Part VIII of this series “The Christians Feminists,” examined the relationship between feminist theology and Church teaching, principally within the Catholic Church.  It concluded with the note that what may be appropriate in society, may not necessarily be so in the Church.

To understand the radical difference between the rules governing society and the life and belief of the Church requires – among other things – a proper grasp of the concept “Church.”  Because there appear to be many churches, many people are confused.

When evangelists Jim and Tammy Bakker of PTL fame told journalists in June 1987 that they intended to start a new ministry, someone asked them how, since their Pentecostal-Evangelical fellowship now disapproved of them.  Retorted Jim Bakker; to start a ministry, one doesn’t need denominational approval!

In the same month, newspapers reported a group of white Afrikaners announcing the formation of a new church:

“The creation of an all-white Afrikaans Reformed Church by 3,000 Afrikaans completes a split in the political, cultural and religious life of South Africa’s dominant Dutch descended whites over the future of apartheid, political analysts said.”

Thus continues the factual strife which Paul the apostle denounced at the beginning of his ministry (“I am Apollos, I am for Peter…he said) which Pope Clement, Bishop of Rome (C 96) and St. Peter, denounced:

“Why are there strife and passion, schisms and even war among you?  Do we not possess the same Spirit of grace which was given to us and the same calling in Christ?  Why do we revolt against our own body?  Why do we reach such a degree of insanity that we forget that we are members of one another?…”

Today, there are well over 3,000 Protestant “denominations” or “churches.”

The self-understanding of the Catholic Church is that all her members form one body united by Christ himself.  As divinely founded and guided, the Church sees herself required to be faithful to the body of teaching and sacramental dispensation issued from the days of the Lord onwards.

In her origin, the Church’s external, visible structure stands in direct succession to the Community (or “college”) of the twelve apostles, with Peter at their head.  Her internal, invisible bond, the source of all strength and grace, is nothing less than the mystical body of the glorified Christ.  Consequently, whatever Christ taught can never be abolished or changed in substance, even though outward forms and formulations may develop as time passes on.

Who is to judge what has been taught by Christ?  It is that very body of successors to the apostles, the bishops.  They in turn, must be in union with the Pope who is the Bishop of Rome, the Church’s first Se marked with the martyrs’ blood of the two great apostles, Peter and Paul.

This historical continuity is the basic framework within which the Church opposes the ordination of women.  This was reiterated in the Declaration on the question of the admission of women to the ministerial priesthood, issued by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in October 1987 (published in early 1977), where the congregation states:

“It judges it necessary to recall that the Church infidelity to the example of the Lord, does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination.”

The rejection of women’s ordination by Roman, Greek and Orthodox Christianity flatly contradicts the general trend among various Christian communities, stemming from the sixteenth century Reformation or of later origin, to accept women as ordained ministers.  This obvious fact is sometimes used by Catholic supporters of women’s ordination to impute reactionary attitudes to their own Church.  For example, the Bishop of Victoria, B.C., Remi De Roo stated in his address to a feminist conference in Washington D.C., in October 1986 that:

“The issue of women’s ordination has become a symbol of the willingness or refusal of the Catholic Church to come to grips with…contemporary society…as well an ecumenical initiatives leading to Christian unity.”

In 1984, Catholic feminist Elizabeth Lacelle had put it more directly:

“It is impossible to say not allowing women to be priests is not discrimination.  How can this be allowed in other churches and at the same time be against Jesus Christ’s will?…It is a condemnation against all the other churches.”

These critics have turned ecumenism (the attempt among Christian communities to become united in heart and mind), upside down.  They blame those who adhere to a 2000-year old tradition for not submitting to novelties introduced by others whose understanding of such Christian concepts as church, tradition, apostolic succession, priesthood, and sacrament have withered to the point of extinction, not to mention the fact that they proceeded on their chosen path without the slightest consultation or so much as a “by your leave” from Christendom at large.

Contrary to their charges, it was precisely out of concern for a setback to progress in ecumenism that the Vatican issued the 1976 Declaration on Women’s Ordination:

“This therefore constitutes an ecumenical problem, and the Catholic Church must make her thinking known on it, all the more because in various sections of opinion the question has been asked now whether she too could not modify her discipline and admit women to priestly ordination…”

One faith community which recently has become involved in the ordination controversy is the Anglican Church, called Anglican in Canada, Church of England in Great Britain and Episcopalian in the United States.  The process by which this has happened is quite revealing.

