Catholics for a Changing Church

What did Pope Francis just say about women's ordination?

 Women's Ordination Conference has responded to Pope Francis' comments about women during an extended interview he gave to America magazine.   Following WOC's comments we give the relevant portion of the interview.

Kate McElwee, WOC's Executive Director writes
Yesterday, America Magazine published an interview with Pope Francis where he upheld the Catholic church’s unequal treatment of women by exploiting misogynistic metaphors to dismiss the sincerely discerned vocations of women.
When asked what he might say to a woman who serves her church and experiences a call to priesthood, Francis responded with sexist smoke and mirrors theology, an indefensible attempt to obscure women’s capacity to act in persona Christi. 
To make his point, Francis repeats the phrase: “The church is woman. The church is a spouse. Therefore, the dignity of women is mirrored in this way.” This “spousal metaphor” claims a male-female relationship between Christ and the church: By extension, only men can truly represent Christ, and therefore only men can be priests. The simplistic gendering and sexualization of one’s relationship with God and discipleship are not just a disservice to the Catholic imagination, but a tool of oppression.
Funny how it is only when women claim their authentic call to priesthood that the spousal metaphor becomes the central ecclesiology of the church.
Francis went on to claim that the exclusion of women from ministerial life is “not a deprivation,” revealing a man who does not know the depth of pain that women in his own church carry. He shows willful ignorance to the treasures that have been lost by denying the sacramental gifts of more than half its members.  
His words are infuriating - particularly when just one month ago the Vatican's synod office published an encouraging document acknowledging calls for women's ordination around the world, and the near universal cries for women in ministry.

Kerry Weber: Holy Father, as you know, women have contributed and can contribute much to the life of the church. You have appointed many women at the Vatican, which is great. Nevertheless, many women feel pain because they cannot be ordained priests. What would you say to a woman who is already serving in the life of the church, but who still feels called to be a priest?

It is a theological problem. I think that we amputate the being of the church if we consider only the way ofthe ministerial dimension (ministerialidad) of the life of the church. The way is not only [ordained] ministry. The church is woman. The church is a spouse. We have not developed a theology of women that reflects this. The ministerial dimension, we can say, is that of the Petrine church. I am using a category of theologians. The Petrine principle is that of ministry. But there is another principle that is still more important, about which we do not speak, that is the Marian principle, which is the principle of femininity (femineidad) in the church, of the woman in the church, where the church sees a mirror of herself because she is a woman and a spouse. A church with only the Petrine principle would be a church that one would think is reduced to its ministerial dimension, nothing else. But the church is more than a ministry. It is the whole people of God. The church is woman. The church is a spouse. Therefore, the dignity of women is mirrored in this way.

There is a third way: the administrative way. The ministerial way, the ecclesial way, let us say, Marian, and the administrative way, which is not a theological thing, it is something of normal administration. And, in this aspect, I believe we have to give more space to women. Here in the Vatican, the places where we have put women are functioning better. For example, in the Council for the Economy, where there are six cardinals and six laypersons. Two years ago, I appointed five women among the six laypersons, and that was a revolution. The deputy governor of the Vatican is a woman. When a woman enters politics or manages things, generally she does better. Many economists are women, and they are renewing the economy in a constructive way.

So there are three principles, two theological and one administrative. The Petrine principle, which is the ministerial dimension, but the church cannot function only with that one. The Marian principle, which is that of the spousal church, the church as spouse, the church as woman. And the administrative principle, which is not theological, but is rather that of administration, about what one does.

And why can a woman not enter ordained ministry? It is because the Petrine principle has no place for that. Yes, one has to be in the Marian principle, which is more important. Woman is more, she looks more like the church, which is mother and spouse. I believe that we have too often failed in our catechesis when explaining these things. We have relied too much on the administrative principle to explain it, which in the long term does not work.

This is an abbreviated explanation, but I wanted to highlight the two theological principles; the Petrine principle and the Marian principle that make up the church. Therefore, that the woman does not enter into the ministerial life is not a deprivation. No. Your place is that which is much more important and which we have yet to develop, the catechesis about women in the way of the Marian principle.

And on this, about the charism of women, allow me [to share] a personal experience. To ordain a priest one asks for information from persons who know the candidate. The best information that I have received, the right information, was either from my brother coadjutor [bishops], or brother laypersons who are not priests, or from women. They have a nose (olfato), an ecclesial sense to see if this man is or is not suitable for the priesthood.

Another anecdote: once I asked for information about a very bright candidate for the priesthood. I asked his professors, companions and also the people in the parish where he went. And [the latter] gave me a very negative report, written by a woman, saying, “He is a danger, this young man won’t work out.” So, I phoned her and said, “Why do you say that?” And she said: “I don’t know why, but if he were my son, I would not let him be ordained; he is lacking something.” So I followed her advice and said to the candidate, “Look, this year you won’t be ordained. Let’s wait.” Three months later this man had a crisis and left. The woman is a mother and sees the mystery of the church more clearly than we men. For this reason, the advice of a woman is very important, and the decision of a woman is better.