Page 4, 7th October 1988

7th October 1988
Page 4
Page 4, 7th October 1988 — Male and female in one church

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Locations: Liverpool


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Male and female in one church

CONGRATULATIONS on your leader and news analysis (September 30) on the Papal document Dignity of Women, and on your other features in recent months supporting the cause of women in the Church. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I read, alsd in today's issue: "The lie (about the discovery of the body of Pope John Paul II) was told because Vatican officials believed it was embarrassing to admit that a woman was the first one to see the Pope every morning."

Only a couple of weeks ago, as I recall, David Lodge was quoted to the effect that at present he didn't see any big issue in the Church requiring the serio-comic treatment of How Far Can You Go? I would suggest he should take up his pen now, except that, as a woman writer who happens to be a Catholic, I'm strongly tempted to take up mine.

Glasgow Moira Burgess

THE current debate about the male-female relationship affects the Church as much as it does every other member of society. But I'm afraid your leading article (September 30) on the Pope's letter on women is unlikely to help anyone. It seems to be mistaken, both from a human point of view and from the point of view of Christian theology.

You criticise the Pope for being a man who writes about women: in your view, "only women. . . know completely what God thinks of them and what He expects of them". So you advocate a separtist view which places an unbridgeable gap between the experience of men and the experience of women, and which thereby excludes me, the Pope, all husbands and the rest of men from the debate. We are to be the silent partners in the living out of our common humanity!

Yet you go on to say that you are against separtism, for you criticise the letter for wanting to preserve "the distinction between male and female". I haven't met any woman, be she "feminist" or not, who wants that distinction to be obliterated.

Do you really understand feminism? Female identity needs to be articulated in its distinctness, and I, as a man, must take that difference seriously as the locus of the other dimension of humanness. In the articulated understanding of human identity — anthropology — both men and women must play their part, if I read the implications of Genesis 1.26 correctly. Your article undermines this task.

From the point of view of anthropology and Christian salvation, your assertion that the Pope's insistence on Christ's maleness and on the maleness of the Apostles means that women "possess a kind of 'impaired' humanity" is quite extraordinary: the pattern of church order is not the foundation either of salvation or of engraced human identity. In the Gospel of Luke, Mary is presented as the prototypical recipient of salvation through Jesus, and thereby the Petrine or collegial principle of the Church's structure is "relativised". Putting it very simply, "lay faith", embodied in the faith of Mary, is a more fundamental dimension of the Church's identity than "male episcopacy", and to see the latter as determinative of the former is to fall into the same trap as generations of clerical chauvinists.

Finally, your comment that "women are 'Christians' not 'Marian " is cheap. It is a false distinction, alien to the New Testament and to the substantive body of Christian belief, and to suggest, as you do, that the Pope is furtively advocating the latter is, quite simply, nasty and malicious. There is a strong case for the ordination of women, and for re-evaluating the place of women in the Church, which I support, but it will not be advanced by the confusions which you disseminate.

John McDade Si Editor The Month YOUR analysis (September 30), of the Apostolic letter on the Dignity of Women is most discerning and acceptable. It is also most encouraging to read in large letters the summing-up of the wish of many women to be

treated with men as Church in a "Humanity that is without gender."

If this last concept could become the accepted one by the synod fathers, their attitude would be bound to change and become more just towards women. It is clear the Catholic Herald would have it so!

Yes, "Mary's example applies just as much to men as to women." Following this, one can say that when a priest offers Mass, he is doing just what Mary did on Calvary. She was the first total-human to offer the Sacrifice of her Son and is therefore the recedent for male as well as female priests.

Were the Church to allow the ordination of women, it would be following Pope John Paul's recent assertion at Piacenza that, to quote His Holiness, "all areas of human life should be open to

women." Everild Feeny Liverpool.

I WRITE to express my regret at' the tone and content of your Leader of September 30.

There is no evidence worthy of the term to support the contention of "widespread dissatisfaction among women" of their role in the Church. Certainly "feminism" has entered the National Board of Catholic Women and probably "feminists" have obtained positions in other influential areas.

It would be a mistake to assume, however, that they speak for any but themselves. The Holy Father is the voice of the Tradition of the Church, one of the great pillars of the magisterium. He does not speak to us as a dictator. The nature of women, their dignity and vocation, are part of God's law, not the Pope's. The magisterium mediates that law to us it does not

decide it. Breffni Kelly Brackley

YOUR headline "Pope says no to women priests (September 30) is so negative and unsupportive of the Pope that your readers could be forgiven for believing they had bought a Protestant newspaper! There are two points I would like to raise dealing with your article "Well meant double-speak on women". First, the matter of obedience to the Pope should be vital to us all in our lives and, however painful and upsetting this can sometimes be for groups and individuals, our human understanding of a problem or difficulty must be subordinated to the Divine will.

Theological discussions are both worthwhile and interesting within the Catholic family provided that the aim of the debate is not to attack and weaken the Church and thus bring about further schism. Devotion to Our Lady and the Holy Family in the Rosary is a sure way of learning and accepting with humility one's role in life. • Neville Wheelan Umberleigh


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