Feminist Ordination – A Trinitarian A pproach. Does the distinction betwee n ordained and non – ordained ministry make any sense?

Teresa Forcades

at
WOW 2015

 

TRANSCRIPT
Margaret Johnson
introduction
Good afternoon. I’m very honoured to announce our final keynote speaker. Sister Teresa Forcades i Vila is, too put it bluntly, a force of nature, a Benedictine nun, a feminist theologian and a prominent activist for social justice. Sister Teresa has a nonstop schedule speaking, teaching and galvanising a political movement in her native Catalonia.

She has gained a huge international following through her criticisms of pharmaceutical companie and her political campaign for the region of Catalonia to gain independence from Spain.

Sister Teresa is a medical doctor, has a Master’s degree in theology from Harvard and a PhD in public health. Although she’s been nicknamed Europe’s most radical nun, Sister Teresa didn’t always intend to enter religious life. She was born to an atheist family in Catalonia and in the summer of 1995, chose o stay at the Benedictine monastery simply as a quiet place to study for her medical board exams. She was deeply moved by the community of sisters she encountered as well as by her first reading of the bible which she describes as “a commotion”. Just two years later she was taking her vows to become a Benedictine nun.
Sister Teresa’s rich faith life gives her the immense courage to speak truth to power, especially to the power structures in our Church. She’s been reprimanded by the Vatican for supporting reproductive rights and in a recent statement on the situation for women in the Catholic Church, Sister Teresa described it as, “an institution in which patriarchy is rampant. All the decision making is linked to something called ordination, and ordination is linked to something called gender.”
We are extremely fortunate to have such a talented, powerful woman as our keynote speaker. Please give a warm WOW 2015 welcome to Sister Teresa Forcades

Feminist Ordination
A Trinitarian
A
pproach.
Does the
distinction betwee
n
ordained
and
non
ordained
ministry
make any sense?
Ministry
? Of course
‘ministry’ as a theological and practical category
makes sense within the Christian
community; it’s I would say the core of it.
Diakonia
, service, ministry;
we are not a religious gro
up that
wants to just enjoy in meditation even if some of us are in a contemplative monastery or come from
the monastic
tradition
but from the beginning in my tradition
,
which is the Benedictine
,
it is central
the
incarnation
of God, finding God in space
and time
.
This
means
fully
engaging with
God’s creation;
co
creation would be the strongest t
heological notion
co
creation:
creation understood not as
something that God has done and
finished but as something that G
od has prompted
,
has given impulse
f
or,
and now it’s our duty and our joy
to take on and move forward
, in
a direction that is not
preordained and settled by God
,
but
open
because
that’s how I think that the notion
and the reality of
God stay
s at the centre of Christianity:
not as a controller o
r
a power from above,
but
as a real
inspiration for a path in freedom and love that has a lot of unknowns, even for God, even if the
language here gets us in difficulty.
So within this Christian
context:
does it make sense
to distinguish
ordained
from
non
ordained
ministry
?
More fundamentally
:
does it make
sense
to distinguish
between
sacramental
and
non
sacramental
actions
? Sacramental
this word
refers to a
sign or symbol
,
and in theology is
understood
as making
visible in time and space what is invisible
,
that is,
the reality of God (
that extends
beyond time and
space
)
. So what
ever
makes
the reality of God
visible
in time and space
is a sacrament of
God
.
Well, if
that’s so, isn’t
life
itself a sacrament?
If we as human beings have been created ‘in the image of God’, isn ́t
everything
we do in life a
sacrament
?
Does it make sense to distinguish sacramental and non
sacramental
?
(questions
related to this are:
how many sacramen
ts
are
ther
e
and who can
perform them
).
And then
a third
question, in a s
uccinct way:
is the Eucharist
somehow
holier than B
aptism?
T
here is a
sacrament called
bapt
ism
that women can perform
in an emergency
when there is
no priest available,
but there is another one called
Eucharist
that can never be performed by a woman,
under no
condition
.
D
oes this distinction
make sense?
I
s there something intrinsically
different, and not only
different but
of a
higher
quality
, holier or
more sacred in
the
Eucharist as opposed to B
aptis
m?
The
se three questions set the context
of
my presentation
.
My starting point
is that t
he Christian community as such
is a sacrament of the communion of
God; a sacrament of the
T
rinity
.
T
hat’s why I
have
en
titled
my talk
“F
eminist
O
rdination
a
Trinitarian A
pproach
.
I find grounding and inspiration in
chapter
17
of
the gospel of
John.
It
is
my preferred chapter
because
of
its theological
implications that have
yet
to be
fully explored
in the Christian communities.
