Winter 1996

Thoughts on the Priesthood of Women

Hans Urs von Balthasar

I. Preliminary considerntions

1. The demand that women be admitted to the or­dained priesthood relies essentially on sociological, not theo­logical, considerations. Proponents of women's ordination, tak­ing for granted the largely unexamined premise that the ancient cultures known to us were prevalently masculine and that women were as subordinate in Judaism as they still are today in Islam, advance the following argurnent. The liberation of women to full equality with men, they say, may owe its origins to the impact of Christianity, but not its realization. In any case, the liberation of women highlights the absurdity and unacceptability of continuing to exclude them from ecclesiastical office [Amt]. The demands of the feminists cut both ways in today's chiefly male-invented and male-run technical civilization, be­cause these demands aim at fitting women into a predominant­ly masculine world. This fact need not occupy us here, where we are concerned primarily with intra-ecclesial questions. Our pur­pose was only to point out that the demand that women be per­mitted to exercise the same functions follows from a sociological perspective.

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