The Archbishop of Tuam has said the Church is endeavouring to “respond positively and constructively to genuine voices calling for a greater recognition of women and the feminine in the Church”.
In his homily for the Ad Limina visit to the Basilica of St Mary
Major in Rome, Archbishop Michael Neary suggested that there was
something to learn from the way in which the Marian and the Petrine
dimensions interrelate and the fact that the Petrine is seen as
supportive of and giving expression to the Marian principle.
The first Vatican Council had concentrated largely on the Petrine dimension of the Church.
“To reduce the Church to the mere masculine is to lose what is
authentically ecclesial about the nature of the Church. Viewing the
Church as a mere organisational or institutional entity not only
impoverishes her from within but also severely diminishes her authentic
religious appeal and misleads women who are seeking a legitimate and
fruitful role,” Dr Neary said.
At the Second Vatican Council, the Chapter on Mary within the Church in Lumen Gentium draws attention to the Marian profile of the Church and its maternal nature, he commented.
“The neglect of the Church’s feminine nature has resulted in
unnecessary alienation in some quarters. It is essential that we
rediscover the feminine and Marian dimension of the Church,” the
He noted that Hans Urs Von Balthasar insisted that the Church existed in a woman before any man was called to be an apostle.
“In Mary, the Church had already physical existence before it was
organised in Peter. So Mary has primacy in a way that no pope, primate
or prelate could ever have.”
In an interview in March 2014, Pope Francis, echoing von Balathasar,
saw the Marian principle pointing to the feminine nature of the Church
whereas the Petrine pointed to the masculine dimension.
“These dimensions are not in competition, rather the more the Marian
dimension is brought into prominence the more the nature of the Petrine
as an essential service and protection of the Marian holiness is brought
into view,” he said.
Separately, Bishop Fintan Monahan of Killaloe has said that when the
bishops met Pope Francis for two hours last Friday, the issue of women
in the Church was discussed.
“The role of women in the Church is a much discussed and debated
issue not only in Ireland but worldwide. This topic was brought up by a
number of the bishops,” he recalled.
According to Bishop Monahan, the newest member of the Irish
hierarchy, Pope Francis “emphasised the importance of having women
involved in the decision making processes at many levels in the Church.
“He emphasised the scriptural and theological ‘Marian Profile’ or
feminine character or charism of the Church. He spoke of St Paul’s
vision and image of this and the development of this in the Church
documents of the Second Vatican Council.”
However, in relation to the suggestion that women should be ordained,
Pope Francis made the point that “while Our Lady was the most important
person in the upper room at Pentecost her role did not extend to the
celebration of the Eucharist.”