Mother Pelican
A Journal of Sustainable Human Development

Vol. 7, No. 8, August 2011
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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Status of Gender Equality in Religion


This supplement is a digest of recent events and significant contributions to fostering gender equality - and human development - in various secular cultures and institutions. It is acknowledged that the distinction between the secular and religious dimensions is an artificial one, often blurred in real life situations. In those cases, if the material is predominantly secular it is included here; else it is included in Supplement 5. The selected items are the editor's choice. Suggestions by readers are welcomed. Reporting on good role models is a high priority. The following sections are included this month:

1. The Religious Roots of Gender Violence
2. The Status of Women in the Bible and in Early Christianity
3. Chronology of Women in Roles of Religious Authority
4. Review of "The Lost Moonflower" by Isaac Karoor
5. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Islam
6. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Buddhism
7. Encounter in the Garden (Jesus and Mary Magdalene)
8. María López Vigil in Central America
9. Women's full participation in the Church

The promotion of gender equality in religion is a slow and painful process, and it is barely beginning to unfold worldwide. But it is a dynamic process, one in which progress begets progress. It is important to stay tuned to relevant news coming from all world regions and all world religions. The Google News box displayed to the right may be helpful. Readers can enhance their web sites with their own version of this box, which is continuously refreshed as significant events are reported, by going to Google News, clicking on "Add a section," and follow simple instructions under "Create a custom section." This is a free service, but you must register in order to use the customization tool.

If you know about recent developments that should be mentioned in this page, please write to the Editor.

1. The Religious Roots of Gender Violence

Source: The Religious Consultation
Violence Against Women
in Contemporary World Religion:
Roots And Cures

Daniel C. Maguire
Professor of Moral Theology & Ethics, Marquette University, and President, The Religious Consultation On Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics

Note: The following is quoted (with permission) from the Introduction to Violence Against Women in Contemporary World Religion: Roots And Cures, Daniel C. Maguire and Sa'Diyya Shaikh (Editors), Pilgrim Press, 2007, 248 pages.

Excerpts from Chapter 1, by Christine E. Gudorf, pages 25-26:

"In many areas of the world, the earliest known texts are sacred texts. This makes sense, in that writing was a specialized feat usually limited to a specific group, who were often priests/scholars. The development of sacred texts proved to be perhaps the most devastating weapon involved in the historic violence against women, because as texts became more and more central to religion, it became an easy matter to restrict the texts to men, which meant that men became became the experts in the texts, not only the sole interpreters of sacred texts, but the only authors or redactors of those sacred texts that continued to appear...

"In Islam, Khadija, the first wife of Mohammed, was the first to believe in his revelations, and Aisha, the youngest of Mohammed's wives, was responsible for contributing many of the hadith concerning the words and deeds of the Prophet, yet women in successive generations until very recently have been excluded from studying sacred texts. Mary Magdalene was not only a disciple of Jesus but also the first witness and first preacher of the resurrection as well as a great missionary, yet Catholic women are still today excluded from ordained ministry, and thus from all decision making in the Catholic Church, since governance is restricted to the ordained. In many Buddhist nations, the lack of a female sangha has a similar effect on women. It is no accident that many monks, women activists, and commentators in Thailand today connect the lack of a female sangha with the prevalence of prostitution and sex tourism in that nation. They argue not only that the lack of female sangha degrades the worth of women, supporting the selling of daughters into prostitution, but also that the lack of public support for convents of Buddhist nuns denies poor families whose sons receive education in monasteries the ability to educate daughters, and denies unmarried daughters the refuges that are available for "excess" sons in Thailand.

"Across the traditions, the sacred texts from which women have been largely excluded treat violence against women more or less cavalierly. Anantanand Rambachan [A Hindu Perspective, pages 20-21] treats examples of Hindu texts, such as Tulsida's Ramcharitmanas, which includes not only extended denigration of women, but even lumps women together with "drums, rustics, animals, and members of the lowest caste and all of these are described as objects that are fit to be beaten."

Check this out: Violence Against Women, Catherine of Siena Virtual College, 2011.

