The Struggle to Serve: The Ordination of Women in the Roman Catholic Church

Overview

Appointed by Pope Paul IV to examine the role of women in the Bible, the Pontifical Biblical Commission found, in part, that the will of Christ would not be disobeyed if the Roman Catholic Church ordained women. The Commission reported; "The New Testament does not settle in a clear way...whether women can be ordained priests, scripture grounds alone are not grounds enough to exclude the possibility of ordaining women [and] Christ's plan would not be transgressed by permitting ...

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Overview

Appointed by Pope Paul IV to examine the role of women in the Bible, the Pontifical Biblical Commission found, in part, that the will of Christ would not be disobeyed if the Roman Catholic Church ordained women. The Commission reported; "The New Testament does not settle in a clear way...whether women can be ordained priests, scripture grounds alone are not grounds enough to exclude the possibility of ordaining women [and] Christ's plan would not be transgressed by permitting the ordination of women."

Further, it is attested among biblical scholars that although the Bible was written in a patriarchal culture, Jesus is predominantly portrayed as one who promoted the equality of women and men. Yet the Church has continued to exclude women for twenty centuries primarily on the basis of the precedent of twelve male apostles at the Last Supper.

It is clear that women will be needed, and in elevated roles, if a declining Church is to grow and prosper in the coming century. Catholicism is faced with a precipitous drop in the number of priests, portending 21st-century parishes without pastoral care—unless women are ordained. Addressed here are the conflicts and questions surrounding the struggle by women to serve the Roman Catholic Church and receive full equality within the church hierarchy.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
In this tightly argued, well-researched volume, St. Pierre explores the exclusion of women from ministerial priesthood in Roman Catholicism. Originally presented as her M.A. thesis, the book first examines the significant role of women in the ministry of Jesus and within the early church. St. Pierre then lucidly critiques recent arguments for and against ordaining women and argues that ``not only are women being unjustly treated, [but] ...their exclusion has dire implications for the Church's salvific mission.'' Her research is obviously germane to Roman Catholicism, particularly in Canada, where the current shortage of priests has opened the doors to extensive participation in ministry by laywomen. Furthermore, the broader Christian community will find the issues she addresses and the contemporary scholarship she uses to be highly relevant and insightful. An essential purchase for theological and women's studies collections.-Cynthia Widmer, Downington, Pa.
Mary Deeley
Coming on the heels of the pope's latest statement on the question of women's ordination, this book is both timely and well thought out. St. Pierre looks at the arguments against ordination first and then moves through a historical overview of women in the New Testament and early church. She rightfully examines the problem of lay-clergy dualism, discusses women in the contemporary Catholic Church from a variety of perspectives, and finally asks the important question, What are the spiritual effects of excluding women from ordination? Although the historical overview can be found in many other books on the subject, this is written competently and would be a good first reading on the subject. St. Pierre's strength is in her contemporary overview, particularly in the last section, where she presents both official and "unofficial" Catholic viewpoints. The book could not be more welcome as this issue becomes increasingly a sore point for many Catholics. An excellent annotated bibliography will give direction to those interested in pursuing the topic.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780899509013
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/1/1994
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Edition description: 2nd ed
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 220

Meet the Author

Simone M. St. Pierre lives in Manitobia, Canada.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 The Ordination of Women 7
The Conclusions of the Pontifical Biblical Commission 7
The Argument in Terms of Male Representation 15
2 Women in the Ministry of Jesus 29
Jesus' Maleness 30
Women in Jesus' Ministry 36
The Twelve 45
3 The Role of Women in the Early Church 51
Can Scripture Determine Appropriate Roles for Women? 51
Women's Roles in Paul's Writings 56
Roles for Women in the Pauline Tradition 62
4 Overcoming the Lay-Clergy Dualism 71
The Lay-Clergy Distinction 72
The Official Treatment of the Laity 74
The Code of Canon Law 78
The Bishops' Synods 80
Ministry in the Church 85
5 Women in the Catholic Church 93
The Problem 94
Pastoral and Liturgical Roles for Catholic Women 105
Women's Inequalities 115
6 A Contemporary Understanding of the Ordination of Women 117
"On the Dignity and Vocation of Women on the Occasion of the Marian Year" 117
The Theology of the Ordination of Women 124
The Church's Ministry of Service 127
A "Christian" Ministry of Service 129
The Official Teaching on Vocations 134
The Spiritual Effects of Women's Exclusion from the Ministerial Priesthood 138
A Theology of Liberation from Clericalism 141
Conclusion 145
Chapter Notes 149
Appendix 173
Bibliography 177
Index 199
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