This
chapter is sometimes
called
the priestly prayer of
Jesus
. It’s the
prayer that Jesus addressed
to the
F
ather before
his
Passion, before
being arrested
, torture
d
and the
executed
under the political and
religious power
s
of
his time
. It’s one of the shortest chapters in the New
Testament
.
And in
s
uch a
short chapter, Jesus
states
four times something that
was
and
remains
to t
his day
, astounding:
“Father that they be one
,
like we are one” A
nd again:
“Like you and I a
re
one
,
let them
also
be
one” And
a
thi
rd time and a fourth time; f
our
time
s
in such a short
chapter
.
The implications of this statement
have
been underdeveloped
in the history of Christianity
because
the
unity between the F
ather and the
S
on,
the
unity between
an
invisible God beyond time and space
and a visible human being that claims to be fully God on earth
(
i
n time and space
)
is what the
later
development in theology ha
s called the Trinity a
nd
this
Trinity
and
what it means
has remained
someth
ing completely separate
d
from
Christian
life
and liturgy
, something that maybe some
specialised theologians want to engage with
,
but nothing that is
relevant
to our daily lives
;
and yet
,
at
such a key moment
in
the
life
of Jesus
,
we encounter
this prayer
calling
us as human beings
to fully
experience
the
same
communion and
the
same
unity that God experiences in G
od’s mysterious triune
self.
Therein lies
the
full sacramental character of the Christian community
and this
of course raises a lot of
questions.
The
Greek
word
perichoresis
(translated into Latin as
circumincess
ion
)
, a technical word in
the tradition of Trinit
arian theology, can help us d
elve in some of them
.
How can we make that concrete in our
communities?
What kind of world and what kind of dynamic in
the community
,
what kind of
mini
s
tries
,
what
kind of ordained ministers
if any
,
what
kind of
relationship with these ministers should we set up so that these are not only words and become a
reality among us?
Back to space, time and sexuality: despite not being present as such in God,
I consider that
there
is a
way of experiencing
each
of them
that help
s
us make sense of them
in the direction of what
a
fulfilled
C
reation is supposed to be
, and
there
are two
basic ways of experiencing them
that actually hinder
that
. Space
can allow us to experience otherness and difference as reciprocity, but we can
also
experience otherness and differen
ce as a threat (we deny space
for ‘
the other’)
or as an
unsu
rmountable limit (we absolutize space as distance and strangeness
).
Denying
space
means
ignoring the
consistent
otherness of the other; it means pretending that
differences
are
only at the superficial level, that they are only an appearance,
but if you are able
to
transcend difference and appearance in order
to have a deeper
visio
n,
what you
will
find is
unity
.
M
any phil
osophies
have espoused
this view
, according to which
the core of reality is uniform, it
doesn’t have a place for
consistent
difference/otherness.
W
ell
,
that’s not what the
Trinity
means
. The
notion of God as
Trinity
implies that
unity and diversity
are equally optimal
,
equally divine
and
equally
ultimate
. It’s not true that you have a diversity and
then deeper down there is a unity. No. There is a unity together with a diversity
,
and there is a
diversity together with a unity.
And
not to leave it so abstract
,
an
example would be what my mother a
bbess
said when I entered the
monastery. I had come from the
United
States
I
did my
last medical training and
my
first
theological
trai
ning in the
United
States
and then
entered
the monastery in 1997. The a
bbess
asked
me, “Well
Teresa, what do you think will be the goal of
the
time
that
you’ll be a postulant
?”
during the first year
at the monastery, we’re called postulants, we are not
yet novices
.
I
answered
, “
Given that
I come
from
a very different
context
,
I will
have to learn
to adapt myself
as much as I can
to the ways of the
monastery
.
At that, t
he abbess
looked disappointed.
I was confused, “
What went
wrong
?” I thought
mine
had been a very obvious answer
.
Then
she said,
Of course I understand what you
mean
and I
appreciate that you have this willingness to fit in
etc.
,
but you know what?” And then she told me her
dream of what a Christian
c
ommunit
y
should
be
like
, “
I believe
that God has made each of us unique
and each of us original in a very prof
ound way. So I understand, as
abbes
s of this community, that
if
the community
functions
well
,
it’s not that we start being very
different
and after a few years of living
together
we
progressively change in order to be more and more alike,
but on the contrary,
if we are a
true living Christian community we start very differently, and after a year, after ten years of
living
together
,
we are even more different than we were when we s
tarted.”
That’s what she said. I
answered
“Ok
. I’m going to meditate about it”
… and
twenty years later
I am
still meditating
about it
!
