THE refusal of the Catholic Church to ordain women is part of its policy of "enshrining the subordinate role of women", a leading feminist theologian told a London conference this week.
Rosemary Radford Ruether, in a talk entitled "Surviving in a Patriarchal Church", explained that there is still an "impure image of women" inherent in the structures of the Church and that this was underlying the failure to ordain women. The conference, "Women in the Ministry", was organised by the Catholic Women's Network and the Women in Theology group.
A lecturer at the Garret Seminary, Evanstown, Illinois, Ms Ruether also criticised liberation theology which did not projects. prioritorise feminism. "The Church" she said "was a struggle for women, not only against a right wing religion, but also against a male chauvinism in liberation theology as well."
Speaking to a packed audience at the conference at Fleytrop College, London, Ms Ruether did give advice to women who wished to remain in the Church without becoming disillusioned. "Find a place of work in or related to the Church where the satisfactions outweigh the frustrations," she proposed. This could include justice and peace commissions, women's liturgy groups, and feminist social Looking to the future, Ms Ruether encouraged the ecumenical audience to have "a new vision of the Church with feminist models. Feminists are the social ecologists, building the new Church in the ruins of the old. It is a journey of recycling the old patriarchical symbols and bits of the institution into new reformed feminist symbols and gatherings."
The process of redefinition of the male symbols of the Church will include a "reappropriation of sacramental life", Ms Ruether said, advocating a "complete overhaul of Christian theology" so that women are equal and active members in every aspect of the Church.
Alexina Murphy, of the Catholic Women's Network, described the conference as "an ecumenical day, working on practical theology for women working in the Church.
"The excitement of women working ecumenically to deal with patriarchical structures is evident by the huge response we have got during this conference."
"From this conference we hope that women will be inspired to have a vision for the future of the Church", Ms Murphy said. "We would see ourselves working on informal levels with the hierarchy of the Church to change the present situation."