministry — even learned women like St Teresa of Avila and St Catherine of Siena were never considered. Why cause a schism in the Church now?

(Miss) V. J. M. Clifton-Smith Hove, East Sussex.

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