Because
that’s how she understood in practical terms
what I was saying in
abstract
,
that the category of
space
is
not an oppor
tunity
to achieve
unity
understood as uniformity
.
U
nity is essential
to
the Christian experience
,
but it’s a peculiar type of unity. It’s a unity that
fosters
diversity
, not one
that
passively
tolerates
diversity,
it’s not a unity that says
“I
t’s impossible to have
everybody thinking the same wa
y so let’s tolerate diversity”
, but one
that says
“Wait a minute. We have a
problem in this community because we all think alike. Let’s get somebody else
in
so that we don’t
stagnate
.
This
most basic
t
heological, metaphysical and
practical valuing of diversity and
this
not setting it
against unity
is
a huge
challenge
that demands
many
changes in the way
we envision
ministry
, not
only
how we
speak about it but
how we
enact
it
in reality.
What
does it mean for us as a community
to
have
Trinitarian
ministries
?
Denying space
amounts to
colonialism
, imperialism, tyranny; it is
denyi
ng the differentiated identity
of the other: if you cannot convert, kill
. In a schematic wa
y, it is the sin of Modernity.
The sin of
Postmodernity would then be
taking
space
an if it were absolute, as if it could not be crossed
:
then you say the
differentiated identity
of the other is so real that there is no reaching out. The
isolation of the
s
elf
and
the fragmentation of the world a
re
huge topic
s
in contemporary philosophy
:
the
understanding that
our
differences are so fundamental that there is only an illusion of
communion
,
an illusion of reaching out to others
;
but in reality
we all
remain
fo
r
ever fundamentally
isolated from others. This is a philosophical position that
makes
absolute
a
real aspect of our lives
:
space.
Experiencing space as reciprocity
is an alternative to
denying space
like modernity,
colonialism or
imperialism
do
,
and
an
alternative
to
making
space
absolute
as
the
contemporary
notions of the
fragmentation
of the world and
the
isolation of the self
do
.
In God there is no space, but
there is reciprocity. The spatial reality is sacramental in that it
allows us
to experience reciprocity. It
allows us
the experience, but never forces it upon us. Experiencing God (true reciprocity is an example
of such experience) can only be a free experience.
What about
time
?
I
just
argued that
God doesn’t have space
,
but has
reciprocity
.
Ok. Let’s assume this
is so. What then about time?
God does not have time but it has
what? What is the
category in God
that corresponds to
time
? What ‘something’
exists
in God that
our existing in time allow
s
us to
experience?
[
a
member of
audience calls out “eternity”
]
.
Well
,
you could say
eternity
but in a way
eternity
is
denying time,
isn’t it
?
Maybe
you can say it’s a
time
of
a
different
quality, but w
hat I was thinking of is
truth
. In God there is truth. God says, “I’m true.
I’m no
t a false God. I’m not an idol
.
Other gods in the Old Testament
are
called
fal
s
e
. Why? Because
they say to you, “
I’ll be there” and
then
don’t come. That’s a notion of truth. We
are familiar with
another notion of truth called
propositional truth
’: o
ne
plus one
make
two; t
hat’s true.
O
k, it is true,
but it is
not
a consistent
truth
:
one
plus
one
make
two in a decimal system but
in
a binary
system
one
plus
one
make
one, or zero, I don’t know,
whatever
it is
.
B
inary systems only
have
zero and one, so
one plus
one in
a binary system
make
not two, that’s for sure.
W
e can say it’s true that
one
plus
one
make
two but this is
a different kind of truth
and God has
nothing to do with this
kind of
truth
(propositional truth)
.
God
is true in the sense that God is
faithful
.
Fidelity is something that our being in time gives us an opportunity to experience
. There are
also
as we have seen with space
two fundamentally
frustrating
ways of dealing with time
. The first
one is
fundament
alism or
dogmatism which
deny
time
in a parallel way as
imperialism or colonialism
deny
space
.
If
you say, “
I’m a true
or a faithful
person
.
What does it mean?
I said
so and so
ten
years
ago and you
find me ten
years
later
and
I
continue saying
exactly the same thing
,
i
s
this really
what
a consistent
person is like
?
I don’t think so: taking
time
seriously
implies
something that
the
Second
V
atican
C
ouncil
(1962
65
)
named
creative fidelity
. Fidelity yes
, but not immobility (u
nity yes, but not
uniformity).
I
cannot say
I met you once here so ten
years
later I’m still waiting for you here
,
because
in those ten years
you’ve moved
,
so
in order to be
faithful to you I have to move
as well
,
otherwise I’m
going to
miss you and I will think it’s your
fault
.
