Can woman serve as pastor or ordained priest?


Can woman serve as pastor or ordained priest?


In Kashmir Shaivism, Reality is structured although it is non-dual. There are Shiva and Shakti, the god and the goddess. The two are complementary; one is related to the other; one is in the other; neither exists without the other. They are complementary, energy and stillness both at once. They are not monistic but non-dual.

 This complementarity is found elsewhere. The relationship of Yin and Yang is but one of them. It is found especially in the relationship of male and female: one is not the other; one is not without the other; one is for the other; one is in the other.

 Women have long been disempowered; or rather the power of women has not been recognized. The inordinate stress on organization, intellect, planning, productivity, and law, has meant that the role of women has been either ignored or eliminated. This is making life unbearable. The mutually enhancing roles of men and women need to be brought to the fore.

I think this idea of complementarity can be applied to the relationship of Word and Spirit in the Christian tradition. The Word is inspired or else it is just talk. In a legalistic Church, the only thing that counts is the law, and this is self-defeating. Only when the Word is inspired, only when Spirit and Word are united, does the Word really become effective, and therefore really become the Word. The Spirit gives power to the Word which otherwise remains fruitless. Again, only when the Spirit inspires is it really Spirit. When they are in right relationship, the First Person of the Trinity is made manifest; the heavens open and God is seen.

The primal complementarity is male and female. Surely this complementarity should be seen visibly in the Church. Since the role of the priesthood has been understood one-sidedly – there is a long history to this, exacerbated by the Reformation – it is felt that the only real power in the Church is found in the priesthood. Is this one reason why women, who feel disempowered, wish to become priests? It is certainly not the only one, but it is worth considering. Will the loss of complementarity result in monotonous uniformity?

There are many more considerations in this complex topic. No one, and that includes me!, has any quick answer. Therefore, there will be no change for a long time. The Catholic Church, which moves slowly but surely, will wait to see the results of the ordination of women. Its caution may be proven wise in the long run.

About interfaithashram

Rev. Dr. John Dupuche is a Roman Catholic Priest, a senior lecturer at MCD University of Divinity, and Honorary Fellow at Australian Catholic University. His doctorate is in Sanskrit in the field of Kashmir Shaivism. He is chair of the Catholic Interfaith Committee of the Archdiocese of Melbourne and has established a pastoral relationship with the parishes of Lilydale and Healesville. He is the author of 'Abhinavagupta: the Kula Ritual as elaborated in chapter 29 of the Tantraloka', 2003; 'Jesus, the Mantra of God', 2005; 'Vers un tantra chrétien' in 2009; translated as 'Towards a Christian Tantra' in 2009. He has written many articles. He travels to India each year. He lives in an interfaith ashram.
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2 Responses to Can woman serve as pastor or ordained priest?

  1. Yes, indeed. I think that there is a special connection between the male and sacrifice, for lots of reasons. While women also sacrifice themselves (as all Christians are supposed to do) men are formally called (as in St Paul Eph 5) to sacrifice themselves. With the elimination of the notion that the Mass is identically the sacrifice of Calvary, the sacrificial element was essentially removed fro the liturgical event. It became just a commemoration, not an anamnesis. There was, therefore, no theological reason to deny women the role of ‘priest’. There was confusion of priest and pastor. There are many thoughts akng these lines. John



  2. Schütz says:

    Keep working on this one, John – I was hoping for a longer post, and sorry to find when i scrolled down that you stopped following your line of reasoning – stopped short!

    You rightly say that “The primal complementarity is male and female”. This complementarity is key. You also rightly reflect that “this complementarity should be seen visibly in the Church”. There is a huge matrix here: male and female, image of God, ikon of God, the body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, the Nuptial Feast etc. All this should be visible because the body of Christ is not invisible!

    But you are also surely right to say that the problem has arisen because of a “one-sided” understanding of priesthood – or even of vocation and service – in the Church, and I think you are also right to see this as “exacerbated by the Reformation” which reduced all forms of ministry and vocation to the one single form of the pastor of the congregation such that “the only real power in the Church is found in the priesthood”.

    (It should be further reflected on that the Protestant reformation generally reduced the priesthood to a “ministry of the Word”. I think this is significant. Even when the phrase was “the ministry of the word and sacraments”, it was still a largely non-cultic, noetic, authoritarian form of ministry).

    Naturally then, this is “one reason why women, who feel disempowered, wish to become priests”. I am sure that in the history of the Church there have been not a few *men* who have had the exactly the same motivation for their “vocation”!

    But is the ordination of women as well as men the solution to either this “dis-empowerment” or the lack of visible complementarity of the male-female image of God in the Church? You mention “monotonous uniformity”. I certainly see this as the result of the current “gender ideology” common today. Rather than “LGBTIQ” etc. resulting in a “rainbow”, do we not rather end up with the colour you get when you mix all the paints together – precisely the unattractive monotony you suggest, where no-one is distinguished or can be distinguished from anyone else?

    So it seems to me this is what we are doing with ministries in the church when we ordain women to the priesthood: we seek to make women into men, along the line of the verse from the Gospel of St Thomas “woman can only be saved if she becomes a man”? Is this recognising the true diversity of the giftedness of the human body and the “primal complementarity”?

    As you say, “There are many more considerations in this complex topic”. And I think I will stop short at this point too!


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