Let us hope that the Vatican will overturn the ban on women priests - and sooner rather than later. I hope the forthcoming synod of bishops will consider the church as a family, and recognize that our patriarchal family structure is becoming an obstacle to evangelisation as we enter the transition to a post-patriarchal society. Hierarchy is not the problem, and the church must remain apostolic; patriarchy is the problem, and the exclusively male hierarchy is becoming stale as a symbol of the Christ-Church mystery.
In this regard, St John Paul II's Theology of the Body (TOB) may provide a solid basis for solving the most pressing issues of human sexuality - both in families and in the Church as the family of God - including the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Catholic and Orthodox churches.
The TOB endorses neither radical patriarchy nor radical feminism and provides a vision of marriage - and gender relations in general - that can be summarized as unity in diversity, equality in mutuality, individuality in community.
Doctrinally, nothing essential (dogmatic) would have to change in order to ordain women to the priesthood and the episcopate. The TOB confirms that there is one (embodied) human nature, shows that men and women equally share in human personhood, and makes clear that the human body, male and female, is what makes our Lord Jesus Christ visible as an incarnate divine person.
What is needed is "simply" to clarify our sacramental theology to separate patriarchal ideology from revealed truth. With all due respect and sensitivity for those who are heavily invested in the patriarchal order of things, this is a clarification that is possible and urgently needed in the church of the 21st century.Jesus never identified himself as a patriarch. The Holy Family was a not a patriarchy. The Trinity is not a patriarchy. The spousal, sacramental love of Christ for the church is not intrinsically patriarchal (as the TOB interpretation of Ephesians 5 abundantly shows), and Jesus Christ is head of the church because he is a divine person and our Redeemer, not because he is a human male.
The exclusively-male priesthood is a choice, not a dogma. The church does have the authority (the power of the keys) to ordain women as soon as Peter decides it would be for the glory of God and the good of souls. The patriarchal age is passing, but the deposit of faith is inexhaustible.
Let us pray that all the Christian churches can discern the difference between patriarchal ideology and revealed truth, and act accordingly.
Luis T Gutierrez
Letter to Editor of Irish Independent
1 October 2014