2. The Status of Women in the Bible and in Early Christianity

Women of the Bible
Bible Gateway

Review of
"The Status of Women in the Bible
and in Early Christianity"

B. A. Robinson
Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance

This web site offers an excellent synopsis (with passage quotations, annotated citations, and links to other web sites) about the status of women in the Bible and in early Christianity. It is structured as follows:

NB: By following these lists of biblical and post-biblical statements, the reader is able to verify the descriptive versus prescriptive passages about women, and the significant discontinuities that must be researched, as pointed out by Daniel Maguire in Section 1.

Another good resource: Religion and Women, Catherine of Siena Virtual College, 2010.

3. Chronology of Women in Roles of Religious Authority

The following is adapted from Ordination and Ordination of Women, Wikipedia.


"In general religious use, ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, that is, set apart as clergy to perform various religious rites and ceremonies. The process and ceremonies of ordination itself varies by religion and denomination. One who is in preparation for, or who is undergoing the process of, ordination is sometimes called an ordinand. The liturgy used at an ordination is sometimes referred to as an ordinal.

Ordination of Women

"Ordination in general religious usage is the process by which a person is consecrated (set apart for the administration of various religious rites). The ordination of women is a regular practice among some major religious groups, as it was of several religions of antiquity, but remains a controversial issue in religions or denominations in which the rite of ordination, or the role that an ordained person fulfills, has traditionally been restricted to men, either because of cultural prohibition, theological doctrine, or both.

For a chronology of the ordination of women in various religious traditions, click here.

To get a historical perspective on the historical trend about women ordained to serve in roles of religious authority, the entries in the chronology were grouped into seven time windows: before 1800, 1801 to 1850, 1851 to 1900, 1901 to 1950, 1951 to 2000, 2001 to 2011 (end of data), and 2012 to 2050. The cumulative value by 2050 is estimated by simple linear extrapolation: the 2001-2011 data (one decade, 224-151=73 events) is multiplied by five (73x5=365) and added to the total up to the year 2000 (151+365=516). The cumulatives over time are plotted in the following histogram:

As the old saying goes, "God writes straight with crooked lines." With regard to women in ordained ministry (i.e., women in roles of religious authority) it would seem that God is writing with an exponential line. This in spite of stiff resistance by some of the major religious traditions such as Roman Catholic Christianity, Orthodox Christianity, Conservative Judaism, and Islam. This resistance (exemplified by Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis on reserving priestly ordination to men alone, dated 22 May 1994), no matter how well intended, is a severe obstacle to human development and has been shown to be theologically baseless. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly hard to think that the continued exclusion of women from ordained ministries is in accordance with divine will.

Additional resources:

4. Review of "The Lost Moonflower" by Isaac Karoor

Review of

The Lost Moonflower

A historical novel about Phoebe,
deacon of the church in Cenchrae,
late 1st century CE

By Isaac Karoor

Book Web Site         Book Flyer

Set against the back drop of the emergence of Christianity as a major world religion, the story follows the tragic love affair between Luke and Phoebe, whose lives would shape the world for generations to come.

The Story: "In the first century A.D., in the dawning of the Christian world, a young Greek named Luke seeks to prove his worth to his betrothed - Phoebe, the only daughter of a rich magistrate from Philippi - and sets out on a journey to Rome. He takes with him scrolls of papyrus given to him by Phoebe to make a journal of his travels.

"During his journey to Rome, Luke encounters a new sect of Christians who spread the word of Jesus by doing great humanitarian works in His name. Unlike his faith, these Christians accept everyone equally and encourage women to accept leadership roles.

"He discovers women are important members of the new sect, called "The Way," in large part because the initial gatherings were held in private homes and not in churches or synagogues. Since women hosted these gatherings, it was only natural that they be church leaders.

"Luke was drawn to the new sect in part because of his fiancée, Phoebe, who was not satisfied with the confining role of women in her world.

"Luke arrives in Rome and is stuck by the violence and cruelty of the gladiator games. He ends up giving medical aid to an injured gladiator, the brother of a follower of the New Way and through him discovers a remedy for the violence that he has seen.

