A Scripture scholar has said that the demand for women priests goes beyond civil rights and instead “arises from the centre of our Catholic faith”.
– Justification for women’s ordination “lies not in emancipation but in baptism”
John Wijngaards posted October 30 on the blog of the Institute for Catholic Research he founded a reminder that the justification for female priests “lies not in emancipation but in baptism”.
The theologian recalled that the demand for women priests is often seen by opponents “as a modern and novel idea, a secular invention, the intrusion of profane social equality into the sacred precincts of the liturgy, a giving in to strident feminist bullying”.
But nothing is further from the truth, Wijngaards claimed, arguing those who are pushing for women priests are motivated not by a desire to import civil rights into the Church but instead to see through to its logical conclusion the radical equality of all people in Christ.
In his well-founded and water-tight argument, Wijngaards praised female theologians for having “brought a new dimension to the Church” in terms of their research into the experiences of Christian women from the early Church until today, and for shining a light onto inequality and sexist Church language, imagery and symbolism.
But explaining that none of those female theologians holds “that the equality of women in Christ derives from secular or civil rights”, Wijngaards appealed to Catholics “to carefully distinguish between external impulses on a doctrine and its Christian source”.
The Second Vatican Council may have encouraged the Church to “pay attention to what modern society is telling us” on issues such as women’s emancipation
It may be that women’s liberation in wider society “does put pressure on the Church”, he acknowledged.
But neither the call to the Church to listen to and respond to the “signs of the times” nor the fact of women’s emancipation in the wider world are in and of themselves the justification for demanding women’s ordination, Wijngaards stated.
Instead, the better ground for arguing for women priests is the common baptism of men and women in Christ, the Scripture expert wrote.
Recalling that St. Paul taught that in baptism “there is no difference between men and women… You are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28), Wijngaards insisted that true Catholic theology reveals that “both men and women equally die with Christ and rise with him to new life”.
“Both men and women become members of his new covenant, and share in his eucharistic meal on an equal footing.
“Both men and women in like manner share in Christ’s priestly, prophetic and royal dignity.
“The openness of women to the ordained ministry arises from within the sacrament of baptism itself. The cry for social equality may have woken us up. The truth of equality in Christ’s covenant has always been there”, Wijngaards concluded.
Wijngaards is the author of an important new book on the subject of the ordination of women: What they don’t teach you in Catholic college: Women in the priesthood and the mind of Christ.
In a little over 200 pages, the expert convincingly argues that women’s exclusion from ordained ministry is not God’s will but rather, in his words, “outmoded cultural tradition”.