So
is temporal reality, dynamic and moving: if I want
to be with you, to love you, I have
to be true and faithful
,
but that doesn’t mean immobile because life
moves
. And this is what God does all the time
: i
n the gospels
and also in the
Old Testame
nt
,
God keep
s
making proposals to us
and we the people
say
,
“N
o
,
thank you
and God moves and
comes
back in
some different way:
“Ok, h
ere I am” and we say
Later” and
God
keeps coming again and again, but
without repeating Herself. E
ach one of us can kno
w
in her own biography,
how that has happened and
how love is
always
like t
his; it’s always creative, moving, dynamic,
never
stagnant
.
So this would be the first
type of
frustrating
experience
s
of
time:
fundamentalism or dogmatism (they
are
like colonialism
linked to Modernity); the second
type of
frustrating
experience of
time
is
relativism, understood as the belief that there is no truth (this is
like the isolation of the self
linked
to Postmode
rnity)
. I don’t
believe
in relativism.
Abuse is not
relative
. Abuse is wrong n
o matter when
and where and no matter how you feel personally about it. Abuse is wrong. Violence sometimes can be
good like
that of Jesus in the temple,
but violence from the str
onger
against
the weaker (abuse)
is
always
wrong
.
Sexism is always wrong an
d racism is always wrong. I think this
is true.
And
I think that
t
his kind of truth needs to
be said again and again in words
appropriate to
the
reality that
keeps
changing
.
I believe in
contextualization
, but I don’t believe in relativism
.
The third element, besides
space
and
time
, which defines our human experience is
sex
. It is usually
not discussed as a philosophical category together with the other two, but it is essen
tial to our human
condition. In God there is
not only
reciprocity
and
truth
,
there is something else and
about
this
something else I believe we would have no clue if we didn’t ha
ve sexuality in our lives. T
his something
else
is fire
,
desire
,
ecstasy
.
One
can
have a
calm and contained
notion of reciprocity
and
a sense of truth
al
so contained or serene
but there is something else in God
than calmness, contention
and
serenity
.
In God there
is fire
(Lk
12:49); t
here is
desire
; t
here is
a sort of
ecstatic
craziness. There is
craziness in all the saints
:
s
aint
Francis
,
saint
Gertrude,
saint
Teresa
of Avil
a
, all the saints
if they are truly so, are
a bit out of
themselves
. They have
a
n extra
bursting of life, a bubbling of life
in them
, something
that escapes
rationality
;
we
can
also
call this
the Holy
Spirit
:
the wind
that gives life and moves
everything and
you
don’t know
from
where it blows
,
there is a breaking of limi
ts
t
hat cannot be contained
in
a
concept.
You can call it life
:
G
od is
life
. But
fire
I think i
s
the best word
and I relate that with sexuality because I
believe that in our human experience,
sexual attraction
is what
usually
come
s
unexpectedly
into
one’s
life and
most deeply
unsettle
it
.
Sexual attraction makes one want
to come out of the
self in a way that
words cann
ot express
very well.
One wants
to be
oneself
most fully than ever,
but at the same time
the
intuition
is clear that in order to be fully oneself, you
have to somehow move beyond
yourself
and
open up
in a very fundamental way
and this is what I bring together as something that
correlates with
G
od, and it brings us to this very deep inner aspect of God as life, fire, full
bursting
reality.
The two
types of
frustrating
experiences of sexuality
coincide with the stereotypes of masculinity
and
femininity and
can also
be aligned to
the
historical moment
s
we call modernity and postmodernity;
modernity
has promoted
the stereotypical masculine
as a model (
the self
defined by its individual
autonomy;
‘esse in’ according to saint Augustine
;
fostering the des
identification of the self with one’s
sexuality and body in order
to achieve self
realization
); postmodernity promotes
the stereotypical
feminine
(the self defined by its network of constitutive rel
ationships; ‘esse ad’ according to saint
Augustine
; fostering the identification of the self with one’s sexuality and body
in order
to achieve
self
realization
).
T
he
notion that
who we are fundamentally
as human beings
needs to take
into
account our
links and connections
gathers momentum today
, and not only
because of
the internet
; the
notion of ‘self’
as ‘autonomous’
(being ‘in itself’)
is
today
often regarded with
scepticism
in literature
and philosophy:
W
hat
are you
“in yourself”
?
You’re empty in
yourself. It’s only what you are in
relationship to others that
gives y
o
u an identity
.
Y
our body and your feelings are more real than your
intellect and your thoughts.
As I understand it,
fulfilling
experience
s of sexuality have
nothing to do with
what is usually
called
anthropology of c
omplementarity.
