Why is women’s access to the priesthood impossible?
The argument most immediately put forward is that Jesus was a man, in the masculine sense. However, to plead this reason mistreats theology a little! For what we call the Incarnation is the entry of God into our humanity. In Jesus, God endorses our humanity, with all its limitations and weaknesses. This is the reality that the faith confesses and that Christian generations have meditated on without ever worrying until today about the masculinity of Jesus. The huge surprise is that Jesus took on the human condition, which is our shared identity, whether we are male or female.
Why does the subject of women’s access to the priesthood seem like a trap to you?
This claim implies that the ministerial priesthood constitutes the ne plus ultra of the Christian condition. To be a priest would represent a kind of superclassing of baptism, which would make the priest a holder par excellence of authority and power. But this view is quite questionable. The first Church, which did not know a priest in the current sense of the word, thought of itself as a brotherhood of the baptized. It was lived as a whole called to holiness, within which tasks were distributed in the service of the harmonious life of the community. Asking for the accession of women to the priesthood amounts to reinforcing a problematic conception of the presbyteral priesthood, instead of working to restore it to more evangelical truth.
Is women’s access to the diaconate possible?
A lay ordained deacon receives a triple mission, which concerns the service of the word, of the liturgy, of charity. In fact, women already ensure what makes this substance of the diaconate. Today, this state of affairs needs to be recognized and to receive the confirmation of an institutional recognition, the support of a sacramental grace, which is the justification that the Second Vatican Council gave to the diaconal ordination of lay men . Obviously a female diaconate would equalize a little better the Christian life lived in male and female, it would give a more balanced face, more equal, more just to the Christian community. But the fact is that, for years, we have been trampling on the subject.
For what reasons ?
Behind the theological arguments, I see above all the expression of fears concerning the presbyteral priesthood whose male exclusivity would be threatened. While the great criterion at the principle of the decision should be concern for the communities, the reality of their needs and their resources at the service of the transmission of the faith and the exercise of the mission. Everything else is, in my eyes, a tension on powers, far from the audacious freedom that characterizes the practice of Christ in the Gospels.
What other means could enable greater access of women to governance in the Church? Could there be female cardinals for example?
A priori, the cardinalate does not presuppose the priesthood or the episcopate. Lay people, like Jacques Maritain, were solicited in the last century. The great Dominican theologian Yves Congar was made a cardinal by John Paul II in 1994 without prior episcopal ordination. But there are other avenues for the association of women in the governance of the Church. They could join the various councils which, at the different hierarchical levels, from the parish to the council of the pope, regulate the life of the institution. We dream that women will make these places benefit from their expertise, that they take part in decision-making without seeing themselves confined to the register of deliberation.