"Eventually, Luke gains employment as an assistant physician in the imperial palace and there he is tempted by his boss' daughter Diana. An accomplished artist, Luke paints a detailed portrait of her but in the end he resists the temptations, vowing himself to his one true love, Phoebe. Later even the emperor Claudius' wife Messalina tries to endear herself to Luke but when he resists her charms, she vows revenge on him for the humiliation of rejection.

"All around Rome, the world is rapidly changing as the conflict between Jews and Romans spill out into the streets, prompting Claudius to expel all Jews from Rome, even those of the new sect of Christians. Being a new follower, Luke is forced out of the city. In the confusion, Messalina's greed turns Claudius against her and she is put to death as a traitor. The Emperor decrees that any man who shared her bed to be sentenced to his wife's fate. Luckily for Luke, his expulsion from Rome protected him from being arrested and put to death.

"Luke sets off for home and along the road meets Paul, an Apostle of Jesus and invites him to come to Greece. The two then travel together to Philippi.

"Back home, Phoebe hears of Luke's sentence of death and not knowing his fate, she consults the Oracle of Delphi. As fate would have it, Luke arrives not long after Phoebe leaves and the two barely miss each other and Luke follows her to the Oracle.

"Phoebe's experience at the temple is thrown into chaos when Luke arrives and the medium shrieks – claiming she had a vision of Luke believing and serving one God. Phoebe and Luke try to make sense of their newfound faith and the idea that it encourages favorable treatment of women.

"Because of his beliefs, Paul is put on trial by Phoebe's father and despite this, Luke and Phoebe are secretly married in a private ceremony. On his wedding night, however, Luke is arrested and put on trial for entering Delphi. During the trial, Diana appears and shows Phoebe the portrait Luke painted of her. Phoebe rejects Luke and seeks counsel with Paul, who tells her to find her place in the new movement.

"Phoebe finds more than that and becomes a leading deacon in the new movement and eventually is to be sent to Rome as Paul's pilot. She is not accepted by everyone as the evil Nimrod opposes the involvement of women in religious matters. In his rage, Nimrod rapes and murders Phoebe, destroying the exulted role of women in the Church at the same time.

"The story ends where it begins, with Luke looking out over the Harbor of Neapolis where, as a recent graduate, he recalls the gift of a moonflower given to him by Phoebe. That moonflower – which opens at dusk and closes before the break of dawn – sits behind Luke now as he contemplates his future and future of the moment, and of the tragic loss of his great love.

"A gripping story that sets a tragic love story against the epic events of history, The Lost Moonflower is a journey about love, loss, betrayal and most of all, faith. A cautionary tale of our cruelty and unfairness, it is all an important story for our times and one that might – like Luke and Phoebe – once again change the course of human events."

Book Review: This novel is about Phoebe, a female deacon in one of the Pauline churches in the early years of Christianity. But it is also about one of the crucial issues in Christian churches today: whether or not women should be ordained to the diaconate, the priesthood, and the episcopate. It is a controversial issue today, as it was when Phoebe was serving the church in Cenchrae (the seaport of Corinth in Greece, late first century CE). Romans 16:1 and Acts 18:18 are at the center of the story, which nevertheless manages to integrate many texts of the New Testament into a tapestry of unlimited divine grace working through humans with limited minds and hearts. Many Protestant churches have gone through the turmoil of ordaining women, and some are still paying the price of internal tensions and bitter debates; patriarchy has a long tail. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches still refuse to consider the issue for reasons that only God can judge but surely have nothing to do with divine revelation. Would Jesus today, in our newly "globalized" world, choose to elect twelve male apostles to represent the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel?

The history of Christianity (as documented, for example, in the monumental Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, by Diarmaid MacCulloch, Viking Press, 2010) is a progression toward deeper understanding of Jesus and his mission (Cf. John 16:12-13), but always in the midst of tensions, misunderstandings and other problems arising from the limitations of the human condition. Patriarchy preceded all the religious traditions that still exist today, and corrupted them all from the very beginning; a corruption that is nowhere more evident than in the Gospels and, in particular, the accounts of how Jesus was crucified by the Romans, at the instigation of the local religious authorities, after a life spent doing good to others and proclaiming God's mercy. The Lost Moonflower is an engaging novel and one that admirably reflects the inner tensions experienced by the early Christian communities; tensions that will continue to challenge the Christian churches as long as they are pilgrims in this world.

