Saturday, August 26, 2006

Ratzinger on women's ordination, quoting Schüssler-Fiorenza

During my month-long vacation (which sadly ended yesterday), I have been reading Cardinal Ratzinger’s interview with Peter Seewald from 1996.

The interview has been published under the title “Salt of the Earth,” and is just an amazing read.

I stumbled upon Ratzinger’s words on women’s ordination just about the same time when eight were ordained on board a boat in Pittsburg in late July.

There Ratzinger points to an intriguing insight by a German feminist exegete, and in so doing has articulated an important meaning of priestly ordination, which the exegete claims is contrary to the aims of the feminist movement.

Here’s that bit I found particularly interesting from Ratzinger’s words:

“But I would now add a further piece of information that I find very interesting. I am now referring to the diagnosis that one of the most important Catholic feminists, Elizabeth Schüssler-Fiorenza, has given in this matter. She is a German, and important exegete, who studied exegesis in Münster, where she married an Italian-American from Fiorenza, and who now teaches in America. At first she took a vehement part in the struggle for women’s ordination, but now she says that that was a wrong goal. The experience with female priests in the Anglican Church has, she says, led to the realization that ‘ordination is not a solution; it isn’t what we wanted.’ She also explains why. She says, ‘ordination is subordination, and that’s exactly what we don’t want.’ And on this point her diagnosis is completely correct.

“To enter into an ordo always also means to enter into a relationship of subordination. But in our liberation movement, says Schüssler-Fiorenza, we don’t want to enter into an ordo, into a subordo, a ‘subordination’, but to overcome the very phenomenon itself. Our struggle, she says, therefore mustn’t aim at women’s ordination; that is precisely the wrong thing to do. Rather, it must aim at the cessation of ordination altogether and at making the Church a society of equals in which there is only a ‘shifting leadership.’

"Given the motivations behind the struggle for women’s ordination, which does in fact aim at powersharing and liberation from subordination, she has seen that correctly. But then one must really say there is a whole question behind this: What is the priesthood actually? Does the sacrament exist, or should there be only a shifting leadership in which no one is allowed access to ‘power’? I think that in this sense perhaps the discussion will also change in the near future.”

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