Monday, November 20, 2006

Women and the Ministry: A Document (II)

Those of you who read the first post in this series may have asked yourselves why it is not rather entitled Women and the Priesthood. The answer is quite simple -- the priesthood is only one narrowly focused form of ministry. It is so firstly within the context of Holy Orders, which also includes the diaconate and the episcopate, and secondly in the broader ministry of the laos, or the people of God.

The priesthood can only be properly understood in the context of the ministry of all believers, and that within the paradigm of the Church as the mystical body of Christ, who is its head, and its many parts, or members: the faithful.

The second document we will publish in this series is Mulieris Dignitatem, an Apostolic Letter issued by Pope John Paul II on August 15, 1988.In it, the pope speaks of the full measure of what women can and must be doing in the life of the Church.

The letter begins:

THE DIGNITY AND THE VOCATION OF WOMEN - a subject of constant human and Christian reflection - have gained exceptional prominence in recent years. This can be seen, for example, in the statements of the Church's Magisterium present in various documents of the Second Vatican Council, which declares in its Closing Message: "The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of women is being acknowledged in its fullness, the hour in which women acquire in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at his moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women imbued with a spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling". This Message sums up what had already been expressed in the Council's teaching, specifically in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes and in the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity Apostolicam Actuositatem.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"the priesthood is only one narrowly focused form of ministry."

This is an important point. Ministry is something that all the faithful share in, and who would ever deny the important ministries maintained by nuns in Catholic schools, the inner city, &c.?

The fact remains that the Church does not have the authority to confer priestly ordination on women. Does that denigrate women? Not at all. The office of priest is indeed an exalted one, and one that must be fulfilled by a man. Yet the greatest of all saints, one who continues to minister to us all every day, is not a man at all. She is a woman, the paragon of virtue - a Virgin - conceived without sin.

By her intercessions, may we be brought to everlasting life.