The Lost Moonflower could be a source of meditation about the current process of discerning God's will regarding the ordination of women. The Greek Orthodox Church has recently reinstated the ordination of women to the diaconate, albeit only in a very limited way. The Roman Catholic church has not ruled out women deacons, but is not visibly moving forward either. For more information on the cultural and religious issues lurking underneath The Lost Moonflower story, visit the book's web site and check the links to articles on women and their roles as deacons. Given the enormous influence of religion in human affairs, the continued exclusion of women from roles of religious authority is bound to reflect negatively on sustainable human development. If God loves humanity, can this possibly be God's will?

5. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Islam

Islamic Symbol
Courtesy of Wikipedia
The study of women in Islam investigates the role of women within the religion of Islam. The complex relationship between women and Islam is defined by both Islamic texts and the history and culture of the Muslim world. The Qur'an makes it clear that men and women are equal, however the Qu'ran states in 4:34, "Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient and guard in the husband's absence what Allah orders them to guard." Although the Quran does say this, the superiority of men is interpreted in terms of strength by the context - men maintain women. This verse however refers to a relationship between a husband and wife, not as a society in whole.

Sharia (Islamic law) provides for complementarianism, differences between women's and men's roles, rights, and obligations. However neither the Quran nor Hadith mention women have to cook or clean. Majority Muslim countries give women varying degrees of rights with regards to marriage, divorce, civil rights, legal status, dress code, and education based on different interpretations. Scholars and other commentators vary as to whether they are just and whether they are a correct interpretation of religious imperatives.

To continue reading the Wikipedia article, click here.

Some additional references:

  • The Women of Islam, Lisa Beyer, Time Magazine, 25 November 2001.
  • Mauritanian Islamic leaders ban genital mutilation, Mohamed Abdel Wedoud, Magharebia, 15 January 2010.
  • Women in Islam, Catherine of Siena Virtual College, 2010.
  • Gender Equity in Islam (Foundations of Spiritual and Human Equity), Jamal Badawi, Islam Online, 29 March 2011.
  • Gender Equity in Islam (The Economic Aspect), Jamal Badawi, Islam Online, 30 March 2011.
  • Gender Equity in Islam (The Social Aspect), Jamal Badawi, Islam Online, 4 April 2011.
  • Gender Equity in Islam (The Legal/Political Aspect), Jamal Badawi, Islam Online, 7 April 2011.
  • 6. Women and Religious Gender Roles in Buddhism

    Dharma Wheel
    Courtesy of Wikipedia
    "Women in Buddhism is a topic that can be approached from varied perspectives including those of theology, history, anthropology and feminism. Topical interests include the theological status of women, the treatment of women in Buddhist societies at home and in public, the history of women in Buddhism, and a comparison of the experiences of women across different forms of Buddhism. As in other religions, the experiences of Buddhist women have varied considerably.

    "The founder of the religion, Gautama Buddha, permitted women to join his monastic community and fully participate in it, although there were certain provisos or garudhammas. As Susan Murcott has commented: "The nun's sangha was a radical experiment for its time" [Murcott, Susan (1991). The First Buddhist Women:Translations and Commentary on the Therigatha. Parallax Press. page 4.] Dr. Mettanando Bhikkhu says of the First Buddhist council: "Perhaps Mahakassappa and the bhikkhus of that time were jealous of the bhikkhunis being more popular and doing more teaching and social work than the bhikkhus. Their anti-women prejudice became institutionalized at that time with the eight garudhammas, the eight weighty restrictions. We must discontinue that prejudice. There is no anti-women prejudice in Jainism and they survived in India; whereas Buddhism had prejudice and did not survive in India" [see The First Council and Suppression of the Bhikkhuni Order]. Although it must be said that this is factually incorrect, because there are jain sects like the Digambara sect, which believes that women are capable of spiritual progress, but must be reborn male, in order to attain final spiritual liberation. It is also highly doubtful that the garudhammas were motivated by Mahakaasapa's being jealous, as he is said to be an enlightened one and one of the principle disciples of the Buddha. Furthermore there's no support within canon, to suggest that the bhikkunis were more popular, taught more or that they did more social work than Bhikkhus.

