Could God be a woman

Why is there no priesthood for women?

Sister Theresia, the discussion about more equality for women in the Catholic Church is continuing. Does the Catholic Church have a problem with equality?

Sr. Theresia Mende OP: Certainly women have the same intellectual abilities as men. Equal rights are an intrinsic value of Christianity that I wouldn't want to miss - unfortunately, in many countries around the world, women still don't have equal rights today. I have never felt disadvantaged or not taken seriously in the church because of being a woman. Perhaps it is important to understand that equality has nothing to do with egalitarianism and that it is not fair or useful to lump everyone together. For example, people in wheelchairs have the same rights as those who can walk. But they cannot use the stairs, for example. If you were to ask for that, it would be "equalization" that serves no one. Transferred this means: The woman has the same dignity as the man, and yet, according to their biological differences, both cannot be switched in the same way. Women have always set important impulses in the church and worked alongside men on an equal footing - from Our Lady to executives in the ordinariats, from abbesses to professors, from pastoral officers to volunteers. There are many famous women who have brought unbelievable enrichment to the church: courage for new beginnings, spiritual depth and breadth, even political changes, we think of Hildegard von Bingen, Birgitta of Sweden, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila or in our time: Edith Stein, Mother Teresa, Madeleine Delbrêl. Yet none of them were priestesses.

You are a religious, so you followed your call to consecrated life. The women of "Maria 2.0" now want to pursue their vocation as ordained deaconess and / or priestess - how do you see that?

Sr. Theresia Mende OP: The calling of women in the church runs along two broad lines, so to speak. First of all, there is the fundamental vocation of women - as well as of men, by the way - to marriage and connected with this is the unique privilege of women to be a mother. Then there is also the special vocation of women to a consecrated life in an order, a secular institute or as a Virgo Consecrata.

As a member of one as well as the other class, most women exercise a profession or an honorary position in society and / or the church. It can look very diverse. I myself have been living in the Dominican Order for many years - until today with joy and in the certainty that this is my calling. That means that God wants me right there. However, I do not feel a "vocation" to the sacramental deacon or priesthood. I am also convinced that such a calling does not exist at all.

Why shouldn't there be a vocation for women to the priesthood or deacon office?

Sr. Theresia Mende OP: Appeal includes natural requirements on the part of the appointee. So God does not call against my nature and talent. Grace presupposes nature, say great theologians of the Middle Ages like St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas Aquinas. However, fundamental constitutions such as being a woman or a man belong to human nature. When the church now says that the ordination office is reserved for men, it is obviously assuming that there is no woman vocation to the ordination office.

The church could change that - the church should reform itself, they say. So if women have the same dignity and abilities as men, why, Mister Auxiliary Bishop, are they denied priestly and deacon ordination?

Auxiliary Bishop Florian Wörner: This question can be answered clearly. The ordination office goes back to Jesus himself. Jesus is the ultimate high priest. During his lifetime he called and sent the twelve apostles and 72 disciples to preach the gospel and heal the sick. In his circle of disciples there were also women who were with him during his public ministry. We even know some of them by name: Maria von Magdala, Johanna, the wife of Chuzas, Susanna and many others.

But none of these women called Jesus into the circle of the twelve apostles, not even his mother Mary, who was so closely connected with him and his mission. And only to these apostles - after the death of Judas there were initially only eleven - after his resurrection Jesus gave his priestly authority to preach, to administer the sacraments and to lead. The Gospels testify to this unanimously (cf. Mt 28: 16-20; Mk 16: 14-18; Jn 20: 19-23). After the ascension they should exercise the priesthood of Jesus in his place - the church says: "in persona Christi" - in the world.

The early church remained true to this behavior of Jesus. The apostles did not elect Mary but Matthias to the college of apostles in order to close the gap that Judas had left behind (Acts 1.15ff.). At Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended on everyone gathered in the Upper Room, apostles, disciples and women, and yet it was only Peter and the eleven who came out and told the people what had happened (Acts 2:14). Although there were priestesses as a matter of course in the Greco-Roman world, the Church remained faithful to Jesus' conduct in the following decades and centuries and continued to ordain only men as priests and deacons.

But there are 2000 years between Jesus and us today. Hasn't the development of the image of women and the role of women in society and the church continued? When the Church appeals to Jesus to deny the ordination offices for women, does not the Church live backward?

Auxiliary Bishop Florian Wörner: The role of women has of course changed over the course of 2000 years. Equal rights and emancipation have advanced. Thank God! It was precisely the Church that made an essential contribution to this progress. For example, the women's orders took on the education of girls long before the state and fought it through against the resistance of the state. Nevertheless, the Church is convinced that she must remain true to the example and guidelines of Jesus with regard to the ordination office.

Why is that? The Church has evolved on other issues as well.

