From .............. RELIGION WATCH

January 1996

The movement toward ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church is undergoing divisions and taking up different strategies in the face of renewed opposition to women priests by the Vatican, according to several reports. The Jesuit magazine America [December 9] notes that at the same time the Vatican recently ruled on the "infallible" nature of its opposition to women priests, the Women's Ordination Conference [WOC -- the main organization pressing for women's ordination] began to publicly question whether women should seek the ministry at all in a "patriarchal" and "oppressive" church structure.

Jane Redmont writes that the change of focus in the WOC was evident in several presentations at its Washington conference in November where theologians intensified their criticism against the institutional church and "of the current concept and practice of ordained ministry, and linked their critique to broad analysis of social structures beyond the church." Such feminist theologians as Diana Hayes and Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza describe this paradigm shift as teaching a "discipleship of equals," which would condemn any type of hierarchies and draw on the New Testament gospels and feminist thought to promote equality.

Most of the WOC leaders say they want a "both-and" approach, favoring both women's ordination and the "discipleship of equals" model.

Whether or not the alternative to women's ordination was a response to the Vatican's new outspokenness against the practice [the pope also ruled against women priests last year], there are a growing number of organizations willing to take up the slack left by the WOC [whose president resigned from the organization over internal differences in late December] on the issue. These organizations include CORPUS, Call to Action, FutureChurch and the Association of Rights of Catholics in the Church. These groups, each of which were formed around different causes, are now collaborating through the four-year-old coalition Catholic Organizations for Renewal [COR].

Although the ordination for women issue is drawing more international support, Redmont writes that the liberal theological emphasis among some WOC leaders may exclude minorities [who were not strongly represented at the recent conference] who have a strong faith in Christ. Some speakers, such as Hayes of Georgetown University, criticized teachings on the central role of Jesus and his maleness in the church and often identified him and the Holy Spirit with Sophia, a biblical name for "divine wisdom" which is often cited by feminists to represent female imagery for God. [America 106 W. 56th St., New York, NY 10019]



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