In Philadelphia in 1984, three retired Episcopalian bishops ordained 11 women to the Anglican ministry without consent from their own ruling body or synod.  This act of disobedience therefore, was not a question of opening the door but of breaking it down.  The climate of the times being what it was, the act of defiance was followed by others, all hailed as liberating women.  The Episcopalians subsequently approve these illegal procedures as did the Anglican Church in Canada.  By 1976, therefore, both these churches had committed themselves to women ministers.  The `1974 action had been preceded by an even bolder act 30 years earlier, namely the ordination of the first woman in the Anglican tradition by the Church of Hong Kong in January of 1944.  When the Bishop of Hong Kong visited England later that year he dropped by to see the Archbishop of Canterbury and simply informed him of the fact over tea and crumpets.  At that time, however, the gesture was not much appreciated.  The Bishop was rebuked in 1945 and the person involved forbidden to preside at the Anglican Eucharist.

Today, the mother church in England still has not formally approved women’s ordination, although signs indicate that resistance may not prevail for very long.  Meanwhile, the current division of opinion is extremely awkward for a community which claims to be one worldwide.  Indeed, the controversy has made it clear that the Church’s unity is mainly one of sentiment.  As the British Empire, under whose tutelage Anglicanism spread through the world, has receded, the Church appears to be breaking down into twenty-odd autonomous denominations.

The movement for women’s rights did not go unobserved in Rome.  The Vatican Council document on the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), reiterates the equality of all and places sex among the various kinds of discrimination to be overcome and eradicated (Section 29).

Pope Paul VI, in his 1971 apostolic letter celebrating the 80th anniversary of the 1891 social encyclical Rerum Novarum, raised the question: What is the proper place for women and young people in the society now taking shape?  He observed that:

“In many nations study is being made – to pass laws on the status of women that would remove any unjust distinction between the sexes, provide equal rights for women, and show due respect for their dignity.”

Of all this he fully approved adding:

“Of course, we are not talking about that fictitious equality which denies differences established by the Creator Himself and stands in opposition to the pre-eminently important role of women within the home and the very midst of society.  Laws passed over the course of time in this area must be designed to safeguard the distinctive function to which a woman is called by her very nature.  At the same time these laws must recognize her due measure of personal liberty and her equal rights to participate in cultural, economic, social and political life.”

In an address to Italian Catholic jurists in December 1972, the same Pope, speaking of women and the problem of abortion, noted that:

“the present-day cause of women’s liberation is, in itself, just.  But some distorted features of this cause…are false…”

By this time, women’s rights and women’s attempts at gaining a more varied role within the Church had been tied in already with the issue of ordination.

The first bishop to bring the question of women within the Church before a representative body was Cardinal George Flahiff, Archbishop of Winnipeg, at the third Roman Synod held in October 1971.  His intervention was made in the name of the Canadian episcopate.

The Cardinal was aware that the early Church, especially in the eastern rites, had what he called “feminine ministers” up to the sixth century, but that “they were not really ordained ministers.”

He indicated that he personally believed that restricting ordination to men only, was no more than a consequence of cultural conditioning, “as far as I know…there is no dogmatic objection to reconsidering the whole question today.”  In the name of the Canadian hierarchy he recommended that a study be made by a commission not just of ordination, but of the role for women in the ministry or better in the ministries of the church.”  This recommendation, he indicated, was the result of the Bishops’ consultation with Canadian Catholic women across the country.

Whether the consultation was a widespread as indicated appears unlikely.   The Catholic Women’s League had held some workshops in Ottawa on April 17-18, 1971.  Among the resolutions approved was one asking for the ordination of women, after the group had been addressed by Miss Mary Schaeffer, an active champion of women’s ordination.  The next day these resolutions were promptly presented by a CWL executive to the Bishops, who were meeting in Ottawa for their Spring gathering.  From there it worked its way into the October 1971 presentation.

The Vatican first separated the question of ordination from the study of “ministries” in general giving the former to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.  The latter received an answer from the Pastoral Commission of the Sacred Congregation for Evangelization (Propagation of the Faith), which published a document dealing with women and the church in 1975.  The Commission’s method was to faithfully summarize what is described as a “vast consultation.”

It should be noted that the Commission discusses the role of women under the title evangelization.  Evangelization refers first and foremost to bringing the good news of the gospel to the world outside the church.  This fits the overall view of the Catholic Church that the first task of the laity – whether women or men – is to help Christianize the world rather than seeking clerical roles within the Church.