    "The various schools and traditions within Buddhism hold different views as to the possibilities of women's spiritual attainments. Feminist scholars have also noted than even when a woman's potential for spiritual attainment is acknowledged, records of such achievements may not be kept - or may be obscured by gender-neutral language or mis-translation of original sources by Western scholars. According to Bernard Faure, "Like most clerical discourses, Buddhism is indeed relentlessly misogynist, but as far as misogynist discourses go, it is one of the most flexible and open to multiplicity and contradiction."

    To continue reading the Wikipedia article, click here.

    Some additional references:

  • The Place of Women in Buddhism, Swarna de Silva, Enabling Support Foundation, 1994.
  • A Grand Declaration of Gender Equality, Writings on Buddhism, Soka Gakkai International, 1996.
  • Full Ordination of Women in Tibetan Buddhism, His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama, July 2007.
  • Buddhism and Women, BhudaNet (with links to other resources), 2008.
  • The Position of Women in Buddhism , L.S. Dewaraja, Buddhist Pub Soc, Sri Lanka, 2011.
  • Ordination of Women in Buddhism, Wikipedia, 2011.

  • 7. Encounter in the Garden (Jesus and Mary Magdalene)

    Courtesy of America Magazine
    Encounter in the Garden
    Video by America Magazine

    Jesus' meeting with Mary Magdalene outside the empty tomb is fraught with symbolic spiritual meaning. This is part of a series of reflections on the symbols of the Easter Season by the Editor in Chief of America Magazine, Drew Christiansen, S.J.

    Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

    Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?" "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, "Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means "Teacher"). Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:11-14)

    ApostolaApostolorum-Iglesia Descalza
    Mary Magdalene
    Apostle to the Apostles
    "Apostola Apostolorum"

    Also available for view and embed in YouTube

    Added 22 July 2011 - Feast of St. Mary of Magdala

    Over 270 Groups Aim to End Silencing of Catholic Women
    in St. Mary of Magdala Celebrations

    Mary Louise Hartman
    FutureChurch Board of Directors
    Media Release 22 July 2011

    CLEVELAND, OHIIO, USA: Hundreds of Catholic organizers around the world are calling for an end to the silencing women on the feast day of St. Mary of Magdala, the first witness the Resurrection.  At present, women's voices are silenced in Catholic churches.  Stories of female biblical leaders are omitted or made optional in our lectionary and women, indeed all lay people, have recently been forbidden to preach at Mass even though canon law allows it.

    The silencing is not new as women of faith have been pushed aside, made invisible and dismissed for centuries.  Interestingly, at the most important moment of Christianity, Jesus’ Resurrection, a woman was given voice to speak and proclaim the Good News.   Jesus choose St. Mary of Magdala to proclaim his Resurrection saying to her, “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I have seen the Lord.’”  (John 20:18)

    The focal point of the celebrations will be “unheard homilies” given by women who refused to be silenced.  They will preach the homilies they have longed to preach at Mass if they were only permitted- without restraint and without fear of criticism. Their perspectives as women and mothers living the Gospel in a secular world will give new life and meaning to Catholic women and men trying to relate the scriptures to their lived experience.

    The prayer services organized around St. Mary of Magdala’s July 22 feast day also call upon the voices of women who have been silenced throughout our history- beginning with St. Mary of Magdala, through the women leaders in the early Church, to medieval times, and today. These voices will inspire their listeners to end the silencing and honor the contributions of women in our personal and institutional faith journeys.

    As part of their commitment to end the silencing of Catholic women, participants at St. Mary of Magdala celebrations across the nation will be sending paper and electronic postcards to Cardinal William Levada, Prefect Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as well as their local bishops. The postcards ask Church leaders to restore the tradition of women deacons in the Catholic Church.

