A Spanish theologian has said that the marginalisation of women is an “enormous impoverishment” for the Church.
– A warning against the “false and dangerous comfort” that comes from “This is how it has always been done” thinking
Catholic laywoman Cristina Inogés – who studied at the Protestant Faculty of Theology in Madrid and worked with the Faculty of Theology in Göttingen, in Germany before moving into writing and journalism – has just published a new book, No quiero ser sacerdote. Mujeres al borde de la Iglesia (“I don’t want to be a priest: Women on the edge of the Church”).
Inogés presented her new work in a webinar September 29 organised by the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College, in which she urged the Church “to get out of the false and dangerous comfort that comes from… [thinking] ‘This is how it is done, because it has always been done this way'”.
“In the book and in my life I do not avoid uncomfortable questions, but always from [the point of view of giving] constructive criticism”, Inogés stressed.
– “Christ became the flesh of a man and the flesh of a woman”
One of the “uncomfortable questions” the theologian has been asking is how to overcome the plague of clericalism. Her answer? A return to valorising the baptismal priesthood, which all believers enjoy by virtue of forming part of the Body of Christ.
“That there are only male priests in the Church is a deprivation”, Inogés decried, “not because only men are priests, but because women are not present” in many aspects of Church life.
Refuting the traditional argument that only men can be priests because only they in their manhood represent Christ in his, the theologian insisted that “Christ became the flesh of a man and the flesh of a woman”.
However, despite her conviction that the Incarnation of Christ took up humanity in all its different gender distinctions, Inogés said that “I don’t want to fall into the idea of not feeling represented by a male priest, because that would be a rupturist and dogmatic dynamic”.
Moreover, Inogés said that at this point in the life of the Church “it does not make sense that women be ordained, situated as women are in the current clericalist and corporatist environment”.
In this current climate of widespread male clerical superiority and defence of the Church at all costs, “it would be very difficult for [women’s] contribution to the Church to be truly meaningful”, the theologian acknowledged.
“The ministerial priesthood of women will come, but not in the way we are familiar with” ordained ministry, Inogés predicted, adding that we in our lifetimes “will not see” women priests, “but we must live in the hope that one day [they] will come”, in the meantime building a much more communal model of Church.
“Zero expectation, 100% hope”, she said on the subject of women’s ordination.
– Women in the Church are more than “altar girls”
Inogés went on to denounce that “many men with responsibility” in the Church today “talk about women, not with women”, and that much with the gaze of inherent male superiority over women that dates back to the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle.
“That today there are men who think of women as St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas did is an enormous impoverishment. Some even see their space in theology threatened, so they entrench themselves even more”, the theologian deplored.
“I believe that the hierarchical Church is not prepared to address” the role of women in the Church, Inogés went on. For that reason, she called on the laity to further develop their vocation to free thinking and speech on the subject on women’s marginalisation, and to resist the default hierarchical position of expecting uncritical obedience.
As for what Catholic women themselves can do to stand up for their rights in the Church, Inogés urged female believers “to break the vision of us as altar girls”.
“I do not like to move in closed stereotypes”, insisted the theologian, stressing that “the place of women in the Church is… in the calling to the baptismal priesthood”.
“Women have a very developed sense of co-responsibility in the Church, because otherwise we would not be in it at this point”, Inogés highlighted.