Until recently, functions of a liturgical nature were not called “ministries.”  The term ministry was used by Protestants, but not by Catholics who reserved its application exclusively to the “ministerial priesthood” even up to and including the deliberations of the second Vatican Council.  Until then activities of the laity were referred to in terms of the scriptural designations found in such texts as (1 Corinthians 4):

“Now there are a variety of (spiritual) gifts, but the same spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it’s the same God who inspires them all in everyone.”

Because the document is not well  known, some longer quotes may be useful.  After discussing women’s roles in general, two sections reflect on work “within” the Church.  The first section – women in parishes – opens with a caution that women’s roles in the Church should not be seen as related to the shortage of priests:

‘What follows is not motivated by a need to supply for a lack of priests, even if priests in fact are in an increasingly short supply.  It relates rather to the natural characteristics of women in society and in the church, something about which we are rapidly learning more and more.”

Said the Commission: “The first group of parochial activities which women could per form are what can loosely be termed ‘administration.’  Women involved in the apostolate have a precious contribution to make in the organization of the parish and its radiation towards the non-Christian world.  They contribute a sense of concrete realities, their perseverance and methodical approach, their practical ingenuity…

“The second and more important group of activities is directly pastoral. But one is not talking of ministries, properly so-called.  Women have a specific educational role to play, one of which men are not capable, in catechumenates, especially for women, in catechetical schools, pastoral institutes and seminaries.  Women…direct groups engaged in dialogue between Christians and non-Christians, groups studying spirituality, biblical groups…

“A whole area of the apostolate of preparation for the sacraments is open to women, as to priests: preparation for baptism, confirmation, marriage and the anointing of the sick.  It is to be hoped that priests, often over-burdened in this field, would find in women they valued collaborators.  They will acknowledge their responsibility and will give them the responsible autonomy which their personal qualifications deserve…”

In a second section – Women in Liturgy and Ministry – the commission goes on to record a number of liturgical tasks as parts of women’s apostolate within the Church:

“Both long experience and certain new initiatives show clearly certain ways in which women evangelists can become increasingly involved in the apostolate.  These are roles which up to now have been reserved to priests but which are not in principle part of a clerical monopoly.  They can be filled by women: a sort of diaconia, a service rendered by women.

“In how many parishes is it not a woman religious who, in the absence of a priest, assumes responsibility for the paraliturgical assembly, presides over it and directs it on Sundays and weekdays, preaching to the parishioners about their duties as Christians…

“It is also the woman religious whose presence makes it possible to reserve the blessed Eucharist, it is she who distributes it to the faithful in case of necessity…

“There are cases where, with the requisite Episcopal mandate, women religious in permanent charge of a parish administer baptism and preside over marriages in an official ecclesial capacity…”

The Commission explains that the reason why women religious are performing such tasks is “not a wish to claims rights,” but their anguish at seeing “how abandoned are some Christian communities, threatened with anemia and with death.”  It is on this basis that “their requests should be examined sympathetically and as a matter of urgency.”

One question which has not been settled, the Commission points out, is how a “person is to be deputed for such a work,” whether “there is a question of a juridical mandate, a special blessing, or whatever.”  Meanwhile, “all must proceed with the approval of the bishop who in turn must follow ‘the requisite conditions…’ laid down by the competent supreme authorities.”

Obviously, there are many questions not mentioned by the Commission.  But their document verifies that the activities of the laity – whether men, women, or religious – have increased in variety with the full approval of the Church, in line with the renewal initiated by the second Vatican Council.  This Council intended that the Church of Christ be ever more true to its own divinely-instituted nature.

But, as noted, and perhaps contrary to opinions even of high ecclesiastics, the ordained ministry for women is not part of this development.  The Church, having in mind long range effects whether tactical, psychological or theological, has set her mind firmly against all strategies which imply such a change, including even the use of altar girls.

The issue of altar girls was touched upon by the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship in 1970.  After explaining that women may participate in the liturgy of the Eucharist, including “reading the word of God and proclaiming the intentions of the prayer of the faithful,” it ruled that “women are not however permitted to act as altar servers.”  This teaching was repeated in the Instruction on Certain Norms Concerning the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery of April 1980.


