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Egan - Butler debate

Why Not?
Scripture, History & Women's Ordination

Robert J. Egan, SJ | April 3, 2008

Why are women excluded from being deacons, presbyters, and bishops in the Catholic Church? Are the reasons given reasonable and convincing? What can be learned from the testimony of Scripture and tradition? And what can be learned from the experience of Christians in contemporary societies? These questions provide us with an illuminating example of the crisis of contemporary Catholicism.

Has the tradition of excluding women from the diaconate, presbyterate, and episcopacy really been faithful to the teaching and practice of Jesus? Or has it been part of a mostly unexamined and partially unconscious bias for subjecting women to men’s authority and power?

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About the Author:

Robert J. Egan, SJ, a frequent contributor to Commonweal, teaches theology and spirituality at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.

Continuing the Conversation: Women & the Priesthood, an exchange between Sara Butler and Robert Egan

Sara Butler, MSBT | July 9, 2008

Although Egan concludes that the church’s traditional practice was dictated chiefly by outdated socio-cultural considerations related to the status of women, he does not simply retrace the path taken by, for example, Haye van der Meer in Women Priests in the Catholic Church? (1969; English, 1973).

The logic of his critique is closer, in fact, to that of Hans Küng in Why Priests? (1970) and Martin Luther in Babylonian Captivity of the Church and Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation (both 1520). Egan does not only question whether Jesus’ choice of men and not women to belong to the Twelve should be regarded as normative for priestly ministry in the church—the question posed and answered by the magisterium in its responses to the controversy over the priestly ordination of women.

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About the Author:

Sr. Sara Butler, MSBT, teaches at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, New York. Her Cardinal Cooke Lecture on the subject of the ministerial priesthood is available on her faculty page.

Egan's response to her critique of his article

Robert J. Egan, S.J.
| July 9, 2008

In her response to my article, Butler does not deal directly with my central argument. She leaves much of it out of consideration altogether. By making assumptions about my opinions and conclusions, and attaching these to passages culled from various parts of my article, Butler frequently portrays me as saying things I do not say. I would have to repeat much of my article to set the whole record straight. On the basis of her testimony, she tries hard to characterize my views as Protestant. This falls short of being a reasoned argument, and seems to me a type of name-calling one would like to think had become obsolete in an ecumenical age.

In her first paragraph, she speaks of my “doubts” and my “opinion” and talks about a “grave injustice,” though there is nothing about any of this in my article.
. . .

So the “fundamental reason” for this exclusion of women turns out to be questionable from several vantage points. Reasonable people in good faith may remain unpersuaded. Seeing larger issues of justice and honesty involved, many may feel impelled by conscience to continue the public discussion.

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https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/women-priesthood-0  and scroll down.


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