Woman in the Church

By Louis Bouyer
translated by Marilyn Teichert,
published by the Ignatius Press, San Francisco
1979 and reproduced here with the usual permissions.


I A Female Priesthood 11
II God and Woman 29
III Woman in Creation and Salvation 40
IV Complementary Vocations of Men And Women 47
V Traditional Feminine Ministries 71
Appendix Legislation and Influence 93
  The Consecrated Virgin in Today's World 95
  Religious Vocations Today 106
EPILOGUE Hans Urs von Balthasar 113
Priestesses in the Church C.S. Lewis 123


The potentially disruptive controversy over the ordination of women to the priesthood, which is becoming widespread within the Church, should have at least one beneficial effect. It should lead us to a deeper understanding of the mystery of woman. The fifth chapter of Ephesians and the twelfth chapter of the Book of Revelation, among other Biblical texts, attest to the crucial importance of this mystery for a right interpretation of the Gospel. However, it has not yet received the attention it deserves. The exploration of this mystery offers, without doubt, the most positive way to confront the current flood of sexuality which is even more unbalanced than unbridled.

It is certainly no coincidence that the calling into question of the constant refusal of Jewish and Christian tradition to allow a feminine priesthood (or rather an asexual priesthood, open to women and men without distinction), is taking place precisely in an era which is so obviously unsettled with respect to sex roles. The strangely sophisticated motives alleged by the partisans of radical change, their ignorance and evident misunderstanding, bear clear witness to the depth of the general uncertainty regarding the true place and essential role of women in society: in a word, of what constitutes feminine dignity, a concept completely alien to what one hardly dares any more to call our civilization.

To examine and criticize these false lines of reasoning, the worst not always being the oldest, would seem the simplest and most natural way to clear away the prejudices which encumber the issue. From there one may proceed to reexamine the mystery of woman in all its authentic aspects.(1)

1.The most complete treatment of this problem, leading to what we see as the solution, has been furnished, we think, by the symposium edited by H. Karl Lutge, Sexuality, Theology, Priesthood, to which Anglicans, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants have contributed, published by “Concerned Fellow Episcopalians” (1973). A debate for or against, in the framework of a general revision of the theology of the priesthood, was organized, also by Anglicans, in San Francisco. The principal contributions appeared in another anthology, To Be a Priest (1976). Particularly notable is the contribution of Michael Marshall, now Anglican bishop of Woolwich, which was of great help to us.