The principal thrust of the 1976 Vatican Declaration against women’s ordination (in Latin, Inter Insigniores) is the denial that this stand has anything whatever to do with “discrimination.”  As many people are aware, the use of the term “discrimination” with respect to women in the church, as well as with other issues such as so-called sexual orientation, is erroneous.  In these cases the term is used as a weapon to discredit opposing views accompanied by a refusal to examine these views.

In a nutshell, the Declaration recalls the 1900-year-old tradition and belief of the Church in both East and West, of calling only men to the priestly order.  In passing, it notes the certain unhappy prejudices towards women expressed by some of the Church Fathers “had hardly any influence on their pastoral activity and still less on their spiritual direction.”

The statement then discussed the attitude of Jesus, not seeing that Jesus did not conform to the culture of the day, neither within Israel, where Jesus ignored legal and cultural prohibitions concerning women, nor outside Israel, where, for example, priestesses were fully accepted.

Subsequently, the Declaration explains the limits of the Church’s ability to change the sacramental signs and the conditions of their administration:

“The Church has no power over the substance of the sacraments, that is to say, over what Christ the Lord…determined should be maintained in the sacramental sign.”  There follows a discussion about the nature of such “signs.”  While they must be natural (water for baptism, for example) their symbolic character cannot be “conventional,” that is belong to one culture only.  Their symbolism is meant to link the person of every period to the Supreme Event of the history of salvation.

After explaining this need for “natural resemblance” in the Sacramental sign, the authors refute the argument that recognition of Jesus as a male inevitably means discrimination against women as inferior:

“The Incarnation of the Word took place according to the male sex: this is indeed a question of fact, and this fact, while not implying an alleged natural superiority of man over woman, cannot be disassociated from the economy of salvation…”

In support of this denial that Christ’s manhood implies inequality for women, it quotes St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians 3.28:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The document goes on to note that acting in “persona Christi,” i.e., in the person of Christ, requires the priest to be that natural sign, that is a man and not a woman. This, the Declaration emphasizes again, does not stem from any personal superiority of male over female, “but only from a difference of fact on the level of function and service.”

Finally, the letter reasserts the difference between the Church and all other societies, between the priesthood and modes of authority found elsewhere.  It re-asserts that ordination is not granted by people’s spontaneous choice, even when it involves election.  It is not the result of any right.  Nor is it subject to claims for equality of rights.  Galatians 3.28, the Congregation points out, does bring about equality of all through baptism; but this biblical statement cannot be used to claim an equal right to all “ministries,” as some have argued.

In other words, baptism itself does not confer a personal title to public ministry in the church.  As for the vocation to the priesthood, it is not conferred for the honor or advantage of the recipient, least of all for the acquisition of power.

The Vatican’s Declaration of 1977 met opposition from the same circles – often academic – as did the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.  In Toronto, a group around the Catholic Theological Faculties titled itself “Christians for Equality.”  It immediately published a protest with 77 signatures accusing the Congregation of “attitudes which devalue women and (which) are contrary to Christian principles of justice and human dignity,” hoping thereby to repeat the successful action of 1968 in opposing papal teaching.  However, this was not to be.  Meanwhile, fifteen members of the St. Michael’s Faculty of Theology led by the Dean, Father Elliott Allen, issued a separate statement of their own rejecting the Vatican request to pursue the matter of women’s ordination no further.

Since that time the academic-based opposition has continued its guerilla warfare.  When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger gave a lecture at St. Michael’s College of the University of Toronto, in April 1986 – attended by 6,000 people – a group of some 20 Women’s Ordination supporters protested outside.  The leaflet handed out repeated all the arguments refuted in the Declaration.  Ordination “for men only,” it stated, means sexist discrimination, the denial of full personhood  of women, the clinging to an obsolete anthropology that regards women as inferior (which in turn, the leaflet said, is the result of women’s presumed greater guilt of sin) and denies women’s autonomy.  The pamphlet quoted at length from a book by Rosemary Ruether.

Others keep the pot boiling in one way of another.  Recently, the Canadian Jesuit quarterly Compass re-published an article from its Quebec sister publication Relations by Quebec feminist Marie Gatton-Boucher entitled “Power in the Church.  Must it remain a clerical fiefdom?”  Boucher contends that the male church has developed its hierarchical construct simply in line with political reality and has exercised it as such ever since.  There is nothing divine about it.