    Restoring the female diaconate allows women to preach a homily at Mass, thus diminishing the silencing of Catholic women of the Word.  Their perspectives as women and mothers living the Gospel in a secular world will give new life and meaning to Catholic women and men trying to relate the scriptures to their lived experience.  For more information about women deacons and the FutureChurch campaign, go to

    St. Mary of Magdala was a foremost leader in the early Church, led the group of women who accompanied Jesus at his death, and first proclaimed the good news of his Resurrection. She was not a prostitute as some believe,” said Emily Holtel-Hoag, FutureChurch Special Projects Coordinator.

    “For centuries St. Mary of Magdala’s story, like those of the women leaders in early Christianity, has been minimized or excised from the official Lectionary used in both Catholic and Protestant churches as well as Catholic Church history textbooks,” said Sr. Christine Schenk, Executive Director of FutureChurch.

    In 2008 FutureChurch led an education and advocacy effort to raise awareness at the International Synod on the Word in Rome about the invisibility of women's biblical leadership and experience in Church preaching and scripture proclamation. The synod outcomes were heartening. Not only did the most women scholars in history attend, but two final synod propositions specifically addressed FutureChurch’s requests.   Proposition 17 on “Women and the Ministry of the Word” is a gracious affirmation by the universal Church of women leaders who animate faith communities and preside at services of the Word all over the world.  Proposition 16, suggesting a reexamination of the lectionary, was a most welcome surprise. Many doubted that the synod would open the lectionary discussion.

    To educate about women leaders and to model gender balance in scripture proclamation, FutureChurch began special international celebrations of the Feast of St. Mary of Magdala in 1997. Each year approximately 300 such events are held in mid July. Participants hear presentations by biblical scholars about early women leaders and experience prayer services at which competently prepared women preach and preside.

    “One of the reasons the Mary of Magdala celebrations have proved so enduring is that Catholic women and men are edified to discover that Jesus included women in his Galilean discipleship. Most Catholics mistakenly believe that Jesus called only men, when in fact Luke 8:1-3 tells us Mary of Magdala, Joanna, Susanna and many other women accompanied him in Galilee. The celebrations this year will provide further knowledge that Jesus’ inclusive ministry was modeled in the early centuries of Christianity,” said Schenk.

    FutureChurch, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, is a U.S. coalition of 3,500 parish based Catholics striving to educate fellow Catholics about the seriousness of the priest shortage, the centrality of the Eucharist (the Mass), and the systemic inequality of women in the Catholic Church. FutureChurch makes presentations throughout the country, distributes educational and informational packets and recruits activists who call on Catholic leadership to open ordination to all baptized persons who are called to priestly ministry by God and the people of God. Visit the FutureChurch web site.

    8. María López Vigil in Central America

    María López Vigil
    Courtesy of Iglesia Descalza

    María López Vigil:
    Behind the human face of Jesus
    and the feminine one of God

    Laura Rodríguez Rojas
    Iglesia Descalza, 6 May 2011

    Religious educators and pastoral agents in Latin America's Christian base communities know her for her catechetical radio series, Un Tal Jesús, co-produced with her brother José Ignacio, which imagines a brown-skinned Jesus fighting for social justice. Central America activists know her for her writings on the church during El Salvador's civil war and particularly for her collection of vignettes about the life of the martyred Archbishop of San Salvador, Monseñor Romero, piezas para un retrato. Today, people in her adopted country, Nicaragua, know her as a prize-winning author of children's books and a defender of their rights. Maria Lopez Vigil is all these things and more, and we are pleased to bring you the English translation of this recent article by Laura Rodríguez Rojas from El Nuevo Diario (10 April 2011) to catch up with this extraordinary woman, as she shares her thoughts about the world and the Church today.

    Entering her office, nothing reveals that Maria Lopez Vigil was a nun for 13 years in a convent in Barcelona. The place is small and crowded with books, but it has two large windows that let in a bright sun.

    She dresses simply. A blue skirt and white shirt. Wears no hint of makeup or jewelry, which shows that for her, material goods are in the plane of unreality. Only a small detail reveals that this is not an ordinary woman, a painting by Remedios Varo called Weaving the skin of the world.