Complementarity is someth
ing that might sound appealing in order
to overcome the
hierarchy between
feminine
and mas
culine.
Maybe some of
you
who are here think
favourably
about
complementarity
between
the sexes
.
The alternative both to hierarchy and to
complementarity is
to open
the personal
space
to
a unique original experience for each human being.
A unique original experience that
cannot be categorised. That’s why I use sometimes
the expression
“queer theology”.
‘Queer theory’ is
the
name given
today
to
the intellectual effort
to move radically beyond all
categories, to think the human experience as an opportunity to bring up a new space for each human
person. T
his is
a challeng
e
because the f
ear of freedom is part of what we experience personally
and
it’s
also
socially a challenge b
ecause we are not ready in the C
hurch or in the society to make space for
people to be what they really
are or
want to be
come
without asking them whether they belon
g to this
or
that
group
.
Being a sacrament of the Trinity, then, would imply engaging the three basic dimensions of human life
in ‘
a
Trinitarian way’, that is, approaching
space
(difference, otherness) as an invitation to
reciprocity
,
approaching
time
as an opportunity for
truth/fidelity
and approaching
sex
as an opportunity to
experience
fire/passion for what is original
and unique in the beloved person.
A
ll this
gives a sense of how I understand
sacramentality
. Another fundamental characteristic of
it is
the lack of hierarchy between the Father and the Son, between the Giver and the Receiver. It is
astounding and
has been
very difficult
for theo
logy to
speak about the Trinity
witho
ut
establishing a
hierarchy
,
without
considering that
somehow the Fat
her is
the most
important, then comes the Son,
then comes the Holy Spirit.
Some Christian Churches (the Roman Catholic among them) have
an
ordained ministry ca
lled the sacrament of the Holy O
rders that
distinguishes
the office of
bishop
(
referred to the
Trinitarian person of the Father
)
,
the office of
priest
(
referred
to
Jesus,
the Trinitarian
person of the Son
)
,
and the office of
deacon
(
referred
to
the
Holy Spirit
),
and conceive
this ordained
ministry as
a
hierarchy,
with
the bishop having the fullness
of that sacrament of Orders and then
the
priest and then the deacon
having
less of it. The sacrament of orders is still viewed hierarchically
and
even as an ‘ecclesiastical career’: you move
from deacon to
priest
and if you’re lucky and
successful
enough then you
achieve
to be a b
ishop
.
The current
practices
of ordained
ministry
in the
Roman
Catholic Church reinforce
an
d
actually fully
uphold
the hierarchical
understanding
.
I think it’s
a structural sin together with sexism and linked to
it. S
exis
m is rampant in the Catholic Church
;
clericalism
too. We
need to change
both
and to change
them as soon as possible
.
But not because we are 2
1
st
century
people
that don’t
accept
hierarchies
anymore
. That’s why I did
this rather lengthy
introduction
on the Trinity
because my goal today is to give
a
theological
grounding
as deep as I can to
the critique of clericalism
.
If we want to be
faithful to our
sacramental
mission as Church
,
as
a
Christian
community, we need
n
ot only
giving
,
we need
also
receiving
.
And
what we
have to give has to do with
a
fundamentally
non
hierarchical
understanding
of
difference
.
You might
say, “What a
strange
God
!
” but
so is our God, so is
the Christian
Trinitarian
G
od:
a
God that
includes
difference and
orders it
non
h
ierarchical
ly
. How do you express that? With difficulty
!, to be
sure,
but that’s
part
and parcel
of
dealing with
a sacrament:
y
ou cannot
just bring God into
categories
.
You cannot neatly pack
God and say
“Here it is:
I’
m delivering it to you
.
You have to
become a
bit
unc
omfortable while talking about God
because
God is
not an object of our
understanding,
is
a subject
on
Her
own
. And a subject is
always
break
s
all
categories.
It is by now clear that I consider the
hierarchical understanding
of God and therefore of
sacramentality
fundamentally wrong
, but
is then ‘ordination’ in itself also fundamentally wrong? D
o
es
it make sense to have
ordained and non
ordained ministry
in the Church?
I believe that it does make sense to have ‘ordination’
but it has to be a non
hierarchical ordination and
that’s why I gave
to my presentation today
the title “feminist ordination
.
O
rdination has to do with
order
.
I’m part of a Benedictine community and
for almost twenty years
we
have been
f
orty nuns
in
the c
ommunity
.
Now we are down to thirty
,
but
our organising needs
still
to be taken
very
seriously,
o
the
rwise our life would be chaotic:
Given that
we have
a non
hierarchical God, let us then
have
Christian
communities
where
people come in
and do whatever they feel and that’s
the
best
. Well, no. I
don’t think so.