In October 1986, some 2,000 feminists held a conference in Washington.  The Bishop of Victoria, BC, Remi De Roo delivered the closing address, a speech marked by current buzzwords such as “empowerment” and the “paradigm shift,” and filled with rhetorical questions meant to raise expectations and to suggest many things without clarifying anything, other than his support for the movement.

The Bishop contended that all thinking is conditioned by cultural environment; that the second Vatican Council represents a major shift in everything except in women’s issues; and that only social analysis can help to identify how stifling ideologies such as “patriarchism” keep thinking static and imprisoned in “cultural mindsets.”  The Bishop pointed out that feminist scholars such as Rosemary Ruether and Schussler-Fiorenza, as well as futurists (New Age thinkers), had helped him greatly in understanding relationships rooted in, what he called, “primitive patriarchal designs.”  “Might not the feminist movement,” he asked, “represent the ultimate challenge which exposes the basic problem of misused power and domination in the patriarchal model?”

Contrary to the opinion of some, the Roman Magisterium has not evaded the issue of ordination.  It issued the 1976 Declaration precisely in response to “the ecumenical problem,” for which reason it stated, “the Catholic Church must make her thinking known on it…”

This same reason also induced both Pope Paul VI and Cardinal Willebrands, who heads the Vatican’s Secretariat for Christian Unity, to exchange letters with the Archbishop of Canterbury on several occasions.  Pope Paul did so between November 1975 and March 1976, because of the move towards ordination of women in the Episcopal Church in the USA and the Anglican Church in Canada.  Cardinal Willebrands and Pope John Paul II did so recently, between December 1984 and March 1986, because of a similar development in the Church of England in Britain.

In his March 1986 letter (printed in Origins, July 17, 1986) Cardinal Willebrands first summarized and then rejected the Anglican reasoning employed to justify what, in Catholic terms, would be described as the sacramental ordination of women.  Stated the Cardinal:

“If I understand it correctly, the thrust of the argument is this: Christ is our high priest.  The humanity he assumed to accomplish our redemption was a humanity that included both male and female.  That is to say, his humanity must be understood as an inclusive humanity if the whole human race is to be able to enjoy the fruits of the redemption.  Those who are commissioned as priests in the church fulfill a twofold representative function: not only do they represent the priestly nature of the whole body of the church, they also stand in a special sacramental relationship with the risen Christ.  Especially in the Eucharist, they represent Christ.  Since Christ’s humanity is inclusive of male and female, those who represent Christ in the church would do so more perfectly if their number included both males and females.”

To this he replied (I am selecting only a small part):

“Christ took on human nature to accomplish the redemption of all humanity.  But as Inter Insigniores says, ‘We can never ignore the fact that Christ is more the fact that Christ is a man.’  His male identity is an inherent feature of the economy of salvation, revealed in the Scriptures and pondered in the church.  The ordination only of men to the priesthood has to be understood in terms of the intimate relationship between Christ the redeemer and those who, in a unique way, cooperate in Christ’s redemptive work.  The priest represents Christ in his saving relationship with his body the church.  He does not primarily represent the priesthood of the whole people of God. However unworthy, the priest stands in “persona Christi.”  Christ’s saving sacrifice is made present in the world as a sacramental reality in and through the ministry of priests.  And the sacramental ordination of men takes on force and significance precisely within this context of the church’s experience of its own identity, of the power and significance of the person of Jesus Christ, and of the symbolic and iconic role of those who represent him in the Eucharist.”  (emphasis is mine.)

Mission of Women

As noted above, Pope Paul VI spoke of “the distinctive function to which a woman is called by her very nature.”  In 1975 he listed four sound principles on which to base action:

“Let us call them briefly to mind.  We are referring, above all, to the functional differentiation of woman from man within the nature they share; furthermore, the uniqueness of her nature, her psychology, and her vocation as a human being and a Christian; her dignity, which must not be degraded as it so often is today in the spheres of morality, work, advertising and entertainment and through promiscuity; finally, the primordial place of woman in all those areas of human existence where we confront more directly the problems of life itself, suffering, and help to our fellow man, and especially in the area of motherhood.

Based on these principles, Pope Paul VI fully supported legislation and action recognizing women as the full equals of men in professional, social and political roles in society.

Clearly the framework within which the Magisterium continues its reflection on women, differs profoundly from that of ideological feminism:

–          woman if different from man, but not inferior;

–          woman has her own unique vocation;

–          woman’s dignity must be defended;

–          woman’s nature demands that her first task must be seen in the lights of being – next to God – the source and sustenance of human life.

