The Catholic Church rejects the ordination of women. John Paul II has stated that rejection to be definitive in the Apostolic Letter "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" of 1994. One should situate that letter in the context of to-day feminist movement, ordination of women in Protestant and Anglican Churches, the opening up of Vatican II to modern values, a fresh assessment of priestly ministry, biblical and theological research. A question arises concerning the magisterial authority of "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" : the Pope does not involve papal infallibility in the issue [notwithstanding the interpretation of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] ; one of his successors might issue a counter-statement ; he may not require the assent of the faithful merely on the basis of his authority ; in fine, what is the signification of "divine Constitution of the Church" which results in discrimination ? The stance adopted by the Pope is understandable ; however, it can not put an end to all reflection and research.
The Apostolic Letter "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" of Pentecost, 1994 provoked a reaction of sadness and disappointment among many Catholics. It is regrettable that the Letter of the Pope took the form of a recall to order or warning emanating from the Magisterium. The Pope does not take into consideration the significance of the fact that in creation there are two sexes ; he did not avail of the opportunity to make the teaching of the Church heard in an area in which modern anthropology is faced with profound contradictions. With his rich Marian theology the Pope could have made a more significant contribution. Rather than closing the door on debate it would be in the best interests of the Church to encourage it.
When the Church adopts a position concerning the ordination of women, is it a mater only of discipline or is there question of the deposit of faith ? Is there question of the ordinary Magisterium or of the extraordinary Magisterium ? Does infallibility enter the issue ? "Inter Insigniores"  was cautious : it spoke of "law", of "norm", of "discipline". John Paul II is more precise in "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" . He refers to the "divine constitution of the Church" and speaks of a position which should be definitively adopted, but the wording remains ambiguous. The first texts issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in order to clarify the position presents the teaching of John Paul II as "theologically certain". However, the "response" published by the same Congregation in 1995 asserts that this doctrine "appertains to the deposit of faith and is, therefore, infallible". There is here an interpretation which does not admit of compromise and represents a clear change of position adopted by the Congregation.
The Catholic Church proclaims the principle of equality [Can. 208]. However this principle is not well applied within the Church itself. Canon law has not provided for a mechanism which would genuinely protect fundamental rights. Canon 1023 which confines ordination to men, runs counter to the principle of equality between the sexes. This discrimination is based on an anthropology which assigns to each of the sexes an image function [fonction iconique] : man bears the image of sacramental authority, woman the image of virgin, spouse and mother of Christ. Exclusion from the priesthood also prevents women from participating in the power of government in the Church. One could justify a distinction between masculine and feminine roles within the Church provided that women enjoyed a role equal to that of men : this is not the case.
The number of women involved in regional or national structures is small. On the other hand, they are becoming involved in ever increasing numbers at diocesan and parochial level, especially in education, health and missionary activity. They play a big part in diocesan synods and in diocesan activities ; they are involved in catechesis and in chaplaincies. Studies are in train to define a true canonical status for laity who exercise responsibility in the Church.
Of 30 Anglican Churches throughout the world, 17 ordain or are about to ordain women. In the United Kingdom there are three Anglican Churches. The Church of England has ordained women to the diaconate since 1989 ; a decision taken in 1993 authorises the ordination of women to the priesthood ; a complex set of arrangements has been put in place for the purpose of avoiding conflict arising from this decision - these arrangements provide financial and pastoral support for those who are opposed to the decision. The Episcopal Church of Scotland is not an Established Church ; it was easy for it in 1994 to amend its Code of Canons in order to permit the ordination of women. Finally, in the Church of Wales which is a Disestablished Church the requisite two thirds majority to bring about the canonical change was not obtained in one of the three electoral colleges [that of the clergy]. A fresh examination of the matter is scheduled for September, 1996.
The Reformation called into question the Clerical institution in the name of the Bible. However, at the same time, it found in the Bible texts which limited the roles to be played by women in the Church [1 Cor. 14, etc.]. A new form of clerical power emerged : that of pastors and this was reserved to men. The wives of pastors soon began to exercise great influence. It was especially the two world wars of the 20th Century which brought about a development in attitudes : women pursued studies in theology, they became pastors' aides and after 1920 they became pastors. It was only in 1965 that the Reformed Church of France freely admitted women to the office of Pastor - the Free Evangelic Churches did so only in 1995. At present women make up about 15% of the number of pastors in France.
At the end of the 19th Century feminism began by being political : religion was charged with being an accomplice in making women inferior. Then came the topic of how to escape from oppression : feminist theology aligned itself with liberation theology. Nowadays the cultural aspect is foremost. There is more emphasis on relations of gender [masculine-feminine] than of sex, on plurality of relations. Feminist theology avoids the usual theological categories : it is neither confessional nor ecumenical, it is neither biblical [in the sense of the Canon of Scripture] nor is it dogmatic. In the process of becoming feminist, the theology has ceased to be normative.