    At first glance it seems like any other painting, in which one sees a small workshop where industrious women are weaving the skin of the world, but a trained eye can discover the paradox. The person who leads the group of weavers is dressed as a man, but is also a woman.

    At 16 she left Cuba

    And it's that María López Vigil has always been a revolutionary who has contrasted the norms set by the Vatican with a more human and feminine image of God.

    The wrinkles on her face reflect the passing of the years in her body, but her words and the brightness of her eyes contradicted her age. She assures that she is still the same girl who emigrated from Cuba at age 16, all that has changed is the number of subjects she has had to study in this earthly world.

    María López Vigil left her homeland for ideological reasons since, due to the triumph of the Cuban revolution, her family decided to emigrate to be faithful to their dogmatic view of a Catholicism that didn't yield to Communist ideas.

    Read the entire article ....

    9. Women's full participation in the Church

    Women's participation in the Church
    demands a new model of Church

    Pablo Richard - Chile

    Originally published in Spanish as "La participación de la mujer en la Iglesia exige un nuevo modelo de Iglesia," Adital, 1 July 2011.

    Spanish to English translation by Iglesia Descalza, 4 July 2011. Reprinted with permission.

    Note by the editor of Iglesia Descalza:

    Translating this rather controversial article by Pablo Richard, I was reminded of discussions I used to have with a Jesuit friend who thought that my focus on opening the priesthood to women and married men wasn't sufficiently visionary. Like Richard, my friend believed that the Church needs to focus less on priests and transfer more power and responsibility to lay people. Or, as singer/songwriter and now Unitarian minister Fred Small would say: "...We're talking 'bout changes / Not just changing the faces at the top..."

    I have many reservations about Richard's argument because I think it's an easy one to make for those who are already "in", like Richard and my friend. I would be interested in hearing what readers of this blog think, if you want to add your comments. I also think it's important to point out that, except for the most orthodox Jews, women have more equality and access to ministerial positions -- rabbis, cantors, etc... -- in Judaism than in the Catholic Church. This too makes me question this article, even as I publish it for discussion.


    Women's participation in the Church demands a new model of Church - Pablo Richard

    I think that the problem of women's participation in the Church can only be understood within a global ecclesiological definition.

    When Jesus entered the temple, He characterized it as a "den of thieves".

    The Jewish people are largely from a temple religion and, in this type of religion, the participation of women is unthinkable.

    "Priestly" ministry is something from the Jewish religion.

    The Christian faith is not in this temple tradition, neither men, nor women.

    We need to make the Church "less priestly", that is, not think of the Church in terms of temple and priests.

    In Jesus' Christian tradtion there are "presbyters", which is not a priestly ministry, but men and women in charge of the faith of the community.

    If we are talking about "priests" in the Church, neither women nor men should be ordained as priests.

    Instead, Jesus followed the tradition of the Jewish synagogue, which is not a place of worship, but of teaching.

    Christianity advanced in the inclusion of women as teachers, equal to men. Therefore to state "a Church without women, nevermore" also means "a Church of priests, nevermore".

    Christianity wasn't born on an "altar", but at a "table", where all participated.

    The problem isn't women, but the Church.

    Integrating women into the current model of a priestly and hierarchical Church would be bad for women.

    The fundamental ministry in the Church today is the "ministry of the Word", not "priestly ministry."

    When the Church reduces ministry to bishops and priests, the inclusion of women is bad for women.

    When we have a Church of teachers and prophets, women's participation will be indispensable.

    About the author and the painting:

    Pablo Richard is a Chilean priest, theologian and Biblical scholar.

    Photo: "Last Supper" by Polish artist Bohdan Piasecki. Piasecki created this painting in 1998 for B.A.S.I.C. Brothers and Sisters in Christ, an Irish group working in support of women's ordination in the Catholic Church.


    I agree that we need a new model of "church." I think we also need a new theology of ordination to the diaconate, the priesthood, and the episcopate. But we don't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I don't know if the ordination of women will be good for women, but I know it will be good for men. It is not a matter of either the old or the new. We need both the old and the new. In Christ, Luis (Luis Gutierrez, Editor, Mother Pelican, 11 July 2011)

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