The teaching of Pope Paul VI does not differ from that of his successors or predecessors.  One excellent exposition may be found in a long address by Pope Pius XII to the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations in 1957, entitled “The Mission of the Catholic Woman.”  Seeing this mission as one in the world, he told his audience:

“you can and must adopt, without reservation the program of advancing womanhood – a program which offers such great hope to the vast numbers of your sisters who are still subjected to degrading customs, who are still the victims of misery, illiterate environments, or a total lack of mean of culture and education.

Speaking about the meaning of life, the apostolate of truth, the Pope noted that the:

“atmosphere of atheism, whether militant or latent, is a greater threat to woman than it is to man, both in her personal life and in her social role, because…by reason of her innate inclinations and the functions to which she is called by nature, woman is more in harmony with spiritual realities.”

Pope Pius went on to say about women:

“She perceives spiritual realities more easily, is more conscious of them, interprets them and makes them felt by others, particularly by those entrusted to her care in her capacity as mother and wife.  Her personal dignity and the respect due to her are based primarily on the necessity of safeguarding that spiritual mission, and therefore, in the last analysis, on her proximity to God.  The respect for woman and recognition of the true part she plays are closely bound to the religious concepts of the social group to which she belongs.”

Pope Pius also mentions the Mother of Christ:

“Though life shows the depths of vice and degradation to which women may sometimes sink, Mary shows the heights to which women can rise, in Christ and through Christ, attaining a position far above all other creatures.”

He follows this up with an exclamation about Mary which we should all take to heart today:

“What civilization or religion has ever urged women to attain such heights and such perfection?  Modern humanism, secularism, Marxist propaganda, the most developed and widespread non-Christian cults offer nothing comparable to this vision, so glorious and so humble, so transcendent and yet so easily accessible!”

Because the Virgin Mary plays and will play a crucial role in any future Christian theology of women, one may ask: why does the Catholic Church always hold up the Virgin Mary as of extreme importance?  In his book, The Ratzinger Report, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger gives six reasons:

Firstly, dogma and tradition have assigned her such an important place because to understand Mary leads to a deeper understanding of Christ.  As the Vatican Council states:

“Devoutly meditating on her and contemplating her in the light of the Word made flesh, the Church reverently penetrates more deeply into the great Mystery of the Incarnation and becomes more and more like her spouse” (Lumen Gentium, No. 65).

The Marian dogmas of the Church have been proclaimed not primarily out of devotion to Mary, but in service to faith in Christ.  As the Cardinal puts it:

–          These dogmas protect the original faith in Christ as true God and true man

–          Two natures in a single person

–          They point to that necessary tension in our lives, of being here on earth, yet meant for an immortal life hereafter (Assumption).

–          They protect our Faith in God the Creator – threatened today (e.g., meaning of the Virgin Birth)

–          Mary, “having entered deeply into the history of salvation…in a way unites in her person and reechoes the most important mysteries of the Faith.” (Lumen Gentium, No. 65)

Secondly, the Cardinal points out that the veneration and study of Mary helps the Church to express the right relationship and the necessary integration between Scripture and tradition (the belief in Mary is Biblically founded, yet elaborated chiefly by subsequent tradition).

Thirdly, in her very person as a Jewish girl, who has become the mother of the Messiah, Mary binds together – in a living and indissoluble way – the old and new People of God, Israel and Christianity, synagogue and the Church.  She is, as it were, the connecting link without which the Faith runs the risk of losing its balance by either forsaking the New Testament for the old, or dispensing with the old.

Fourthly, the correct Marian devotion balances the heart with the head.  Man is neither mere reason, nor mere feeling.  There must be a unity of these two dimensions.

Fifthly, Mary is “figure,” “image,” and “model” of the Church.  Beholding her, the Church is shielded against a too masculine model, prevalent today among those who see the Church primarily as an instrument for political-social action.  In Mary, as figure and archetype, the Church again finds her own reflection as mother, and cannot degenerate into a complexity of a party, an organization or a pressure group in the service of human interests, even the noblest.

If May no longer finds a place in the theologies of many theologians, the Cardinal concludes, the reason is obvious: they have reduced faith to an abstraction and an abstraction does not need a Mother.

The sixth and final point: With her role as Virgin and Mother – Mary continues to project a light upon that which the Creator intended for women of every age, including, our age, when perhaps the very essence of femininity is threatened.