A Challenge to Benedict to Create an Inclusive Church

Article excerpt

While Pope Benedict XVI served in his former job as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he affirmed the Roman Catholic church's practice of gender apartheid in its selection of males-only for priesthood. A woman, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, cannot be another Christ because Christ was a male person. This teaching, promoted by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, negates the teaching of St. Paul about baptism, contradicts the example of Jesus and ignores the experience of women in priestly ministry in the early church.

In Galatians 3:28, Paul teaches the radical equality of women as images of Christ who by our baptism represent Christ. "All of you who have been baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. In Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or citizen, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus." Baptism makes women fully qualified to represent Christ. Church authorities use the metaphor of Christ as bridegroom and the church as the bride to justify an all-male priesthood. Christ did not use this image to limit the role of his female disciples. A metaphor should not be taken literally, so why does the institutional church insist that only men can represent Christ if women and men are equal images of Christ by their baptism? It makes no sense to me, and appears to be sexist.

In the Gospels, Jesus treated women and men as equals and partners. According to all four Gospels, Mary of Magdala is the only person described as being present at both the cross and the tomb. She is the first witness of the Resurrection, the woman whom early church fathers referred to as "the apostle to the apostles." The woman who anointed Jesus' head broke through societal norms and overcame false perceptions about Jesus' mission. Scholar Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, in her groundbreaking book In Memory of Her, concludes that unlike the male disciples who did not comprehend that suffering is part of the mission of Jesus, the woman who anointed Jesus' head recognized that Jesus' messiahship meant suffering and death. …