of the Church by Rosemary Radford Ruether (SCM Press Ltd., £2.50),
MS RUETHER is a Catholic theologian who teaches in .a Protestant theological college. The Origin of this book, she tells us in her introduction, was a series of brief studies for a Presbyterian lay magazine.
The language used is simple; the chapters, subdivided by headings, are written in the type of easy and readable style not always associated with the writings of theologians.
The book begins with a brief review of the part played by goddesses in ancient religions. The author then goes on to consider Mary's role in various contexts. reminding us of the Old Testament images of Israel as God's bride and of the female personification of Wisdom in Jewish thought. Mary's roles as the Mother of Jesus and in relation to the mission of Jesus are considered. The first part of the work concludes with a chapter on Mary and the Femininity of God.
Part two of the book is entitled "Mary in the Church". In the last two chapters of this section the author, in her own words, seeks to "evaluate the meaning and usability of Mariology as a symbol for women".
She declares that only by understanding the conquest of the female by the male throughout history can we begin to create a new cultural psychology that will enable women to come into their own as fully human persons.
She asks whether there is any model for "liberated human relationships" in the Gospels. Failing to find it in Mary the Mother of Jesus, whom she regards as too submissive to be called liberated, she concludes that greater importance ought to be attached to "other Marys" in the Gospels. These "other Marys" she believes to have been "overshadowed" by the symbol of' Mary the Mother.
The New Testament champions of feminism she sees as being Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany. "who chose the better part".
Ms. Ruether's arguments are presented persuasively and with subtlety. But not all her persuasion could convince one reader at ieast that Our Lord intended tit bring a message of today's concept of women's liberation rather than love for arid devotion to his Mother.
Papal tour next week
Live coverage of the Pope in Ireland. Saturday, September 29: arrival at airport (BBC', 9.50 am); address at Drogheda (BBC2, 3.50 pm).
Sunday: Mass at Galway (BBC1, 10 ant).
Tuesday: departure (BBCI, late morning).