T
here is a practical aspect
that needs to be ac
knowledge
d: everybody cannot
read
every day
,
therefore we need a ministry (a service, an appointment)
of reading
;
e
ver
ybody cannot
le
ad the community
, therefore
we
need
a
ministry
of leadership
(the abbess)
… etc
.
A
t a practical level
I think
it’s obvious that you need to have some kind of appointed minister
a
person in charge of a given service that bears responsibility for it
. Now
, does
all
ministry
in the Church
need be
sacramental
? Does the ‘sacrament’ happen
only when
the ministry
is
officially
appointed and
there is a
public
laying of
hands
done by the bishop or the priest acting on the bishop’s behalf?
Well,
why should we thin
k like this
if we believe
that,
as a
Christian
community
,
as
baptised
,
and even as
human
beings
,
we
all
have
the
capacity
to
make
visible in time and space
God’s
reciprocity,
truthfulness
and fire?
Whenever
God’s ways
are
made
visible in the world, there
is a sacrament and
this sacrament can be within a
c
ommunity expressed and
made
visible through
appointed
ministries
(
ordained
ministries
)
,
but also through ministries
(
services
,
realities
)
that have not gone through
these appointed
paths
.
One small exam
ple of that from my own community:
we pray vespers every day and there is
always
a
moment of
explicit petitionary
prayer
; when that
moment comes, the appointed sister
in charge of
the
prayers
goes
to the lectern
and
read
s the prayers
that she has prepared
.
On
Sundays and
other
festivities
,
the sister in charge, before uttering
the
closing
remark,
leaves the lectern and
returns to
her place
and
then
everybody who wants can
do
a
prayer
aloud
.
This is
a very
simple example of coexistence between
ordained or
appointed
ministry
and
spontaneous
ministry. I
consider that
it
makes
no
theological sense
to contend that
when the sister
who is
explicitly
appointed by the community says the prayer
,
there is something
more
sacred
in it
than
when the
spontaneous
sister
s
say
the
prayer. Appointing or ordaining
helps organizin
g the
community and
, by doing so,
it
achieves a theological point and not only a practical one:
the ordained
ministry symbolizes and enacts the presence of God within each of us and amongst us; it remi
nds us
that we are called to live in a Trinitarian way with each other.
Gary Mason
, who has spoken at this Conference before me,
is
one of the authors who has helped us
see how in the history of Christianity
,
the
term ordination has not always meant the same
.
In the
Middle Ages
the abbesses
were
ordained
.
Were
they
priests?
In fact, t
hey
were more like bishops:
they had the mitre and the staff, exerted ecclesiastical authority and acted ‘in persona Christi’ in the
monastery
.
The ceremony
of blessing of an abbess
included the
laying on of hands which is a beautiful
sign of
commission
ing
and has to do
with the
sacramental understanding I’m developing
today,
a
Trinitarian
approach to ordination
.
In
the
Trinity there is
a
sending, t
here is a commissioning
.
St Augustine
and
Thomas Aqui
nas
insist
th
at when the Son is sent to the I
ncarnation, the Father and the Holy
Spirit
send
Him
but
the Son
sends Himself also.
I think this is
a
very
important
remark
becau
se
,
as I understand
it,
in the Christian
community
there
has to be always
a
creative
tension
between
the
self
in itself (esse in) and the self
in
its
constitutive
relationship
to others (esse ad);
there is no dichotomy
with regard to the Christian
mission
or appointment
between
being sent by the community
and
going on one’s own
; the Christian
community (understood as a Trinitarian sacramental
community) does never nullify
me
, never makes
me
an object that’s
being acted upon (ex.
being
passively
sent
)
.
Howev
er
,
our liturgy does not always
reflect this, and the reality of how our Church wo
rks does not always reflect
s
it either
. For example,
y
esterday we had the blessing of our new abbess
in Montserrat (Spain)
and that’s why I couldn’t come
before
to this
Confe
rence
. It was a beautiful ceremony
, but a
t the key moment of
her
commissioning,
the abbe
ss was positioned
in a way that didn’t look
right to me:
she was
passive, she was only ‘be
ing
done’ and the ones ‘doing
’ where only men.
T
here
is
much
we need to change in
our
rituals
so that t
he
one ‘being sent’ or ‘being commissioned’ can be a sacrament of the Trini
tarian Son: actively receiving
and
fully participating in the action.