In the texts on which Judaism is based there is an essential difference between men and women : there is a masculine species ["essence"] and a feminine species. Hence, even to-day girls do not study the same subjects as boys in traditional Jewish schools. In Orthodox Judaism, which is in the majority, women are confined to roles which are domestic or educational or charitable. Liberal Judaism, which is in the minority, is the only form of Judaism which accepts the idea that a woman may be a Rabbi : for some years that was the case of Pauline Bebe, the first female French Rabbi.
Islam has not a clergy - it has only offices or "functions" from which women are excluded. The ulemas [interpreters of the Law], the qadis [judges], the caliph [ruler of the community], the imams [leaders of prayer] are all men, even though in the Universities theological studies are open to women. Really women are regarded as minors. Their duties are confined to the private and domestic sphere. However, to-day some women have begun to demand a more official position in Islam, while at the same time paradoxically claiming to be very respectful of tradition. The hijâb, the garment which covers them, allows them to conceal their femininity and to assert their equality with men.
Legal texts proclaim the principle of equality or of non-discrimination between men and women, but this principle has limits, when it comes up against religious freedom and freedom of conscience. Two juridic systems, one a state system, the other a confessional one, appear to conflict. Neither system prevails over the other and in certain specific circumstance this can have the result that sexual discrimination practised by the Churches is legitimised. The question of the accession of women to the priesthood is not addressed in State law or in international law, because both of these respect the internal law of religious bodies.
R. Torfs takes up the lectures given at the Strasbourg Conference [10th February 1995] which dealt with the topic of "Women, power and religion". He makes a resume of the unpublished contribution made by Mme Behr-Siegel concerning the Orthodox Churches. He refers to the debates on the question of infallibility which followed "0rdinatio Sacerdotalis" [E. Schillebeecks, H. Küng, evocation of the "jus remonstrandi"]. With regard to the opposing positions taken up by international law and the internal laws of religious bodies, one must weigh up when and how a particular instance of discrimination based on religious grounds is lawful or not. For the moment, the European Court of Justice has not been called upon to pronounce judgement on the matter, but it can not be long until it will. It is not possible to tell in what direction the judgement will go.
The Blessed Reginald [or Renaud] of Orleans, born around 1180, was probably professor of Canon Law in Paris from 1207 to 1212. He became a disciple of Saint Dominic in 1218 ; he died in 1220.
The final version of the "Apostolic Constitutions" dates from about 380. After that date the text was complete. A definitive edition of the text without a synopsis is therefore perfectly justified.
In the countries of the European Union there are two models for the relationships existing between the State and religious bodies. The first model has developed legislation in regard to worship which is available, at least in theory, to all religions. The second model makes this accessibility dependent on a procedure of recognition accorded, as the case may be, to one or several religions but involving status at different levels. The countries which have evolved procedures for the recognition of Islam are those whose law regarding religion is well structured and has been infused with the doctrine of numerous specialists.
Three types of problems receive a detailed study. - 1. Political problems : paternalism which is the legacy of colonial times during which the law separating religion and State was not really put into force in North Africa ; excessive apprehension concerning security and the enforcement of law and order as a result of the presence of Islam in France ; foreign influences. - 2. Legal problems : French law offers religious groups numerous possibilities to organise themselves but these are poorly availed of or little availed of by Islam : associations of worship (law of 1905). Registered associations (laws of 1901 and 1907), or even private initiatives (laws of 1881 and 1905). Legal problems arise especially from the status of women in Islam (polygamy, succession, repudiation, guardianship of children). -3. Sociological problems : rivalry between Muslim associations and federations, insufficient enrolment of persons to conduct worship.
The Muslim community has a long history in Alsace but its membership increased tenfold in the course of years 1960 to 1990. During the past two or three years it has remained stable (about 85.000 or 5 % of the population). It is made up of Turks (23.000), Maghrebs (40.000) as well as repatriated French citizens (10.000) or French of Metropolitan stock (some hundreds). Numerous associations, centres, places of worship exist but are not very obvious. Similarly, the presence of Islam in the media is more than discreet. The local setting, however, is best suited for the development of structures within the Muslim community, structures being indispensable in order to avoid marginalisation. Many questions remain to be answered.
Muslims in Mulhouse (Alsace) request particularly the construction of a large mosque to replace the various existing places of worship. This project is encountering many difficulties, the greatest being the difficulty of achieving agreement between the groups which make up the Muslim community in the city (Maghrebs, Turks, French Muslims).
