How to de-masculinize the Church, women's theology, and Von Balthasar

 Come smaschilizzare la Chiesa, la teologia  delle donne e Von Balthasar  DCM-002
03 February 2024

 “One of the great sins we have had is the ‘masculinizing’ of the Church” Francis said on Nov. 30, 2023, at a meeting with the International Theological Commission when he saw that there were very few women theologians. “One, two, three, four women: poor women! They are alone! Ah, excuse me, five”.

Therefore, to “demasculinizising”. But how? “By really listening to women, we men listen to someone who sees reality from a different perspective and so we are led to revise our plans, our priorities. Sometimes we are bewildered. Sometimes what we hear is so new, so different from our way of thinking and seeing, that it seems absurd and we feel intimidated. But this bewilderment is healthy, it makes us grow”, we read in the preface the pontiff wrote to the book “Unmasking the Church? Critical Confrontation on the “Principles” of H.U. Von Balthasar by Lucia Vantini, Luca Castiglioni and Linda Pocher (ed. Paoline). A nimble and valuable volume that collects the interventions of two women and one man, three theologians, whom Francis, just days after speaking about demasculinizising the Church, called to Rome on Dec. 4 before the Council of Cardinals gathered to offer the eminences “a path of reflection on the presence and role of women in the Church”. Vantini, Castiglioni and Pocher are, respectively: philosopher and theologian, president of Coordination of Italian Women Theologians, laywoman, married, three children; presbyter, theologian, parish vicar; and nun, Daughter of Mary Help of Christians, philosopher and theologian, professor of Christology and Mariology.

The point of departure was the reflection of Hans Urs von Balthasar, one of the greatest theologians of the last century, who thematized the Marian-Petrine principle, a spiritual and and juridical aspect that coexist in the Church, also assumed by the magisterium of the last pontificates.

Lucia Vantini was quick to clarify, “I am convinced-and with me many women and men as well-that this principle does not hold up to the complexity of the present and that it will not be able to ferry the Church into tomorrow, as it compromises a good covenant between us, fatigues the weaving of bonds of justice and risks functioning as a fragile motive to reaffirm the male reservation to ordained ministry or to aggravate the exclusion of women from community decision-making processes”.

Vantini, who is also a member of the women’s philosophical community Diotima, founded on the wager of “being women and thinking philosophically”, spoke of “an imbalance that in this Church cries out with women’s voices” and cited the “crystal cliff: as if men remember women only when there is to repair the world or revive a Church, thinking of them as inspiring muses, levees of a power always exposed to pride, a quota of saving difference in a world of closed identities”.

There is work to be done. And after all ... if the starting point at the Council of Cardinals was Balthasar, “the point of arrival is in the hands of God”, Francis himself points out later in the book.