Do we then need o
rdained
ministry or not? M
y answer
is
Yes. I think there is no problem in having
ordained ministries
if it remains clear
that
these ordained ministries do not set apart, do not
make
the
minister
holier or more sacred;
a Christian
ordained ministry
does not
bring the person
being ordained
any
c
loser to God
.
The
old priestly understanding
acknowledges ‘priests’
as mediator
s
between the
domain
of
the
invis
ible God and the
domain
of
visible things. For a Christian, Jesus is the only
Mediator:
Jesus Christ
who
is
fully
God and
fully
human and
is
to be
found in the community.
The
letter
to the
Hebrews is very clear. So I don’t think a feminist ordination or a Trinitarian ordination
can accept at all any sense of mediation between God and the
human
other than the community from
which the ordained m
inister receives the strength and the validation. God does not directly confer
‘sacred power’ to a person: it gives it to the
interaction between the community and the particular
person
. The person outside the commun
ity has no sacramental power, she
has of
course a full human
dignity
that
belongs to
her
regardless of whether those around
her acknowledge it or not, but she
has
no ‘sacramental power’
on her own, because the ‘sacramental power’
deman
ds a real
perichoretic
(Trinitarian)
exchange, a real reci
pro
city:
for
where two or three are gathered
together
in my name,
there
I am
in the midst of
them
(Matt. 18:20)
.
Ordination is
not
only
a matter of practicality
:
we need
effective organizing
and that’s why
we
appoint people.
No.
Acknowledging the
diversity in charismas, in t
he gift
s
that
each one
has,
acknowledging
the need
of different
iating
has an intrinsic (substantial)
sacramental value. So when I
ponder
whether
it makes any sense
to distinguish sacramental and
non
sacramental
ordination
,
my
answer is that the distinction
make
s
sense
,
but it makes sense because
we can li
ve our human reality
in a perichoretic
(
Trinitarian
) way or not; it is not automatic; we can let our ‘being created in the
image of God’ become active in our life … or not
. I
have
always
a
self
and I hav
e
always
an
interconnection with others
even
if I
do
n’t acknowledge
it
,
even if I don’t want it;
only acknowledging it
(with the life, not with words) brings about the ‘sacrament’
.
H
uman experience in itself is
not
sacramental
: freedom and love are. As we have seen
,
there
are
frustrating
ways of l
i
ving my time,
my space and my sexuality that are actually a hindrance to
perceiving
the divine presence
.
For instance,
when I
commit abuse
.
Abuse
is
a human e
xperience but
is
not a sa
cramental reality;
it
is an
anti
sacramental
reality. And I think that needs to be said and needs
to be said with full force. So the
re are
aspects
of life,
ways
of living life, ways of being community and
also
ways of being alone that are
definitely
not
sacramental.
A
s
human being
s
we have
always
the
potential
to
be
sacramental, independently of whether we have
been ordained or not, appointed or
not, acknow
ledged or not by the religious institution; the religious institution is
not what gives us or
takes from us
our
capacity to be a sacrament of G
od
; it is the fact of experiencing
our human life in
such a way that
opens
up
the
expression and the development of
our
full divine reality;
a divine reality
that at the beginning of Ch
ristianit
y was called with a name that
today we use very little and
sometimes
consider even heretical:
divinisation
, in Greek
theosis
.
T
he
goal of
human
life is to become
divine
.
This is
the
predominant
understanding
in the first centuries of patristic theology
theosis
,
divi
nisation is the only
purpose of human life a
ccording to patristic theology.
Excursus 2
: W
e could start calling this period of Christian theology also
matristic
because we
are
learning lately
that
women
were
very
active
in it; one example is
M
acrina
the younger,
it seems
that
the
ru
le of Basil from Cesare
a
should
be
call
ed
rule of Macrina
,
because
Basil’s eldest sister
Macrina
was twent
y years the abbess of the monastery where Basil
spent
only
two years;
one
need
s
to
experience for a long period
what
the
daily life is
like at a monastery
to be able to make up a rule like
the one that is called
the
rule of Basil
.
So matristic
patristic theology
has at its core
the notion of
theo
sis
(
divinisation
)
a
nd t
his notion is the
one that makes sense when we think about ordination. How do we foster
‘divinisation’
and how do we
express our sacramentality?
I do think that there is a
need
to distinguish between sacrament and non
sacrament
,
but
the
‘sacred’ does not correspond to a space
‘controlle
d by a religious institution’;
in
the
g
ospel of Matthew
Jesus dies rendering the curtain of the temple from top to bottom, the curtain that
separated
the
sacred from
the
non
sacred
, because
this separation
had to do with hierarchy
: the
‘sacred’ was a s
pace
that was only for a few people
,
only
the high priest
could go there, and
only at
appointed times.
