Document 20: "WOC Welcomes Declaration," Women's Ordination Conference press release, 28 January 1977, Chicago Catholic Women Collection 16/20, Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois.
In early 1977, the Vatican released its definitive teaching prohibiting women's ordination. The document, "The Declaration on the Question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood" (or "the Declaration" as it was commonly called), angered and devastated Catholic feminists around the world. The Women's Ordination Conference chose an interesting strategy for its initial response to the Declaration. Instead of renouncing the document, WOC "welcomed" it, claiming that the church fathers finally acknowledged women's fundamental equality. Despite the document's definitive nature, WOC insisted that it left room for further study, dialogue, and debate, reflecting these feminists' strong desire for reconciliation with the Church.
Women's Ordination Conference
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   JANUARY 28, 1976
Contact: Dolores Brooks
WOC WELCOMES DECLARATION
CHICAGO - Women's Ordination Conference welcomes the Declaration on the Question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood because it rejects the major tradition of the Church that held the subordination of women "in the order of nature". In denying this main tradition of the Church beginning with the "prejudices" of the Fathers of the Church through the "Scholastic Doctors" it is evident from the argument of the Declaration that the whole tradition must be re-examined. The Declaration specifically refers to a tradition of the Church that changed in 1970 when Catherine of Sienna and Teresa of Avila were named as Doctors of the Church, previously excluded on theological grounds. This also suggests a re-examination of our present tradition.
The Declaration is a clarification of the present position of the Church and has no more authority than the present discipline. The language of the Declaration avoids absolutes, and a careful reading suggests that,' in its historical context, this Declaration is a progression for the argument for the ordination of women.
The Incarnational Theology of the Declaration states that the "Maleness of Jesus" is the basis of the priesthood. The Incarnation, the Word made Flesh, has always been corrolated with Salvation, not with priesthood. If the maleness of the Incarnation excludes women from priesthood does it not also exclude women from Salvation?
The Church as "People of God" affirmed in the Vatican II Document Lumen Gentium is singularly missing in the Declaration. Church is clearly understood in this Declaration as the Magisterium, who "has received charge and control" and an "authentication" which is a "constitutive part of vocation". This ecclesiology denies the Spirit of God alive in the whole Church.
The Declaration also offers one model of priesthood that is cultic and elitist. The pastoral implication of priesthood is not referred to in the text. The cultic model does not "serve" the Church, the People of God.
The exegesis of the Declaration is questionable. An example of this is the reference to Phoebe. The fact that Phoebe is clearly named a Deacon is omitted. The conclusion, then, that "there was no question of conferring ordination on these women" is erroneous.
It is regrettable that the Teaching Authority of the Church does not enable the Catholic Press to educate the people and all other media to proper distinctions in Documents and Declarations issued from Vatican sources. Far from "closing the door" on the discussion, it is apparent that the language and argument of the Declaration invite responsible research and discussion.
Women's Ordination Conference regrets that the Declaration while professing equality of women and men, in reality, is an argument based on sexual discrimination.
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