Auxiliary Bishop Florian Wörner: Well, the church is a foundation of Jesus Christ and not a purely sociological entity. It is true that the church, like society or the secular state, has developed sociologically. B. towards a more democratic way of thinking or more equality between men and women - at least in the western world. Yet it remains a fact that the church is essentially structured differently from the state. It is donated by Jesus Christ, and the will of the donor alone is the norm for a foundation. It specifies goal, purpose, direction and structure, which means that despite all modern developments, the basic structure of the church is given by Jesus Christ and is therefore not negotiable. Among other things, it includes the office structure and thus also the ordination office for men.

And does this office structure really only allow men as recipients of the ordination office? Jesus showed the greatest respect for women. For example, after his resurrection he was the first person to meet a woman, Mary Magdalene, and even sent her as a witness to the apostles.

Auxiliary Bishop Florian Wörner: Yes, that's true. Yet Jesus first appeared to her not because she was a woman, but because she was a great lover. Love had driven this woman to overcome all fear and go to the grave of the crucified, even though it was dangerous. The apostles obviously did not have that courage. Love and loyalty, courage, standing by Jesus even in times of crisis and danger, that was what brought Mary Magdalene to the great esteem of Jesus.

Sr. Theresia, I also wonder whether the ordination office for men was not simply due to the then male-dominated society. Perhaps Jesus could not do otherwise in his time and would now, under different circumstances, also become women apostles, i.e. H. Priestesses, called.

Sr. Theresia Mende OP: No, I don't believe that Jesus would call women to be priestesses today. From his conduct, as handed down in the New Testament, it can be deduced fairly clearly that he did not simply follow the conventions of his time in calling and empowering the twelve apostles, but must have had deeper, objective reasons.

Can you "prove" that from the New Testament?

Sr. Theresia Mende OP: First of all, it can be seen in the New Testament that Jesus completely and in an almost revolutionary way broke with the conventions of his time in his dealings with women: To the amazement of his apostles, he speaks publicly with the Samaritan woman against every custom Jacob's well (cf. Jn 4).

Or he disregards the Purity Laws and lets himself be touched by a blood-ridden woman (Mt 9: 20-22) and even by a well-known sinner in the house of the Pharisee Simon (Lk 7.37ff).

Or he expressly distances himself from the law of Moses and protects the woman from arbitrary release from marriage (Mt 19: 3-9; Mk 10: 2-11).

Or he allows himself to be accompanied not only by the apostles and disciples, but also by women during his traveling sermons, which violates the good custom that women have to stay at home (Lk 8: 2-3).

Or he sent Mary Magdalene to the apostles as a witness of the resurrection, although the testimony of a woman had no legal significance in Jewish society (Jn 20: 17f.).

We see: Jesus was brave enough, contrary to the conventions of his time, to show women great dignity and respect and to involve them in his saving work. If he nevertheless did not call them to the circle of the twelve, that is, did not give them the apostleship from which the sacramental ordination office arose, then that must have a deeper meaning.

And what should this deeper meaning be? Auxiliary Bishop, isn't that just an excuse or a justification for men who do not want to give up power?

Auxiliary Bishop Florian Wörner: There is certainly also a striving for power in the Church, both among men and women. Striving for power is always a deeply unchristian behavior. The apostle office and the consecration office that follows from it is a ministry office, entirely in the sense of the washing of feet on Maundy Thursday. And in Mk 9:35 Jesus says to his apostles: "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and the servant of all."

We deacons, priests, and bishops must keep reminding ourselves of this. Yet Jesus only called twelve men to the apostleship, and there is a deeper reason for this. This is related to the sacramental character of the ordination office: every priest, every bishop and also the Pope represents Jesus Christ when he exercises his office.

What do you mean by "the priests represent Jesus Christ"?

Auxiliary Bishop Florian Wörner: When a priest gives a sacrament, Jesus Christ himself acts through him. That is the teaching of the church. This vicarious act of the priest culminates in the celebration of the Eucharist. The priest does it not only in the authority of the authority conferred on him by Jesus Christ, but directly "in persona Christi", i.e. he takes the place of Jesus Christ when he speaks the words of change: "This is my body ...". He lends his voice to the Lord and speaks to the "I" of the Lord.

The same applies to the sacrament of penance when the priest says: "I will absolve you of your sins ...". Here it becomes clear that Jesus really speaks and acts through the priest. The same applies to the other sacraments, which are not just symbols but visible signs of God's invisible saving action in us and in us. This shows us that the ordination itself is sacramental in nature. A priest or bishop, when he administers the sacraments, is a visible sign of the invisibly present and acting Christ.

So suppose a priest is supposed to be a man because Jesus was a man. Probably 2000 years ago God could only become human as a man. A woman wouldn't have had a chance back then.