Relations between the city of Strasbourg and the Muslims were first dealt with within the framework of the " Advisory Council for Foreigners ". Recently they are the province of the deputy mayor who has the responsibility for religious worship ; this is an indication that Islam is beginning to be considered a religion among the other religions existing in the city. The city is seeking to assist Muslims to become organised and to have places of worship. It is prepared to promote the construction of a large mosque. The organisation of Muslim religious instruction in schools is one of the matters which could be most easily managed.
The Muslim population in Alsace-Moselle is estimated at 120.000. With the
settling of Muslim communities in France many associations were formed and
places of worship provided. In order to obviate dissensions among different
groups, a co-ordinating body in Strasbourg organises the events of the Muslim
year (beginning of Ramadan, the feast of the sheep, etc.).
With possibly one exception (the mosque at Farebersviller) no official facilities exist for the exercise of Muslim worship in Alsace-Moselle. There is no centre for the formation of imams in France. Imams from abroad are called upon or recourse is had to students who are frequently unqualified. As regards cemeteries, these remain to be provided, because repatriation is becoming increasingly difficult. Also, problems concerning the provision of suitable food in canteens and other public institutions as well as problems connected with ritual slaughter remain to be addressed.
Islam is a non-recognised religion in the departments of the Rhine and the Moselle. The Muslim communities have already access to a status which it would be advisable to complete by the creation of salaried posts for chaplains in hospitals and prisons. There is no legal obstacle in the short or long term to their recognition. With this in view, the Muslims in Alsace and the Moselle should quickly provide themselves with representative organs.
How can Muslim law organise the practice of religion for Muslims within the
framework of a non-Muslim State ? This is an old problem (for example Sicily in
the 11th Century, Spain in the 15th Century). Different responses have been made
to it. Some theologians think that religion can not subsist independently of the
State and they have recommended emigration, while others have advised waiting
for better times. The situation of Islam in present-day Europe is novel :
European States guarantee freedom of religion and the State is secularised. A
new avenue may be open to the Muslim community in Europe, one which is modern
and yet remains faithful to the great principles of the past. One must realise
that the modern world is very varied and one must consider grafting the notion
of history on to the theological-juridic thought of Islam. Efforts of that kind
would be new in the pre-modern tradition of Islam, even if they have been
frequently hidden ; for ach-Chatibi for example (circa 1330) the authenticity of
a Muslim jurist or theologian does not depend on blind obedience to revealed law
and codified legal rules but rather on the continuing role of the prophet
concerning laws to be drawn up in the State at a given period of time.
In short, it is necessary to get away from collusion between State and community of faith and through a universal outlook be open to world cultures. It is on that basis that one can discover the authentic meaning of institutions such as the mosque, the school and the religious formation of those who lead worship.
Since the Second World War numerous documents, universal or regional, have
proclaimed liberty of thought, conscience and religion, in particular The
Declaration on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination
based on religion or conviction, that document being dated 25.11.1981.
Monitoring machinery has been put in place such as the Commission and the
European Court of the Human Rights whose jurisprudence is set forth. Three major
aspects of religious liberty are examined.
1. The absolute freedom to have, to adopt or to change one's religion or one's convictions.
2. The freedom to declare openly one's religion and one's convictions.
3. The right of parents to provide for the education and instruction of their children in accordance with their religious and philosophic convictions. However, The Convention for the elimination of all forms of religious intolerance has not yet become a reality and in spite of existing documents, religious freedom is still subject to restrictions in many rates.
Since Vatican II and the wish expressed in Christus Dominus that the choice
of bishops should be reserved to the church, most States which still enjoyed the
right of presentation or nomination have renounced that right.
In return, the Church frequently adopts the procedure of unofficial advance notification. In that situation it is possible for the State to raise objections of a political nature to the proposed appointment. That system, however, is not an ideal one ; is there question here of a true political veto of episcopal appointments ? Is the Church obliged to withdraw its candidate if there is an objection ? The best system seems to be that followed in Italy since 1984 : the Church proceeds freely to appoint and then officially informs the State.
In German Universities, Church law includes Church history, canon law and
State law as applied to religious bodies (or civil ecclesiastical law). Scarcely
any place is now given to public ecclesiastical law. Three major trends can be
identified : the historical school, the tendency to theologise law (Munich) and
the diaconal tendency (viewing law as service). Formal law, that is procedural
law, is developing very quickly. Among the matters under discussion, one might
mention in particular the question of access to the Eucharist for divorced
people who have remarried, this in the wake of the pastoral letter of the
bishops of the Upper Rhine. The Chronicle ends with an extensive bibliography.