This separation
of sacred/non
sacred
has nothing to do with what I’m talking about.
I think feminist ordina
tion gets rid of this separation but keeps and should keep a distinction between
what is sacramental and what is not.
Sacramental has to
do
with perichoretic presence, with active
love and f
reedom;
there are other options
to experience space, time and sex
and we should keep
a
clear
vision
to criticise
them
frankly as ‘non
sacramental’. I refuse any
theological understanding
that
doesn’t allow me
to make
such
differences.
Finally, a few words about
the last question I said
I would address:
women and other
non
ordained
Catholics can baptize if needed, but they can never consecrate the Eucharist; is
then the
Eucharist
as a
sacrament substantially different
from
Baptism; is the Eucharist some
how
holier
than
baptism?
We
have in the Catholic Church seven sacra
me
nts for men and six for women; the number
seven is
not
something that we need to defend as if it were God
given.
If
a man gets ordained as a priest
,
this
is a
sacrament
;
if
a m
an or a woman gets married,
this
is a sacrament
;
but
if
a woman
becomes
a nun,
this
is
not a sacrament.
W
hy not?
[
applause
]
I’ve thought about it,
as you can imagine. I don’t find any
theological reason
for this;
becoming a nun is
an enga
g
e
men
t for your whole life
; it’s something you
do publicly
; it’s something you do in the C
hurch.
W
hy
shouldn’t that be a sacrament?
I
t’s fundamental that we acknowledge in feminist theology and with an idea of feminist ordination
that we have to take responsibility for
our notion of ‘ordination’
. What do we call sacraments, what do
we not
?
I
n no
case can we hide ourselves under
excuses:
“W
e’ve always done it like this” because
when we study
ordination
we realise
that
there have been major changes,
but even if
there had been
none
,
we st
ill need to take responsibility
for our present praxis and unde
rstanding of the faith, as the
C
hurch
is used
to do in other areas
.
I’ll give an
example
.
For the liturgical vig
il
of
Easter night (t
he
long
est service and the most important in the
Christian
liturgy
)
,
the Catholic
C
hurch
has
, among other
readings, the pr
ophetic text
Ezekiel 36
:
16
28
.
However,
what’s proposed to be read that n
ight is not
Ezekiel 36: 16
28
in its entirety
,
but
Ezekiel 36: 16
17a
,
18
28
. So of course I had the
question, “What
does
17b
say
?
(laughs)
W
hy has
17b
been left out from this
reading?
Verse 17a
reads
:
Mortal, when
the house of Israel lived on their own soil, they defiled it with their ways and their deeds;
And then 17b
adds:
their conduct in my sight was like the uncleanness of a woman in her menstrual period.
T
he
Catholic
Church
,
misogynist and sexist as it is
,
is nevertheless
in the
21
st
century,
and it realized
that it would be
too much to say
on the holier night
, on that
night
when
everybody should be really
getting the point of what God is all about,
that God considers
menstruation a source of uncleanness,
indeed
in the context of the reading
a source of shame and guilt, defiling and abhorrent as a sin.
Why then do
we still read
1Cor 14:34,
“let
your
women
keep
silent in the
church
es: for it is not
permitted unto
them to speak
, but they are commanded to be under obedience
as the Law says
” and
excuse ourselves saying:
We don’t like it, but it
is the B
ible
!” Ok, then go ahead and proclaim also as
‘the word of God’ Ezequiel 36:
17b,
it is also in the Bible!
If we
are
entitled as a
Church
to
leave
out
Ez
36:
17b,
why don
’t we leave out
also
1Cor 14:34
?
[
applause
]
It
is not a matter
only
of versicles
, though
;
how we are dealing with the
whole of the Church’s
sacramental reality
is
equally in our hands; it is
our
full
responsibility
.
I’m coming to a close now
I have tried to draft a theological
foundation
of
t
he sacramental life of the
Church
that
I think
would
lead us to an upheaval
of the hierarchical understanding of ordained
ministries, keeping nevertheless a
ver
y clear notion
of mission and of what we are
called
to be as a
Christian community:
the goal of feminist ordination
is
to make visible in the world today
the
fundamental perichoretic
understan
ding of what the life of God is
, and
to
keep building and
celebr
ating
free lov
ing communities
without hierarchies and
without abuse
.
Thank you very much.
[
Finish 1.06
]
Miriam Duignan
responds
Teresa Forcades, thank you. It is such an honour to have you speak for us and thank you for the work
that you do for
everyone.
Everybody has a stole and I would like you to have a stole. So here it is. [Places purple stole round

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