Auxiliary Bishop Florian Wörner: The fact that God became human in the man Jesus Christ is simply a fact that we have to accept. We cannot understand God and his plan of salvation with us humans down to the last reason. But one thing is certain: the office of priest or bishop is not entrusted to a person for his own benefit or honor, but for the service of God and the Church. It is based on a completely undeserved calling, which on the one hand is wonderful and yet on the other hand involves a heavy and serious responsibility. Only those whom God calls can live up to this responsibility.

Many priests do not meet these high standards.

Auxiliary Bishop Florian Wörner: All of us, including and especially us priests, have to work on ourselves every day, ask about God's will and place it at the center of our lives. In short: renewal is always the order of the day. It always starts with myself. Sometimes that is also uncomfortable. That is why one can ask the question of what is perhaps justified in the women's protest. Nevertheless, we Christians are all called upon to adhere to God's guidelines, and that includes the fact that Jesus only called men to the apostleship. With regard to the office of priest and bishop, it must never be about power or about wishes that are not "covered" by our Lord Jesus Christ.

The whole discussion about the demands of women around "Maria 2.0" shows me: To be a priest or bishop means to serve. Jesus washed the disciples' feet on Maundy Thursday to show us what the charism of a priest and bishop must first be: serve and love.

That's all well and good: priesthood as ministry - but why isn't there also for women? You can also serve. The equality of men and women is a fundamental right or human right, and the refusal of the ordination office for women is thus a violation of the fundamental rights of women.

Sr. Theresia Mende OP: Basic rights or human rights are creation rights, i. H. Rights anchored in the order of creation as prescribed by God, which serve man to achieve his eternal goal. People must not deny one another such rights. And these human rights do indeed include the equal dignity of men and women.

The Christian priesthood, however, does not follow from the order of creation. It has nothing to do with supernatural equality of opportunity for man with regard to his eternal goal. Anyone who thinks this way assumes an understanding of the priesthood, according to which it is a profession that the institution of the church offers and, according to the law of equal opportunities, has to be granted to everyone who has the necessary training conditions.

But what else is the priesthood?

Sr. Theresia Mende OP: The priesthood is a sacrament. A sacrament is not simply a profession like that of pastoral consultant or sacristan, which the church can set up or change itself. Rather, the priesthood as a sacrament is beyond the control of the church; it is practically opposed to it because, like all sacraments, it is instituted by God himself and established within the church.

Thus it is also clear that it is God himself who calls the individual into this office and defines the structure of the office. Although the priesthood serves to build up the church, it is nevertheless not part of its maneuvering mass, since it is a divine foundation.

Specifically, this means: God or Jesus gave the church the priesthood for its sanctification and edification and at the same time specified the structure of this office. It is also - and not the Church - who calls individual people into this office.

If Jesus has now called twelve men to be apostles - even though Jesus otherwise clearly disregarded the conventions of his time in dealing with women - then it is reasonable to assume that Jesus wanted it that way. The church feels bound by the will of Jesus. She does not have the authority to override him and act differently from Jesus.

But do you see any positive meaning behind the so-called "will" of Jesus? Simply bowing to a given structure is difficult for us humans today.

Sr. Theresia Mende OP: It has a deeper meaning that Jesus reserved the ordination office for men, even a very deep and beautiful meaning. I would like to explain a little more about this: The key to understanding lies in what a sacrament actually is. A sacrament represents or makes present a hidden divine reality in visible signs. In the Old Testament, Israel, the people of God, was pictorially referred to as the "bride" or "wife" of God - as in the books of the prophets Hosea and Jeremiah. In the New Testament the church is described as the "bride of Christ".These images are intended to express that the relationship between God and man is an intimate love relationship, like that between bride and groom or wife and husband. But such terms are only images that want to help us better understand the relationship between God and man.

The sacramental priesthood, on the other hand, goes an essential step further. It is not just a picture, but represents and / or makes present in a very real way this mysterious reality, namely that God and man, Jesus and his Church, are forever and inseparably connected to one another in love. In short, the priest really represents Jesus Christ, especially when celebrating the Eucharist, as if he were standing before us at that moment.

Auxiliary Bishop, if so, what do you recommend to the believers at this difficult time? How should it go on?

Auxiliary Bishop Florian Wörner: Two things seem important to me. We should first try to understand better what the sacramental structure of the Church and the priesthood mean. Then we should all, whether man or woman, each sincerely ask about his calling in the Church, about the place that God has given him in the whole of this divine order. Where can I stand to live this inextinguishable love between God and man and to make it visible? How can I - like the little church in Jerusalem back then - inspire others about Jesus and faith in him, about the hope of the infinite mercy and love of God? How can I live authentically as a Christian?

It's not about power, about reputation, about a position, but about love. It is not about switching everyone equally in a questionable endeavor to equalize, which the sacrament interprets as a career. Rather, in spite of all appearances, it is about the right of women to be themselves in the larger whole of the togetherness of God and man. Jesus emphasized women and showed them appreciation like no one before, because women, unlike us men, have their own size, their own peculiarities and their own dignity.