Women Theologians

In some Roman Catholic circles feminism is considered of something suspect. Seemingly, this word denotes several evils that have come about through the re-appreciation of womanhood: a new and problematic relationship between man and woman; motherhood, rather optional than a duty, competes with various models of self-determination; the decline of male authority. Undeniably, these and other changes are positive and negative in the same time, for men and for women. When we visit our parish church on Sunday, however, we can clearly see that the Church itself is by and large feminised as well. Interestingly enough, the vast majority of church-goers is female, in Western and in Eastern Europe.

There must be a reason for this, and the phenomenon, which seems a rule rather than an exception, begs for an explanation. But there is more to it than merely pinpointing the causes. From the theologian’s point of view it is important to examine the specific role of women in Church and in society, which in the past was, first and foremost, determined by canon law: all believers, men and women, lay and clergy, religious sisters and monks held a fixed, permanent position within the Church, which was thought of as a perfect society (societas perfecta). Ideally, women were subjugated to men, viz. Ephesians 5:23-24, 1 Corinthians 11:3…

Today, it seems strange that the profound differentiation between man and woman itself (male vs. female) received so little attention from theologians. Especially women theologians have tried to remedy this situation, individually and collectively. The European Society of Woman in Theological Research (ESWTR) for example is a joint initiative of women theologians in Eastern and in Western Europe. Its 2010 conference was dedicated to the “dignity of the woman”: Women and Religion: Dignity of the Woman as Dignity of the Human Being, R. Perintfalvi ed., Cluj, Verbum, 2011: Table of Contents). Elsewhere on this website you will find a few links. (FH)